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Why Is the Right Getting Away With Hitler Analogies?

In ‘New York’ Mag, a look at the health-care fight

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A protester at a Brooklyn town-hall meeting last month.(Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

Why aren’t the battalions of Jewish anti-defamation organizations across the United States playing hardball with the many health-care reform opponents who’ve been comparing President Barack Obama to Hitler and health-care reform to Nazism, Peter Keating wonders on New York magazine’s website today. He suggests a few possible answers: “Nonpartisan organizations typically avoid wading into partisan battles like health-care reform. Some Jewish leaders who feel estranged from Obama over Middle Eastern issues may not want to defend him. Others may not consider radio entertainers a serious political threat.” (That last suggestion seems dubious, given that groups like the Anti-Defamation League have censured everyone from Don Imus to Michael Richards, and that, as Keating notes, the Obama-Hitler comparisons have spread from shock jocks to evangelical leaders to a Florida Jewish congressman.)

What’s really new here, Keating argues, is that the Holocaust may not be the sacred cow it once was: in the past, if the ADL criticized a public figure for an inappropriate Holocaust comparison, they’d make a show of contrition, while this crowd throws such accusations right back at the accusers (as in the attacks heaped on Barney Frank from the right after the congressman slapped down a questioner who equated Obama’s health plans with Nazism). “The radical right has created a new game,” he writes, “and Jewish groups haven’t yet figured out how to play it.”

The Right Calls Obama Hitler. Why Aren’t Jewish Groups Making More Noise? [NYMag.com]

Oren Still Undecided on J Street Conference

‘Forward’ reports that ambassador is still considering invitation

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In politics, almost saying something isn’t quite the same as actually saying it. Over the weekend, the Jerusalem Post reported that Israel’s Washington embassy had “communicated” with J Street, the dovish year-old Israel lobby, about the Israeli government’s concerns that J Street’s policies could “impair Israel’s interests.” The unusually frank statement, issued by embassy spokesman Jonathan Peled, looked an awful lot like a “no, thank you” to J Street’s invitation for Israel’s new U.S. ambassador, Michael Oren, to speak at the group’s conference later this month. But, no! Today, the Forward’s Nathan Guttman reports that Oren—who has initiated meetings with left-wing groups like Americans for Peace Now—is still considering making an appearance. “We decided to move ahead in a measured and cautious way,” Peled said. In the meantime, J Street head Jeremy Ben Ami is doing everything he can to look hospitable, including promising Oren “an open hearing,” in an op-ed published in today’s Jerusalem Post.

It’s also worth remembering that context matters, so it’s probably not entirely irrelevant that the Israeli embassy softened its position right after Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni—whose Kadima party actually came first in last February’s Knesset elections, though it couldn’t muster a working parliamentary coalition—lashed out at Netanyahu’s government for isolating Israel on the international stage. “You have managed to beat the president of the United States, Israel’s greatest friend, or at least this is the impression you and your people tried to convey after the meeting,” Livni railed during Monday’s opening of the Knesset. “You have managed to humiliate the only partner for a peace settlement Israel has. In short: We have beaten America, humiliated the Palestinians, isolated ourselves. Raise your head from the small politics and see what has happened, see that Israel is excommunicated.”

On Eve of Conference, J Street Struggles To Prove Pro-Israel Cred [Forward]
Livni Accuses Netanyahu of ‘Humiliating Palestinians’[Ynet]
Related: Generation Z [Tablet]

Tablet Today

Avant-garde windows and young intellectuals

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Samuel D. Gruber illuminates the career of Adolph Gottlieb, an Abstract Expressionist painter who introduced modernist forms into synagogue art and architecture in the 1950s. Jordan Hirsch traces the background of two well-known Zionist public intellectuals to their time to a dynamic Jewish scene at Columbia University in the 1970s. And there will be more throughout the day here on The Scroll.

Florida Students Live Like Anne Frank

A school sleepover as Holocaust study aid

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Eighth graders at Florida’s Bethany Christian School, which promises “academic excellence in a Christ-centered environment,” traded their iPods and cell phones for potatoes, bread, and carrots in an attempt to turn their classroom into Anne Frank’s attic for a strangely ascetic sleepover over the weekend, according to a report in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Save for bathroom breaks, the students remained in the room from the end of the school day Friday until noon on Saturday—an entire 18 hours or so—in an attempt to understand what life was like for Anne. Apparently it worked. “It really showed me just how hard it was to live in the Secret Annexe,” said one commenter on the Sun-Sentinel’s website, who said she was a student in the class. But Andrew Rosenkranz, the Anti-Defamation League’s regional director for Florida, suggested historical reenactments are perhaps not the best way to teach the Holocaust. “Anne Frank’s experience was not a sleepover,” he told Tablet Magazine.

Christian School Wants to Simulate Anne Frank’s Hiding with Sleepover [SunSentinel.com]

Daybreak: Agriprocessors Trial Begins

Chabadniks in South Dakota, Barak works the phones, and more in the news

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•A federal fraud trial opened in South Dakota yesterday against Sholom Rubashkin, head of the Agriprocessors kosher meatpacking plant in Iowa shut down last year after an immigration raid. It’s being held in South Dakota because a judge ruled that Iowans are already biased against the Rubashkins. [USA Today]
• Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is calling foreign ministers from France, Britain, Spain, and elsewhere and trying to persuade them that officially adopting the Goldstone Report, which will be discussed by the U.N. Human Rights Council tomorrow, will effectively promote terrorism. [Ynet]
Haaretz obtained a copy of the Palestinian resolution that will be presented at the U.N. meeting; it accuses Israel both of the alleged war crimes in Gaza outlined in the Goldstone Report and of continuing to limit access to Muslim holy sites in East Jerusalem. [Haaretz]
• A synagogue in Florida has installed hand-washing stations outside its Hebrew school classrooms, which it’s requiring kids to use before class as an anti-swine flu measure. Churches, meantime, have suspended the wine-sipping part of communion to avoid spreading germs. [LAT]

Sundown: Wild Things

Molestation arrests up in Brooklyn, mock court puts Abbas in slammer, Maurice Sendak, and more

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• Twenty-six arrests were made on charges of child molestation in Brooklyn’s ultra-Orthodox community last year, versus one or two in years prior. That’s a good sign, the New York Times says, because it means child abuse in the community is finally being reported. [NYT]
• A Hamas-affiliated organization in Gaza—which is furious at Fatah’s waffling over whether to press the U.N. Human Rights Council to charge Israel with the findings of Goldstone Report—put Mahmoud Abbas on trial in a moot court, convicted him of high treason, and sentenced him to life in prison. [Jerusalem Post]
• Meanwhile, the Israeli government has adapted an undercover intelligence unit that originally operated within the Palestinian territories to fight Israeli organized crime. [Haaretz]
• Maurice Sendak, whose Where the Wild Things Are comes to a theater near you on Friday, isn’t a fan of Hollywood’s lighthearted treatment of childhood but he sees a kindred spirit in Wild Things director Spike Jonze. [AP

Why Are U.K. Tories Aligning With Holocaust Deniers?

London’s ‘Guardian’ asks a good question

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Pop quiz: when is it a good politics to make common cause with people who sound an awful lot like Holocaust revisionists? Oh, that’s right—never. So it’s not surprising that there’s been a lot of outcry over the past week or so, and not just from Jewish groups, over the plans by Britain’s Conservative Party to welcome some dubious partners into its European Parliament coalition—including a Polish politician who has objected to Poles taking collective responsibility for the massacre of Jews during the Holocaust and members of a Latvian party that annually commemorates the service of volunteer Waffen-SS militias who slaughtered the country’s 70,000 Jews, plus another 20,000 deportees from other places, and then went on to heroically battle Stalin’s Red Army.

Yesterday, London’s Jewish Chronicle got the Polish pol, Michal Kaminski, to admit he’d worn the insignia of a violently anti-Semitic nationalist party from the 1930s. Today, the Guardian’s editorial board wheeled around to attack David Cameron, the Conservatives’ leader, for abetting the whole situation. And who does the paper invoke to make Cameron feel extra-special bad? Colin Powell, who apparently told the Latvians to knock off their Nazi memorial rallies when they were negotiating to join NATO. “If a Republican U.S. secretary of state can grasp a simple truth about Latvia’s past, why can’t David Cameron?” the editorial asks.


Latvian Waffen-SS: No Ifs, No Buts
[Guardian]
Previously: British Actor Upsets Poles

Conservatives Find Bible Too Liberal

So they’ll write a new one

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Conservapedia, the right-wing version of Wikipedia, has launched a project to eliminate what it considers liberal bias in modern versions of the Bible. Part of the problem is translators who throw around words like “comrade” and “labor,” according to Andrew Schlafly, the website’s founder (and son of anti-feminist crusader Phyllis Schlafly), and part of the problem is, well, some teachings of the Bible. An improved version, according to Schlafly’s guidelines, will not be “emasculated” or “dumbed down” as leading evangelical versions of the Scriptures apparently are, will “accept the logic of hell … as in not denying or downplaying the very real existence of Hell or the Devil,” and, most amusingly, will “express free market parables”—which might be a stretch given that, as Stephen Colbert pointed out, “the meek shall inherit the earth” is most certainly a bunch of “liberal claptrap.”

The irony of the whole project, it seems to us, is that Schlafly is far from the first to politically reframe the Bible or other sacred texts—but that’s usually the province of liberals, because they’re not religious fundamentalists. It’s one thing to update a man-made text you believe is both valuable and problematic; changing the literal word of God to suit your political ends is quite a different story.

The Bible: Lost in Conservative Translation [Guardian]

Israel’s Tax Law Brings Billionaire Home

Foreign income is untaxed, so movie producer Arnon Milchan moves back

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Hoping to ignite a new wave of immigration, Israel changed its tax laws nearly a year ago, offering potential new arrivals, as well as those who’d left the country but are considering a return, a big break. According to the new rules, newcomers would pay no taxes on any foreign income for 10 years following their relocation. Now comes the news, via Globes, an Israeli business magazine, that fertilizer company scion-turned-movie mogul Arnon Milchan is taking advantage of the generous benefits and moving back to Israel. A producer on movies good (The King of Comedy) and less good (Marly & Me), Milchan was estimated to be worth $2 billion by Forbes in March. Who knows how much that’ll change once Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel is released later this year, and how much tax revenue Israel will have then forfeited in its effort to reclaim a native son.

Arnon Milchan Moving Back to Israel [Globes]

Fatah Gives Up on Obama

According to memo obtained by AP

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President Barack Obama may have won a Nobel Peace Prize, but he’s also been awarded a vote of no confidence as a peacemaker by Fatah. An internal party memo obtained by the Associated Press reads: “All hopes placed in the new U.S. administration and President Obama have evaporated. Obama couldn’t withstand the pressure of the Zionist lobby, which led to a retreat from his previous positions on halting settlement construction and defining an agenda for the negotiations and peace.” Originally heartened by his election, Palestinians now see Obama as a sequel to George W. Bush, particularly after the new president acquiesced to the reality of continued Israeli construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The big question is whether this memo reflects Palestinian Authority President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas’s view (Abbas has previously been sanguine about the status quo, citing dramatic economic and security gains in the West Bank as reason enough not to pursue a peace deal with the Israelis as quickly as the United States and Europe would like), or if it reflects the views of Fatah’s Office of Mobilization and Organization, which issued the memo. Now that Abbas has come out against advancing the Goldstone Report—the U.N. Human Rights Council investigation that accused the IDF of war crimes in Gaza—to the Security Council, Palestinians could also argue that Abbas has similarly “caved” to White House pressure.

Fatah Memo: We Lost Hope in Obama for Caving to Zionist Pressure [Haaretz]

No More Immigration Ceremonies at Western Wall

It’s ‘not a banquet hall,’ says chief of supervisory board

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British immigrants at a citizenship cermony in August.(Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

The Jewish Agency has long held citizenship ceremonies for new immigrants at the Western Wall, a place that is conveniently both the holiest site in modern Jewry and a nice backdrop for photographs of grinning, newly minted Israelis. As of tomorrow, though, the agency will move all of its immigration ceremonies to the roof of a nearby yeshiva—nice, sure, but a little lighter on the symbolism. The move is apparently a compromise designed to head off a growing turf battle—literally—between Paula Edelstein, a lay leader of the immigration agency who also chairs the Reform movement’s Israeli arm, and Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich, head of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which manages the site. Several weeks ago, Edelstein told the Jerusalem Post that Rabinovich had demanded the Jewish Agency start separating men and women at their ceremonies, and, more awkwardly, that women—including, presumably, Edelstein—be blocked from emceeing the events. But Rabinovich tells Haaretz today that, no, of course that wasn’t the reason. He just didn’t want the religious atmosphere at the Kotel to be compromised by, you know, a loud, potentially disruptive celebration. “The Wall,” he said, “is not a banquet hall.” To which we respond, having noted all the bridal couples and b’nai mitzvot who show up there every day, really?

Jewish Agency to Halt Western Wall Ceremonies for Olim [Haaretz]

Tablet Today

Israeli deconstructions, Diasporic reconstructions, and the birth of a Torah

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Evan R. Goldstein examines the controversy around an Israeli historian’s claim that the Jews didn’t really originate in Israel, while Adam Kirsch reviews the memoir of a young American Jew who travels the world looking for positive examples of Diaspora living. Abigail Miller looks at a female sofer who’s spending a year penning a Torah on public view at a San Francisco museum. And there will be more here, all day, on The Scroll.

Jon Minus Kate, Plus 5770

Gosselin tells parenting blog he loves Jews, shops at Zabar’s

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Gosselin at what appears to be a milkshake-based PR event earlier this month.(Angela Weiss/Getty Images)

ParentDish blogger Susan Avery interviewed reality-TV star-cum-cad Jon Gosselin last week, and we here present a selection from that interview, offered with no comment beyond ParentDish’s headline, “Jon Gosselin Loves His Kids, His Girlfriend and the Jews.” Because, really, what else is there to say?

PD: Let’s try a happy topic. What are your plans for Halloween and Thanksgiving with the kids?
JG: Thanksgiving is tough. Kate has custody on Thanksgiving, but I will stop by to see my kids. Halloween I don’t have custody. Hailey [Gosselin’s post-Kate love interest] handles my schedule. It’s kinda weird, but I can confide in her. She’s my best friend. I lost a lot of friends; people burned me left and right.

PD: And Christmas?
JG: Christmas, yeah. This is the first year I will celebrate Chanukah. Hailey is Jewish. Everyone in my life is Jewish now, my attorney. I love it. I’m now half Jewish and half Korean. The family values are great. On Christmas, I’ll see my kids during the day for a couple of hours. …

PD: Tell me more about your interest in Judaism.
JG: I just went through Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur and learned about the new year and every Friday is the Shabbat dinner. I love challah bread. I’m learning about Jewish food, going to Zabar’s. I love that place. I’m learning about kosher and when not to order a bacon, egg and cheese and make an ass of myself. …

PD: Are we going to see you converting to Judaism?
JG: I talked to Rabbi Shmuley a couple of times. He has nine kids.

Jon Gosselin Loves His Kids, His Girlfriend and the Jews [ParentDish]

Daybreak: Is the Pope Jewish?

Nuremberg translator dies, a blast in Lebanon, and more in the news

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• Pope Benedict will visit Rome’s major synagogue in January. Reuters says this “significant because relations between the Vatican and Rome’s Jewish community—the oldest in the diaspora—have often been considered a bellwether of Catholic-Jewish relations worldwide.” [Reuters]
• An explosion occurred at the home of a Hezbollah official in southern Lebanon yesterday; the blast appears to be an accident, which Israel says is proof that the house was being used as a munitions bunker. [Haaretz]
• Richard Sonnenfeldt, the German Jewish refugee who served as chief interpreter for American prosecutors at the Nuremberg trials died Friday. [NYT]

Sundown: Jewish News for Italians

Happy Columbus Day! Plus, Abbas flipped, the Coens dissed, and Potok staged

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• Italy has a new publication, Pagine Ebraiche (Jewish Pages), that aims “to speak to the external world, not the internal Jewish world.” In other words, it’s a Jewish paper for non-Jewish Italians—who, apparently, care! [JTA]
• Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who kowtowed to pressure from the United States and Israel to postpone an investigation into the accusation of Israeli war crimes in the Goldstone Report, has reverted to kowtowing to pressure from his constituents (and, perhaps, from Hamas), and is now calling for immediate action. [NYT]
• When the Coen brothers consulted Markle Karlen, “the most vital and fluent member of the local Jewish Community Center’s Yiddish club” on the Yiddish section of their script for A Serious Man, he deemed it “the usual shtetl shtick. A woodchopper. A poor old woman. A dybbuk. Who needs it.” [WP]
• A Bay Area critic spends most of his review of a theatrical production of Chaim Potok’s novel The Chosen retelling the plot, but it seems like he liked it. [SF Chronicle]
• A blogger praises the subtle knowledge of Judaism that permeated The New York Times’s recent piece on the Shabbat elevator fiasco. [Get Religion]

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