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Look, Rich Jews!

JTA gloats over the Forbes 400

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While Bernard Madoff’s colossal fraud leached vast sums from the country’s wealthiest Jews in the past year, not every one of them is destitute. Quite the opposite, if the Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s assessment of Forbes’ list of the 400 richest Americans is to be trusted. According to their annotation—a questionable pursuit on account of the whiffs of both distasteful triumphalism and ostentation—at least 139 of the Richie-Riches may belong to a synagogue near you (well, if you’ve got enough spinach to pay the dues at some of the country’s more affluent houses of worship). There are few surprises in the list which includes Mayor Michael Bloomberg, (net worth of $17.5 billion), and Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page (net worth $15.3 billion each). Though the estimated wealth of all three fell in the past year, that hit didn’t stop Hizzoner from holding steady at number 8 on the general list (he’s number two among Jewish entrants) or keep the Google boys from rising in the ranking.

At Least 139 of the Forbes 400 Are Jewish [JTA]
The Forbes 400 [Forbes]

Israel Is ‘Lighting Matches’ in Jerusalem

Charges Erekat, dimming hopes for peace deal

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As Nahum Barnea told Liel Liebovitz, there is no organizational structure to the current Arab riots in Jerusalem—which has been met in the past few days by IDF countermeasures—a third intifada is a distinct possibility. But according to Jordanian journalist Razi Sa’adi, today quoted in The Jerusalem Post, if it did happen, it’d be instigated by Israel, lately accused by Palestinians of having altered course on peace negotiations in favor of settlement expansion and a sustained pushback against Washington policy. The Post today also quotes Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat as saying that Israel is “is lighting matches in hopes of igniting a big fire,” while P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas says the violence in Jerusalem is a direct result of Israel’s desire to “Judaize” the city.

Even if this is bluster, the reason behind the bluster matters. Abbas is taking heat from Arab leaders who believe the rumors and news reports that he backed off of advancing the Goldstone report—the United Nations investigation into the Israeli assault on Gaza that blamed the IDF for war crimes—to the U.N. Security Council. Seen as a devastating blow to Israel’s international standing, the report was to have been the P.A.’s easy cudgel to wield against Israel—but Abbas, according to this narrative, buckled under White House pressure not to jeopardize any prospective deal with the Netanyahu government. The riots have only added to the sense that Abbas has lost whatever remaining confidence Palestinian supporters had in him to re-establish a unity government with Hamas and strengthen his hand against Israel. The fear, then, is that politics has gone out of the politicians and into the hands of aspiring terrorists.

Erekat: Israel is ‘Lighting a Big Fire’ [JPost]

Why Try to Re-Brand Israel?

It may be a waste of resources, ‘Commentary’ says

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Jonathan Tobin at Commentary Magazine brings to light one of the biggest questions in Israel’s history and politics: How to manage the image of a country whose raison d’etre is, in part, to convince the world of its necessity and validity, a goal that becomes increasingly elusive as factions from the Arab right to the American left stake their identities on criticism of the nation.

Tobin starts in on Maxim Magazine’s spread of cheesecake photos of female Israeli soldiers last year, which was pitched as an effort “to promote Israel as a normal country.” Never mind the disturbing implications of the equation of normality with the objectification of women, Tobin is more disturbed by what he sees as “a decision to ‘accentuate the positive’ rather than to invest more effort in speaking up for Israel’s side of the story.” He goes on to examine the merits of “rebranding” the nation versus facing political criticism head-on.

He contrasts Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “ability to speak in short, coherent sound bites” with President Shimon Peres’s conviction, when he was prime minister, that “the problem wasn’t a matter of presentation but of wrong politics.” He also contrasts two PR initiatives: Israel21c, which focuses on advocacy journalism in the form of features about technological advances and human interest stories, steering away from the conflict; and The Israel Project, committed to “debunking the notion that Israel sought war, but was instead consistently seeking peace.” Of course, in both of these cases, the elephant in the think tank is “their own unwillingness to answer criticisms of settlement policies or the treatment of Palestinians that they may share.”

Although he sees some merits to both tactics, Tobin does not keep it a secret that he believes the “lion’s share” of advocacy resources should be directed toward “countering the evil arguments” of those who oppose Israel’s existence. And while he makes a cogent case in favor of this point, he also plants the idea, at least in this reader’s mind, that as long as there are people supporting a Jewish state that, however necessarily, relies heavily on its military and often acts first, defends itself later, there will be college kids, leftists, pacifists, self-serving politicians, and anti-Semites, who will oppose those actions. “Freedom fries” may not have done much to hurt a strong “French brand,” but, as Tobin acknowledges, “Israel is not France.”

Will the World Buy Israel’s New ‘Brand’? [Commentary, subscription required]

Is a Third Intifada Starting?

An explosion in Jerusalem may be inevitable, says an Israeli columnist

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A Palestinian youth throwing stones at Israeli forces in an east Jerusalem refugee camp yesterday.(Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images)

Earlier this week, Palestinian protesters in east Jerusalem hurled rocks at a group of Jewish worshipers praying at the sacred site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Al Aqsa Mosque. This might have been just another violent clash in a city well-accustomed to confrontation, a brief incident quickly forgotten. But a combination of external factors, including the stalemate in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and internal political tensions within Palestinian society are threatening to turn the clashes into a large-scale conflagration. With the riots now in their third day, some experts are predicting we may be witnessing the birth of a third intifada. We spoke with Nachum Barnea, one of Israel’s leading political columnists, about the nascent conflict and its possible outcomes.

To listen to the conversation, click here.

Palestinian official: Israel Deliberately Sparking Fire in Jerusalem [Haaretz]

Tablet Today

A critic, a thriller, a bombshell, and a human hut

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James Kirchik looks at Desmond Tutu’s criticism of Israel and sees a history of South African anti-Zionism. Adam Kirsch checks out Dutch novel God’s Gym, which reflects the “clash of fundamentalism with Western ideals and Jewish anxieties”; Kirsch also posits that marrying Marilyn Monroe was the kiss of death for the brilliant mind of Arthur Miller. Susan Shender designs a sukkah made of…people. And stay tuned to The Scroll for continuous updates.

Lucky There’s a Mishpacha Guy

Seth MacFarlane’s Fox series just got a lot Jewier

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Television’s small pantheon of animated Jewish characters just got a bit bigger: On Sunday night’s episode, entitled “Family Goy,” Lois Griffin, the matriarch on Seth MacFarlane’s Fox hit Family Guy, learned that she was Jewish. She should have seen it coming: her maternal grandmother’s maiden name, her mother tells her in one of the episode’s many uncouth moments, was Hebrewberg, which was the Ellis Island version of Hebrewbergmoneygrabber.

Lois’s husband, the loudobese blowhard Peter, is ecstatic at first about his wife’s newfound status as a member of the chosen people—briefly, he’s an enthusiastic attendee at synagogue, and puts the kids in Jewish day school—but he soon remembers his Catholicism and confronts his wife. “I’m a Catholic,” he tells her, “and I want to live in a Catholic house.”

“Well, I’m Jewish,” Lois responds, “and I want to live in a nicer house.” Spoken like a real Jew.

Family Goy [Hulu.com]

Daybreak: Peace is Relative

A stymied traveler, disputed history, and more in the news

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• Palestinian farmers in the West Bank are grateful for the relative peace since the second intifada ended—delicate as it may be—that allows them to tend crops freely. [Reuters]
• Delicate indeed—amid the ongoing disputes in Jerusalem, Hamas attacked Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the rival Fatah party, for agreeing to delay retaliation for alleged Israeli war crimes in Gaza. [AP]
• And, although Defense Minister Ehud Barak got through his visit unscathed last month, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon has canceled a planned trip to the United Kingdom after warnings that he may be arrested there for those alleged war crimes. [Times of London]
• Experts weigh new evidence in an ongoing debate about the United States’ response to the Holocaust. [NYT]

Sundown: Bless You, Drive Through

‘Mount’ing troubles, dystopia, and the next Holocaust flick

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• In what sounds like a joke from the movie L.A. Story, a synagogue in Miami has erected a “drive-through sukkah” in the middle of its parking lot for lulav-shakers on the go. [Miami Herald]
• Michael Mann, the creator of such films as Public Enemies, Miami Vice, and Last of the Mohicans, is set to direct an upcoming World War II film based on a Spanish novel about a Hungarian and a German Jew who team up as war photographers. [Hollywood News]
• An interview with Leon de Winter, a Dutch writer whose new novel Right of Return (not yet available in English) portrays Israel in 2024 as a nation that has been all but abandoned after violence led citizens to decide “they love their children more than their country.” [HuffPost]
• Those Israel has called “radical elements who wish to create a crisis around the Temple Mount” have somewhat succeeded; violent skirmishes have escalated around the disputed site, which is considered holy to both Jews and Muslims. [AP]

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Skips Mass, Thanks

But much of Supreme Court celebrates pre-term Mass

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All nine justices, at their annual photo session last week.(Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

The Supreme Court convened this morning for the start of its new term, which features a docket heavy with cases concerning business regulation and oversight of the financial system. But the opening ceremonies started yesterday, with the Red Mass, an annual Catholic service held at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington that recalls medieval entreaties for blessings on “those engaged in the administration of justice.” (Chief Justice John Roberts’s wife, Jane, is parliamentarian of the John Carroll Society, which began arranging the services in 1953 with the goal of getting the justices’ ears.) This year, the blessings included a homily by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Galveston-Houston archdiocese, who asked the justices to help defend the rights not just those who are voiceless for lack of influence or power, but those who are “literally voiceless, not yet with tongues and even without names”—in other words, unborn children.

It’s not terribly surprising that five of the Court’s six Catholic members—Roberts and Associate Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, and Samuel Alito—were there, but so was Stephen Breyer, who is Jewish but goes every year anyway. Who wasn’t there? Well, Clarence Thomas (Catholic!) sent his regrets, and John Paul Stevens (the lone Wasp on the current court) skipped it, too. And no one expected Ruth Bader Ginsburg to interrupt her Sukkot observances (or, you know, whatever she was doing yesterday) to go; girlfriend has made it clear she doesn’t need to hear it from the Catholics. “I went one year and I will never go again, because this sermon was outrageously anti-abortion,” Ginsburg told Abigail Pogrebin, who interviewed the justice for the anthology Stars of David. “Even the Scalias, even though they’re very much of that persuasion, were embarrassed for me.”

Supreme Court Majority Opinion: Attend Red Mass [WSJ]

Israel, Egypt and the New ‘Read Sea’

BBC asks, why no ‘cultural normalisation’ between the countries?

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After Egyptian culture minister Farouk Hosni lost his bid to run UNESCO last month—in part because of a statement last year promising to burn all Israeli books in his nation’s libraries—relations between the two Middle Eastern countries are again in the spotlight, and one question, posed by BBC News, looms particularly large: “[W]hy is Egypt so opposed to any form of cultural normalisation?”

The Associated Press offers one answer that it sees reflected in the Egyptian media: “Normalization is a dirty word in many circles in Egypt. Journalists in particular feel they must shoulder the responsibility of reminding Egyptians that peace with Israel was forced on them and remains a bitter reality.” Solidarity with Palestinians is another factor. According to the BBC, there are “unwritten rules” governing the enforcement of a cultural boycott. In 1994, playwright Ali Salem decided to see what all the fuss was about and spent several weeks in Israel, documenting his discoveries in a book. Shortly afterward, Salem was ousted from his union and now “no-one will touch his work. Today his plays and movie scripts gather dust amid his tattered reputation.” Hala Mustafa, the editor-in-chief of Democracy magazine, has been ostracized for meeting with Israeli Ambassador Shalom Cohen.

There may be hope coded in the few media voices who don’t think Hosni lost out on the UNESCO because of an Israeli conspiracy, but rather because he is a pawn of the authoritarian government. But even those who work to bring Israeli culture to Egyptians sometimes do so out of bad faith. Says Gaber Asfour, the director of Egypt’s National Centre for Translation, who plans to work with a European publisher to produce volumes by David Grossman and Amos Oz so as to avoid dealing directly with the enemy: “Israel acts with injustice and inhumanity, we have to learn more about them. More than we already know. We have to translate everything.”

Egyptians Nervous of Israeli Culture [BBC]
Egypt UNESCO Loss Stirs Debate on Ties with Israel [AP]

Benjamin Disraeli, Modern Icon?

Simon Doonan Says So

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(TheDailyBeast.com)

Daily Beast columnist Simon Doonan thinks the new face of cool is the old face of Benjamin Disraeli, “who, despite a penchant for wearing his hair in Shirley Temple ringlets and sporting canary yellow velvet waistcoats, managed to claw his way to prominence.” More praised by Doonan for his foppish self-indulgences than for his savvy domestic policies (or imperialist foreign policies), Disraeli’s style is the apex of “think Yiddish, dress British,” a coupling explored by Adam Kirsch in his Nextbook Press biography of Britain’s only Jewish prime minister. And while it may not be likely that a novel-writing parlor wit with a fondness for older married women will soon grace the ranks of the American Republican party, that’s exactly what the GOP—and the country—could use now that tea parties mean shouting on Glenn Beck’s TV show rather than securing huge loans from the Rothschilds.

Benjamin Disraeli: Dead Cool [Daily Beast]
Related:
Benjamin Disraeli [Nextbook Press]
What Disraeli Can Teach the GOP [Tablet]

Iran-Style Anti-Semitism Spreading in Latin America

First Venezuela, now Honduras

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Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez fondess for Iranian-style anti-Semitism is irrefutable (see especially here and here). Now it seems his tendency has been taken up in Honduras by supporters of that country’s deposed President Manuel Zelaya, whose return to power has lately been a minor cause célèbre of Sen. John Kerry and President Barack Obama. Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Mary Anastasia O’Grady lays out the case that Zelaya, who was driven from power on June 28, is just as paranoid and conspiracy-minded as Chavez when it comes to Jews.

Upon returning to Honduras on September 21, where he was offered refuge at the Brazilian Embassy, Zelaya said that “Israeli mercenaries” were subjecting him to “high-frequency radiation.” One ardent zelayista O’Grady cites is Honduran radio host David Romero Ellner, who spouts charming insights like this one: “Sometimes I ask myself if Hitler wasn’t right when he wanted to finish with that race, through the famous holocaust, because if there are people that are harmful to this country, they are the Jews, the Israelites.”

Revolutionary Anti-Semitism [WSJ]

Today on Tablet

African Jews, cheap decor, and recommended reading

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On our weekly podcast, Vox Tablet, Anna Boiko-Weyrauch reports from the burgeoning Jewish community in Ghana. Marjorie Ingall presents a video diary of her and her daughters’ creative, low budget sukkah decorating. Josh Lambert digs into new books on German Jews in the Allied forces in WWII, the prophecy of the Coen brothers, and more. And The Scroll keeps rolling along.

Nikki Finke Calls David Remnick ‘This New Jersey Dentist’s Son’

Old-school Jewish class distinctions in blogger’s ‘New Yorker’ riposte

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In this week’s New Yorker, writer Tad Friend takes on entertainment-industry reporting diva Nikki Finke, whose Deadline Hollywood Daily site he describes as “Hollywood’s most dreaded news source.” The piece is fine—Friend has covered this terrain before, and for those who don’t follow the business of Hollywood, it’s a handy guide to how the shark pool churns in the new blog-driven era. But, as sometimes happens with these kinds of stories, the most interesting thing about the whole exercise has been watching Finke herself wheel right back around, as she is wont to do, and take a bite out the magisterial magazine.

The New Yorker posted the article to its website Sunday morning. By 6:23 a.m. Los Angeles time, Finke herself had fired back a riposte that started off by calling the whole magazine “unrelentingly boring” and then descended into broadside attacks against Friend (“easy to manipulate”) and the “slipshod” fact-checking department. (Full disclosure: your blogger used to be a member of that department, and, well, it’s an often thankless, tricky job that becomes nearly impossible to do at all, let alone well, when, as Friend writes, you’re stuck dealing with powerful people for whom “facts are not fixed pillars but trial balloons that you inflate with the gas of vehement assertion.”)

The most fascinating bit, though, is the weirdly anachronistic Jewish class distinction Finke—a onetime debutante and Wellesley girl who grew up on Long Island’s WASPy North Shore, with a mother who simultaneously insisted her daughter marry a Jew, held annual Easter egg hunts, and referred to other (presumably less assimilated) Jews as “Eskimos”—invokes by dismissing David Remnick, the New Yorker’s Hackensack-born, Princeton-educated editor, as “this New Jersey dentist’s son.” And not just that. “Now remember, readers,” she wrote. “You, too, can make The New Yorker your buttboy. Just act like a cunt and treat Remnick like a putz.” Quick! Someone get Philip Roth on rewrite!

Call Me [The New Yorker]
Hollywood Manipulated The New Yorker [Deadline Hollywood Daily]

Mahmoud, Mishpacha!

UPDATED: London ‘Telegraph’ says Iran’s president is Jewish; ‘Guardian’ disagrees

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Ahmadinejad in New York for the U.N. General Assembly last month.(Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)

Over the weekend, the London Telegraph reported that Iran’s Holocaust-denying, Israel-hating and evidently nuke-seeking president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is secretly a Jew—making him, potentially, the most self-loathing Jew who ever lived.

Versions of this story have been kicking around for a while. Radio Free Europe posted an item in January citing Mehdi Khazali, the pro-reform son of a prominent conservative ayatollah, who apparently called for an investigation into Ahmadinejad’s origins in a blog post. (Khazali was arrested this summer amid the fierce opposition protests that accompanied Ahmadinejad’s re-election, and the link to his site is now dead.) And there’s this anonymous video post, dating back to last fall, that actually accuses Ahmadinejad of being a tool of the Zionist regime, rather than an overcompensating hypocrite—even enlarging his nose to caricature proportions, for effect, in case anyone missed the point. And the Guardian reported back in 2005, when Ahmadinejad was first elected, that the family had changed its name when Mahmoud was still a toddler “for a mixture of religious and economic reasons”—but didn’t draw the Jewish link, or explain what the “religious reasons” were.

So what changed? Well, the Telegraph story cites Ahmadinejad’s identity documents, which he proudly displayed to the press in March. They show his family name was originally Sabourjian (or Saborjhian), which, the story explains, derives from “weaver of the Sabour,” the Farsi name for a tallis. And, to boot, the name is on a list of Jewish surnames compiled by Iran’s interior ministry—so, in other words, according to the paper’s blog editor, it’s “the Persian equivalent of being born Mohammed Greenberg.” So: Mahmoud, how do you say ‘vavoy’ in Farsi?

(By the bye, we were sad that Saturday Night Live punted in its “Weekend Update” sketch featuring Fred Armisen as Ahmadinejad, as usual—but we laughed that much harder when Nasim Pedrad, playing Mrs. Ahmadinejad, joked that “he farts under the sheets, and blames it on Israel.”)

UPDATE: Now it turns out that the folks behind this story might be Iran’s equivalent of the birthers. Middle East analyst Meir Javedanfar writes in today’s Guardian that Ahmadinejad isn’t Jewish and that his father was actually a devout Muslim who taught Koran. Javedanfar cites Tel Aviv University professor David Yerushalmi, who explains that Persians refer to tzitzis as, well, tzitzis, not “Sabour,” as the Telegraph reported, and that “Sabourjian” isn’t a particularly Jewish name, either. No update from the Telegraph, as yet.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Revealed to Have Jewish Past [Telegraph]
Ahmadinejad Has No Jewish Roots [Guardian]

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