According to The Lede, this video of Charlie Chaplin addressing a fascist rally, while impersonating an Adolf Hitler-like leader and denouncing militarism and dictatorship, is all the rage in Iran.
Jamie Kirchick wrote this week, under the headline, "Obama's Jews," that the "constellation of far-left 'pro-Israel' organizations put a kosher stamp of approval on Obama's bizarre hectoring and moral equivalence." Well, count me - a genuine warmongering fascist, according to some on the Interwebs - as a person who also puts his kosher stamp of approval on Obama's approach to Israel. I don't think his approach is bizarre or hectoring, or represents an exercise in moral equivalence. If he equated Hamas and Israel, then he would be making a moral equivalency argument, but he didn't. And I don't think there's anything bizarre about an American president asking Israel to end its addiction to settlements. And I don't think there's anything bizarre or marginal about a group of American Jews forming an organization like J Street to press for a different vision of Israel than the one advocated - or acquiesced to - by so-called mainstream groups like AIPAC and the ADL.
I agree with Jamie - J Street has made some dumb mistakes in its brief history; its knee has jerked to the left when it shouldn't have, and it needs to grapple with the Iranian threat in a sophisticated way, and not simply stand in opposition to whatever AIPAC happens to be advocating at the moment. But all knees in the organized Jewish community tend to jerk, and when they do, they jerk in the direction of the status quo, and the status quo is untenable. The Zionist vision of a Jewish democratic state won't survive the demographic and moral realities of the current situation. Some people in J Street, I think, are motivated by animus to the idea of a Jewish state, but most, in my limited experience with them, want to preserve both Israel's democratic and Jewish character. That's more than I can say for some people in the "mainstream" pro-Israel community, who blind themselves to the coming crisis.
I'm not naïve about Arab intentions - or should I say, I'm no longer naïve about Arab intentions. I don't automatically believe that the creation of a Palestinian state will lead to an end of claims, or an end to the conflict. But I know that Israel's continued entanglement with the Palestinians, an entanglement deepened and exacerbated by its addiction to settlements, will eventually lead to the demise of the Jewish state. So I'm glad that "Obama's Jews" support his demand for Israeli self-reflection (are we so wonderful that we couldn't use a little self-examination now and again?), and I'm surprised that people are surprised by Obama's modest demand. He said in his campaign that he would hold up a mirror to Israel, and he is. He's also holding up a mirror to the Arab side, and that's all for the good as well. Time is running out - if Israel doesn't achieve permanent, internationally-recognized borders and diplomatic relations with the bulk of Muslim-majority countries soon, the campaign to delegitimize the very idea of Israel will become even more ferocious than it's been. In my humble opinion, J Street is trying, in its own way, to prevent this from happening, and this puts it in the mainstream of American Jewish political life.
CORRECTION: Jamie Kirchick's piece was e-mailed under the title "Obama's Jews," but the piece itself is headlined "The Obama Lobby."
That reductio ad Hitlerum rule certainly applies now to Avigdor Lieberman, who has ordered diplomats to distribute an old photograph of Haj Amin al-Husseini, the late Nazi-loving mufti of Jerusalem, sitting next to Hitler in 1941 Berlin. The idea is that world leaders will see the picture, think of Nazis, and let the Israeli foreign minister build apartments in East Jerusalem. Or something.
It's true that the Mufti was an outrageous Nazi. It's also true that he's dead. The Palestinians of the West Bank are not Nazis. Lieberman is going to have to get used to the idea.
The Talmud tells us that when Resh Lakish -- Rabbi Simeon ben Lakish -- died, Rabbi Jochanan was inconsolable. No one else challenged Rabbi Jochanan's conclusions so vigorously or engaged him in such sharp argument. Repeatedly the Jewish tradition emphasizes that disagreement, even fundamental disagreement, need not be the same as personal hostility.
I have engaged in debates with some very sharp antagonists over the years, including with some noted atheists -- Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Steven Pinker. The differences were deep and fundamental. Yet in no case was the exchange, however charged, tinged with personal animosity. The relationships remained cordial and even friendly, although our disagreements could not have been more pronounced.
Throughout Jewish history argument has been elevated as a means of discovering truth. Every student of Talmud grows accustomed to the exchanges across centuries, as claims and debates contend for primacy. At times debate can indeed become heated; but in the end, the aim is truth.
Edmund Husserl once said of his fellow philosopher Lev Shestov, "No one has ever attacked me so sharply as he. That's why we are such close friends." I like to think that the Jewish background of both philosophers had something to do with their willingness to argue and remain friends. Resh Lakish and Rabbi Jochanan would understand.
After Michael Oren discussed his Zionist biography, we got to tougher issues, such as whether the very premise of Israel's existence is flawed:
Jeffrey Goldberg: It seems that it's safer to live as a Jew in America than it is to live as a Jew in Israel, but the basic Zionist urge was to create a place where Jews can live in physical safety. And yet today we see, and I don't think you could deny this, that it is dangerous to be Jewish in the state of Israel, and it is not dangerous to be Jewish in the U.S. How do you square that and do you think that Israel has failed in that particular mission to date?
Michael Oren: I think Israel hasn't achieved that goal entirely yet. But let's put it this way: it was one of the goals of Zionism. One of the goals of Zionism was to secure a place where Jews could live out their lives free of threat, but I think the overarching goal of Zionism was to create an environment where Jews could take responsibility for themselves as Jews. And it's the only place in the world where you do take responsibility for yourself as a Jew. You take responsibility for your lamp post and your sewage system and your education systems and your wars and your successes and your failures -- we take responsibilities for them as Jews, and I think that is the great accomplishment of the Zionist dream -- [it] was to transform the Jews from passive actors in their history to active agents in their history, to transform Jews from the role of victims, which is a very fundamental transformation for ourselves, people who take responsibility for all of their actions -- look at how many commissions we have after all of our wars to examine how well we did in the war and how and why we failed in those wars if we failed.
JG: Let's talk about something that the philosopher Avishai Margalit called the 'Immaculate Misconception of Zionism' -- that there was no one in the ancient land of Israel, in Palestine, when the Jews decided to go back. And that, he sees, and many people see, as the essential tragedy of the Middle East -- that you have two people with compelling claims to the same piece of land. Is there a solution to that original misconception? Was that a misconception of early Zionists?
MO: Well it was certainly a misconception of some early Zionists, including some non-Jewish early Zionists. The aphorism 'a land for a people for a people without a land' was actually coined by a British lord in 1848, a non-Jew. A Jewish Zionist in the latter half of the 19th century believed that Palestine was largely uninhabited, and if you travel the literature of the period, for example Mark Twain's piece from 1867, "The Innocents Abroad," everybody remarks, all these writers remark, about how under populated Palestine was, and it was at the turn of the 20th century, there were roughly eight hundred, nine hundred thousand people in all of Palestine and that is less than the population of Washington, D.C. It was roughly unpopulated for all sorts of reasons, not the least of them were ecological.
But, nevertheless, there was another people there. A people, which, at the time of Zionism's form of stage, didn't necessarily think of itself as a people. You don't find the term Palestinian-Arab in any of the literature well into the 1950s. There's a reason why the partition of 1947 calls for the creation of a Jewish state and an Arab state, not a Palestinian state. The term Palestinian, before 1948, referred almost exclusively to Jews. The Palestine exhibit at the 1930 World Fair in New York was a Zionist exhibit, not an Arab exhibit. You could have gotten great Palestinian schnitzel. A genuine Palestinian meal you could have had there -- schnitzel. Falafel then was unknown.
Having said all that, at the end of the day, you're absolutely right. The tragedy, not of the Middle East but certainly of Israel, and its relationship with the Palestinians, is that there is another people that calls itself the Palestinian people, and we can't define for the Palestinians what they think of themselves. They think of themselves as a people who also inhabit the land. That fact does not in any way diminish our right to this land. The Jews have an inalienable right, an irrevocable right, to settle in what they regard as their ancestral biblical homeland, and anywhere in it, because if you can't settle in Hebron, you can't settle in Tel Aviv. And if you can't settle in Bet El, you can't settle in Haifa. This is the land of Israel. But we recognize that we must resist the urge to realize our right. ... We recognize that we can't actualize our right fully because it conflicts with the rights of another people, so we have to find a way to make our rights accord with their rights.
Ambinder, who, before he dove into the muck of political journalism, was the Crimson's police reporter, knows a thing or two about the apparently mean streets of Cambridge:
"What happened to Professor Henry Louis "Skip" Gates, Jr. is hardly unique and in my reporting experience, these clashes tend to involve young white students being strung out by overaggressive cops on generally bogus "disorderly conduct" charges, which is the Cambridge police officer's catch-all charge for "generally just pissing me off and acting holier than thou." Indeed, college kids in Cambridge often showed disrespect for the cops, so it's not surprising that the cops felt disrespected by the students.
I remember listening one night to a report of a loud party in the Kendall Square neighborhood near MIT. A single cop arrived. He was white. The partygoers, about a dozen of them, were black. It's sensible in 1 on 12 situations -- even for something as relatively minor as a quality of life complaint -- for the cop to call for back-up. The cop did. At some point before the back-up arrived, a scuffle began. Who touched whom was unclear, at least to someone listening over the police radio. Within 5 minutes, more than a dozen Cambridge officers were at the scene -- most of the entire city's night shift deployment. 12 on 12. The cops are thinking that one of their guys is in trouble, and the partygoers are thinking that the cops have shown up because they are black. More scuffling. People are arrested. Lawsuits are filed."
"In an ever escalating competition of appropriation, Iranians are finding new and clever ways to turn the Revolution inside out. Most compelling of all is the exquisitely subversive "Death to Russia!" and its companion "Death to China!" "Marq bar Russi-e! Marq bar Chin!" For 30 years, ever since the Revolution, Iranians have been chanting "Death to America!" with the regime's encouragement. It has long been a convenient outlet for any domestic discontent. Somehow the protesters have collectively decided that from now on, the U.S. will be left alone, all chants against that nation must cease. "Death to Russia" has become the new "Death to America.""
Slate explains the origins of those horrible "people-movers" at Dulles. It was all Eero Saarinen's fault. I much prefer the cowboy-music train in Denver. Or really anything except Dulles.
Israel's Arrow missile defense system was designed to intercept Scud missiles with a
range of 300-400 kilometers. After it became clear that the Iranians --
with aid from North Korea and China -- are increasing the range of
their missiles, Israel was forced to regroup and cope with the new reality, leading to the development of the Arrow 2 System. But it's not working out so well. Ha'aretz says that after a missile test failed to reach even the direction of its target on Wednesday night, Israel must develop a better way to defend itself against an attack from Iran, whose Shihab 3 missile's range exceeds 1,000 kilometers -- more than enough to reach Israel.
It gets worse:
"Iran is about to incorporate a missile with a range of 2,000 kilometers into its arsenal. Not coincidentally, even though there has been little media attention on the subject, Israel is mulling the purchase of the U.S.-made THAAD missile defense, which is still in the development phase. ... This mishap will be thoroughly examined in Iran. There is no doubt that Tehran's director of its missile program will be rubbing his hands with satisfaction. Beyond the technical glitch, this failure is also a psychological blow for Israel and the U.S, its partner in the project."
Oh, and it doesn't help that Israel, at least in public, is calling all of this a "partial success" for its missile defense strategy.
I just saw this, from David Rothkopf:
Despite the endless and baseless propaganda to the contrary, getting tough with the Israelis on settlements or on other elements of the Israel-Palestine agenda will actually do precious little to address our greater concerns in the region while accepting a nuclear-capable Iran because we don't have the will to stop them from getting will damage U.S. interests in great and lasting ways.That's not to say we shouldn't seek to actively advance a two-state solution for the Israelis and the Palestinians. It doesn't say we should agree with Israel on everything and we shouldn't pressure for change where we disagree. But as a potentially unprecedented rift looms and as a shift in the politics of the relationship seems to be taking place, it's probably worth taking a deep breath and asking ourselves if we have fully thought through the consequences of what might come next.
Or to the Western Wall, I should say:
A new Web site offers those seeking to have their prayers answered a chance to "Tweet at the Kotel." The non-profit service, launched two weeks ago, allows people to submit their prayers or wishes, which are then printed on small notes and placed in the wall's cracks. Through other services, it is already possible to send notes via fax, email and text messages to the Western Wall.
Me, when I'm writing to a big rock like the Western Wall, I like to write long (it's my magazine training, I guess) and quote a lot from the sources, to show God, who reads the notes the very same night (or so I'm told) that I'm keeping up on my Jewish learning. But how to quote the Bible in so short a space? Twitter only allows 140 characters. The Christian Bible has some short, pithy lines -- the best, of course, being, "Jesus wept." But Jesus isn't weeping at the Western Wall, so I asked David Wolpe, the Chief Rabbi of Goldblog, for some similarly short passages I could tweet to the Wall. This is what he came up with: "Let there be light." He pointed out that in Hebrew, it's only two words.
From the Times:
Bob Cohn recently tweeted the idea (I can't believe I just wrote that) that the new hip nutjobs are the birthers, and compared them to the now-out creationists. I get the point, but the more appropriate comparison might be to the 9/11 "truth" movement. Creationists don't believe in conspiracies; they just believe that dinosaurs are 5,000 years old. Birthers and 9/11 truthers (or, alternatively, "birfers" and "troofers") both believe that the government is out to get us.
Conde Nast recently hired McKinsey and Co. to "rethink" the magazine business after a year of advertising turmoil. I've managed to get my hands on a draft memo written by one senior McKinsey consultant after his first three days at 4 Times Square. Here are excerpts:
To: Chuck Townsend, CEO, Conde Nast
From: McKinsey and Co.
In the interest of vertical interconnectivity and maximum impactfulness, we just wanted to share some of our initial observations/questions with you. We hope these don't seem too obvious:
1. The role of writers in the magazine production process seems worthy of examination. What do they do? Why are there so many?
2. Some of the writers -- we're thinking Jon Lee Anderson, George Packer, William
Lagewishe LangeswishceLangewiesche -- spend a lot of money traveling to foreign countries such as Afghanistan and Baghdad. The Week covers these countries at a fraction of your cost. Could The Week be a model for your news coverage?
3. Old Sushi. Could the cafeteria's uneaten sushi be used for Gourmet photo shoots?
4. Has the company considered using the World Wide Web as a platform for its magazines? "Weblogs" and other websites could then "link" to Conde Nast articles. This would surely generate significant advertising income.
5. Two words: Salon dinners.
6. Does Big Apple use pedicabs as well as Town Cars? Might be worthwhile for short trips.
7. Is "A. Leibovitz" the accounting code for a corporate jet?
8. We enjoy The New Yorker, but could you make it more like Cookie? Also, is Sasha Frere-Jones a black woman or a white male? Not sure who to look for in the cafeteria.
9. In re: Central services efficiencies, could Wired editors staff the "Help Desk"? Might be big downstream upside here.
10. Whatever happened to Dan Baum? He was a good writer.
11. We think Graydon Carter was mocking us in our first meeting. Not sure. Could you check?
12. We're having difficulty making Anna Wintour talk to us. Is there something you could do about this?