Settlers Smash Ice to Protest Settlement Freeze

Participants steal headline writers’ go-to pun

The head of a Hebron settlement at a Jerusalem protest today.(Menahem Kehana/AFP/Getty Images)

Today, in front of the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem, West Bank settlers smashed a symbolic house made of ice—symbolic, because what they really want smashed is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s declared freeze on West Bank settlement construction. Get it? The ice represents the freeze? Thaw thaw thaw, very funny.

Settlers Smash Ice Structure in Anti-Freeze Protest [Ynet]

Poet Rachel Wetzsteon Dies at 42

‘New Republic’ poetry editor, bard of Morningside Heights


Sad news from the Upper West Side: talented young poet Rachel Wetzsteon was found dead, apparently a suicide. Tablet Magazine book reviewer Adam Kirsch, an expert on 20th-century poetry who moreover worked with Wetzsteon at The New Republic (where she was poetry editor), had this to say about her: “at 42, she was one of the best poets of her generation, distinguished by her natural gift for form, her tough urban romanticism, and her appealing combination of melancholy and wit.”

In particular, those (like myself) who have spent lots of time in Morningside Heights may smile, and feel not a little awe, at how much insight and beauty Wetzsteon was able to wring out of her sleepy, university-town upper Manhattan neighborhood. In “Short Ode to Morningside Heights,” Wetzsteon juxtaposes the grad-school chatter at the Hungarian Pastry Shop with the towering Cathedral of St. John the Divine across Amsterdam Avenue:

The pastry shop’s abuzz
with crazy George and filthy graffiti,
but the peacocks are strutting across the way
and the sumptuous cathedral gives
the open-air banter a reason to deepen:
build structures inside the mind, it tells
the languorous talkers, to rival the ones outside!

Rachel Wetzsteon, Poet of Keen Insight and Wit, Dies at 42 [NYT]
In Memory, and Admiration, of Rachel Wetzsteon [TNR]

Livni Rejects Green Line as Final Boundary

Even the centrist opposition would keep some West Bank settlements

Livni in Paris last month.(Gerard Cerles/AFP/Getty Images)

The Wall Street Journal sat down with Tzipi Livni, the leader of Israel’s opposition Kadima Party, late last month (that is, before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked her to join his unity cabinet … and before she turned him down). Notably, even Livni—a centrist, appreciably to the left of Netanyahu’s Likud Party—rejects any settlement that would establish the pre-1967 Green Line as the final boundary between Israeli and Palestinian states, due to the Israeli settlements that lie just on the other side in the West Bank and East Jerusalem:

Regardless of what you think of settlement activity in the past—whether you think it’s Jews building in their ancient homeland or it is against international law. It’s not important. Because we have what we call ‘blocs of settlements,’ and most of them are very close to the Green Line. It takes only a few percentages [of the territory]. Whether we like it or not, we have to give an answer to these realities in any peace agreement.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has insisted that the Green Line be considered “sacrosanct.” On the other hand, Livni wryly uses her harder line on the final-boundary issue in order to take a softer line on another of Abbas’s demands: a full settlement freeze. As she puts it, “It’s not about building now, but to keep the blocs of settlements as part of Israel in the future.”

Interview With Tzipi Livni [WSJ]

Earlier: The Road Map to Real Negotiations

Today on Tablet

‘Emancipation’, tattle-tales, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, the weekly Vox Tablet podcast features an interview with former BBC journalist Michael Goldfarb on his new book, Emancipation. Marjorie Ingall devotes her weekly column on parenting to tattling: drawing the line between good and bad telling, and educating children on the distinction. Josh Lambert offers up his weekly look at forthcoming books of Jewish interest, including a few novels. And guess what’s back? The Scroll, all day long. Happy New Year.

How To Prevent Plane Bombings? Ask Israel

After failed attack, attention paid to Israel’s success


A man who was a known terrorist and, it turned out, had explosives lining his underwear was able to board an American plane headed from Amsterdam to Detroit, provoking, among other things, much questioning over how to prevent future such errors. One prominent idea? In the Tweeted words of comedian Bill Maher, “just ask ‘what wld Israel do?’ and do that.” After all, the thinking goes, few countries’ planes are bigger targets for Islamic terrorists; and yet few countries’ planes are safer to fly.

David Harris, the American Jewish Committee President, explains how Israel does it. Airports in Israel contain uniformed security with machine guns and plainclothes visual screeners; every passenger is interviewed extensively; and every El Al flight contains an air marshal.

On his blog, Tablet Magazine contributing editor Jeffrey Goldberg—who has disparaged U.S. airport security before—predicts that the United States will never adopt the full extent of the intense Israeli security procedure:

Israel’s one national airport, Ben-Gurion, has a total passenger capacity of 10 million annually; Baltimore-Washington International, by contrast, processes more than 20 million a year … cow-like though we are, Americans are not going to stand for the invasive questioning that is the most crucial component of the Israeli system.

On the other hand, as Goldberg also noted, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano visited Jerusalem last weekend.

What Israel Can Teach The World About Airport Security [Huffington Post]

Related: The Things He Carried [The Atlantic]

Daybreak: British Neo-Nazi Wanted Auschwitz Sign

Plus a dispatch from a West Bank highway, and more in the news


• The pilfered-then-recovered “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign from Auschwitz was intended for a still-unnamed wealthy British Nazi sympathizer, according to the Sunday Mirror. [Haaretz]
• Israel’s Highway 443 traces an ancient route just north of Jerusalem through the West Bank. After an Israeli Supreme Court ruling last week, it will have to be opened to most Palestinian drivers, too. An excellent dispatch. [LAT]
• Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is likely to remain in a coma for the rest of his life, longtime advisor Dov Weisglass said. Sharon has been comatose for four years. [Arutz Sheva]
• Jean Carroll (née Celine Zeigman), a trailblazer for woman comedians, died at 98. Tablet Magazine produced a podcast about her in 2008. [NYT]
• The head of Iran’s soccer program apologized for accidentally including Israel among the recipients of the progam’s annual New Year’s greeting. Don’t worry, we forgive him (though for his sake we hope his government does, too). [CNN via Vos Iz Neias?]

Jewish Terrorist Supplies Kinky Alibi

Can a porn fetish save a crazed killer?


Attention Law & Order: if you’re looking for strange, ripped-from-the-headlines cases, you may want to call Shin Bet. Three months ago, the Israeli security agency arrested American-born settler Jack Teitel for allegedly murdering two Palestinians and detonating numerous makeshift bombs that targeted intellectuals, gay-rights activists, and police officers. Teitel was quick to confess many of his crimes, but denied one: the murder of two youths at a Tel Aviv gay community center. His alibi, he told his interrogators, was solid: at the time of the shootings, he was surfing a pornographic Website that caters to tickling fetishists, where he was a habitual visitor and where his password was “killarafat.”

The truth, alas, was less piquant: agents were finally able to ascertain that Teitel was driving a pregnant neighbor to the hospital at the time of the community center shootings. Nevertheless, Teitel expressed his support for the horrific act, and told investigators that he had selected his nom de guerre, the Black Bear, as a clear message to Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Nethanyahu to act against Israel’s gay citizens.

Yaakov Teitel’s Investigation: The Confession, the Strange Alibi, and the Plans for the Next Murder [Haaretz, in Hebrew]

Today’s News: Run, Shmuley, Run!

Plus Jews have their say on health-care reform, and more


• In an absolutely must-read op-ed, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach hints that he will run for public office should the Libyan Ambassador continue to be allowed to live next-door to him in Englewood, New Jersey. [JTA]
• The United States has urged Israel not to release Palestinian terrorist Marwan Barghouti as part of a swap for captured soldier Gilad Shalit, according to a London-based Arabic paper. [Ynet]
• Jewish groups are taking an increasingly active role in trying to further shape health-care reform before the House and Senate vote on (and likely approve) a single bill. [JTA]
• A moving story of two eight-year-old friends, who happen to be an Israeli Jewish boy and a Palestinian Muslim girl, each injured by a weapon from the other side. “Someone forgot to tell them that they are enemies.” [NYT]
• Percy Sutton, the recently deceased former Manhattan borough president, is remembered for his significant efforts in favor of Jewish causes. [JTA]

Do English Depts. Study American-Jewish Lit?

Hire experts on Roths Henry and Philip, panel suggests


Why don’t university English departments, which routinely include experts in and courses on a range of American minority literatures (African-American, Chicano, etc.), include American-Jewish literature on that list? That question was posed by a panel at the Modern Language Association’s annual conference, which began Sunday in Philadelphia. Professors on the panel—kicked off by Tablet Magazine columnist Josh Lambert—noted that only two of the top 20 English departments in the U.S. have a tenure-track faculty member with expertise on American-Jewish lit, whereas 11 have a specialist in the Native American canon. Further, panelists pointed out, where expertise on Jewish literature does exist within the academy, it’s often focused singularly on the writing of the Holocaust. Though no one suggested that anti-Semitism was afoot, another panelist argued that, within the academy, “Jewishness has been associated with Israel, white privilege, colonialism and racism”: a set of connotations unlikely, to say the least, to garner minority literature points for the Jews.

The Lost Tribe [Inside Higher Ed]

Today’s News: Further On Up The Road

Plus a $200M fraud hits Lakewood, a maybe-march into Gaza, and more


• The Israeli Supreme Court ordered a West Bank highway to be opened to most Palestinian drivers. [NYT]
• A Lakewood, New Jersey, Orthodox man is the target of a $200 million fraud lawsuit, according to court papers. The plaintiffs are several Orthodox real estate investors who allege they were specifically targeted as part of an “affinity fraud.” [The New York Jewish Week]
• Tablet Magazine contributing editor Jeffrey Goldberg weighs in with an interesting take on Obama’s anti-Semitism envoy and her controversial comments. [The Atlantic]
• Over 1,000 people, including Holocaust survivor and activist Hedy Epstein, gathered in Cairo to prepare a ‘Cast Lead’ anniversary March into Gaza. But Egypt says it will not open the Rafah crossing for them. [NYT]
• Eugene Zinn, a survivor of Auschwitz who near the end of his life lectured frequently about his experience, died at 85. [LAT via Vos Iz Neias?]

David Levine, ‘New York Review’ Cartoonist, Dies

A Brooklyn red diaper baby, ‘brilliant visual punster’ was 83


David Levine, the cartoonist whose distinctive style was visually synonymous with the New York Review of Books, has died at 83. He was born and bred in (where else?) Brooklyn, where he also lived the end of his life. His father owned a small garment shop, his parents had Communist sympathies: the typical story. But his drawings were anything but typical. In a profile that appeared in Vanity Fair last year, Tablet Magazine contributing editor David Margolick wrote:

What sets Levine’s drawings apart is not just the technical artistry but also the wit. “He was the most brilliant visual punster that ever existed,” says [Edward] Sorel. … Monica Lewinsky smokes a cigar. Hemingway stands on an animal rug with a Hemingway head. Patton is squirreled away in a giant holster. Kenneth Starr is an ayatollah. Osama bin Laden is a long, bushy beard. Dan Quayle is a puny Sword of Damocles hanging over George H. W. Bush.

The only folks who might find today’s news cheering are the future members of our public carnival of fools: they are lucky to have evaded the David Levine treatment.

David Levine, Astringent Illustrator, Died at 83 [NYT]

Related: Levine in Winter [Vanity Fair]

Today’s News: Livni Says ‘No No’ to Bibi

Plus Israeli nuclear whistleblower violates terms, and more


• Tzipi Livni rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s offer to include her Kadima party in his unity cabinet. [Forward/Haaretz]
• Mordecai Vanunu, who blew the whistle on Israeli nuclear activities in 1986, was ordered under house arrest after meeting with “a number of foreigners” in violation of his conditional release from prison. [WSJ]
• Cancer rates among Israeli Holocaust survivors are significantly higher than those of Jews who migrated to Palestine before or during World War II, a new study found. [NYT]
• Peter Orszag, Obama’s budget czar, announced his engagement to ABC News correspondent Bianna Golodryaga. “She’s a Russian Jew who gets up earlier than I do,” he said. [NYT]
• Alice Schiller, who grew up in an Orthodox Indiana household but ended up running one of Los Angeles’s most famous burlesque clubs, died at 95. [NYT]
• Mazel tov to the man in Israel who just secured his country’s record by accomplishing his 11th divorce (all of which were halachic). Ladies, this means he’s single! [JPost]

Administration Rebukes Its Anti-Semitism Envoy

Rosenthal, former J Street advisor, tell us she’s still packing for D.C.


Is Hannah Rosenthal, the State Department’s new anti-Semitism czar, doomed to become the next Van Jones—an administration official whose impolitic comments force her departure? Last week, she told Haaretz that Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s recent criticism of the progressive Israel lobbying group J Street was “most unfortunate.” The remarks prompted several Jewish leaders to complain; Alan Solow, the Chicago Democrat who chairs the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, opined that Rosenthal went “beyond her responsibilities.” Meanwhile, the Israeli government requested clarification, and, late on Christmas Eve, they got it: Obama’s Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs asserted, “The Department of State deeply values its close relationship with Ambassador Michael Oren and his staff.” In other words, Rosenthal got some clarification, too.

Tablet Magazine reached Rosenthal earlier today at home in Madison, Wisconsin, where she is busy packing up her furniture for the move to Washington, D.C., later this week. She declined to comment on the furor her comments provoked, except to say that she believes the original Haaretz headline—which said she “blasted” Oren—exaggerated what she actually said, which was that she thought it “most unfortunate” that Oren apparently thinks J Street’s dovish policy positions could put the lives of Israeli Jews at risk.

“The interview focused on what is and what isn’t anti-Semitism,” Rosenthal said. “I don’t think a reporter asking me about J Street is out of bounds, and I don’t think my answer was out of bounds.”

American Envoy Sparks Furor with Criticism of Oren [Haaretz]
U.S. Official Slammed for Criticizing Ambassador Oren [JPost]

Earlier: U.S. Anti-Semitism Envoy Attacks Ambassador Oren

Related: The Anti-Anti-Semite [Tablet Magazine]

No Longer That Most Wonderful Time of the Year

For converts, December can be the cruelest month


On the day after Christmas, the New York Times published a sympathetic article on the emotional bind that many former Christians who have converted to Judaism find themselves in during December 25th:

For thousands of people who convert to Judaism, Christmas is a difficult day of balancing what was once intimately theirs but now represents, in some ways, the essence of what they are giving up.

We are surprised that the Times resisted the temptation to point out a small coincidence in its piece: the paper of record’s lead anecdotal convert, Charlotte Jett, shares a name with maybe the most pop culturally famous convert, Sex and the City’s Charlotte Goldenblatt (née York). But the article is worth your time, and important to read: after all, Christmas is only 362 days away!

Why Is This Christmas Different From All Others? [NYT]

High Noon: Bibi Starts Building in East Jerusalem

Plus hot water for Obama envoy, and more in the news


• Israel announced plans to build 700 new homes in East Jerusalem. The move was condemned by Palestinian negotitor Saeb Erekat as well as a U.S. diplomat. [AP/WSJ]
• Alan Solow, a major figure in the Jewish-American organizational world, criticized Obama administration anti-Semitism envoy Hannah Rosenthal for her comments chastising Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren and defending J Street. [JTA]
• The Israeli military killed three West Bank men accused of murdering an Israeli settler a few days before; three more Palestinians died in an airstrike in north Gaza. [LAT]
• Numerous experts predict that the next time Israel finds itself in a Lebanon- or Gaza-style conflict, it will utilize even more force. [NYT]
• If you’ve been following the saga of Sean Goldman, the boy whose American father was trying to get him back from Brazil, then you may want to know that Sean and his father, David, are Jewish. [JTA]
• A scholar who sat on the Catholic-Jewish Historical Commission gives his thoughts on the controversial Pope Pius XII’s continued path toward sainthood. [Forward]

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