Abbas Won’t Seek Reelection, He Says

Palestinian president won’t run in election called for January

Abbas at a meeting of the Fatah executive committee today.(Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced today that he won’t seek a new term in the president election he has called for January. “This is not a bargain or maneuver,” he said, although it’s unlikely the election will actually be held in January—they won’t happen until there’s a political reconciliation between Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah party, allowing them to go forward—which means he won’t be leaving the presidency anytime soon. “A top aide to Mr. Abbas said a large part of the ‘despondency and frustration’ felt by Mr. Abbas and the entire Palestinian leadership was due to President Obama’s unrealized promises to the region,” reports Ethan Bronner in the New York Times. “He said he feared that without a stop to settlements, Islamist rivals in Hamas could triumph and violence could break out.”

Palestinian President Says He Won’t Seek Reelection [NYT]

Israel’s ‘Tech Miracle’ Explained

Credit the IDF, say authors of ‘Start-Up Nation’


What’s behind Israel’s tremendous success in the tech sector? In their book Start-Up Nation, which came out yesterday, Dan Senor, a former foreign policy adviser to President George W. Bush, and Saul Singer, a Jerusalem Post columnist, argue that a culture of innovation has grown from the relatively non-hierarchical structure of the IDF—unusual among militaries. It’s “the fact that when you’re being promoted in the Israeli military, your subordinates have input, or can have input, in those decisions,” Senor said in an interview with Atlantic correspondent Jeff Goldberg. “It’s a very entrepreneurial, start-up military. There are very few bosses.” That’s allowed for an economy dominated by small, creative businesses rather than huge, top-heavy ones—exactly the kind of economy, Singer argues, that survives best in a recession, and one that should be copied by developing economies around the world.

Indeed, even (or especially) Arab businessmen are getting curious, Singer said: “Whenever I go to the Gulf, it’s all they want to talk about, they’re so intrigued by the Israeli model. But everything about the economic strategy of these Gulf countries is about spending money.” American Jews, too, are starting to catch on. “For the longest time, American Jews would not invest in Israeli start-ups. They would give to UJA and they’d give to all these philanthropic organizations, but they kept a firewall up between their business activities and their philanthropic activities. I think for the last three to five years you are, for the first time, really seeing American Jewish investors investing in Israel.”

The Origins of Israel’s Tech Miracle [Atlantic]

‘Forward’: Jewish Charities Keep Glass Ceiling Intact

Few women in top posts, significant pay gaps


The glass ceiling, regrettably intact at philanthropic institutions across the country, is even harder to break for women at Jewish organizations. That’s according to an alarming story in the Forward, which reports that while three-quarters of the workforce at 75 major Jewish social service agencies, educational and religious institutions, and federations are women, women hold only 11, or roughly 14 percent, of the top positions at the organizations. The discrepancy is worse than the gap that exists among charities generally; the paper cites a recent Chronicle of Philanthropy study that found nearly 19 percent of the nation’s charities are headed by women. What’s more, top women at Jewish organizations earn just 61 cents for every dollar their male counterparts take home—for men the median income is $287,702; for women it’s $175,211.

Speculation varies as to why women generally are so conspicuously absent from leadership posts; some believe it has to do with the fact that women more often than men take off time from their careers to raise families and that they may be less aggressive about professional advancement and pay hikes. But why Jewish organizations seem to demonstrate an even larger gender disparity is unclear. One factor, write Jane Eisner and Devra Ferst, is “what communal insiders describe as the familial, sometimes paternalistic nature of Jewish organizations.” In other words—good old-fashioned, father-knows-best sexism.

Jewish Women Lag Behind Men in Promotion and Pay [Forward]

Agriprocessors Trial: Rubashkin Was Incompetent, Fraudster

An unpretty portrait of kosher meat-processor owner


The federal fraud trial of Sholem Rubashkin, the former CEO of the Agriprocessors kosher slaughterhouse, isn’t painting a very flattering portrait of the kosher butcher, who faces a maximum 1,280-year prison sentence on fraud charges—plus another potential 715 years for hiring hundreds of undocumented workers, in a second trial that will begin after this one concludes. It is, however, complicating the by-now-standard story of the slaughterhouse as a place abusive to both workers and animals. (Long story short, after years of accusations against what had been the nation’s largest kosher meat processor, a federal immigration raid in May 2008 led to its bankruptcy later that year.) Rubashkin, former employees and undercover government agents say, was a personally generous boss who lent money to employees and threw company water-skiing parties on the Mississippi River, but he was also incompetent and engaged in massive fraud. They allege that the company “survived on poor record-keeping, under-the-table deals, inflated salaries for top executives, and leadership that tried to expand the kosher meat producer beyond its means,” according to the Des Moines Register. One sales coordinator reported that Rubashkin came to her—at first, a couple times a week, but after the raid, several times a day—with fake invoices to process, like the one that claimed Eleazer Meyer, a Rubashkin family friend, had bought $44,325 worth of meat—but Meyer wasn’t a butcher, he owned a clothing store. A purchasing manager, meanwhile, reported constant fights between Rubashkin and his brother Heshy: “You would rarely see half a minute pass before you’d hear shouting. It was painful to watch.” Rubashkin’s lawyers motioned for a mistrial last week, on the grounds that evidence currently being admitted about undocumented workers at the plant is biasing the jury against Rubashkin on the only semi-related fraud charges. The judge rejected the plea.

Witnesses Say Fraud in Postville Occurred for Years [Des Moines Register]
Slaughterhouse Worker: Manager Was Incompetent [AP]
Judge in Rubashkin Case Refuses to Order Mistrial [Des Moines Register]

Bacon-Wrapped Matzoh Balls Come to L.A.

Thanks to Jewish ‘Top Chef’ winner


Ilan Hall, the Long Island-born Jewish chef who won season two of Bravo’s Top Chef, a serving bacon-wrapped matzoh balls at his just-opened Los Angeles restaurant, The Gorbals. That’s really about all there is to say on the matter, though the Los Angeles Jewish Journal has another 1,000 words on it—plus a video!—if you’re desperate for more.

Bacon-Wrapped Matzvah [Sic] Balls With Top Chef Ilan Hall [LAJJ]

Today on Tablet

What America owes to Moses and more


Jenna Weissman Joselit explores the new book by Bruce Feiler that illustrates the prominence of Moses as an influence on America’s founders and ideals. And as usual, stay tuned to The Scroll for updates on stories that matter (and entertain) throughout the day.

Ringtones Rock Ramallah

West Bank gets second cell carrier, providing musical choices

(Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP/Getty Images)

After months of delay, Al-Watania, the West Bank’s second cell-phone carrier, began its operations this week, offering its customers the latest in telephone technology. And while the company’s customers won’t be able to pick up their new flip phones and call Israel—bureaucratic restrictions and mutual resentments make communications between the Jewish state and its Palestinian neighbor nearly impossible—they will be able to download ringtones of their favorite songs. The most popular option, by far, is “Allahu Akbar,” meaning “God is great” and a common phrase in Muslim prayer. It is followed closely by pop tunes from around the Arab world, such as the Egyptian singer Saad el Soughayar’s hit, “She Loves You, You Donkey.” Meanwhile, plagued by what it perceived as lack of cell phone etiquette, the Egyptian government took the unusual step of releasing a 16-point guide to properly using the popular technology. Among the document’s most pressing recommendations: “Don’t pick an annoying ringtone.”

The Most Popular Ringtone in the West Bank: Allahu Akbar [Haaretz, in Hebrew]

Daybreak: It’s a Man’s World at Jewish Orgs

Plus Obama’s alleged Israel blunders, Iran warns Germany, and more in the news


• Women make up 75 percent of the workforce but only hold 14 percent of the leadership positions at Jewish communal organizations, according to a study by the Forward, and in those jobs, they are paid 61 cents for every dollar paid to male counterparts, due in part to the “familial, sometimes paternalistic nature” of the organizations, the paper says. [Forward]
• Analysts argue that President Barack Obama’s miscalculations in the Israel-Palestinian conflict—including “an excess of zeal at first”—have set the effort back. [WPost]
• The story of the Iranian arms ship seized by the Israeli army has been complicated by Hezbollah’s denial that the shipment was headed its way and Israel’s release of the ship; the Foreign Ministry is still determined to use the incident to draw attention to the Iranian threat. [Haaretz]
• Meanwhile, Iran “warned” Germany to beware of insidious Zionist forces after Chancellor Angela Merkel told the U.S. Congress, “Whoever threatens Israel also threatens us.” [Haaretz]

Sundown: Obama’s Jewish Brother

Plus Ponzi fatigue, mother tongues, and a strange souvenir


• Although President Barack Obama is not actually Jewish, it turns out his half-brother is; in a new novel, Mark Okoth Obama Ndesandjo presents a fictionalized account of his (and Barack’s) father’s abuse of his Jewish American mother, Ruth Nidesand. [WPost]
• The House of Representatives can have its official condemnation of the Goldstone Report—the Palestinian owner of the President Arafat souvenir shop in Gaza has found an entrepreneurial way to show his support: “Today we put out 50 keffiyehs made of white fabric with the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and the name ‘Goldstone’ embroidered on them, to honour his work.” [AFP]
• The Forward explains that everywhere in the Diaspora, “prior to the late 19th century, Jews who put the Jewish dialects or languages that they spoke into writing did so in Hebrew characters.” [Forward]
• South Floridian Jews must be pretty fed up with the phrase “alleged Ponzi-schemer,” but they’re going to have to put up with it a bit longer; their local Chabad center is named for conman du jour Scott Rothstein, who once called himself the “Jewish Avenger.” [New Times]
• For those who can’t take it, there’s a new getaway option: Crystal Cruises is now offering tours to cities worldwide, including Dublin, Odessa, and Stockholm, that focus on their destinations’ Jewish heritage. [Reuters]

‘Forward’ Kills Comments on Klum-Nazi Blog Post

But won’t discuss why


When we wrote yesterday about the Forward’s Sisterhood blog musing on Heidi Klum’s German-ness and how close it is to Nazi-ness, we mentioned comments on the Forward site that both called the post racist and questioned the paper’s decision to publish it. Yesterday afternoon, those comments disappeared from the Forward site. Today, blogger Rebecca Honig Friedman offers a follow-up . “My point was not to attack Klum,” she writes, “but to acknowledge the associations that I, the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, sometimes have—politically incorrect as they are—between ordinary Germans and Nazis…. After years of Holocaust education, if we can call it that, certain images and stereotypes have been so ingrained that I can’t help but think of them, and I don’t think I’m alone in that.” Fair enough, though Friedman fails to note that the disputatious comments were removed from her earlier entry. So we called her to ask why. Editors, not the writer, made that decision, Friedman said, “because they wanted to, I guess, keep the discussion a little bit on a certain plane of not attacking the writer. On the other hand I think that the comments section is a place for free speech as well. So I’m conflicted. But I would go to them for their rationale.” So we asked Gabrielle Birkner, a founding editor of the Sisterhood blog. She replied with an official statement: “We’re going to keep our own counsel on matters of editorial decision-making. We invite readers to post responses, in line with our usual commenting policy, in the comments section of Rebecca’s follow-up blog entry or to email us at” But what about the issue of censoring speech? The Forward editors would only repeat their statement.

About That Heidi Klum Post [Forward]
Earlier: Is Heidi Klum a Nazi ‘Project Runway’ Host?

Erekat: Two-State Plan Must Be Dropped

If Israel won’t stop settlement construction

Erekat signing his book, Life Is Negotiations, last year.(Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images)

Depending on whom Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been talking to in a series of Middle East meetings this week, she either thinks Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposal to limit but not stop West Bank settlement construction is an “unprecedented” offer that Palestinians should jump at, or completely insufficient. Now Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator, is trying to lay down the law: he said at a press conference today that if “the Israelis believe they want to partition the West Bank with us” instead of giving it up, his government may have to drop the goal of a two-state solution altogether. P.A. president Mahmoud Abbas, he said, needs to “tell his people the truth, that with the continuation of settlement activities, the two-state solution is no longer an option.” But then what? Well, according to Erekat, the P.A. would have to move on to Plan B: “a one-state solution where Muslims, Christians, and Jews can live as equals.” Problem is, as Hussein Ibish, a fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine, told Atlantic correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg last week, everyone except a few utopianists knows that Plan B is way harder to achieve than Plan A. Which means Erekat may have just driven off a rhetorical cliff.

Palestinian State May Have to be Abandoned – Erekat [Reuters]

On Tablet Today

Remembering, creating, and moving on


Michael Z. Wize looks at Tobi Kahn, the first artist-in-residence at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Allison Hoffman reports from the polls in Deal, New Jersey, where the Syrian Jewish community seemed willing to look past the fact that gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie oversaw a corruption investigation against their chief rabbi. Seth Lipsky reflects on the 20 year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. And more updates to come here on The Scroll.

N.J.’s Christie Wins in Deal, Too

Syrian Jews don’t hold a grudge


The Syrian Jewish community of Deal, New Jersey, may have been humiliated by the public-corruption investigated by then-U.S. Attorney Chris Christie—five prominent rabbis were arrested there over the summer, along with a dozens of politicians and government officials across the state—but voters there didn’t seem to hold a grudge in yesterday’s gubernatorial election. Christie, the Republican, defeated Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine by a margin of only 4 percentage points statewide. But in Deal, according to a preliminary vote tally provided by the local GOP chairman, Christie outpolled Corzine nearly two-to-one, 156 to 79. (Independent Chris Daggett got 8 votes there.) “People voted taxes,” said Patrick Burgdorf, Deal municipal chair for the Monmouth County Republican Committee. “They had short memories about Christie being with the [U.S Attorney’s] office.”

Comparing the Vote in the Governor’s Race [NYT]
Related: No New Deal [Tablet]

Former Puffy Protege Now Jewish-Ish

Rapper Shyne explains, sort of, on post-prison visit to Belize


The rapper Shyne, who was released from jail last month after serving more than eight years for his involvement in that big Puffy Combs-J.Lo-fleeing the scene back in 1999, was in his native Belize this week, where his dad is the prime minister, talking to students at a college he briefly attended in 1993. While he was in the big house, Shyne changed his legal name from Jamal Michael Barrow to Moses Michael Leviy in deference not exactly to a conversion, but, as he told listeners, to “a hereditary thing in my ancestry.” Vague as that is and with mentor Harvard University professor Charles Ogletree by his side, Shyne went on to elaborate on his decision. “I don’t want to be like Michael Jordan, I want to be like Moses or King David or King Solomon” he said. “Those are the guys that I aspire to be like. I didn’t want to be like the kingpin on my block, I want to be like the guy that part the seas.” Of course, the “guy” that parts the seas has a different name altogether—one we’re not really supposed to utter. But that’s picking nits, especially given the revelation that Shyne shared about the “the biggest king in the world,” aka King David. “You know we drive Lamborghinis and Ferraris and that’s what he did.” Royalty and rappers—they’re just like us!

Shyne Speaks [7 News Belize]

U.S. House Condemns Goldstone Report

And now the U.N. General Assembly will debate it

(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The political football known as the Goldstone Report—the U.N. Human Rights Council-backed inquiry alleging that both Israel and Hamas committed war crimes during last winter’s Gaza war—is still in play. Last night, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution (by a vote of 334-36) condemning the document and calling on the Obama Administration to block its movement through international bodies. The resolution was backed by AIPAC and the Orthodox Union but opposed, if weakly, by the new left-leaning Israel lobby J Street, which didn’t explicitly call on any of the 150 or so members of Congress who signed up to host the group’s big conference last week to vote no. (Indeed, the measure was sponsored by Democrat Howard Berman, who attended the J Street gala.)

Meanwhile, Abraham Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League, called on Goldstone—who publicly expressed his irritation at the House resolution, which he claims distorts his report—to repudiate the whole investigation, not so much because the thing itself was flawed, but because its findings have had “an insidious effect on the safety and good name of the Jewish state.” Foxman went on to accuse Goldstone of naivete, for assuming that the world would give equal weight to his criticisms of Hamas, and not just pick up on his allegations about Israel’s wrongdoing; as far as we can tell, Goldstone has not responded.

This morning, the affair goes to the U.N. General Assembly, which is slated to debate a resolution urging the Security Council to consider referring both Israel and Hamas to the International Criminal Court if they do not conduct independent investigations into the claims lodged by Goldstone’s panel. Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour told the Associated Press he doesn’t expect a vote until tomorrow; we’ll stay tuned.

US House Condemns Goldstone Report [JPost]
Resolution Seeks Gaza War Crimes Investigations [AP]
Earlier: J Street in the Middle?

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