Facebook page reveals British spymaster’s Holocaust-denier tie

Incomig MI6 cheif Sawers, who currently serves as Britain's U.N. ambassador, after a Security Council meeting in April.(Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images)

The things we’ve learned from Facebook now include, according to a report in London’s Mail tabloid, lots of personal details about the new head of MI6, Britain’s once-very-very-secret foreign-intelligence service. As recounted by The New York Times, it seems Lady Shelley Sawers, the wife of diplomat and spy Sir John Sawers, maintained a publicly accessible Facebook page that featured pictures of Sir John in a Speedo at the beach, the address of the couple’s London flat, and information about their children. (That’s not nothing: There’s a Cold War thriller by Frederick Forsyth, if we recall correctly, in which the Commies kidnap the U.S. president’s son and use him as blackmail.) Left unmentioned in the Times piece is an even more interesting detail: It seems Lady Sawers’ brother, Hugo Haig-Thomas, a former diplomat, these days works as a researcher—for prominent Holocaust denier David Irving. “I am interested in history, particularly German history, and I was engaged to carry out research for Irving,” Haig-Thomas told the Mail. “I have also attended several of his talks, but I do not necessarily share his views.” So if Haig-Thomas doesn’t necessarily share Irving’s views, what does he do research on? The Mail’s answer: “A recent post by Mr Haig-Thomas on Irving’s website includes a translation of the testimony of a German officer who claimed to have built fake gas chambers at Sachsenhausen concentration camp on Soviet orders.”

On Facebook, a Spy Revealed (Pale Legs, Too) [NYT]
MI6 Chief Blows His Cover [Mail]

Back to Your Regularly Scheduled Tabletting

Apologies for the silence; internet service has been down at our office for most of the day.


On Tablet Today

Mad magazine, Iran in Argentina, gay pride, and a bachelorette


Back at work after a long weekend, you’ll find plenty to read on Tablet Magazine today. In our weekly podcast, Vox Tablet, host Sara Ivry examines the life of comic-book genius and Mad magazine creator Harvey Kurtzman in a conversation with the author of a new biography. Ben Cohen considers Iran’s influence in Latin America on the 15th anniversary of the terrorist bombing of a Jewish center in Argentina. Parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall recounts her two-year-old niece’s march in New York’s gay-pride parade. Associate editor Hadara Graubart finds a lot to like in Road to the Altar, a web-TV series in which Jaleel White—you know him as Urkel—plays a guy preparing to marry a Jewish bridezilla. And books columnist Josh Lambert surveys the latest in Jewish publishing in his weekly “Reading Around” column.

Daybreak: Fit to Be Tried

Ivan to face court, Bibi’s first 100 days, and more in the news


• 89-year-old convicted former Nazi guard John Demjanjuk has been OK-ed by doctors to stand trial for his war crimes. [JTA]
Haaretz assess the Netanyahu administration after 100 days in office. [Haaretz]
• And Netanyahu himself, taking stock of the first 100, said, “We have brought a national agreement on the idea of ‘two states for two peoples,’” using that phrase for the first time in public. [JTA]
• A Jewish Kazakh philanthropist said he would invest billions of dollars in an energy project in Iran, if the government there “change[s] its ways.” [JPost]
• U.S. Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Jason Lezak has opted to play in the Jewish Maccabiah games in Israel instead of the World Championship in Rome. [SI]

Sundown: Poetic Justice for Protesting Pol

Drowning out hate, modest hotels, and biblical blueprints


• Stephan Kuhn, a member of Germany’s Green Party, was arrested in Dresden for blasting klezmer music outside City Hall, drowning out a neo-Nazi meeting. We’re not sure if this is a special rule for politicians, but his $210 fine went to a charity for victims of right-wing violence. [JTA]
• In other Green Party news, former U.S. presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney is in prison in Israel after her boat was seized by the government en route to bring aid to Palestinians in Gaza. [Fox News]
• A study out of Haifa University shows that children of Holocaust survivors pick up more about their parents’ pasts from subtle, chilling clues than from storytelling, as in the case of a woman whose parents taught her always to keep a pair of shoes by her bed. [JPost]
• For the first time ever, there might be four Jewish players in the Major League Baseball All-Star game this year; that is, unless, you’re a strict matrilinealist—two of them are Jewish on their fathers’ side. [Bloomberg]
• 20 hotels in Israel have decided to adopt a “modesty code” to accommodate ultra-Orthodox guests. For example, TVs will be disconnected except in special cases: “someone who claims he has a television at home and his looks prove this will be directed to a rabbi who will authorize that he be connected to the television.” [Ynet]
• If you feel the need to follow the The Boston Globe‘s instructions for building an ark, we recommend leaving out the mosquitoes this time. [BG]

News from Spain

Good for bike racers, bad for medieval souls


Every year, epic bicycle race Le Tour de France changes its route and incorporates a bordering region; this year, riders will traverse northwest Spain. Should you want to stand on the sidelines, we recommend Stage 6. It begins in Girona, which boasts one of the largest Jewish Quarters in medieval Catalonia and is overlooked by Mont Juic, or, “Hill of the Jew.” Get there the night before and you can enjoy a concert by viola de gamba master Jordi Savall in the town’s Cloister of the Cathedral.

To the southwest, in Toledo, less boastful are the town officials who allowed a new school to be built over a 13th-century Jewish cemetery, prompting international protest after excavators unearthed the remains of 103 bodies, in violation of Jewish law. According to the director of the regional government’s culture department, “Nobody knows the importance of Spain’s Jewish heritage better than we do in Toledo,” once the capital of Spanish Jewry. “But we can’t put 1,000 pupils on the street.” Yesterday, the conflict was resolved, not entirely to everyone’s satisfaction, when the bones were re-buried near their original resting place.

It may serve as some consolation to know that the Jewish cemetery atop Mont Juic was designated a cultural heritage site this past May. Those who lie there shall go undisturbed, except by the passing of 180 sweaty cyclists this Thursday.

Le Tour de France, official site
Re-Burying Jewish Souls [NYT]

Gaza Blockade Keeps the Swine Flu Away

West Bank not so lucky


Swine flu has hit the West Bank, but, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, the Israeli blockade that prevents Palestinians from entering or leaving the Gaza Strip has thus far also worked as a blockade against swine flu in that area, proving that there’s always a silver lining.

Meantime, the mufti of Nablus has issued a public health alert in the guise of a religious proclamation, reminding residents that under Sharia law, “it is forbidden to hug or kiss anyone suffering from a contagious disease in order to prevent it from spreading.” Ynet readers astutely observed in the article’s comments section that “if the Muslims would choose Hashem instead of allah as their god, Psalm 91 would cover them in this” and that “if you’re infected, only hug the jews.”

Nablus Mufti: Avoid Physical Contact to Contain H1N1 Virus [Ynet]

Madoff & Friends

Inducted into new con artist hall of fame


Bernard Madoff is currently rotting in a Manhattan jail cell (projected release date: November 14, 2139). Investors who found themselves bankrupted by the scandal might be pleased, but a pair of California financiers worried that the perpetrator of “the biggest con of all time” might soon be as unfamiliar to the general public as predecessors like Bernard Cornfeld or John Law—so they decided to create a rogue’s gallery they call the Con Artist Hall of Infamy to catalog and categorize generations of fleecers for posterity (including, yes, Charles Ponzi) along with a Con Timeline and a Con Watch blog.

The 35 inductees were chosen on the basis of how much they stole (or caused shareholders to lose), how colorful they were, whether their crimes shook whole industries, and whether they were convicted in court. So far, the gallery includes only men, prompting co-founder Warren Hellman to speculate to the LA Times that women are either “too smart to get caught or they’re actually too honest.”

What Madoff, Minkow and Ponzi Now Have in Common

Related: Time is Money

Get on the Mic!

Check our rhymin’ skillz


The Jerusalem Post profiles a 30-year-old from California who’s merging hip hop with Sabbath prayer. We’ve been composing religious raps for years now (well, years in an ant’s life and yes, Touré, we know: hip hop and rap are different genres). That said, here’s a sample for all the players and the player haters. You can also hear our demo.

It’s Friday evening—ev’rything is windin’ down
Time is now—hang up those uniforms, clown

Cause as the sun sets, rises up the Sabbath Queen
Bitch is kinda mean—she’s not playin’ (uhn uhn)

Stop your work. Light up them candles.
Homies on the block: it’s time to buckle up your sandals

Get yer asses to the table.
Sing a song, go eat some challah

If yer down with what I’m saying, then it’s time for you to holla!

Hip-Hop Shabbat Brings Youth Back to Religion [JPost]

You’ve Gone Too Far, Baby

IDF rabbi raises hackles of female soldiers


Avichai Ronski, the chief rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces, is denying reports that he said “a priori, women should not serve in the army” at a conference two weeks ago, according to Haaretz. Religious women soldiers at the event where Ronski spoke said they found his remarks insensitive and illogical, given that Ronski met his future wife when she was performing her army service as a clerk in his unit. But objections to Ronski’s supposed statement on the grounds that the army brought him to the altar raises its own prickly question—are these women serving in the interest of national defense or as a way to meet a mate?

IDF Chief Rabbi Says Women Shouldn’t Serve [Haaretz]

Today on Tablet

Leiber and Stoller’s ‘Hound Dog,’ the Dead Sea, Indian food, a Brooklyn Golem, and more


Contributing Editor Wesley Yang reviews Hound Dog, the autobiography of songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Daniella Cheslow sticks a toe in the debate surrounding the shrinking of the Dead Sea. Mimi Sheraton samples the (vegetarian, kosher) flavors of the Indian subcontinent. Marissa Brostoff checks in with an unlikely pair of twin sisters: one’s married to a Palestinian activist and the other’s a rabbi. And filmmakers Stephen and Joel Levinsohn set loose a Golem on the streets of today’s Brooklyn. These stories—along with regular updates here on The Scroll—today on Tablet.

Euros Pressure Bibi

To get with the peace program


German Chancellor Angela Merkel joined the list of international voices calling for a halt to Israeli settlement construction. She told a session of the Bundestag (the lower house of German parliament) that building in the West Bank, including “natural growth,” is a hindrance to the two-state solution. As The Jerusalem Post reports, what’s noteworthy about Merkel’s position is not only her center-right alignment but her habitual reluctance to demand too much of the Jewish state.

Earlier this week, the New York Times disclosed that French President Nicolas Sarkozy personally told Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu that his foreign minister, the far-right ultra-nationalist Avigdor Lieberman, was toxic and should be fired, comparing Lieberman to France’s best-known xenophobe Jean-Marie Le Pen. Given the iciness between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu, there’s a good chance the U.S. president has prevailed upon his European allies to do some gentle nudging and needling of their own. Merkel’s statements are exactly in line with the main criterion put forth by both the European Union and American State Department. And if anyone on the continent is in a position to deflect an anti-Arab boor, surely it’s the part-Jewish head of state who wants the burka banned and the rioting “scum” of the Parisian banlieues brought to heel.

Merkel: Settlements Ruin Efforts for 2-state Solution [JPost]

Sarkozy Comments on Israeli Minister Make Waves [NYT]

Daybreak: War Crimes

Hamas and Israel both guilty, Rome adopts Shalit, and more from the news.


• Amnesty International reports that by its standards, both Israel and Hamas are guilty of committing war crimes during the recent conflict in Gaza. [London Times]
• The city of Rome has made kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit an honorary citizen and taken up the cause of his release. [Ynet]
• The photographer who runs the HaChayim HaYehudim Jewish Photo Library has had permission to document most of the synagogues in Australia revoked by Jewish security groups, for undisclosed reasons. “I could never have imagined being blacklisted on an entire continent,” he said. [JPost]
• Bernie Madoff has been inducted into the Con Artist Hall of Infamy. [LAT]
• Michael Jackson may have a secret Saudi-Arabian Jewish widow. But probably not. [JTA]

Sundown: The Jackson Question

Faux paranoia, a subway skirmish, and a good call by God


• Everyone’s wondering, will Michael Jackson’s kids be raised by their Jewish mother? And if she used a donor egg, are they still Jews? [JTA]
• A Palestinian American comedian wrote a parodic column positing that Facebook is a Zionist conspiracy; too bad it’s so unfunny, some people might mistake it for an earnest theory. [JPost]
• A woman whose dog puked on the NYC subway either harassed or was harassed by the city’s first Hasidic police officer. [Gawker]
• In the grand tradition of leaving one’s political decisions to a higher power, Joe the Plumber has decided not to run for Congress after God gave the idea a thumbs down. [NY Mag]
• And, in another grand tradition, the Baltimore Jewish Times brags about Jewish comedians in honor of Sacha Baron Cohen’s upcoming movie Bruno. [BJT]

A Muslim for Scotland

Who thinks Jews should join the party


Nationalist political parties tend, for the most part, not to be the sort of organizations that embrace diversity. But one of the leading lights of the Scottish National Party, whose platform is based on local governance rather than on notions of racial purity, is Osama Saeed, the Glasgow-born founder of the Scottish Islamic Foundation.

Saeed is expected to run in the next general election for a parliamentary seat previously held by Mohammed Sarwar, Britain’s first Muslim MP. He has come in for criticism as a kind of Trojan Muslim who conceals his support for a restored Islamic caliphate behind his neatly trimmed beard and natty ties. But in an interview with London-based altmuslim, he says all he wanted was the freedom to have state-supported parochial schools—something Orthodox Jews, as it happens, also enthusiastically support, along, he noted, with people who speak Gaelic.

Muslims in Europe: The Scottish Example [altmuslim]
Related: Boneheads and Ballots

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.