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Powerful Congressman Fears ‘Immense Toll’ of Occupation

Rep. Berman speaks mind to Americans for Peace Now

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Berman in Moscow last June.(Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images)

At an Americans for Peace Now event, Rep. Howard Berman (D-California), who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, had the following, unusually dovish thoughts (which we received via email from APN):

I made my first congressional trip to Israel in 1983. It was then that I began to discern the primary problem Israel would have to face if it maintains its rule over the West Bank and Gaza. Either it would eventually have to rule over a disenfranchised Palestinian majority, or if it enfranchises the Palestinians Israel would eventually cease to be Jewish. I call it the demography-democracy problem. I knew I wanted Israel as a Jewish homeland to be a democracy. That was 1983. Over the years, I discovered two things: first, I learned that there were indeed many Palestinians who were prepared to accept Israel and who genuinely believe in coexistence. Second, I discovered the immense toll the occupation is taking on Israel.

He went on to praise APN, which tends to the left on these sorts of matters, for its “firm commitment to peace.”

Here’s the thing: Berman is no peacenik. Last time we mentioned him, for example, he was pushing for tougher Iran sanctions; and you don’t attain his position of power, much less keep getting elected to his Hollywood district, if you are perceived as unduly harsh on Israel. What he utters represents, by definition, what is mainstream for America’s pro-Israel political leaders. Which is, apparently, that Israel’s current policy of occupation and disenfranchisement is unsustainable.

Earlier: House Passes Symbolic Iran Sanctions Bill

Daybreak: Anti-Semitism at Post-Holocaust High

Plus bin Laden cites Israel, Bibi claims ‘eternal’ settlements, and more in the news

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• The last time global anti-Semitism attained its current level, World War II was still going on, a new report found. Jewish Agency head Natan Sharansky and an Israeli minister presented the document. [JPost]
• In an audiotape endorsing the attempted Christmas Day bombing, Osama bin Laden linked it and future attacks on the United States to its backing of Israel. [WP]
• While planting trees there for Tu B’Shevat, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that several Jewish settlements in the West Bank would “for eternity” be “inseparable part[s]” of Israel. [NYT]
• Syrian and Libyan leaders Bashar Assad and Muammar Gadhafi called for Arab countries to unite in opposition to Israel at March’s Arab Summit. [Ynet]
• A few details from Israel’s formal rebuttal to the Goldstone Report leaked (it will be submitted to the United Nations soon). Among other things, the rebuttal argues that key Gazan infrastructure was destroyed incidentally in the course of last January’s conflict, not deliberately, as the Report alleges. [NYT]
• Following President Obama’s admission that he raised Mideast peace expectations too much, his administration downplayed envoy George Mitchell’s meetings with both sides last week. [LAT]

Sundown: New Evidence Against Molester Mondrowitz

Plus Margolick on Kristol, Phil Jackson on mitzvot, and more

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• New evidence indicates that Avrohom Mondrowitz—the high-profile alleged Brooklyn child molester who is being protected from extradition by Israel—was engaged in illicit activities with underage boys as recently as 2006. [The New York Jewish Week]
• Tablet Magazine contributing editor David Margolick writes about the late neoconservative intellectual, editor, and political activist Irving Kristol. [Newsweek]
• Really cool ketubahs–check out the graphics! [Moshe Mikanovsky Art Blog]
• Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson advised Donald Sterling, the owner of the hapless cross-town L.A. Clippers, to perform mitzvot to eliminate the “Clippers curse”: “If you do a good mitzvah, maybe you can eliminate some of those things. Do you think Sterling’s done enough mitzvahs?” [ESPN]
• This article is two months old, but we still can’t come up with a better way for you to spend 45 minutes this weekend than reading about the Crypto-Jews of the U.S. southwest. [Harper’s]
• There were once plans for a Jewish homeland on the island of Tasmania, off the coast of Australia. [ABC Australia]

Turkey Demands Israel’s Respect

More than just a little bit

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Turkish President Abdullah Gul with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, last November.(Mustafa Ozer/AFP/Getty Images)

Suat Kiniklioglu, Turkey’s “deputy chairman of external affairs” (we presume this is something like an assistant secretary of state), requests in tomorrow’s International Herald Tribune that the world, particularly Europe and Israel, make a “mental shift” regarding Turkey. According to Kiniklioglu, Turkey is still treated as though it is a pawn of the Great Powers, when in reality it has emerged as a regional force in its own right. Regarding the incident from earlier this month when an Israeli diplomat deliberately (and, it should be said, unwisely) humiliated Turkey’s ambassador, Kiniklioglu argues:

Israel appears to be yearning for the golden 1990s, which were the product of a very specific situation in the region. Those days are over and are unlikely to come back even if the ruling Justice and Development Party, or A.K.P., ends up out of government.

The A.K.P. has bucked Turkey’s traditional rigorous secularism in favor of a modified Islamist approach to governing. He continues:

The natural uniting and bonding in Turkey over the Ayalon affair should be an eye-opener for those who believe that all would be dandy if only the A.K.P. would fall from power. Friends and foes better treat our ambassadors accordingly. Clumsy efforts to humiliate a Turkish ambassador should never be part of Israeli domestic political calculations.

Fair points all. Even so, relatively young nations with Black Sea-sized chips on their shoulders have rarely boded well for short-term international comity.

A Little Respect, Please [IHT]

Earlier: The Turkish To-Do: Turkey Wins, Israel Loses

Breaking: Ukrainian Leader is Not Jewish

Or, anti-Semitism has (mostly) left Ukraine

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Not-Jewish Tymoshenko campaigning for president earlier this week.(Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images)

“Anti-Semitism is no longer rampant, but it is partly a failure to teach history that allows Nadia Mateiko, an art student in Kolomiya, to say of [Prime Minister Yulia] Tymoshenko: ‘I don’t want this Jew to be the president of my country. It is not their land.’ (Ms Tymoshenko is not even Jewish.)”

Five Years On in Kiev [The Economist]

After Tefillin Scare, A Need for Education

Philly PD sniffs out the problem

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In the wake of yesterday’s tefillin-grounded flight, Agudath Israel America—the governing body of non-Hasidic ultra-Orthodoxy—said (in an email) that it has already been working with the Transportation Security Administration and several airlines to spread awareness of tefillin and other Jewish religious practices. However, sensitivity is a two-way street, according to Agudath Israel’s government affairs director: “we have also cautioned members of our own community that they must understand that many citizens may not be familiar with Jewish prayer rituals, and that they should explain the practice to individuals in authority.”

Yesterday’s incident certainly indicated that a little more mutual knowledge could go a long way. In the video below, the Philadelphia Police Department’s chief inspector explained that the whole thing was indeed a misunderstanding—“there was no threat, there never was threat.” The male passenger, he explained, “was wearing what is known as an olfactory.” Er, that’s phylactery! At least the Philly inspector … smelled … no fear: “It is completely harmless,” he said of the tefillin. You know, except for those red marks it sometimes leaves on your forearm, but those go away pretty quickly.

Oh, and want to know more about tefillin? Slate’s got you covered (or wrapped).

Earlier: BREAKING: N.Y. Plane Grounded Due to Tefillin Scare

Poll: 14 Percent of U.S. Holds Anti-Jewish Bias

Also finds anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are linked

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A new Gallup poll finds that Americans are more prejudiced toward Muslims and—wait for it—Christians than they are toward Jews. 18 percent of respondents admitted to some prejudice toward Christians, compared to only 14 percent toward Jews. The Muslim figure was much higher: 43 percent acknowledged at least “a little” bias against those of the Islamic faith. 25 percent have unfavorable views of Judaism (as opposed, it seems, to Jews). Finally, the real magic number may be seven percent: the proportion of Americans who say they have “some” or “a great deal” of prejudice toward Jews.

The other interesting result: prejudice against Jews and Muslims is correlated. Specifically, Americans with “a great deal” of anti-Jewish prejudice are much more likely to feel the same way about Muslims than an average American is. Said Gallup’s Muslim analyst, “Groups working against the two types of prejudices should perhaps form a closer alliance.”

More Bias in U.S. Against Muslims Than Other Faiths [AP/WP]

Iran Ferociously Denies Israeli Handshake Happened

If you’re so concerned, just use some Purell!

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President Ahmadinejad, last month, doesn’t want to think about shaking Israeli hands.(Olivier Morin/AFP/Getty Images)

It might have seemed routine for an adviser to the Israeli tourism minister to mention that his boss shook hands with another tourism minister at a royal Spanish reception. These are tourism ministers! If anyone is a friendly type, surely it’s a tourism minister!

But the tourism minister with which the Israeli one shook hands—allegedly!—is from Iran. And in Iran, shaking hands with an Israeli is like wearing white after Labor Day—it’s just not done. That the two exchanged pleasantries is an “ugly and false rumor,” according to an Iranian spokesperson. The Islamic Republic’s tourism minister, we are told, “never encountered Israeli officials in any form”: after all, “the permanent struggle against this international pariah is divine duty.” Maybe that can be Iran’s new tourism slogan! That’ll bring in the crowds.

Diplomatic Hand Extended: Furor May Erupt if Shaken [NYT]

Today on Tablet

Iran’s nukes, not afraid of Tariq Ramadan, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, Nathan Thrall brings us up-to-date on Iran’s nuclear program with a helpful timeline. Senior Writer Allison Hoffman considers The Girl on the Train, a new French film that explores non-Jews’ desire “to access some of what being Jewish has to offer”—specifically, the history of suffering. We interview noted intellectual and journalist Paul Berman on Tariq Ramadan, the Muslim intellectual whom the United States has decided to allow into the country, and who is the subject of Berman’s forthcoming book. Corruption allegations against former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert cause Etgar Keret to wonder why the already-rich and –powerful break the law to become more so. In his weekly haftorah column, Liel Leibovitz compares Biblical Egypt to another empire past its prime: NBC (for the record, Leibovitz is with Coco). The Scroll is not rooting for O’Brien, Leno, or Letterman as much as for a continued rollicking good story.

ADL Condemns Limbaugh’s ‘Bankers’ Remark

Foxman: ‘borderline anti-Semitic’

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Limbaugh at the White House, January 2009.(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Regarding President Obama’s attacks on alleged greedy bankers (no ethnicity specified), Rush Limbaugh had this to say: “To some people, banker is a code word for Jewish; and guess who Obama is assaulting? He’s assaulting bankers. He’s assaulting money people. And a lot of those people on Wall Street are Jewish. So I wonder if there’s—if there’s starting to be some buyer’s remorse there.” Er, Rush? Thanks, but no thanks.

The Anti-Defamation League’s Abe Foxman called the comments “borderline anti-Semitic” and suggested that Limbaugh apologize:

Limbaugh’s references to Jews and money in a discussion of Massachusetts politics were offensive and inappropriate. While the age-old stereotype about Jews and money has a long and sordid history, it also remains one of the main pillars of anti-Semitism and is widely accepted by many Americans. His notion that Jews vote based on their religion, rather than on their interests as Americans, plays into the hands of anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists.

Limbaugh put the cart before the horse: what Obama said is offensive to Jews only if he was making the connection that bankers are Jews. But, of course, he wasn’t. Instead, Limbaugh made the (offensive) connection himself, and then tried to cut-and-paste it into Obama’s prior remarks. It doesn’t really work that way. Sometimes a banker is just a banker.

ADL Whacks Limbaugh [Ben Smith]

Daybreak: Israelis Uneasy About Haiti Aid

Plus Qaeda in Israel, the tefillin non-bomb, and more in the news

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• Israelis are oddly torn over their military’s heroic efforts in Haiti. The government wants the world to take note; the right wonders why the world doesn’t take note more; the left wonders why Israel doesn’t behave similarly in slightly more proximate (and also catastrophic) Gaza. [NYT]
• Plans for a wall along Israel’s Egyptian border took on new urgency, as military experts warned of the potential for Sudanese to enter the country illegally and establish Qaeda-backed cells. [JPost]
• Even as President Obama admitted to setting Mideast expectations too high, his regional envoy, George Mitchell, relaunched the peace push in talks with Israeli leadership; today, he meets with their Palestinian counterparts. [AP/Haaretz]
• U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also called for peace talks, and reiterated his opposition to Jewish construction in East Jerusalem. [Haaretz]
• American-Jewish journalist Jared Malsin said he believes his expulsion from Israel was politically motivated. [Ynet]
• Finally, the Times has a nice postmortem on yesterday’s incident in which a flight attendant freaked out over a tefillin-wearing young man and grounded the plane. What sayeth the offending Westchester County 17-year-old’s rabbi? “I would suggest, pray on the plane and put the tefillin on later.” [NYT]

Sundown: Iranian Reactor Ready in ’10

Plus Shalom mon!, the Bible is even older, and more

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• The Russian state nuclear company said the reactor it built in Bushehr, Iran, will be up-and-running by the end of the year. [Haaretz]
• Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her E.U. counterpart said they would continue to try to impose upped sanctions on the Islamic Republic. [Haaretz]
• Elliott Abrams, who was George W. Bush’s top Mideast adviser, argues, “If we can separate the issues of Jerusalem and settlements, I think a settlement solution is possible.” [Jeffrey Goldberg]
• Jamaica: it has Jews, mon! [JTA]
• Newly discovered artifacts indicate that parts of the Bible could date as far back as the 10th century B.C.E.—four centuries earlier than had been thought. [LiveScience]
• The stolen-then-recovered “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign was returned to Auschwitz. [AP/Ynet]

‘American Idol’ Beatboxer is Jewish

Stone makes next round, chides Adam Lambert

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On last night’s season premiere episode of American Idol, a human beatbox named Jay Stone auditioned and was “sent to Hollywood”—that is, qualified for the next round. It turns out that Stone, 25, who hails from Miami, is a loud and proud Jew. He told Haaretz that a Taglit Birthright-Israel trip in 2007 awakened him to this aspect of his identity, and that he now hopes one day to make aliyah.

Stone also had choice words for Adam Lambert, last season’s Idol sensation (though not eventual victor), who downplayed his own Jewish background. That was a “true shame,” Stone said. “It’s always a difficult debate among people whether or not they want to be vocal about their Judaism. If asked what I’m interested and passionate about—I wouldn’t even be lying, Israel is one of my biggest passions and certainly something I intend to be extremely vocal about.”

The one thing he already is quite vocal about, of course, is drumming. (Yes, you read right.) See him do The Beatles’s “Come Together,” from last night’s episode, below.

Floridian Aspires to be Jewish ‘Idol’ [Haaretz]

Earlier: Lambert Outs Himself As Jewish

Gov’t Opposes $13M Judgment Against Iran

The Bennetts had sued over murdered daughter

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There’s a lovely, and sad, article in today’s Los Angeles Times about a San Diego couple (the mother writes for the local Jewish Journal, actually) whose daughter was killed in a Hamas-backed suicide bombing in Jerusalem in 2002. They sued Iran—Hamas’s sponsor—and in U.S. federal court won an uncontested $13 million judgment (they pledged to donate the sum to charities).

Enter the U.S. State Department, which has appealed the decision, on the grounds that it would involve a lien being placed on the former Iranian Embassy in Washington, D.C. The building has lay dormant since the severing of diplomatic ties in 1980—minus the occasional event, for which State charges a fee, putting the proceeds toward upkeep—but the government claims that the lien would violate diplomatic protocol, as well as further complicate U.S.-Iranian relations. Relations that are already quite complex, of course, in part due to Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism. Go figure.

Family’s Legal Fight Adds to Grief [LAT]

Gibson Gets Touchy Over ’06 Comments

Accuses (Jewish) questioner of having ‘a dog in the fight’

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Gibson last February. Nice moustache, eh?(Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Mel Gibson—you remember Mel?—has a new movie coming out. Something action-y. During an interview, Hollywood reporter Sam Rubin mentioned to Gibson that not everyone was going to welcome him back—an allusion to the incident in 2006 when he was pulled over for driving drunk, and proceeded to utter anti-Semitic remarks to the arresting officer (who, it turned out, was Jewish). Now, four years later and with a big film to promote, Gibson wisely responded, in measured, contrite tones, that he remains sorry for that unfortunate outburst, and humbly asks the public to forgive him.

Just kidding! First, he seemed to dispute that he actually said what he is alleged to have said—“remarks that were attributed to me,” he clarified, “that I didn’t necessarily make.” Then, he inquired of Rubin: “I gather you have a dog in this fight. Do you have a dog in this fight? Or are you being impartial?”

So, is “dog in this fight” Gibson-ese for “you’re a Jew, so obviously you can’t be ‘impartial’ when it comes to Jew-hating”? After the interview, Rubin said that while he didn’t understand the euphemism at the time, he now takes it that way, and was offended.

Yeah, he would be offended. They’re so sensitive. Right, Mel?

 

VIDEO: Mel Gibson Gets Defensive When Questioned About Anti-Semitic Remarks [Radar Online]

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