President Obama listens to Israeli radio on an ’80s-style ghetto blaster. That’s the concept behind a new Israeli ad for a government-owned radio station, promoting its coverage of the upcoming elections in the Jewish state.
The ad pictures the U.S. president on the lawn of the White House with a radio glued to his ear.
But it’s not just any radio. The first black president is depicted carrying a large boom box of the sort associated with the inner city youth culture of the crack era.
Apparently, the eye-catching goal of the ad is to convince Israelis that everybody — even Barack Obama — tunes in to catch the station’s coverage. The ad’s text reads, “When it’s really important for you to know what’s happening in the elections.”
It also shows the First Family’s dog, Bo, clamoring for the president’s attention on the White House lawn.
With less than three weeks until elections in Israel, the nation’s leading party still has no platform.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hybrid political faction formed from the recent merger between the ruling Likud party and right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu, has yet to publish its platform, in which it lays out its stands on major issues.
It’s a standard practice of political parties in Israel, just as it is in America. But Likud Beiteinu officials in the Israeli press as saying the joint list may forgo one altogether, since the idea is “anachronistic.”
As it turns out, Likud Beiteinu may have good reasons for avoiding the publication of a party platform.
From a practical standpoint, party platforms do little to attract voters and it is hard to find swing voters who sit down and compare platforms before casting their ballot.
But the combined party also has a specific reason to avoid making any policy statement this year. The Likud party has taken a turn to the right in recent years, and with the addition of ex-foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu to the joint list, the new party has moved from center-right closer to the far right wing of Israeli politics.
Nowhere is this more so than when dealing with the Israeli – Palestinian conflict—an issue to which the international community, including the United States — Israel’s prime supporter — is extremely sensitive.
The debate over the possible nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel for defense secretary is not dying down.
The White House has yet to formally announce whether Hagel will be its pick for the top Pentagon post, although President Obama has signalled to insiders that he is the likely choice. And the president did come out in Hagel’s defense in his Sunday Meet the Press interview, calling the Nebraska Republican “a patriot”.
Where does the Jewish community stand on Hagel as Defense Secretary? All over the map.
Leading the detractors is, of course, Abraham Foxman of the Anti Defamation League whose remark that Hagel’s comments on the pro-Israel lobby “border on anti-Semitism” triggered the entire debate. The American Jewish Committee’s David Harris weighed in on the same side with an anecdote reminding the public of Hagel’s refusal to sign a letter condemning anti Semitism in Russia. Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations expressed “concern” over the possibility that Hagel will take over as defense secretary, although he did add that such a nomination will be something “we will work with.”
The Republican Jewish Coalition was first to criticize Hagel, calling his nomination “a slap in the face for every American who is concerned about the safety of Israel.”
I recently sat in the dark of a movie theater and watched a human being being tortured. This happened at the beginning of Kathryn Bigelow’s new film “Zero Dark Thirty.” The film’s torture scenes begin the narrative arc toward the May 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden, and so “Zero Dark Thirty” has reopened the debate over the necessity and efficacy of America’s use of torture as an intelligence gathering tool in the years since 9/11. The reaction to the film among my colleagues in the human rights community has been mixed, with many coming out of the movie convinced that it drew a straight line between torture and the ultimate capture of Bin Laden and others believing the opposite.
As an activist against torture, I wanted to judge for myself what message the movie promotes. I don’t normally watch violent films, and I found the torture scenes disturbing, reminding me on a gut level why Jewish tradition considers torture to be a desecration of the image of God. What I saw wasn’t exactly an endorsement of torture — the suspect cracks during a scene of kindness, not cruelty — but rather a failure to condemn it. The crucial piece of intelligence — the name of the courier that ultimately leads to Bin Laden — is revealed after a series of interrogations, some under duress, some under torture. The implication is that torture served to corroborate other, non-coercive methods of eliciting information.
Back in reality, the reaction to the film from experts has been clear-cut. Senator — and former prison of war — John McCain, along with Senators Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin have reiterated that detainees in CIA custody did not provide the leads that ultimately led to Bin Laden. Torture is a gripping subject for the entertainment industry but movies have perhaps blown out of proportion its significance as a counter terrorism tool.
This post originally appeared on the web site of the Dart Society, an independent association of journalists who cover violence and tragedy.
Nine days after Veronique Pozner’s son, Noah, was killed in the Newtown schools shootings, I interviewed her and other members of the family about their grieving process. The family had just finished observing the official Jewish mourning period.
I spent over an hour with Veronique; she talked me through her experience on December 14 and the days that followed. Her story was filled with moving and harrowing details: her dream of wandering an abandoned building calling out for Noah, her meeting with President Obama at a vigil at the local high school and her decision to get a tattoo of angel wings and Noah’s name the day after his death. The details that stuck with me the most — and the details which I felt most conflicted about putting in print — were Veronique’s descriptions of the damage to her son’s body. He was shot 11 times; she told me that his jaw and his left hand were mostly gone.
There were certain things Veronique wanted for Noah’s funeral. She felt that his body had suffered too many indignities already; she was adamant that he not be autopsied. She wanted him to be buried with a Jewish prayer shawl and with a clear stone with a white angel inside — an “angel stone” — in each of his hands. Veronique was only able to put the stone in his right hand because the left was “not altogether there,” she told me, crying for the first time in our interview. She asked the funeral director to put the other one in the left hand spot. “I made him promise and he did.”
Veronique told me that Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy visited her in the funeral home, and she brought him to see Noah’s open casket. I asked her why it was important for her and for the governor to see Noah’s body. “I needed it to have a face for him,” she said. “If there is ever a piece of legislation that comes across his desk, I needed it to be real for him.”
I used to see them fairly often in airports, nicer hotels or restaurants. Living in Eastern Europe, first as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine and later working for a non-profit in Russia, I’d become adept at spotting other Americans in public.
I sized them up, taking into account the color and style of their clothing, their footwear, and the snatches of conversation I overheard: Businessman? NGO worker? Diplomat? Missionary?
There was one group of Americans whose reason for being in Russia was much easier to guess. With strollers in tow, they were on the final leg of an international adoption journey, preparing to bring a Russian child home.
When I read about Russia’s recent ban on adoptions by U.S. citizens, I couldn’t help but think of these families, as well as the children I’ve met in Russian orphanages, and the little Tatianas, Sergeys and Svetlanas I got to know, on paper at least, during my brief stint processing post-adoption reports at a U.S. child assistance foundation.
The reports showed pictures of Russian kids, sometimes with new names like Jessica or Jacob, celebrating the Fourth of July, playing soccer and blowing out birthday candles with their American siblings. But as these adoptive families build new traditions together, most do want their Russian children to know where they came from.
Limmud is supposed to be a big tent. But it apparently isn’t expansive enough to accommodate one author’s broad backside.
The rear end in question belongs to provocative author and spoken word artist Vanessa Hidary on the cover of her memoir, “The Last Kaiser Roll in the Bodega.” A drawing of Hidary, known at The Hebrew Mamita, is shown from behind as she poses sexily in tight jeans with Stars of David on the back pockets.
The booksellers at a pop-up bookshop at Limmud’s conference in Coventry, England, refused to sell the book.
Hidary asked the independent vendor who had been contracted to run the conference bookstore if she could at least make a sign to notify customers about contacting her website to buy the book. But the bookseller refused.
“This is not appropriate and would upset religious people who come in here,” Hidary reported the vendor’s representative as saying to her.
A pair of new polls indicates that right-wing Israelis are surprisingly open to a peace deal with the Palestinians.
The polls laid out a two-state-solution scenario to Israelis and asked them if they would back it. Among voters of Likud-Beytenu, the right-wing coaltion that is expected to win the January election, in a Smith Institute poll some 58% of respondents said that they would while 34% wouldn’t; and in a Dahaf Institute poll 57% would and 25% wouldn’t. Among voters of the further-right Jewish Home party 47% said they would support it and 45% oppose for Smith, and for Dahaf 53% were for and 43% against.
Overall, presented with the two-state solution outline, some 68% of Israelis gave their support for Smith and 67% for Dahaf. Opposing the proposed solution for Smith and Dahaf respectively were 25% and 21%.
The pair of polls was commissioned by the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, which is thought to be taken quite seriously by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other influential Israeli politicians.
Jews are image conscious. A quick Google search of “embarrassed to be Jewish” will turn up two main hits—Jews ashamed of the state of Israel, and Jews ashamed of the behavior of certain “Hareidim” — tremblers, the Hebrew term for the ultra-Orthodox — in the Israeli town of Beit Shemesh. I should amend that statement: this Google search will turn up results for Jews with access to the media who have image consciousness about these two issues. As we all know, these are not the only kind of Jews. But let me first address these.
Jews on the left, politically and religiously, are often embarrassed by Israel’s behavior, especially when it fails to conform to a secular path. In 2011, Gary Rosenblatt, editor of the New York Jewish Week, enumerated the Gaza flotilla debacle, the chief Rabbanite, and its crackdown on non-governmental organizations as examples of “When Israel Becomes a Source of Embarrassment.”
Left-leaning Jews imagine that the outside world lumps them together with the values they see portrayed by the occupation, or perhaps by Israeli police brutality. Under the imagined gaze of the secular and gentile world, these Jews imagine that their own image will be tarnished by osmosis, by a proximity of blood, however diluted, to their Israeli brethren, especially those wielding guns or sitting in the Knesset. The burden of the imagined gaze of non-Jews rests heavily upon them.
But image-consciousness is not the sole property of Jews on the left. It is part of the tradition, any rabbi will tell you. Already in the Talmud, the term chillul hashem — profaning God’s name — begins to refer less to a verbal utterance and more to a public display, for example, “If I take meat from the butcher and do not pay him at once, Rav said” (Yoma, 86a).
Israeli President Shimon Peres has locked horns again with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The two men have a troubled relationship, and in the summer had a very tense month after Peres went against Netanyahu’s position on Iran.
Speaking to a large gathering of Israeli diplomats, Peres heaped praise on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas — a man that Netanyahu and recently-resigned Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman have put great energy in to discrediting and portraying as an antagonizer in recent weeks.
“I’ve known him for 30 years,” said Peres. “No one will change my opinion about Abu Mazen, even if they say I cannot express it because I’m the president.”
Are Jewish journalists exploiting Noah Pozner’s death because he was the only Jewish child killed in the Newtown school massacre? That’s the provocative question raised in a blog post by Simi Lichtman, the associate editor of New Voices magazine and a Forward contributor. And her answer is: yes.
Lichtman wrote that she is “more than a little disturbed” by the way Jewish publications latched onto every detail of Noah’s short life simply to sell a story, looking for any “obscure slant” that would make the nationwide tragedy a Jewish one. This, she says, is an aspect to her new profession that she finds “downright disillusioning.”
She’s pinpointed a genuine struggle that all of us who take our Jewish journalism seriously confront daily. Our professional lives, like our personal ones, are a balance between a strictly religious/ethnic focus and an interest in the wider secular society in which we (mostly) easily reside. Focus too narrowly on only the Jewish story and we seem parochial and self-obsessed. Open the lens too widely and we’re just like everyone else in media, losing our distinctive edge.
But what Lichtman fails to appreciate is that every community in America — racial, religious, geographic, gender-based — looks at the news through its own prism. And, in fact, it is our duty and our privilege to provide those stories to the Jewish world, and beyond.
If in the days after the shooting everyone we know is talking about Newtown, shouldn’t we? If readers are flocking to these stories online — visits to the Forward’s website on the day of Noah Pozner’s funeral hit an all-time high — shouldn’t our work reflect our community’s interests and concerns?
A long list of characters helped elevate a pair of marriage-equality cases to the Supreme Court, where they’ll be heard in 2013. But if one person deserves credit for the ascent of the marriage-rights movement, it’s Evan Wolfson. In 2003, when even gay people felt it a fringe cause, Wolfson founded Freedom to Marry as a “campaign to win marriage nationwide.” A decade later, the organization has helped align marriage rights in nine states and Washington D.C. — and doubled public support for marriage equality to what Wolfson calls “a clear majority”.
Wolfson came to the marriage-equality fight battle-tested; in the 1990’s, he served as co-counsel in an historic Hawaii marriage case that essentially launched the cause. Wolfson has also reaped some of the fruits of his labor. He married biotech consultant Cheng He last October after the State of New York passed the Marriage Equality Act, a bill he pushed for himself. Wolfson, 55, spoke to the Forward from his Chelsea office.
Michael Kaminer: When you started Freedom to Marry, did you imagine you’d see marriage equality debated in front of the Supreme Court?
Evan Wolfson: That was always the goal. Our strategy derives from the lessons of history, from how America does its civil rights business, and from how other civil-rights movements have made progress. The strategy has always said we achieve social justice once either Congress or the Supreme Court brings the country to a national resolution. But that national resolution doesn’t come at the beginning, or even the early middle. It comes after a patchwork of struggles, and progress, and defeats, with some states moving faster while other states regress. The same strategy that brought us to this point of triumph and transformation will bring the freedom to marry home nationwide.
Congressional efforts to shut down the Palestinian delegation office in Washington have garnered only tepid support.
A letter, co-authored by the outgoing and incoming leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee from both parties and calling on the President to close the PLO office in Washington, has closed on Friday with only 239 signatures.
The letter came in response to the United Nations November 29 vote recognizing Palestine as a non-member observer state, a status strongly opposed by Israel and by the United States.
While not a bad number for a congressional effort, this figure is on the lower end of support for AIPAC-backed initiative. Letters supported by the pro-Israel lobby in recent years easily got more than 300 signatures.
The party breakdown shows clearly more support for the measure by Republicans, with 172 co-signers. Only 67 Democrats signed on.
Why the chilly reception to the anti-Palestinian measure?
Noah Pozner loved tacos. Now, we’re finding out he liked a particular fondue restaurant, too.
As family and friends trade happy memories of Noah, the 6-year-old Jewish boy killed in the Newtown school shooting, his older sister Danielle recalled Noah’s last trip to his favorite restaurant, The Melting Pot.
Not content with his own pot of melted cheese, Danielle remembered, the little boy with a big appetite for life wanted to try out hers, too.
“He always marched to the beat of his own drum and was incredibly stubborn, so I figured it was no use to try and dissuade him,” Danielle recalled in a statement posted on her grandmother’s blog. “Upon dipping his bread into our pot of cheese and trying it, he exclaimed, ‘Wow, that is the best cheese I ever had!!!’ He did not hesitate to take more, as much as he wanted, a smile on his face the whole time.”
The Melting Pot eatery closest to Newtown in Darien, Conn., had no idea that Noah was so a regular visitor.
Insisting she is no politician, the mother of Noah Pozner is speaking out to demand action to prevent another shooting rampage like the one that claimed her son in Newtown, Conn.
Veronique Pozner told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that she cannot understand how the Newtown killer was able to get his hands on a automatic weapon that allowed him to kill so many innocents so quickly.
“Every mother can relate …. It takes nine months to create a human being,” Veronique Pozner said. “And it takes seconds for an AR-15 to take that away from the surface of this earth.”
The AR-15 is the assault-style weapon that Adam Lanza used to kill 27 people before turning the gun on himself on December 14 at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“It wasn’t just my son. It was (27) others souls who left the earth that day because that weapon fell into the hands of a tormented soul,” she said. “And that haunts me.”
In one of his final acts as a lawmaker, Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) will reportedly file a proposed amendment to provide Federal Emergency Management Administration aid to houses of worship that were damaged by Hurricane Sandy.
The American Jewish Committee, which has long opposed federal aid to religious institutions, consistent with the separation of church and state, supported the amendment in a written statement provided to the Forward.
The statement, signed by Richard T. Foltin, director of national and legislative affairs at the AJC Office of Government and International Affairs, and Marc Stern, AJC general counsel said that, “we believe that aid distributed under a neutral program of storm relief may constitutionally be made broadly available to a wide range of organizations where eligibility is determined on the basis of an objective and unusual factor — hurricane damage — and not under the standardless discretion of government officials, posing a risk of religious favoritism.”
Rabbi David Bauman of Temple Israel of Long Beach, which incurred an estimated $5 million worth of damages from the storm, said that if Lieberman proposes the amendment and it is approved, it would be “a wonderful thing.”
“That would allow not only my synagogue, but all faith institutions to get the help they need,” Bauman said. “They deserve it, they’re the backbone of this country.”
Hours after Operation Pillar of Defense came to an end last month, here at the Forward we published an article suggesting that the campaign could boost Hamas. It was early days, but new polling seems to indicate that this scenario is panning out.
The independent Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) has just published a survey conducted in the West Bank and Gaza which shows a “dramatic change in public attitude favoring Hamas.”
The more moderate Fatah party, the dominant faction in the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, normally leads in polls, but this one shows that if elections were held now in the West Bank and Gaza, voters would be pretty much evenly split between Fatah and Hamas.
The most remarkable finding of the poll is that if Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Fatah) went up against Ismail Haniyeh, Prime Minister of the Hamas regime in Gaza, Haniyeh would win. He would get 48% compared to Abbas’ 45%. Haniyeh would also win if jailed Fatah strongman Marwan Barghouti, long considered the most popular person in Palestinian politics, entered the race.
Interestingly, even though it doesn’t translate to support for Abbas, satisfaction with his performance has increased following the successful bid at the United Nations. Three months ago satisfaction with Abbas stood at 46%; it now stands at 54%. What does this show? That while the Palestinian public has been impressed by the UN bid, the perceived victory in Operation Pillar of Defense has impacted political consciousness more.
Seth and Hindy Poupko Galena freely admit they do not know what it feels like to be affected by senseless gun violence.
But the Jewish couple does know the pain of losing a young child, having struggled as their 2-year-old daughter, Ayelet, fought a losing battle with a rare bone marrow disease.
When Seth Galena heard the eulogies for Noah Pozner, the Jewish boy who died in the Newtown school shooting, he wanted to do something to ease the pain of the family. He came up with“Tacos For Noah.”
“I read the eulogies given by Noah’s mother and uncle, both of which mentioned his love of tacos. The tacos really stuck with me,” Seth Galena, 35, said. “I printed out Noah’s photo Tuesday morning and put it up on my office wall and kept looking at it.”
Seth Galena told some of his co-workers at VML, an advertising firm, about his thoughts. In not much time at all, the idea to create a virtual taco factory for Noah was generated.
In a two-page document titled “Facts on Chuck Hagel” supporters of the former Nebraska Senator are fighting back against claims he is anti-Israel.
The paper, unsigned and circulated among reporters, attempts to refute claims raised against Hagel by some in the pro-Israel community and statements, including in a Washington Post editorial, that he is not the appropriate choice for Defense Secretary.
The paper quotes from Hagel’s book America: Our Next Chapter in which he writes that “at its core there will always be a special and historic bond with Israel” and that any agreement with the Palestinians “should not include any compromise regarding Israel’s Jewish identity.”
Hagel’s supporters bring two former U.S. diplomats, both Jewish, Daniel Kurtzer who was ambassador to Israel and Aaron David Miller, a Middle East adviser at the State Department, to vouch for Hagel’s support for Israel.
On the issues, the paper notes that Hagel’s support for talking with Hamas was in the context of “inducing Hamas to modify its behavior” and mentions that he was an original co-author of a bill urging the international community to boycott Hamas.