The Turkish To-Do: Turkey Wins, Israel Loses

Turks credit ‘wise man’ Peres

Peres speaks at the Copenhagen summit last month.(Moshe Milner/GPO via Getty Images)

The diplomatic stand-off between Israel and Turkey, which stemmed from the the Israeli deputy foreign minister’s deliberate humiliation of Turkey’s ambassador, came to a close yesterday when the Turkish prime minister accepted the deputy foreign minister’s formal apology. Where are the various parties left after this?

• WINNER: Turkey. Yes, the Arab and Muslim worlds have a new cause célèbre. But even the broader international community perceives Turkey as the victim of tactless, condescending treatment that violated the extensive decorum governing diplomatic relations. Just as importantly, the world has basically forgotten what originally started all this: a Turkish TV series that depicted Mossad agents as bloodthirsty murderers, as well as extremely questionable comments about Israel from Turkey’s leaders.

• LOSER: Israel. Its unjustified actions are noted and condemned, while its justified grievances are ignored—and unlike when that usually happens, Israel can largely blame itself. Plus, Turkey now has cover to do what it was going to do anyway: cozy up to its neighbors to the east, Syria and Iran.

• WINNER: Shimon Peres. Blessed is the peacemaker! A Turkish diplomat credited Israel’s 86-year-old president with arranging the apology that resolved the burgeoning crisis: “You’re lucky you have Peres, the wise man of the Middle East,” he said. Peres’s legacy as the last rise-above-the-fray old-line Zionist probably did not need further buffing, but in case it did, his role in this affair should do the trick.

• LOSER: Danny Ayalon. The deputy foreign minister, a former ambassador to the United States, is an ambitious politician who might have been looking to make a name for himself while Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman—his boss and the leader of his right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party—is under police investigation. Instead, Ayalon is now being roundly condemned, with Yisrael Beiteinu members asserting that his career is over and even Peres throwing him under the bus.

• WINNER: Benjamin Netanyahu. Though the prime minister hasn’t been caught on-record saying so, various hints suggest that he at least tacitly supported Ayalon’s actions. Yet Ayalon, and to some extent Lieberman and Yisrael Beiteinu, took the blame, while Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud party look like moderates by comparison.

• WINNER AND LOSER: The United States. When Israel’s image in the Arab and Muslim world suffers, so does America’s. Additionally, it is massively in the U.S. interest for Israel and Turkey, two important strategic U.S. allies, to have a strong relationship, and this latest affair won’t help what was already a deteriorating partnership. On the other hand, this affair frankly could have gotten a whole lot worse before it got better. Yet another country owes Peres its thanks.

Israel and Turkey Patch Up Rift Over a Diplomatic Slight [NYT]
Turkish Official: Israel’s Lucky To Have Peres [Ynet]
‘Ayalon’s Political Career Is Ruined’ [JPost]
Don’t Blame Israel For Ayalon’s Error [JPost]

Earlier: Trouble With Turkey

Today on Tablet

The Tropper sex scandal, from a woman’s side


Today in Tablet Magazine, Staff Writer Marissa Brostoff—following up on yesterday’s article about the sex scandal surrounding conversion macher Rabbi Leib Tropper—tells the story from the opposite perspective: that of a woman, Shannon Orand, who approached Tropper about converting and was in turn allegedly solicited for sex. If you have the stomach for it, we have transcripts of some of Orand’s lurid phone conversations with (allegedly) Tropper. We’ll try to keep it clean(er) on The Scroll today.

Hamas’s Charming New TV Show

The Israeli-soldier character is, let us say, not the hero


The hottest new animated children’s show on Hamas’s Al Aqsa TV is called A Special Mission. It follows a Palestinian Authority police officer named Bahlul—that’s Arabic for “buffoon”—who spends his days receiving U.S. sponsorship and slavishly kissing up to an Israeli soldier. The soldier wears sidecurls and a black hat and, in the first episode, machine-guns Palestinian children to death and drinks their blood. Bahlul responds: “You killed our children before my eyes. I will respond with even more peace.”

Truly grotesque and unreconstructed anti-Semitism aside, it is somewhat interesting that Hamas is so explicitly lodging anti-Palestinian Authority propaganda. Although it is clear that Hamas does not consider the P.A. to be its true enemy.

But, as they say, watch the whole thing:

UPDATE: Hamas has actually gone down this road before, using cartoons to propagandize against the P.A. In this 2007 cartoon, Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan, who appears as a rat along with his rat-stooge Zionist-loving Fatah friends, destroys mosques and desecrates the Koran until he is stopped by the Hamas Lion, who was apparently kidnapped from Disney’s The Lion King to Gaza.

‘Toon In to Hate [NY Post via Vos Iz Neias?]

Daybreak: Turkey Tension Defused

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


• 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


• 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


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


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

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

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


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.

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


• 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


• 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


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

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

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