Levin, the new Ways and Means Chairman.(Win McNamee/Getty Images)
• Both Israel and the United States have reason to convince the world that the former will bomb Iran, against the latter’s wishes. Actually, though, the two are cooperating on the subject ever more closely (with bombing relatively unlikely). [NYT]
• Syria accused Israel of planting uranium traces at the suspicious compound that IDF planes bombed two years ago. [AP/JPost]
• The IDF is readying crucial, exculpatory information regarding a strike in last year’s Gaza conflict that the Goldstone Report called illegal. [Haaretz]
• The Obama administration wishes to exempt China from new Congressional sanctions aimed primarily at Iran in order to coax its support at the United Nations; this, in turn, is angering Japan and South Korea. [WP]
• With Rep. Charles Rangel (D-New York) stepping down from the post, the new chair of the super-powerful Ways and Means Committee is Jewish Congressman Sander Levin (D-Michigan). [NYT]
• The i’s are dotted, the t’s are crossed, and it’s official: on June 5, Orthodox rabbi-in-training and middleweight champion Yuri Foreman will face Puerto Rican sensation Miguel Cotto at Yankee Stadium. The House That Ruth Built hasn’t seen a bout since 1976, when, in a controversial decision, Ken Norton lost to Muhammad Ali. [AP/ESPN]
• The U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee narrowly passed a resolution condemning Turkey’s Armenian “genocide,” a controversial, volatile (and historically accurate) step on which most pro-Israel groups are lukewarm. [NYT]
• Polish anti-abortion activists are using Hitler’s image on billboards, reminding folks that the Nazis legalized abortion in conquered Poland. [Haaretz]
• In an op-ed, Ireland’s foreign minister blasts the Gaza blockade as “unjust and completely counterproductive … inhumane and completely unacceptable.” [IHT]
• Interesting interview with the son of a Hamas leader who, he just revealed, was an Israeli informant during the Second Intifada. [BBC]
• Speaking of! An important Danish journalist has come forward to admit he also worked with the Mossad. [Haaretz]
If you have not been following this exciting story, I wrote a catch-up Monday for the magazine: do check out.
Washington Post columnist Jackson Diehl has a provocative post arguing that the international press (though not the kooky but ultimately even-handed Dubai police chief) have evinced a double standard in their coverage of the assassination (likely by the Mossad) of Hamas weapons procurer Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai in January as compared with, say, the recent gunning-down in Dubai of a Chechen separatist by a gangster allied with Russian leader Vladimir Putin:
the audience for a story about a Russian-sponsored assassination in Dubai is nothing like that for an Israeli hit. Relatively few stories were written about the Yamadayev case; there were no angry editorials in the Financial Times. Perhaps it’s needless to say that Delimkhanov and the other suspects identified by Dubai have not been arrested or extradited. As Shmuel Rosner summed it up in a dispatch for Slate: “The consequences for the assassins? None at all. For the Chechen government? None. For the deputy prime minister? None. For Dubai-Russian relations? None.”
It’s a valid point, though, as someone who has followed this story, I think the especially sensationalistic aspects of it deserve at least as much credit (or blame) for the hyped-up, excited coverage it has received.
The Wall Street Journalreports on something that’s been obscured amid all the talk of who killed al-Mabhouh: namely, that al-Mabhouh, and other shady characters, were routinely passing through Dubai in order to ply their trades. Iran particularly benefits from Dubai’s laxness, according to the article.
Meanwhile, it looks like other countries are pissed enough at Israel over this for there to be semi-real diplomatic consequences. A whole bunch of European Union countries that had either abstained or voted on Israel’s side in a previous U.N. vote over the Goldstone Report instead went against Israel in a General Assembly vote last week, specifically out of anger at the assassination and the forged passports. On the other hand, call us when this is affecting much more consequential Security Council votes.
Finally, a lighter (in some senses) story. Like their British counterpart, Australia’s police have sent three investigators to Israel, to interview those Australian-Israeli dual nationals whose passports were forged. Except these officers made a bigger splash than they probably desired: they were involved in a hit-and-run. Specifically, they hit a woman on a bicycle and then kept going. The woman was unhurt—and prosecutors are not pressing charges—but she wants an apology and a new bike wheel. I’m pretty sure I’m not capable of making this up.
Is it really all that surprising that the woman whose Upper East Side apartment has 1,500 cookbooks—out of a collection that once numbered 10,000 (more than most institutional cookbook libraries)—immigrated to America 50 years ago from Israel? Haaretz has a great profile, complete with her list of six Jewish cookbooks you simply have to own (including one by Tablet Magazine contributor Joan Nathan). Which ones did she miss?
In a Boston Globe column, Jesse Singal articulates the notion that some American Jews may have drifted away from strong support for Israel, or its policies—but not in ways that doom the Democratic Party to shed Jewish voters, or that doom Israel to declining baseline American support.
The premise of the piece—titled “The New American Jew on Israel”—is that “what it means to be ‘pro-Israel’ is changing, particularly among younger Jews.” And the corollary of this paradigm shift is that traditional definitions of “pro-Israel”—as represented, say, in polls—have not yet caught up, which could explain the meager 48 percent of Democrats who say they “support” Israel.
Phish. From our left: McConnell, Anastasio, Gordon, and Fishman.(Glide)
Wrigley Field, legendary ballpark of the Chicago Cubs, got the go-ahead to host two rock concerts on September 17 and 18 despite the fact that Yom Kippur begins at sundown on the 17th, and nearby synagogues were concerned about the parking situation. Brief aside: Yom Kippur is really early this year!
But that’s not the real story. The real story is who’s playing these gigs. One of the rumored bands is the Dave Matthews Band. And the other? Well, Dr. Watson, let’s figure this out:
Aaron Klein, a Jerusalem-based reporter whose forthcoming book purports to uncover President Barack Obama’s “Ties to Communists, Socialists, and Other Anti-American Extremists,” is (according to a press release we got) getting his own show on prominent radio station WABC—already the home of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and other right-wing pundits.
What’s interesting about this is it represents the broader trend whereby the energetic right-wing—which, let’s recall, has actually not historically been a place overly welcoming to Jews and even Israel—has now made common cause with Jewish concerns and right-wing Zionism. We see it in the Michael Savage phenomenon—the ultra-Jewy right-wing shock jock whom Allison Hoffman wrote perceptively about. More recently, we saw it when Norman Podhoretz and other conservative Jews defended Rush Limbaugh’s remarks about bankers, which had come under the Anti-Defamation League’s fire.
Certainly makes that 37 percent gap between Republican and Democratic support for Israel look a little more meaningful, and, potentially, worrying for the Democrats.
Today in Tablet Magazine, columnist Shalom Auslander, eavesdropping anonymously on a book club, realizes that the writer’s lot is to be relegated to brief discussions in between life’s real joys (like a good piece of chicken). In Norway, the country whose capital gave its name to 1990s dreams of Mideast peace, Asgeir Ueland reports that the once pro-Israeli public has turned against the Jewish state. Music columnist Alexander Gelfand compares Jewish music to the one thing Jews undoubtedly value even more highly: Jewish food. Jennifer Garfinkel brings word of a reemerging trend: many Jews are escaping to lovely resorts in warm places for Passover. Another day, another installment of Steve Stern’s serialized novel The Frozen Rabbi. Another day, another several posts on The Scroll.
Wanna brush up on some basic boxing strategy? Yuri Foreman—the middleweight champion of the world who in his spare time is studying to be an Orthodox rabbi; and who in the meantime is preparing for a June 5 bout against Puerto Rican superstar Miguel Cotto—teaches you that the secret, particularly if you’re fighting a bigger opponent, is the counter-punch. When your opponent’s going for you, that’s when your opponent is most vulnerable.
Livni, able to travel freely.(Gerard Cerles/AFP/Getty Images)
• It looks like indirect peace talks, with U.S. envoy George Mitchell shuttling rapidly between the Israelis and Palestinians in hopes of getting them in the same room, are on, since the Arab League gave its blessing. [LAT]
• The United States drew up new proposed sanctions that would target Iran’s banking, shipping, and insurance. [NYT]
• Meanwhile, China said it believes diplomatic solutions to the crisis over Iran’s nuclear program “have not been exhausted,” and so it is not open to sanctions now. [Haaretz]
• Britain will likely amend its war-crimes law today to allow former Israeli officials—like Tzipi Livni, who was the target of a warrant last December—to travel there securely. [JPost]
• There has been some talk of a summit between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (the leader of the Palestinian Authority) and Israeli President Shimon Peres (not the leader of Israel). Not only would it not include, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (who is the leader of Israel), but planning for it was reportedly done without his knowledge. [Haaretz]
• Arnold Beichman, an influential political columnist who was something of a proto-neoconservative (he turned right decades before the others did), died at 96. [NYT]
• Vice President Joe Biden hosted folks from most Jewish-American groups to consult on his upcoming trip to Israel. Conspicuously unrepresented: J Street. [Laura Rozen]
• A columnist argued that Syrian President Bashar Assad is cozying up to Iran not out of rational self-interest and power politics but because he’s an anti-Israel ideologue. [JPost]
• Iran announced plans to seek election to the U.N. Human Rights Council in May. Germany’s foreign minister promptly urged countries to oppose the ascension. [Arutz Sheva]
• Crazy story about the Israeli widow of a thief who stole artifacts from the L.A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art in Jerusalem; her attempts to sell these back to the museum; and, now, her sentencing in California on a charge of receiving stolen property. [LAT]
• A woman tells how she met her husband because they both liked going to and performing at the same Yiddish theater in London. [Guardian]
• An Israeli tourism ad that … you just have to watch it. [Forecast Highs]
Unlike the United States, Germany, due to legal culture and not-all-that-distant history, has fairly extensive restrictions on speech; particularly hate speech; and particularly hate speech that hates the Jews. Quick example: in Germany, the Nazi Party is banned; in America, it’s not (not going to dignify it with a link, but if you want, Googling it is very easy).
Now look at this cartoon, a poster actually, which is part of a display—called the “Wailing Wall”—in the town square of Cologne, Germany. In case you don’t “get it,” the ostensible point of the cartoon is that Israel is using Gaza—maybe the Gaza blockade? the politics, needless to say, aren’t the most sophisticated in the world—to kill innocent Palestinians. In case you still don’t “ get it,” this is a depiction of the blood libel: the centuries-old anti-Semitic myth that Jews murder and feed on Gentiles (note not just what’s on the plate, but what’s in the glass, too).
The poster has been removed, although the “Wailing Wall” proprietor pledges to try to put it up elsewhere. Meanwhile, however, the public prosecutor has declined to charge the poster-maker under a German law that bans the incitement of racial hatred. “It is not a tendency of hostility toward Jews, but an actual criticism of the situation in Gaza,” he explained of the poster. “The cartoon is a sarcastic expression of the Israeli army in Gaza.”
This puts me in a tricky position. I think cartoons like that should be allowed. Only by allowing a full public airing of atrocious views can we ensure that decent people know about them, condemn their makers, and educate the ignorant. So I don’t want the person who made them to be prosecuted.
However, it’s very, very disturbing that local authorities think that this doesn’t violate their law. It plainly does; it plainly incites anti-Semitism. Believeing that it doesn’t indicates a lack of knowledge about and sensitivity to the history of anti-Semitism that would be troubling anywhere, and is particularly chilling in, well, Germany. And ignorance is a charitable explanation for this lapse.
But this is also a lesson, right? Maybe if anti-Semitism weren’t a crime in Germany, then Germans would be more willing to call people on it!
Ugh, remember that time you had told your friend, who you’re like friends with or whatever but didn’t feel like dealing with, that you were just going to stay in for the night, but then you went out and the next day someone posted a picture of you on Facebook, and you were busted? Well, this story out of Israel is kind of like that. Except replace “picture at a bar” with “status update detailing a military operation against Palestinians in a village near Ramallah”! And replace “busted” with “kicked out of your IDF unit”!
Yes, a soldier in the Israel Defense Force redefined the meaning of Too Much Information last month when he logged on to Facebook and posted, “On Wednesday we’ll clean out [the village of] Kattannah, and on Thursday, God willing, we’ll be home.” He also provided the name of his unit, and the exact location and time of where the operation was slated to take place.
Several of the soldier’s Facebook friends, shocked by his indiscretion, reported him to the army’s Division of Information Security. Almost immediately, the operation was called off and the soldier tried and ejected. An unfriending for the history books.
Patti, last year.(Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
Every Wednesday, Senior Writer Allison Hoffman recaps the previous night’s episode of the glory that is Millionaire Matchmaker.
Remember after-school specials? Do they even have them anymore? Who knows! But this week, The Millionaire Matchmaker brought viewers two very important lessons: one, interfaith relationships are tricky! Two: Jews aren’t so much into Jesus!
But before we get to that, let’s review the story of Jimmy d’Ambrosio, a bachelor from Season Two who returned last night for a second go-round with la Matchmaker herself, Patti Stanger. When we last saw d’Ambrosio, he was referring to himself in the third person as Jimmy D and chasing tail at his Chicago nightclubs. Well, now he’s 32, still single, and wants to grow up. He’s even left Chitown for Las Vegas, which Stanger’s deputy, Chelsea, says is evidence that Jimmy is looking to settle down. Patti, not so easily convinced, takes Jimmy to Dr. Pat Allen. A truly remarkable specimen, Allen looks like she’s about eight million years old, and she’s got a mouth on her. too. “You’re a fox loose in the henhouse, but the trouble is, when the fox gorges on chicken, he loses his taste for chicken,” Allen explains. Except chicken is sex, which may or may not taste like chicken.
At the mixer, Jimmy passes over the lovely Whitney, another Season Two returnee—a brunette so hot a Jewish guy tried to date her, even though she’s not Jewish—and instead picks a blonde bimbo called Angel, who proceeds to get drunk, win $100,000 in a poker game, and disappear upstairs to vomit. (America’s Playground!)
Now, on to the main course. Mateo Stasior is a 42-year-old Harvard grad who worked at Microsoft before moving to L.A., where he is now an asset manager for a billion-dollar hedge fund. (“Just a billion dollars?” scoffed a friend of The Scroll.) Anyway, Mateo, who looks a lot like Herc from The Wire, says he thinks it’s time for him to find his mate, settle down, and get on with ‘that part’ of his life. We think maybe it’s time for him to ditch the terrible ties he keeps wearing. But maybe all of these things are related. Anyway, he seems like a nice enough guy, and it turns out his ex cheated on him, which is kind of sad. Patti reassures him that she’s not going to let him pick his next girlfriend with his penis, and says she will find someone who likes him for his personality.
The rub is that Mateo is a committed Christian, seeking same. “Religion is a deal-breaker, and I understand this completely,” Patti tells the camera in a bit of ecumenical sympathy. Luckily, she has just the girl for Mateo: Amber, a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader who has the face of St. Mary and absolutely enormous breasts. What about God? She’s cool with that! Except, we learn on the date, she actually thinks that religion is the opiate of the masses, to paraphrase from one of the Jersey Shore kids.
Luckily, Mateo has spotted someone else at the mixer: Andrea, a flight attendant. Andrea—not one of Patti’s handpicked girls—comes with a little catch: her last name is Kaplan. That’s right, kids!
Patti takes her aside. “From one Jew to another—you’re Jewish, right?” Patti asks. Well, of course she is. “In God’s world, there is no religion, but in the real world, it doesn’t always work,” Patti warns. But Mateo decides to explore a little further, and invites Andrea for a little couch time. “So, you believe in God?” he asks. Yes, Andrea tells Mateo, Jews believe in God also. The very same God, in fact! Awesome! So Mateo picks the busty Jewess over the cheerleader. We like him more and more by the minute.
That is, until we see where this is going. Mateo seems to be under the impression that if he and Andrea are meant to be, she’ll see the light and find Jesus. “It’s in God’s hands!” he says, cheerfully. Patti, meanwhile, is freaking out. “He picked the wrong girl! Oy vey!” Andrea shows up for their date in a va-va-voom dress and with her hair gorgeously blown out. They get in a limo and go to the Los Alamitos racetrack to drink champagne and bet the ponies, which is what Christians do on dates, apparently? And they have so much fun Mateo doesn’t even notice Andrea’s Fran Drescher laugh.
A least, he doesn’t until they sit down to eat, which is when the trouble starts. Would she become a Christian, Mateo wants to know? “Both sides of my family are Jewish,” Andrea replies. “It’s important to me because it’s my heritage—I would never want to convert. I don’t think it’s an option for me.” Mateo looks stunned. Well, what about the kids? Can they be Christian? “I’m a woman,” she tells Mateo. “My children will be Jewish.”
Harvard grad Mateo is confused by the concept of halakhic matrilineal descent, and by the fact that Jesus is letting this happen to him. “Here she is, laying down the law about how she wants her children raised,” he sputters to the camera. Shocking, right? Patti reappears, more in sorrow than in anger at having been proven right. “It’s so sad religion is a deal-breaker for most people,” she reflects. “But it’s true.”
Next week: Bisexuals!!! It’ll be a hootenanny, promises Patti. We’ll see!
Larry Gopnik (played by Michael Stuhlbarg).(Focus Features)
As Oscar week continues, let’s take a look at maybe the most profoundly Jewish mainstream American movie in quite some time: the Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man. It tells the story of Larry Gopnik, a middle-aged Jewish physics professor in late-1960s Minnesota who watches, powerless and blameless, as just about everything that could go wrong with his life does. In doing so, it embodies the indelibly Jewish cosmic shrug, ironic and steadfast, better than any film I know.
To begin with, I strongly urge you to read Liel Leibovitz’s careful consideration.
For Juliet Lapidos, giving the film a welcome second look in Slate, Gopnik’s defining quality is his essential meekness:
A physics professor, Gopnik knows that ‘actions have consequences,’ as he puts it to Clive, the student who’s trying to bribe him. He adds, ‘Not just physics. Morally.’ It seems more difficult for Gopnik to grasp that inaction may have consequences, too. But, intellectually at least, he knows that’s the case. When his brother, Arthur, complains that ‘Hashem hasn’t given me shit,’ Gopnik replies, ‘It’s not fair to blame Hashem. Arthur, please. Please calm down. Sometimes you have to help yourself.’ It’s his truest line.
It’s tempting to say that Gopnik is a latter-day Job. But Lapidos knows better. Job is not meek: Job is angry. More importantly, Job’s uncertainty is quite different from Gopnik’s. Job wants to know why God allows such bad things to happen to a good man. Gopnik wants to know if there even is a God to allow such bad things to happen to him. If the novel is the epic of a world abandoned by God, then this is a movie for that age as well.
Which is why, for me, a key part of the movie is its invocation of Schrödinger’s cat, a widely misunderstood physics thought experiment, which Gopnik tries, in vain, to explain to a failing student. Allow me to attempt a better job.