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Rockets From Lebanon Land in Israel

Hezbollah didn’t do it, but action still raises tensions

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For only the fourth time this year, and the first time since February, rockets fired from southern Lebanon landed in Israel, prompting an artillery response. This morning, two Katyusha rockets were launched from near the Lebanese port of Tyre, and one of them landed near the Israeli town Nahariya. The Israeli Defense Forces fired artillery shells at the launching site. Neither side reported casualties or significant damage. Though no one has claimed responsibility, the Jerusalem Post reports, and other sources agree, that the perpetrator is likely a small jihadist group, and not Hezbollah.

While the Israel-Lebanon border had seen several months of quiet, the accompanying war of words had not. Israel has accused Hezbollah of re-arming, and even the United Nations has found that the group violated the 2006 ceasefire by maintaining a weapons depot near the border. A spokesperson said today that the IDF “views this incident very severely and we hold the government of Lebanon responsible.”

Rocket Fire From Lebanon Sparks Israel Retaliation [NYT]
Global Jihad Group Likely Behind Katyusha Attack on North [JPost]
Earlier: Hezbollah Broke U.N. Ceasefire
Related: Forbidding Sequel [Tablet]

AIPAC and Obama Headed for a Showdown?

‘Mother Jones’ thinks so

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The current issue of Mother Jones, which hit stands a few weeks ago, has a story asking whether AIPAC is heading for a showdown with the Obama administration over Israel policy. The piece, by Robert Dreyfuss, makes a nice bookend to James Traub’s story in this weekend’s New York Times Magazine about J Street, the new progressive challenger to AIPAC’s long-held dominance on Israel-policy issues. Taken together, they offer a portrait of how the arrival of the MoveOn generation—which includes not just Obama but his right-hand guys, Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod, who aren’t mentioned in either piece, but should have been—is changing Washington’s Jewish power structure.

But where Traub seemed to be looking for what J Street says about American Jewry, politically speaking, Dreyfuss appears to be setting up a political version of fantasy football, handicapping how many (and which) members of Congress would side with the White House over AIPAC should they wind up in a showdown over, say, settlements. In that universe, J Street (and groups like the Israel Policy Forum) only matter insofar as they provide political cover for members of Congress—including, in this world, staunch pro-Israel Democrats like Carl Levin, Howard Berman, and Henry Waxman—who might support Obama at the expense of Benjamin Netanyahu’s political agenda.

Two things to note, though. One, while Dreyfuss raises the infamous Mearsheimer/Walt argument that AIPAC and other groups in the “Israel lobby” promote their objectives at the expense of American interests, it’s worth remembering that AIPAC hasn’t always been a home for neoconservatives—once, it was a place for people who opposed Reagan, including on the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia. Indeed, like other Jewish groups that took a rightward drift during the Bush years, AIPAC seems to have gone out of its way to appoint a new president who is on good terms with Obama, Lee Rosenberg, so it could just as well be argued that J Street is a kind of stalking horse presaging AIPAC’s return to the center. (Stephen Walt, incidentally, undoes the entire conceit of the piece by speculating to Dreyfus that Obama isn’t really “ready” to take on AIPAC, anyway.)

Two, there’s a blind quote near the bottom from a PR specialist with “close ties to the Israeli Embassy” that essentially blames naive Reform Jews for abetting this new era of dovish realpolitik. “All the cultural Jews, the Reform Jews, go, ‘Oh my God, he’s our guy! Seder in the White House, Bagel Month, Passover at the White House,’” this person said. Which is nice, because it’s reassuring to know that some things never change.

Is AIPAC Still the Chosen One? [Mother Jones]
Earlier: J Street Debuts in ‘Times Magazine’

Facebook Updates the Golan’s Status

Residents can now identify as Israeli

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Control of the Golan Heights may be disputed between Syria and Israel, but as far Facebook was concerned, there was no argument: if you lived there, your profile said you lived in Syria. This was true even if you lived in the two-thirds of the Golan’s 690 square miles that Israel has claimed and de facto governed since the 1967 War. This state of affairs upset Toronto-based nonprofit Honest Reporting, especially because, in the Golan, the personal is also political: the area is considered strategically crucial. So the group started a protest—led, naturally, by a Facebook page titled, “Facebook, Golan Residents Live in Israel, not Syria”—and, what do you know? On Wednesday, Honest Reporting noted that Facebook changed its policy so that Golan residents can now select cities listed as being in Israel as their hometowns. (The West Bank operates similarly in this cyberworld.)

“We deal with the listings for disputed territories on a case-by-case basis, and with Golan Heights we decided a dual listing made sense,” a Facebook spokesperson told Tablet Magazine yesterday. “It’s fair to say that we listen to our users and to feedback they give us, but we approach these decisions carefully, and only make changes where it makes sense to do so, as it did in this instance.” We’re sure that the 39,000 folks—according to Wikipedia—who live in Israel-controlled Golan appreciate that.

Facebook Changes Golan Policy [JTA]

Today on Tablet

Apple-and-honey taste test, Rosh Hashanah FAQs, meet the Beatles

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Ever wonder which types of apple and honey to buy for Rosh Hashanah? Tablet Magazine’s editors reveal the results of their massive taste test. They also answer all those nagging questions you’ve had about the Jewish New Year. In his weekly midrash, Liel Leibovitz notes that, concerning both the new The Beatles: Rock Band game and the Torah, “the sweet music of redemption always plays on, waiting patiently for fresh ears and young mouths to discover it.” And the sweet music of The Scroll will play throughout the day.

Daybreak: Don’t Mention The Weapons

Plus, Harvard Holocaust denial and Sharansky on that ad

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• Iran’s five-page proposal for holding negotiations with the United States makes no mention of its nuclear weapons program. [ProPublica]
• Egypt and Jordan, which have peace deals with Israel, joined their colleagues in the Arab League in announcing they will not normalize diplomatic ties with Israel until the Palestinian Authority is offered an acceptable final-status agreement. [Arutz Sheva]
The Harvard Crimson published an ad questioning whether the Holocaust happened; the error was the result of “a logistical failure and not a philosophical one,” according to the editor. [JPost]
• Natan Sharansky, once Israel’s minister of diaspora affairs, called the Masa “lost” ad about intermarriage an instance of “Israeli insensitivity to the sensibilities of U.S. Jews.” [Haaretz]

Sundown: Bibi and Barak Tag-Team

Plus Iran non-action, Bar Kochba coins, Trump-Kushner nuptials

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• Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak attended to their coalition government’s right and left flanks, respectively: Netanyahu told Likud members that West Bank settlers are “loyal” and “our brothers and sisters,” and Barak sent a top aide to meet with the head of Peace Now. [Arutz Sheva]
• A U.S. spokesman dismissed concessions offered by Iran as having nothing to do with the country’s nuclear weapons program, while the Russian foreign minister deemed them “something to work with.” [Ynet]
• Sylvia Schur, who developed some of the most broadly used recipies in America, including many of those that go with Campbell’s Soup, died yesterday. According to her obituary, a son of the woman who developed Ocean Spray’s Cran-Apple juice now lives in Cranbury, N.J. [NYT]
• Archaeologists revealed the fruits of a new find in the Judean hills: coins and such used by Jewish rebels during the Bar Kochba revolt 1,900 years ago. [JPost]
• Recent convert Ivanka Trump will reportedly marry real estate scion Jared Kushner in October. The ceremony will contain elements of both the bride’s and groom’s heritages: it will be an Orthodox ceremony held at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. [NYP/Page Six]

HRW Official Collects Nazi Memorabilia

More problems for rights group accused of anti-Israel bias

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Pro-Israel columnists and groups long accused Human Rights Watch, a non-governmental organization that tries to ferret out and document humanitarian abuses around the world, of evincing an anti-Israel bias. Earlier this summer, the Netanyahu administration pledged to put a bulls eye on the group after reports emerged that it attempted to raise money from rich Saudis by boasting of its criticism of Israel’s military conduct. Additionally, the group’s deputy Middle East director, reports said, attended a 1976 anti-Zionism conference run by Saddam Hussein. Now, this week, it emerged that the group’s senior military expert, a former Pentagon intelligence officer named Marc Gerlasco, is an avid collector of Nazi military memorabilia, and has published a 430-page monograph on Wehrmacht badges.

“A war crimes investigator who is an avid collector and trader in Nazi memorabilia is perhaps a new low,” Netanyahu’s policy director, Ron Dermer, told the Jerusalem Post. NGO Monitor, another HRW critic, said that the revelations, “when combined with his central role in the condemnations of Israel under false banners of ‘human rights’ violations and ‘war crimes,’ show that he is entirely inappropriate as a human rights reporter.” Human Rights Watch, meanwhile, issued a strong rebuttal, stating, “Gerlasco has never held or expressed Nazi or anti-Semitic views.” Gerlasco, it says, had a grandfather who was conscripted into the German military, though he never joined the Nazi Party. Gerlasco’s great-uncle, meanwhile, worked on B-17s for Uncle Sam; Gerlasco also collects U.S. Air Force paraphernalia.

Collecting Nazi memorabilia, of course, is not proof of being a Nazi sympathizer. And let’s concede that Gerlasco is no anti-Semite, and that his hobby is, well, just that. Still, we would gently advise HRW that endorsing Gerlasco’s views on Israel’s actions is not the best way to be taken seriously on an issue where, fairly or not, it is already walking on controversial ground. The point is not only to prevent bias from creeping into ostensibly neutral reports; it’s to avoid even the appearance of and potential for impropriety. This week, people who talk about Human Rights Watch’s reports on Israel are not talking about their substance, but about the process behind them, and that process’s alleged flaws. Is that really what Human Rights Watch wants?

Human Rights Watch Investigator Accused of Collecting Nazi Memorabilia [Guardian]
‘HRW Expert Collects Nazi Memorabilia’ [JPost]
HRW Responds, and So Do I [Elder of Ziyon]
Related: Broken Watch [Tablet]

Conservative Movement Plans Liberal Tinkering

United Synagogue head also discusses ‘Lost’ ad

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The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism—the umbrella association comprising over 700 Conservative congregations in North America—today announced a reorganization designed to prioritize consistency across congregations and to strengthen the organization’s youth and young-adult initiatives by grouping them into a single department. The group also announced a 10 percent central staff cut. Both the reorganization, which will be finalized at a board meeting Sunday night, as well as the cuts were prompted by a “perilous” financial situation, according to a press release.

Rabbi Steven Wernick, United Synagogue’s new head, candidly told us that his group’s finances were adversely affected by both the economy and “by the credibility issue.” He continued: “I think [United Synagogue]’s been ineffective in the last several years at meeting the needs of our congregations, who are our stakeholders.” (As the rabbi at Philadelphia’s Adath Israel until about two months ago, Wernick said, he had helpful perspective here.) The goal of the reorganization is not to redefine Conservative Judaism, according to Wernick, but rather to more effectively and consistently uphold traditional Conservative values. “It’s about a commitment to Jewish ritual practice and Jewish study, via classical means, overlaid with modern scholarship,” Wernick explained. “Ultimately, the expression of that is in vibrant centers of Jewish living and learning.”

Since the Conservative movement lies directly on the fault-line between tradition and assimilation, we also asked Wernick how he felt about that controversial Israeli ad which implied that Jews who did not feel a connection to Israel and who intermarry are “lost” (the ad was pulled yesterday). “Every time I hear about those suggestions, I think they’re just silly, and they represent a point of view that is out of touch with reality,” he told us. “I’m glad the ad was pulled. My thought process is that probably my colleagues in the Conservative movement and other movements spoke quite passionately against it, and hopefully they played a role in getting it pulled.”

Hasid Sets Sight on Dancing World Record

Chabad telethon to feature six-hour number

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IfI you’re from Los Angeles, you know September is the time of year when the image of a dancing Hasid appears on streetlamp banners all over the Westside, reminding viewers that the single most successful Chabad outreach initiative (and fundraiser) ever invented is just around the corner: the annual To Life! Telethon. It’s just like the Jerry Lewis’s, but with more famous people—at some point or another, everyone who’s anyone in Hollywood has turned up to dance, sing, or just crack jokes, including Jon Voight, Bob Dylan, and the entire cast of Friends (that’s like two more famous people right there!).

This year, though, they’re trying something a little different. Yossi Cunin, the head of Chabad’s Beverly Hills outpost, plans to try for a Guinness World Record at this Sunday’s broadcast: the longest ever recorded Hasidic dance. To prepare, the 36-year-old has been training with Dave Honig, best known as the co-author of LL Cool J’s Platinum Workout. So far, Cunin hasn’t achieved the rap star’s chiseled physique, but he has lost about 100 pounds, partly by running up and down stairs at Dodger Stadium with weights strapped to his back. (We’re pretty sure that wasn’t in the book.) Cunin told the L.A. Jewish Journal that he’s expecting to dance nonstop for six hours, to demonstrate “joy in the extreme.” Maybe Honig can brand it as the Goin’ Back to Cali workout?


Chabad Rabbi Trains for Dance-a-thon
[Jewish Journal]

Jewish Leaders Hit the Hill

Lobbying Congress for tougher sanctions on Iran

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Three hundred Jewish community leaders are set to meet today with congressmen from both parties as well as an Obama staffer to discuss U.S. policy vis-a-vis Iran’s nuclear weapons program and to lobby for stricter sanctions against Iran. This confab, which is part of the National Jewish Leadership Advocacy Day on Iran, comes after nine rabbinical and synagogue organizations issued a joint statement calling on American Jews to “make Iran a matter of the highest urgency.” Economic penalties, they hope, will serve as a “vehicle” toward stopping the mullahs’ atomic ambitions. Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), and Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) are slated to attend.

Jewish Leaders Converging on D.C. for Advocacy Day on Iran [JTA]

J Street Debuts in ‘Times Magazine’

Left-leaning Israel lobby group is generational shift, James Traub says

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J Street, the year-old progressive “pro-peace, pro-Israel” lobbying group, has its official coming-out party in this weekend’s New York Times Magazine. Writer James Traub paints a sharp contrast between J Street ‘s upstart team of “netroots”-savvy whiz kids, led by Jeremy Ben-Ami, and the staid leadership of the old-guard Jewish organizations—the Conference of Presidents, the Zionist Organization of America, and, yes, AIPAC—who, in Traub’s characterization, spend their time hanging out at evangelical Christian rallies and ruing the end of the Bush Administration. Ben-Ami, Traub writes, has arrived “at a propitious moment”—a time when many liberal Jews, energized by the Obama campaign and unimpressed by the failure of the neoconservatives to ink a peace deal, are ready to try Obama’s get-tough approach on settlements and the two-state solution. “One these issues, which pose a difficult quandary for the mainstream groups, J Street knows exactly where it stands,” Traub writes.

There was, of course, a time, in the early 1980s, when AIPAC, at least, was run by left-leaning progressives—people like Tom Dine, a veteran of Ted Kennedy’s presidential campaign—but Traub seems to be suggesting that what’s going on is generational, more than anything else. M.J. Rosenberg, another veteran of AIPAC, told Traub that “all the old Jewish people in senior-citizen homes speaking Yiddish are dying, and they’re being replaced by 60-year-old Woodstock types.” But Rosenberg—who cheerfully blogged this morning that the Times story “heralds a new day”—missed the mark by about thirty years. The real shift, Traub writes, is from the moment of people like the Conference of Presidents’ Malcolm Hoenlein and the Zionist Organization’s Morton Klein, both born in Europe amid the wreckage of the Holocaust, to that of people like Ben-Ami, whose great-grandparents helped found Tel Aviv, who handed out leaflets for Carter as a teenager, and whose office is filled with thirty-something Jews who are intermarried and “all doing Buddhist seders.” As with the Cubans in Florida, who have outgrown their exile mentality, Traub argues, J Street believes American Jews no longer need to be “in thrall to the older generation” when it comes to the Middle East.

But it seems to us that there’s really something even deeper going on—not so much a shift in opinion, but a shift away from the idea that American Jews should, or even could, arrive at something like a unified opinion on Israel. Traub draws a distinction between the fortresslike offices of AIPAC and most other major Jewish groups and those of J Street, which he describes as glassy and airy and open. Last week, J Street announced that it had hired Hadar Susskind, an Israeli-born, American-raised veteran of both the IDF and the Hill, to be its new director of policy. In this week’s Forward, Susskind writes: “It’s time for all of us who grew up loving Israel and praying for peace to stop letting the mythical notion that American Jews speak with a single voice keep us from supporting Israel’s security and future by calling for peace.”

The New Israel Lobby [NYTM]

Israeli Loves Nadal, Kisses Him

PDA at U.S. open

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Did everyone catch Rafael Nadal getting kissed by an adoring fan following his victory Tuesday night at the U.S. Open? (If you didn’t, you can watch it below.) Turns out the kisser—whom Nadal laughed off, though the security guards who carted him away were not smiling—is an Israeli named Noam Aorta who lives in Fresh Meadows, Queens, not too far from Arthur Ashe Stadium, the site of the smooch. “In my country, kissing a man is no big deal,” he reportedly told police. Really? Has Aorta stumbled upon the solution to the Palestinian question—interfaith kissing? There’s only one way to find out …

Kissing Mandit Tells Nadal: I Love You [NYP]

Today on Tablet

Jews on liberal Jews, artsy ‘ritual’, wild honey pie

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Tablet Magazine collects five Jewish thinkers to answer the question embodied in the title of Norman Podhoretz’s new book: why are Jews liberals? Karen Rosenberg reviews “Reinventing Ritual,” the fall exhibition at New York’s Jewish Museum; a slideshow accompanies. To prepare you for Rosh Hashanah, Mimi Sheraton looks at the history of honey and shares her honey cake recipe. We can’t promise there won’t be even more recipes throughout the day on The Scroll.

Daybreak: Bibi in Moscow

Plus Spain on Syria and how to stop an Iranian bomb

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• A Russian newspaper confirmed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Moscow Monday. It went on to speculate that the secret visit indicated an imminent Israeli attack on Iran. [JPost]
• The Spanish Foreign Minister—his country hosted the original talks that led to the Oslo accord—reported that Syrian President Bashar Assad wants to talk peace. [Haaretz]
• American Jewish leaders will converge on Washington, D.C., today to push for an Iran sanctions bill. [JPost]
• A former Mossad chief said on a radio program that only a military attack can stop Iran from building a nuclear bomb. [Haaretz]
• Israel-affilited group Masa, which runs programs for foreign Jews to live and study in Israel, pulled its controversial “Lost” ad. [Haaretz]

Sundown: An Undivided Yerushalayim

Plus Chávez and Ban Ki-moon on Israel, and more

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• Israeli Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz wants solely Hebrew place-names—Yerushalayim, Natzrat (Nazareth), Kesariya (Caeserea)—to appear on road signs, rather than the current Hebrew, Arabic, and English. An op-ed opposes this, noting that one in five Israeli citizens are Arabs who call Jerusalem, for example, “al-Quds.” [IHT]
• Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who has been accused of cultivating a climate hostile to Jews, told a French newspaper that Israel is “openly” killing Palestinians, and asked, “Do you remember the last Israeli aggression against Gaza? What is that about, if not genocide?” [JTA]
• United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon criticized the announced construction of new houses in West Bank settlements: “Such actions and all settlement activity are contrary to international law and the roadmap.” [Ynet]
• Drake is a rising hip-hop star out of Toronto. He has guested on tracks with Jay-Z, Kanye West, and others. His album, on Lil’ Wayne’s label, is due out next year. Oh, and he’s Jewish. [Jewish Week]
• Britain appointed a rabbi as its first-ever Jewish military chaplain. An estimated 200 British soldiers are Jews. [Ynet]
• Please don’t forget to call Tablet’s special atonement hotline—718-360-4836—to tell us (anonymously, of course) what you will be repenting for on this Yom Kippur. We can’t forgive you, but we can make repenting more fun. [Tablet]

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