For the first time, an Israeli government formerly requested convicted spy Jonathan Pollard’s release. The Palestinian Authority made clear it intended to seek the U.N. General Assembly’s blessing of statehood come September. Rep. Eric Cantor became the highest-ranking Jewish-American legislator ever. Jewish Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot point-blank in the head, in a rampage that killed several; miraculously, she has recovered significantly. Hezbollah departed the unity government, lighting the fuse of the powder-keg known as Lebanon. A D.C. think tank noted specific ways by which a two-state solution could come via land-swaps around the 1967 borders; in retrospect more people probably should have paid attention. We learned a lot more about Stuxnet, including the fact that, yes, it had Israeli origins (probably). The “Palestine Papers” leaked and showed that in 2008 Israel and the P.A. were quite close to a deal, one that would have given nearly all of Jerusalem to the Jewish state. “An Arab Spring?” I asked, not rhetorically, because after all some of these Tunisians and Egyptians were getting pretty angry! For a time it looked like Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak would be replaced by his right-hand man, Omar Suleiman, so it made sense to compare him to Omar of The Wire. But things quickly got much more nuts, which we tried to explain.
All of the above? Yeah, that was January. Just January.
Since then, in the Territories, Hamas and the P.A. cracked down fiercely on popular protests in favor of unity. Then, suddenly, they agreed to unity, even though it was always doubtful it would actually work. But they stayed together long enough to mount the most threatening Nakba Day protests in years if not decades, and to threaten even worse come September—if they seek unilateral statehood.
Substantively, the most consequential thing President Obama did vis-à-vis Israel was veto a Security Council resolution condemning settlements. In a speech in May, Obama pledged similar opposition to the statehood gambit, condemned Hamas and the P.A.’s deal with it, sharply criticized Iran, and committed the U.S. to totally standing up for Israel’s security and right to exist. And he mentioned what the previous two presidents had assumed: That a two-state solution depended on land-swaps based on the ’67 borders. So, naturally, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded angrily, creating a huge diplomatic mess that has yet to be fully untangled, and which could have implications on the 2012 U.S. presidential contest.
On the Iranian front, first we were given ample reason to believe that its purported nuclear program was substantially delayed. But then we learned that Stuxnet, while helpful, was no panacea. And then we learned that Iran has made significant progress on weaponization technology.
Egypt continues to move tentatively toward democracy.
In Lebanon, the sealed U.N. indictment for the 2005 assassination of the former prime minister (and father of the also-former prime minister, who had to resign when Hezbollah pulled its support) was only last week partially unsealed; expect things to continue to get hotter there.
It was weird that the Syrian regime was brutally cracking down on internal dissent, and barely anyone was saying anything. And that was half-a-half-a-year ago.
Former White House chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel, who once harbored dreams of being the first Jewish Speaker of the House, instead decided to run for mayor of Chicago; was briefly declared ineligible, then not; then won.
We were there as Rabbi Gershom Sizoumu ran for and lost a seat in Uganda’s parliament. We observed the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire. Ellen Weiss, an NPR honcho and wife of the enormously influential Rabbi David Saperstein, was forced to resign. Rep. Peter King held hearings on the American Muslim community, attracting the opposition of the American Jewish community. The Reform movement picked a new head.
Jimmy Carter was sued by people who bought and hated his book. Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder sued Washington City Paper, and even got the Simon Wiesenthal Center to endorse his ludicrous accusation of anti-Semitism—maybe his buddy Tom Cruise helped? Jon Demjanjuk was convicted of helping carry out the Holocaust, and then set free.
Quote of the Half-Year (paraphrased): “Oops!” — Richard Goldstone.
Western countries invaded Libya, possibly out of Holocaust guilt. A crazy guy tried to blow up a Santa Monica Chabad house. Benjamin Netanyahu and Justin Bieber were plausibly mentioned in the same sentence. A glass ceiling was shattered when Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz was picked to be the first woman to run either the Democratic or Republican National Committee. The Prince of Wales had the least Jewish wedding ever. Controversy swirled about playwright Tony Kushner. Jill Abramson was named the first woman editor of the New York Times. Dolph Schayes rooted for the Dallas Mavericks to win the NBA championship, and lo, it came to pass.
On the home front, Nextbook Press author Hillel Halkin was honored, and Rush Limbaugh said we were a “radical left-wing” outfit. We rolled out a welcome mat for Goldblog. And the American Society of Magazine Editors confirmed that it enjoys The Scroll.
We said several goodbyes, most of them sad: Elizabeth Taylor; Chris Hondros (whose photograph adorns the top of this post); Juliano Mer-Khamis; and Debbie Friedman, whose death I managed to turn into a controversy, though I swear I mourn for her as well. I don’t, however, mourn for one of the most important U.S. neo-Nazis, who was killed by his own son. There were many other sad goodbyes. Meanwhile, Sen. Joseph Lieberman announced he would retire after four terms. John Galliano’s career ended, or at least lulled, on less favorable terms. So did Rep. Anthony Weiner’s. Oh, and a final goodbye: Enjoy your virgins, Osama. Hamas will enjoy them with you. (Fortunately or not, Noam Chomsky’s religion does not conceive of an afterlife.)
Where do we stand now? Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested for rape, which is looking more questionable by the day; Israeli central banker Stanley Fischer was barred from replacing him as head of the International Monetary Fund. The most Jewish state got gay marriage thanks in part to a handful of Jewish Republicans. Israeli-American law student Ilan Grapel is still being detained by Egyptian authorities under dubious espionage accusations. Benjamin Netanyahu’s greatest domestic rival may well be retired Mossad chief Meir Dagan. The Gaza flotilla remains docked.
How should you deal with all this? We suggest going the f**k to shul.
Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.