J Street Conference Marks Shift

Group deserves credit for moving U.S. views on Israel, Alterman says in ‘NYT’


The left-leaning Israel lobby J Street will have accomplished something simply by holding a large national conference in Washington this month, Nation columnist Eric Alterman argues in a New York Times op-ed today. “Given the reluctance of any American Jewish organization to disagree in public with Israel in the past, the meeting can only be viewed as uncharted territory for organized American Jewry,” Alterman writes. That’s a bit of an overstatement—groups from the vibrant Peace Now of the 1980s to today’s Progressive Jewish Alliance have been doing just that—but J Street may indeed be the first to position its mix of support for and criticism of Israel as representing the mainstream American Jewish view. If President Barack Obama succeeds in pushing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to halt settlement expansion and negotiate with the Palestinian Authority, Alterman concludes, the victory will be partly J Street’s.

Voices From the Wilderness [NYT]

U.N. Debates Goldstone Report

And Fatah says government will fall if report isn’t approved


The Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council is meeting today to debate whether to adopt the conclusions of last month’s controversial Goldstone report on the Gaza war—including its proposal to refer allegations of war crimes on the part of both the Israelis and Hamas to the International Criminal Court. But what started out as a referendum on Israel is increasingly looking like a test of how far the international community is prepared to go to protect the Fatah-led Palestinian government.

Originally, the Palestinians—under pressure from the Americans—indicated they were prepared to drop the report altogether in the interest of restarting peace negotiations. But after petitions started circulating calling for president Mahmoud Abbas to step down over the episode, Fatah is reportedly telling other countries that their government will fall if they can’t get the report adopted in Geneva and prove they can score political points against Israel on the international stage. The Israelis, of course, aren’t going to risk a compromise on the report to give cover to a Palestinian executive that so far has been willing to negotiate in good faith: Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Aharon Leshno-Yaar, said Israel will interpret any action by the council as “Israel bashing.”

U.N. Says Israel, Palestinians Committed War Crimes [AP]
PA: Abbas Gov’t Will Fall if Goldstone Report Not Adopted [Haaretz]
Related: Report Card [Tablet]

Turkish TV Depicts IDF as Bloodthirsty

Portrayal in soap opera set during Gaza War comes as bilateral relationship struggles


At a time when bilateral relations between Israel and Turkey have reached a nadir, a Turkish television show called Ayrilik (Farewell), a nighttime soap set during last winter’s Israeli assault on Gaza, has provoked more tension by depicting the IDF as a “murderous, bloodthirsty army,” according to Ynet. In one scene, an Israeli soldier kicks the body of a Palestinian youth as the kid’s mother runs to embrace the corpse. In another, an Israeli corners a Palestinian girl on a Gaza street and shoots her coldly in the chest, waiting to watch the blood run out of her wound before exiting the scene. (Snippets of the show are available on YouTube here.)

According to the series’ website, Ayrilik “brings to life the bleeding wound of Palestine,” and needless to say, the Israeli government is incensed. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman called the Turkish ambassador in Israel to a meeting with high-ranking Israeli officials, and one of his deputies, Naor Gilon, told the envoy, “This kind of incitement is likely to lead to physical harm being done to Jews and Israelis who arrive in Turkey as tourists.” Lieberman went further, accusing the Turkish government—the show runs on a state-owned television network—of being complicit in an incitement to anti-Semitic violence.

Meanwhile, yesterday Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the “conscience of our people” impelled him to exclude Israel from joint war game exercises. “I had to be the voice that expresses the existence of my people,” Erdogan said in an interview with the al-Arabiya new channel in Dubai, “and my people were rejecting Israel’s participation.”

Turkish TV Show Has IDF Soldiers ‘Killing’ Palestinian Kids [Ynet]
Erdogan: My People Rejected Israel’s Participation [Ynet]

Today on Tablet

Ultra-Orthodox Jews on film and the adventurous tale behind a famous tune


Allison Hoffman looks back at the history of Hasidic film characters from Molly Picon to Natalie Portman. Eddy Portnoy fills us in on Naphtali Imber, a hard-drinking mystic, poet, and adventurer who penned “Hatikvah,” Israel’s national anthem. And, of course, much more to come here on The Scroll.

Garden Gnomes Give ‘Heil Hitler’ Salute

In Germany, of course—but ironically, their creator says


German investigators determined in July that a golden garden gnome giving the Heil Hitler salute was not a breach of German law, because, as its creator artist Ottmar Hörl argued, “Portraying the German ‘master race’ as garden gnomes was an ironic gesture.” Well, Hörl and his gnomes are back, this time en masse: 1,250 of the saluting creatures are on display in a public square once used for Nazi rallies in Straubing, Bavaria. The London Times credits the German popularity of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds and the theatrical version of The Producers for opening the people’s minds to the use of Nazi symbols to ridicule Hitler, rather than glorify him. But Hörl better hope that life doesn’t imitate art—it’s still illegal for humans to make that infamous gesture. Meanwhile, the people with the most cause for complaint might be the garden gnome loving community; it’ll be hard for anyone who’s seen the sinister display to look at the munchkins with the same affection.

Artist Ottmar Hörl Puts ‘Nazi’ Gnomes on Display [Times of London]

Daybreak: ‘The Situation Has Arguably Regressed’

‘Wash. Post’ on likelihood of peace talks, plus fundraisers, Wasserstein, and more in the news


• According to the Washington Post, “When Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Mitchell report to the White House next week on the administration’s goal of restarting the peace talks, they will be describing a situation that has arguably regressed”; the paper tries to explain why peace between Israelis and Palestinians is as far off as ever. [WP]
• The Zionist Organization of America filed a complaint against a Muslim group at University of California, Irvine, accusing it of raising money for Hamas at a campus event; the school has turned the case over to the U.S. Justice Department. [AP]
• A Turkish TV producer stumbles to explain that his show—which, says the Jerusalem Post, depicts such scenes as “IDF soldiers…killing a baby and a young girl, and lining up Palestinians to be shot before a firing squad”—“isn’t about Israeli soldiers…We love the Israeli people.” [JPost]
• On a visit to the area, Mia Farrow says children in Gaza “appear traumatized” and “deserve better.” [AFP]
• New York investment banker Bruce Wasserstein, also the owner of New York magazine and brother of the late playwright Wendy Wasserstein, died yesterday at 61. [NYT]

Sundown: Fighting in the War Room

Security Council debates, boos for Condoleezza, and kosher candy


• All went as expected at the U.N. Security Council’s Goldstone Report debate today: the Palestinian foreign minister wants the council to endorse it, his Israeli counterpart says it “favors and legitimizes terrorism.” [NYT]
• In a report released this week, Israeli human rights groups called on Israel to release or charge 335 Palestinians being held in administrative detention; CNN has an interview with a 16-year-old girl who was held by the government for seven months without charge or trial. [CNN]
• One congregant at a Minnesota synagogue isn’t happy Condoleezza Rice has been invited to speak there: “Beth El is implicitly condoning her deeply immoral actions while in office,” he writes in the local paper [The Seminal]
• Tootsie Rolls and Gatorade will soon be kosher.[Yeshiva World]

Wexler Quits Congress to Campaign for Peace

Florida Dem to head Center for Middle East Peace and Economic Cooperation


This morning, Robert Wexler, the seven-term Democratic congressman from Boca Raton, announced that he’s resigning his seat to take over the Center for Middle East Peace and Economic Cooperation, a think-tank founded by Slim-Fast billionaire (and powerhouse Democratic donor) Daniel Abraham. Wexler, who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was among Obama’s earliest and fiercest Jewish backers, said in his official statement that he regrets not being able to finish out his term but made the move now because “there is no time to waste” on Middle East peace. “I am convinced that now is the time for me to engage on these issues on a full time basis,” he said.

Naturally, everyone in Washington—on both sides of the aisle—is wondering what’s really going on. It’s hard to imagine that Abraham would have appointed Wexler, and done it in such a high-profile way, if there were some dire scandal in the offing. And Wexler told the Associated Press that he is absolutely, definitely “not under any investigation. My marriage is intact. My health is good and, thank God, the health of my family is good.” The early spin, according to Politico’s Laura Rozen, was that Wexler wanted a pay bump to help out with his kids’ college tuition. Meanwhile, Spencer Ackerman at the Washington Independent floated some blind quotes suggesting that being out of government allows Wexler greater flexibility in pushing Obama’s agenda with the Israeli government, and in the American Jewish community. Which is a nice idea because, well, there’s always next year’s Nobel to think about.

Congressman Wexler to Accept Position as President of Center for Middle East Peace []

Catholics Not Amused By Sarah Silverman’s Message to Pope

Of course, she’s just as mean to Jews


Sarah Silverman released a new video over the weekend in which she proposes that the pope sell the Vatican in order to make enough dough to end world hunger. “You preach to live humbly, and I totally agree,” she says, addressing the pontiff in her typical faux-coy manner. “So now maybe it’s time to move out of your house that is a city. On an ego level alone you will be the biggest hero in the history of ever, and by the way—any involvement in the Holocaust: Bygones.” Even greater incentive? Such largesse would lead to “crazy pussy. I don’t mean literally. That may not be your cup of tea.”

Predictably, stodgy viewers found Silverman’s approach offensive (come on, people—“house that is a city”—is sheer! comic! gold!). Among the scolds is Catholic League president Bill Donohue, quoted in an article in America, a Catholic weekly. He says Silverman is being anti-Catholic and that her “filthy diatribe would never be allowed if the chosen target were the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem and the state of Israel.” Really? Donohue’s obviously not following the comedian on Twitter, where she spares nobody, least of all her own kind, from insult. To wit: “Saw A Serious Man last night — a disgusting yet accuate portrait of us grossy jews down to, like our thicker-ish saliva.”

Sarah Silverman: Sell the Vatican? [America]

Fayyad: No ‘Mickey Mouse State’

Says talks will remain suspends if Israel’s offers are too limited

Fayyad speaking near Nablus last week.(Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP/Getty Images)

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said that he won’t accept a “Mickey Mouse state,” if that’s what Israel has in mind for Palestine. Fayyad is the author of an ambitious plan to create a de facto Palestinian state in the next two years, and his reputation as a technocrat and reformist is strong in both the West Bank and in Israel. (Shimon Peres has called him the “Ben Gurion of Palestine.”) But he now says that what would be offered in a potential Israeli peace plan “looks like it would not come close to what we have in mind.” Previously, Fayyad had been more conciliatory about Netanyahu’s demands—once telling Haaretz, for instance, that he had no real opinion on whether Israel should be designated a “Jewish state,” one of Netanyahu’s preconditions for proceeding with peace talks. But since Israel has come out against Fayyad’s proposal to create the all fundamentals of a Palestinian state—infrastructure, independent security forces, foreign investment—in anticipation of actual political statehood, he’s grown grumpier.

Fayyad to Obama: Tell Israel no Mickey Mouse State [Reuters]

Why Is the Right Getting Away With Hitler Analogies?

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

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? []

Oren Still Undecided on J Street Conference

‘Forward’ reports that ambassador is still considering invitation


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


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


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 []

Daybreak: Agriprocessors Trial Begins

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


•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]

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