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Daybreak: Who to Believe?

Is Ahmadinejad a Jew? Plus more questions from the news.

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The Washington Times spoke with three anonymous officials who said that President Obama agreed to maintain a ongoing understanding with Israel that exempts the nation from revealing its nuclear weapons. [WT]
• In a slightly more dubious exposé, the British Daily Telegraph reported that Iranian President Ahmadinejad has Jewish roots, based on a former family name. [Telegraph]
• Rival paper The Guardian attempts to debunk the idea with a different interpretation of the name. [Guardian]
• Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad agreed to allow inspectors into his country’s nuclear facilities. [NYT]
• Marek Edelman, a leader in the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto revolt who received the French Legion of Honor and Poland’s Order of the White Eagle, died last week at age 90. [AP]

Sundown: Buy Me Some Peanuts and Falafel

Plus Jewish hogs, unwelcome visitors, and another poll

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• Former Knesset chef Ouri Nidam is now a purveyor of kosher food at Yankee Stadium; he knows more about cholent than he does about baseball’s biggest stars, who he has failed to recognize on at least one occasion. [Haaretz]
• At the risk of hurting our brains with more poll results, Gallup reveals that American Jews support President Obama in greater numbers than members of other religions. [JTA]
• Communities in Columbia, Missouri, geared up for a visit from the lovely folks of Westboro Baptist Church, who will pass through town today bearing their anti-Semitic, anti-gay messages. [KBIA]
• Short-sighted bandits have hacked up palm trees in an Israeli national forest to make lulavim for Sukkot, destroying the trees for future holiday use. [JPost]
• Tom Wolfe might be startled to learn that a new Jewish motorcycle gang, the Hillel’s Angels, is touring Germany in honor of the anniversary of the nation’s unification. [AFP]

Will Arabs, Jews Unite Against Iran?

One blogger theorizes yes

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Blogger Jack Midknight sees a possible silver lining for the ever-troubled Middle East. If the enemy of my enemy is my friend, he points out, there’s good news in the fact that, as he says, “Arabs fear a nuclear armed Iran, far more than the Jews of Israel.”

Midknight (who is, presumably, writing under a pseudonym and is identified on Gather.com with little more than his assertion that “I still wouldn’t join an organization that would have me as a member”) cites at least one compelling piece of evidence: “Writing in the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi, Abdel-Beri Atwan, the editor, said with recent developments ‘the Arab regimes, and the gulf ones in particular, will find themselves part of a new alliance against Iran alongside Israel.’”

While he maintains a smidgen of skepticism—“I can’t believe the possible scenarios currently unfolding will lead to respect for the Jews in any Arab country”—even his most cautious optimism (“the very fact many Arabs are now considering Israel as their best hope for stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons seems to indicate, at the very least, in the short term, Arabs and Jews could become partners in ways ancient feuds would not have allowed in the past”) stems from a frightening proposition: “let’s hope Israel is ready to assume the role some Arabs now consider vital, and will attack Iran within a matter of weeks.”

Will Iran Solve the Arab-Jewish Problem? [Gather]

Goldstone Report Won’t Go to Security Council

But it might mean the end of limited Israel wars

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Goldstone at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday.(Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images)

The Palestinian delegation to the United Nations Human Rights Council has stopped its attempt to forward the controversial Goldstone Report—which claimed Israel was guilty of war crimes in its assault on Gaza last winter—to the Security Council. It has done so at the behest of the Obama administration, which warned the delegation that such efforts could derail peace negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. But it seems as if Benjamin Netanyahu’s office was responsible for egging on the White House—or at least leading the PR campaign against the Palestinian initiative: Netanyahu is quoted in The New York Times saying that any Security Council action on Goldstone would “strike a fatal blow to the peace process, because Israel will no longer be able to take additional steps and take risks for peace if its right to self-defense is denied.”

Whatever legal ramifications ensue from the Goldstone Report, Yossi Klein Halevi argues in The New Republic that its very composition and global reception “may well mark the end of Israel’s limited wars against terrorist groups. Israel cannot afford to continue to be drawn into mini-wars against terrorists hiding behind their own civilians to attack Israeli civilians, given that each such conflict inexorably draws the Jewish state one step closer toward pariah status. Limited victories on the battlefield are being turned into major defeats in the arena of world opinion.”

Palestinians Halt Push on War Report [NYT]
The Goldstone Factor [TNR]

On Tablet Today

Food, shelter, cinema, and time

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Tablet Magazine’s Sukkot extravaganza continues, with Samuel M. Gruber’s report on an award-winning student-designed structure at Wesleyan University, and a special holiday salad courtesy of star chef Christopher Lee, brought to you by our own Marissa Brostoff and Liel Leibovitz. Liel’s also got an enraptured take on A Serious Man, the new film from the Coen brothers. David B. Green looks at the Arab Israeli population nine years after riots set off the second intifada. And more, here on The Scroll.

Gilad Shalit Is Alive

Video shows captured soldier looking healthy

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(NYTimes.com)

The Israeli government today released a video of captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, captured more than three years ago by Hamas, holding a Palestinian newspaper dated September 14 and looking healthy and calm, if thin. This proof of his wellbeing was released in an Egyptian- and German-mediated deal between Israel and Hamas that also saw the release of 19 female Palestinians held in Israeli jails, plus one more to be released later today. After senior government officials viewed the tape, it was flown by helicopter to the Shalit family, in Northern Israel, who then authorized its public release. “I have been hoping and waiting for the day of my release for a long time,” he says in the video. “I hope the current government under Binyamin Netanyahu will not waste the chance to finalize a deal, and I will therefore be able to finally have my dream come true and be released.”

Video Shows Captive Israeli Soldier in Good Health [NYT]
Watch New Schalit Video: ‘I Yearn to See My Family Again’ [JPost]
Gilad Shalit in Video: I Feel Healthy, Being Treated Well [Haaretz]

New Novel Tells Little-Known Palmach History

Rescuing refugees from a Mandate-era detention camp

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Author Anita Diamant talked to CNN.com about her new novel, Day After Night, which tells the story of four women freed in 1945 from a detention camp in the town of Atlit, near Haifa, during British Mandate Palestine by members of the Palmach, the pre-state Jewish fighting force. While Diamant’s characters are fictional (they are a “Polish partisan fighter, a Parisian woman who was forced into prostitution, a Dutch Jew who was in hiding, and a concentration camp survivor,” according to CNN’s reporter), the camp, which held the illegal refugees, is not. The British had converted a military base to a detention camp because the number of refugees fleeing from Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East to Palestine far exceeded the newcomer quota that the British had instated.

Diamant says the Palmach’s role in Atlit is unfamiliar to many history buffs, as it’s overshadowed by other circumstances. “After this they started bombing train tracks and doing more overt military resistance to the British occupation, as it was known then. Part of the reason we don’t know about it is that I think the Holocaust is still such a huge shadow, and it’s still something we focus on. This is a relatively tender interlude. It’s not the founding of the state, and it’s not the Holocaust.”

Day After Night was published last month.

A Post-Holocaust Tale of Freedom Deferred [CNN]

Daybreak: Boycott Ukraine!

Plus Disraeli rocks, taking Iran seriously, and more in the news

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• An op-ed calls for a boycott on Ukraine for institutionalized anti-Semitism. [Haaretz]
• A Jewish student attended a dinner with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, where she was reminded that “behind what could be perceived as a charming attitude lurks a dangerous man with a deadly ideology.” [NYDN]
• Meanwhile, deniers aside, Holocaust survivors still suffer from anxiety and sleep problems, says a new study in the British Journal of Psychiatry. [JPost]
• And some in Israel feel reassured that President Obama and other Western leaders are taking the Iran threat seriously as Geneva talks conclude. [WP]
• In a new Daily Beast column, fashionisto Simon Doonan praises the “Obama-cool” Benjamin Disraeli (subject of a Nextbook Press book), who sassily dressed down haters: “Yes, I am a Jew and when the ancestors of the right honorable gentleman were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were priests in the temple of Solomon.” [Daily Beast]

Sundown: Big Sukkah Judaism

Holiday traffic, Tweet Streets, and the ‘H’ word

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• Using Sukkot as an opportunity to “widen our communal hut,” the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent announced that it will publish marriage announcements for gay couples, just a week after Reform leader Rabbi David Saperstein testified against discrimination based on sexual orientation. [JE]
• Considering reactions to Congressman Alan Grayson’s use of the word in reference to the health care crisis, a question: “[I]s there a difference between talking about the Holocaust and talking about a generic, lower-case ‘holocaust?’” [Politico]
• After a dearth of Jews on the road during Yom Kippur had a startlingly positive effect on traffic in L.A., a blogger hopes that “Presbyterians do their part by discovering some new driving-light holidays of their own.” [NYT]
• A Dutch website is selling the right to have a street in a Palestinian refugee camp named after your twitter account and donating the proceeds to an after-school program for children there; residents report a mysterious inability to say anything in more than 140 characters. [Wired]
• Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a new grandpa. [Arutz 7]

Shake Your Lulav at the Airport

But no Polaroid pictures at the checkpoint, thanks

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Good news for anyone planning on traveling for Sukkot: starting today, the Transportation Security Administration isn’t going to stop you shaking your lulav or waving your etrog, wherever you please.

From the TSA press release announcing the start of a special travel period lasting through October 13:

Observant Jewish travelers may carry four plants—a palm branch, myrtle twigs, willow twigs, and a citron—in airports and through security checkpoints. These plants are religious articles and may be carried either separately or as a bundle. Jewish travelers may be observed in prayer, shaking the bundle of plants in six directions.

The workforce should note that TSA’s screening procedures do not prohibit the carrying of such agricultural items through the airport or security checkpoints, or on airplanes. These plants are not on TSA’s Prohibited Items List. And, as always, TSA is committed to treating all passengers, including passengers who may be observing Sukkot, with respect and dignity during the screening process.

No word yet on whether you can make it through security with one of these.

Religious Holiday of Sukkot [TSA]

Is Israel at Risk

Of joining the Third World?

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The most important takeaway from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics’ latest set of findings on Israel’s socioeconomic condition is one well articulated by Yuval Elbashan, the deputy director of Yedid, a national network of economic advice centers for Israeli citizens. Quoted in Nathan Jeffay’s Forward article on the report, which is due out later this month and reportedly offers an ominous appraisal of the Israeli economy, Elbashan correlated the precipitous rise in those Israeli adults “at risk” of poverty, now estimated at about 30 percent of the entire population, with the gradual disappearance of the country’s middle class. “When Israel was a traditional welfare state until 1984 or 1985,” Elbashan told Jeffay, “15 percent to 20 percent of people considered themselves poor, 60 percent to 70 percent middle class and others the upper part of society. When you see more people ‘at risk’ of poverty, it means that people from the middle class are becoming similar in character—in living from day to day and not saving—to the poor.” And that means Israel’s First World economy—born largely of a boom in technology industries and the influx of venture capital, about which George Gilder wrote lucidly for the last issue of City Journal—is at risk of returning to a Third World standard of living.

New Israeli Data Pointing Toward An Erosion of The Middle Class [Forward]

‘Sesame Street’ for Palestinians

Not quite sweeping the clouds away

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The Shara’a Simsim characters Karim (green) and Haneen at a Palestinian school in March.(NYTimes.com)

A New York Times Magazine article exploring production of Shara’a Simsim, the Palestinian version of Sesame Street, reveals a gentler microcosm of the strife that plagues the region. According to executives from the umbrella studio, Sesame Workshop, the difficulty in striking the mandated balance between kid-friendly “core values” and realistic portrayals of local life for Palestinians is “rivaled only by Kosovo.”

This trouble manifests most overtly in the show’s struggle to stay apolitical, which “few of the writers seemed to think…made sense in a Palestinian context.” In fact, some of their early ideas involve more politics than the nightly news: a muppet seeking refuge from bats representing Israeli war planes, a dove being shot down, a poster showing children dismantling the separation wall between the Israeli and Palestinian territories (ditched, in part, because a Sesame exec ruled that “giving a 3-year-old a hammer is something we wouldn’t show”).

The program came about after a protracted and doomed effort to make a version that would incorporate both Israelis and Palestinians, each with their own streets, in order to “emulate the philosophy of Sesame Street, to portray the world they wished for, more than the world that was.” The problem with that, of course, is that both sides wished for different worlds. “We are looking for a divorce from the Israelis,” said Shara’a executive producer Daoud Kuttab, “not a marriage.” Optimism may be one thing, but Kuttab couldn’t suffer the irony of a show portraying Arabs and Israelis dropping in on each other, when, as the NYT Mag says, “in real life, the Israeli production staff refused to travel to Ramallah even for informal visits.”

In any case, the show, which represents a new frontier in Palestinian children’s programming, has challenged an understandably serious populace to lighten up. One producer recalls complaints from writers about a game show spoof: “They’ll say, ‘Oh, the way he’s dressed doesn’t reflect the area he’s from.’…But for God’s sake, it’s a rooster doing ‘Who Wants to Win a Balloon?’!”

Can the Muppets Make Friends in Ramallah? [NYT Mag]
Previously: After 20 Years, a New ‘Shalom Sesame’

Israel Tells Foreign Visitors to Stay in West Bank

If they’re of Arab descent, ‘Forward’ says

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The Forward has a story on an Israeli policy, enacted earlier this year, in which visitors with a declared intention to visit the West Bank are given a stamp on their passport that prevents them from entering Israel proper. Catch is, the only people who’ve reported receiving the stamp—at least among American travelers—are those of Arab descent (and a few non-Arab activists from the International Solidarity Movement). After months of petitioning on the part of Arab American organizations, a State Department spokesman announced in August that “we have made it known to the Israeli government that we expect all American citizens to be treated the same regardless of national origin, and these kinds of restrictions we consider unacceptable.” Israel has responded, the Forward reports, that “visiting the West Bank does not necessarily provide the right to visit Israel and that Israel does not have to allow foreign nationals wishing to visit the Palestinian Authority to go through its territory and its airport”—though why this would apply only to ethnically Arab visitors is not addressed.

Restricted: Visas Good for West Bank Only [Forward]

New York, You Deserve Better

But Natalie Portman shines in new film

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We happened to catch a screening last night of New York, I Love You, the new anthology movie coming out later this month from the producers of Paris, je t’aime, and, well, we can’t say we loved it. For one thing, it’s upsetting to see characters in a movie light up inside a bar, something real New Yorkers haven’t been able to do in years (or not, at least, without getting scolded for trying). For another, we can’t say that watching a teenage boy screw his paraplegic prom date—who has suspended herself from a tree in Central Park for the purpose, after leaving the party at Tavern on the Green—bears any resemblance to anything we’ve ever heard of happening in real life. (But thanks for the idea, Brett Ratner!)

Thankfully, the brief segment starring Natalie Portman as a Hasidic diamond broker—and bride-to-be—who has a brief romantic fantasy about the Jain diamond merchant she deals with in Midtown is one of the few that made sense, and that reflected something real about the city. (It makes a difference that the director, Mira Nair, actually lives in New York.) Plus, Portman dresses up both as a Satmar bride, and a Bollywood one—though we’ve seen that trick before. She may wind up looking roughly like she always does on-screen—that is to say, gorgeous—but paired with Slumdog Millionaire star Irrfan Khan, she manages to open a little window into the awkwardness of reconciling the cloistered insularity of the Hasidic world with the cosmopolitan noise of the New York we love.

New York I Love You [Web site]

Previously: Extra Specialist

Tablet Today

The trappings of Sukkot, and a Scandinavian Yom Kippur

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In preparation for next week’s holiday, Tablet Magazine offers a primer on Sukkot, Charles and Julian Boxenbaum present an inspired innovation on the traditional huts, and Mimi Sheraton explores the etrog, a citrus fruit that is one of the major symbols of the festival. Plus, Etgar Keret discovers a surprising affinity for the holiest of High Holidays in Sweden. And The Scroll is here as ever to update you throughout the day.

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