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.
Please allow us a brief bow: Tablet Magazine is a finalist for a National Magazine Award for Digital Media! Specifically, our Vox Tablet podcast series is up for the podcasting award. Congratulations also to the other finalists in the category: Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Harvard Business Review, and IEEE Spectrum.
Out of 37 Websites that are finalists for one of the Digital Media awards, only five are online-only, and we’re proud to be one of those, too (as well as the only one in our category).
What’s that you say? You want to know which podcasts we submitted to the nominating board?
• “Remembrance Day”: Gregory Warner reports from Rwanda on commemorating the country’s 1994 genocide, with Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day as a template.
• “The Queens of Bollywood”: Eric Molinsky discusses the early days of India’s Bollywood movie factories, when most of the leading ladies—from Rose Ezra to Ruby Myers—were Baghdadi Jews.
• “Blessed Bluegrass”: Jon Kalish profiles Orthodox bluegrass musician Jerry Wicentowski, whose observance prevents him from weekend gigs, but not from virtuosic guitar work
Finally, mazel tov to Senior Editor Sara Ivry and Audio Executive Producer Julie Subrin. This is well-earned and well-deserved recognition for them especially.
Should we engage Hamas and other terrorist groups?(Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images)
Today in Tablet Magazine, Senior Writer Allison Hoffman introducesHarlan: In the Shadow of Jew Süss, a German documentary about director Veit Harlin and Jew Süss, the grotesquely anti-Semitic movie Joseph Goebbels commissioned from him. According to Mideast columnist Lee Smith, recent history demonstrates, contra a new book, that engaging with terrorists does not usually lead to measured, rational responses in kind. Rania Moaz remembers her time in Granada, Spain, during college, and now her time in Dubai, as a single, observant Muslim. Continue following Steve Stern’s The Frozen Rabbi with a new installment (which is all of three paragraphs—c’mon, what are you waiting for?). The Scroll likes to think of itself a novel serialized every hour on the hour (give or take).
Oh no! We were once promised the possibility of a Jewish governor and a new Jewish senator of America’s most Jewish state, but now, at least one of those possibilities seems significantly less likely. Mort Zuckerman, the Manhattan real estate and publishing magnate—and a major figure in the world of Jewish-American philanthropy and activism—has elected not to run for the U.S. Senate seat from New York currently held by Kirsten Gillibrand. (He followed Harold Ford, Jr.’s parallel ‘I’m not running’ announcement by a day.)
Zuckerman’s decision should go a long way toward securing Gillibrand’s election, this time to a full six-year term (she was appointed last year to replace Hillary Clinton). Which means New York will have to make do with a paltry one Jewish senator out of two.
On the other hand, even as Gov. David Paterson said he won’t resign (while Democrats say he should), a state worker is now telling authorities that Paterson asked her to silence a woman who was accusing Paterson’s longtime aide of domestic assault. Richard Ravitch, a nation—a state, anyway—turns its lonely eyes to you.
Netanyahu last month.(Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)
• Saying he’s “almost certain” the Mossad was behind the assassination of Hamas weapons man Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, the Dubai police chief is seeking arrest warrants for Prime Minister Netanyahu and Mossad chief Meir Dagan. More on this story later in the day. [Reuters/Laura Rozen]
• The top U.N. official for humanitarian relief condemned the Gaza blockade, saying it imposed on residents “an existence, not a life.” [NYT]
• Most Arab states support four-month U.S.-organized indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinians. [Reuters/Haaretz]
• One week after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was received warmly in Syria, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced an upcoming state visit to Tehran. [Arutz Sheva]
• Maureen Dowd reports that, “at their own galactically glacial pace,” Saudi Arabia is modernizing, even as Israel grows less secular. [NYT]
• Hank Rosenstein, who in 1946 played for the New York Knicks in what’s now considered the first NBA game, died at 89. In that 68-66 win over the Toronto Huskies, Rosenstein had seven Jewish teammates (in addition to himself). [NYT]
• Prime Minister Netanyahu said that, for strategic reasons, Israel would never—even under a peace deal—cede the western border of the Jordan River. Which is of course mostly in the West Bank (that’s why it’s called the West Bank!), and doesn’t border the Green Line. [Haaretz]
• More than in any past year, pro-Israel campus groups are set to counter Israel Apartheid Week. [JTA]
• What the heck is Iran thinking, publicly moving most of its nuclear fuel into above-ground facilities? This may help you understand the mind games. [NYT]
• Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was questioned by authorities over suspicions that he illegally intervened in a money-laundering investigation against him. [JTA]
• The Austrian Jewish community has condemned the presidential candidacy of far-right Barbara Rosenkranz. But isn’t Rosenkranz a Jewish name? (Yes, I am joking.) [Vos Iz Neias?]
• The Israeli human rights group Boycott! has called on The Pixies to cancel an upcoming gig in Tel Aviv. This, despite the fact that “some of us are huge fans and would love to see your show.” [Haaretz]
Was Egypt involved in the killing?(National Geographic)
If you have not been following this exciting story, I wrote a catch-up yesterday for the magazine: do check out.
The most interesting tidbit today in the continuing story of the assassination, likely by Mossad, of Hamas weapons procurer Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, was that one Hamas official told an Arabic-language paper that his group believes an Arab government was behind the killing. (This is less surprising than it may sound: Hamas’s initial investigation concluded the same thing.) Specifically, the Hamas official told the paper that al-Mabhouh had been tracked by Jordanian and Egyptian agents. Let’s also not forget about the two ex-members of Fatah who were arrested: two men who now work for a construction company owned by Muhammad Dahlan, a powerful Palestinian Authority official who in the past has been linked to efforts to take down Hamas’s Gaza leadership. And let’s also not forget that the wide consensus remains that the Mossad was, at least, the prime mover behind the killing.
Other than that, the big news is Dubai’s first sanction: Israeli dual nationals, even those who carry non-Israeli passports, are now barred from entering. According to the Dubai police chief, Israelis not carrying Israeli passports will be detected by “physical features and the way they speak.” By “the way they speak,” I assume he means those talking in Hebrew. As for “physical features”? Up yours too, buddy.
Finally, the intrigue of the case has officially hit the Internet. Google searches of “Mossad” have increased fourfold in the past month. And, if you like, you can join the Facebook group I Was Also Part of the Dubai Assassination Squad. Though don’t be surprised if the Dubai police chief proceeds to bar you from his city, too.
In a post earlier today (which caught the eye of the Republican Jewish Coalition’s Twitter), I said that the Democratic Party, which has moved toward weaker support of Israel even while maintaining the allegiance of most American Jews, would likely find itself in trouble with Jewish voters if prominent members began to question some of the more basic tenets of Israel and America’s relationship with it.
Well, this is not about that happening, exactly, but a candidate in a California Democratic congressional primary has called for a one-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict—a decidedly left-wing position that, many say (and I’d be among them), would represent something like the end of Israel. (Oh good, I’ll get both sides angry at me today!) Marcy Winograd, the candidate, has called the two-state solution—the notion of an Israel and a Palestine side-by-side on the land—“unrealistic” and “fundamentally wrong.”
So why isn’t this about the Democrats turning away from Israel? Because Winograd is in a decided minority even among the Democrats, and is not in power, and is likely not going to be in power. In fact, her opponent in the primary, Rep. Jane Harman, is a strong defender of Israel known for wanting to take a harsh line on Iran; she is supported by the very powerful California Democrat Henry Waxman, who, though generally to the left of her, is a staunch two-stater who says, “In Marcy Winograd’s vision, Jews would be at the mercy of those who do not respect democracy or human rights.”
Waxman also said, “I think liberals and progressives should reject” Winograd. I think liberals and progressives do reject Winograd: I think that the poll, which showed only 48 percent Democratic “support” for Israel, reflected tepid support among Democrats for some of Israel’s current policies, not for its continued existence as a Jewish democracy. And as long as Democrats continue to reject Winograd for the most part, then, as I wrote before, Democrats should be unashamed, unembarrassed, and largely unconcerned.