Adelson Denies Israeli Political Involvement

Philanthropist likes Birthright as bulwark against intermarriage

Adelson in Hong Kong last month.(Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson is arguably the most important person in the world of Jewish philanthropy. The one-time third-richest man in the world (the stock in his company, Las Vegas Sands, has fallen, pushing him down to 25th) has donated millions to Yad Vashem, Jerusalem’s Shalem Center, and particularly Birthright. Adelson is also the owner of Israel HaYom, Israel’s second-largest daily. And, as a New Yorker profile last year illustrated, he holds solidly right-wing views on the Palestine question. JTA’s Fundermentalist blogger scored an interview with him. A few notable answers follow.

How has your stance on Israel evolved over the years?
… I met my wife 21 years ago, and I became cemented more and more to the State of Israel. She is Israeli. Her children are Israeli, and we have all become one big family. I have gotten involved because I spent an awful lot of time there. I am a strong Zionist, and I do what it takes for the support of the State of Israel.

Where do you stand with AIPAC these days?
I believe in AIPAC.

Do you still stand behind Netanyahu now that he has come out in favor of a two-state solution?

I am not against a two-state solution if it is on the right terms. But I don’t think the right terms will ever be achieved.

In Israel, your political involvement is well known …
What political involvement? I am not involved politically in Israel. Period. And everybody thinks I started the newspaper Israel HaYom purely to benefit Bibi. Nothing could be further from the truth. I started the newspaper to give Israel, Israelis, a fair and balanced view of the news and the views. That’s all. It is not “Bibi-ton.” It is not a newspaper started for and operated for Bibi. And this is the propaganda of our competitors to say to their customers, “Don’t take Israel Hayom seriously because all it is is a promotion for Bibi. …”

Have you found any [reports on Jewish organizations] that appeal to you?
Sure. The most important one that we do is Birthright Israel. The study by Brandeis just came out to show that the rate of intermarriage here is 58 percent. Only 42 percent of the American Jews married within the Jewish religion. Today about 76 percent [of Birthright alumni who have tied the knot married] within the religion. … How much more can one contribute to Jewish continuity?

Sitting Down with Sheldon Adelson [JTA]

The Brass Ring [The New Yorker]

Two Jews, One Argument

Franken and Lieberman get testy in the Senate


Some people have not yet forgiven the Connecticut senator for his health-care reform betrayal, apparently. Note Sen. McCain coming to his right honorable colleague’s defense following the contretemps; at which point, Sen. Levin cannot help but chime in, too.

Israeli Casspi Stars in First NBA Start

Also, Philly high school squad target of anti-Semitic chants

Casspi at a Tel Aviv press conference in June.(Jack Guez/AFP/Getty)

Omri Casspi, the Sacramento Kings rookie who is the first Israeli to play in the NBA, got his first start Wednesday. And he came through: he scored a career-high 22 points, grabbed five rebounds, and sunk a crucial late-game three-pointer, which ended up being the difference in the Kings’ 112-109 won.

In other Jewish basketball news, at a game between Upper Darby and Lower Merion High Schools in the Philadelphia suburbs, students from Upper Darby, which has far fewer Jews than its Main Line rival, taunted their opponents with chants of, “Warm up the ovens,” “You’re so Jewish, get your yarmulke,” and “We’ll write you letters when you’re in Auschwitz.” Lower Merion responded by blowing them out, 51-27. One Lower Merion alum told Tablet Magazine this morning: “The surprising thing is not the taunting, it’s that we won.”

Casspi Wows ‘Em in First-Ever Start [Haaretz]
Philly Students Dunked After Holocaust Taunts [JTA]

Earlier: Omri Casspi Is Ready for Primetime

Today in Tablet

Solomon’s baby and a Hanukkah song you haven’t heard


Today in Tablet Magazine, Liel Leibovitz sees this week’s haftorah—in which King Solomon invents his patented cut-the-baby-in-half method of conflict resolution—as a parable for the self-destructive consequences of the impulse to revenge. From our archives, Julie Subrin’s podcast explores the origins of the popular Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) Hanukkah song “Ocho Kandelikas.” And today is the last day that you can read The Scroll during Hanukkah 2009/5770, so don’t miss out!

‘Washington Post’ Columnist Discovers Shabbat (Sabbath)

Apparently some Jews do this every Friday?


“Last week I was invited to a Shabbat (Sabbath) dinner, which observant Jews hold every Friday night,” Sally Quinn, the long-time Washington Post columnist, begins her latest. “After three enlightening years of moderating The Post’s online feature ‘On Faith,’ you would think, I should be totally comfortable going to any religious event. But to tell the truth, I was nervous.” Actually, what you would think is that Quinn, a Beltway hobnobber for decades (she’s been married to legendary Post editor Ben Bradlee for 30 years), would have been to a Shabbat (Sabbath) dinner before. Or would at least be able to discuss the experience with some sophistication.

But the column is notable for its astonishing naivete. “I used my phone-a-friend lifeline. Should I bring something to cover my head? ‘Not necessary,‘ he said. Would a nice set of lavender soap be an appropriate gift? ‘Of course,’ he said. ‘They’re not going to eat it.’” Honestly: how did Quinn not know that lavender soap is consumed only on Shemeni Atzeret? Shabbat (Sabbath) is for rose-scented bars. “I knew enough not to wear red and green,” she boasts. Is that because of Christmas, or because of the Palestinian flag? Because either way, it’s probably not a big deal. Finally, “I was also told by another Jewish friend not to expect any wine. ‘Drink before you go,‘ he advised.” So what she is telling us is she arrived hammered. That would explain her column.

“The dinner turned out to be delightful,” Quinn concludes (and who would have guessed?). “There was plenty of delicious California kosher wine, red and white … The food was spectacular—the best matzoh-ball soup I ever ate. And the conversation was lively and spirited, to say the least: We debated whether this was a Christian nation!” More than we thought, apparently.

Sally Quinn’s The Party: The Shabbat Dinner [WP]

Daybreak: Auschwitz’s ‘Work Shall Set You Free’ Pilfered

Plus intelligence leaks, Christmas songs (by Jews), and more in the news


• The iconic wrought-iron sign that greeted new arrivals at Auschwitz with the words “Arbeit macht Frei” has been stolen. Police suspect neo-Nazis; the theft could be tied to Germany’s recent decision to commit over $80 million to the Polish site’s restoration. [Times of London]
• A left-wing Israeli lawyer living in Maryland pleaded guilty in federal court to disclosing classified communications. Shamai Kedem Leibowitz is alleged to have leaked U.S. intelligence documents to an unnamed blogger. [Politico]
“Person of the Year” Ben Bernanke was approved by a Senate panel for a second five-year term at the helm of the Federal Reserve. Next step: a (likely contentious) vote of the full Senate. [WSJ]
• An AP reporter examines in detail how Palestinian villages in the West Bank are adversely affected by the existence of nearby Israeli settlements. [AP]
• Crooner Michael Feinstein celebrates the rich catalogue of Christmas songs written by Jews (take that, Garrison Keillor!). [NYT]

Sundown: New E.U. Official Chastises Israel

Plus J Street in the center and Shmuley on Tiger, and more


• In her very first speech, the brand-new E.U. foreign policy head took aim at Israel: “East Jerusalem is occupied territory together with the West Bank.” [JTA]
• J Street’s decision to back the Iran sanctions bill, which the U.S. House of Representatives passed yesterday, represented a move toward the center for the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” American group. [Forward]
• Ambassador Michael Oren and a spokesperson for Special Envoy George Mitchell both denied allegations that Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman leaves the room when Mitchell mentions East Jerusalem. [Ben Smith]
• Rabbi Shmuley Boteach has some words of wisdom for and about Tiger Woods. [JTA]
• In Israel, sufganiyot have roundly defeated latkes as the Hanukkah delicacy of choice. [Jewish Chronicle]

Garrison Keillor Doesn’t Like Jews Writing Christmas Songs

Those Unitarians are ruining his holiday season, too

Keillor in New York City in November, 2008.(Will Ragozzino/Getty Images)

Garrison Keillor, self-appointed cultural representative of regular old Americans, ruffled some feathers yesterday with a mildly xenophobic rant about Christmas. After lambasting a Unitarian church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for “spiritual piracy and cultural elitism”—tweaking the lyrics of “Silent Night” for a singalong, in layman’s terms—he turned his ire in a different direction:

And all those lousy holiday songs by Jewish guys that trash up the malls every year, Rudolph and the chestnuts and the rest of that dreck. Did one of our guys write ‘Grab your loafers, come along if you wanna, and we’ll blow that shofar for Rosh Hashanah’? No, we didn’t. Christmas is a Christian holiday—if you’re not in the club, then buzz off.

The Baltimore Sun got some angry letters about this, and understandably so. Hating on Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” is, in a way, the same thing as the American Family Association’s boycott of the Gap for its “failure” to use the word Christmas in ads: both actions reject a dilution of Christmas by outsiders, just in slightly different ways. It certainly does not accord with the generous holiday spirit. And anyway: “Dreck?” Really? Who’s co-opting whom?

Nonbelievers, Please Leave Christmas Alone [Baltimore Sun]

Israel Intensifies Pressure on Britain Over Warrants

Will ban ministerial visits if steps are not taken


The Israeli government appears ready to ban government ministers from visiting Britain until it is assured that none of them could face arrest for war-crimes charges, which Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni very well could have had she set foot in the United Kingdom Monday. Britain continues to articulate its commitment to ensuring the safe passage of Israeli eminences: it wants to be a major player in the Middle East peace process, it figures, and it can’t do that very well if Israel takes this step. However, British diplomats also denied a report that the attorney general would be required to approve all similar warrants in the future, and it is not clear, among legal concerns over due process and political concerns over those British voters who saw the Livni warrant as a good thing, just how far the British government would go to keep Israeli ministers coming to London. Well, they’ll always have Paris.

Livni Crisis Deepens as Israel Bans U.K. Visits [Jewish Chronicle]
Britain Eyeing Ways to Avoid Warrants [JTA]
Previously: U.K. Pledges to Prevent Future War-Crimes Charges

Op-Eds Duel Over Netanyahu’s Freeze

East Jerusalem is central, and not just geographically

Barghouti in Ramallah in April, 2007.(Jamal Aruri.AFP/Getty Images)

Two op-eds appearing side-by-side this morning in the International Herald Tribune illustrate how peace in the Middle East could make real progress in the near future—and how the current settlement freeze’s failure to include East Jerusalem might doom this opportunity.

Mustafa Barghouti, the highly respected Palestinian politician, accuses the current Israeli government of intransigence (in an accusation we haven’t seen before, he claims that Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman leaves the room whenever U.S. Envoy George Mitchell mentions East Jerusalem) and the Obama administration of weakness. He carefully advocates continued nonviolent Palestinian protest, while disdaining a settlement freeze that does not explicitly include East Jerusalem. “Eventually,” he concludes, “we will be free in our own country, either within the two-state solution or in a new integrated state.”

On the other side, former Labor Party prime ministerial spokesperson Uri Dromi comes to praise Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, not to bury him, and to ask Israelis to get behind him. The West Bank settlement freeze and the increased proximity of a deal for captured soldier Gilad Shalit are evidence, Dromi argues, of Netanyahu’s successful balancing among a United States anxious for peace, a Likud Party skeptical of Palestinian goodwill, and a demographic reality that will soon see Israel “either lose its Jewish identity or become an apartheid state.”

Evidence suggests that the Palestinians are trying to lay favorable groundwork—see: a full construction freeze, including in East Jerusalem—for new talks. Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas asserted that peace can happen in six months … if Israel imposes a total construction freeze outside the Green Line. Palestinian and Egyptian negotiators also leaked a maybe-true report that Egypt, France, and the United States have asked Israel for a full five-month freeze; America quickly denied the report. So, in conclusion, East Jerusalem is the most ostentatious stumbling-block. That is, unless you count another issue, one that neither op-ed even slightly engaged with: Hamas-controlled Gaza.

When Will It Be Our Time? [IHT]
Netanyahu’s High-Wire Act [IHT]
Abbas to ‘Haaretz’: Peace Possible in Six Months if Israel Freezes All Settlements
U.S. Official Denies Report of New Settlement Deal [Ben Smith]

This is What a Bullet-Riddled Laptop Looks Like

Israel is reimbursing American tourist


Below, an interview with Lily Sussman, the American tourist whose laptop is a bit dinged up after Israeli border security put three bullets through it. A lot of good shots of the corpse included. Israel is reimbursing her.

Israeli Authorities Will Reimburse Girl After Shooting Holes Through Her Laptop [Gizmodo]

Palin and Huckabee Use Settlements to Set Themselves Apart

Top Jewish Republican strategist explains issue’s appeal


Noam Neusner, a former speechwriter and Jewish liason for President George W. Bush, has a theory (in the Forward) for why Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee, two possible 2012 Republican presidential candidates, have opposed a West Bank settlement freeze more vociferously and more loudly than even many of their Republican rivals:

their focus on settlements could also be seen as a calculated political move to distinguish themselves from the Republican pack. With virtually the entire Congress—Democrats and Republicans—reliably lining up to support Israel on the easy stuff, you can’t make your mark unless you take on the hard stuff and go further than anyone else.

Palin and Huckabee may also genuinely believe that a settlement freeze is as dangerous as they say. Still, it’s worth distinguishing the robustness of their opposition from that of other potential Republican candidates, who, says Neusner, “have found a way to take issue with the Obama administration’s stance on settlements without climbing out on the limb that Huckabee and Palin have.” For example, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the minority whip, has simply called the whole settlement issue a “distraction” from the more important matter of Iran’s nuclear program. Cantor probably does not need to make quite the same effort to distinguish himself on Middle East concerns, particularly among voters who share his Jewish faith.

Why Palin and Huckabee Dig Settlements [Forward]

A First-Hand Account of Barack and Michelle’s Hanukkah Party

Tablet author lit menorah last night

The Buckholtzes and the Obamas last night at the White House.(White House Flickr)

To the left is Alison Buckholtz and Ethan and Esther Moran, the wife, son, and daughter of a Jewish Navy pilot currently serving in Iraq. In case you could not tell, they are at the White House, to which they had been invited yesterday to light the menorah for Hanukkah’s sixth night. Buckholtz wrote about being a mother in a wartime military family in her book, Standing By, as well as for Tablet Magazine. This morning, she spoke with The Scroll about her family’s “magical,” “dream-like” evening.

For Ethan, 6, and Esther, 4, Buckholtz related, the highlight was meeting Sasha, Malia, and especially Bo, the world’ s most famous Portuguese Water Dog (“he’s very soft,” Buckholtz said). For Buckholtz, though, the real privilege was “to meet the people who make the decisions about our lives, and really see they have a deep understanding for the challenges military families face during wartime.” The President and the First Lady knew who her husband was, where he was stationed, and for how long, she reported; Vice President Biden, meanwhile, spoke movingly about his own son, Beau Biden, who until recently was deployed to Iraq. “It gave me a lot of comfort, and it gave me confidence, knowing these people really do appreciate the sacrifice,” she said.

Buckholtz lit the shamash, the central lead candle; her son lit the first three; and her daughter the second three (“thank God there was an even number!”). At the reception, Buckholtz met several other guests, including senior adviser David Axelrod. Despite recent controversy over his position on health-care reform, everyone seemed to want to talk to Sen. and Mrs. Lieberman, Buckholtz said. Finally, early this morning, Buckholtz’s husband, Scott, was able to call from Baghdad. She told him all about the event, and then they wished each other a happy eighth anniversary—it, too, was yesterday.

Related: Onward, Jewish Soldiers! [Tablet Magazine]
Standing By: The Making of an American Military Family in a Time of War
Obama Opens Jewish Holiday Fete [Politico]
White House Koshers Its Kitchen for Obama Hanukkah Party [Daily Flotus]

Today on Tablet

Levy the wrestler, olives for Hanukkah


Today in Tablet Magazine, Eddy Portnoy profiles long-gone wrestler Martin “the Blimp” Levy, who weighed in at over 600 pounds yet could display surprising grace—“a freak with class,” his manager said. Ruth Ellen Gruber ponders the juxtaposition of Hanukkah and olive-harvest season at her grove in Umbria, Italy. From our archives, Ben Birnbaum remembers Brooklyn Hanukkahs growing up, set against the backdrop of his parents’ marriage’s dissolution. We will try to highlight at least some happier things today on The Scroll.

Daybreak: The Land Swap That Never Was

Plus Iran test-launches and Germany donates to Auschwitz, and more in the news


Haaretz uncovers the deal then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered the Palestinians over one year ago: in exchange for the small part of the West Bank home to 75 percent of the territory’s Israelis, he would have given up nearly as much of Israel proper in areas bordering Gaza, as well as a safe-passage route from Gaza to Hebron. [Haaretz]
• Iran test-launched an improved version of its most sophisticated missile, provoking international condemnation. Fired from Iran, the Sajjil-2 can reach parts of Europe, as well as Israel. [WP]
• This morning, Israeli officials arriving in the West Bank settlement of Talmon to monitor the construction freeze were met with somewhat violent resistance from settlers. [JPost]
• After months of negotiations, Germany agreed to contribute over $87 million to the upkeep of the memorial at Auschwitz, in Poland. [WSJ]
• Britain’s highest court struck down a North London Jewish day school’s admissions policy of judging an applicant’s Jewishness by the traditional test of whether his or her mother is Jewish. [NYT]

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