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Paterson Won’t Run; Is Ravitch Next?

Resignation, suddenly more likely, means Jewish governor

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Ravitch (left) chilling with buddies Ed Koch and Michael Bloomberg.(Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Bryan Cave LL)

We’re one step closer to having a Jewish governor of America’s Jewiest state—New York’s first Jewish chief executive in (deep breath) almost two years.

Gov. David Paterson, embroiled in scandal involving his alleged intervention in a longtime aide’s assault case, will announce this afternoon that he will not seek re-election this fall (this after formally announcing his candidacy only a few days ago).

This does not itself pave the way for a Jewish governor; if anything, it paves the way for state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who has to see this as his moment. Still now that this scandal has proved that it has teeth, the question is no longer whether it will hurt Paterson, but how much. As Ben Smith notes, he will still face calls to resign. And should he heed those calls, the job will be thrown to his lieutenant governor, Richard Ravitch, who would restore a Semitic sheen to New York’s highest office. Because the last Jewish governor, Eliot Spitzer, worked out so well.

Paterson to Drop Out of Race For Governor [City Room]
Question of Influence in Abuse Case of Paterson Aide [NYT]
Paterson Campaign Ends [Ben Smith]
Earlier: NYT Story Opens Door for Ravitch

Harry Potter and the Copyright Lawsuit

Jewish author’s estate sues J.K. Rowling

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(Photobucket)

The estate of a British-Jewish children’s author is claiming that the plot of a 1987 children’s book is almost the exact same as that of another book, about a certain other boy wizard, written many years later. The author, Adrian Jacobs, died over a decade ago, but now his lawyers, led by flamboyant Australian publicist Max Markson, are suing J.K. Rowling for allegedly pilfering the story in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth book of the septology. Markson, the flamboyant publicist, is—yup, you guessed it—Jewish, too.

Rowling says the allegations are “unfounded” and “absurd.” Really? She expects us to believe she didn’t read a single one of the 5,000 copies of The Adventures of Willy the Wizard: No. 1 Livid Land that were printed in 1987?

This to-do does give me a good excuse to highlight a fantastic article in the new Jewish Review of Books: Professor Michael Weingrad’s exploration of why there are almost no fantasy novels written by Jews. You ought to read the whole thing, but here’s a taste:

most Jews have been deeply and passionately invested in modernity, and that history, rather than otherworldliness, has been the very ground of the radical and transformative projects of the modern Jewish experience. This goes some way towards explaining the Jewish enthusiasm for science fiction over fantasy (from Asimov to Silverberg to Weinbaum there is no dearth of Jewish science fiction writers). George MacDonald’s Phantastes, thought by some to be the first fantasy novel ever written, begins with a long epigraph from Novalis in which he celebrates the redemptive counter-logic of the fairytale: “A fairytale [Märchen] is like a vision without rational connections, a harmonious whole . . . opposed throughout to the world of rational truth.” Contrast Herzl’s dictum that “If you will it, it is no Märchen.” The impulse in the latter is that of science fiction—the proposal of what might be—and indeed Herzl’s one novel Old-New Land was a utopian fiction about the future State of Israel.

Jewish Author’s Estate Accuses Rowling of Plagiarism [Jewish Chronicle]

Related: Why There Is No Jewish Narnia [Jewish Review of Books]

Today on Tablet

Hamen-tasting, Vashti the feminist, and more on Purim

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Today in Tablet Magazine, in preparation for Purim (which starts Saturday at sundown), Jenny Merkin organized a hamentashen taste test featuring treats from around the country. Natually, the winner is one subway stop away from our offices. Liel Leibovitz posits that Purim has supplanted Passover as the holiday Jews use to assert their Jewishness to the rest of the world. Novelist Elisa Albert remembers how playing spurned Queen Vashti in middle school awakened her inner feminist. In his weekly haftorah column, Leibovitz describes the paranoia that suffused the Jews’ struggle against their eternal villain, Amalek. Ah, yes, The Scroll editor knows this week’s slighly loony haftorah well: it was the one he read at his bar mitzvah.

Andrew Koenig, of ‘Growing Pains,’ Found Dead

Jewish actor was son of Walter, of ‘Star Trek’

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Andrew Koenig, an actor most famous for playing Richard ‘Boner’ Stabone on the 1980s sitcom Growing Pains, was found dead in Vancouver yesterday after a couple days of being missing. The 41-year-old had been suffering from depression.

Koenig’s father, Walter, played Chekov on the original Star Trek series. Chekov, the youngest member of the U.S.S. Enterprise, is of course Russian; Walter was born to Lithuanian Jews.

Andrew Koenig’s Body Believed to Have Been Found
[People.com via Jewish Journal]

Daybreak: Bibi Tells World To Chill

Plus the one-state solution?, the doctor is in, and more in the news

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What would Dr. Freud say about Israel?(Talking in Circles)

• Prime Minister Netanyahu said the decision to landmark Abraham’s and Rachel’s burial sites in Israel-controlled West Bank was being blown way out of proportion: it isn’t meant to change those sites’ status quo. (But isn’t the concern that it will make that status quo permanent?) [JPost]

• Meanwhile, on the ground, there were skirmishes between young Palestinians and Israeli soldiers over the move, though larger protests didn’t materialize. [NYT]

• Longtime Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat has suggested, it was revealed, that the Palestinians drop claims for autonomy and instead try to get a single binational state established. [Haaretz]

• The passport photos of the suspected assassins of Hamas’s chief weapons man were doctored slightly, so that now, the suspects couldn’t be identified as easily. Maybe Mossad didn’t bungle this as much as we think? More later in the day. [Haaretz]

• U.S. diplomats told Israeli counterparts in Jerusalem they expect new Security Council sanctions on Iran in March or April. [Haaretz]

• A psychologist diagnoses the Israelis and the Palestinians with “collective trauma,” for which the cure is “diplomatic therapy.” Presumably not at $225/hour. [NYT]

Sundown: This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both Bagels

Plus A’jad in Damascus, Madoff by any other name, and more

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• The New York Daily News editorializes against Brooklyn’s Mile End and its preference for Montreal bagels: “this is a crime against the culture of your city. One punishable by flogging with hard salamis.” Maybe this will be a central plank of News publisher Mort Zuckerman’s Senate campaign! [Daily News]

• Syria symbolically reaffirmed its membership in Iran’s bloc by hosting Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; the Iranian president said he hoped for a Middle East “without Zionists and without colonialists.” [JPost]

• Bernard Madoff’s daughter-in-law is changing her and her children’s last name to “Morgan,” due to the name’s association with “defrauding numerous investors in his companies.” [HuffPo]

• A profile of a Polish neo-Nazi turned ultra-Orthodox Jew describes a broader trend that has seen many Catholic Poles, particularly those who learn of different pre-World War II roots, convert to Judaism. [NYT]

• Another arrest was made in connection with Bernard Madoff Investment Securities. [AP/Vos Iz Neias?]

• A visual adaptation of our Vox Tablet podcast with Fugs frontman Tuli Kupferberg. [Vimeo]

Tuli Kupferberg Jon Kalish Fuggin’ Around from Thelma Blitz on Vimeo.

Foreman Lands Top-Notch Trainer

Will be amply prepared for June fight

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Steward in 2001.(Jamie McDonald/Allsport)

Further proof that Yuri Foreman, the Israeli middleweight who’s also studying to be an Orthodox rabbi, isn’t messing around when it comes toppling his favored opponent, Miguel Cotto, when they meet on June 5th in Yankee Stadium: he’s going to be training under Emanuel Steward, one of the most famous and best in the business. In the past, he has worked with such legendary fighters as Kermit Cintron, Lennox Lewis, and Oscar De La Hoya; more recently, he has helped to train heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko. Boxing fans also probably know him for his color commentary on many HBO bouts.

Trainer issues were a major problem and distraction for Cotto in the run-up to his previous fight, a loss to pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquaio. So the leg up here, now that the bar mitzvah issue has been resolved, definitely goes to Foreman.

Yuri Foreman Gets Top Boxing Trainer Steward [Jewish Chronicle]

Earlier: Yuri Foreman Battles a Bar Mitzvah

Related: In Training [Tablet Magazine]

Out of the Frying Pan, Into Iran

Today in the Dubai Murder Mystery

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Sales are way, way up.(Vos Iz Neias?)

The Dubai Murder Mystery—figuring out who killed Hamas weapons man Mahmoud al-Mahbouh in Dubai last month (hint: probably Mossad), and how—took a turn for the yet crazier today, with the revelation that two of the 26 suspects, both of whom carried fake Australian passports, escaped to Iran following the January 19th assassination. This suggests either that it wasn’t Mossad, or (more likely) that Mossad is yet more badass than previously thought.

Spy correspondent Yossi Melman holds out the possibility that some of this information—nearly all of which originates with the Dubai police force—could be tenuous or deliberately (or accidentally) false:

It is hard to believe that, if the Mossad intelligence agency carried out the operation, the planners were so irresponsible as to dispatch nearly 30 agents and to expose an entire select operational unit on one assassination operation. … Either the new revelations are another salvo in Dubai’s psychological warfare or the police investigators are groping in the dark.

Another intelligence expert agreed: “Mossad believes if two people can do something instead of three people, then send two.”

We’re learning more and more about the folks whose names were used on those fake passports: much of it is amusing, until you imagine that it was your name, at which point it seems less enjoyable. These folks’ names are now in the public domain as associated with the killing, after all, although these names are matched to the pictures of the actual suspects. Adam Korman visited the United Arab Emirates three times in the past year … except Korman, an Australian-Israeli dual national, has never been to Dubai; someone who had a forgery of his Australian passport was the frequent flyer (“I have been frightened and shocked since receiving the news,” says Korman.) Then again, Philip Carr, an Israeli citizen whose British passport was faked, is taking the incident more in stride: “It’s a bit of a shock,” he said, “it’s surprising, but it’s more interesting than annoying.” He added: “That picture is certainly not me. He’s wearing glasses. I’ve got 20-20 vision.” (Also, for the record, France believes that all three of the French passports used by suspects were forged.)

The effect the incident could have on Israeli diplomatic relations and intelligence-gathering is starting to look minimal. A senior Israeli intelligence official tells the Washington Times, “There is a lot of hyperventilating about this in the public arena,” but “the countries that coordinate the war on terror with allies like Israel and the United States and Europe are not as exercised about this.”

Al-Mabhouh was a disguise expert, who routinely wore colored contact lenses and dyed his hair, and possessed multiple identities; he even underwent cosmetic surgery. Yet most reports have it that al-Mabhouh traveled as himself, undisguised, and without bodyguards. Something remains fishy, in other words.

Finally, while it’s reasonable to believe that Israel benefits from al-Mabhouh’s death—he was a prime weapons smuggler for Hamas, after all—the entity that most unequivocally comes out ahead in all this is the company that sells kitschy pro-Mossad t-shirts: sales are reportedly up ten-fold.

Inquiry Grows in Dubai Assassination [NYT]
Was Mossad on a Fantastic Adventure in Dubai? [Haaretz]
Israeli Official: Mossad Hit Didn’t Upset Intel Ties [Washington Times]

Meet the New Jews

Not quite the same as the Old Jews

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Generally, articles about Asian-Americans as “the New Jews”—the ethnic group that works hard, is academically successful, and generation-by-generation is realizing the American Dream—are written by Jews (see here and here, for example). So it’s cool to see Jeff Yang, writer of the San Francisco Gate’s Asian Pop column, discuss the connection from the Asian-American perspective.

Yang’s piece is about education:

nowhere is the shared arc of the Asian and Jewish American journey so clear as in the area of education, that paramount priority of both communities. The story of parents toiling to create academic opportunity for their offspring (and using guilt, bribery and punishment to ensure that those kids take advantage of it) is the same whether its narrator is named Josh Li or Joshua Leibowitz.

He bemoans informal quotas at top universities, of the type that targeted Jews a half-century ago, and notes that admissions policies that favor legacies inherently work against Asian-American advancement, instead instilling “demographic inertia” (great phrase).

Yang is equally keen on the differences between New Jews (Asian-Americans) and Old Jews (Jews). It’s not just that Jews, having had more time, are now less the ethnic group being kept out of the mainstream and more in the mainstream (as many as 30 percent of all Ivy League students are Jewish). The stereotypes of the two groups are also different:

The caricature of the one-dimensional, passive, hard-working but personality-free Asian American is indeed hard to reconcile with Jewish stereotypes; as one Jewish friend commented, “Even the most anti-Semitic depictions of Jews never make us seem boring.”

So best of luck to the New Jews. (And to the Old Jews too, of course.)

The Asian-Jewish Connection: Is It Really Kosher To Call Asians ‘The New Jews’? [SF Gate]

NYT Story Opens Door For Ravitch

If Paterson resigns, new governor is a Jew

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Gov. Paterson last Saturday, announcing his re-election bid.(Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

So after weeks of rumors and a couple articles that drew little if any blood, the New York Times today ran an investigative piece on New York Governor David Paterson that could well prove fatal to the Democrat’s tenure. In essence, it reports a heap of circumstantial evidence—without, it should be said, a true smoking gun—that Paterson personally intervened to make a domestic assault allegation against a longtime aide go away. If Paterson used the power and prerogatives of his office to influence the criminal justice system away from doing its job when it came to credible allegations of violence against a woman, then, well, would you want him remaining as your governor?

Blogger Ben Smith, a keen observer of the absurd world of New York state politics, reports that many state Democrats—oh, right, did we mention this is a gubernatorial election year?—are uneasy with the prospect of Paterson running for reelection, as he announced he would last Saturday; one operative calls the article “lethal.” Already, Rep. Steve Israel (D-New York) has asked Paterson to sit this one out.

There’s not running for re-election, on the one hand, and then there’s resigning. Should Paterson depart office prematurely, his handpicked lieutenant governor would take over for the duration of his term. That person is Richard Ravitch, who comes from several generations of Jewish New Yorkers, who made their name as builders. He’s 76, and is not a factor in terms of the upcoming election. But if the fallout from the Times story proves deathly not just to Paterson’s re-election bid but to his current governorship, then the country’s Jewiest state will—after a two-year absence, since Eliot Spitzer resigned—have a Jewish governor again.

Question of Influence in Abuse Case of Paterson Aide [NYT]
NYT Report Could Be End for Paterson [Politico]

Today on Tablet

Purim FAQs, Purim costumes, Purim chicken, and more (happy Purim!)

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Purim starts Saturday night! Today in Tablet Magazine, we tell you everything you always wanted to know about Purim but were ever-so-slightly too bashful to ask. Cookbook author and contributing editor Joan Nathan discusses what mousakhan, a Palestinian baked chicken dish, means to her, before explaining how to make a delicious version along with Moroccan challah. The Winter Olympics and Purim stir in Dvora Meyers memories of being an Orthodox girl who dressed up as Tonya Harding one year. Poetry columnist David Kaufmann celebrates the work of Charles Bernstein. Purim is The Scroll’s favorite holiday.

Nearly Two-Thirds of Americans Are Pro-Israel

Figure much higher than at the height of Oslo Accords

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Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat shake hands on the White House lawn.(Reuters)

Despite President Barack Obama’s tougher line on Israel, particularly regarding West Bank settlements, support for the Jewish state among the U.S. population has rarely been as high as it is now. Gallup found that 63 percent of Americans favor Israel more than the Palestinians. That figure has not been that high since Saddam Hussein attacked Israel in 1991; in the late ‘90s, it dipped below 40 percent.

Sixty-seven percent of Americans are very skeptical that Israel will ever be at peace with its Arab neighbors (or with all of them, anyway), which means a sizable chunk both supports Israel over the Palestinians and thinks Israel will never be at peace.

I’m not sure how much sense that makes. An Israel at peace with its neighbors requires some sort of equitable resolution for the Palestinians. You can think that the lack of peace, and the absence of a Palestinian solution, is overwhelmingly not Israel’s fault, and yet still believe there are better policies Israel could adopt in order to increase the likelihood of peace. Maybe the more useful question is not whom you support between the two sides, but whether you are satisfied with the overall direction.

Gallup Poll: American Support for Israel Near Twenty-Year High [Arutz Sheva]

Daybreak: The Dubai Mystery, Weirder Still

Plus Israel goes to California, Weiner on “chutzpah,” and more in the news

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• We learn that two of the suspected (and allegedly Mossad) assassins of Hamas’s chief weapons man escaped to Iran after the killing. The Scroll will have more on the yet more bizarre mystery later in the day. [NYT]

• In public and private, the Obama administration tsk-tsked Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision to landmark two Biblical sites in Israel-controlled West Bank. [AP/Haaretz]

• Israel has become crucial to California’s Republican primary for the U.S. Senate, with candidate Tom Campbell’s support for the Jewish state being questioned by two rivals. [LAT]

• Now that the New York Times has published a fairly damning story regarding New York Gov. David Paterson and his alleged intervention in a longtime aide’s assault case, it’s worth noting that the lieutenant governor—who would assume the job if Paterson leaves—is Richard Ravitch, a Jew. [NYT]

• Selma G. Hirsh, a longtime staffer and then official at the American Jewish Committee, died at 92. [AP/NYT]

• Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-New York) decries Republican health-care “chutzpah.” It’s really funny (and great, if you happen to agree with Weiner’s analysis).

Sundown: Israel and America, Still BFFs

Plus, another Jewish N.Y. Senate candidate, oh no Canada, and more

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• Laura Rozen notes a spurt in high-level diplomatic and defense meetings between the United States and Israel. Most notably, Vice President Biden heads there next month. [Laura Rozen]

• Could recent scandals in the ultra-Orthodox community—Tropper, Balkany, Dwek, et al—lead to a waning of the bloc’s political influence? [The Jewish Week]

• Dan Senor, one of the top Jewish foreign policy advisers in the Bush administration, is mulling a Senate run … for Kirsten Gillibrand’s New York seat, also (maybe) to be contested by Mort Zuckerman and Harold Ford. [NY Post]

• The number of anti-Semitic incidents in Canada rose over 11 percent from 2008 to 2009, reaching its highest figure in three decades. False reports alleging Jewish/Israeli organ trafficking were blamed in part. [JTA]

• The family of Rachel Corrie—the American pro-Palestinian activist who was killed by an IDF bulldozer in Gaza in 2003—is suing Israel in Israeli court. An army investigation found that her death was accidental, and that the bulldozers driver did not see her. [JTA]

• Ira Stoll: anti-Semite. (If you know who Ira Stoll is, you know how funny this is.) [JTA]

What Iran Thinks of Iranian Nukes

Quote of the Day

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Iran’s possession of such weapons will sow in Israel a sense of insecurity—and this sense alone will be enough to shatter the glass palace of this illegitimate regime in the Middle East. An Iran with nuclear weapons means an end to the dream of “secure Israel”—and this means the exodus of most of the residents.

-Asr-e Iran, a popular Iranian Website.

Iranian Website: Iranian Nuclear Bomb = End of Israel [Arutz Sheva]

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