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British Parliament Chooses Jewish Speaker

There’s a first time for everything!

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There’s something of an ironic rule in Britain that in order to advance politically as a Jew, one must belong to the Conservative Party. Witness yesterday’s election of John Bercow, the first Jewish speaker of the House of Commons. What distinguished Bercow most, apart from being a member of the country’s oldest religious minority, is that he is not his predecessor, Michael Martin, who was forced to resign as speaker last month after overseeing one of the most widespread abuses of legislative expenses in British history. Martin was another milestone: he was the first member of parliament to resign the speakership in 300 years. Jews were only formally admitted to parliament in 1858 when Lionel de Rothschild, after three successful elections, was sworn in as M.P. without having to recite the Christian oath previously required. The clause “upon the true faith of a Christian” had blocked Rothschild from being admitted into the chamber. Rothschild was given his earned seat by using the more prosaic phrase “so help me God.”

Bercow Becomes First Jewish Speaker of U.K. House of Commons [JPost]

New York Ignored Westboro Picketers

Except to give money to gay synagogue

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Protesters from the anti-gay, anti-Semitic Westboro Baptist Church got the freak-show treatment when they staged (very small) rallies outside New York City Jewish institutions this weekend, The New York Times reported. Passersby “gawked,” “jeered,” and threw the occasional sarcastic Nazi salute at the seven Topeka, Kansas-based protesters when they showed up at the Jewish Theological Seminary and various synagogues with “Jews killed Christ” and “God hates Israel” placards. At Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, the gay synagogue in Greenwich Village, the Westboro picketers were greatly outnumbered by more than 100 counterprotesters.

In fact, the protest was if anything a boon to CBST. Synagogue leaders asked supporters to pledge a dollar or more in donations for each minute the Westboro members spent picketing, according to a report in the New York Daily News. The congregation raised $10,000.

Messages of Hate Met by Scorn and Shrugs [NYT]
Manhattan Synagogue Makes $10G Off of Westboro Baptist Church Protest [Daily News]
Previously: Anti-Gay, Anti-Jewish Activists Coming to New York

Britney, Survivor

Pop-star Spears in talks for a Holocaust movie

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Spears on Good Morning America last year.(Getty Images)

Britney Spears’ career has taken a new curious turn with word she’s in negotiations to star in a movie titled The Yellow Star of Sophia and Eton. “Britney will reportedly play the main role of Sophia LaMont, who creates a time machine and travels back to World War II where she meets a Jewish man called Eton at a concentration camp,” reports the National Ledger, which broke the news yesterday.

It’s quite the pitch, even before you try to imagine the Crossroads star in a lead role. But Tablet has gotten hold of a top-secret script treatment, direct from Hollywood. Here’s how the movie will go (or so we’d like to think):

Sophia’s time machine lands in the camp’s shower room. Water’s not coming out of those shower heads, of course, but because she’s in an air-tight vehicle, our heroine is safe. Her hair shaved off by a disturbingly sexy German soldier (negotiations are underway for Madonna to take the role), Sophia is interrogated under an austere hanging lightbulb. She defies the torture, crying out, “Hit me, baby! One more time!” Then, she faints from exhaustion. While passed out, Sophia dreams of her older sister, Lina LaMont, and, in her reverie, starts singing in the rain, splashing, and, yes, grinding in the muddy puddles of the camp while belting out an auto-tunes enhanced version of “Here Comes the Rain Again.”

Meantime, Eton (Adrien Brody is eager to play the part, we heard), cursed with a name that looks like that of a British prep school but is pronounced Eitan, knows he shouldn’t fall for Sophia, because she’s not from the old world. Eton’s father, a dairy farmer from Anatevka, mumbles something about tradition. Eton’s not hearing it. Sophia’s hawt! And she’s got a time machine! And maybe these crazy kids can get out alive! (Cue an above-middle-C piano version of “Stayin’ Alive”). Sadly for the doomed lovers, Nazis like time machines as much as anybody, and this particular group of villains really wants to check out the city of Porto, circa the Inquisition. They foil the lovers’ plans for escape (cleverly anchoring the time machine with chains), and kill the heroes. Sophia lets out a final farewell as she takes her last breath. “Auf wiedersehen, y’all.”

Fin.

Britney Spears—The Movie [National Ledger]

Day Eleven in Iran

The news from Tehran today, collected

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Iranian riot police patrolling a Tehran street yesterday.(AFP/Getty Images)

Iran’s Guardian Council rejected calls to annul the violently contested June 12 presidential election, cementing its stand against the throngs of opposition protesters challenging the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Spokesman Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei told state-run English-language Press TV early Tuesday “no major fraud or breach” has been uncovered, despite Monday’s admission by the council that there had been voting irregularities in 50 districts, including final vote tallies that exceeded the number of eligible voters by about 3 million ballots—a discrepancy he dismissed on al Jazeera as “a statistical miscalculation.” Ahmadinejad, Press TV also reports, is due to be sworn in between July 26 and August 19.

Russia—which is helping build a nuclear power plant in Iran, and whose president, Dmitry Medvedev, welcomed Ahmadinejad last week—joined Syria in moving to back the regime, posting a statement on its Foreign Ministry web site Tuesday calling for any electoral disputes to be settled “in strict compliance with Iran’s Constitution and law.” Russia added the election was “exclusively an internal matter”—possibly a swipe at U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, who issued a statement Monday calling for “an immediate stop to the arrests, threats, and use of force, and urging the government and the opposition to resolve their differences peacefully through “dialogue and legal means.”

Nonetheless, al Jazeera reports supporters of opposition leader Mir Houssein Mousavi are calling for a general strike ahead of the council’s final vote certification, due on Wednesday, despite threats from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard that it will crush any further protests. As authorities reportedly ordered the family of Neda Soltani, the woman whose shooting death was captured on a cellphone video camera and posted on YouTube over the weekend, to take down mourning posters, Al Jazeera also contributed to her growing martyrology with an audio interview with her fiance; meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal’s Farnaz Fassihi reports the family of another young man killed during protests over the weekend was assessed a $3,000 “bullet fee” to retrieve his body from the morgue.

And, while the State Department is relying on Twitter and Facebook for information—they’re just like us!—Iranians themselves are apparently relying on Israeli shortwave radio broadcasts for information: 69-year-old Menashe Amir, a native Iranian who has hosted an 85-minute show in Farsi daily from Jerusalem for the past five decades, told the Wall Street Journal his call-in lines (routed via Germany) are flooded with requests for assistance from the outside world. “Iranians are thirsty for any information,” Amir said.

Today on Tablet

Holocaust deniers, a kosher video game, and weird kids

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Today begins Tablet’s four part series by Mark Oppenheimer investigating two very different men at the center of the Holocaust-revisionism movement, plus, Adam Kirsch weighs in on a new book positing that American Jews were not as silent about the Holocaust as we’ve been told. Liel Leibovitz discovers a hidden bar mitzvah in the new Ghostbusters video game. And Marjorie Ingall learns to accept that she won’t always understand her younger daughter. Plus, stay tuned for more on The Scroll throughout the day.

Young Israel, in Color

A British soldier’s 1949 home movies

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In 1949, an English soldier named Bernard Beacham was posted to Israel. To fight off boredom, he brought a movie camera with him, and he captured scenes, in color, of the Jewish State in its nascent year. The footage is stunning. It also contains a shocking revelation: folks in Israel used to wear ties.

Shearwater – Leviathan, Bound (Israel, 1949, in Color) [YouTube]

Daybreak: Can Palestinians Unify?

Fayyad’s optimism despite facts on the ground, a Jewish IMDB, and more from the news

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• Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said he is committed to establishing a Palestinian state within two years, and implored opposing groups to come together toward the goal, saying: “There is no pluralism in security.” [WP]
• Unfortunately, his plea comes as fighting between rival factions Hamas and Fatah escalates. [NPR]
• Meanwhile, Abdel Aziz Duaik, Hamas member and speaker of the Palestinian parliament, was freed from Israeli prison today after serving a three-year sentence for his role in the abduction of Israeli soldier Galid Shalit. [AP]
• At the same time, Israeli and Palestinian groups have gathered on opposite sides of the Gaza border to hold conflicting protests, although both have the same goal: the resolution of the Gilad Shalit affair. [Ynet]
• The European Union gives its OK and legal protection to the practice of kosher slaughter. [Arutz Sheva]
• The San Francisco Jewish Film Festival today unveils an online database of Jewish film, backed by Steven Speilberg. How do they choose what to include? “Any film that’s made in New York is a Jewish film,” says the project’s director. [Heeb]

Sundown: The Florida Files

Emerging communities, reverse discrimination, and the loneliest graduation

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• A synagogue in Pompano Beach, Florida, has placed personal ads looking for gay couples who want to marry in a bid to be the first in the county to hold a “Jewish Covenant of Love” ceremony. [Sun Sentinel]
• Elsewhere in the Sunshine State, Jacksonville has been declared an “emerging community” for Orthodox Jews. They’ve got a mikveh! [Florida Times Union]
• Meanwhile, that mainstay of the Jewish community, Boca Raton, plans to expand a turnpike, leaving Orthodox Jews angry about the infringement on their Sabbath walking path. [CBS]
• In order to take a stand “against discrimination,” a new bar in Tel Aviv bans Israeli soldiers in uniform from entering. [Haaretz]
• A Jewish girl in Harlem has opted to miss her high school graduation ceremony because it is being held on the Sabbath. She also turned down the school’s generous offer to let her march alone down an aisle in the library. [WPIX]
• “The notion of a Jew who looks like an Indian and lives in a poor house in a small city in the middle of the jungle is, at best, an exotic footnote to the official history of Peru’s Jewry as Lima sees it,” says one historian. What about hundreds of these Jews of the jungle? [NYT]

Yids, Defined

Malaysian paper offers guide to everyday slurs, inexplicably

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Apropos of nothing, Malaysia’s Star newspaper today offers an abridged guide, with definitions, to racial slurs, or “ethnophaulisms,” as writer S.S. Yoga politely calls them. Included in the round-up are at least three about Jews, ranging from the some usual suspects (“kike,” anyone?) to the more obscure (“flash: Acronym for F***ing Lazy American S**t Head. Used by Israelis to refer to American tourists used to an easier standard of living”). Here’s hoping for a future installment that includes, among chink, wetback, dago, the conspicuously missing JAP.

Slurs Around the World [The Star]

And the Beach Goes On

Despite rain, Tel Aviv shore comes to New York, pleasing most

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The Central Park beach yesterday.(Ynet)

Yesterday was many things: Father’s Day, the first day of summer, and, not insignificantly, the day Israeli tourism officials spent somewhere around $150,000 to set up a mock Tel Aviv beach in New York’s Central Park, to celebrate the Israeli city’s centennial. We were a touch skeptical of the marketing effort—there seems something a little silly about trucking tons of sand to a grassy Manhattan field and then pretending it’s a Mediterranean shoreline—but we’ve got to admit the pictures of a sandy Naumberg bandshell, that area just south of the Bethesda Terrace and just north of the mall, look rather lovely. (We’re not complaining about the Kadima-playing sabras, either.) Indeed, today’s various press reports seem to suggest a good time was had by all, even a French tourist who told Ynet he’d never seen such a vibrant beach and that he therefore now wants to visit the real one. (No doubt music to the ears of corporate sponsor El Al.) Only a few people were unhappy: JTA editor Ami Eden, who discovered both that the free trip to Israel he’d won didn’t include airfare and that his daughter lost her Crocs, and the people at Al-Awda, the Palestinian right to return coalition in New York, who issued a statement to Mondoweiss blogger Antony Loewenstein noting that “in reality the event is a celebration of ethnic cleansing and genocide.” Also, there were popsicles.

Tel Aviv Beach Party, New York-Style [Ynet]
Thousands turn out to celebrate Tel Aviv’s centennial at Central Park ‘beach’ [JPost]
Previously: Tel Aviv to Mark Centennial By Shlepping Sand to NYC

Ivies, Seven Sisters Were Cozy with Nazis

While Jewish-refugee scholars went South

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A new book on the cozy relationships leading American colleges and universities maintained with Nazi Germany is a “must read,” according to the New York Times Idea of the Day blog. In The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower, University of Oklahoma historian Stephen H. Norwood argues that universities like Harvard and Columbia and smaller schools like the Seven Sisters colleges were both complicit in and indifferent to the atrocities committed against Europe’s Jews. “They just didn’t care very deeply about Jews and anti-Semitism because they were themselves involved in maintaining quota barriers against Jewish students,” Norwood said in a recent interview quoted by the Times.

It is instructive to compare Norwood’s argument with an exhibition now on view at New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage. In Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges, the museum tells the story of how a number of German-Jewish intellectuals—shunned by the elite colleges and universities of the Northeast—found homes for themselves at the historically black colleges of the South.

The exhibition rests, at least in part, on the idea that the injustice of the Jim Crow laws sensitized southern blacks to the plight of Jewish refugees. It’s an idea Norwood’s new book seems to underscore.

American Colleges and the Nazis [NYT]
Beyong Swastika and Jim Crow [Museum of Jewish Heritage]

Bibi Makes Nice With Iranians

‘No conflict’ between people, he tells German paper

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Benjamin Netanyahu keeps coming up with new ways to placate Barack Obama. First he acknowledged a two-state solution for the first time, delivered to a far-right audience a mere ten days after Obama’s celebrated Cairo address. Now comes this interesting tidbit, in an interview with the German newspaper Bild: “There is no conflict between the Iranian people and the people of Israel and under a different regime the friendly relations that prevailed in the past could be restored.” He continued: “What we have seen in Iran is a powerful desire on the part of the Iranian people to be free.”

This may sound like head-of-state boilerplate, and it’s true that nothing earth-shattering is disclosed in wishing a brutalized population the very best. (Israeli President Shimon Peres is generally much more ebullient about the massive protests engulfing Iran and being met with murderous, theocratic reaction.) However, compare Netanyahu’s mild encouragement to what Mossad head Meir Dagan said to a Knesset committee last week:

The reality in Iran is not going to change because of the elections. The world and we already know Ahmadinejad. If the reformist candidate Mousavi had won, Israel would have had a more serious problem because it would need to explain to the world the danger of the Iranian threat, since Mousavi is perceived internationally arena as a moderate element. … It is important to remember that he is the one who began Iran’s nuclear program when he was prime minister.

Mousavi has been held under a microscope since becoming the public face of Iranian revolt, and Dagan did little more than express one conventional view among stateside Jewish organizations and Israel hawks that a flamboyant nasty like Ahmadinejad is better PR for preemption. But there’s not even a whiff of optimism in Dagan’s view, nothing that hints that the people of Iran genuinely want a different form of government and would happily vote away Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khameini if given a true and proper chance. But Netanyahu, typically the hawk’s hawk, is sounding softer than his chief of intelligence. If he’s moving toward the center—however conditionally—on Palestinian statehood, then Obama’s strategy of pressuring his administration would seem to be working.

[Netanyahu: Change in Iran Could Bring Peaceful Israel Ties [Haaretz]
[Mossad Head: Iran Riots Won’t Escalate Into Revolution [Haaretz]

Jihad For Kids!

Jordanian children’s rock group goes boom

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The biggest hit in children’s entertainment in the Arab world is less Jonas Brothers and more Jihad: the Birds of Paradise, a Jordanian-based production house for kids, is rapidly gaining popularity by churning out songs about martyrdom and violence against Israelis and Jews. “When we seek martyrdom, we go to heaven,” sings one little girl in “When We Seek Martyrdom,” the group’s latest blockbuster. “You tell us we’re small, but from this way of life we have become big. Without Palestine, what does childhood mean?” There’s also a music video, in which menacing-looking children sporting yarmulkes and toting semi-automatic weapons, intrude upon a garden where other children, beatific and wrapped in kaffiyehs, the traditional Arabic headdress, peacefully play.

Like other Birds of Paradise productions, the song has spawned dozens of YouTube fan tributes, and even captured the hearts of adult terrorists, who used the tune as the soundtrack for their menacing-looking videos. Their parents must be so proud.

Tablet Today

Actors, singers, authors, and Kings

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Today on Tablet Magazine, Senior Editor Michael Weiss talks to Michael Green, executive producer of the NBC series Kings, a modern-day retelling of the story of David. Allan Nadler reports from a Yiddish-theater festival in Montreal. Contributing editor Josh Lambert rounds up the latest crop of Jewish books. Associate editor Hadara Graubart reviews Regina Spektor’s new album, Far, a “meditation on finding the human within the divine, full of mini-soundtracks to life’s most intense moments.” And as always, there’ll be more throughout the day here on The Scroll.

‘W’ Spread for L.A. Iranian Jews

Filthy rich, and unfortunately timed

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Iranian Jewish ladies who lunch, in Beverly Hills.(W)

One takeaway from the new W’s look at the mind-bogglingly affluent Persian Jews of Beverly Hills, most of whom settled in California after fleeing Iran in 1979? Dispossession’s a bitch, made much easier when you’re rich. We learn that members of the community are a little bit insular, a little bit rock and roll (well, one—Sam Nazarian—owns nightclubs, anyway), and a little bit grateful for getting out when they did. “It was hard for a lot of people who lost everything,” says a 36-year old Columbia-educated interior designer. “But their kids—we learned that the sky is the limit.” It’s a classic only-in-America story, of course. But, even so, and granted no one could have predicted this spectacularly bad coincidence of timing, reading the article now, along with its accompanying photos of a Philippe Starck lamp and a $1.6 million Bugatti, while the violent shadow of Iran’s recent days lurks in the zeitgeist makes this particular charmed group of refugees seem a little bit crass.

The Persian Conquest [W magazine]

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