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Sundown: 15 Years of Jordan Peace

Plus a rabbi’s odd crime, Ivanka’s wedding tchotchkes, and more

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• Yesterday, President Barack Obama celebrated the 15-year anniversary of peace between Israel and Jordan; Jordanians, on the other hand, seem to have lost the “spirit of cooperation” for which he praised their leader: protesters there “called for the treaty to be annulled, while newspapers across Jordan described the peace as ‘frigid.’” [JTA]
• The case of a London Jewish school that refused to admit a boy whose mother had a non-Orthodox conversion has gone to that country’s Supreme Court and raised questions of religion versus ethnicity that may affect other faith schools. [BBC]
• In a strange case reported by website Vos iz Neais, an Israeli journalist has accused the chief rabbi of Turkey of desecrating ancient cemeteries in Istanbul. Maybe he’s greedy for the souls of his heroes: “In some cases gravestones of halacha giants have vanished inexplicably,” says VIN. [VIN]
• Among the less-than-thrilling details of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner’s Jewish wedding, according to the New York Post: “Gifts for guests included a book in Hebrew and a pair of small white flip-flops with the tag: ‘Ivanka and Jared—what a pair.’” [NYP]
• Tablet Magazine columnist Etgar Keret will be talking to This American Life’s Ira Glass live at the New York Public Library tomorrow; it’s sure to be weird and insightful. [NYPL]

Obama Adviser to J Street: Peace Deal Should Be Priority

National security adviser says Israel-Palestine peace should be president’s top foreign-policy focus

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Jones speaking to the J Street Conference today.(Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, Gen. James Jones, delivered a keynote address on the final day of the J Street conference this afternoon. Jones, who drew cheers for saying he was “honored to represent” Obama at the left-leaning Israel lobby’s first convention, got the crowd to its feet by saying that he thought reaching a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians should be the president’s top foreign-policy priority, above all others. “The imperative for peace is now,” he went on, echoing a slogan repeated frequently here since Sunday.

Unfortunately for J Street, the blogosphere was alive with chatter about another issue altogether: the apparent desire among leaders of its student arm, J Street U, to shorten J Street’s ubiquitous “pro-peace, pro-Israel” slogan to just “pro-peace.” “We don’t want to isolate people because they don’t feel quite so comfortable with ‘pro-Israel,’ so we say ‘pro-peace,’” Lauren Barr, an American University junior and J Street intern who sits on J Street U’s board, told Jerusalem Post reporter Hilary Krieger. (On Sunday, at the opening session of the conference, Barr warned older people in the audience that people her age were being “driven away” from a vibrant relationship with Israel because of their doubts over the country’s handling of the Palestinian issue.) J Street’s executive director, Jeremy Ben Ami, told U.S. News and World Report’s religion blogger that he wanted to “honor” the questions some Jews have and didn’t seem to mind the change of mottos: “We can’t force them to use language that makes them uncomfortable.” But by this afternoon, J Street publicists were insisting that the original story was wrong, dismissing it as college students mouthing off, and referring reporters to a statement from J Street U director Tammy Shapiro, who reiterated the requirement that all work “be done in a context that always embraces the right of a state for Jewish people in the land of Israel to exist beside a state for Palestinian people in the land of Palestine.”

As it happens, Shapiro was also behind J Street’s decision to cancel a poetry session planned for the conference,after it emerged that some of the poets had made potentially offensive links between the Holocaust and Israel’s actions in Gaza. But, here’s the ironic part: the louder the bloggers gloat over every perceived stumble, the more enthusiastic, and righteous, the true believers at the Grand Hyatt seem to get. That’s politics, folks.

J Street’s Campus Branch Drops Pro-Israel Slogan [JPost]
J Street’s College Arm Drops ‘Pro-Israel’ From Its Slogan [USNews]
Top Obama Aide: U.S. Commitment to Israel is Not a Slogan [Haaretz]

Provocative Writer Wants to Run for German Jewish Post

Plans to de-outlaw Holocaust denial, among other things

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Journalist, author, and provocateur Henryk M. Broder—who, says Haaretz, “has declared his favorite topics to be Jews, Arabs and Germans: an explosive mixture, indeed”—plans to run for president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany next May. While many nations have similar bodies, the German Council operates under uniquely weighty circumstances, and its default mission has become providing “reassuring comments on anti-Semitism, Nazism and racism.” But Broder is fed up with this “early warning system against political extremism,” he says. He has suggested Germany do away with its law against Holocaust denial, which he says has “served idiots to stage themselves as martyrs in the fight for historical truth.” Instead, he contends that Jews should content themselves knowing what really happened, and focus instead on activism for other victims of human rights abuses throughout the world.

Broder—whose 2006 book, Hurra, Wir Kapitulieren (Hurray! We’re Capitulating!), posited that the world is handing itself over to dangerous Islamist powers—even says he would focus on relations with those Muslim communities in Germany that “step in for strict separation of religion and state and a secular society.”

While Haaretz feels certain Broder has little chance of winning the presidency, he does have one slight demographic edge: at 63, he is closer to the increasing German Jewish population of Soviet immigrants and their children and than to “the Holocaust generation” that has held power in the community. And, at the very least, says the paper, his announcement has made a splash: “The council is outraged, the lay Jewish community amused and a new debate about German-Jewish relations has been sparked—just how Broder likes it.”

The German Shepherd: Is Germany Ready for a Provocative Jewish Leader? [Haaretz]

Knesset Moves Toward Civil Unions

Would provide marriage rights for non-Jewish Israelis

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A bill being prepared in Israel’s Knesset would allow persons “without religion” to partner in civil unions, in contrast to the current requirement that all marriage in Israel be approved by religious authorities. The bill aims to address the situation of people such as many Russian immigrants or converts to Judaism who are not considered Jewish by the rabbis. But is this a real step away from ultra-Orthodox authority over the lives of Israelis? An editorial on the website of Hiddush, an Israeli religious rights organization, argues that the bill will actually create a caste of “lepers” who are only allowed to partner with each other. Presumably, those people could still wed outside the country, as has been the case for years, but having them split off as a category cements their second-class citizenship, Hiddush argues, and could “perpetuate ad infinitum their foreignness and difference from the rest of Israel’s residents whose Judaism the rabbinate recognizes.”

An op-ed in Ynet is a bit more optimistic, arguing that the bill is a step in the right direction though one that, because it only refers to those who can prove they are “without religion,” only applies to a small percentage of people who wish to wed in Israel. “Before the union is confirmed, the registrar will have to publish the details of the request and each religious court will have the opportunity to examine whether either member of the couple belongs to its community,” the op-ed points out, quoting another commentator. “If there is a dispute over the matter, the religious court will make the final decision…. So, does this mean that the Rabbinical Courts are now (also) determining ‘Who is NOT a Jew’?”

Civil Union Bill ‘Indecent Proposal’ [Hiddush]
An Important First Step [Ynet]
Previously: The Other Civil Union

Nazi Heir Offends Yad Vashem

Tries to sell museum grandfather Rudolph Hoess’s possessions

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Hoess, in front row, second from left, on trial with other Nazi leaders at Nuremburg.(AFP/Getty Images)

While descendants of Holocaust victims the world over continue to seek retribution—and reparations—for stolen property, an heir of one of the genocide’s perpetrators is looking to make a buck off the idea of “never forgetting.” The grandson of Auschwitz commander Rudolf Hoess offered some of his grandfather’s effects to Israeli Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem—for a price. “Quite a few organizations wanted to buy them from us, including well-known media such as Der Spiegel and the Axel Springer publishing company,” said Hoess the younger. “I thought that it would be appropriate to sell the items to Yad Vashem. I do not want these items to get into the wrong hands.” So maybe his heart was in the right place, but his seeming obliviousness to the symbolic significance of his “offer” and ignorance of protocol surrounding the atrocities is worrying. He seems never to even have considered donating the artifacts—when asked by The Philadelphia Bulletin about that possibility, he responded, “That is a good question. I can’t make a decision like that on my own. My tendency is to agree to donate the items, but I will need to consult the rest of the family. We want the items to go to a museum that deals with history.” At least that rules out this place.

Museum Receives Horrifying Offer From Nazi Relative [Bulletin]

On Tablet Today

Power, corruption, and personal discovery

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Samuel G. Freedman traces the evolution of Neil Simon’s trilogy of autobiographical plays: Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues, and Broadway Bound. Adam Kirsch explores Daniel Goldhagen’s new “passionate, informed, and often frustrating book” Worse than War: Genocide, Eliminationism, and the Ongoing Assault on Humanity. Margot Lurie looks back on the story of how her Burmese father became the first Sephardic student at Yeshiva University. Allison Hoffman reports from the J Street conference in Washington on Jim Gerstein, a liberal pollster with a special relationship to the lobbying group. And much more, here on The Scroll.

U.S.-Israel Military Exercise Counters Iran

Biennial drill will test both countries’ missile-defense systems

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The Juniper Cobra exercise in 2003.(Quique Kierszenbaum/Getty Images)

As U.S. diplomats urged their Iranian counterparts to accept an initial bargain on the Iran’s nuclear program last week in Vienna, the U.S. and Israeli military forces were starting a three-week joint air-defense exercise that will test their coordinated responses to potential missile attacks on Israel. The tests, known as Juniper Cobra, are part of a running series of biannual war games within Israel that began in 2001, but despite U.S. and Israeli assurances that the exercises bear no relation to current events, the political implications of Juniper Cobra seem inescapable. The presence of more than 1,000 US troops across Israel, backed by at least 15 U.S. warships in Israeli waters, would seem to signal American willingness to assist Israel in the event of a conflict with Iran. (Also, the 2005 and 2007 exercises took place in March, not October.)

But the new exercise also fits with President Barack Obama’s overhaul of the U.S. missile-defense strategy, which included last months’ scrapping President George W. Bush’s plan for a missile-defense shield based in Eastern Europe, and which the Defense Department says is designed to better meet the Iranian threat. According to Wired magazine’s Danger Room blog, U.S. forces during this exercise will test an array of new missile technologies, a step toward seeing how well Obama’s new missile-defense strategy will work. Meanwhile, Danger Room also reports that Israel will attempt its first demonstration of Iron Dome, a system meant to defend against short-range rocket attacks from Hamas or Hezbollah. If true, the test of Iron Dome represents a significant step toward Israel’s stated goal of constructing a near-comprehensive missile defense shield, capable of repelling everything from short-range Hamas Qassams to long-range Iranian Shahabs.

U.S., Israel Start Defense Drill [WSJ]
In Israel, a Key Test of Obama’s Retooled Missile Shield [Wired/Danger Room]

Daybreak: Tit for Tat on Nukes

Says Iran, plus a new charge against Israel and more in the news

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• According to a “semi-official Iranian news agency,” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that he won’t give up nukes until the “illegal regime” in Israel does the same. [Haaretz]
• A report from a Israeli news program said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told President Barack Obama that he’s sick of trying to work with Israeli P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu and will not seek reelection in January. [JTA]
• Amnesty International reports that Israel is withholding water from Palestinians; an Israeli spokesperson calls the idea “completely ludicrous.” [AP]
• Researchers have discovered that Jews living in Israel who survived World War II in Europe have a much higher risk of developing cancer. [Reuters]

Sundown: Delusions Down Under

Plus nukes for all, an ambivalent Egypt, and more

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• Some high school students in New South Wales, Australia, use a textbook that says, among other things, that “polygamy is ‘commonly practiced’ in Israel” and that Jews “’choose sophisticated professions such as law, medicine and scholarship’ because of a focus on ‘family togetherness.’” [Australian Jewish News]
• Perhaps they’d be better off watching the Australian TV show Race Relations, in which the host sneaks his sperm into a Palestinian sperm bank to create a “Jewlestinian” and uses an allegedly traditional process to ask his dead mother whether he should marry a fellow Jew: “you dig a hole next to the grave, lie in it, say kabbalah prayers and then the spirit comes inside of you.” [JTA]
• Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi says that if Israel can have nuclear weapons (which is widely believed to be the case), then “the Palestinians should have the same.” [AFP]
• As Egypt’s relationship with Israel cools, some there are ambivalent about restoration of the many Jewish sites in the country, although, says the Associated Press, they are “more than monuments just to the Jews, they are reminders of a more cosmopolitan Middle East, when Cairo and other Arab cities housed a jumble of ethnic minorities in the midst of Muslim majorities.” [AP]

J Street Day 1: Boos for Reform Leader

Rabbi Eric Yoffie still says J Street is wrong on Gaza war; Embassy observer watches from the back

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Whatever can or can’t be said about the Jewish community as a whole, the 1,500 progressive activists gathered in Washington for this week’s J Street conference really, really agree with each other. The only division we’ve seen on display, in fact, came this afternoon, when Rabbi Eric Yoffie, head of the Union for Reform Judaism, that movement’s organizing body, showed up for a “town hall” discussion with J Street’s founder, Jeremy Ben Ami. Yoffie, an early supporter of J Street, publicly broke with the left-leaninglobby group during last winter’s Gaza war, when he wrote an op-ed for the Forward accusing the organization of being “appallingly naive” for equivocating between Hamas rocket fire into southern Israel and the IDF’s retaliation. (The flame war continued with a statement from J Street accusing Yoffie of misreading the outrage among American Jews at the scope of the destruction in Gaza.) Now, 10 months later, Yoffie drew boos from the crowd for suggesting that Gazans invited their current circumstances by voting for Hamas after Israel withdrew from the territory in 2006, and for defending Israel against accusations, particularly in a recent U.N. report by Richard Goldstone, that it may have committed war crimes in Gaza. “Israel is not in violation of international law in terms of the way they’re dealing with the Gaza question,” Yoffie said. “Oh, come on!” several people catcalled. (They all clapped at the end, though.)

At the very back of the ballroom, where the press was penned at long banquet tables, Benjamin Sack, a public-affairs officer for the Israeli embassy, watched the proceedings with his arms crossed over his chest. Sack, whose nametag did not include his affiliation, showed up as the token observer, in place of Israel’s ambassador, Michael Oren, who very publicly declined last week to take his turn in front of the crowd. What did he make of it? “I’ll tell you what I’m telling everyone—it’s exactly what I expected,” he said, raising an eyebrow. Would there be any surprise guests from the embassy? “No.” Did he think Oren, or other embassy staff, would make use of J Street’s live-streaming to tune in? “We’ve got other things going on today, you know.”

Rabbi Yoffie’s Remarks to J Street Convention
[URJ.org]

Netanyahu Wants to Change Laws of War

An admission they were broken, or needed update for age of terrorism?

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Netanyahu at a cabinet meeting last week.(Baz Ratner-Pool/Getty Images)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week came up with a new gambit to bolster Israel’s reputation in the wake of the controversial Goldstone report, which charges that both the IDF and Hamas may have committed war crimes during last winter’s Gaza war. Netanyahu wants to change the rules of war. At a meeting of his security cabinet, he instructed government ministries to look into an “international initiative to change the laws of war in keeping with the spread of terrorism.” Goldstone doesn’t think much of the idea. “I think it’s sad,” he said in an interview with Al Jazeera, as reported in the Jerusalem Post. “Israel is clutching at straws. International law can’t be changed just because one side doesn’t like the laws of war.” And the paper quoted another expert on the rules of war, William Schabas of the Irish Centre for Human Rights said, “the fact that Netanyahu says he wants to change the laws of war is almost an admission that Israel violated them.”

But Victor Hansen, a professor at New England Law School and co-author of recently published The War on Terror and the Laws of War points out that there is in fact a mainstream but minority view that argues laws of war do need updating. “If a democracy decides they want to fight a war, they have to recognize that there are some limitations to the use of that law, and that there would probably need to be some changes and international agreements,” he told Tablet Magazine. “Terrorism has presented a different dynamic and recognition that maybe law of war as written doesn’t get to these issues,” Hansen maintains. For example, he said, many agree that the use of civilians in warfare, both as literal shields and as implicit supporters of terrorism, has not been effectively covered by the Geneva Convention and other existing laws. “But that hasn’t yet led to a groundswell of opinion that says we need to change laws of war.”

PM: Change of Laws of War to Deal With Terrorism [JPost]
Government Looking To Set Int’l Rules for Fighting Terror [Haaretz]
Lieberman Discusses Goldstone With Ban [JPost]
Expert: Plan to Change Laws of War Unrealistic [JPost]

The Other Singer Finds Love on Facebook

I.J. joins I.B. with his own Facebook ‘Appreciation Society’

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Among the dwindling ranks of Yiddishists, Isaac Bashevis Singer is not the superstar your Hebrew School teacher would have had you believe. “I. B. Singer wasn’t half as good a writer as I. J. Singer—I. B.’s older brother, Israel Joshua—who had died in 1944,” the experts kvetch, according to a 2004 New Yorker article by Nextbook Press editor Jonathan Rosen. “In their view, Bashevis—as I. B. Singer was known to his Yiddish readers—wasn’t really a Yiddish writer at all, just an Anglicizing panderer who, through cunning and longevity, had snookered an ignorant American readership into believing that his concocted shtetl stories were the real thing.” The elder Singer, on the other hand, won the favor of Abraham Cahan, founder of the Yiddish Forward, with his journalism and fiction, and there is at least one other place the near-forgotten scribe has found popularity: his Facebook fan page (of course Bashevis has a couple too, but those were probably built into the site’s original software). While some argue that the Holocaust buoyed the reputation of I.B., maybe social networking will be the unlikely catalyst to a revival of I.J.

Israel Joshua Singer Appreciation Society [Facebook]

Jews, Muslims Riot Temple Mount

Dozens injured yesterday, 18 Palestinians arrested

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Tourists return to Temple Mount today.(Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images)

Rioting broke out at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount yesterday after both Islamist and right-wing Jewish groups reportedly told their followers to arrive at the disputed site. Israeli police entered area; Palestinians, including some affiliated with a group called the Islamic Movement, threw Molotov cocktails and rocks at the police, who fired back with stun grenades, the police said, according to the New York Times. Dozens of police and Palestinians, as well as an Australian reporter, were wounded, and at least 18 Palestinians were arrested, including a senior Fatah member; some of them had been arrested in previous riots near the Temple Mount around Yom Kippur, Ynet reported. The news source also said that in the wake of the riots, senior ultra-Orthodox rabbis told Jews not to enter the site until things calm down, but countering them, a coalition of religious Zionist groups, led by some Knesset members as well as rabbis, have told followers “to go up to the Temple Mount in holiness and purity.” The Temple Mount reopened to tourists and Muslim worshippers today, with police patrolling the area.

Israeli Police Clash With Palestinians at Sacred Compound in Jerusalem [NYT]
Jerusalem: Temple Mount Riots Resume [Ynet]
Jews Urged to Visit Temple Mount Despite Prohibitions [Ynet]
Calm Returns to Jerusalem’s Old City After Clashes [AP]

Tablet Today

Books bring history to life, and a film brings a book to life

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Tablet Magazine parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall took her kids to see Where the Wild Things Are. Their verdict? Meh. Books columnist Josh Lambert looks at a plethora of books about immigrants’ experiences, as well as two hot new novels and more. And you can count on much more throughout the day, here on The Scroll.

J Street Speakers Talk Generation Gap

At conference’s opening night

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About 1,000 people arrived last night at a Washington, D.C., Hyatt for the opening night of the first national conference hosted by the liberal pro-Israel lobby group J Street. Founder Jeremy Ben-Ami and others emphasized the desire among left-leaning American Jews to see a secure Israel at peace, but a number of speakers—including prominent Reform rabbi Andy Bachman—chose instead to focus on a generational split among American Jews. Bachman was among those who claimed membership in the “pre-1967 generation” of Jews whose relationship to Israel is shaped by having known the country before it became a political occupier, and he expressed a desire to bring his generation’s Zionism to the more jaded post-’67 generation. (Fear of losing younger generations, of course, is central as well to the more traditional Jewish establishment that J Street aims to counteract.)

The audience, too, appeared to have a majority of pre-’67-ers in attendance, many veterans of long-established progressive Zionist groups like Americans for Peace Now. In an interlude during the official remarks, the lights went up and attendees were asked to converse with their tablemates about what brought them there, then tweet or email their thoughts to the folks up on stage. At our table, everyone pounced on the sole college student, asking him about Israel politics at Yale, but the only person who wanted to transmit her thoughts was a gray-haired woman who used a pencil and paper. “Finally!” she wrote.

Whose Israel Is It? [Talking Points Memo]

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