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Why Is Israel So Upset by Goldstone Report?

Because it’s a loss in the ‘Legitimacy War,’ Princeton prof argues

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Goldstone visiting Gaza City in June.(Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images)

Why is Israel reacting with such fervent anger to the Goldstone report? The 575-page paper compiled by South African Jewish jurist and U.N. prosecutor Richard Goldstone, which alleges that Israel committed war crimes in the Gaza War, doesn’t contain much that NGOs like Human Rights Watch hadn’t already reported—and that Israel hadn’t already objected to—argues Richard Falk, a retired Princeton professor and a U.N. monitor in Gaza, in an article being forwarded around the lefty blogosphere. (The article has no clear source, but there’s no indication that it wasn’t written by Falk.) The Goldstone report “added little to what was previously known,” Falk writes. “Arguably, it was more sensitive to Israel’s contentions that Hamas was guilty of war crimes by firing rockets into its territory than earlier reports had been. And in many ways the Goldstone Report endorses the misleading main line of the Israeli narrative by assuming that Israel was acting in self-defense against a terrorist adversary.”

But several things particularly spooked Israel (and the United States) about the report, Falk writes. First, Goldstone is “an eminent international personality who cannot credibly be accused of anti-Israel bias, making it harder to deflect attention from the findings no matter how loud the screaming of ‘foul play.’” Plus, “the unsurprising findings are coupled with strong recommendations” for the Security Council to send Israel (and Hamas) to the International Criminal Court in the Hague if they don’t conduct adequate internal investigations—and could also put Israeli officials at risk for being detained for prosecution or extradition when traveling abroad. What all this leads to, Falk concludes, is a loss for Israel in the “Legitimacy War.” He explains: “Such a war fought on a global political battlefield is what eventually and unexpectedly undermined the apartheid regime in South Africa, and has become much more threatening to the Israeli sense of security than has armed Palestinian resistance.”

Why the Goldstone Report Matters [Mondoweiss]

Daybreak: Mixed Expectations for Summit

Obama says one thing, Peres says another, and more in the news

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• The White House has “no grand expectations” about today’s planned meeting between President Barack Obama, Israeli P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. [Reuters]
• Undeterred, Israeli President Shimon Peres is “sure that Netanyahu will take these expectations to their highest.” [Haaretz]
• An editorial criticizes J Street’s decision to invite Salam Al-Marayati to a conference next month, saying the director of Muslim Public Affairs Council is anti-Israel. [Jewish Journal]
• The Young World Zionist Labor Movement has declared a campaign to express solidarity with Iranian student protesters, including a demonstration against the U.N. Assembly this week. [JPost]

Sundown: She’s Been In the Wings Too Long

Borat and Bart, the internet as shtetl, and last Afghani Jew wants a break

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• Barbra Streisand, who New York Magazine says entered the mainstream by “smoothing out all her misfit attributes until she seemed almost homogenized: like buttah,” has returned to form with her new album Love is the Answer, which she will promote with a show at her old New York haunt the Village Vanguard on Saturday. [NY Mag]
• Once, Jews operated in a shtetl system, living in small communities of insiders; now, “our physical locations change while the internet has created a sort of virtual community.” [New Voices]
• At a Rosh Hashanah meal, the last remaining Jew in Afghanistan told a reporter from the Los Angeles Times, “Don’t talk about the Taliban, just eat.” [LAT]
• Sacha Baron Cohen will perform the voice of an Israeli tour guide on an upcoming Simpsons episode “that all faiths can come together and be offended by.” [JTA]
The New York Times calls a new biography of Louis Brandeis by Melvin I. Urofsky “long, stately and satisfying.” [NYT]

U.S. Should Shoot Down Israeli Planes

If Israel tries to attack Iran, Brzezinski says

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Brzezinski at a conference in April.(Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Does Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served as Jimmy Carter’s former national security adviser, want U.S. planes to shoot down Israeli planes if Israel attempts a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear weapons program? That seems to be what he’s asking for in a interview with Gerald Posner published on The Daily Beast.

When asked how aggressive the Obama administration should be in forestalling an Israeli attack, Brzezinski reminded Posner that the U.S. still controls Iraqi air space and added, just to be clear, “If they fly over, you go up and confront them. They have the choice of turning back or not. No one wishes for this but it could be a Liberty in reverse.” By “Liberty,” Brzezinski was referring to the incident in which Israeli jets and torpedo boats hit the USS Liberty in international waters during the Six-Day War in 1967. Israel said it was an accident, the result of friendly fire. Brzezinski, unless he chooses his analogies carelessly, seems to think otherwise.

How Obama Flubbed His Missile Message [Daily Beast]

Leonard Cohen Makes the Political Personal

With concert in Israel this week, after recovering from food poisoning

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Leonard Cohen at the Nice Jass Festival in France in the summer of 2008.(Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images)

During a concert in Spain on Friday, Leonard Cohen collapsed onstage and was briefly hospitalized for food poisoning. This bout with illness, however, is not going to stop the 75-year-old icon from performing in Tel Aviv this Thursday as planned. The Jerusalem Post has taken the opportunity to look back at Cohen’s involvement with Israel, coming to the conclusion that “the singer-songwriter-poet-novelist-monk’s apolitical platform is marked by enough mystique and individualism to keep him from having to wave any specific flag, perhaps even allowing the show to serve as a true ‘Concert for Reconciliation, Tolerance and Peace,’ as it has been billed.”

On the other hand, the article presents some conflicting evidence. In 1973, Cohen “dropped everything to participate in the Yom Kippur War” as an entertainer. He was criticized for his decision to play in Israel, and his detractors were not placated by his offer to play a second show in Ramallah a few days afterward. And, says the Post, “Cohen’s oft-uniformed ‘Field Commander Cohen’ persona, which has informed several works and inspired the title of a 1979 concert tour, grew out of his posturing as a guerrilla of verse, a rogue revolutionary who champions the cause of the underdog.” Of course, when it comes to Israel and the Palestinians it is increasingly unclear who fits that designation.

Rather than being “apolitical,” Cohen’s history suggests that he acts with an artist’s cautious engagement toward politics. The proceeds from his show in Israel will be going to his own new fund dedicated to “little-known but groundbreaking grassroots initiatives,” as a way to avoid supporting either a specifically Israeli or Palestinian cause. Despite his financial troubles, Cohen could not bring himself to reap profits from the performance, saying “I just can’t take any money out. I want it to stay there.”

Leonard Cohen Collapses on Stage During Spanish Concert [Times of London]
Leonard Cohen’s Israel Show Set to Go Ahead Despite his Collapse in Spain [JPost]
Nothing on his Tongue but ‘Hallelujah’ [JPost]

Pro-Israel Ad Campaign on ‘NYT’ Website?

Refutes Gaza War criticisms UPDATED

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While reading about tomorrow’s scheduled meeting between Barack Obama, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Mahmoud Abbas, on the New York Times website last night, we were surprised to find a black, white, and orange banner ad that read, simply, “Gaza. Hamas. Conflict. Facts!” Clicking through brought us to the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s web site, which now features a special “Gaza Facts” section to rebut allegations of war crimes made in the United Nations report released last week.

The banner ads seem to have since disappeared, but Google Ads is still promoting the link on the Times site, including on the page for a story from Saturday headlined “Lack of Progress in Mideast Defies Obama’s Hopes.” Ironic, no? Israeli Foreign Ministry officials in New York, Washington, and Tel Aviv said they weren’t aware of the ad campaign and couldn’t comment on whether it was really meant to coincide with this week’s efforts at getting peace negotiations back on track.

UPDATE: Joel Lion, the spokesman at the Israeli consulate in New York, says the ads—which are also running on the website of NPR, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post—are part of an international campaign orchestrated by the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem in response to the Goldstone Report. Ads are running on news sites in France, Slovakia, Slovenia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, all members of the U.N.’s Human Rights Council, which commissioned the report. It is, Lion said, the first time such a coordinated effort has been attempted. “The rationale is to expose our messages to a wider public, using new media,” Lion explained.

Gaza Facts – The Israeli Perspective [Ministry of Foreign Affairs]

Today’s Sorry

Porn star deserves better

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There’s a week left until Yom Kippur, which makes it high time to reflect on your actions over the past year, what you liked about what you did and what you didn’t like. That makes it also a good time to apologize to those you treated poorly. Today’s sorry is from a woman who feels bad for gossiping about a friend’s questionable career choice.

It’s not too late to get things off your chest. Call our Sorry Hotline at 718-360-4836, and tell us what you’re sorry for.

Remembering Irving Kristol

‘Journal,’ ‘TNR,’ Podhoretz, others eulogize

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Neoconservatives mourn the death of the “Godfather,” Irving Kristol, who died of lung cancer Friday at the age of 89. Known for his wit, allusiveness, and great ability to find and cultivate new talent, Kristol was among the most influential policy intellectuals of the postwar period—and one of the pioneer critics of Great Society liberalism and the welfare state.

The Wall Street Journal, where Kristol wrote a monthly column for 25 years, carries an unsigned editorial pointing out that he “helped shape the basis for many opposition ideas to the modern political left, in both domestic and foreign policy. American politics rarely bends for long to the ideas of one person, a modest truth that Irving Kristol understood. So it should be noted that he enlisted a small army of similarly minded intellectuals (‘like-minded’ would be an oxymoron among this crowd) to carry the fight.”

James Q. Wilson in the Journal writes: “Irving Kristol’s talents were remarkable: He did for The Public Interest what he had earlier done for Commentary, the Reporter and Encounter—find good people and induce them to say important things even when it did not improve the revenues of the magazine. The Public Interest always relied on financial support from a few friends and rarely sold more than 12,000 copies. That didn’t bother Irving at all: What counts is who reads it, not how many read it. And for 40 years a lot of important people did read it.”

As for Kristol’s most memorable line—that a neoconservative is a liberal who’s been mugged by reality—Kristol’s friend and City Journal editor-at-large Myron Magnet observed: “What he really meant, of course, was simply a liberal who’d been mugged—who’d seen that all the liberal, welfare-state ideals for the uplift of the poor, and especially the minority poor, had in the end produced a criminal underclass, exactly the opposite of the intended uplift. The good intentions counted for nothing with him and even sparked a certain dry contempt; it was the result that mattered.”

Commentary Editor-in-Chief John Podhoretz remembers Kristol’s acumen as a fundraiser for little magazines. Having started the conservative college magazine Midway (later Counterpoint) at the University of Chicago in 1979, Podhoretz “called [Kristol], and he instructed me on the fine art of writing a grant proposal to a new foundation he had begun called the Institute for Educational Affairs. A few weeks later, he called me to report that a grant of $2,000 had been approved and, moreover, that he had used our little magazine as an example of what might be done on college campuses to encourage non-Leftist thinking among students. The board of the foundation found his pitch compelling, and it was decided that efforts should be made to encourage the creation of other publications like Counterpoint. From this seedling came a project that would, by the mid-1980s, lead to the creation of more than 50 college newspapers and magazines across the country engaged in a vital intellectual project to bring ideological diversity to campus life.”

Slate’s Christopher Hitchens recalls a dinner in Manhattan at which he and Kristol were in attendance and from which Hitchens took away the following: “Irving Kristol’s great charm … was that he didn’t care overmuch for the charm business. Most of his celebrated quips and interventions had a tough-guy street feel to them, a manner probably retained from his Marxist days. Typical of him (and I think also truthful) was the claim that he hadn’t known about CIA funding for Encounter but wouldn’t have given much of a damn if he had known.”

Damon Linker at The New Republic is less flattering: “What’s less often recognized is that while Kristol was growing more conservative he was also undergoing a different sort of transformation—from a dispassionate analyst of American politics and culture to a fully engaged advocate for a comprehensive political ideology. Lamentably, it is this change more than Kristol’s gradual drift to the right that may have done more to shape the contemporary conservative mind.”

The New York Times noted that Kristol “never sought celebrity; in fact, he was puzzled by writers who craved it…. He was happier consulting with a congressman like Jack Kemp about the new notion of supply-side economics and then watching with satisfaction as Mr. Kemp converted President Ronald Reagan to the theory.”

And The Washington Post quotes Karl Rove as saying that Kristol “made it a moral imperative to rouse conservatism from mainstream Chamber of Commerce boosterism to a deep immersion in ideas.”

Today on Tablet

Books, basics, and the mouths of babes

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Tablet Magazine provides a handy guide to the upcoming High Holiday, Yom Kippur. Marjorie Ingall offers advice to young innocents on atoning. Josh Lambert checks out books about Greek Jews, food, and a family in Fascist Italy, among others. Plus, of course, we’ll keep you updated on The Scroll throughout the day.

Israeli Organ-Harvesting Stories Spread

Through Arab media, blogosphere

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As Israel and Sweden continue to duke it out over the Swedish newspaper story that accused the IDF of harvesting organs from slain Palestinians, the original allegations are spreading. According to the Jerusalem Post, the Algerian daily Al-Khabar started the globalization in an article claiming that Moroccan and Algerian gangsters have been kidnapping children on the streets of Algeria, transporting them to Morocco, then selling them to Israelis and American Jews, who kill them and sell their organs. That story has been picked up by Arab and Muslim media outlets, including not only Iran’s official media outlet PressTV, but also mainstream sources like Al-Jazeera, which linked this claim to the scandals involving Yehuda Hiss, Israel’s former chief pathologist, who resigned from his post after being investigated on charges of organ harvesting, and (like the Swedish paper’s story) to Levy Rosenbaum, the New Jersey rabbi arrested in July for his alleged involvement in the black-market kidney trade. According to Al-Jazeera’s magazine supplement, “The organ theft scandal in Israel is likely to have a domino effect as similar crimes by Israeli organizations in the Arab world have been unearthed; an international Zionist conspiracy to kidnap Algerian children and harvest their organs.”

‘Jews Harvesting Algerian Kids’ Organs’ [JPost]
Palestinians in 2010 Deserve No Less than Jewish Yemenites in 1990s [Al-Jazeera]

Daybreak: A Pointless U.N. Meeting?

Obama plans a photo op, Russian inmates get sanctuary, and more in the news

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• President Obama still plans to meet with Israeli P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “on the sidelines” of the U.N. General Assembly this week. [NYT]
• This despite the fact that some officials in Jerusalem say the confab “may turn out to be a symbolic gesture.” [Ynet]
• One Palestinian official agrees: “They can have a photo opportunity, but they can’t announce the resumption of talks.” [NYT]
• The first synagogue in a Russian state-run prison was consecrated last week; the 11 Jewish prisoners there “refurbished the site and even made the menora and the bima themselves.” [JPost]

Irving Kristol Is Dead

BREAKING: Godfather of neoconservatism was 89

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Irving Kristol, who emerged from the intensely Jewish milieu of New York’s City College to become the godfather of neoconservatism in Washington, died this afternoon at a hospice in Arlington, Virginia. He was 89. His son, William Kristol, founder of the Weekly Standard, told The Washington Post that his father died of complications from lung cancer.

Kristol was born in Brooklyn in 1920 to parents who had emigrated from Eastern Europe and worked in the garment industry. His turn from the labor socialism of his childhood to a new brand of conservatism crystallized in the 1960s, in opposition to Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs, and his ideas shaped the modern Republican Party under Ronald Reagan. Kristol once said neoconservatism was not a movement but an “intellectual current.”

“His wisdom, wit, good humor, and generosity of spirit made him a friend and mentor to several generations of thinkers and public servants,” wrote the editors of the Weekly Standard in a post on the magazine’s blog.

Irving Kristol, Godfather of Modern Conservatism, Dies at 89 [NYT]
Irving Kristol, Architect of Neoconservatism, Dies at 89 [WP]
Remembering Irving Kristol [Weekly Standard]

Sundown: Shofar Santa Claus

Rosh Hashanah at work, on stage, and in the Big Easy

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• What’s that strange sound coming down your office hallway? It might be your coworker’s avant garde jazz, or it might be Chabad Rabbi Aaron Cunin, who roams businesses in Silicon Valley the day before Rosh Hashanah, blowing the shofar and offering honey cake to harried Jews. [SJMN]
Jeremiah Lockwood, frontman for Jewish indie supergroup The Sway Machinery, talks about bringing the band’s project Hidden Melodies Revealed, a revitalization of Ashkenazic cantorial music, to the stage on Saturday night at Temple Emanu El in San Francisco for a Nextbook-sponsored New Year’s concert. [Mother Jones]
• The woman who will be leading the first Rosh Hashanah service at a synagogue in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina is grateful that “we have the opportunity to come together as a community, look in each other’s eyes and recognize that we may have lost material things … but we know that what matters is the spiritual.” [NPR]
• A video mocking the allegations of Swedish anti-Semitism since the blood libel incident takes aim at a pitifully easy target—campy pop group Abba—rewriting the band’s lyrics “Gimme, gimme, gimme a man after midnight” as “Primi, primi, primitive and phlegmatic.” Catchy! [JPost]
• Although Washington-area fashion guru Ernest Marx, who died last week, came to the States “in 1938 after the Nazi-led Kristallnacht attacks on Jewish businesses and homes,” a friend describes him as having been “like a pastor” when it came to style. [WP]

Rabbis Should Sermonize on Ethics

In wake of Madoff and other scandals, says Yeshiva president, others

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The question of how the actions of a handful of corrupt Jews reflect on the community at large is a tricky one—naturally, most of us don’t want to take personal responsibility for Bernie Madoff and his ilk, but there’s no denying the fact that sometimes the rest of the world, and even some of us, are bound to make that connection, especially given the long history of negative associations between Jews and money.

Richard Joel, president of Yeshiva University, is frank about the situation, saying that we’ve “been embarrassed” by Bernie and the July arrest of several rabbis for money laundering. He’s also blunt about the opportunity afforded by the High Holidays to drum it into congregants heads that this is not how Jews are expected to behave: “[T]he rabbis of America have a lot of Jews trapped in synagogues this weekend, and it’s a wonderful time to focus on who we are and how we are.” Joel, along with Rabbi Moshe Kletenik, president of the Rabbinical Council of America, and two others have signed a letter urging rabbis to talk to their congregations about ethics during Rosh Hashanah services.

Their letter raises the question of whether ideas of Judaism should be proscriptive or descriptive: are we what we think we should be, or are we, well, who we are? Of course, in this case it may be a simpler matter, of the annual need for especially poignant material for the one time of year many Jews actually attend synagogue, and a year that has handed rabbis an obvious choice.

Jewish Leaders Calling for Ethical Renewal [AP]

Today’s Sorry

She wishes she weren’t so grumpy

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Each day until Yom Kippur, Tablet Magazine is bringing you a Daily Sorry, an expression of atonement called into our Sorry Hotline. Today, we hear from a grumpster who’d like to change her ways.

It’s not too late to add your own apology. Call our Sorry Hotline at 718-360-4836, and tell us what you’re sorry for.

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