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Today in Tablet

‘A good prescription for Jewish poems’

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Tablet Magazine poetry columnist David Kaufmann breaks down Scribe, the new collection of poems from Norman Finkelstein, calling it a “secular midrash.” Plus, we’ll have plenty of posts today on The Scroll.

Jews and Wiccans Come Together

ADL, AJC support Wiccan clergyman’s lawsuit

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Are there stranger bedfellows than the American Jewish Committee and a Wiccan clergyman? The AJC, as well as the Anti-Defamation League, just signed onto a friend-of-the-court brief in a federal appeals case supporting a Wiccan clergyman’s right to sue California for not hiring prison chaplains of his faith. As with so many of these things, the literal question up for appeal is a rather narrow one concerning the plaintiff’s standing to challenge California’s policy. But the ADL’s statement, which calls California’s practice “discriminatory” and “exclusionary,” makes the group’s broader stand apparent: tax money, it believes, should not be used to favor one religious group over another. For the record, though, California does pay prison rabbis.

ADL, AJC Join Brief on Wiccan Clergyman [JTA]

Daybreak: Settlement Mayor Arrested

Plus, an East Jerusalem skirmish, Rothstein arraigned, and more

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• The mayor of the West Bank’s Beit Arieh settlement, participating in larger protests, was arrested for disrupting security forces’ implementation of the construction freeze. [AP]
• Violence erupted among Palestinian and Israeli civilians in East Jerusalem after police-escorted residents removed furniture from a Palestinian-built house to which they had won the right. [NYT]
• After finding that the defendant had a fever, the judge overseeing 89-year-old John Demjanjuk’s trial adjourned it for the day. [Haaretz]
• The Anti-Defamation League and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights both condemned the new Swiss ban on minaret construction. [Haaretz]
• Disbarred Florida attorney Scott Rothstein pleaded ‘not guilty’ to charges related to his alleged $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme. [Bloomberg]

Sundown: Michelle Obama Selects a Menorah

Plus, the freeze is temporary, watch the Swiss, and more

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• On Dec. 16th, for the sixth night of Hanukkah, the White House will light a 19th-century menorah on loan from Prague’s Jewish Museum; Michelle Obama specifically requested it after seeing it on an official visit. [JTA]
• Benjamin Netanyahu clarified that the current West Bank settlement freeze is not permanent, but rather intended to create room for negotiations on a final status: “We did not mean to halt reasonable life,” he said. “The settlers in Judea and Samaria are an integral part of our nation.” [Arutz Sheva]
• Israel’s UN Ambassador lambasted the United Nations’s practice of marking its “solidarity” with the Palestinian people on the anniversary of UN approval of partition. [ynet]
• A former Israeli Ambassador to Switzerland warned that the Swiss decision to ban the construction of minarets reflects the same “fear of things foreign and different” that is also “the basic root of anti-Semitism.” [Arutz Sheva]
• Amid much protest and in a close vote, the London School of Economics elected to twin with the Islamic University of Gaza. [Jewish Chronicle]

Harry Potter and the Case of the Syrian Translator

A new law allows Israelis to import books translated in Arab world

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How do you say “Muggle” in Arabic? Arabic-speaking Israelis have never known. The Harry Potter series coined the term to refer to individuals not blessed with magical powers, but due to a Byzantine bit of Israeli legislation, Arabic translations of Potter—along with Shakespeare, Marques, Moliere, and others—were verboten in the Jewish state. A 1939 law passed by the British authorities in pre-state Palestine and adopted by the Israeli government shortly after the country’s birth declared it illegal to import books from hostile nations. The majority of Arabic translations of international literature are published in Lebanon and Syria, which meant that most Arabic-language literature was banned from Israel. But, finally, that’s about to change. A special cabinet committee recently expressed its support for a new bill that would allow Israeli companies to import Syrian- and Lebanese-published titles. According to the new proposal, which is slated to pass in the coming days, any Arabic book would be permitted into the country, just as long as it does not incite to violence, deny the Holocaust, or provides instructions on how to prepare explosive devices. Harry should be safe.

The Ministers’ Committee Approves: Books Translated in Syria Will Be Sold in Israel [Haaretz, in Hebrew]

Is ‘Heeb’ On Its Way Out?

Gawker says yes; editor says no

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Media gossip blog Gawker has put the snarky Jewish magazine Heeb on a “deathwatch” for imminent closure. A number of anonymous sources have apparently told Gawker that the magazine is on the brink of folding. Heeb “was able to live high on the hog when there was a lot of money coming in, like around 2004,” one of these anonymous tipsters told the blog. “The fact that they were wasting money went kind of unnoticed by the Jewish organizations donating to them. But the recession hit them kind of hard.” Heeb’s editorial director countered that Heeb wasn’t “shutting down,” but, Gawker noted, she initially sidestepped the question of what would happen to the flagship print magazine (rather than its website or its parties). In response to further questioning from Gawker, she replied, “We have the utmost confidence in assuring you that our Spring edition will be out no later than Rosh Hashanah,” which we have to assume was a joke.

We conducted our own inquiry, with similar results. Former Heeb staffers told us they’d heard rumors of its demise but couldn’t confirm them. We asked the magazine’s music editor, Arye Dworken, what was going on, he maintained in an email that the gossip was just lashon hara that likely came from angry freelancers or ex-interns. “We as a magazine can’t be best friends with everyone and those non-best friends love coming out of the woodwork with ‘scandalous’ details (i.e., yawn, who cares, so what, etc.) when the rumor mill goes back into production,” he wrote. But when asked about the specific allegation that the print magazine, rather than the Heeb brand as a whole, was on its last, he dodged the question and referred it to editor in chief Josh Neuman. Neuman (who earlier told a Jewish Telegraphic Agency blog that Heeb was alive and well) responded in a short email, “Long story short: denying that we’ve decided to cease print.”

The Heeb Magazine Deathwatch Starts Now [Gawker]
Heeb Not Closing, According to Publisher [JTA]

Israeli Economy Eats Its Spinach

That’s why it’s doing well, says ex-Clinton adviser

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In case you haven’t heard, the Israeli economy is—contrary to all expectations—doing pretty well these days, despite the recession dragging on in the United States and in Europe. It’s doing so well, in fact, that Bank of Israel chief Stanley Fischer decided last week to raise interest rates to counteract rising inflation. Why? Well, William Galston, a former Clinton advisor who is now a fellow at the Brookings Institution, thinks it’s because the Israeli government decided to spend its stimulus shekels (well, dollars, really) on private-sector R&D programs and infrastructure projects instead of on feel-good programs designed to prop up consumer spending, like the Obama administration’s cash-for-clunkers initiative or the Bush administration’s tax rebate checks from a couple of years ago. “While Israel, besieged throughout its existence, builds its future, the United States, with every advantage in the world, devours its seed-corn,” Galston writes in The New Republic. “Does our government have the guts to feed us some spinach before dessert?”

What Israel Can Teach Us About Rebuilding An Economy [TNR]
Earlier: Israel’s ‘Tech Miracle’ Explained

Men Like Jewish Women, Especially if They’re Naked

‘Details’ uncovers shocking trend

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Well, Jewish ladies, according to Details magazine, we’ve made it onto an illustrious list that also includes the following: “Cheerleaders. Five-inch heels. Big, natural boobs.” That’s right, we’re a fetish! Wait, you knew that already? Of course you did. After all, as Details points out, “Jews are comparatively cool about sex.” In fact, says the mag, “Rabbis exhort their congregants to get busy on Shabbat, telling them it’s a ‘double mitzvah.’” Now, we’ve heard that before, but, curiously, never from a rabbi—rather, from the kind of creeps who write emails like the one received by the leader of Kinky Jews: “I never regretted not being Jewish so much as when I saw your profile.” If you need more proof of our increasing hotness, there’s a Jewish porn star who “checks in with her mother more than is strictly necessary,” and a calendar featuring pictures of a nude woman “blowing the ram-horn shofar, bathing in a tub of bagels, and covering her D-cups with strategically placed matzo balls and latkes” that, shock of shocks, “was a hit on a USO tour of Iraq.” And, of course, there’s “the popularity of ‘Frum porn,’ raunchy photos of religious Jews getting busy.”

Although a blogger on Jezebel notes, “I invite you to find a subset of the population that porn has not at one point or another fetishized,” that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t rejoice in our status. Ladies, let’s throw on those cheerleader uniforms, get us some “goyfriends,” and take over the world!

The Rise of the Hot Jewish Girl [Details]

Demjanjuk’s Trial May Not Be the Last

Might Germany prosecute other non-Germans?

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Germany’s prosecution of John Demjanjuk for allegedly aiding in the slaughter of 27,000 Jews at the Sobibor camp in Poland is notable for more than just the sensational drama involved in attempting to bring an accused génocidaire to justice (especially one whom Israel tried, sentenced to death, and then acquitted on appeal more than a decade ago). According to Haaretz, the case of Demjanjuk—who is Ukrainian-born and a one-time U.S. citizen—represents a break with Germany’s policy of not trying suspected war criminals who are not themselves Germans. The precedent, in other words, could open the door to more trials of non-Germans.

Haaretz points to Bronislaw Hajda as one such non-German. An 85-year-old Polish-American who resides in Chicago, Hajda allegedly served at Treblinka in 1944. Though he “without doubt” committed war crimes, a U.S. court found, he cannot be tried under U.S. jurisdiction. Instead, he awaits deportation to Poland or Germany—a prospect that the prosecution of John Demjanjuk has made, for him and for any others in his position, suddenly much more threatening.

Update: While Haaretz says Hadja is still alive, a reader pointed us to the Chicago Tribune, which reported he died in 2005, and the Social Security Death Index, which reports him as deceased.

Demjanjuk Case Could Set Precedent in Germany [Haaretz]

On Tablet Today

Eleventh hour Nazi hunting

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Tablet Magazine’s book critic Adam Kirsch explores a new volume by Efraim Zuroff, who has devoted his life to hunting down Nazi war criminals, which details “convincing arguments why, even at the last possible minute, it is still worthwhile to bring such men to justice.” And as always, The Scroll will be updated on news, entertainment, and commentary throughout the day.

‘Foreign Policy’ Names Top Global Thinkers

Roughly a quarter are Jews; Bernanke is No. 1

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Bernanke at a House Financial Services Committee meeting in October.(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

While conspiracy theories alleging secret Jewish control of the world shouldn’t be indulged, there is still much pride to take in the central role some Jews play in pondering global affairs. So we beam knowing that nearly one-quarter of Foreign Policy magazine’s “Top 100 Global Thinkers” are Jews. (We counted 24.5—the .5 goes to International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who shares his spot with a non-Jew). Jews furthermore claim the top spot, which goes to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

One more thing: Foreign Policy’s 24.5 percent is eerily close to Jews’ 24 percent of the Museum of the City of New York’s list of the most influential New Yorkers. We hereby posit a Nearly-One-Quarter Rule of Jewish List Preponderance, and hope that Thomas Friedman—Foreign Policy’s 21st most influential global thinker—can come up with a catchier name.

The FP Top 100 Global Thinkers [Foreign Policy]
Earlier: Museum Lists Most Influential New Yorkers

Daybreak: East Jerusalem for Palestine, E.U. Says

Plus gay marriage, the U.S. vs. England, and more in the news

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• The European Union plans to call for the establishment of East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state, and has implied that it would accept a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood; Israel warns that such a move would harm the E.U.’s ability to act as a “significant mediator” in the conflict. [Haaretz]
• Hezbollah’s leader says the group will continue to develop its weaponry in preparation for a potential fight with Israel. [AP]
• Leaders of a cloistered Orthodox community in New Jersey have emerged to voice fervent opposition to same-sex marriage. [AP]
• Reflecting on some recent issues involving Jewishness in England, Roger Cohen says: “I still believe the greatest strength of America, its core advantage over the old world, is its lack of interest in where you’re from and consuming interest in what you can do.” [NYT]

Sundown: Zionism and the Black Experience

Plus fear vs. hate, hippie art, and a rock ‘n’ roll error

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• An op-ed in the Jerusalem Post posits that President Barack Obama is “oblivious to African and African-American debts to the Zionist movement.” In case you are too, the paper lays them out in detail. [JPost]
• Commenting on Switzerland’s decision to ban the construction of minarets, a blogger points out that “though Islamophobia is driven by fear, whereas anti-Semitism is driven by hate, the functional expression of both in European society follows very similar trends.” [Beliefnet]
• Psychedelically inclined artist Barbara Mendes, who became a religious Jew later in life and is currently focused on paintings illuminating the Bible, says of her younger days: “My stuff was never raw and sexual.… It was about hippies saving the world through spirituality.” [LAT]
• The Los Angeles Jewish Journal reports on the “long and textured relationship” between the city’s Jews and its public school system. [JJ]
• Musician Pete Doherty committed a gaffe at his concert in Munich on Saturday when he sang a rousing round of German national anthem “Das Deutschlandlied” complete with a Nazi-era verse that has since been excised. [NME]

Mazel Tov, Chelsea

Former first daughter engaged

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Chelsea Clinton has snagged herself a nice Jewish boy. President Bill Clinton’s office announced today that Chelsea is engaged to her longtime boyfriend, Marc Mezvinsky. Clinton is a former McKinsey consultant now studying public health at Columbia University; Mezvinsky is a fomer Goldman Sachs banker now at a hedge fund. The couple sent an email to friends announcement their engagement on Friday. The ceremony will be next summer but no specifics have been set, the email said—including who’ll officiate.

Chelsea Clinton Is Engaged [NYT]

Bibi Opposed Prisoner Swap

In 1985 letter to Shamir

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Netanyahu and Shamir at a peace conference in Madrid, 1991.(Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images)

In 1995, a decade after Israel released 1,150 Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners in return for three Israeli soldiers captured in Lebanon, a new book by a promising Israeli politician reflected unfavorably on the deal and its aftermath. “Today,” the politician wrote, “it’s obvious that releasing these terrorists contributed to creating a cadre of inciters and leaders, men who lit the fuse of Palestinian violence.” The politician was, of course, Benjamin Netanyahu, and he went on to quote a letter he’d written to Yitzhak Shamir, then the leader of Likkud, chiding him for supporting the prisoner swap. “The deal may have saved a few Israeli lives,” Netanyahu had written to Shamir, “but it’s clear to me that the price we’ll eventually pay is that the deal will sentence many others to death. A nation must act first and foremost in the interest of the majority, and I see no way of justifying the deal as having served the majority in any way.” Now, Netanyahu is set to preside over a deal that will release 980 Palestinian combatants in return for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. And his 24-year-old letter to Shamir is giving Netanyahu’s opponents, including some in his own party, an excellent weapon with which to attack his decision. It’s prompting commentators to wonder whether Netanyahu is slated to make the same move as Ariel Sharon and leave Likkud to found his own party.

Are Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak Conspiring a New Political Big Bang? [Haaretz, in Hebrew]

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