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White House to Name Anti-Semitism Envoy Today

J Street member Hannah Rosenthal to fill post

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The White House is expected to formally announce today the appointment of Hannah Rosenthal, the 58-year-old former head of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and a member of J Street’s advisory council, as the State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, an ambassador-at-large position that falls under State’s human-rights portfolio. The position, which was established in 2004, has remained vacant since January, when its first and only holder, Gregg Rickman, who directed the Senate investigation on Holocaust assets and was also a former legislative affairs staffer at the Republican Jewish Coalition, retired with the Bush Administration.

Rosenthal Is Anti-Semitism Envoy Choice, Announcement Imminent [JTA]

This Week In Foreigners’ Takes on Settlement Expansion

China against; N.Y. pol Dov Hikind in favor

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Hikind at a cornerstone-laying in East Jerusalem on Wednesday.(NYTimes.com)

Curious about China’s stance on West Bank settlement expansion? Now you know: The Asian power is against it. Just days after President Obama visited China, that country’s foreign minister has criticized the planned construction of 900 new apartments in East Jerusalem, according to the Israeli paper Yediot Ahronot, a position in concert with the U.S. administration. Whether the move reflects a desire to stand united with Obama on freezing settlements or it reflects a desire to appease oil-exporting Middle Eastern countries is as yet unclear.

New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, however, remains firmly supportive of settlement consturction. He told the New York Times this week that he wants to buy a new pad in East Jerusalem. On a visit to Israel with about 50 other Americans, Hikind said restricting where Jews can build homes “is segregation” and that Obama’s no-settlement-expansion position means Jews “cannot build a toilet” in the West Bank. There are many kinds of arguments a person could make against Hikind’s intended purchase, but given that Thanksgiving’s around corner (and that Hikind introduced the bathroom rhetoric in this case)—we’ll make a patriotic one: the American economy is still in the crapper, why not spend the dollars here?

China Criticizes New Israeli Move on Settlements [Ynet]
Real Estate Shopping Is Used as Political Theater on Jerusalem’s Contested Ground
[NYT]
Hikind Steps Into West Bank Settlement Row With Housing Plan [Jewish Week]

Daybreak: Another Intifada

Plus U.S. Nazi hunting, a foiled plot in Yemen, and more in the news

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• Fatah officials told a Palestinian newspaper that they plan to implement a third intifada against Israel using demonstrations instead of violence; some speculate that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas may have decided to step down in part to facilitate the uprising. [Haaretz]
• The Simon Wiesenthal Center gives the United States an “A” for being responsible for 37 of 82 legal actions against suspected Nazis since 2001. [LAT]
• Security forces in Yemen arrested three Shi’ite rebels on a mission to assassinate the leader of the nation’s tiny Jewish community. [JPost]
• South African-Israeli philanthropist Mendel Kaplan, who founded the Jewish Studies center at the University of Cape Town and the South African Jewish Museum, has died at 73. [Haaretz]

Sundown: I Dip, You Dip, We Dip

Mikvehs for all, ‘TNR’ bashing, and the plight of the ‘half-Jew’

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• Mikvehs, ritual baths traditionally used for conversion or by observant women after their periods, are becoming more amenable to “alternative immersions” for occasions such as a birthday, a divorce, or an empty nest. Cheap spa day! [JC]
Nation columnist Eric Alterman lets loose a screed against editor of The New Republic, Marty Peretz, whose sins include the magazine’s “purposeful weakening of the bond between Israel and liberal American Jews—which is most of them—which derives from the constant stream of insults it spews at those who dare to disagree with Peretz’s hawkish prejudices.” [Nation]
• A blogger bemoans the treatment given to “half-Jews”: “[E]ither our interfaith parents must raise us as a ‘real Jews,’ in a very draconian manner—no Christmas trees or Rastafari posters! Every trace of our “non-Jewish” parent’s heritage to be banished from the house!—or … we were to be treated as ‘non-Jews’ who must convert.” [Jewcy]
• And the award for the most hackneyed list of Christmas gifts for Jews goes to Nashville Scene; suggestions include a Mel Gibson punching bag (the invention of which would “result in Jews stampeding into Walmart on Black Friday”) and a Chinese restaurant gift certificate (“You must’ve seen this one coming from miles away.” Yup). [NS]

AP Cuts Staff in Jerusalem, West Bank

As part of organization-wide layoffs

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Among the layoffs this week at the Associated Press: One reporter in Jerusalem and another in the West Bank, we’re told. The news service is cutting dozens of positions in an effort to cut staffing costs by 10 percent worldwide. Rumor is that reporter Steve Weizman has been let go from the AP’s Jerusalem bureau (which remains relatively large) and that another staffer has been laid off in Nablus, one of a handful of reporters in the Palestinian territories. AP spokesman Paul Colford told Tablet Magazine he couldn’t confirm or deny whether the cuts had been made, but an email sent to Weizman’s AP address bounced back.


The AP Layoffs, from Bismarck to Beijing
[Gawker]

Canada’s Conservatives Suggest Liberals Are Anti-Semites

Or so Liberal leaders claim

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(Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

In advance of the Canadian national elections that will likely be held sometime soon, the country’s currently-in-power Conservative party is sending mailers to households in heavily Jewish districts that claim Conservatives have a monopoly on pro-Israel sentiment—and, opposition Liberals say, strongly imply that their own party is anti-Semitic. The fliers accuse Liberal MPs of participating in “Durban I” (the 2001 U.N. conference on racism that’s long been a target of the pro-Israel right), and of being reluctant to classify Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist groups, the Globe and Mail reports. They also call out Michael Ignatieff, the public intellectual-turned-Liberal party leader, for accusing Israel of war crimes in Lebanon in 2006.

The Liberals (along with other opposition parties, the Bloc Quebecois and the New Democratic Party) have fired back, with Montreal Liberal M.P. Irwin Cotler, who’s Jewish, calling the mailers “totally misleading … it basically seeks to associate the Liberal party with anti-Semitism,” according to the Toronto Star. But the Conservatives have effectively shaped the Canadian political discourse on Israel, and the Liberals they’ve attacked—including Cotler and other Jewish parliamentarians—are denying or taking back any criticism of Israel they’ve ever made. (Cotler says he only went to Durban to defend Israel and that he supported last winter’s Gaza war; Ignatieff apologized long ago for his “war crimes” comment; Liberals were in fact the first to classify Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorists.) The Conservative immigration minister, meanwhile, told reporters that anyone who’s read accusations of anti-Semitism into the fliers “is being completely over the top and mischievous.”

Opposition Decries Tory Attack Ads Sent to Jewish Voters [Globe and Mail]
PM’s Jewish Pitch Hits a New Low, Critics Say [Star]
Canadian Conservatives Woo Jews [Jewschool]

Bad-Sex Fiction Finalists Announced

Philip Roth and Amos Oz make list of year’s worst literary sex scenes

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If Philip Roth’s The Humbling fails to earn him a National Book Award nomination next year, he can at least console himself with the news that he’s made the shortlist of contenders for a British award honoring bad sex in fiction. Bestowed by the London magazine Literary Review, the awards “draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel,” Auberon Waugh, who helped establish the contest, told the Guardian. In Roth’s case, his narrator’s declaration that a scene with a now infamous green dildo “was not soft porn” is defensive, according to the Review’s Jonathan Beckman, and his description of the female love interest as “a magical composite of shaman, acrobat, and animal” is, said Beckman, “an attempt to convince us that Roth’s leering is actually giving some vital anthropological insight.” Read excerpts from all the finalists for yourself.

Roth is in good company—Israel’s Amos Oz is also a finalist for his book Rhyming Life and Death, as is the musician Nick Cave, whose second novel, The Death of Bunny Monroe, came out earlier this year. There’s one woman, Sanjida O’Connell, among the 10, a disparity which begets the question of whether women authors write sex scenes less often than men or simply less poorly.

Bad Sex Award Shortlist Pits Philip Roth Against Stiff Competition [Guardian]

Holocaust Victim a Hit on Facebook

Polish historian uses the site to reconstruct the life of murdered boy

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Henio in 1939.(DW-World.de)

Piotr Buzek, a 22-year-old employee of the Brama Grodzka Cultural Center in Lublin, Poland, uses Facebook not to make friends for himself, but for Henio Zytomirski, a young boy who was killed in the Holocaust. Buzek has taken on Zytomirski as an alter ego, and he updates the boy’s Facebook page with devastating posts detailing what the boy might have experienced leading up to his death.

A recent entry reads: “Grandpa says that the war will soon be over. He says that soldiers also have families. How is that possible? They have a family, but they kill families.” Zytomirski’s 1,700-plus friends, most of whom are Polish, use the site to respond with a touching sincerity to a tragedy most of them were not alive to see: “I can’t imagine such beastliness,” wrote one. “They have no heart,” wrote another. Explains Buzek: “People write things on Henio’s page that we don’t speak about every day.”

While many young Holocaust victims have been declared “the next Anne Frank,” and young adult Holocaust literature remains a flourishing genre, Buzek’s use of Web 2.0 to illuminate Zytomirski’s story has touched a new chord. “Maybe I’m naïve, but I have a good feeling that Henio’s entries can make the world a slightly better place. They are making a contribution to ensure that something like the Holocaust never happens again.”

Young Holocaust Victim Has Over 1,700 Friends on Facebook [Deutsche Welle]

Today on Tablet

Music and mayhem

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Tablet Magazine’s music columnist Alexander Gelfand revels in a new box set of Yiddish classics that represents a small sample of an extraordinary new Jewish music collection. Eddy Portnoy continues his excavation of the 19th century Yiddish press with a tale of vicious retribution over a broken engagement. And as ever, The Scroll will provide pithy updates all day.

Daybreak: Is Abbas Necessary for Peace?

Crisis mounts, a smaller White House Hanukkah, and more in the news

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• Since Palestinian PM Mahmoud Abbas announced he would not run for reelection and may step down before his term ends, the peace process has become a crisis situation, prompting Israeli, American, and European leaders to scramble to try to keep him in office long enough to restart negotiations. [NYT]
• Abbas isn’t having it: “If [Israeli and U.S.] intentions are sincere, then I am still here and have been here for years—they could have reached a deal with me already…If Israel is prepared to advance peace on the basis of prior agreements and in accordance with the outline laid out in the road map, then it can do so with any Palestinian leader that succeeds me.” [Haaretz]
• The White House has cut the guest list for this year’s Hanukkah party in half from last year due to financial factors; although there will still be 400 invitees, some see this as a snub that comes harder as the situation in Israel has many Jews wary of the President. [JPost]
• Since earlier this week Iran even more officially announced that it will not abide by the latest plan to delay its development of nuclear capabilities, six world leaders will meet tomorrow to discuss punitive measures against the nation. [Ynet]

Sundown: A Tricky Question

Namecalling in Ukraine, a cokehead rabbi, and more

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• Sergey Ratushniak, mayor of the Ukrainian town of Uzhgorod, has been approved to run for president of the nation despite referring to his (non-Jewish) opponent as “Impudent Jew Yatsenyuk,” and saying things like “If I don’t like Jews and Israel, does that make me an anti-Semite?” [JPost]
• Hundreds of protesters, including members of the Interfaith Fellowship for Universal Health Care, attended a prayer vigil outside the Connecticut home of Senator Joe Lieberman, who has said he would join a Republican filibuster to derail a health care bill that includes a public option. [Connecticut Post]
• Sy Syms, a major philanthropist, has died at 83. He was also the founder of Syms discount men’s clothing store, where an educated consumer was their best customer. [JTA]
• The lawyer for a British rabbi charged with dealing cocaine claims his extraordinarily large stash was all for personal use, saying that “when he buys cigarettes, he does not buy one or two packets but 20 at a time.” [Times (London)]

Today in the Tyranny of the Ultra-Orthodox

Intel to hire shabbos goyim; a woman arrested at the Western Wall

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Women standing on chairs to view the Wall from a behind a barrier, 2007.(Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

Just days after Intel faced a throng of rioters who objected to the operation of a factory in Jerusalem on the Sabbath, the giant computer chip maker has offered an appeasement proposal: According to news reports, Intel says it’s in the process of training non-Jewish workers to man the machinery on the day of rest and plans to replace all its Jewish workers with non-Jewish ones for the three shifts it runs on the Sabbath.

Elsewhere in the holy city, police detained a woman who wore a tallit at the Western Wall. Nofrat Frenkel was taking part in a prayer service organized by Women of the Wall, a group that gathers at the start of each Hebrew month for communal prayers at the Kotel. Last week, group members faced the ire of the Sephardic spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who called them “stupid.” Frenkel was detained for violating dress codes, according to the BBC, though we like to think those codes were put in place to stop bikini-clad ladies from sidling up to the wall’s crevices where they might stick in notes asking for the means to properly clothe themselves.

Intel to Employ Only Non-Jews at Jerusalem Plant on Shabbat [Haaretz]
Jewish Woman Arrested Over Shawl [BBC]
Earlier: Orthodox Rioters Take on Intel [Tablet]

Jewish-Studies Money With Strings Attached

Foundation wants secular Jews studied; some schools refuse

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Jewish studies departments at universities around the country are split on whether to accept money from the Posen Foundation, a fund that offers them substantial grants—but only for courses on secular Jewry. British energy magnate Felix Posen started the fund six years ago because, he told the Jewish Week, he believes that academic departments give secular Jewish history and culture (that is, the lives and work of a subset of Jews over roughly the past 400 years) short shrift. But is it proper for universities to accept money with such strings attached? Jewish studies heads at schools including Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, and New York University say it is not, and are declining to apply for Posen grants, which offer up to $50,000 a year. “They’re not interested in just studying a certain field, they’re advocating one,” Yale’s department chair told the paper. But other prominent universities including Brandeis and the New School joined Harvard, Brown, and other institutions this year in accepting Posen money. The foundation does have an independent academic advisory board that approves the grants, supporters at these schools say. But, more awkwardly, schools also have to take what they can get in this economic climate, said some academics who’d accepted a grant. As a professor at Brandeis put it, a debate over the Posen fund that had been going on for several years among his colleagues was effectively resolved by practical concerns: “It would be naïve to think that the economic motive was not central.”

Jewish Studies Sans Religion? [Jewish Week]

900 New Homes Approved for East Jerusalem

Israelis united in support; Obama not pleased

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Jerusalem municipal officials added fire to the already-broiling settlement controversy when they announced a plan yesterday to build 900 new homes in the East Jerusalem suburb of Gilo, a neighborhood with more 40,000 Israelis. The plan prompted an expected chorus of international criticism, and it drew an unusually sharp response from the United States. While White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that the administration was “dismayed” by the housing project, President Barack Obama told Fox News in an interview that new settlement construction undermines Israel’s safety and embitters Palestinians in a way that could be “very dangerous.” Reports suggest that the Obama administration feels especially betrayed because its envoy to the region, George Mitchell, asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to block new construction in Gilo as recently as Monday.

The Jerusalem Post notes that it’s unusual for the United States to condemn construction in Gilo, which is geographically contiguous with neighborhoods that were part of Israel prior to 1967. The White House has traditionally maintained that Gilo is not a settlement, a fact made clear today when, after initially titling its response to the construction as “on the approval of settlement expansion in Jerusalem,” the headline was later revised to read simply “on Jerusalem.”

Meanwhile, Israeli officials from across the political spectrum united to dismiss the global outcry. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barakat called the demand to cease construction for Jews “illegal,” while Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin noted that “the right to build in all of unified Jerusalem is not questioned in Israel.” Perhaps most significantly, in a rare agreement with Netanyahu, opposition leader Tzipi Livni told French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner that there is an “Israeli consensus” that Gilo belongs to Israel, an understanding which “must be considered when determining future borders.”

Housing Plan for Jerusalem Neighborhood Spurs Criticism [WP]
Gov’t Sources: Israel Won’t Accept Restrictions in Jerusalem [JPost]
Livni: Israelis Agree That Gilo Is Theirs [JTA]

ADL Catalogues U.S. ‘Rage’

And blames Glenn Beck for stoking it

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Rep. Barney Frank is confronted by a Obama-as-Hitler poster at a town hall meeting this summer.(Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

The Anti-Defamation League released a report this week detailing what it calls the rise of rage in the United States. Who’s to blame for all this rage? That’s the fun part of the study: Abe Foxman & Co. finger Fox News host Glenn Beck, the “fearmonger-in-chief” and the “most important mainstream media figure … helping stoke the fires.” Beck is more dangerous than other right-wing hosts like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, the ADL says, because they attack the government on partisan grounds while Beck also engages and indulges conspiracy theories. A few of the conspiracy theories Beck entertains are Obama’s alleged creation of a civilian national security force and the preparation of FEMA-sponsored concentration camps for dissidents. But throughout the report, it is unclear what the ADL finds most troubling—the growth of this “rage” in the United States, or references Beck makes comparing President Barack Obama to Hitler. This being an ADL report, of course it finds plenty of those.

Rage Grows in America [ADL.org]

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