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Today on Tablet

Entertainment for men by Jews, more on the Leveretts, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, Josh Lambert looks at Playboy’s golden years, and finds that many of the editors responsible for making it smart and sophisticated were Jewish. Mideast columnist Lee Smith responds to Flynt and Hillary Mann Leveretts’ retorts against him with brand-new reporting that casts them as much closer to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard than they claim. It’s worth reading The Scroll for more than just the pictures of naked women.

Anti-Israel Paul Wins Conservative Contest

Will CPAC victory harm GOP with Jews?

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Paul last October.(Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

In last week’s Jewish Week, James Besser expressed concern that the rise of the right-wing Tea Party movement within the Republican Party could cause the GOP real problems with minority voters—including, and maybe especially, Jews—once the Tea Partiers moved beyond taxes and health care and into social issues. A number of political scientists agreed. One argued:

This is bad news for Jewish Republicans. The Tea Party movement hearkens back to the old anti-immigration movement, to the Ku Klux Klan, to the George Wallace movement in the 1960s. Lurking behind all of these was the idea of 100 percent “pure” Americanism—and of taking America back from the “outsiders.”

The Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman told Besser, “It’s not a danger at the moment, but it bears watching.”

Well, those watching last weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference will have noticed, as Besser did, that the potential presidential candidate favored by attendees in a straw poll was … Texas Rep. Ron Paul (Mitt Romney won second; Sarah Palin came in a distant third).

Forget the cultural cues that infamously makes Jews “hate” Palin. Paul opposes sanctions on Iran and aid to Israel, and has compared Gaza to a “concentration camp.”

“Yes I know,” Besser concludes,

the tea party movement is a big, churning and somewhat diverse collection of people, including some conservatives who think Israel is cool.

But as almost all the political scientists I talked to said, the insurgent movement also includes elements that are likely to scare the heck out of Jewish voters.

At least regarding his extreme-isolationist foreign policy views, Paul is probably not exactly whom Besser was talking about. He represents a totally different type of knot.

Ron Paul, Tea Parties, and the GOP’s Jewish Problem [JW Political Insider]

Tea Party Revolution Could Undermine Jewish Republican Outreach [Jewish Week]

Earlier: Why We Hate Her

Daybreak: Holes in the ‘Iron Dome’

Plus more Dubai suspects, leave Bronner alone!, and more in the news

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• Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile defense system seems wonderful in theory, but it’s not perfect yet still costly, and is therefore stirring controversy. [LAT]

• Dubai has 15 new suspects in the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, all of whom carried European or—in a new twist—Australian passports. The Scroll will have a full update later today. [Ynet]

• The Los Angeles Times press critic argues that New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner should be kept in his job—and not booted since his son joined the IDF—because he is a scrupulous writer and reporter. [LAT]

• It turns out that Israel’s most valuable Palestinian informant during the Second Intifada was the son of a prominent Hamas founder and official. [Haaretz]

• At least one Palestinian group has vowed to resume attacks in Israel in response to the landmarking of Abraham’s and Rachel’s tombs. [Ynet]

• Jewish-American leader Mortimer B. Zuckerman continued maneuvers toward running for Senate from New York as a Republican. [NYT]

Sundown: Goldstone Returns

Plus not-free speech, Silver Jew, and more

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• An Arab League-backed resolution to give Israel and Hamas five-month extensions to complete probes recommended by the Goldstone Report is expected to pass the U.N. General Assembly. Israel opposes any further investigation into its conduct during the 2009 Gaza War. [JPost]

• Columnist Anne Applebaum considers what the consequences for America would be if Israel bombed Iranian nuclear facilities. [Slate]

• The Palestinian Authority took credit for thwarting an Islamic Jihad-sponsored suicide attack on Israel last month. [Haaretz]

• Erwin Chemerinsky, the University of California-Irvine law school’s founding dean and a First Amendment scholar, holds that those students who disrupted Ambassador Michael Oren’s lecture at the university are not protected by free-speech guarantees. [Jewlicious]

• Charlie White, a Jewish-American skater, took the ice-dancing silver medal last night in Vancouver. [JTA]

• A columnist posits that international recognition of Palestinian statehood should be considered, not as the culmination of independence, but rather as an early, “constructive” step on the road there. [IHT]

A Risk Mossad Felt Worth Taking

Today in the Dubai Murder Mystery

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To read a timeline of the Dubai killing and its aftermath, click here.
To read last Friday’s update, click here.
To read yesterday’s update, click here.

Some of the biggest news broken today about the Dubai assassination of Hamas weapons man Mahmoud al-Mabhouh comes courtesy Judith Miller, who reported in Tablet Magazine that Mossad tried to kill al-Mabhouh (at least) twice before. She also placed the successful plot in the context of Mossad’s general policy of terrorist and terrorist-sponsor assassination, as did the Los Angeles Times, which concluded: “The policy is not likely to change, analysts and diplomats say, because such killings, from Israel’s point of view, have proved effective in fighting a nonconventional enemy. And despite legal questions and international backlash, Israel has usually emerged unscathed.”

But this just may have scathed it. While plenty in both the Israeli and British presses have celebrated Mossad’s “““““alleged””””” killing, there are at least six people who are not so happy: those folks, all with dual British-Israeli citizenship, whose faked passports were used by the assassins “were completely unaware of this abuse,” notes Der Spiegel. “They are shocked and are demanding an investigation.” The European Union condemned the faked passports, though its official statement did not mention Israel. Oh, and Iran used the occasion to argue, “Israel’s existence is itself based on terrorist activities.” But it does that every Tuesday.

Some may have called for Mossad chief Meir Dagan to step down, but he is way too important to Israel’s low-temperature conflict with Iran to be sacked. In Israel, the plot may on some level be controversial, but opposition leader Tzipi Livni rallied around the flag: “that a terrorist was killed, and it doesn’t matter if it was in Dubai or Gaza, is good news,” she said.

Is that true? In Slate, Shmuel Rosner says it’s too soon to tell if al-Mabhouh’s death is worth the ostensible hit Mossad is taking to its reputation. And Der Spiegel—whose lengthy treatment of the story is amply worth your time if you’ve read this far—makes a great point:

Mossad was apparently prepared to accept the possibility that the identities of its agents would be revealed. In fact, it was even willing to jeopardize the security of Israel’s own citizens, whose very protection it cites as justification for its actions. … the death of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh must have been very important to Jerusalem.

Assassination Tango [Tablet Magazine]
Israel Relies on a Deadly Specialty [LAT]
A Mossad Operation Gone Awry? [Der Spiegel]
A Cost-Benefit Analysis of the Dubai Assassination [Slate]

Carter Defends Mideast Record

Bemoans lack of ‘real progress’ since 1979

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Carter last November.(STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Angrily responding to an article in the prior issue of Foreign Policy, former President Jimmy Carter—who helped orchestrate the Camp David agreement with Egypt, and in recent years has emerged as an especially staunch critic of Israel—offers this apologia pro vita sua regarding his presidency’s Israel policy:

There was no pressure on me to launch a peace initiative in the Middle East, but I did so from my first days in office. I realized that there had been four wars against Israel during the preceding quarter-century, with Egypt being the only Arab force that was strong enough to be a real threat. At Camp David and during the following weeks, we negotiated a resolution to the Palestinian issue and a treaty of peace early in 1979 between Egypt and Israel. Although written commitments to the Palestinians have not been honored, not a word of the peace treaty has been broken. Tragically, there has been little if any real progress since that time.

In writing that final sentence, Carter must not be including Israel’s similar peace deal with Jordan, in 1993. Still, and if nothing else, the following is true: at no time since 1979, at the least, has there been greater international consensus and hope for an independent Palestinian state. If Carter thinks that shouldn’t count as “real progress,” then I hope his objection is merely a semantic one.

Presidential Debate [Foreign Policy]
The Carter Syndrome [Foreign Policy]

First ‘Jewish Review of Books’ Drops

A new literary quarterly

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The Jewish Review of Books just published its inaugural issue, and the new quarterly journal looks to be worth bookmarking. In name, content, and even look, its clear inspiration is the New York Review of Books; like that venerable publication, it consists of extended essays on books and ideas by leading intellectual lights. Only, you know, it’s all Jewish.

Some notable pieces from the Spring 2010 number:

• Tablet Magazine book critic Adam Kirsch reviews 36 Arguments for the Existence of God, a new novel from Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, who is also the author of Nextbook Press’s Betraying Spinoza (got all that?).

• Hillel Halkin—author of Nextbook Press’s brand-spankin’-new biography of Yehuda Halevi—considers a new American Orthodox siddur.

• Ron Rosenbaum discusses Bob Dylan as an explicitly Jewish figure.

• Michael Weingrad interrogates why, amid a sea of Christian allegories, there are few if any good Jewish-inspired fantasy novels.

• Harvey Pekar and Tara Seibel offer a graphic review of comic artist R. Crumb’s Book of Genesis.

Jewish Review of Books
A Jewish Journal of Ideas is Born [Forward]

For Purim, Israeli Foreign Minister is Popular Costume

Get your poorly kept beards ready

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Lieberman earlier this month.(Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images)

As Purim approaches, a new poll found that the political figure whom the most Jewish Israelis want to dress up as is—drum roll, please—Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman! Over 40 percent of respondents picked the Yisrael Beiteinu leader. This is basically the equivalent of when like literally everyone was Sarah Palin—also a polarizing, somewhat cartoonish right-winger—for Halloween 2008. In second place, at a shade over 20 percent, is—drum roll again—President Barack Obama! This is basically the equivalent of when lots of people were Barack Obama for Halloween 2008.

If you’re looking to dress up as Lieberman or Obama—or Palin—or anyone—you could always attend Hamanbashin, JDub Records’s Purim party (co-sponsored by Tablet Magazine), which takes place this Saturday in New York’s Lower East Side. Bonus points to whoever does the best job depicting the assassinated Hamas guy.

Purim Politics Unmasked: Lieberman Leads Costume Poll [Arutz Sheva]

Earlier: Hamanbashin!

Today on Tablet

Mossad’s secret assassination history, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Judith Miller uncovers two of Mossad’s past attempts on the life of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, the Hamas weapons procurer assassinated in Dubai last month. Al-Mabhouh was in the Israeli spy agency’s cross-hairs both for his 1989 murder of Israeli soldiers and for continued role in Hamas’s arms chain. Morton Landowne introduces and guides us through a slideshow of Israeli artist Andi Arnovitz’s new series of paper coats inspired by famous Jewish women. Book critic Adam Kirsch celebrates the “strangely compelling” collection of letters traded among Viennese Jewish author Elias Canetti, his wife, and his younger brother. And think of The Scroll as letters to you, the reader.

Israel Goes To ‘The Office’

Hebrew version to take more political angle

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Dwight and Michael in NBC’s ‘The Office’(remake of E! Online)

Jim and Pam, meet Yossi and Dana: an Israeli remake of The Office, Ricky Gervais’s brilliant BBC sitcom—whose U.S. version is currently in its sixth season on NBC—is slated to air in the coming months.

But the Israeli Office may be home to more than just bumbling, affable paper salesmen. One of the show’s lead writers, reportedly, is Uzi Weill, the creator of some of Israel’s fiercest political satires—his hit 1990s show, Ha’hamishiya Ha’kamerit, frequently poked fun at such sensitive topics as the Holocaust, Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination, and the Israel Defense Force. And the new Office, it seems, will follow the same provocative path: according to its producers, the show will include such characters as Abba, an Ethiopian, and Abed, “an intellectual Arab with a gentle soul.”

In the meantime, Gervais, the show’s original creator and star, sounded a happy note. “I am thrilled and amazed that Israel [is] making The Office with local writers, directors, and actors,” he said. “I mean, who ever heard of Jewish entertainers?”

Israeli Version of Hit TV Sitcom ‘The Office’ in the Works [Haaretz]

Daybreak: Abraham’s Children Squabble

Plus ‘Schindler’ lands ice dancers in 10th, and more in the news

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• Skirmishes followed Prime Minister Netanyahu’s announcement that he will designate Abraham’s and Rachel’s burial places, which are in Israel-controlled West Bank, as national heritage sites. [NYT]

• U.S. Adm. Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress that no military strike could completely halt Iran’s nuclear weapons program. [Haaretz]

• Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman dodged E.U. questions over Mossad’s suspected assassination of Hamas’s chief weapons man, which involved the use of forged European passports. A complete update of the story will follow on The Scroll today. [AP/WSJ]

• Defense Minister Ehud Barak heads for America today for security discussions with senior U.S. officials as well as a meeting with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. [Haaretz]

• Rabbi Menachem Porush, head of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism political party, died at 93. [AP/NYT]

• Roman and Alexandra Zaretsky, the Israeli ice dancing duo, finished in 10th place in the Vancouver Olympics after skating, last night, to the theme from Schindler’s List (here’s video). [JTA]

Sundown: Foxman Loves ‘Basterds’

Plus Norman Finkelstein, crazy college kids, and more

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• The Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman called for Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds to be … honored with an Academy Award. [HuffPo/ADL]

• Norman Finkelstein, the notorious writer (his prime shtick is, he’s the son of survivors who compares Israel to the Nazis), has been trying to secure speaking venues in Germany. [JPost]

• Long Island’s Holocaust Museum and Tolerance Center reopened (after over a year of renovations) with powerful new exhibits. [NYT]

• An interesting feature on how Orthodox students at secular colleges compromise among religious strictures and the reigning hook-up culture. [New Voices]

• At the Jewish Council of Public Affairs Plenum in Dallas, Ambassador Michael Oren called for “compromise” regarding the controversy over mixed gender prayers at the Western Wall. [JCPA]

• Get prepared for the Zaretskys’ ice dancing performance tonight with this (unrelated) clip, which is also set to the Schindler’s List theme music.

Israel Near To Its First Liberal Arts College

Just a laid-back kind of place, you know?

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The planned Shalem College, which is to be Israel’s first liberal arts college (as opposed to university), got a major boost with a $5 million donation from Chicago’s Conduit Foundation. The purpose of the college, according to the prospective president (who also heads Jerusalem’s Shalem Center), is to provide an alternative education to the Israeli universities, which are focused on being world-class centers for research, allegedly, at times, at the expense of educating undergraduates. It will also strive to be the type of place where students can sorta just chill for four years, read some good books, make some great friends, and get into all kinds of really cool bands while enjoying New England autumns, in Israel.

$5M Donation Makes Shalem College Vision A Reality [JPost]

The New Jews of U.S. Politics

With more Republicans than ever

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Richard Blumenthal announcing his Senate candidacy last month.(Douglas Healey/Getty Images)

The Forward’s list of the 10 Jewish U.S. politicians best poised to make a big jump in 2010 is a fun read, partly because you get to learn about a whole new group of people (the only member of the list I had heard of is soon-to-be Sen. Richard Blumenthal [D-Connecticut]).

Of these top 10, four are Republicans: an oddly high number, given that, currently, Jews go for the Democratic presidential candidate roughly 3-to-1, and that, of the 13 Jewish U.S. senators, there are zero Republicans (unless you count Joe Lieberman, which maybe you should). Is this strong GOP showing a fluke? Or a harbinger?

Oh, also, none other than Alaska may see a Jew in high office: Republican state representative Jay Ramras, who built the Fairbanks synagogue, is running for lieutenant governor up there. There are worse breeding grounds for influential Republican politicians, you know.

Top 10 U.S. Jewish Politicians [Forward/Haaretz]

Earlier: Meet the Likely Next Jewish Senator

Go Read ‘Tablet’ Columnist’s New Book

The ‘Times’ likes Lee Smith’s ‘A Strong Horse’

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A hearty congratulations to Tablet Magazine Mideast columnist Lee Smith, whose new book, The Strong Horse, got the coveted favorable treatment in the New York Times Book Review. Author Wendell Steavenson praises the “short, dense, nuanced polemic,” and adds, “[Smith] treats us to beautifully written portraits of his Arab friends, individuals who illustrate far better than finely wrought theory the difficulties of practical reform.”

Steavenson also engages (and somewhat disagrees, but debate is good!) with Smith’s central contention:

The ruling elites … are simply self-interested factions trying, by any measure possible, to retain their grip on power. Jihad, Smith argues, is an age-old byproduct of this struggle as the ruler pushes the energies of the young militant warrior class away from his capital. For Smith, the 9/11 attacks were less the result of a clash of civilizations than part of existing Middle East power struggles.

“Smith,” Steavenson adds, “sees this as an embedded cultural inheritance.”

To read Smith’s past “Agents of Influence” columns for Tablet Magazine, click here. And check in here on Wednesdays for new ones.


The Enemy Within
[NYTBR]
The Strong Horse

Related: Agents of Influence [Tablet Magazine]

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