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Daybreak: A Jew in Fatah

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

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• 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

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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

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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

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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

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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’

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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?

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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:

ANDY MARTIN SAYS THE MEATHEAD MEDIA (FORMERLY MAINSTREAM MEDIA) LOVE ORLY TAITZ AS A REPRESENTATIVE OF THE BIRTHER MOVEMENT BECAUSE TAITZ IS AN OBVIOUS CRACKPOT

TAITZ’ LATEST OUTBURST ON MSNBC DISQUALIFIES HER AS A REPRESENTATIVE OF ANYONE, MARTIN SUGGESTS

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]

Today on Tablet

Summer in the city, and the limits of traveling in search of one’s roots

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Matt Gross, aka “The Frugal Traveler,” reflects on a trip to Lithuania that failed to enlighten him on his family’s past. Jason Maoz examines his preference for staying in New York City while the rest of his Orthodox community flees for summer vacations in the country. And keep checking The Scroll for blog updates all day.

Andrew Sullivan Explains His Zionism

He’s in it for the guys

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An Israeli paratrooper.(IDF via Getty Images)

We missed this on Andrew Sullivan’s Atlantic blog last week, but Tablet Magazine contributor and Atlantic national correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg pointed us to it yesterday. Sullivan, best known as the gay, Palin-hating, Obama-supporting, former-New Republic-editing, British conservative, considers himself a Zionist, and responding to Patrick Healy’s article on the gay scene in Beirut in last week’s New York Times Travel section, he reveals why: “I suspect it was seeing beautiful Israeli soldiers as a teenager on a trip to the Holy Land that made me a Zionist.”

Could Sullivan be onto a way to increase support for Israel among American teens and college students? (Especially among college students, who are of course sex-obsessed but among whom lately anti-Israel pro-Palestinianism seems to be becoming increasingly de rigueur? Suddenly, that whole silly Central Park “Tel Aviv beach”—complete, as you’ll recall, with scantily-clad sabras, of both the male and female persuasions, makes much more sense.

Vacation Time [Andrew Sullivan via Jeffrey Goldberg]
Previously: And the Beach Goes On

Daybreak: Homeless Survivor, Philanthropist

Nixon and the bomb, women step up, and more in the news

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• A 92-year-old homeless Holocaust survivor passed away, leaving $100,000 to Hebrew University, and another $100,000 to a man who employed her to move his car around Manhattan, avoiding parking tickets, in exchange for food and shelter. [JPost]
• Recently declassified documents reveal Richard Nixon’s role in creating Israel’s “nuclear ambiguity.” [Haaretz]
• House Speaker Nancy Pelosi dismissed protesters at a town hall meeting on health care as “people who carry swastikas.” [VIN]
• New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson wants to investigate Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s alleged misuse of discretionary funds to make donations to two Jewish organizations. [NYDN]
• Women in Europe are taking on Jewish communal leadership roles in greater numbers than ever. [JTA]

Sundown: Sir, Proper Hebrew, Sir!

Human rights, lotion, and kosher foot-longs

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• Apparently, Israeli soldiers don’t speak Hebrew too good; the IDF has launched an education program to combat the problem. [Ynet]
• Kristin Davis, who played a shiksa-turned-convert on Sex and the City, has stepped down as a spokesperson for Oxfam; the human-rights organization takes issue with Israeli cosmetics company Ahava, which is based in a disputed territory in the West Bank, and which Davis endorses. [NYPost]
• The plot thickens: Former Irish President Mary Robinson, President Obama’s choice for a Medal of Freedom, who some Jewish groups claim is anti-Israel, is the honorary president of Oxfam. [JTA]
• The right-wing conspiracy mongers at WorldNetDaily have this headline for us today, from their Jerusalem desk: “Obama spies monitoring Jews house-to-house: ‘They try to mingle with us to get more information on what we’re doing.’” [WND]
• Always wanted to use the “Jared” method to help you squeeze into your Rosh Hashanah best? Subway is officially the largest kosher food chain in the United States, with 11 certified outlets. [JTA]

Publish Hitler, Say German Jews

Leader struggles for an annotated ‘Mein Kampf’

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Mein Kampf on display at Yad Vashem.(David Silverman/Getty Images)

Reading Mein Kampf in Germany is no easy task: the book is currently banned from publication, and the Bavarian state, which holds the copyright to Hitler’s mad manifesto, will only dispense previously printed copies to individuals who can prove that their interest in the book is purely academic. This may soon change, however. A powerful public figure in Germany called this week for a reprint of Hitler’s work, complete with introductory notes that would place it in proper context. He is Stephan Kramer, the general secretary of Germany’s Central Council of Jews. “I’m basically in favor of the book being made publicly accessible with annotation,” Kramer told German radio, adding that it would be wise to also make the annotated book available online. The Bavarians, however, remain unmoved. Renewing Mein Kampf’s publication, the state’s finance ministry said in a recent statement, “would get enormous political attention worldwide, and probably be met with incomprehension.” Once again, Bavaria shows little regard for the Jews.

German Jewish Leader Backs Publication of Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ [Haaretz]

Who Killed Arafat?

It’s Israel’s fault, says Fatah

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Arafat at a meeting in Ramallah in 2004.(Hussein Hussein/PPO via Getty Images)

Who—or what—killed Yasser Arafat? Four years after the Palestinian leader’s death, and rumors and conspiracy theories still abound. Was it late-stage Parkinson’s, AIDS, or old age? These questions have percolated back into headlines, courtesy of Fatah’s sixth General Assembly, which met today and adopted a proposal mandating a full investigation into Arafat’s death, presupposed on the following conditions, according to The Jerusalem Post,: “Israel bears full responsibility for his death, that the issue continues to remain open, and that the investigation enlists international support.” Bassam Abu Sharif, Arafat’s old political adviser, raised the proposal, acting at the suggestion of off-again PLO leader Farouk Qaddoumi, purveyor of the West Bank’s grassy knoll theory: that Arafat was done in by a joint Israeli-Palestinian plot. Abu Sharif says he doesn’t buy that bill of goods, but thinks an inquiry is nevertheless in order. This development will likely further complicate Fatah’s dealings with the Netayanhu government, coming on the heels of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who was fingered by Qaddoumi as one of Arafat’s death-dealers, lately denying that Israel is a Jewish state.

Fatah Adopts Resolution Blaming Israel for Arafat’s Death [JPost]

Israelis Tress for Success

OMC Israel is first step in world hairdressing competition. Seriously.

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Judging by the pictures in the online gallery from Israel’s recent hairdressing championship, Israelis have a loose definition of “hairstyle,” including creative use of neckties, peacock feathers. and flower arrangements. That’s probably for the best, as it’s hard to imagine a parade of asymmetrical bobs and flowing perms having nearly the entertainment value of the actual competition, which includes categories for excellence in makeup design and nail extensions.

This was Israel’s first year participating in the Organisation Mondiale Coiffure, a worldwide “beauty organization,” by holding a local contest to select representatives for the world championship in Paris in October. Regionally, Israel is considered by the OMC to be “in the Western Europe zone, as some sort of Zionist dream,” says the Jerusalem Post. The Post describes the event as a “Little Odessa,” with a heavy Russian-beauty-queen vibe and a “nail bar” where people could get cocktails with their manicures. And, of course, the prerequisite declaration by one entrant that “maybe this will help to advance the relationship [between Jews and Arabs].” Based on some of the precariously gaudy creations on display, the OMC just might have glue strong enough to create that elusive bond.

A Big To-Do [Jerusalem Post]

Plenty of Blame in N.J. Scandal

From Boteach and Koch, but no one knows who made bomb threats

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Bomb threats that were called in earlier this week against three synagogues in New Jersey’s Syrian Jewish enclaves of Deal and Long Branch, but no one seems to know whom to blame for them. Prosecutors claim the caller, who prompted the disruption of a 300-person wedding, had a Middle Eastern accent, but in a community filled with immigrants from Syria, Lebanon, and Israel, that hardly rules out an inside job.

Everyone, though, presumes the threats were somehow connected to the recent arrests of five rabbis and others in the community on various money-laundering, tax evasion, and organ-trafficking charges. For that, there’s no shortage of people to blame. Yesterday, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach weighed in with a rather weak reproach of the rabbis involved, accusing them of abusing their moral authority and, potentially, the goodwill of charitable donors for their own profit; he cites Mark Charendoff, head of the Jewish Funders Network, to argue “there is a special place in hell reserved for these individuals.” (Never mind that Judaism really doesn’t have a hell, per se.)

And today, former New York mayor Ed Koch—apparently recovered from his own recent brush with the afterlife—praised Solomon Dwek, the mole who exposed the shenanigans in his own community to avoid prosecution for his own check-kiting scam. Koch also put out a clarion call to the New York and New Jersey boards of rabbis to instead denounce any religious leaders—namely, Dwek’s father, Isaac, rabbi of the Deal synagogue—who seek to blame the mosers for the mess. “It would be unacceptable for a Christian not to cooperate with the police in bringing a Christian who committed a criminal act to justice,” Koch declared in his Jerusalem Post blog. “The same rule of law applies to Jews.”

Long Branch, Deal Synagogue Threats Still Under Probe [Asbury Park Press]
When Rabbis Fail Their Communities [Jewish Journal]
Are We Our Brothers’ Keeper? [JPost]
Related: Crisis of Faith [Tablet]

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