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Barney Frank Swats Down Questioner

For comparing Obama’s health-care plans to Nazis

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Frank arriving at last night’s town hall.(Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

There are many reasons we love Barney Frank, the charmingly disheveled, wittily brilliant, gay, Jewish Democrat who represents Boston’s ritzy suburbs in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the latest is this: At a town hall meeting in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, last night, he provided an object lesson in how politicians should react when confronted by nutso constituents making lunatic Nazi comparisons about President Obama’s health-care reform proposals. “Why do you continue to support a Nazi policy?” asked his normal-appearing but apparently deranged interlocutor. His response, if you haven’t already seen or read it:

When you ask me that question, I am going to revert to my ethnic heritage and answer your question with a question: On what planet do you spend most of your time? … You stand there with a picture of the president defaced to look like Hitler, and compare the effort to increase health care to the Nazis. My answer to you is, as I said before, it is a tribute to the First Amendment that this kind of vile, contemptible nonsense is so freely propagated. Ma’am, trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining-room table; I have no interest in doing it.

Are you listening, Arlen Specter? (Yeah, OK, granted it’s easier to be contemptuously dismissive of your wingnut constituents when you haven’t faced serious—if any—opposition in a quarter-century and won your last election 68 percent. But still.)

Rep. Barney Frank Slames Women Comparing Obama To Hitler At Town Hall [YouTube]
Barney Frank Goes Toe to Toe at Health Care Town Hall [CNN]

Eli Roth Excels at Propaganda

If the ‘Inglourious Basterds’ star may say so himself

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Roth at an Inglourious Basterds premiere in New York.(Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

Eli Roth, the filmmaker behind the Hostel franchise, spoke to The Onion’s A.V. Club about his role in Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming Inglourious Basterds—as The Bear Jew, an American Nazi-killer—and about directing the film-within-the-film, called Nation’s Pride, a recreation of Nazi propaganda. Although he acts with “murderous rage,” smashing people’s heads in with baseball bats, says Roth of The Bear, “he’s not someone who would do that to anyone other than the Nazis. He’s not a bully.” More like a vigilante: “He can’t take it that all these Jews are being murdered, and no one’s doing anything about it. It took a long time for the U.S. to get involved in the war, and it drove him crazy that Jews were being exterminated, and no one was fighting it.”

In a way, creating Nation’s Pride, the faux-propaganda mini-film, offered Roth his own chance at renegade justice. He says of Tarantino, “it was perfect that he had the Jewish guy do it, because I knew that the more authentic the movie was, the more ridiculous it would make Hitler and Goebbels look. So I was saying, ‘More swastikas, more swastikas.’” And while he wasn’t quite prepared for the feeling he would get after having birthed such a monstrosity (“the first time we showed it to the audience with 300 extras, when they started screaming ‘Heil Hitler’ and ‘Kill the Jews,’ my stomach turned”), like the horror-directing pro he is, Roth quickly assuaged his nausea with self-congratulation: “You know what? I would have been a great Nazi propaganda filmmaker.”

Eli Roth [A.V. Club]
Previously: You Basterds!

Daybreak: Satisfaction

Give and take on the settlements, the Swedish thing, and more from the news

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• Between his meeting with Egyptian President Mubarak and Israel’s gestures toward a settlement freeze, President Obama sees “movement in the right direction” in the Middle East. [NYT]
• Israelis agree, but for the opposite reason; P.M. Bejamin Netanyahu has garnered support for his refusal to fully go along with Obama’s demands. [WPost]
• Meanwhile, the continuing evacuation of illegal outposts in the West Bank poses a problem for the IDF, as many soldiers have personal or family connections to settlers there. [Haaretz]
• The Swedish journalist who accused Israeli soldiers of harvesting Palestinians’ organs has “no clue” if the story’s true; although the Swedish Embassy has denounced the article, the incident has sparked tensions between the two nations. [JPost]

Sundown: Organs of State

Spanish banned, Oz in Italy, and fruit of the vine

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• A Swedish newspaper accused Israeli soldiers of killing Palestinians in order to harvest their organs; condemnation of this “blood libel” was swift to come from a rival paper and the Israeli Foreign Ministry. [Haaretz]
• In a somewhat brighter story about organs and Israel, an American teenager visiting the country was struck by Wilson’s Disease, a rare genetic disorder that left her desperate for a liver transplant within days. She was flown back to the States, received a new organ, and is doing well. [NYT]
• A fitness instructor in Arizona says she was fired from the local JCC after being reprimanded for speaking Spanish to her clients and told by her boss “the only reason persons of Puerto Rican heritage come to the mainland is to get food stamps and beer.” [Courthouse News Service]
• Israeli wine is making an international splash, proving, says one critic, “there is no contradiction between wines that are kosher and wines that are excellent,” and perhaps helping to dispel the myth that people actually drink Manischewitz. [Reuters]
• Writer Amos Oz is in Italy working on a libretto based on his poetic novel The Same Sea. [JTA]
• Robert Novak—conservative commentator, critic of Israel, and Jew-turned-Catholic—has died of a brain tumor at age 78. [NYT]

‘It’s a Hasidic World’?

‘Haaretz’ writer visits schmaltzy Disney ride, is flummoxed

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Disney’s Israelis.(YourFavoriteMartian’s Flickr)

Haaretz writer Alex Sinclair recently took a fun family trip to Florida’s Walt Disney World—and wound up flummoxed by the representation of Israelis on the “It’s a Small World” ride. Like the dolls representing every other country—Brits get Beefeateers; the Italians gondoliers—the ride’s animatronic singing Israelis are represented with childish but not really offensive caricatures. Except that Israelis are portrayed by a Hasidic bride and groom, which, while recognizably Jewish, aren’t so much representatively Israeli. Sinclar is unamused. “While not every Briton dresses like a Beefeater, not every Italian rides a gondola, and not every Japanese wears a kimono, the activities and costumes of these dolls would probably be seen by Brits, Italians, and Japanese, as an agreeable and consensual symbol of their country,” he says, while “the Jewish dolls represent a highly specific demographic sector that is neither reflective of, nor seen as symbolically representative by, the national collective.” But Sinclair also sees the Disney Imagineers’ trouble: he can’t even think of what a proper costume would be for an Israeli doll. (He proposes, and dismisses, the idea of an IDF soldier as “depressing and pathetic.”) It all brings up an interesting point: Israel’s just too young to be quaint. Its entire history is new enough and unsettled enough to count as contemporary politics. But who knows: if Israel and Disney World are both still around in 200 years, maybe IDF soldiers will seem as quaint as Beefeaters.

‘It’s a Small World’ and the Jewish Problem [Haaretz]

Play It Again, Len

Israel begs Cohen to add one more show

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Cohen at Coachella in April.(Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Israel’s ongoing PR effort, always an embattled enterprise, found a new platform in Leonard Cohen. After his September 24 concert in Tel Aviv sold out in a matter of hours, and after his planned show in Ramallah was cancelled by Palestinian officials objecting to his stop in the Jewish state, Israel’s Ministry of Tourism approached the aging singer with an offer he’s likely to refuse: play one more show, in Nazareth, for Jewish and Arab audiences together.

Citing Cohen’s commitment to donate proceeds of his shows to victims of violence in both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Noaz Bar Nir, the ministry’s director-general, called on Cohen to schedule a second gig in Israel and play Jesus’s hometown. Such a concert, he added, would “attract a large and varied audience from all the sectors of Israeli society, as well as tourists, who, together, can listen to moving music, enjoy the beauty of nature that surrounds the amphitheater and can realize the concert slogan” of peace and reconciliation. To which we say: Hallelujah.

Tourism Ministry Chief Urges Leonard Cohen to Perform in Nazareth [JPost]

J-Street Adopts MoveOn Strategy

To be more like AIPAC

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Nearly every David since the actual David has professed, usually loudly, to relish the challenge of playing the scrappy underdog. But, in truth, most Davids secretlyjust want to be a Goliath. To wit: J-Street, the dovish political-action group founded in 2008 to challenge the behemoth American Israel Political Action Committee announced this morning that they intend to invest about $600,000 in launching a field operation that they hope might rival AIPAC’s regional network of “citizen advocates.

Jeremy Ben Ami, J-Street’s executive director, told Tablet that the idea is to apply the strategies developed by liberal activist groups like MoveOn.org and Democracy for America to organize online supporters for real-world campaigns—letter-writing, meetings with local officials, teach-ins—on behalf of President Obama’s peace efforts in the Middle East. “I think we have two years for Obama to do this”—come up with a workable Middle East peace plan—“so this window over the next couple of years is essential,” Ben Ami said. “This is really a campaign atmosphere.” He said J-Street, which has doubled its budget in the last year to $3 million, intends to spend hire a national field director and some local staff to get the program up and running by next March. The lobbying group is also exploring a partnership with the grassroots group Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, which already has chapters affiliated with local JCRCs around the country, though that group’s president, Steve Masters, said it’s still too early to say exactly how they plan to work together. “I have no idea what this will look like,” he acknowledged.

J Street
Brit Tzedek v’Shalom

Website Corrects Record on Obama Positions

Resettling Hamas members in U.S.? Meshugge!

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J-Street and the Jewish Alliance for Change have teamed up to assist the apparently beleaguered President Obama in refuting gossip, myths, and falsehoods about his attitude toward Israel, in the form of a new website called ObamaSmearBusters.com. Sort of a Media Matters for the liberal Diaspora, the site carries right-wing accusations about the president (usually in the form of a question) and answers with some variation of “No.” One delightful example—paricularly delightful because who knew it even was a charge against Obama?—is: “Obama is resettling Hamas members in America?” The answer: “That’s crazy.” Well, yes. No doubt it’ll be followed by: “Obama prefers packaged corned beef to deli? You should die of cancer if you believe that.”

[ObamaSmearBusters.com]

Terrorist Sent to Jail

Where he first got the idea to bomb LAX, Israeli consulate

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(David McNew/Getty Images)

In 2005, prosecutors charged four members of a California-based group calling itself Jam’iyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh with conspiring to detonate bombs at military bases, the Israeli Consulate in Beverly Hills, synagogues, and aboard El Al Airlines jets at LAX. To finance the plot, the group robbed 11 gas stations—symbolic targets, apparently, because of the group’s belief in the connection between America’s support for Israel and its thirst for oil.

Yesterday, the last—and youngest—of the four men, 25-year-old Hammad Samana, was sentenced to 70 months in federal prison for his role as a getaway driver. But since the men met and hatched their plans while serving time at California’s Folsom prison—the facility made famous by inmate riots and Johnny Cash—we wonder: Is the lockup really the best place to put them now?

Man Sentenced for Role in Plot to Kill Jews, Attack Military Bases [OC Register]
Last Defendant Sentenced in Calif. Terrorist Plot [AP]

Location, Location, Tax Breaks

Three reasons to buy Israeli real estate, marketers say

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Looking to take advantage of the downturn to make some savvy—and discounted—real-estate investments? Well, the luxury apartment of your dreams could be waiting for you in the Holy Land. A so-called Luxury Real Estate & Investments Exhibition in Tel Aviv last weekend was well attended, according to a report in Globes Online (which, despite sounding like a porn site, isn’t), with Israelis and Diaspora Jews alike taking breaks from the beach to express interest in pieds-à-terres in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and other Israeli cities. “Americans and Europeans have calmed down and believe that the situation cannot get any worse,” proclaimed Israeli real-estate marketr Shelly Levine (who, we presume, is a different real-estate marketer than the crooked one in Glengarry Glen Ross). “As far as they’re concerned, over the years, Jerusalem as is a good investment location as New York.” Another real-estate macher, Dalia Schuster, also said that Israelis who’d moved away are returning, thanks to tax incentives. “For a Jew,” she said, “it’s cheaper and easier to live here.”

Diaspora Jews Return to Israeli Real-Estate Market [Globes Online]

On Tablet Today

Wacky plays, reverent books, and mistaken identity

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Christopher Bonanos contemplates the fact that everyone assumes he is Jewish, although he isn’t. Adam Kirsch discusses a new book detailing the time the thinkers associated with the Institute for Social Research, or Frankfurt School, spent in exile. Jonathan Rosen talks to Sam Magavern, author of a new book on Primo Levi. Marissa Brostoff surveys the Jewish theater landscape at the Fringe Festival. And updates continue on this blog, The Scroll.

Daybreak: Diplomacy

Specter’s travails, Huckabee makes waves again, and more in the news

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• Israeli President Shimon Peres is visiting Russia and will meet with President Dmitry Medvedev to discuss Iran’s nuclear program and other mutual concerns. [AFP]
• President Obama sees the current visit by Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak as a chance to bring him back on board with the peace process in Israel. [AP]
• In hopes of pleasing the United States, Israeli P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu has not issued any permits for new construction in the West Bank settlements during his term, although work continues on previously approved projects there. [Reuters]
• Mike Huckabee continues to oppose Obama’s policies on Israel, saying that a two-state solution would be “unrealistic.” [AP]
The Washington Post details the health-care struggles of Sen. Arlen Specter, saying that the “electricity” between him and his constituents in Pennsylvania on health care reform “may define the fight for the history books.” [WP]

Sundown: The Politics of Toilets

Baby bust, high-minded photography, and a video gaffe

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• Ralph Jaffe, a gubernatorial hopeful in Maryland, is suing the state beause a security guard would not let Jaffe use the restroom in a state office building, suggesting he go to a neighboring McDonalds, which Jaffe, who is Jewish, worried might “give people the impression that I’m going over there to order a hamburger.” [Baltimore Sun]
• A photographer whose work represents Albanians who rescued Jews during the Holocaust hopes his exhibit at the El Paso Holocaust Museum “will help chip away at ethnic and religious stereotypes”—prehaps starting with those at the El Paso Times, which says, “Muslims rescuing Jews seems improbable in today’s world.” [EPT]
• Rabbi Menachem Burstein, head of a Jewish fertility organization in Israel, has changed his stance and determined that single women should not be allowed to have children, as, he stated speciously, “it has been proven that a child born to a single woman from in vitro insemination suffers greatly.” [Ynet]
• The home of Australian politician Eric Roozendaal, who has spoken out against fringe right-wing organizations, was vandalized with neo-Nazi graffiti. [Sydney Morning Herald]
• On the advice of trusted Jewish friends, the head of the website Y’all Politics has removed a video criticizing Mississippi Rep. Travis Childers for visiting Israel during the fracas over health care reform at home. [JTA]

Significant Stars of David

On plate for sale

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(SignificantObjects.com)

With the High Holidays fast approaching, why not adorn your holiday table with the Star of David plate, brought to you by the folks at Significant Objects? The brains behind the project, journalists Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn, enlist writers, filmmakers, and others to invent narratives behind, well, objects, which Walker and Glenn then sell on eBay. Adam Harrison Levy, a documentary director and producer, takes a crack at it today, offering a fictional provenance for a plate decorated with Stars of David. In his yarn, he describes taking the bus to meet the late screenwriter Budd Schulberg on Long Island to research a film.

While there, he “spied the plate—which contained some loose change and three paperclips—on the credenza. Something about the simplicity and modernity of its shape reminded me of an Eero Saarinen Tulip Table. The artfully incoherent placement of the stars was like a Dada backdrop. The plate was clearly mass produced. It called out to me. When Schulberg doddered off to take a leak, I slipped the plate—change, paperclips, and all—into my bag.”

Bidding opens at two dollars.

Star of David Plate [Significant Objects]

Hebrew School for Everyone

At New York’s newest charter school.

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Here’s a brain teaser: is a school that teaches secular subjects in Hebrew inherently religious? The people behind the Hebrew Language Academy, New York’s first publicly funded Hebrew-language charter school, think not; they insist that, like an Arabic school that opened two years ago in Brooklyn, the new school can stay safely in secular terrain while teaching in a language widely associated with religion. Skeptics aren’t convinced; they see the school’s overwhelmingly Russian Jewish enrollment as evidence that the funders, investor and Birthright Israel founder Michael Steinhardt and Oklahoma philanthropist Lynn Schusterman, want to co-opt public funds to promote Jewish identity.

To reassure critics, they’ve hired Maureen Campbell, the Vassar- and Oxford-educated daughter of Jamaican immigrants, to oversee the inaugural year; Campbell, who grew up in Harlem, isn’t Jewish and doesn’t speak Hebrew herself but said she’s learning fast. (Lucky, since she’ll need it to chat to her students and teachers during breakfast and lunch breaks, when Hebrew will be strictly enforced.) In an interview with The Forward, Campbell was insistent that “you can teach a culture and a language without encouraging the observance of religion.” But, she added, Israeli colors will be integrated into the school’s decor; which means, in other words, it’ll basically be just like a school in Tel Aviv.

Charter School’s New Chief Touts Church-State Separation [The Forward]

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