Quote of the Day

The $177 bagel sandwich (and soda)


“Anything can go on a bagel. We can put the whole menu on a bagel.”

—The proprietor of a lower Manhattan deli. A New York City councilman under indictment for money-laundering and other charges has been accused of inflating a $7 receipt for a bagel sandwich and soda to $177.

If you had $177 to buy a bagel sandwich, what would you want on it? Besides cream cheese, obviously.

ADL, J Street Condemn UC-Irvine Incident

Ambassador Oren’s reception largely unprecedented in U.S.


It’s worth pausing again to digest the treatment Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren received during a speech he gave Monday at the University of California, Irvine. He was interrupted multiple times, reportedly by members of the university’s Muslim Student Union, with shouts of “Killers!” “How many Palestinians did you kill?” and “Propagating murder is not an expression of free speech!” (as Jonathan Chait noted, Oren did not murder anyone during his speech).

The Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman condemned the incident (in an email), as well as the strikingly similar incident, also on Monday, in which Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon was shouted down with like-minded epithets at Oxford University: “Anti-Israel activists on our campuses are increasingly resorting to undemocratic, bullying, confrontational tactics in order to silence Israeli officials and the expression of pro-Israel views.”

J Street had this to say (also in an email):

While appropriate and respectful protests are a legitimate and important part of the conversation on campus, anti-Semitic, racist, disruptive, and inflammatory actions and language are simply unacceptable.

In particular, we were profoundly offended by the anti-Semitic rhetoric used by a student to attack Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon during a recent talk at Oxford University. We were also deeply disappointed to hear about attempts to interrupt Ambassador Michael Oren’s remarks at the University of California, Irvine, with heckling aimed at drowning out the Ambassador’s speech.

UC-Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake, who was present at the speech, said afterwards that he was embarassed by the welcome Oren got.

Meanwhile, roughly a dozen students were arrested after Oren’s speech, prompting the Muslim Public Affairs Council to request an investigation—they argue that it is unclear what if any laws the students broke.

Muslim Students Shout ‘Killer’ During Oren’s L.A. Speech [Haaretz]
Muslim Group Wants Investigation Into Arrests During Oren Lecture [AP/Vos Iz Neias?]

Earlier: Israeli Minister, Historian Welcomed in Britain

Charlie Wilson (He of His War) Dies

Congressman, played by Hanks, was staunchly pro-Israel

Charlie Wilson.(Sam Houston State University)

Charlie Wilson, the Texas congressman made famous by the book and then movie Charlie Wilson’s War, died yesterday at 76. A Democrat who was nonetheless to the right of most Republicans on foreign and defense issues, Wilson will always be most known for his tireless, one-man efforts—documented in the Mike Nichols-directed, Aaron Sorkin-penned film—to persuade the U.S. Congress to fund the radical Islamist mujahedeen who were resisting Soviet rule in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Wilson’s work here had a more-than-negligible impact in terms of hastening the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War; it also produced the historical irony (which Wilson was concerned about before almost anyone else) of U.S. funding in the 1980s of Osama bin Laden and some of his friends.

But today, Wilson may also be remembered as one of the best friends Israel ever had in the U.S. Congress. “I think that there were no Jews in his constituency, but he was a true friend,” said former Israeli diplomat Zvi Rafiah, referring to the east Texas district Wilson represented. “His support for Israel was based on his belief that we are a brave people, a sort of David to Goliath.” It was also based on his anti-Soviet hawkishness, and his belief that Israel was a crucial strategic Cold War ally. “Of special importance to the Jewish community was his staunch support for Israel,” the National Jewish Democratic Council said in a statement yesterday.

Rafiah—who is a prominent character in the movie; he’s the Israeli with ties to the arms industry there that Wilson and the CIA guy visit in Jerusalem—recalled that Wilson was the only congressman to request a briefing at the Israeli Embassy on the Yom Kippur War during its earliest, darkest days. “At the moment a ceasefire was declared, he immediately came to visit Israel and he came many times afterward,” Rafiah said. “Israel owes him a great deal.”

Charlie Wilson, Texas Congressman Linked to Foreign Intrigue, Dies at 76 [NYT]
Ex-Congressman and ‘Friend of Israel’ Dies at 76 [Haaretz]
Ex-Rep. Charlie Wilson Dies at 76 [JTA]

Today on Tablet

All about the 19th arrondisement


Today in Tablet Magazine, following yesterday’s podcast about Paris’s remarkably diverse 19th arrondisement, Léa Khayata reports from that neighborhood, describing the human stories while tracing the roots of the recent upsurge in anti-Semitic incidents in France. The Scroll will have an easier time getting to work today.

Daybreak: A Same-Named Killing

Plus Iran’s big day, U.N. sanctions near, and MoHouse in the news


• A Palestinian Authority police officer killed an Israeli soldier, in an area of the West Bank controlled by Israel. Twist #1: the Israeli was a Druse. Twist #2: the victim’s name was Ihab Khatib, the killer’s name was Mahmoud al-Khatib; they are unrelated. [NYT]
• Today Iran observes the anniversary of the founding of the Islamic Republic in 1979. Anti-regime protests and official suppression of them are expected. To follow along, we suggest checking this New Republic liveblog, Twitter, and other news sources (including, as events warrant, The Scroll). [WSJ]
• If Russia remains on board, China will not prevent harsher Security Council sanctions on Iran: so, reportedly, say senior U.N. officials. [Haaretz]
• Palestinian families’ petitioning of the United Nations prompts the New York Times to report on the dispute—amply covered in Tablet Magazine—over the new Museum of Tolerance that is planned for a Jerusalem site containing a Muslim cemetery. [NYT]
• An article profiles Moishe House (“MoHouse!”), an Oakland, California-based nonprofit that subsidizes urban group houses on the condition that they periodically hold Jewish-themed events. “Picture Real World—the MTV series—with challah.” Tablet Magazine already has. [NYT]
• If it feels like there has been less domestic political news this week, that’s probably because the federal government is closed for the fourth straight day today, as this winter’s snowfall in Washington, D.C., has officially set a new record. [WP]

Sundown: Mixed Power Couples

Plus Oren makes peace with J Street, and more


• Two of the most high-profile mixed political couples all dined together in Manhattan: Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-New York) and fiancée Huma Abedin, and Chelsea Clinton and fiancé (and tastefully named) Marc Mezvinsky. Abedin is an aide to Clinton’s mother. [Page Six]
• Israel clarified that it will not reopen a crossing between it and Gaza until Hamas is out of power. [Haaretz]
• Listen to the late and great Yiddish poet Avrom Sutzkever read some of his poetry. [92Y]
• Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren said that he was resolving his minor verbal brawl with J Street, adding that, contra what he had said, the dovish American group is “much more in the mainstream.” [JTA]
• And here is video of Oren being shouted down at a speech he gave (or at least tried to give) yesterday at the University of California, Irvine. “The slogan of the protesters here was ‘Michael Oren! Propagating murder is not an expression of free speech!’” writes The New Republic’s Jonathan Chait. “Of course, you will note that at no point in Oren’s speech does he murder anybody.” [Jonathan Chait]

NYT Columnist, Former Ambassador Stage Debate

‘The U.S. Should Step Back From Its Special Relationship With Israel’


The Intelligence Squared debate series has a cool gimmick: at the beginning, audience members vote on the resolution via little keypads at each seat; at the end, they vote again; whichever side changed the most minds “wins.” As last night’s debate began, it was exciting to find that 25% of the crowd voted “undecided,” meaning that many minds were open to persuasion as the four panelists debated the resolution, “The U.S. should step back from its special relationship with Israel.”

Held at New York University’s student union on the southern border of Washington Square Park, the debate, moderated by ABC News’s John Donvan, pitted New York Times columnist Roger Cohen and Columbia Professor Rashid Khalidi, who defended the resolution, against former U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Stuart Eizenstat and former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Itamar Rabinovich, who opposed it. An immediately telling juxtaposition: two ultra-political-establishment figures arguing for the status quo special relationship, two relative outsiders arguing for a paradigm change.

Much of what the sides argued could be easily predicted. Cohen and Khalidi said that the United States’s uniquely strong support for Israel harms U.S. interests: America wants a two-state solution; Israel’s settlement policy makes that less and less likely; therefore, the United States (and U.S. tax dollars) are, effectively, bankrolling policies inimical to its own interests. Eizenstat and Rabinovich, meanwhile, are no right-wingers. But they nonetheless argued that the special relationship does serve the U.S. interest. They did so, first, by minimizing the importance of the Palestinian conflict to the United States (“It’s most important for Israel, not America,” Rabinovich asserted), and, second, by citing Israel’s strategic location, crucial intelligence-sharing, and the rest.

On top of that, they argued, the special relationship represents a moral commitment. That’s what you usually hear: pro-special relationship folks cite morality; anti-special relationship folks cite realpolitik. The most interesting thing from last night, though, was the way these were flipped. Cohen and Khalidi spoke eloquently about Palestinian suffering. And Eizenstat and Rabinovich made a compelling, classically realist case for close ties.

Eizenstat disputed that the special relationship permitted Israel to get away with not making sufficient concessions: in fact, he argued, it is precisely what enabled Israel to concede, say, the Sinai, and what will enable it to concede, say, the Golan and the West Bank. “The United States would lose the levers it has used” if it abandoned the special relationship, Eizenstat claimed. “Everyone knows only the U.S. can talk to both sides. It would lose that ability.” Eizenstat also offered this (even more hardcore ideologically realist) argument: that the special relationship must continue so as to reassure other allies of America’s “constancy.” “It would send a chill down the spine of every ally,” he said, “because they’d worry they’d be next on the chopping block.” (To which Khalidi retorted: “What would happen with some of our allies? They would applaud!”)

Cohen had the night’s worst and best moments. The worst came after an audience member asked why, since polls routinely show most Americans favoring the special relationship, U.S. policy shouldn’t reflect that. After treading dangerous ground—“There is a state called Florida,” Cohen mused, arguing that electoral politics rather than popular opinion have the most influence—Cohen reported that a “reliable source” informed him that one congressperson had told Obama, “If you want your health bill, step back on Israel.” “BOOOOOOO!” went the audience reply. It was a dumb line—that is a hefty charge, and the fact that the representative and the source were both unnamed gave it the aura of tossed-out half-truth—but it was also interesting to see that what most activated Israel’s fans in the crowd were the sorts of charges about the Israel Lobby’s influence that are best summed up with a reference to Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer’s book.

But Cohen also made a devastating rhetorical move (if a more neutral substantive one) in his closing argument, when he told the crowd that to vote in favor of the resolution would constitute a “courageous” act, slowly but surely softening the stifling consensus that is so counterproductive to both America and Israel. For one moment, those little keypads felt like more than a gimmick. It was very powerful.

In the final vote, the yeas had it: 49% for, 47% against, 4% undecided (before the debate, it was 33% for, 42% against). The resolution’s structure probably made it more difficult on Eizenstat and Rabinovitch: they were tasked with defending the proposition that the U.S. relationship with Israel ought to be unlike its relationship with any other country, whereas all Cohen and Khalidi had to advocate is that it be precisely like the friendly-but-not-too-friendly relations America maintains with a dozen other strong allies. Is that imbalance—the very special argumentation required to defend a very special relationship—the fault of a biased debate resolution? Or is it built into the special relationship itself?

Role-Playing Rabbis

Students receive a new kind of training


When you think back to good rabbis you’ve known (or to bad ones), you’re probably less likely to recall their command of the liturgy—they all know that— and more the personal touches they put on their dealings with you, whether at a family bar mitzvah or even a family funeral. They don’t teach that stuff in Rabbi School, though. Except now, reports the New York Times, they do. Yeshiva University’s seminary gets actors to come in and play the roles of congregants in need of special ministering: bereaved children, depressed folks, that sort of thing. The students, in turn, gain some experience of this unsung but nonetheless crucial aspect of being a rabbi. Of one student, the reporter writes: “The lessons he learned from the simulation, he said, were these: People may not believe you when you tell them. It may take a long time for them to absorb the shock. And after that, it only gets worse.” All the more reason for congregants to be able to turn to a rabbi with some practice.

Rabbis in Training Receive Lessons in Real-Life Traumas [NYT]

Canada’s Liberals Strike Back Against Israel Attacks

No-holds-barred war for Jewish voting bloc


Canada’s ruling Conservative Party has been hammering the opposition Liberals as wishy-washy when it comes to Israel, in an attempt to woo the country’s 350,000-strong Jewish community. Now, the Liberal Party has found an inventive response: instead of portraying itself as every bit the one-dimensional, no-questions-asked Israel supporters that the Conservatives claim they themselves are, they’re arguing that by taking more measured pro-Israel stances, they are doing Canadian Jews a service. Said one Liberal MP, who heads the party’s pro-Israel group:

I appreciate the support of the Jewish community, unequivocally I appreciate the support of Israel. But by making it frequently into a black-and white-issue, [the Conservatives are] setting it up as a wedge. And they’re also setting it up so that people who have been long-time strong supporters of Israel are questioning issues like the de-funding of Kairos. And it’s creating a backlash.

(Kairos is a church-sponsored non-governmental organization that has helped organize anti-Israel boycotts, and which the government has de-funded.)

In purporting to represent the best interests of Canada’s Jewish citizens, the Liberals possess a certain inherent credibility: as in the United States, most of Canada’s Jews tend to vote for the more left-wing of the two main political parties.

Canadian Opposition: Harper’s Staunch Pro-Israel Support May Spark Anti-Semitism [Globe and Mail/Vos Iz Neias?]

Earlier: Canada’s PM Harper Continues Drive For Jewish Votes

Tropper Didn’t Actually Resign

Disgraced rabbi still running yeshiva

Rabbi Leib Tropper.(Tropper photo from

Remember when Rabbi Leib Tropper—the ultra-Orthodox conversion guru since disgraced by sex scandal allegations—resigned from the Monsey, New York, yeshiva he had been heading? Yeah, turns out he still is the de facto rosh yeshiva. It’s not clear how long that will remain the case, though, now that the cat has departed from that particular bag.

Meanwhile, an informal rabbinic court has been hearing evidence, and is prepared to convene a formal Beit Din—which would have the power to condemn Tropper under Jewish law, and, just as importantly, would license other rabbis to do so—as early as next week. It is still unknown whether Tropper will cooperate with it.

To read Tablet Magazine’s four-part series on Tropper, go here.

Leading Monsey Rabbonim Convene on Tropper Issue
[5TJT via Failed Messiah]

Earlier: Tropper Resigns From Yeshiva

Today on Tablet

Coexistence en francais, Mel Gibson, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, the Vox Tablet podcast features a dispatch from Paris’s 19th arrondisement, where Sephardic and Muslim populations live relatively amicably even as anti-Semitic attacks are on the rise elsewhere in France. This week’s Emails of Zion—in which we publish That Email That’s Been Making The Rounds, in case you haven’t gotten it yet—advises the reader not to go see the new film Edge of Darkness because its star, Mel Gibson, is a Holocaust denier. The Scroll is somewhat snowed in, but will still be keeping you updated on events of the day.

Hot Off The Presses: ‘Mein Kampf’

Cause to cheer a forthcoming edition of Hitler’s manifesto


German Jewish groups are applauding a Munich-based historical organization’s plans to republish Adolph Hitler’s Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”) in a few years. Jewish leaders there  said they hoped for “an aggressive and enlightening engagement with the book.”

Wait, what?

Actually, it makes sense if you think about it. The copyright on the book, owned by the state of Bavaria, expires in 2015—70 years after the death of its author. No doubt some of the groups who would look to publish new editions are neo-Nazi outfits who would, let us say, fail to put the work in the proper context. By contrast, the Institute of Contemporary History pledged to add extensive annotations “pointing out the falsity of much of what [Hitler] wrote.”

No wonder several Jewish leaders declared that the new edition will hopefully “prevent neo-Nazis from profiteering from Mein Kampf, while an aggressive and enlightening engagement with the book would doubtless remove many of its false, persisting myths.” Remember in high school history, when you read Oliver Wendell Holmes arguing, “the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market”? This is kind of like that. The Jewish groups are counting on the market’s ability to crush Hitler’s ideas.

So hopefully Germans of 2015 will read it and realize how crappy it is. Frankly, more folks in the 1930s should probably have taken a peek: in the book—whose sales outstripped those of the Bible in Germany in its heyday—Hitler announced (a decade before World War II) his plans to eliminate the Jews, and suggests that the best way for the German Reich to expand would be to take some of Russia’s land. Hitler was many things, but coy was not one of them.

Adolph Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ To Be Republished in Germany [Telegraph]

Daybreak: Russia Gets Real

Plus Fatah and Hamas feud over electricity, and more in the news


• Russia was unusually prominent among those who condemned Iran’s latest nuclear provocations. However, China, the final U.N. Security Council veto, remains reluctant to criticize Iran or seem to support sanctions. [LAT]
• Meanwhile, U.S. officials revealed plans to devise a new, harsher sanctions regime specifically designed to put Iran’s Revolutionary Guards at odds with its broader population. [NYT]
• Israel launched an air strike in southern Gaza last night in response to rockets fired over the last several days. No injuries reported. [Haaretz]
• Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri vowed to stand with Hezbollah should violence erupt between it and Israel. [JPost]
• Money disputes between the Palestinian Authority (in the West Bank) and the Gaza electric utility could lead to increased power outages in the Strip. This could be read as subtle leverage Fatah has over Hamas. [LAT]
• Celebrated left-wing Israeli novelist A.B. Yehoshua pens an op-ed arguing that peace with the Palestinians would actually go a long way toward tempering Iran’s hatred of Israel, and therefore of neutralizing the Iranian nuclear threat. [Haaretz]

Sundown: New Human Rights Watch Head

Plus don’t cry for A’jad, Elie Wiesel, and more


• James Hoge, the broadly respected editor of Foreign Affairs, will become the new head of Human Rights Watch. The group has been accused in the past of an anti-Israel bias. [Laura Rozen]
• Elie Wiesel says he “would not shed a tear” if Mahmoud Ahmadinejad died. [Haaretz]
• A dispatch describes the fledgling Jewish community of [fill in the blank]. In this case, it’s [Glasgow, Scotland]. [Jewish Chronicle]
• The president of CNBC arranged for a blockbuster bar mitzvah video for his son. It features NBC anchor Brian Williams, New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, and—best of all, in our opinion—Mad Money host Jim Cramer. [Page Six]
• Najla Said—daughter of late Professor Edward—has a one-woman play, Palestine, opening Off Broadway next week. The autobiographical production details her transition from disinterested kid to politically committed woman. [NYT]
• Agudath Israel, the Orthodox Union, and other prominent American Orthodox groups are lobbying for clemency to be granted to Martin Grossman, who faces execution in Florida next Tuesday for killing a wildlife officer 25 years ago. [Vos Iz Neias?]

Knicks Match Casspi and Heritage Night

Best Jewish marketing ploy since the post-Yom Kippur lox platter

Casspi lays one up against the Cleveland Cavaliers in December.(Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

New York magazine’s sports blog catches some canny advertising on the part of the New York Knicks: their Jewish Heritage Night just so happens to coincide with the night the Sacramento Kings—the team of Omri Casspi, the first Israeli player in the NBA—come to Madison Square Garden. (That would be tonight.)

It gets better: you can buy a ticket and a Hebrew Knicks t-shirt, or even a package that includes those things plus entry into a special Q&A with Casspi, for, respectively, $36 and $54—double and triple chai! You would almost think that the Knicks have a real live Jewish person on staff.

Knicks’ Secret Weapon To Sell Tickets: Omri Casspi [The Sports Section]

Related: Draft Notice [Tablet Magazine]

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.