Daybreak: Obama, Sarkozy Take Different Stances on Israel

Plus dissent on abortion, support for Rubashkin, and more in the news


• The Jewish Telegraphic Agency culls evidence that the Obama administration has increasingly shifted toward Israel’s side in the conflict with the Palestinians but is making an effort not to allow this stance to be publicly evident. [JTA]
• Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in Paris today to meet with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has proved less flexible than U.S. leaders in demanding a freeze on settlement growth in the West Bank. [AP]
• The National Council of Jewish Women, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and the American Jewish Congress have spoken out against the clauses in the health care bill that prohibit government plans from covering abortion except in certain cases. [JTA]
• Orthodox Jewish men from all over the country are making a pilgrimage to South Dakota to support Shalom Rubashkin, who is on trial for immigration fraud at the Agriprocessors kosher meat factory in Iowa. [AP]

Sundown: Madoffiana, Priced to Move

Plus basketball, wandering, and a case for avoiding team sports


• Couldn’t afford Bernie Madoff’s Montauk spread? Now his cheaper tchotchkes are up for auction. [Gawker]
• Jewish basketball star Nancy Lieberman becomes NBA’s first female head coach. (And, no that’s not an Onion headline.) [JChronicle]
• Jews continue to wander, now in obvious ways: As U.S. population has shifted south and west, so has Jewish population, says study. [Federations]
• Another study finds that high-school sports do not actually prevent drug use, crime, and alcohol abuse, as they’re often promoted these days. Protective Jewish parents of asthmatic, intellectual Jewish kids let out a (wheezy) sigh of relief. [Reuters]

Hip-Hop Mag Rates Rappers’ ‘Jew-Friendliness’

Cam’ron leads with five Stars of David


The online hip-hop magazine XXL has known at least since May that there are Jewish rappers out there; now its editors have taken the almost ADL-ish step of ranking the “Jew-friendliness” of several non-Jewish artists on a scale of one to five Stars of David. Coming in first, with five Magen Davids, is Cam’ron, for creating a sitcom he describes as a “black Curb Your Enthusiasm” and referring to his fans as “yentas” in a music video. Asher Roth trails him with three stars, which he garnered for actually having a Jewish father and a Hebrew name. RZA gets two stars for appearing in Funny People alongside Seth Rogen and Adam Sandle, as does Soulja Boy, for the line “I just got a new deal, and I ain’t talking pickle” (because, says XXL, “pickles and money, what’s more Jewish than that?”). Erykah Badu’s former boyfriend Jay Electronica apparently sometimes goes as Jay ElectHanukkah and Jay ElectYarmulke, for which he receives a measly one star. And Shyne, who was recently deported to Belize, is pronounced “more Jewish than anyone else on this list” for sporting what appear to be tzitis. XXL misidentifies them as a tallis.

The Jewish Street Cred Report [XXL]

Emanuel Addresses G.A., Pushes Peace Talks

Speaking in lieu of his boss; audience reaction is mixed

Emanuel speaking to the conference today.(Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Rahm Emanuel, President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, addressed the General Assembly of the Jewish federations today, and the first thing he did when he took the podium was apologize for not being Obama, who canceled his scheduled appearance in order to attend a memorial for the victims of last week’s shooting at Fort Hood. The second thing Emanuel did was remind his audience that he was born in Chicago to an Israeli father, who fought in the militant Irgun movement for Israel’s establishment, and who made sure his sons grew up loving Israel.

He then gave a 20-minute address about the urgency of getting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process moving, quickly, before the latest “last, best chance” to reach a real settlement evaporates. Emanuel got warm rounds of applause for talking about America’s determination to ensure Israel’s security and guarantee its long-term future, and for calling on the Palestinians to recognize Israel’s right to exist and reject political violence. Ditto for his commendation of Israel’s efforts to promote economic development in the Palestinian territories, remove checkpoints, and support the establishment of Palestinian security forces—points that echoed yesterday’s speech by Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

But the applause dropped off once he started talking about Obama’s insistence that Israel halt settlement construction and fell to scattered, at best, as he warned Israel against taking any unilateral actions—prompting Emanuel, who made an early crack about name-checking Chicago every time he wanted to generate cheers, to interrupt himself. “I’m getting weaker here, guys,” he chided the crowd, drawing grudging laughs.

It’s impossible to know how much of the speech was lifted from Obama’s planned address, or whether Obama, had he spoken himself, would have made more pointed demands, or appeals for support from America’s Jews. Given the news blackout surrounding the president’s White House meeting last night with Netanyahu, it’s also impossible to know whether whatever was said there had any bearing on the talk—though Emanuel did say the meeting had been “very positive,” echoing comments Netanyahu made to Israeli reporters traveling with him today that the encounter was “very open and very warm.” We figure it’s safe to assume that the kicker, though, was certainly Emanuel’s alone: he wound up the address by saying he and his super-agent brother, Ari, plan to take their sons to Israel next year to be bar mitzvahed, and quipped that he would accept $18 checks in lieu of cheers. The 3,000 delegates laughed and clapped anyway.

Rahm Speaks to Jewish Federation [Politico]
Earlier: Obama, Netanyahu Meet, Stay Silent

N.Y. Mets Go to Bat for Hebron Jews

Controversial fundraiser for settler group is set for Citi Field


Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse for the struggling New York Mets, the team now faces criticism for hosting a fundraiser for a right-wing, pro-Israeli settlement group at Citi Field. The Hebron Fund—which supports the Jewish community in that predominantly Palestinian West Bank city, a community considered to be among the most radical and violent of Jewish settlers—booked a club at the Mets’ stadium for its annual fundraising dinner. Eeleven organizations—consisting of American, Palestinian and Israeli peace activists—have petitioned the Mets to cancel the event, scheduled for November 21. “The New York Mets will be facilitating activities that directly violate international law and the Obama administration’s call for a freeze in settlement construction,” read the petition, “and that actively promote racial discrimination, and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their homes in Hebron.” The Mets, however, have refused to take any action, and the controversial event will take place as planned—a perfect coda, perhaps, to the team’s year of rancor and disappointment.

Mets Won’t Strike Out Hebron Fund Dinner at Stadium [JTA]

Qatar Would Welcome Israelis (and Booze)

If it gets to host 2022 World Cup


In their bid to host the 2022 World Cup soccer tournament, officials in the Muslim state of Qatar have said they’d welcome Israel’s national team in the competition even though, like other countries on the Arabian peninsula, Qatar does not currently recognize the Jewish state. It’s a positive step for Israel-Arab relations in the region and stands in contrast to a move earlier this year by Dubai, one of the United Arab Emirates, which refused to issue an entry visa to Israeli tennis player Shahar Pe’er—a decision that caused an international outcry. For its part, Qatar is known as one of the more liberal Muslim states; though restricted, alcohol consumption is not entirely banned and would be sold at the tournament as well, officials told Reuters. Of course, this could also all just be some easy good-faith gestures on Qatar’s part that won’t require any actual action: the last time Israel did well enough in World Cup qualify rounds to earn an appearance at the elite soccer competition was in Mexico in 1970.

Qatar would let Israel attend World Cup [Reuters]

Obama, Netanyahu Meet, Stay Silent

All we know is they talked about Iran and peace

(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in Washington for the Jewish federations’ annual General Assembly this week, went to the White House last night for a meeting with President Barack Obama. The two men were joined by senior staffers—including Israel’s American-born ambassador, Michael Oren—and talked for about an hour and forty minutes. What did they talk about? Well, that’s what no one knows. The meeting was closed to press, and there were no pre- or post-visit press conferences held by either party—though, up until late yesterday, the Israelis were telling reporters they expected to hold a public debriefing of some kind. That appears to have been scrapped, and Netanyahu is on his way to Paris, where he’s scheduled to meet tomorrow with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Why? No one seems quite sure about that, either. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs chalked it up to the last-minute nature of the meeting—which wasn’t confirmed until Sunday, prompting plenty of grumbling from pundits who saw it as a White House effort to put Netanyahu at a disadvantage.

In any case, the only account of what happened last night has come from the White House, which issued the following terse statement:

“The President and Prime Minister Netanyahu discussed a number of issues in the U.S.-Israel bilateral relationship. The President reaffirmed our strong commitment to Israel’s security, and discussed security cooperation on a range of issues. The President and Prime Minister also discussed Iran and how to move forward on Middle East peace.”

There you have it.

Readout of the President’s Meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu []
Earlier: Bibi on Peace: ‘Let’s Get on With It’

Today on Tablet

Legacies explored


Adam Kirsch looks at a new study on Kristallnacht in honor of the anniversary of the pogrom. Marissa Brostoff reports on a documentary project undertaken by two best friends, one Jewish, one the granddaughter of a Nazi. And as ever, stay tuned to our blog, The Scroll.

After Abbas, the End of the Palestinian Authority?

Fatah officials speculate Authority will collapse without him

Fatah supporters at a rally in Ramallah yesterday.(

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who announced last week that he won’t be a candidate for another term in the election he has called for January, is likely to resign his office in the next month or so, Ethan Bronner reports in today’s New York Times. In last week’s reports, Bronner’s sources suggested that while Abbas wasn’t bluffing with his announcement, it was also unlikely that the election would happen as scheduled, keeping the president in office longer. Worse, Bronner’s sources are now speculating that Abbas’s resignation could mean the end of the Palestinian Authority. “I think he is realizing that he came all this way with the peace process in order to create a Palestinian state, but he sees no state coming,” longtime Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told the Times. “So he really doesn’t think there is a need to be president or to have an Authority. This is not about who is going to replace him. This is about our leaving our posts. You think anybody will stay after he leaves?”

Palestinian Authority’s Future in Question [NYT]

Daybreak: Obama Praises Jewish Federations

Plus an unproductive talk, the shooter’s past, and more in the news


• President Barack Obama met briefly with Jewish federation leaders in Washington yesterday and acknowledged their “countless hours of tzedakah.” [JTA]
• Rep. Dennis Kucinich has canceled his keynote speech at a Democratic fundraiser in Florida after some politicians there complained about his criticism of Israel. [JTA]
• Obama’s meeting with Israeli P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday “failed to provide any sign of progress toward reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.” [Reuters]
• The U.S. government had previously looked into alleged Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan for his ties to radical anti-American Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and had determined that there was no cause for concern. [NYT]

Sundown: Anne Frank for the ‘Gossip Girl’ Age

Plus a Clinton cancellation, Wiesel mocked, and more


• Thought there were enough versions of the Diary of Anne Frank? Not so, says Masterpiece Theatre, whose new rendition, set to air in April, portrays the Holocaust victim as a “feisty teenager” as opposed to a “tragic Jewish saint.” [NYPost]
• Bill Clinton and George W. Bush canceled a joint appearance sponsored by the American Jewish University in part because the event was marketed as “the hottest ticket in political history,” which Clinton felt implied that a fight would ensue. A promoter can dream, right? [JTA]
• Elie Wiesel criticized the Teabaggers for using images of Holocaust victims to protest President Obama’s health care plan; they responded on Politico, calling him “disgusting PR-seeking profiteering demagogue” and a “tool of the sick, perverted, racist, anti-semetic Democrap [sic] party.” One hit below the belt: “Elie, how did that whole Madoff thing work out for you?” [America Blog]
• In honor of the New York Times finally noticing the story of the British school that brought the question “Who is a Jew?” to its nation’s supreme court, Gawker offers a quiz where you can assess your own Jewiness based on what you eat for breakfast and your opinion of Larry David. [Gawker]
• Nobel prize winning physicist Vitaly Ginzburg has died at age 93; he had said that the importance of his work in creating the hydrogen bomb for the Soviets saved him from being imprisoned (or worse) during their campaign against Jews. [AFP]

British Court Considers What Makes a Jew

And makes an observer proud to be an American, where there’s church-state separation


Reading about the “Who is a Jew?” case now before British Supreme Court, the American observer can’t help but feel a little smug. Ah, if only they did things our way and kept church and state separate, the American thinks, they wouldn’t be in this mess. But, then, at a time when the push for charter schools (in some cases religiously inflected ones) is gaining steam on this side of the pond, it probably behooves us to take a look at what’s going on over there with some sympathy.

To recap: the case in question concerns a 12-year-old boy, referred to court documents simply as “M,” whose application to London’s Jews’ Free School was rejected on the ground that his mother’s conversion to Judaism was not overseen by Orthodox rabbis. The case has forced a reexamination of whether Judaism is a religion, a race, or an ethnicity. And if there’s anything recent history has taught us, it’s that such discussions rarely yield easy answers.

Among the curious facets of the case is a 2006 law stipulating that in busy years parochial schools—which in Britain receive public funding—can give preference to applicants based on religiously-based criteria. In busy years. But what about the light years? Does the law not force the religious authorities in charge of parochial schools to accept students they would otherwise deem ineligible?

One of the more misguided-seeming solutions to the problem of how to gauge Jewishness if not by matrilineal decent was the Court of Appeals’ introduction of a “religious practice test,” which gives points for things like going to synagogue and doing charitable work. Under such a test, who is deemed most worthy? The student who donates the most? Who prays the longest? The flagellant?

Among those painted as hardliners in the ongoing debate is a Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet. To underscore his point that matrilineal descent is all that concerns him, and that observance matters not at all, he has said that “having a ham sandwich on the afternoon of Yom Kippur doesn’t make you less Jewish.”

To our mind, the rabbi makes a valid point. There’s just one problem: his position seems to be at odds with his country’s laws.

Who Is a Jew? Court Ruling in Britain Raises Question [NYT]

Dead Sea Scroll Controversy Takes Tangled Turn Online

Prof’s son arrested, ‘Times’ reports


Court papers were filed this week in the case of Raphael Golb, who’s accused of impersonating academic rivals online in attempt to discredit their view of the Dead Sea Scrolls’ origins. Golb’s father is a University of Chicago professor who takes the unpopular view that the scrolls were produced by libraries in Jerusalem and were hidden in caves outside the city when the Romans took over in the year 70. The more standard theory is that the scrolls were authored by a sect called the Essenes, who lived near the same caves. The younger Golb allegedly created some 50 online aliases, including both non-existent supporters of his father and pseudo-versions of his father’s critics, in a convoluted case the New York Times reported on yesterday. The most inflammatory charge against Golb, who was arrested in March and is being prosecuted by the Manhattan district attorney’s office, is that he created a false email address for New York University professor Lawrence H. Schiffman and circulated emails from that address “confessing” to plagiarism. Weirder still, the articles the fake Schiffman admitted to plagiarizing were in fact written by Golb under another of his many aliases. Golb’s lawyers are arguing that he was simply a parodist and that no harm was meant.

2,000-Year-Old Scrolls, Internet-Era Crime [NYT]

Bibi on Peace: ‘Let’s Get on With It’

G.A. responds enthusiastically, except for one protestor

Netanyahu preparing to speak today.(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was only about four minutes into his speech to the General Assembly of the Jewish federations this morning before he was interrupted by a lone protestor carrying a red, hand-lettered sign, flashing a peace sign, and shouting “Shame on you! Stop the rape of Gaza!” The audience at a Washington Marriott closed ranks around the politician almost as fast as security tackled the man—one person shouted, “We love you, Bibi!” while others booed loudly—and Netanyahu, who seemed entirely unruffled, responded archly: “I was better received at the United Nations than here.”

Which wasn’t true, of course. At the United Nations last month, whole delegations left in a silent boycott of Netanyahu’s address, which included a show-and-tell of documents proving the Nazis’ plans to liquidate the Jews of Europe; in Washington, the audience sat rapt as he insisted that he was ready to get down to brass tacks with his Palestinian counterparts about creating an independent Palestinian state. As in his address at Bar-Ilan University last June, Netanyahu was clear about his parameters: no preconditions, no right of return for refugees, total demilitarization of Palestinian territory, and recognition of the Jewish state. But progress, he insisted, as he has for several months now, is entirely in the hands of the Palestinians, and specifically to Mahmoud Abbas, the embattled president of the Palestinian Authority. “My goal is to achieve a permanent peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians, and soon,” Netanyahu said, to applause. “I cannot be more emphatic on this point—but to get to a peace agreement, we have to start negotiating a peace agreement. We have to stop negotiating about the negotiations. Let’s get on with it! Let’s move!” The assembled Jewish leaders cheered.

Man of the Past [Tablet]
Obliging Obama [Tablet]

Should Nazi Ties Discredit Heidegger?

Debate grows with publication of new book, ‘Times’ reports


The long-simmering debate over Martin Heidegger’s legitimacy in the pantheon of modern philosophers is getting renewed attention with the imminent translation into English of a book arguing that Heidegger’s Nazi Party membership should discredit his entire body of work. Emmanuel Faye’s Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism Into Philosophy, published in French four years ago, “calls on philosophy professors to treat Heidegger’s writings like hate speech,” writes Patricia Cohen today in the New York Times. “Libraries, too, should stop classifying Heidegger’s collected works (which have been sanitized and abridged by his family) as philosophy and instead include them under the history of Nazism,” Cohen notes the book argues. Faye’s approach is the most radical yet toward stripping Heidegger of his towering stature in modern thought and culture, Cohen writes; his influence extends to disciplines beyond philosophy, including psychoanalysis, poetry, and architecture. Faye’s opponents recognize the difficulty of considering Heidegger’s oeuvre without acknowledging the genocidal machine of which he was a part, but don’t believe that his Nazi sympathies underlie or undermine all of his works. Faye’s supporters, on the other hand, say Heidegger’s toxicity is so thorough, it infects everything, even the way we read the esteemed Jewish thinker Hannah Arendt, who was Heidegger’s protégé and lover, and who worked to help him restore his reputation after the war.

An Ethical Question: Does a Nazi Deserve a Place Among Philosophers? [NYT]
Related: Hot for Teacher [Tablet]

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