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How Bibi Gets His Way

One word for it might be ‘nagging’

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In an online slideshow accompanying his portraits of world leaders for The New Yorker, famed photographer Platon discloses Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s subtle negotiating tactics, no doubt honed over years of talks with the Palestinians. “As I was doing this portrait,” Platon relates, [Netanyahu] leaned forward and said, ‘Platon, make me look good.’ And the bizarre thing is that once the shoot was over—we had a few chats here and there—every time he would pass me with his entourage over the next few days, he would always come, shake my hand again, have a chat, and whisper in my ear, ‘Platon, make me look good.’ So I was kind of brainwashed by Mr. Netanyahu, that when it came to the editing process, I found myself making him look good.” Did Platon succeed? You be the judge.

Portraits of Power [The New Yorker]

Bagel Wars!

The New York-Montreal deathmatch

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“New York bagels versus Montreal bagels” is one of those Beatles-vs.-Stones-type questions for which the answer “either one” is simply unacceptable. The New York Times’s City Room blog delves in to the debate, exposing what makes these two delicacies so different, and trying to settle, once and for all, which is better. For the tragically uninitiated, Montreal bagels are thinner (half the weight), crisper (baked in wood-burning ovens), and sweeter (boiled in water and honey) than their gigantic, doughy, and salty New York City counterparts. Both variants originated among the cities’ Jewish communities, although the Montreal bakers claim their version is truer to the Old Country antecedent. So which is better? City Room quotes partisans of both sides. (Food writer and Tablet Magazine contributing editor Mimi Sheraton reps NYC: “I thought they were horrible,” she says of Montreal’s.) A quick taste test at the Times office heavily favored the paper’s hometown. An impromptu, informal poll here at Tablet’s (Manhattan) office produced the same result.Still, you are cheating yourself if you do not at least give both a try. A bagel by any other name would taste just as sweet. But apparently a bagel by the same name can taste delightfully salty.

Montreal’s Bagels Square Off Against New York’s [City Room]

Orthodox Communities Set Against N.Y., N.J. Gay Marriage

And in New York, the vote’s today

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In New York, the State Senate is set to vote imminently on legalizing gay marriage. In New Jersey, gay-rights activists are seeking to bring a marriage bill to a vote before January 19th, when Republican Chris Christie (an opponent) assumes the governorship from Democratic Gov. John Corzine (a supporter). In both cases, Orthodox rabbis and their communities are prominently arrayed in opposition. As we write, Orthodox Jews are protesting the bill outside the Senate building in Albany. A rabbi among them told the New York Times, “the world belongs to the Almighty, and they have to reckon with his rules and his law.” Meanwhile, the Huffington Post yesterday reported on the large role that the Orthodox community of Lakewood, N.J. has assumed in that state’s discussion. “I really don’t believe in getting involved in government,” an activist among them said. “But when an issue is so dangerous, you have to stop it.”

New York Senate Set for Gay Marriage Vote [NYT]
Orthodox Rabbis Join New Jersey Gay Marriage Debate [Huffington Post]

Egyptian Jews Accuse Coca-Cola

But it’s all Nasser’s fault

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Coca-Cola is being sued by an Egyptian-Jewish family whom the Nasser government stripped of its property 40 years ago. The soda-maker has occupied the property for over a decade with full knowledge of whom it rightfully belongs to, according to the family’s lawyers. Hopefully Coca-Cola will settle this matter equitably, so that we do not have to feel guilty while enjoying a Coke, and especially so that we do not have to start drinking—shudder—Pepsi.

Adolf Lincoln?

New ‘book’ ‘says’ that the Union inspired the Nazis

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As the holidays approach, here’s the perfect book for the paranoid and back-handedly philo-Semitic lunatic in your life: Lincoln Über Alles, by one John Avery Emison, which hypothesizes that Nazi Germany may have gotten the idea to ethnically cleanse Jews from the North’s anti-Semitic activities during the American Civil War. (Such, anyway, is the summary in the press release that we were sent; the book’s Amazon page advertises its analysis of “how Abraham Lincoln’s tyrannical presidency paved the way for today’s bloated ‘Leviathan’ government,” and its defense of secession’s “legality.”)

The notion of Union anti-Semitism has some truth. In 1862, General Grant issued his heinous General Order No. 11, effectively expelling all Jews in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky under the pretense of shutting down the cotton black market. An outcry prompted Grant to quickly revoke it and deny responsibility; President Lincoln, meanwhile, thoroughly condemned it. The notion that Nazi lebensraum policy traces its roots here is—to use the historically rigorous word—insane.

Still, we appreciate Emison’s sensitivity to the plight of those Southern Jews, to say nothing of the Nazis’ victims. We’re left wondering only why his heart does not also bleed for, you know, the millions of slaves.

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.

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