Forward Thinking

Road to Jewish Success Runs Through Failure

By Julie Wiener

David Bryfman

(JTA) — At most Jewish conferences, speakers and participants are careful to focus on sharing only their successes and accomplishments. After all, you never know when a potential donor might be listening.

But on Monday, 120 Jewish communal professionals and lay leaders are gathering to focus on something very different: failure.

Sponsored by New York’s Jewish Education Project and San Francisco’s Upstart, Monday’s event is being touted as the Jewish world’s first-ever “Fail Forward” conference. “Fail Forward” is a new buzz phrase in management circles: the idea being that fear of failure stifles innovation and that failure is a learning opportunity.

Ashley Good, the founder of a consulting group called Fail Forward, will facilitate Monday’s events, where participants and speakers will share some of their biggest failures and learn how to “bring intelligent failure” to their organizations, according to the program schedule.

David Bryfman, director of the Jewish Education Project’s New Center for Collaborative Leadership, told JTA that “if you establish a culture whereby talking about failures is acceptable and dominant, it allows you to take more risks moving forward.”

He also emphasized that a “failure” is different from a “mistake,” in that it’s bigger and more measurable.

And what failure does he plan to share? “One of our Jewish Futures conferences in Denver was a complete bust,” he said. “We over-programmed and had too many speakers, we forgot the people in the audience were actually smart. “

Since then, he’s made sure to schedule more time for interaction at conferences, including Monday’s.

Here’s hoping the conference is a success. But if it’s a failure, well, maybe that would ultimately lead to success.


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Terror Crosses the Green Line

By Nathan jeffay

When an Israeli soldier was murdered on a bus last week, it didn’t just mark the continuation of a wave of Palestinian-perpetrated killings of Israelis.

It moved the violence to a new setting. It’s now crossed the Green Line.

Since the summer, a soldier was murdered in Hebron, a restaurant worker was murdered by a colleague, and a retired army colonel was murdered outside his home. All of these incidents were in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

There has been an increase in non-fatal terrorist incidents — which has been largely concentrated in areas that Israel captured in 1967. September 2013 saw a sharp increase in the overall number of terror attacks, 133 as opposed to 99 the month before. The number of attacks in October was even higher — 136.

Yesterday’s attack took place in Afula, a city well within Israel’s pre-1967 borders. What is more, it was, in a psychological sense, very close to home for many Israelis. It was perpetrated against a young man doing what virtually every Israeli does now and again — taking a sleep on a Tel Aviv-bound bus. Eden Atias, 19, died shortly after a 16-year-old Palestinian stabbed him.

The attacker acted alone. His crime did not follow the deliberations of a terrorist group to restart terror within the Green Line. But nevertheless, it is significant.

It is important for the sense of safety among Israelis — it challenges the widespread feeling among non-settlers that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has its expression “there” in the Wild West Bank while things are calm on their side of the Green Line. And it is important for the atmosphere among militant Palestinians — one man has taken their fight over the Green Line; others will want to follow.


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Heartbreak and Hope in the Philippines

By Nathan jeffay

Ofer Merin had just overseen the labors of three preterm pregnant women when the medical manager of Israel’s field hospital in the Philippines took a few minutes to discuss his work this morning.

“If we wouldn’t have been here there would have been one nurse or one physician treating all of them,” he said in a phone call interview.

After Typhoon Haiyan struck, the physician delegated his responsibilities as deputy director of Jerusalem’s Shaarei Zedek Medical Center after the typhoon, and on Wednesday flew with the Israeli military’s field hospital, the only medical aid facility in the island of Cebu.

The 125-person delegation which operates the hospital arrived with everything they need. “We are a self sufficient operation,” said Merin. “We bring everything from our generator and our gasoline to our food.”

Some 11 babies have been delivered since the hospital’s first birth on Friday — a boy who has been called Israel in recognition of the doctor’s efforts. This morning’s births were two girls and a boy, the youngest of whom was born at 33 weeks and weighed less than 5 pounds. All babies are healthy.

One of the medics found himself in the Philippines instead of on honeymoon — he got married just two days before the delegation left, and cancelled leave to join it.

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Scholastic Puts Israel Back on 'Stilton' Map

By Dave Goldiner

Scholastic had already apologized for publishing a children’s book in its popular Geronimo Stilton series that included a map of the Middle East leaving out Israel.

Stung by the fierce reaction, the publishing giant has gone one step further.

It reworked the animated map to include Israel. It also told parents it would replace copies of the book, ‘Thea Stilton and the Blue Scarab’ with a new updated one including the new and improved map.

Or you can download a copy of the new Israel-friendly map and paste it on top of the old offending map. Plus there are options for getting a new e-book if you purchased the book online.

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Sarah Silverman, Miley and the Pope: Quiz

By Lenore Skenazy

Miley Cyrus, Sarah Silverman and Paula Abdul appearing together? Yes indeed – right here, in this week’s quiz. And joining them? The Pope himself!

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Scholastic Erases Israel in 'Stilton' Book

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Comedian Benji Lovitt made light of recent news that Scholastic had published a children’s book with a map omitting the State of Israel with a satirical blog post in The Times of Israel. He joked that Iran was behind the illustration that showed the Jewish State (as well as the West Bank and Gaza) as part of Jordan. But others are taking the error — if it was indeed unintentional — much more seriously.

Scholastic, the largest publisher of children’s books, is a brand parents, teachers and students rely on for a steady stream of quality reading material through the company’s book fairs and monthly book order clubs. It has many Jewish-related titles, including the first-ever fantasy fiction novel set at a Jewish summer camp.

As soon as Scholastic became aware of the inaccurate map, it issued an apologetic statement:

As you have probably heard, Thea Stilton and the Blue Scarab Hunt, a title in the Geronimo Stilton series, published by Scholastic, includes a map that inadvertently omits Israel. Scholastic is immediately stopping shipment on this title, revising the map, and going back to reprint. We regret the omission which was in the original version of the book published in Italy and was translated by our company for English language distribution.

Rachel Aranoff of White Plains, N.Y., the mother of four school-age children doesn’t think the company’s plans go far enough. “Scholastic’s decision to stop selling the book was the right one, but it is not sufficient. They should also investigate how this ‘error’ occurred,” she said, implying that the omission of Israel was intentional on the part of someone along the chain of production.

Calling what happened “an anti-Semitic incident,” she will consider not buying any more Scholastic books, unless a thorough investigation is conducted and the results publicized.

Not everyone is jumping to the conclusion that the incorrect map was intentional. Allison Kaplan Sommer, a writer and mother of three in Raanana, Israel, is fine with Scholastic’s apology and promise not to sell the faulty books anymore.

“For me, they were clearly unaware. It was more of a mistake than an intentional act. If they had hesitated or tried to justify, I would feel differently of course,” she said.

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Don't Pull 'Jewish' From Montreal Hospital Name

By Evan Kovac

As many of you have heard, Tania Longpre, the [Parti Quebecois] candidate in the riding of Viau, stated that the word “Jewish” should be removed from the “Jewish General Hospital” and that circumcision should be outlawed.

In a hastily typed response, here is a letter that I sent directly to Mme. Longpre. I think the response matches the comments:

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Editor's Choice: Lou Adler; Baltimore's Anti-Semitic Schools

By Forward Staff

Courtesy of Herb Alpert Presents
Herb Alpert in the studio with Lou Adler in 1970.

The Forward is partnering with other Jewish newspapers to offer our readers a peek at some of the best stories from around the country, as selected by the editors at those papers. We will offer a selection of unedited links with brief introductions from the editors of the papers.

Lou Adler: The Midas Touch

By Tom Teicholz

About a mile north of Duke’s in Malibu, a right turn takes you up to a bluff with its own driveway, which leads to a large parking lot. There, on the day I visited, a tour bus was parked in front of a modest ranch house, alongside several other cars, none of them too fancy. The front door was open, and I walked in unannounced, past stacks of books and vinyl records, and walls lined with posters from albums, movies and concerts. Beyond was a large living room overlooking a pool, and, beyond that the most amazing views of the Pacific Ocean. A bunch of people were milling around, seemingly working there. The house itself didn’t seem like much — it could have been either a teardown, given Malibu real-estate prices, or a midcentury relic.

It is, in fact, the office of legendary music producer Lou Adler, and its lack of pretension is, I discovered, much like Adler himself: down-to-earth, casual and extremely cool.

Read the complete story at The Jewish Journal

Veteran Math Teacher Says Anti-Semitism Forced His Early Retirement

By Mark Shapiro

A teacher in Baltimore County has lost his job. He says it is because the school administration is anti-Semitic. Now, Dr. Bert Miller is taking the district to court.

Read the complete story at The Baltimore Jewish Times


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Hear Sam Kellner — In His Own Words

By Paul Berger

getty images
Sam Kellner

For this week’s story about the cases of accused molester Baruch Lebovits and accused extortionist Sam Kellner, the Forward was provided with a trove of secretly-recorded conversations.

Among the recordings is a conversation Sam Kellner had with the family of a man who had already pled guilty to abuse charges.

Over the course of 80 minutes, Kellner counsels the family that the man could avoid jail by getting ultra-Orthodox rabbis to pressure Brooklyn district attorney Charles Hynes and by bribing prosecutors. (A spokesman for the DA’s office said assertions of possible wrongdoing are “ludicrous.”)

The Forward made a commitment to protect the identity of the family involved, therefore we have provided two excerpts from the recording. Passages where people other than Kellner talk have been bleeped out.

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Reclaiming the Swastika, One Tattoo at a Time

By Cnaan Liphshiz

getty images

(JTA) — As the sun began to set over Copenhagen, Peter Madsen realized he would not be able to serve the dozens of people still waiting in his shop for a free swastika tattoo.

“We had to stop taking in people after the 54th client,” Madsen, artistic designer at the Meatshop tattoo parlor, said on Tuesday — the day that more than 120 similar businesses worldwide offered free tattoos of the ancient Indian symbol as part of campaign titled “Learn to Love the Swastika.”

For the occasion, the Meatshop announced that anyone who enters the shop on Tuesday would be entitled to a $180 swastika tattoo on the house, on a body part of their choosing.

The idea, Madsen said, is “to reclaim this symbol, which the Nazis abused, and restore it to its original meaning in India, where is has served for thousands of years as a sign of peace and goodness.”

In Russia, Europe and the English-speaking world, swastikas are popular with white supremacists, given the symbol’s association with Nazism. The symbol has been banned in several European countries with limitations on hate speech, though not in Denmark, where a strong liberal tradition has trumped even the bitter memories from the Nazi occupation during World War II.

Still, the Meatshop’s swastika stunt drew emotional reactions from Danish Jews. “I believe that a symbol that was once something else, but which the Nazis took hostage, cannot just be washed clean,” Finn Schwarz, president of the Jewish Congregation of Copenhagen, told the news site mx.dk. The Meatshop’s attempt to do just that was “cheap,” he added.

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Marijuana Goes Local in Israel

By Talia Lavin

thinkstock

(JTA) — Taking a puff is going local in the Jewish state.

According to a Bloomberg report, Israel’s tightened border security — aimed at curbing the influx of African migrants, as well as securing the country against potential threats from Lebanon and Syria — has also had the effect of hampering the country’s supply of marijuana and hashish.

The result has been a surge in home-grown product, which some Israeli marijuana enthusiasts describe as more potent than the version smuggled in from neighboring Arab countries. According to David Wachtel, head of the Ale Yarok marijuana-legalization party (which memorably teamed up with Holocaust survivors in a Knesset campaign), this is good news.

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The Girl Who Broke Your Heart — A Year Later

By Anne Cohen

Ayelet Galena’s death at the age of 2 from a rare bone marrow disease launched a wave of grief around the world. For months, thousands followed the little girl’s fight for her life with the Eye on Ayelet blog, set up by her parents, Hindy Poupko and Seth Galena.

But more than a year and a half after Ayelet’s death — and a year after Hindy Poupko made the Forward 50 — the little girl’s memory lives on.

“People continue to give to her donor circle without us even asking,” Poupko told the Forward in a phone interview. “We’re always surprised that it’s still on their radar.”

This silent but constant support is what helps the still-grieving mother find the strength to move forward. Most of these acts of kindness are subtle, more substantial than grand, but often empty, gestures.

Ayelet’s story first grabbed the attention of Forward readers with a series of touching stories by then-Director of Digital Media Gabrielle Birkner. Hindy Poupko’s inspirational effort to harness the grief landed her a spot on the Forward 50. And readers made her the surprising choice as the most clicked-on profile in the package, outpacing dozens of far more well-known figures.

Poupko recalled that even this week, she was cc’d on an email chain as part of her role as Managing Director and Director of Israel & International Affairs for the Jewish Relations Council of New York. Scrolling through the exchange, she noticed something peculiar:

“By the way, December 5 is Ayelet’s birthday,” someone had written to the others involved.

Poupko was stunned. “It was such a beautiful thing,” she said. “It’s one thing to remember a yartzeit, it’s another to remember a birthday, especially in such a work environment. I was really moved by that.”

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Gay Jewish Trailblazers Set Forward 50 Mark

By Anne Cohen

For the first time ever, the Forward 50 was launched with a profile celebrating a gay Jewish woman — and the kvelling was just starting for gay Jewish achievers.

Edie Windsor made the Top 5 for her role in the fight for marriage equality: on June 26, she won her suit at the Supreme Court, a decision that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

While the most visible victory for gay rights this year, it was far from the only one, a fact reflected in this year’s list. Six of the honorees are gay, reflecting a more general acceptance of gays in the wider Jewish community, as well as the prominence of Jews in the struggle for equality.

“As a former F50 honoree myself, I think it’s a combination of two factors,” Jay Michaelson, author of “God vs. Gay: The Religious Case for Equality,” wrote in an email to the Forward. “The struggle for equality is among the great civil rights issues of our time, and so it’s natural that those involved with it are recognized in this way.”

Three of the honorees won their place on the list because of their work promoting LGBT issues. As executive director of Keshet, Idit Klein has turned what started as a grassroots group advocating the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Jewish life into a national organization that has educators in more than 200 communities around the country; Alan Van Capelle has a long record of fighting for gay rights and headed a New York lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights lobby before stepping in as CEO of Bend the Arc.

But Michaelson identified a second trend at work, namely that “more LGBT people are out of the closet — there were almost certainly past honorees whose sexual identities were unknown to us.”

Three of the honorees reflect precisely that: Glenn Greenwald, Harvey Fierstein and Mitchell Davis were all chosen for their outstanding contribution to their respective fields: Greenwald for breaking one of the biggest stories of the last decade; Fierstein for his Midas touch when it comes to Broadway hits, and Davis for his achievements in the tasty realm of Jewish food. In the past, they would have been recognized for their achievements, completely independent from their sexuality, but with a part of their identity cloaked in silence.

It’s a small step in the right direction.


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Why We Picked the Pope — and Angelina Jolie

By Jane Eisner

The New York Times’ Laurie Goodstein had a fascinating story on Sunday about how Conservative Catholics have felt left out of their new pope’s embrace. Pope Francis may have soaring approval ratings because of his humble demeanor and inclusive language, but American Catholics in the church’s conservative wing are feeling abandoned and deeply unsettled, Goodstein wrote.

And this was before the Forward 50 went online.

We didn’t pick Pope Francis as our “Plus One” just to further rattle Catholics concerned that the leader of their church isn’t sufficiently doctrinaire about abortion, gay rights and other touchstone issues. But I imagine that being cited by a Jewish news organization for exemplary contributions to the American Jewish story will not help the pope’s popularity among his more conservative flock.

That’s the thing about lists. Especially this list. It’s only effective if it is surprises.

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Hunt for Brother of Jesus Christ

By Renee Ghert-Zand

It’s written in stone, but still not everyone believes it. There are still those who maintain that the Aramaic inscription on a First Century limestone ossuary that says, “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus” is a forgery. Nonetheless, the Israeli courts determined that the inscription could very well be authentic, and that the bone box should be returned to its owner, collector Oded Golan.

The artifact was seized from Golan in 2003 by the Israel Antiquities Authority, which accused him of adding “brother of Jesus” to the inscription and trying to dishonestly pass the ossuary off as the first and only known artifact pointing to the actual existence of Jesus of Nazareth. Golan was arrested and tried, and after a protracted legal battle, was exonerated in 2012. The bone box was recently returned to Golan by the Israel Antiquities Authority, which had kept it out of the public’s view for a decade.

Matthew Kalman, a Jerusalem-based journalist who has been covering this case for a decade, told Forward Thinking that the 20-inch long by one-foot wide box should have been released to Golan quite some time ago. “The judge ordered its release, and the appeal process was exhausted three months ago,” he said.

According to Kalman, Golan intends to show the ossuary to the public, but that he has no specific plans as of yet. The last time the ancient artifact was on public view was in 2002 at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. It’s appearance sparked major interest, including the making of a Discovery Channel documentary by “Naked Archeologist” Simcha Jacobovici.

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Miss Israel Falls Short of Ruling Universe

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Titi Aynaw may not have been crowned Miss Universe 2013, but she did Israelis proud by representing her country in the international pageant in Moscow, Russia.

The first black Miss Israel failed to make it in to the semi-finals of the competition, despite our urging everyone to vote online for her. Gabriela Isler, Venezuela’s beauty queen, beat out other finalists from Ecuador, Brazil, Spain, and the Philippines to take the title.

It was a bit disappointing that Aynaw did not even make it in to the round of 16, especially since she was an early favorite among many. Nikkiii, a Brazilian beauty expert from the Missology website, who has an accurate prediction track record, even projected Aynaw as the winner.

Nonetheless, it looked as though Aynaw had a good time at the pageant, taking part in the preliminary national costume, swimsuit and evening gown competitions. We, for one, thought she looked fetching in her national costume, a white and gold ensemble seemingly inspired by two very different biblical personages: Aaron, the High Priest, and the Queen of Sheba. In a parade of what can only be described as a colorful explosion of national motifs on sexy steroids, Aynaw looked relatively demure and classy.

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Live Tweeting the Kristallnacht Pogroms

By Anna Goldenberg

Exactly 75 years ago, between November 7 and 13, 1938, a wave of anti-Semitic pogroms swept across Germany and Austria. This year, a group of German historians chose to commemorate the events, which marked a turning point in the Nazi’s persecution of Jews, using an unconventional medium: Twitter.

On October 28, the five historians who stem from different German universities, started live-tweeting the events of 1938 in German, as if they happened now, using the handle @9nov38 and relying on historical data that include newspapers and postcards.

The first tweet reads “Starting on October 28 more than 15,000 Polish Jews were expelled from the Deutsche Reich, immediately effective.”

On the morning of November 8, the group posted a picture of the headline of the Nazi party’s newspaper “Der Völkische Beobachter” announcing the assassination of the German ambassador in Paris, Ernst von Rath, by 17-year-old German-born Jewish Herschel Grynszpan: “Jewish Assassination in Paris. Member of the German Embassy Perilously Wounded By Shooting. The Murderer Boy: A 17-Year-Old Jew. Villain to Europe’s Peace.”

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News Quiz: Kosher Starbucks, Anthony Weiner

By Lenore Skenazy

Anthony Weiner, Elliot Spitzer and Bernie Goetz. They’re back, in this week’s quiz. The latest item to wow visitors to Kosherfest? It’s here, too, because, like those men, it’s as Jewish and strange as it Goetz.


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Editor's Choice: Remember Kristallnacht, Torah of Drones

By Forward Staff

David Stuck
Eva Slonitz was 12 years old in 1938, but she still remembers that night — and how after Kristallnacht, “we hardly ever left our house.”

The Forward is partnering with other Jewish newspapers to offer our readers a peek at some of the best stories from around the country, as selected by the editors at those papers. We will offer a selection of unedited links with brief introductions from the editors of the papers.

From the Baltimore Jewish Times: “Kristallnacht: 75 Years Since the Night of Broken Glass”

Editor Maayan Jaffe talks with area survivors who witnessed the events of Kristallnacht. On that night (and into the morning), the Nazis staged violent pogroms — state-sanctioned, anti-Jewish riots — against the Jewish communities of Germany, Austria and the Sudetenland. They broke synagogue windows, demolished and looted Jewish-owned stores, community centers and homes. Instigated by the Nazi regime, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, rioters burned or destroyed 267 synagogues, vandalized or looted 7,500 Jewish businesses and killed at least 91 Jewish people. They also damaged many Jewish cemeteries, hospitals, schools and homes, as police and fire brigades stood aside. Said survivor Johanna Neumann, “So often, you hate for the sake of hating, but you don’t really know why you are hating. … It still gives me the shivers when I talk about it.”

Read the complete story here.

From the LA Jewish Journal: “The Torah of Drones: Examining the Complex Morality of Drone Warfare”

In 2009, an Israeli drone flying over the Gaza Strip transmitted back to its command station an image of a telltale rocket trail streaking toward Israeli territory. Many kilometers away, a young Israeli operator, Capt. Y, quickly maneuvered the unmanned aircraft to get a look at the young Palestinian who had just launched the deadly missile. Y’s drone squadron already had authorization to take him out. In an instant, a rocket struck the hidden launch site, followed by a flash of fire.

When the smoke cleared, Y saw images of the shooter lying flat on the ground. Twenty seconds passed. And then Y saw something even more remarkable — the dead man began to move.

Severely wounded, the Palestinian began to claw his way toward the road. Y could clearly see the man’s face, and in his youth and determination Y must have recognized something of himself. So, now Y and his team had a decision to make: Would they let the wounded terrorist escape, or circle the drone back and finish him off?

Read the complete story here.


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Who Poisoned Yasser Arafat? The Palestinians.

By Matthew Kalman and Matt Rees

Inside Yasser Arafat’s Ramallah headquarters, the top military and political and money men of the Palestine Liberation Organizaion would speak about their leader in hushed, nervous tones.

They told of a chairman who was falling apart. He wore unwashed clothes. He rambled about the old days in Beirut.

Then he was gone. Poisoned with polonium, as Swiss scientists all but confirmed this week after a study of his exhumed bones. But that’s only the start of the tragic tale of Arafat’s death.

For almost a decade Palestinian leaders have sought to avoid acknowledging that the symbol of their resistance to Israel was poisoned. Now they face a new challenge: to escape the inescapable conclusion that they themselves administered the poison.

The deadly tensions that would ultimately kill him were created by Arafat himself. He was a larger-than-life leader whom no novelist would dare to fashion. His regime consisted of a cast of surreal Dickensian characters: brilliant thinkers, wily money-men and desperate rogues. He set his favorites against each other, like gladiators in an arena where weapons were never far from reach.

The Palestinian Authority had collapsed around Arafat as the violence of the intifada swept 3,000 of his people to their deaths and drew Israeli tanks into every town and village. To the dismay of those around him, Arafat chanted daily about the “millions of martyrs” he expected––though in reality by the time he died, Palestinians had ceased to court death and were hunkered down for the end of a rising they acknowledged was a mistake.

“He’s always talking about the old days in Beirut, when he was in his bunker,” one of his police chiefs told us. “He thinks this situation is the same.” But someone knew how different, how desperate the situation was. That the Palestinians needed a different kind of leader if they were ever to achieve freedom.

And for that, Arafat had to go.

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