Sundown: Mother Tongue

Pundit love, school apartheid, and Zappa’s birthright


• A new study out of Haifa University says that the more love for Israel you have in your heart, the less of an accent you will have when speaking Hebrew. [Haaretz]
• Last night, the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, had his car pummeled with stones by ultra-Orthodox protesters. [JPost]
• Jon Stewart is “a staunch liberal, but he’s a thoughtful liberal”; thus, neoconservatives enjoy sparring with him on his show. [NY Mag]
• The Israeli Supreme Court ordered an end to policies at a school in a West Bank settlement that segregated Ashkenzi and Sephardic students, including separate entrances, classrooms, and recess times. [Ynet]
• Michael Wrublewski, an Australian son of Holocaust survivors “best known as the man who resuscitated basketball in Sydney,” threw a huge party celebrating his life after finding out he has terminal cancer. [JTA]
• Back in 1979, Frank Zappa was criticized by the ADL for his song parodying Barbra Streisand, “Jewish Princess.” Says former tourmate Napoleon Murphy Brock, “Zappa was the child of southern Italian, Syrian-Greek immigrants with Jewish roots. He had a right to create such texts.” [Spiegel]

Fatah Conference Ends

Issues broadsides on Israel, Hamas

Abbas at the opening of the conference.(Thaer Ganaim/PPO via Getty Images)

At Fatah’s sixth General Assembly last week—the first the political party has held without its founder, Yasser Arafat—Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that he will not negotiate a peace deal with Israel until the Netanyahu government accepts the two-state solution (something Netanyahu appeared to do at his Bar-Ilan speech last month) and halts construction on all Israeli settlements (something the Obama administration has been pressuring Israel to do for six months). Abbas also reaffirmed the Palestinian right to “resistance,” which he clarified should not take the form of terrorism. He accused Israel of conducting an “ethnic cleansing” program in Jerusalem to void that city of its centuries-old Arab character (Fatah adopted a position paper arguing for the incorporation of all of Jerusalem into a future Palestine), and, once again, refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. However, earning just as much, if not more, censure than Israel at the conference halls and public squares of Bethlehem, where the General Assembly occurred, was Hamas—Fatah’s main rival for power in the West Bank and Gaza. Abbas accused his enemy party, which prohibited 400 Fatah delegates from leaving Gaza to attend the convention, of being responsible for the giant breach in Palestinian politics and of murdering opposition figures. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman—not exactly a catalyst to happy Arab-Israeli relations—said the outcome of the Fatah convention “bur[ied] any chance” of an Arab-Israeli peace accord in the near future.

Abbas: Popular Resistance to Go On [JPost]
Lieberman: Fatah Platform Buries Chance for Peace Deal [Haaretz]

Wretched Rivers Roast

Joan was the only highlight of her Comedy Central special

Reiner and Rivers at the roast.(Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Roast of Joan Rivers Sun, Aug 9 10pm / 9c
Joan Rivers – Disgusted, Disappointed and Appalled
Live Twitter Roast Roast Master Kathy Griffin Zombie Paparazzi Game

The Comedy Central Roast of Joan Rivers, which aired last night, was a bomb filled with deadly gay jokes and Madoff references, except for Carl Reiner, who “was adorable trotting out curse words he’d never had the freedom or chutzpah to use on national television before,” reports the A.V. Club’s Nathan Rabin in a review today. Apparently, Reiner called the septuagenarian a “cunt”; Rivers, expressing her mock disgust for such “vulgar” language, excoriated him to save words like that “for home when the synagogue calls for money.” In another clip from the red carpet, Rivers chose Mel Gibson as her favorite Nazi and clucked her tongue at Barbra Streisand for marrying a non-Jew. Perhaps when you’ve spent 40 years mocking yourself, you’re destined to wield the sharpest sword at your own roast.

Comedy Central Roast of Joan Rivers [A.V. Club]

Joshua Fattal, Detained Hiker and Brooklyn Yeshiva Student

Same name, different men—despite what the blogosphere is saying


One of the three American hikers who’ve been detained in Iran since July 31 shares a name with a Brooklyn yeshiva student, leading to a mix-up that’s been spreading around the internet. Last weekend, the conservative political blog Maggie’s Notebook claimed that Joshua Fattal, the detained hiker, “is a resident of Eugene, Oregon, and a junior at the Yeshivah of Flatbush in Brooklyn, NY, according to his bio at The Jewish Week where he is a contributor.” Of course, it’s highly improbable that a 27-year-old Oregonian would be commuting to an Orthodox high school in Brooklyn and writing for the teen supplement of a New York Jewish paper—and, in fact it’s not true. They’re two different people, with the same name. “We have a case of mistaken identity,” said Shira Vickar-Fox, who edits the Jewish Week’s Fresh Ink for Teens. “The Joshua Fattal in Iran is not the one who writes for our publication.” A secretary at Yeshivah of Flatbush, who would not give her name or any additional information about Fattal, concurred that “it’s not our student.”

Still, the story has been picked up by websites from Lebanon’s Al-Manar TV to the white supremacist Vanguard News Network. Like the Iranian government, which has questioned whether the hikers were in fact spies, these news organizations have a vested interest in implying that they were there not there as tourists. But an agenda doesn’t always drive the confusion: this one has has even made it into the Jewish blogosphere.

Crazed Health-Reform Opponents

See Nazis and ‘death panels,’ blame Zeke Emanuel


Traditionally, if you were going to pick an Emanuel brother to hate, you’d most likely pick either Rahm—known variously as the White House chief of staff, Machiavellian enforcer, and “Undersecretary for Go Fuck Yourself”—or Ari, the Hollywood superagent who inspired Jeremy Piven’s supremely arrogant, supremely successful Entourage character. But now, thanks to the rapid descent of the health care debate into the netherworld of Nazi references and Commie jokes, the latest hot target for conservative activists is the eldest brother, Ezekiel, a physician and doctorate in political philosophy who is advising the Obama Administration on health-care policy.

Last week, Minnesota Republican Rep. Michelle Bachmann attacked Ezekiel Emanuel in a floor speech, citing a New YorkPost columnist’s interpretation of his writings about rationalizing the distribution of health care to argue that under the Democrats’ healthcare plan, elderly or disabled patients like her senile father-in-law would be stiffed medical care. On Friday, Sarah Palin—making the most of her unemployment—posted an item on Facebook inflating Bachmann’s critique into an attack on Emanuel’s “Orwellian thinking” and accusing Obama of planning to convene “death panels” of bureaucrats who will decide, essentially, who shall live and who shall die. It’s not really clear how far the Nazi trope will go—Mengele references are already circulating in the outer reaches of the Free Republican universe, after surfacing, perhaps predictably, on the blog of perennial presidential candidate (and anti-Semitic crank) Lyndon LaRouche—but if Zeke is anything like his brothers, it’s not likely to keep him up at night. After all, even actual torture doesn’t scare him: “I’ve had various episodes where people have not liked what I said and tried to put the thumb screws to me to shut me up,” he told The New York Times last spring.

Sarah Palin: Statement on the Current Health Care Debate [Facebook]
Previously: Limbaugh Sees Swastikas Everywhere

Chabad Wants Honor for High-Level Nazi

Intelligence chief saved the rebbe


We’re not sure how we missed this headline in the Jerusalem Post last week, because it’s really an excellent one: “Chabad: Make Nazi Commander a ‘Righteous Gentile.’” Yep, it appears that the Nazis’ intelligence chief—Admiral Wilhelm Canaris—was instrumental in helping Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef Schneerson, the sixth Lubavitcher rebbe, escape from the Warsaw Ghetto along with his family and retinue. For this, the Chabadniks have petitioned Yad Vashem, to have him declared an official Righteous Gentile. The director of the Simon Weisenthal Center in Israel is against the move—“it smacks of a certain particularism,” he told the Post—and Yad Vashem has previously turned down a different request for Canaris’s righteousification, because he did not directly risk his life to save Jews, instead merely used his bureaucratic authority as a commander, and because he abetted the Nazi war effort, rather than opposed it. (That he was hanged by SS officers on April 9, 1945, for attempting to assassinate Hitler would seem to undermine both those arguments, but what do we know?) The Yad Vashem people told the Post they haven’t yet received this new request and so couldn’t comment on it.

Chabad: Make Nazi Commander a ‘Righteous Gentile’ [JPost via FailedMessiah]

On Tablet Today

Rabbis, drugs, and rock n’ roll


On Tablet magazine’s weekly podcast, Vox Tablet, Liel Leibovitz discusses the prevalence of references to Jewish liturgy in Israel’s hottest pop music. Marjorie Ingalls worries about how to address the subject of drugs with her kids amid the media blitz commemorating Woodstock. Marissa Brostoff tells of an unlikely rabbi who found his ideal post in Montana. And more coming to you throughout the day here on The Scroll.

Natalie Portman, Hasid

Trailer for ‘New York, I Love You’ sure to thrill Jewish boys everywhere


It’s no secret that Natalie Portman, a half-Israeli Long Island girl turned Harvard grad, has long been a favorite crush-slash-fetish object of dorky, smart, devoutly secular boys, the real-world antecedents of Zach Braff’s Garden State smitten doofus. But now she seems poised to perhaps serve the same role for those boys’ more observant bretheren. The newly released trailer for this fall’s forthcoming New York I Love You, a star-studded compilation of short films about love in the Big Apple from the people behind Paris, Je T’Aime, offers a glimpse of Portman’s character, this time a young Hasidic woman. You’ll find her wedding scene at about 1 minute, 8 seconds into the clip.

New York, I Love You-Trailer [YouTube]

Daybreak: A Jew in Fatah

A consul chastised, a tunnel bombed, and more in the news


• The only Israeli Jew in the Palestinian faction Fatah is seeking election to Fatah’s Revolutionary Council. [AP]
• Israel has recalled its consul in Boston after a critical memo he wrote titled “Melancholy thoughts on Israel-U.S. relations.” [JTA]
• The Israeli army bombed a tunnel suspected of use for smuggling explosives into Gaza from Egypt. [Reuters]
• Sri Lanka will soon have its first official mikveh. [JPost]
• And New Yorker music critic Alex Ross begins a three-part series of blog posts on Leonard Bernstein’s involvement in politics with a post on the FBI’s interest in the composer. [New Yorker]

Sundown: Matzoh Boob

France, rhetoric, and the soldiering life

That’s a big matzo ball.(Daily News)

• The world’s largest matzoh ball, displayed and dispersed in New York City yesterday, looked a bit like, well, a breast, which lent a disturbing air to the response of one taster: “I love matzo balls, [but] they have to be like my mother’s.” [NY Daily News]
• In Standing By: The Making of an American Military Family in a Time of War, Alison Buckholtz tells of the travails of being a Jewish army wife, including moving to a town without a synagogue and being referred by a chaplain’s office to a group of Messianic Jews. [Jewish Chronicle]
• A discussion of the use of loaded words like “judenfrei” (Jew-free) in justifying Israeli actions in the conflict with Palestinians. [The World]
• Although documentary Being Jewish in France “may sound like a picture with a limited potential audience,” it should resonate “with any minority group making its way in a majority culture,” says the L.A. Times. [LAT]
• An Arab couple in Israel is suing a mother who allegedly bullied her Jewish daycare center out of enrolling their daughter. [Ynet]
• And the grand rabbi of the Spinka Hasidic sect, who earlier this week pled guilty to a money-laundering charge in Los Angeles federal court last week, gave his first-ever interview about the crimes. [Hamodia]

Limbaugh Sees Swastikas Everywhere

Health-care reform is apparently a Nazi scheme


Were you expecting to hear our national leaders—elected and otherwise—conduct a high-minded, rational, post-partisan national conversation about the future of American health care? Too bad. It’s August, that magical time of year when legislators return to their home districts to face their constituents, and political discourse heads straight into the sandbox. A few days ago, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told a TV reporter, correctly, that protesters have been turning up at rallies against the Democrats’ plans for health-care reform and waving signs emblazoned with swastikas and SS lightning bolts, signifying, we imagine, a link to totalitarianism.

Yesterday, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh decided to swat at Pelosi’s gnat-sized remark by detonating what amounted to an atom bomb; on his program, he highlighted a conservative blogger’s comparison of Obama’s “Organizing for Health Care” logo—a caduceus, the ancient Greek symbol of medicine, perched atop the familiar red-and-blue Obama “O”—to the Nazi image of an eagle spread-winged above a swastika. Immediately, the search term “Obama health care logo” went “volcanic” on Google. Limbaugh added to the point on his web site, where he featured the two images—Obama’s and the Nazis’—fading into one another, along with another of Obama Photoshopped into the place of a Stasi spy, from “The Lives of Others.” (Note to Rush: The East German Communists may have turned out to be totalitarians, but they were Nazi-hating totalitarians.)

For anyone wondering, yes, the ADL has already objected, noting that calling people Nazis just cheapens and trivializes what the actual Nazis did. Which reminds us: Orly, are you listening?

Whose Swastikas, Speaker Pelosi? [Rush Limbaugh]
ADL Decries Nazi Comparisons [Boston Globe]

An Orthodox-Reform Divide on Health Care?

Reform rabbi wants universal coverage; Orthodox doesn’t


A Jewish newspaper in Houston interviewed two rabbis—Samuel Karff, who’s Reform, and Yossi Grossman, who works for an Orthodox-affiliated organization—for the first article in a four-part series about Jewish perspectives on health care reform. While both rabbis drew their interpretations from the Torah and Talmud, Karff came to the more politically liberal conclusion, arguing that “one of the great aspects of our tradition is that it doesn’t regard tzedakah as charity…. The stronger have a responsibility for the well-being of the more vulnerable in the community.” Grossman, meanwhile, came to a more politically conservative conclusion: “the Talmud clearly states that if I jump into a river to save someone and lose my shirt, then I can subsequently charge them for my losses incurred through the act of kindness. That means there’s no obligation to provide universal healthcare.” This breakdown—that the Reform rabbi is liberal, the Orthodox conservative—may sound intuitive, but there’s no clear reason for it to be true. Why should religiosity and perspectives on something as complex as health care line up on the political spectrum at all? It might be a coincidence, but one wonders if the conflation of conservative politics and devoutness promoted by the Christian right, not just on social issues but on economic ones like health care—and, likewise, the contemporary American equation of secularism with progressive economic policy—has been absorbed by the Jewish world, as well.

For the preservation of life: Part 1: Jewish Perspectives on Healthcare Reform [Jewish Herald-Voice]
Related: Why Jewish Grandmothers Should Oppose Obama Care [American Thinker]

Guy From the North Country

Bob Dylan makes a Christmas album

Dylan playing a TV Land special in June.(Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI)

Upon hearing the news that Bob Dylan is recording a Christmas album, our first questions were “why?”, and “hasn’t he already done that?” Of course the answer to the latter is no, but we forgive ourselves for wondering, as there is a long history of Jews making Christmas music, which Tablet contributing editor Jody Rosen documented in his book White Christmas. (And, after all, the man was briefly Christian.) As for the first question, while no answer is immediately forthcoming, we might go further and ask why, specifically, two of the songs Dylan has already recorded for the album are the childish and musically unmoving “Must Be Santa” and “Here Comes Santa Claus”? The answer, obviously, is that Dylan knows a good opportunity for subversion when he sees one: according to David Mamet in his Nextbook Press book The Wicked Son, “The Santa Claus myth is a straightforward account of child sacrifice,” and contemporary parents’ reluctance to shatter their children’s belief in the magical gift-bearer mirrors “the anguish of a family in antiquity, knowing the tribe will choose, at the winter solstice, some child to be sacrificed.”

“Hang your stockings and say your prayers,” indeed!

Bob Dylan Recording Christmas Album [Bully Pulpit]
Related: A Fine Romance: Jewish Songwriters, American Songs by David Lehman, coming soon from Nextbook Press

Is Hezbollah in Venezuela?

Lieberman says yes; Chávez calls him a ‘mafia boss’


Is Hezbollah operating in Venezuela? That’s what Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman claimed to Colombian newspaper El Tiempo today, as he reached the tail-end of his 10-day tour of South America. Citing Israeli intelligence reports that show “collaboration between radical branches of Islam and Hugo Chavez,” Lieberman warned of the dangers of the strategic alliance between leftist governments in this hemisphere and Iran. Iranian companies have invested heavily in Venezuela, and there are even Israeli reports that President Hugo Chavez and Bolivian President Evo Morales have given uranium to the mullahs for their ongoing nuclear program. In return for this accusation, Chavez called Lieberman a “mafia boss.” How fun when two campy authoritarians collide like electrons.

Chavez calls Lieberman ‘mafia boss,’ denies links to Hezbollah [Haaretz]

Birthers Melt Down

Who’s most qualified to float anti-Obama conspiracy theories?

Taitz on CNN(YouTube)

Last week, we explained the rise of Orly Taitz, a Soviet Jewish emigre living in Orange County, California, and the de facto leader of the “birthers”—those increasingly marginalized people who continue to insist, without a shred of evidence, that Barack Obama wasn’t born in Hawaii and is therefore ineligible to be president. Now, we may be watching her fall: earlier this week, she put in a shrill performance on MSNBC (live, incidentally, from Tel Aviv, where she’d previously lived en route to the United States from her native Moldova) to defend her release of a hoax document purporting to be Obama’s Kenyan birth certificate. She wound up calling the host, David Shuster, a “brownshirt.” (This, only days after she cheerfully compared Obama to both Hitler and Stalin during an appearance on The Colbert Report.)

Then yesterday, Andy Martin, the self-described “Internet powerhouse” who was largely responsible, way back in 2004, for originating the crypto-Muslim smear against Obama, issued a press release with the following headline:



In his press release, he explained that, while he assumes Taitz must be an excellent dentist “because she was trained in Israel,” she “is not professionally competent” to handle the lawsuits she has filed on behalf of other birthers and “has become an impediment to reasoned discussion concerning the gaps in Obama’s family and personal history.” It does not, of course, follow that Martin is any more capable of lending reason to the birthers’ cause. As The New York Times reported last year, he’s a trained lawyer whose bar admission was blocked after a psychiatrist diagnosed him as having moderately severe character defects manifested by paranoia. He ran for president in 1988 and 2000, and has also made a name for himself as a prodigious filer of frivolous lawsuits, some of which included fairly nasty language about Jews. (“I am able to understand how the Holocaust took place, and with every passing day feel less and less sorry that it did,” he wrote in one.)

We can’t wait to see who joins the circus next week!

Birther Vs. Birther [TPM]
Related: In Doubt’s Shadow [Tablet]

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