How Not To Write a Zionist Op-Ed

Ex-Israeli ambassador Michael Oren still sounds like PR man in WSJ essay

Israeli Merkava tanks drive near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip as they return on August 5, 2014, after Israel announced that all of its troops had withdrawn from the Gaza Strip. (THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images)

Among my most pro-Israel friends on Facebook, the most-shared piece of the past week has surely been “In Defense of Zionism,” the Wall Street Journal essay by Michael B. Oren, Israel’s former ambassador to the United States and now a professor at IDC Herzliya. It’s a stirring piece, filled with useful (and true) information about the remarkable success of a fringe 19th-century ideology in giving birth to the successful, growing, economically powerful nation-state that is also a homeland for the Jews.

But it’s clearly a work of propaganda, the kind of thing written by an ambassador (Oren’s former job) not a professor (his current one). The author of a highly regarded history of the 1967 war, Oren has intellectual chops. But in this piece of wartime agitprop, he has chosen not to use them. Yes, he’s writing in a limited space, and for a popular audience. But that’s no excuse. And the failures of his Wall Street Journal essay are object lessons of the pitfalls of a world where so many move between academic and government work, or government work and lobbying, or scholarship and opinion writing. Oren is a perfectly competent polemicist, but it’s a shame that he’s so willing to betray the obligations of a scholar. (more…)

Prague Elects New Chief Rabbi

Czech capital’s Jewish community chooses a Prague native for the post

Prague's Jerusalem Synagogue. (Bocman1973 /

The Czech capital has elected a new chief rabbi. JTA reports that Rabbi David Peter, 38, was voted into the position by the Prague Jewish community. The Prague native currently serves as the rabbi of the city’s Jerusalem Synagogue. He previously lived in Jerusalem, where he was ordained at the Straus-Amiel seminary, and returned to Prague in 2011.

Fun fact about Peter: he’s a trained dancer. (more…)

Voices From Gaza: ‘We Are Suffering’

Director of Gaza City women’s center says the area needs humanitarian aid


Amal Abu Aisha is the director of Women’s Affairs Center in Gaza City, where she works to raise awareness among Palestinian women about their social, economic, and political rights. I spoke to her in the quiet of the 72-hour cease fire, a respite from the 29 days of Israeli bombardment. Gaza City is now in its seventh day without electricity after an Israeli missile bombed the power plant. Though the Israeli Electric Corporation has begun work fixing cables that bring power from Israel into Gaza, power has still not been restored to Gaza City and other areas supplied by the plant, which means that water—which must be electronically processed—is still scarce.

People in Gaza City are angry, and sad. “We are suffering, we are suffering, we are suffering,” Abu Aisha said. “If you see your city destroyed, if you see your friends, homeless, wandering the streets. No water, no electricity, no medicine.” (more…)

BuzzFeed Gets a Big Story Wrong

But it’s other journalists who turned it into a viral conspiracy theory

Israelis hold Israeli flags along the road of the funeral procession of Gilad Shaer, 16, one of three Israeli teens kidnapped on June 16, 2014. ( Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)

Yesterday, Israeli security officials claimed the funding and instructions for the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers in June came from two top leaders of Hamas in Gaza: Fathi Hammad, the former Hamas interior minister, who lives in Gaza, and Saleh al-Arouri, a close associate of Khaled Mashaal, who masterminds terror operations from a safe haven in Turkey. Ordinarily, the news that a terrorist organization funds terrorism wouldn’t qualify as much of a news item. But as those paying attention to the coverage of the recent conflict in Gaza know, the question of who was behind the kidnapping has bloomed into a persistent conspiracy theory. Israel, wailed its critics, had known all along that the kidnappers were members of a breakaway sect of the terror organization, yet had blamed Hamas anyway in order to justify its bloody pre-planned assault on Gaza.

This theory, such as it was, was supported largely by the reporting of Buzzfeed’s Sheera Frenkel. “If there was an order, from any of the senior Hamas leadership in Gaza or abroad, this would be an easier case to investigate,” Frenkel quotes an anonymous Israeli intelligence officer “intimately involved in investigating the case” as saying. “We would have that intelligence data. But there is no data, so we have come to conclude that these men were acting on their own.” (more…)

NYC Jeweler’s Tribute to Slain IDF Soldiers

Boutique’s front window lists Israeli soldiers killed in recent Gaza operation

Storefront of Eli Halili, a jewelry store in Manhattan, as it appeared on Sunday. (Stephanie Butnick)

Eli Halili is a New York jewelry designer hoping to extend his impact beyond sparkling accessories. Realizing that the location of his Mott Street boutique in New York City’s trendy NoLiTa neighborhood provided the opportunity to reach a wide audience of passersby, the Israeli designer decided last week to bring attention to the war in Gaza by painting the shop’s front window with a list of the names of the Israeli soldiers killed in the conflict. The names, which by now cover the bulk of the storefront, are accompanied by the message, “We pray for peace in the Middle East!”

Halili, who was born and raised in Israel and moved to the U.S. after completing his IDF service, hopes the display, which he created with co-designer Gary Samuelian, offers the respect the fallen soldiers deserve. “Each and every single one of them represents a name, a person, a human being that I know personally did not want to go into war and did not want to get killed or kill others,” he said of the list.

“I felt that people should actually take action this time and do something, because people are being killed for no reason on both sides,” he said. (more…)

The Philosophy Behind Zingerman’s Deli

Co-founder took cues from Russian Anarchists in crafting business empire

(Steve Pepple)

It takes chutzpah for a Jewish-style deli to distribute a recipe for red braided pork belly that starts with the ingredients “two tablespoons of kosher salt.” Maybe it’s the same type of chutzpah it takes to start a book on business organization by quoting the American-Jewish Anarchist Emma Goldman. Yet somehow, Ari Weinzweig, who together with Paul Saginaw founded Ann Arbor’s Zingerman’s Deli in 1982, is able to manage both. Today, the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses has expanded well beyond the original deli to include a diverse range of high quality eateries and food producers, as well as a business-training institute (ZingTrain) and an independent press. Weinzweig’s own business philosophy and personal biography draw from two of the most paradigmatic Jewish philosophies of the last century—Zionism and Anarchism. (more…)

Jewish Children Terrorized on Sydney School Bus

Drunk teens boarded yelling ‘Heil Hitler,’ threatened to cut students’ throats

(ValeStock /

A school bus driving children home from three Jewish private schools in Sydney, Australia today was boarded by eight drunk teens who proceeded to yell “Heil Hitler” and “Kill the Jews,” threatening to cut the children’s throats before disembarking, Australia’s Daily Telegraph reports. The disturbing incident was reported by Jacqui Blackburn, whose three children, ages 8, 10, and 12, were on the bus.

She described the panicked call made to her by one of her children. “She said: ‘Hey Mummy, please help us, there are eight strange men who have been let on to a school bus and they are screaming ‘Heil Hitler! Kill the Jews!’ they want to cut out our throats’.”

“Then the phone cut off and I couldn’t hear anything.’ (more…)

A Voice for Gaza, From East Jerusalem

As wounded Gazans flock to hospitals, women take on the bulk of their care


Rula Salameh lives in the Beit Hanina neighborhood of East Jerusalem and works for Just Vision, an NGO committed to finding and disseminating non-violent ways of ending the Israeli-Palesinian conflict in both communities. She is also a television presenter for Ma’an News Agency, a Palestinian television channel, and is active in a number of women’s groups in East Jerusalem.

“What happened in Gaza recently really effected most Palestinian lives in Israel and the West Bank,” Salameh told me on the phone last week. “I felt that we had to do something to support people in Gaza, to tell them we are thinking of them and supporting them and we can’t live a normal life while Gaza is under Israeli attack.” (more…)

Are We Still Afraid of ‘Jaws’?

Spielberg’s classic emptied beaches in 1975, but does it still scare?

Scene from Steven Spielberg's Jaws. (© 1975 - Universal Pictures. All rights reserved.)

Released on June 20, 1975, Steven Spielberg’s Jaws is commonly seen as the original summer blockbuster. It’s also considered one of Hollywood’s first “high concept” films. You can describe it in just three words: Shark menaces town.  

Despite this surface simplicity, or perhaps because of it, Jaws has given rise to countless—sometimes conflicting—interpretations. The shark has been seen as a stand-in for everything from Watergate to infidelity to immigration. While some have argued that the predator represents the evils of communism, Fidel Castro called the movie a Marxist masterpiece, in which the shark represents the capitalism that brutalizes ordinary Americans. Next year, when the movie turns 40, there’ll no doubt be commentators who will see it as a predictor of global warming—or of 9/11.  (more…)

Israel Confirms Hamas Funded Kidnapping

Accomplice in abduction and murder of three teens says order came from Gaza

Israeli security forces speak on the phone as they stand guard on June 30, 2014 in the village of Halhul, near the West Bank town of Hebron, where the bodies of the three missing Israeli teenagers were found. (MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

Israel has confirmed that the funding for the June kidnapping and murder of Israeli teenagers Naftali Frankel, Gilad Shaer, and Eyal Yifrah—which set off a chain of events that led to the current war in Gaza—was provided by Hamas.

Hassam Qawasameh, a Palestinian man arrested on July 11 in connection with the abduction, admitted that the orders and financing of the kidnapping came from Gaza. Paul Hirschson, deputy spokesperson for international media at Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, tweeted the news this afternoon after an Israeli gag order was lifted. (more…)

Video Shows Hamas Firing Rocket From Residential Area

Indian news site posted the footage after its reporters were safely out of Gaza

(Screengrab from NDTV video showing a Hamas rocket being assembled and later fired in a residential area of Gaza.)

Indian news site NDTV has published a video of their news team in Gaza filming the assembly of a Hamas rocket next to their hotel, in a heavily populated residential zone. The video also captures the rocket being fired the following morning, just before the latest ceasefire began.

The video, which NDTV explains they waited to post online until the team was out of Gaza, offers some of the first public footage corroborating Israel’s argument that Hamas launches rockets from civilian areas, knowingly endangering the lives of Palestinians in retaliatory Israeli air strikes. (more…)

Ceasefire Holding Between Israel and Hamas

All Israeli military personnel have withdrawn from the Gaza Strip

Israeli soldiers walk near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip as they return from the Hamas-controlled Palestinian coastal enclave on August 5, 2014, after Israel announced that all of its troops had withdrawn from the Gaza Strip. (DAVID BUIMOVITCH/AFP/Getty Images)

A 72-hour ceasefire went into effect at 8 a.m. Tuesday morning, the 29th day of Operation Protective Edge, bringing a tentative end for now to the fighting that has killed 67 Israelis, including three civilians, and more than 1,800 Palestinians, according to Gaza health officials.

On Monday night, Egypt announced that Hamas had agreed to the ceasefire with no preconditions, three weeks after Israel agreed to a previous Egyptian ceasefire. (more…)

Honor, Shame, and the ‘Emotional Nakba’

Paul Scham responds to a recent article by Richard Landes in Tablet


Last month, we published an article by Richard Landes in which the historian and author argued that together with the nakba, or catastrophe, that befell Palestinians in 1948 was an additional, perhaps more acute, psychological blow: an emotional nakba that cut to the core of millennia of a Muslim honor-shame discourse.

Paul Scham, professor of Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the University of Maryland, where he is executive director of its Gildenhorn Institute for Israel Studies, submitted a response, which we’ve published a condensed version of below. (more…)

Did the U.N. Call on Israel to Share Iron Dome With Hamas?

No, what it actually said was even more outrageous

A missile is launched by an 'Iron Dome' battery, a missile defence system designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells, in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod on July 18, 2014. (DAVID BUIMOVITCH/AFP/Getty Images)

Over the weekend, a custom-tailored-for-Facebook story started making the rounds, claiming that Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, was blasting Israel for refusing to share the Iron Dome missile defense system with Hamas. It was just the kind of hilariously delicious absurdity that could be expected of the same organization that will soon welcome Chad—where slavery is still a rollicking tradition—into its Security Council, but the ever zealous guardians of Israel’s minor infractions and little else soon declared that Pillay was being slandered: she never called on Israel to share its defensive bounties, but rather criticized the United States for helping to fund the advanced system and noted that “no such protection has been provided to Gazans against the shelling.”

Which, in a way, is an even more deplorable statement to make. (more…)

A Voice For Gaza, From the West Bank

Non-violence advocate faces resistance from Palestinians and fire from IDF


Issa Amro is the director of Youth Against Settlements, a non-partisan NGO based in the West Bank city of Hebron that seeks to end the Israeli occupation through non-violence. The organization’s activities include presentations, screenings, and tours intended for Israelis, Palestinians, and the international community. They also take advantage of social media and YouTube to disseminate information about what’s happening in Hebron, and how to use non-violent means to oppose it.

On Friday, Amro organized a non-violent protest in support of Gaza, which 30,000 people attended, many of them women, children, and the elderly. (more…)

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