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Daybreak: Turkey Tension Defused

Plus, Iran blames the U.S. for killing physicist, and more in the news

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• Turkey’s prime minister accepted a senior Israeli diplomat’s formal apology for humiliating Turkey’s ambassador, tentatively concluding the once-escalating tension between the countries. [NYT]
• The Iranian government explicitly blamed the United States for the death of the nuclear scientist slain in a Tehran bomb blast earlier this week. The White House press secretary called the charge “absurd.” [WP]
• Five Poles have already been arrested in connection with the recent theft of Auschwitz’s “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign, and now Polish authorities say they have figured out who the Swedish mastermind of the operation was. [AP/Vos Iz Neias?]
• Murray Saltzman, a Baltimore-based Reform rabbi who was prominent in the civil-rights movement since the early 1960s, died at 80. [JTA]
• The Israeli Foreign Ministry made contact with four Israelis, including the daughter of late peace activist Abie Nathan, who were in Haiti when the massive earthquake struck. [JPost]

Please consider giving to the American Jewish World Service’s Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund, here. Alternatively, you can text “Haiti” to 90999 to automatically donate $10 to the American Red Cross’s relief efforts.

Sundown: Jordan Demands Dead Sea Scrolls

Plus the slain Iranian physicist, Dysentery-a, and more

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• In a formal complaint to the United Nations, Jordan accused Israel of illegally seizing the Dead Sea Scrolls during the Six Day War, and demanded that they be returned. [JPost]
• Columnist Yossi Melman suspects that the Iranian physicist killed in Tehran yesterday was likely done in by some entity that wanted to slow the country’s nuclear program. [Haaretz]
• An anonymous former FBI agent has sued his old employer for firing him for being Jewish. He was let go under suspicions of questionable contact with officials from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. [JTA]
• Orthodox couples have happier and better marriages, say Orthodox couples. (Okay, okay, the poll was conducted by the University of Chicago, and sponsored by several Orthodox communities.) [Haaretz]
• Lefty (and not-infrequently Jew-y) journals Democratiya and Dissent merged. Perhaps the new hybrid will be called Dysentery-a. [Dissent]

Yiddish Theater World Mourns Late Star

Mina Bern remembered for her talent, killer chicken soup

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The New York Times has a great report from Chelsea’s Moonstruck Diner yesterday, where luminaries of what remains of Yiddish theater gathered to remember star Mina Bern, who died Sunday at age 98 (more or less). From the piece:

“It’s the end of an era,” said Corey Breier, president of the Yiddish Theatrical Alliance. “Mina was the last European star of the Yiddish theater still working. She was the last connection, so it’s a real loss.” … Even into her 90s, Ms. Bern was known for rattling off lusty tales and bawdy songs and for cooking the best chicken soup on the Lower East Side. And she insisted on speaking Yiddish almost always and on expanding her speaking parts in scripts whenever possible.

Among those the Times interviewed is Shane Baker, one of the Yiddish theater world’s youngest and least Jewish (he grew up Episcopalian) members. Marissa Brostoff profiled Baker for Tablet Magazine last month.

Mina Bern, Matriarch of Yiddish Theater, Recalled Fondly [NYT]
Related: The Ventriloquist [Tablet Magazine]

Israel To Apologize Over Turkish Imbroglio

Deputy FM Ayalon, at center of storm, already said sorry

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Following Turkey’s threat to recall its ambassador if Israel did not formally apologize for its treatment of him, reports say that Israel is drafting a formal apology today. Prime Minister Netanyahu released a statement clarifying that “he backed the protest”—the whole to-do began over a Turkish television series that deployed anti-Semitic caricatures in portraying Mossad agents—“but had reservations over the way it was done”—that is, by deliberately humiliating the Turkish envoy.

The Deputy Foreign Minister who actually conducted the humiliation, Danny Ayalon, has already sent an personal apology to Ankara. It reads, in part:

Although we have our differences of opinion on several issues, they should be discussed and solved only through open, reciprocal and respectful diplomatic channels between our two governments. I had no intention to humiliate you personally and apologize for the way the demarche was handled and perceived. Please convey this to the Turkish people for whom we have great respect.

Unrelatedly (maybe), Turkey’s foreign minister, speaking in London today, announced his country’s continued desire for “excellent relations” with Iran and defended its nuclear program.

Ayalon Apologizes Following Turkish Deadline [Ynet]
Turkish Ultimatum: Apologize by Midnight or Ambassador Leaves [Arutz Sheva]
Turkish FM: Continuing ‘Excellent Relations’ With Iran [Arutz Sheva]

Earlier: Trouble With Turkey

The Crisis in Haiti

Israel, Jewish groups send help to displaced millions

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French aid workers today preparing to head to Haiti.(Gerard Julien/AFP/Getty Images)

Yesterday, an earthquake registering 7.0 on the Richter scale hit Haiti. Thousands—maybe hundreds of thousands—are feared dead, and at least three million are thought to require emergency aid.

Israel has already sent a delegation of experts from the military Home Front Command to aid in the emergency and rebuilding efforts. Several Israeli and Jewish groups have also already begun pitching in.

At least three Israelis are missing; one of them is the daughter of late peace activist Abie Nathan. Israel’s ambassador, who is based in the neighboring Dominican Republic, has not been able to reach Jewish Haitians due to downed phone lines.

If you wish to donate to the American Red Cross, you can visit its Website. Alternatively, you can text “HAITI” to 90999 to donate $10. You can also donate to the American Jewish World Service’s Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund here.

Israel, Jewish Groups Sending Help to Haiti [JTA]

Kosher Is Hip

Nowadays, everyone answers to a higher authority

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This is actually one of the nicer ways to kill a chicken.(Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

Amid a food Zeitgeist that stresses health and quality, is concerned with the morality of eating meat, and values the local and the organic, a perhaps unsurprising trend has materialized: more and more non-Jewish folks want to buy food, and especially meat, marked with that U inside the circle. Only 15 percent of those deliberately buying kosher are doing so for religious reasons, and 40 percent of the products in most markets carry the kosher seal. Locavores see kosher food as “the next best thing”; those with food allergies see it as safer; vegetarians trust that something labeled “parve” has no meat or dairy; and ethical eaters believe that kosher slaughter—which requires a specific diet followed by a quick slice of the carotid artery—is more humane.

Kosher food has even become a totem for the Bourgeois-Bohemian set. Pomegranate market—“the kosher Whole Foods”—is located in a largely Orthodox neighborhood deep in Brooklyn, but that has not stopped it from attracting hordes of yuppies who live in brownstones closer to Manhattan. If you’re familiar with the demographics of Park Slope and Boerum Hill, you know that kosher food’s appeal for most of these people is not religious. Although in fairness, and as you know if you’re familiar with their demographics, not a few of these people are Jewish.

For Some, ‘Kosher’ Equals Pure [NYT]

Today on Tablet

An Orthodox sex scandal and the money behind it

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Today in Tablet Magazine, Senior Writer Allison Hoffman has a blockbuster: the largely untold story of how Lieb Tropper, once a modest ultra-Orthodox rabbi from Monsey, New York, emerged as a central figure in setting worldwide standards for conversion to Judaism … before he was brought down by revelations that he tried to persuade a prospective convert to have sex with other men. Josh Nathan-Kazis retells, in true-crime style, the stunning 1870 murder of a prominent New York City Sephardic banker—Nathan-Kazis’s ancestor, as it happens. We will certainly try to match the excitement of these two stories on The Scroll today.

Trouble With Turkey

What a diplomatic to-do means for Israel and the U.S.

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Israeli diplomats and the Turkish ambassador. Note the height disparity between the sofas.(Ynet)

Israel’s relations with Turkey have been better. After a Turkish television series depicted Mossad agents as evil and murderous, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, on orders from Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, summoned the Turkish ambassador to reprimand him in front of Israeli TV cameras. The deliberate humiliation has become a cause célèbre in the Arab media; Israel’s ambassador to Turkey was summoned by the government there; an Israeli cabinet minister criticized Ayalon’s treatment of Turkey’s envoy. This is the type of thing for which that odd word “brouhaha” may as well have been invented.

Just as importantly, the counter-attacks have begun. Turkey is cozying up to Lebanon, Syria, and Iran; Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned this. Lieberman is traveling to Cyprus today to sign a shipping agreement, which one imagines the Turks will be aware of and not pleased with. At least Defense Minister Ehud Barak is due in Ankara on Sunday, and hopefully he can clean matters up somewhat. And just this morning, Ayalon apologized.

Where does all this leave the United States? The country is an ally to both antagonists. Haaretz columnist Aluf Benn argues:

The previous Democratic administration, that of Bill Clinton, managed to link Turkey and Israel in a strategic alliance that served U.S. interests in the region. The downward spiral began under George W. Bush, but in the first year of the Obama administration everything fell apart. The Americans need to ask themselves how this happened and whether Turkey is lost.

Turkey is a regional military and cultural hegemon that borders Iraq and Syria (oh, yeah, and Iran), as well as Europe. It is also the world’s largest, if not only, secular Muslim democracy. Losing it would not be a favorable outcome for either America or Israel.

Israel Alone Can’t Be Blamed For Row With Turkey [Haaretz]
Arab Media: Turkish Ambassador Humiliated by Israel [Ynet]
Turkey Summons Israeli Ambassador [Ynet]

Daybreak: Iranian Physicist Killed; Iran Blames U.S. and Israel

Plus a 7.0 hits Haiti’s capital, and more in the news

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• A Tehran University physicist associated was assassinated outside his home in a bomb blast. Iran has fingered the United States, Israel, and other Western interests. A White House spokesperson called the charge “absurd,” and an Israeli spokesperson declined to comment. [LAT]
• This morning, the influential speaker of Iran’s parliament claimed that Iran learned several days ago that the United States and Israel were planning terrorist acts in the country. [Haaretz]
• Three Israelis thought to be present in Haiti have not been accounted for since the earthquake that rocked Port-au-Prince yesterday, likely killing thousands. (For a list of humanitarian agencies with a presence there, including several Jewish ones, see here.) [Arutz Sheva]
• An editorial is a special “appreciation” of Miep Gies, who helped hide Anne Frank and others, and later recovered Frank’s diary. [NYT]
• Nearly three-quarters of Israelis support peace negotiations with the Palestinians, while slightly more than three-quarters believe their government is working “well or even better.” [JPost]

Sundown: Hamas Does Damage Control

Plus an allegedly anti-Semitic Chicago conference, and more

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• After last week’s tension in Gaza—rockets fired into Israel, a fatal skirmish at the Egyptian border—Hamas asked Gazans to observe a ceasefire. [Haaretz]
• The head of the American Israeli Action Committee demanded the resignation of Hannah Rosenthal, Obama’s anti-Semitism envoy, and said J Street, which she used to advise, “fool[s] around with the lives of seven million people.” [Arutz Sheva]
• Pope Benedict XVI told diplomats that he favors a two-state solution. [JTA]
• The Anti-Defamation League is alleging that a Muslim-interest conference held in Chicago last month contained much anti-Semitic rhetoric. The organizers deny the charge. [JTA]
• A Brandeis University-sponsored study found that Israel studies at American universities grew significantly over the past several years. [JTA]

J Street Establishes Local Chapters

Dovish political org. comes to a city near you

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They say all politics is local, and J Street, the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” organization, seems to agree. The group is opening dozens of headquarters grassroots advocacy groups around the country, centered around certain intra-state regions (i.e., southern Florida) or metropolitan areas (i.e., Chicago), in order to get its message across through more than just the national political and media structure,. To that end, chapters are designed to cover specific congressional districts. Also to that end, they tend to be concentrated in more Jewish areas: New York has five chapters, for example, and New Jersey three. Meanwhile, Montana, as yet, has no J Street Local affiliates. Get on that, guys: there are Jews in Montana, too!

J Street Releases Plans to Open Regional Offices [New Jersey Jewish News]
J Street Local [J Street]

U.S. Won’t Withhold Israeli Aid

Envoy Mitchell’s hint was apparently innocuous

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Mitchell last November.(Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

While being interviewed last week on Charlie Rose, U.S. Special Envoy George Mitchell noted, “under American law, the United States can withhold support on loan guarantees to Israel.” That’s technically true. But since Mitchell has been tasked by the Obama administration with getting the Israelis and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table, the Israelis were a little curious as to whether Mitchell was speaking more than just matter-of-factly, and as more than just a person who happens to be familiar with that area of American law. Was his answer a hint? A veiled threat?

Turns out that, according to an assistant secretary of state, Mitchell was merely answering a direct question:

Mitchell was simply asked a question with an historical context. You know, are there sticks that are available? And I think he mentioned that this is a step that the United States has taken in the past … He wasn’t signaling that this is something that we’re forecasting in the future. You know, but it is—it obviously is something that we have in our toolbox. It’s not that we’re out, you know, wielding that particular tool at this particular time.

If Mitchell was in fact launching a trial balloon, to see how the notion of threatening to withhold Israeli aid would go over, then he appears to have gotten his answer.


State Dept.: U.S. Not Planning to Withhold Israel Loan Guarantees
[Haaretz]

Israeli Supermodel Refaeli Shoots New Ad

Sorry, what were we saying?

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Haaretz, arguably Israel’s premiere daily, brings news that Bar Refaeli, arguably Israel’s premiere supermodel, “has made another mark on the international lingerie map” by shooting a commercial for French company Passionata. If it is big enough news for Haaretz to cover, then we feel a certain journalistic responsibility to put in the shoe-leather reporting on it as well. Let’s take a look.

[0:00] That’s definitely Bar Refaeli. She used to date Leonardo DiCaprio, right? Maybe she still does? [00:26] Ah, yes, that is definitely lingerie she is wearing. It is appropriate, perhaps, that this lingerie maker is French, since “lingerie” is a French word, at least I assume … [00:52] … okay so this is their full-body type of lingerie, which (1:03) Breaking: that is new lingerie. She has just changed! Or something. [1:12] She just changed again. Okay just watch the rest of it. You know, if you want.

WATCH: Israeli Model Bar Refaeli Strips for French Underwear Company [Haaretz]

Will White House Dictate Israel-Palestine Terms?

Obama could dictate premises and force a yes or no

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Obama at the White House last week.(Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

It sounds too satirical to be true: the Israelis and the Palestinians have not sat down at the final-status negotiating table because they cannot agree on what to agree on. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem formally on the table before talks begin; Israel doesn’t. Israel wants no firm deadline; the Palestinians want a two-year timetable. And so on. And the actual discussions haven’t begun yet!

The Obama administration appears fed up with the parties’ inability even to talk, and so is considering a novel solution: the White House would fabricate what it deems are fair preconditions to the actual talks (“terms of reference” is how you say it in diplomatese). President Barack Obama would send letters outlining them to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Mahmoud Abbas. The two sides would simultaneously face the same deal. If nothing else, they would be on the same page.

Either or both sides could still reject those terms, of course. But at least the onus would more firmly be on them to say yes or no, and a dynamic could occur in which one side says yes and thereby puts massive pressure on the other side to follow suit. Maybe—just maybe—the two sides would both bite, and actually sit down together. It would be a start.

Obama May Define Terms of Peace Talks [Ynet]

Earlier: The Road Map to Real Negotiations

Today on Tablet

Kirsch on the quasi-Jewish Dönme

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Today in Tablet Magazine, Adam Kirsch reviews a new book about the Dönme—a small group of Sephardim once based in Salonika, Greece, who subscribed to the teachings of the heretic Sabbatai Zevi and converted to Islam, but also maintained observance of much Jewish ritual. “The Dönme may not have been Jews,” Kirsch writes, “but they functioned in the Turkish imagination as Jews—they were clannish, untrustworthy outsiders, who were actually more threatening than the actual Jews because they had so long pretended to be Muslims.” The Scroll will update you with the latest on Jewish news and opinions all day.

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