Mystery Continues Over Where Gadhafi Will Sleep

Is he commuting to U.N from Westchester?

Gadhafi on a visit to Rome in June.(Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

Where will Muammar Gadhafi lay his weary head during the U.N. General Assembly this week? Lodging troubles for the Libyan dictator began in August, when townspeople protested a plan to pitch his Bedouin-style tent in Englewood, New Jersey; New York City’s Central Park and two Manhattan hotels also reportedly turned him down. According to a real estate broker interviewed by ABC News, Gadhafi’s agents even pretended to be members of Holland’s delegation in an attempt to rent a townhouse. (“I’m not a linguist, but it became pretty clear I wasn’t dealing with the Dutch,” the broker said.) Now, some media outlets, including the Israeli news site Ynet and Fox News, say he’s staying at the home of the Libyan ambassador to the United Nations (where protesters gathered yesterday), while others report rumors that he’s pitching his tent in the Westchester County town of Bedford, up the street from Martha Stewart—possibly, according to the Huffington Post, on Donald Trump’s estate. (A Trump spokesman denied this). Vincent L. Leibell, the state senator who represents the area, confirmed to ABC that Gadhafi’s delegation had rented property there, and added cowboyishly, “Don’t want to see him in my county or my district. There’s not going to be any welcome mat for him in Bedford.” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, meanwhile, found a hotel near U.N. headquarters, but has reportedly been turned down from two New York banquet halls where he hoped to hold functions.

Gaddafi Pitches Tent in Bedford, But No Sign of Gaddafi—Yet [ABC News]
Gaddafi Can’t Find Place to Sleep in New York [Ynet]
Gaddafi on Donald Trump Estate? [HuffPost]
Earlier: Daybreak: Gadhafi Unwelcome in N.J. Suburb

Daybreak: Germany Won’t Sit for Denial

Ahmadinejad varies his script, a Madoff ‘collaborator,’ and more in the news


• German officials hope other European diplomats will join them in walking out of the U.N. General Assembly if Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust. [Reuters]
• The Associated Press interprets Ahmadinejad’s statement yesterday that “the Holocaust is used as a pretext for the repression of Palestinians” a sign that he’s “back[ing] off” his denial. [AP]
• Tell that to the nine Holocaust survivors who will be reuniting with the U.S. army veterans who liberated them from Bergen-Belsen in upstate New York today. [AP]
• A Jewish philanthropist in California is being sued by the state for “concealing that his investment strategy consisted solely of giving tens of millions of dollars to Madoff.” [JTA]

Sundown: Passenger Protection

Stamps of approval, Spanish hard-liners, and celebrating like an Egyptian


• A cab driver in Montreal is fighting multiple citations that he violated regulations by displaying, among other knickknacks, Jewish items such as mezuzahs in his vehicle; suspiciously, he began getting ticketed “only days after speaking out in the media in 2006 to complain that the taxi bureau was failing to crack down on unlicensed cabs.” [Globe and Mail]
• If you’re looking to imbue your bill-paying with a sense of pride and history, you can now order postage stamps honoring Supreme Court justices including Louis Brandeis and Felix Frankfurter. [USPS]
• Bulgarian diplomat Irina Bokova beat Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosni as the next head of UNESCO, perhaps in part because Hosni previously threatened to “personally burn any Israeli book he found in Egypt’s famed Library of Alexandria,” as Ynet puts it. [Ynet]
• Which may also shed some light on a tale of Rosh Hashanah in Cairo with “the last Jewish women of a vanished society”—apparently there are only ten Jews left in the city, all female.
• Spain has disqualified Ariel University from participating in an architecture competition because the school is located on “occupied territory” in the West Bank. [Ynet]
• An action which, just or not, will likely contribute to the European nation’s reputation for displaying an increasing “acceptance of virulent anti-Jewish attitudes,” as reported by the Anti-Defamation League (although the Spanish National Court has indicted three alleged former Nazi guards). [JPost]

Netanyahu: Start Talks ASAP

Maybe, says Abbas. Now, says Obama.

Netanyahu, Obama, and Abbas at their meeting today.(John Angelillo-Pool/Getty Images)

With expectations set so low for today’s three-way meeting between President Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, what counts as success? Netanyahu said after the session that he thought the important thing was that everyone showed up. “The importance of this meeting was actually its existence—in this case, this common saying says a lot,” he said in a press conference.

He also told reporters ithat the Israelis and the Palestinians agreed that they should start talks again “as soon as possible, with no preconditions.” Abbas, for his part, seemed not quite to agree. In a statement, he said the Palestinians remain committed to the Bush road map, and would only start peace talks if the Israelis would agree to withdraw to 1967 borders. “We also demanded that the Israeli side fulfill its commitments on settlements, including natural growth,” he said.

Which is a little awkward, but no matter—Obama says he’s on it. “It is past time to stop talking about starting negotiations, and time to move forward,” he said, sternly, after talking with both men. He said envoy George Mitchell, whose fruitless trip to the Middle East last week provoked today’s last-minute session among the three leaders at the Waldorf-Astoria, would meet in Washington next week with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators. Hillary Clinton is due to report back on the status of the negotiations by mid-October. Why the rush? Well, he said, because peace isn’t just about the Israelis and the Palestinians. “It’s critical for the world, it is in the interests of the United States,” Obama said. “We are going to work as hard as necessary to accomplish our goals.”

PM: Israel, PA Agreed to Begin Talks Without Preconditions [JPost]
Netanyahu: All Sides Agree Peace Talks Should Start Soon [Ha’aretz]
Obama Calls for an End to Stalling on Mideast Talks [NYT]
Related: Photo Ops [Tablet]

The Fall of Lev Leviev

Economy more than hubris hurt Israeli mogul, MarketWatch says


The titanic fall of Lev Leviev, the Uzbekistan-born Israeli diamond and real estate mogul, gets attention from MarketWatch today. Ranked by Forbes as the world’s 210th richest man just two years ago, Leviev and his diamond mining company, Africa-Israel, are now mired in debt. He was famous for his ego, but it was the economy that felled Leviev, argues writer Amotz Asa-El. A longtime funder of Chabad, Leviev has faced criticism (along with censure) over the years for doing business with Angola, Burma, and apartheid-era South Africa. But that was nothing compared to diving “into the U.S. property market just when the subprime bubble was about to burst” and being heavily invested in Russia “when the war with Georgia chased away foreign investors and depressed local demand.” Leviev’s bad investment luck continues, Asa-El writes: He bought a $70 million spread in the London suburbs, which he’d probably like to unload now, “but for the condition of the British property market.”

How an Israeli King of diamonds overplayed his hand

Diamond Billionaire Takes New York [Forward]

Today’s Sorry

Pets and procrastination


It’s less than a week till Yom Kippur, and we’re still publishing our Daily Sorry, a series of phoned-in atonements for ways you’ve strayed this year. Today’s installment comes from a woman who lost a beloved pet and has put off performing the final rites for far too long. You can listen to it here .

We’d still like to hear from you, too. Call our Sorry Hotline at 718-360-4836, and tell us what you’re sorry for.

Arab States Offer Relations, Flyovers, Travel

If Israel halts settlements, U.S. official says


Here’s another carrot to push Israel toward a settlement freeze: Several Arab states are willing to give Israeli airliners flyover rights, open low-level diplomatic offices in Israel, and end travel restrictions on Israeli cititzens in exchange for halting all settlement construction, according to a report in today’s Washington Times. An unnamed U.S. official told reporter Eli Lake that the offer was conveyed informally to Middle East envoy George Mitchell, although Saudi Arabia has apparently refused to consent to the deal without a viable peace agreement. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is meeting with Obama and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas today at Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Manhattan. And while Netanyahu has agreed to a six-to-nine-month settlement freeze, Lake reports that Israeli officials say that Israel still plans to construct more than 2,500 new housing units in the occupied territories.

EXCLUSIVE: Israel Makes Secret Offer on Settlements [Washington Times]

Glenn Beck Announces Yom Kippur Fast

His is for the Republic, not for redemption.


We were busy last Saturday, and so we failed to notice that Fox News host Glenn Beck chose Rosh Hashanah to declare his latest initiative: a day of Fast and Prayer for the Republic. When, exactly, will this new fast day fall? Conveniently enough for us, on Yom Kippur! In a Twitter post, Beck exhorted his 132,735 followers to “spread the word. Let us walk in the founders steps.”

Luckily, National Jewish Democratic Council spokesman Aaron Keyak spent some time considering Beck’s proposal in his Huffington Post column, and offers three possibilities: that Beck was trying to co-opt the Jews, that Beck was trying to co-opt all of Yom Kippur, or, more plausibly, that Beck just didn’t really notice. “Maybe Beck will be surprised when his Jewish staff doesn’t show up on Monday,” Keyak wrote. “I bet he will be surprised when they take the Fast and Prayer Day for the Republic that seriously.”

But here’s a question Keyak didn’t consider: when Beck invoked “the founders,” was he talking about George Washington and his friends or Abraham and his sons? Because as far as we know, George Washington and Ben Franklin were neither Jews nor given to observing Yom Kippur, and, you know, there wasn’t any Republic to fast for way back 5770 years ago. Mysteries upon mysteries! Anyway, we’ll keep you posted on how the fast parties shape up.

Glenn Beck: The Grinch Who Stole Yom Kippur [HuffPost]

On Tablet Today

The summit, the mikveh, recording the writing life, and memories of Kristol


On the occasion of today’s planned meeting between President Obama, and the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Allison Hoffman looks back at past summits. Our podcast Vox Tablet follows writer C.A. Blomquist to the mikveh for the last step in her conversion to Judaism. Adam Kirsch reviews the “terrific” new collection of essays on writing by columnist Michael Greenberg. Seth Lipsky memorializes the “journalistic sagacity” of the late Irving Kristol. And this blog, The Scroll, remains your source for news and culture updates throughout the day.

Why Is Israel So Upset by Goldstone Report?

Because it’s a loss in the ‘Legitimacy War,’ Princeton prof argues

Goldstone visiting Gaza City in June.(Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images)

Why is Israel reacting with such fervent anger to the Goldstone report? The 575-page paper compiled by South African Jewish jurist and U.N. prosecutor Richard Goldstone, which alleges that Israel committed war crimes in the Gaza War, doesn’t contain much that NGOs like Human Rights Watch hadn’t already reported—and that Israel hadn’t already objected to—argues Richard Falk, a retired Princeton professor and a U.N. monitor in Gaza, in an article being forwarded around the lefty blogosphere. (The article has no clear source, but there’s no indication that it wasn’t written by Falk.) The Goldstone report “added little to what was previously known,” Falk writes. “Arguably, it was more sensitive to Israel’s contentions that Hamas was guilty of war crimes by firing rockets into its territory than earlier reports had been. And in many ways the Goldstone Report endorses the misleading main line of the Israeli narrative by assuming that Israel was acting in self-defense against a terrorist adversary.”

But several things particularly spooked Israel (and the United States) about the report, Falk writes. First, Goldstone is “an eminent international personality who cannot credibly be accused of anti-Israel bias, making it harder to deflect attention from the findings no matter how loud the screaming of ‘foul play.’” Plus, “the unsurprising findings are coupled with strong recommendations” for the Security Council to send Israel (and Hamas) to the International Criminal Court in the Hague if they don’t conduct adequate internal investigations—and could also put Israeli officials at risk for being detained for prosecution or extradition when traveling abroad. What all this leads to, Falk concludes, is a loss for Israel in the “Legitimacy War.” He explains: “Such a war fought on a global political battlefield is what eventually and unexpectedly undermined the apartheid regime in South Africa, and has become much more threatening to the Israeli sense of security than has armed Palestinian resistance.”

Why the Goldstone Report Matters [Mondoweiss]

Daybreak: Mixed Expectations for Summit

Obama says one thing, Peres says another, and more in the news


• The White House has “no grand expectations” about today’s planned meeting between President Barack Obama, Israeli P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. [Reuters]
• Undeterred, Israeli President Shimon Peres is “sure that Netanyahu will take these expectations to their highest.” [Haaretz]
• An editorial criticizes J Street’s decision to invite Salam Al-Marayati to a conference next month, saying the director of Muslim Public Affairs Council is anti-Israel. [Jewish Journal]
• The Young World Zionist Labor Movement has declared a campaign to express solidarity with Iranian student protesters, including a demonstration against the U.N. Assembly this week. [JPost]

Sundown: She’s Been In the Wings Too Long

Borat and Bart, the internet as shtetl, and last Afghani Jew wants a break


• Barbra Streisand, who New York Magazine says entered the mainstream by “smoothing out all her misfit attributes until she seemed almost homogenized: like buttah,” has returned to form with her new album Love is the Answer, which she will promote with a show at her old New York haunt the Village Vanguard on Saturday. [NY Mag]
• Once, Jews operated in a shtetl system, living in small communities of insiders; now, “our physical locations change while the internet has created a sort of virtual community.” [New Voices]
• At a Rosh Hashanah meal, the last remaining Jew in Afghanistan told a reporter from the Los Angeles Times, “Don’t talk about the Taliban, just eat.” [LAT]
• Sacha Baron Cohen will perform the voice of an Israeli tour guide on an upcoming Simpsons episode “that all faiths can come together and be offended by.” [JTA]
The New York Times calls a new biography of Louis Brandeis by Melvin I. Urofsky “long, stately and satisfying.” [NYT]

U.S. Should Shoot Down Israeli Planes

If Israel tries to attack Iran, Brzezinski says

Brzezinski at a conference in April.(Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Does Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served as Jimmy Carter’s former national security adviser, want U.S. planes to shoot down Israeli planes if Israel attempts a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear weapons program? That seems to be what he’s asking for in a interview with Gerald Posner published on The Daily Beast.

When asked how aggressive the Obama administration should be in forestalling an Israeli attack, Brzezinski reminded Posner that the U.S. still controls Iraqi air space and added, just to be clear, “If they fly over, you go up and confront them. They have the choice of turning back or not. No one wishes for this but it could be a Liberty in reverse.” By “Liberty,” Brzezinski was referring to the incident in which Israeli jets and torpedo boats hit the USS Liberty in international waters during the Six-Day War in 1967. Israel said it was an accident, the result of friendly fire. Brzezinski, unless he chooses his analogies carelessly, seems to think otherwise.

How Obama Flubbed His Missile Message [Daily Beast]

Leonard Cohen Makes the Political Personal

With concert in Israel this week, after recovering from food poisoning

Leonard Cohen at the Nice Jass Festival in France in the summer of 2008.(Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images)

During a concert in Spain on Friday, Leonard Cohen collapsed onstage and was briefly hospitalized for food poisoning. This bout with illness, however, is not going to stop the 75-year-old icon from performing in Tel Aviv this Thursday as planned. The Jerusalem Post has taken the opportunity to look back at Cohen’s involvement with Israel, coming to the conclusion that “the singer-songwriter-poet-novelist-monk’s apolitical platform is marked by enough mystique and individualism to keep him from having to wave any specific flag, perhaps even allowing the show to serve as a true ‘Concert for Reconciliation, Tolerance and Peace,’ as it has been billed.”

On the other hand, the article presents some conflicting evidence. In 1973, Cohen “dropped everything to participate in the Yom Kippur War” as an entertainer. He was criticized for his decision to play in Israel, and his detractors were not placated by his offer to play a second show in Ramallah a few days afterward. And, says the Post, “Cohen’s oft-uniformed ‘Field Commander Cohen’ persona, which has informed several works and inspired the title of a 1979 concert tour, grew out of his posturing as a guerrilla of verse, a rogue revolutionary who champions the cause of the underdog.” Of course, when it comes to Israel and the Palestinians it is increasingly unclear who fits that designation.

Rather than being “apolitical,” Cohen’s history suggests that he acts with an artist’s cautious engagement toward politics. The proceeds from his show in Israel will be going to his own new fund dedicated to “little-known but groundbreaking grassroots initiatives,” as a way to avoid supporting either a specifically Israeli or Palestinian cause. Despite his financial troubles, Cohen could not bring himself to reap profits from the performance, saying “I just can’t take any money out. I want it to stay there.”

Leonard Cohen Collapses on Stage During Spanish Concert [Times of London]
Leonard Cohen’s Israel Show Set to Go Ahead Despite his Collapse in Spain [JPost]
Nothing on his Tongue but ‘Hallelujah’ [JPost]

Pro-Israel Ad Campaign on ‘NYT’ Website?

Refutes Gaza War criticisms UPDATED


While reading about tomorrow’s scheduled meeting between Barack Obama, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Mahmoud Abbas, on the New York Times website last night, we were surprised to find a black, white, and orange banner ad that read, simply, “Gaza. Hamas. Conflict. Facts!” Clicking through brought us to the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s web site, which now features a special “Gaza Facts” section to rebut allegations of war crimes made in the United Nations report released last week.

The banner ads seem to have since disappeared, but Google Ads is still promoting the link on the Times site, including on the page for a story from Saturday headlined “Lack of Progress in Mideast Defies Obama’s Hopes.” Ironic, no? Israeli Foreign Ministry officials in New York, Washington, and Tel Aviv said they weren’t aware of the ad campaign and couldn’t comment on whether it was really meant to coincide with this week’s efforts at getting peace negotiations back on track.

UPDATE: Joel Lion, the spokesman at the Israeli consulate in New York, says the ads—which are also running on the website of NPR, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post—are part of an international campaign orchestrated by the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem in response to the Goldstone Report. Ads are running on news sites in France, Slovakia, Slovenia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, all members of the U.N.’s Human Rights Council, which commissioned the report. It is, Lion said, the first time such a coordinated effort has been attempted. “The rationale is to expose our messages to a wider public, using new media,” Lion explained.

Gaza Facts – The Israeli Perspective [Ministry of Foreign Affairs]

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