Barak Warns of ‘Apartheid’

Defense minister utters a very big word


Sorry for the consecutive Herzliya Conference posts. But it is fairly big news: Defense Minister Ehud Barak stated that, should there continue to be only one country on the land where Israel and the Palestinian territories currently are (and should most of the Palestinians remain disenfranchised), then a state of “apartheid” would exist. That is a very big word to use, of course (former President Jimmy Carter’s deployment of it, for example, has made him persona non grata in many circles), and Barak said it in a joint session with Prime Minister Salam Fayyad (the “Ben-Gurionist”) in Herzliya. The full quote: “The simple truth is if there is one state, it will have to be either bi-national or undemocratic. … if this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.”

Barak’s larger remarks were not overly dovish. He called for an immediate resumption of peace negotiations, but explicitly rejected the Palestinian demand for a construction freeze throughout the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, before talks resume. (Fayyad, for his part, insisted on that precondition.) In other words, Barak was not exactly playing the lefty.

Two questions:

How soon until it is fully mainstream—until it is not news, requiring of, say, an immediate blogpost—for an important Israeli (or American) to use the word “apartheid” to describe Israel’s potential future?

And, if Israel’s current situation is a country headed for “apartheid,” what needs to happen for it to be a country that actually practices “apartheid” already? What are some of those preconditions? Are any of them already satisfied?

And, again, don’t forget to check in on Judith Miller’s dispatches from Herzliya for Tablet Magazine.

Barak: Peace With Palestinians or Apartheid [AP/TPM]

Earlier: Peres Passes Peace Torch to Fayyad

Peres Passes Peace Torch to Fayyad

Calls Palestinian PM ‘Ben-Gurionist,’ dismisses one-state solution

Peres speaking at Herzliya today.(Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)

At the Herzliya Conference, Israeli President Shimon Peres—86 years old, he is the last of the original Labor Zionist founders of the state of Israel—called Prime Minister Salam Fayyad “the Palestinians’ first Ben-Gurionist.” David Ben-Gurion, of course, was Israel’s first prime minister, the crucial participant in its immediate political creation, and Peres’s mentor; to call Fayyad a Ben-Gurionist, then, is to recognize the legitimacy of Fayyad’s desire for a Palestinian state. Peres specifically praised Fayyad’s focus on building in the Palestinian territories the infrastructure and institutions that any sovereign, competent state needs to have.

Peres also spoke against the so-called one-state solution, in which a single bi-national country encompassing all the land between the river and the sea would be formed: “There is no country which can hold two nations,” Peres argued, “because then there will be a conflict between people, which brings about terror, which will make life impossible. There is no choice but to settle our relations, in order to prevent terror from determining our sons’ fate.”

Peres’s “Ben-Gurionist” comment feels a little like an anointment (it feels like when Ted Kennedy endorsed Barack Obama). Hopefully the characterization will prove apt.

Meanwhile, do check in on Judith Miller’s dispatches from Herzliya for Tablet Magazine.

Peres: Fayyad—Palestinians’ First ‘Ben-Gurionist’ [Ynet]

‘A Serious Man,’ ‘Basterds,’ and ‘Ajami’ Nominated

Congrats to Tablet contributing editor David Rakoff

The Coen Brothers’ ‘A Serious Man’(Courtesy Focus Features)

And the Oscar nominations go to … two very prominently Jewish-themed films, among others. Both Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (about Nazi-killing Jews) and the Coen brothers’ A Serious Man (which is almost exclusively about Jews, and which is, for my money, the most profoundly Jewish American movie in years) are up for the big award: Best Picture. Additionally, Tarantino got Best Director and Original Screenplay nominations; Christoph Waltz, who plays the main SS guy in his film, is up for Best Supporting Actor. The Coens also are nominated for Best Original Screenplay.

This being Hollywood, several Jews were recognized for work that was not explicitly Jewish, including Up in the Air director and co-writer Jason Reitman, and David Rakoff, who had a hand in the writing of The New Tenants, a nominee for Best Short Film (Live Action). Did we mention that Rakoff is a Tablet Magazine contributing editor? Well, he is.

Finally, Ajami, Israel’s first-ever Arabic-language submission to the Academy, became the third consecutive Israeli offering to score one of the five Best Foreign Language Film nominations. Will it be the first to win? The Oscars are Sunday, March 7th, so we’ll find out soon enough.

Do read Tablet Magazine’s resident film buff Liel Leibovitz on A Serious Man (loved) and Basterds (hated). Plus—spoiler alert!—you will be able to read his thoughts on Ajami soon enough.

The 82nd Annual Oscar Nominations [ArtsBeat]

Earlier: Israel Nears Third Straight Oscar Nomination

Related: Taking It Seriously [Tablet Magazine]
Inglorious Indeed [Tablet Magazine]

Rabbi Blames Earthquake on Gays

Warns against repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Defense Secretary Gates testifying today.(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

We have our very own Pat Robertson! (Lucky us.) Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi Yehuda Levin expounded on his view that homosexuality was a “spiritual cause” of the earthquake in Haiti, as well as, we think, of 9/11. Said Levin, who is head of the Rabbinical Alliance of America:

Thirteen months before 9/11, on the day New York City passed homosexual domestic partnership regulations, I joined a group of rabbis at a City Hall prayer service, pleading with God not to visit disaster on the city of N.Y. [Ed.: Next time, pray harder!] We have seen the underground earthquake, tsunami, Katrina, and now Haiti. All this is in sync with a two thousand year old teaching in the Talmud that the practice of homosexuality is a spiritual cause of earthquakes.

Why is the rabbi saying this now? Because today, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is testifying before a U.S. Senate committee that he agrees with President Barack Obama that gays should be allowed to serve openly in the military. “We plead with saner heads in Congress and the Pentagon to stop sodomization of our military and our society,” Rabbi Levin asks.“ Enough is enough.” Who knows what catastrophes might befall the United States if it is finally allowed to fully tap the country’s talent pool, including its gay citizens? One shudders to think.

Annals of Theodicy: Gays Caused Haiti Earthquake, Haredi Rabbi Says [Failed Messiah]

S/J/M ISO Golem

And in Queens, not Prague!


If you happen to be a “Rabbi versed in the Dark Talmudic Arts” (we know you’re out there!), then this Craiglist ad may be for you.

UPDATE: The ad, which requested someone who could make a Golem for the poster, has since been flagged for removal. You know, you’re just going to make the eventual Golem even angrier …

Today on Tablet

Dispatch from Herzliya, Jane Austen-berg, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Judith Miller, our reporter at the Herzliya Conference, talks Iran—or talks about not talking about Iran—with Netanyahu’s national security adviser, Uzi Arad. Middle East columnist Lee Smith profiles Mohsen Sazegara, whose Website has proved integral to the anti-regime street protests in Iran, and Richard Haass, the classic foreign policy old wise man who has learned to embrace those protests. Book critic Adam Kirsch reviews The Three Weissmanns of Westport: “Jane Austen, but with Jews!” The Scroll sometimes likes to think of itself as a Jewish Darcy.

Van-Jew-ver Readies for Games

Israel is sending three to the Winter Olympics

The new Olympic rink in downtown Vancouver.(Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

We had never thought of it this way, but JTA’s reporter correctly notes that Vancouver, Canada, is “the most Jewishly active city ever to host the Winter Olympics.” The town, in the Canadian province of British Columbia, is home to upwards of 30,000 Jews, who will be represented in the Olympic Village (actually, both of them: one in Vancouver, one at the resort-town of Whistler) by an official Jewish clergyman, religious services, and various and sundry accommodations. Additionally, and in a nice twist, one of the final bearers of the Olympics torch before the lighting at the Opening Ceremonies will be a Jewish woman named Karen James, who played on Canada’s basketball team in the 1972 Summer Olympics—the infamous Games, in Munich, during which Palestinian terrorists killed all the Israeli athletes.

For its part, three Israelis will compete: downhill skier Mikail Renzhin, and Alexandra and Roman Zaretsky, a brother-and-sister ice-dancing team. Faster, higher, stronger!

Vancouver Jews Gearing Up for the Games [JTA]
Israel in Olympics To Win, or Not At All [JTA]

Daybreak: Officers Face Music Over U.N. Building

Plus still unclear who killed Hamas weapons guy, and more in the news


• The Israeli military formally reprimanded two officers for their roles in the shelling of the Gaza U.N. compound during last year’s conflict. [NYT]
• Israel also said it would not file any charges related to a 38-year-old American who sustained brain damage while participating in a West Bank protest. [WP]
• The Hamas weapons connection-guy killed by Mossad? He may actually have been killed by an Arab-government squad, Hamas now says. [Haaretz]
• After numerous reports suggesting he did, Turkey was forced to deny that its ambassador requested to leave Israel shortly after his deliberate humiliation there. [JPost]
• Guitarist Carlos Santana cancelled an Israel show, and one figure in the music industry there says this was due to “anti-Israel pressure.” [Ynet]
• Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow. Six more weeks of winter. Sorry. [CNN]

Sundown: Skater Answers to Higher Authority

Plus the Jew-ffiyeh, Silvio at Yad Vashem, and more


• Figure skater Tamar Katz qualified to represent Israel at next month’s Olympics—but Israel, whose standards are more demanding than the official international ones, will not send her. [NYT]
• A Brooklyn-based company is making and marketing a keffiyeh—the traditional Arab headwear that has become a symbol of Palestinian resistance—embroidered with blue-and-white Stars of David. [The National]
• A few kosher wines that don’t taste like unusually sugary grape juice. [NY Post]
• Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi described touring Yad Vashem as “like getting punched in the stomach,” and penned in the guest book, “Our soul screams out—‘This cannot be.’ Then it jolts and bellows—‘Never again!’” [Ynet]
• Finally, The New Yorker liked—it really liked!—last week’s Lincoln Center concert inspired by Nextbook Press’s A Fine Romance. [Book Bench]

Was Hamas Weapons Man Killed by Mossad?

Sure looks that way

Hamas chief Khaled Meshal speaking yesterday about the death.(Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images)

Reporting from the Herzliya Conference for Tablet Magazine, Judith Miller notes that the death of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, the Hamas official thought to be the crucial weapons-smuggling link between the group and Iran, certainly bears all the trappings of Israel’s intelligence service: “The strike was vintage Mossad—precise, without fingerprints, and deniable, the kind of operation in which [Meir] Dagan has specialized since becoming chief of the spy agency seven years ago.” It would be a stretch simply to report that Mossad is responsible for the fact that al-Mabhouh is no longer alive. However, at this point, it would probably count as surprising if it turned out Mossad wasn’t responsible.

For what they’re worth, a couple interesting facts:
• Al-Mabhouh’s body was actually discovered all the way back on January 20th; the death was announced nine days later, and even then only quietly.
• Though he usually travels with bodyguards and under an assumed name, on this trip—said to be directly related to arms smuggling—al-Mabhouh traveled as himself and with no apparent protection.
• He was reportedly injected with a drug that induces heart attack.
• The alleged hit squad reportedly photographed the contents of his briefcase and, upon leaving his room, left the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the doorknob.
• The alleged squad’s members held passports from several different European countries.
• Hamas thinks Israel did it.
• According to Miller, al-Mabhouh has been on Israel’s hit list for two decades.

A couple questions. What happens if it gets out, and is credibly accepted, that Mossad was indeed behind this? Does any negative P.R. outweigh the presumably positive consequences of eliminating this weapons link for Hamas?

Also: was Mossad also behind the slain Iranian nuclear scientist?

Herzliya Diary [Tablet Magazine]
James Bond, Meet Dubai [GlobalPost/CBS News]
Hit Squad Injected Al-Mabhouh With a Drug That Induced Heart Attack: Report [Gulf News]

Earlier: A’jad Detects ‘Zionism’ in Scientist’s Murder

A New Kind of Israel Tour

Gay porn star’s itinerary is inspired by his films


Michael Lucas, Israel’s biggest gay porn star, is now offering group tours of his country tailored to the locations and, er, themes of his films, according to Heeb. So in addition to Yad Vashem, Masada, and the rest of the usual suspects, Lucas’s tourists will visit Israel’s famous Gaash Beach and the Tel Aviv gay scene.

Wayne Hoffman profiled Lucas for Tablet Magazine last year:

In gay porn, where there’s less room for nebbishes and clowns, openly Jewish men have been virtually absent or invisible. In fact, the only one in recent memory is, well, Michael Lucas. …

In [Lucas’s] Men of Israel, the guys are all Israeli, all Jewish, and they’re not hiding it. Sure, their names are probably fakes—no parents would name their son Morr Foxx unless they knew he’d grow up to be a gay porn star. But at least their names sound plausibly Israeli, plausibly Jewish: Matan Shalev, Avi Dar, Naor Tal.

Lucas has long seen himself as something of an evangelist for Israel: “His website extols the virtues of a country rich with natural wonders, intriguing museums, liberal politics, and friendly locals,” Hoffman pointed out. “More than a biblical theme park, Lucas’s Israel is a tourist destination, a place where lovely beaches beckon and muscle-bound men have sex with each other.”

Porn Star Michael Lucas to Lead Tour of Israel [Heeb]

Related: Great Exxxpectations [Tablet Magazine]

Quote of the Day

Courtesy the tefillin bomber


It’s been pretty surreal. Many in Chabad think that I’m a hero because tefillin became one of the top searches on Google. Some people think I showed poor judgment, that I expected [the flight attendant] to be familiar with the ritual of tefillin, which is not true. I expected her not to think that anything that was not familiar to her was a bomb.

- Caleb Liebowitz, otherwise known as the guy wearing tefillin whom a flight attendant mistook for a guy wrapping an explosive device around himself on a flight.

Interview With The Tefillin Terrorist [New Voices]

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

Cohen, Previn Win Grammys

Achievements of lifetimes not ready for primetime

(Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

We’re real sorry we missed the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards last night, at which singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen—a Montreal-born Jew—and pianist and composer André Previn—a Russian-born Jew—both won lifetime achievement awards.

And by “last night,” we mean that Cohen and Previn actually got their awards at a separate, un-televised ceremony that took place Saturday.

And by “we’re real sorry we missed the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards,” we mean we’re actually quite pleased we didn’t watch, because it sounds like it was pretty awful. Still, congratulations to all the winners!

Last year in Tablet Magazine, John S. W. MacDonald considered the (many) covers of Cohen’s  “Hallelujah.”

Below, the opening to Robert Altman’s McCabe and Mrs. Miller, set to Cohen’s “The Stranger Song.”

Cohen, Previn Receive Lifetime Grammys [JTA]
Leonard Cohen Receives Lifetime Achievement Grammy [Haaretz]

Related:: Hallelujah Time [Tablet Magazine]

The ‘Deerlift’ of 1978

A real-life Israeli caper


On November 28th, 1978, as Iran was hurtling toward Islamic revolution, zoologist Mike Van Grevenbroek landed at Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport, coming from Tel Aviv, carrying a blow-dart gun disguised as a cane and secret orders from an Israeli general.

You’re saying you don’t want to read an article that begins with that sentence? One that details how, as part of Israel’s project of restoring Biblical animals to its land, Van Grevenbroek surreptitiously secured four Persian fallow deer from Iran and got them on to the final El Al flight out of Tehran? One that celebrates the fact that four descendants of these deer, members of a species that were once hunted to extinction in Israel, were released into the Israeli wild last month to join 500 of their now-thriving brothers and sisters? No. Of course you want to read it.

How Bambi Met James Bond to Save Israel’s ‘Extinct’ Deer [WSJ]

Today on Tablet

Remembering Salinger, paled pictures from the Pale, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, New York Times Magazine columnist Virginia Heffernan remembers J.D. Salinger, who lived near the New Hampshire town in which she grew up, and discusses how men and women might consider his work differently. This week’s Vox Tablet podcast contains a slide show of remarkable photos taken throughout the Pale of Settlement between 1912 and 1914. The catastrophe in Haiti prompts parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall to discuss death with her daughters, and to discuss discussing death with your kids. Josh Lambert offers his weekly round-up of forthcoming Jewish books. The Scroll, too, finds itself tempted from time to time to move out to a cabin in the middle of nowhere, but how would you ensure good Internet?

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