Miss Israel, Miss Lebanon, Miss Slovenia and Miss Japan / Doron Matalon Instagram
Life sure is hard when you’re a contestant at the Miss Universe pageant. In addition to wowing the judges with your swimsuit, your evening gown and your talent, you also have to be constantly on the lookout for quick-footed, iPhone-toting Israeli beauty queens who are dead-set on squeezing themselves into a selfie with you.
Or at least that’s what Miss Lebanon Saly Greige would have us believe.
The Lebanese contestant is accusing Miss Israel Doron Matalon of photobombing her, after a picture of the two beauty queens smiling side-by-side circulated on social media, causing an uproar in Lebanon. Because Israel and Lebanon are technically still at war, some Lebanese saw the selfie as evidence that Greige was consorting with the enemy, and called for her to be stripped of her title. Here’s how Greige defended herself on Instagram:
“Since the first day of my arrival to participate to Miss Universe, I was very cautious to avoid being in any photo or communication with Miss Israel, who tried several times to take a photo with me. I was having a photo with Miss Japan, Miss Slovenia, suddenly Miss Israel jumped in and took a selfie, and uploaded it on her social media.”
Did Miss Israel really photobomb Miss Lebanon, or is that just Greige’s excuse?
Michael Douglas poses with Michael Bloomberg after winning the $1M Genesis Prize. / Getty Images
When Michael Bloomberg was named the first recipient of the Genesis Prize last year, I wasn’t alone in wondering why a billionaire businessman and politician whose Jewishness was mostly hidden and whose ties to Israel were tenuous at best was given such an award. But considering the noble intent of the prize, the money it offered — a million dollars! — and the stellar reputations of some of the organizers, I tried really hard to understand the selection.
I ended a column in the Forward saying I’d give it another year.
Time’s up. A new winner was announced today. He makes Bloomberg looks like a combination of Golda Meir, Louis Brandeis and, hell, even Moses in his public devotion to the Jewish people.
Michael Douglas. Really?
Yair Lapid (Getty Images); Moshe Kahlon (Facebook
When Yair Lapid skyrocketed to the top of Israeli politics during the last election campaign in 2013, he did it by positioning himself as the most “hevrati” (socio-economically conscious) candidate. He and his party, Yesh Atid, capitalized on the momentum of the “tent protests” that brought half a million Israelis to the streets to fight the rising cost of living. By speaking to this middle-class frustration, Yesh Atid wound up with 19 seats and the Finance, Education, Welfare and Health portfolios.
Now, less than two years later, Yesh Atid has fallen from both grace and the governing coalition, and Israel’s exhausted middle-class has understood that its hope was misplaced. But while Israel’s socio-economic problems are worse than ever, Israelis still want someone to hope with — and this time around, it’s Moshe Kahlon.
Born into a Mizrahi family in a working-class neighborhood in Hadera, Kahlon rose to fame as communications, and later as welfare, minister in Bibi Netanyahu’s second term when he successfully broke the Israeli cell phone cartel, slashing prices by up to 90%. He surprised many by bowing out of politics in late 2012, though there was widespread speculation that he was planning an electoral bid. While Kahlon wound up sitting out the last round of elections, he finally founded his new party, Kulanu (All of Us), last year.
Kulanu’s campaign is heavily based on Kahlon’s reputation as both “social-friendly” and untarnished by the corruption scandals that regularly sweep Israeli politics. According to a recent survey of the Israeli public by the Jerusalem Post and Maariv, Kahlon is the “least corrupt” of the major candidates and best at handling socioeconomic issues. It comes as no surprise, then, that Kulanu is quickly becoming the Yesh Atid of 2015.
But the reality of Kahlon’s record tells quite a different story.
British Jewish demand “Zero Tolerance for Anti-Semitism” at a London rally / Getty Images
There it was on Wednesday, on the front page of The Independent. “The new anti-Semitism,” the headline read, and beneath it: “Majority of British Jews feel they have no future in the UK.”
My interest was immediately piqued, not least because the idea that a majority of British Jews are without hope bears no relation to my own experience of Jewish life in this country.
It turned out that the source of this headline statistic was a poll conducted by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, a pressure group which, tapping into communal discontent with established institutions, staged a very successful, cross-communal rally promoting zero-tolerance of anti-Semitism last summer in London. Their report did indeed conclude that, from a sample of 2,230 British Jews, 45% are concerned that Jews may not have a long-term future in Britain.
Not to dismiss the concerns of those respondents, but there’s good reason to question the findings of the specific section of the poll that surveyed members of the Jewish community in Britain. Mostly, that’s because of the methodology used by the CAA, which conducted the poll independently without help from a recognized polling organization:
Since the Paris attacks, the internet has been overflowing with support for the victims and calls for freedom of expression. But, alarmingly and perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s also been full of demands for Muslims to “take responsibility” and “condemn” the heinous acts — as if somehow all Muslims universally bear responsibility for every single deranged or vile act committed by any Muslim, anywhere. You can find these enlightening cries everywhere from the New York Times op-ed page to Rupert Murdoch’s delightful Twitter feed.
Maybe most Moslems peaceful, but until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible.— Rupert Murdoch (@rupertmurdoch) January 10, 2015
Muslim media outlet MuslimMatters.Org rose to the occasion and came up with an idea for a start-up called the “iCondemn” app. They even created a mock-up for the app, which would allow Muslims to condemn every awful Muslim action in the world, big or small, with a single click.
The app would even allow Muslims to issue condemnations “of events in the past, like the source of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and British imperialism.”
Plus, “with a $4.99 upgrade, the app comes with the Guilt-O-Meter®, which accurately gauges how nervous Western Muslims are feeling right about now.”
The app is a joke, of course. But Muslims all over the media have been taking these demands for condemnations very seriously.
And you do have to wonder about the double standard set by the public’s outcry for Muslim condemnations. Why aren’t Jews asked to condemn all racist comments, crimes and murders committed by Jews? Where is the “Not in my name, Son of Sam” meme? Do we need an iCondemn app for every racist or sexist comment made by a prominent Jewish figure?
Shouldn’t it be obvious that the perpetrators of the attacks in Paris have nothing to do with the majority of Muslim people? As our hero J. K. Rowling tweeted in reply to the aforementioned Rupert Murdoch tweet:
I was born Christian. If that makes Rupert Murdoch my responsibility, I'll auto-excommunicate. http://t.co/Atw1wNk8UX— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) January 11, 2015
Or as Muslim comedian Aziz Ansari put it:
Anytime a Christian person rear ended your car. #RupertsFault— Aziz Ansari (@azizansari) January 12, 2015
One week ago when I heard the chilling news from Paris. I knew exactly that I couldn’t know how it felt to be in the shoes of those cartoonists.
I work in a weekly newspaper with a constant electronic presence just like Charlie Hebdo. And just like the small staff of Charlie we 20 also gather on Wednesday to finish off our paper and send it to the printers. We swipe entry cards over the door locks and pay lip service to the security arrangements. And I know exactly that I cannot fathom how it would feel to have someone point a gun at the back of my head and force me to swipe in an armed stranger to kill my colleagues.
I’ve worked on the staff of lampoons and satires where we knew our intended and actual audiences would disagree with our target and line of attack vehemently and sometimes vitriolically. I’ve been in meetings where we discuss the limits of offense that we can, and should give and the financial, legal and physical threats we would have to withstand as a result of our decision. And yet I know that I have no comprehension of what it would feel like to suddenly see a nightmare caricature of my worst enemies burst into that meeting with an automatic weapon pointed at me and my friends.
But still I know enough. #jesuischarlie It’s enough to identify. To say we feel their pain.
Jewish children wave French flags as the interior minister vowed to step up security after the kosher grocery terror attack./Getty Images
Je suis Charlie, je suis Juif.
That’s why I fly to Paris – to let my fellow and sister Jews know they are not alone, that Jews around the world care deeply about the assaults so recently befallen them.
My wife, Toby, and I had been in Israel celebrating the bar mitzvah of our grandson Noam when we heard of the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris – at Charlie Hebdo and at the Jewish kosher supermarket Hyper Cacher.
I’ve always felt a pull to go where I might be able to provide some comfort – though now that I’m past 70 these decisions don’t come easily. But at the El Al counter in Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport, heading home to New York, I spontaneously blurt my wish to stop in Paris en route – to the resigned but understanding concerns of my supportive wife, Toby.
As I write these words my flight is landing in Paris. I speak no French, and have a wary relationship with modern technology. I have only names of French rabbis and Parisian leaders. God willing I’ll be joined tomorrow by Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, of New York University, Rabba Sara Hurwitz, Dean of Yeshivat Maharat, and Rabbi Adam Scheier, a graduate of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and Rabbi of Congregation Shaar HaShomayim in Montreal.
(JTA) — The deadly hostage siege at a kosher supermarket in Paris has French Jews (and some non-Jews) proclaiming “Je suis juif,” or “I am Jewish,” in solidarity with the four people killed in the attack.
Who are the Jews of France? Here’s a primer.
About 500,000, the most of any European nation and more than any other country in the world except for Israel and the United States.
France is home to some 66 million people; about 80 percent of them are Catholic. There are also between 5 million and 6 million Muslims, with many tracing their roots back to the Maghreb, sub-Saharan Africa and Turkey.
Rabbi Benjamin Hattab and Latifa Ibn Ziaten / France 2 screenshot
Since the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and the Hyper Cacher supermarket in Paris, we’ve been hearing a lot about rising Muslim anti-Semitism and the precarious situation of Jews in France. But amidst all the fear, there was a moment of true connection when a Jewish man and a Muslim woman mourned side-by-side for their murdered loved ones, and hoped for a better future — together.
Tunis Chief Rabbi Benjamin Hattab appeared in a France 2 television interview alongside Latifa Ibn Ziaten, whose son was murdered by Mohamed Merah in Toulouse in 2011. Hattab was there to talk about his own son, Yoav, one of the four Jews who lost their lives as they shopped for their Shabbat meals on January 9. His voice weighed down by fresh grief, the rabbi spoke touchingly about Jewish life in Tunisia.
“I live in Tunisia, and I see that there, Jews are respected by the state and by the people. We had no problems either before or after the revolution. The Arabs are kind. We grew up together.”
But the most touching interaction came when Ibn Ziaten gave her condolences to the grieving father and commended him on his bravery.
“It was the same with my son,” she said. “He died standing up, because he was a soldier of the [French] republic. Today, I am standing up too, reaching out to those who caused my suffering, making the rounds in every French town, in schools, in juvenile detention centers. Even if we pay the highest price, we have to stay standing. France is a strong country. I am very proud to be French.”
Addressing Hattab directly, Ibn Ziaten added: “I wish you a lot of courage, because it’s been three years [since my son died] and I will never stop mourning.”
He thanked her, murmuring, “May God rest his soul.”
The point Ibn Ziaten drove home is that in the face of such violence, every French citizen must do his or her part — and that starts with talking to the disenfranchised, especially the youth, because that’s the best hope of cutting down extremism at its root.
“We have to protect our country, because we love it,” she said. “And there’s nothing like it anywhere else in the world.”
BBC journalist Tim Willcox / Screenshot
Tim Willcox’s question was heinous in and of itself. In the midst of a BBC interview with an Israeli resident of Paris and daughter of Holocaust survivors, who had been talking about Jewish suffering in Europe, the journalist ventured: “But many critics of Israel’s policy would say that the Palestinians have suffered hugely at Jewish hands as well.” This, before the bodies of the four innocents killed in the terror attacks on a kosher market in Paris had even been buried.
Why did Willcox feel the need to ask this question, to bring Israel into the discussion and at the same time invoke the canard of Jewish collective responsibility for actions of the Israeli state? Political commentators and Israeli watchdog organizations have pointed out that Willcox has a record of missteps when it comes the Jewish question. Discussing a story on the BBC News channel on Jewish donors to the Labour Party, while guests talked about “the Jewish lobby,” Willcox suggested unprompted that “a lot of these prominent Jewish faces will be very much against the mansion tax presumably as well.”
More convincingly, in a widely shared article in The Spectator, Nick Cohen deems the notion that “Jews must bear collective responsibility for Israel’s crimes real and imagined” to be “the standard opinions of the European left middle class. I meet them every day in my political neighbourhood. They are the result of ignorance rather than malice.”
Ignorance is certainly a contributing factor — people seem to have short memories (actually, no memory at all) when it comes to Jewish history — but it’s not the predominant one. What Willcox seemed to be trying to do was provide, in a crass, idiotic, and insensitive way, balance in a situation where none was required. In doing so, and in particular by mentioning Israel, he unintentionally highlighted what can be a problem with the BBC’s coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Benjamin Netanyahu gives a speech at the Grand Synagogue in Paris / Getty Images
I’ve got two immediate and possibly contradictory takeaways from the news that French President Francois Hollande asked Benjamin Netanyahu not to appear at the unity rally that took place in Paris on Sunday.
Let’s first look at the reasons Hollande reportedly gave. The French president, according to Haaretz (with information that has now been confirmed by the prime minister’s office), wanted the march to focus on demonstrating solidarity with France, and hoped to avoid anything that might distract from that message, “like Jewish-Muslim relations or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
Bibi apparently embodied that distraction.
So it’s come to this, all Israel’s PR efforts notwithstanding. The Israeli prime minister can no longer represent anything in Europe other than conflict — as opposed to being just another head of state, he stands for discord, his presence a provocation. If they didn’t already have confirmation of this fact, Israelis can truly say goodbye to that Zionist objective of being a normal people in a normal country.
That’s the first lesson. Whether you think Israel has brought this upon itself or that it is being judged by a grossly unfair double standard, when the Israeli prime minister is asked not to attend a march celebrating solidarity with Western values because his presence would be an irritant, there’s a problem.
The other lesson, though, is: So what?
Hollande was wrong not to invite Bibi because, for one thing, it’s at crisis moments like these that attitudes can shift. Bibi needs to see that he has more to gain from celebrating these Western values, joining the international community and not grasping an excuse to simply skulk off and declare himself and Israel the victim once again. Hollande made the same mistake by not inviting Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right Front National, who was able to gain even more political capital out of this victim status, and in the long run hurt Hollande’s vaunted cause of “unity.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at kosher grocery store in Paris / Getty Images
Israelis are having a hilarious time mocking their prime minister’s visit to Paris, with ironic tweets and Hebrew Facebook statuses galore.
For those who haven’t been following the story, Netanyahu crashed the national solidarity event despite President Hollande’s explicit request that he stay at home. Then, after the VIP reception at the Elysee Palace, cameras for a local media outlet caught him elbowing aside a female French minister as he tried to jump the queue for the bus that would transport the group to the starting point of the march. Finding himself relegated to the second row at the march itself, he shoved aside the president of Mali and inserted himself in the front row, one down from Hollande himself and within eyesight of Angela Merkel.
Noy Alooshe, the Israeli journalist and musician who became a YouTube sensation with his 2011 remix of Zenga Zenga (spoofing Libya’s then-leader, Muammar Qaddafi), created a new clip spoofing Netanyahu’s Paris antics. Alooshe uses the theme song for Loony Tunes to accompany speeded-up footage of Bibi pushing aside the Malian president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keitar, in order to insert himself in the front row. Perhaps the funniest part is when the Malian leader leaps away from Bibi’s touch as though the latter had a communicable disease. It wouldn’t do, presumably, for the violent Islamists in Mali to see images of the country’s president walking arm-in-arm with the prime minister of the “Zionist entity.”
Just a few leaders down the front row was Mahmoud Abbas, standing near King Abdullah and Queen Rania of Jordan. Did he and Bibi exchange meaningful glances? After all, the Palestinian leader’s presence was salt in the wound for Netanyahu, who insisted on coming despite Hollande’s request that he stay home. But Bibi got his own back: in the photograph tweeted from his official account, all but Abbas’s right ear is cropped out of the frame.
I marched in one row with world leaders in order to unite against terrorism. Any terrorism must be fought to the end pic.twitter.com/X5oFg5r3cB— בנימין נתניהו (@netanyahu) January 11, 2015
Relatives mourn during the funeral for Emanuel and Miriam Riva in Tel Aviv, Israel / Getty Images
I spent my weekend glued to the television. Even if I’d tried, I couldn’t have taken my eyes off the images of Paris: that kosher supermarket and that video of a policeman on the ground getting shot in cold blood that played over and over again on all the Israeli channels.
Perhaps the reason why it deeply touched me is because I work in television news and I live through such events way more intensely than other people. Or perhaps it’s because France is the country I grew up in from age 11 to 18. It’s where I got my elementary and high school education, and it’s the place I called home up until five years ago.
Since I moved back to my real homeland, Israel, I admit that I have distanced myself from France. Not all my memories from there were good. But still, much of who I am today I owe to France and French people. Seeing their sorrow, their horror and their pain made me feel close again.
Israelis have always felt misunderstood by the French, as far as I can tell. After September 11, many said that countries like France would only begin to understand what Israelis go through on a daily basis after something like that happened to them.
Well, many are now describing the events of the past week as France’s own September 11. But today, no Israeli thinks for a second that gaining that understanding was worth the cost of 17 lives.
(Haaretz) — Just as you can sometimes identify Israeli tourists abroad by their loud voices, poor manners and gauche behavior, none of the hundreds of millions of people around the world who watched Sunday’s Paris rally on television had any problem locating Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: smack in the middle of world leaders at the front of the marchers.
The terms that constitute guiding principles for the French people – façon and finesse – suffered their own terror attack on Sunday. There was nothing further from Parisian manners, refinement and style than the behavior of Netanyahu. Or maybe as he should now be called, Grayshirt Bibi.
Such behavior as cutting in line, sneaking onto the bus by pushing and shoving, using elbows to get to the front at some event is so Israeli, so us, so Likud Party Central Committee, that I want to shout: Je suis Bibi!
Photo by Naomi Zeveloff
As a million people gathered in today’s Paris march, French Jewish immigrants stood in solidarity with their co-religionists abroad, first at a post-Sabbath rally outside the French Embassy in Tel Aviv and then on Sunday at Jerusalem’s City Hall.
Hundreds of French Jews gathered in a conference room for the Jerusalem event, which began with a somber reading of the names of those killed in the attacks over the past week. Audience members held “Je Suis Charlie” signs as well as placards in Hebrew that read “Israel is Charlie” and, most creatively, “Tzar li,” a play on the name Charlie that means “I’m hurting.” The pun was a perfect way for Israelis to express empathy for French Jews and the painful experience they have just lived through.
As Israeli leaders made their way to Paris today to march in solidarity with the victims of last week’s attacks, the Jewish Agency was doing double duty by recruiting French Jews to immigrate to Israel.
Hundreds of Jews attended a Paris “aliyah fair” that had been planned before the attacks. About 1% of France’s Jewish population of 500,000 has already immigrated to Israel. Last year, 7,000 French Jews made aliyah, double the number that had come the previous year. After the attacks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to increase efforts to bring European Jews to Israel.
At the Jerusalem rally, French Jews in attendance felt mixed on the idea that French Jews should move to Israel for their own safety.
A Lubavitch Jew had passersby put on tefillin yards from the besieged kosher market / Twitter
(JTA) — Standing for hours behind that yellow police line Friday, many of us could feel our patience running out as we waited idly near the Porte de Vincennes metro station for news from the hostage situation that was going on just 100 yards away, at the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket.
The journalists among us were on the phone, setting up quality interviews for the next day about the drama we were prevented from approaching. An Islamist had taken more than 20 people hostage at a kosher supermarket, where five people died, including the assailant, before police secured the building.
The police officers preventing us from crossing were chatting among themselves, ignoring the crowd of curious passersby who paused to take pictures of the boulevard — normally a vibrant market which suddenly looked eerily empty because police had closed it to vehicular traffic.
Yet one of the people hanging around the barricade was having no downtime at all.
Holding his tefillin kit at the ready, a bearded follower of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement was soliciting Jews who passed by to put on the leathery straps and pray for the safety of the Jews who were being held hostage less than 100 yards away at the Hyper Cacher kosher store.
(JTA) — In the wake of Wednesday’s deadly attack on the offices of the Charlie Hebdo newspaper, the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie (“I Am Charlie”) swept the internet in solidarity with the victims. Then came #JeSuisAhmed, to honor Ahmed Merabet, the Muslim police officer murdered during the Charlie Hebdo attacks, and who has become a symbol of inclusion and respect for non-Islamist Muslims.
Now, after today’s attack on the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket in eastern Paris has come #JeSuisjJuif, to show solidarity with the beleaguered Jews of France. Here are a few examples
According to an analytics graph posted by hashtags.org, the tweet took off around 7 a.m. Eastern time, and peaked at around 9 a.m., with just under 4,000 tweets per hour. According to topsy.com, #JeSuisJuif has been tweeted more than 20,000 times.
Police arrive on the scene of the hostage crisis in eastern Paris.// Laurent-David Samama
It was mid-morning when I saw several police cars rushing into my street with their sirens on. Even glimpsed through my window, the situation looked unusual.
In light of the recent massacre at Charlie Hebdo, I was suspicious, and headed out in the direction of the noice: Porte de Vincennes, in the southeast of Paris, near the Place de la Nation — and only a few blocks from my house.
Even on foot, I arrived at the scene of the hostage-taking before most journalists.
Urgent : une trentaine de policiers lourdement armés et casqués prennent position devant les sorties du peripherique pic.twitter.com/HjoXwQuK9E— Laurent D. Samama (@ldsamama) January 9, 2015
On the road there were and still are dozens of police cars. Within a few minutes, fire department trucks rushed to Porte de Vincennes later joined by dozens of ambulances. Police stopped traffic. The metro, bus and tram were shut down.
I suddenly realized that today is Friday — Shabbat. It’s no coincidence that the hostages are being held in a kosher market. HyperCasher is a small supermarket located in the eastern part of Paris, close to the cities of Vincennes and Saint-Mande home to strong Jewish communities. Only a few meters away from HyperCasher, there are two other Jewish businesses.
A still from the new film ‘Selma’
Leida Snow’s review of the new film “Selma” takes director Ava DuVernay to task for a “glaring omission” — airbrushing out the contributions of white people in general, and Jews in particular, to the civil rights movement. But Snow makes this critique by drawing selectively from American Jewish history, and her triumphalist narrative is more deserving of her critique than the movie is.
Snow offers a well-tread recitation of a triumphalist version of black-Jewish relations presented in synagogues and summer camps, complete with mention of Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, Jewish involvement in the March on Washington, and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marching with Dr. Martin Luther King at Selma. This version animates social action in a multitude of Jewish spaces, including youth groups, Hillel-sponsored alternative spring breaks and missions to post-Katrina New Orleans. But it’s dangerous for several reasons.
First, it’s a version of history that ignores how the civil rights movement was — rightly — a black-led movement in which only a small proportion of Jews played significant roles. When Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were murdered alongside James Chaney in June 1964, the death of white Jews drew Jewish attention to a movement that had long since been underway. And it’s worth pausing to ask, as a community: Had Chaney been murdered without Goodman and Schwerner, would that moment have attracted the attention that it did in the Jewish community? And if not, why?
(JTA) — Before the HarperCollins Middle East atlas story is deleted from email inboxes, it pays to spend another moment ruminating on the damage caused by companies that ought to know better.
On its website, HarperCollins bills itself as “one of the world’s leading English-language publishers.” It has a storied brand and a list of top-notch authors going back some 200 years. It markets books in more than 150 countries on a wide range of subjects and boasts of having had 400 best-sellers in the past fiscal year.
Among its offerings in 2014 was the Collins Middle East Atlas, which was sold to schools in the Middle East. Atlases are usually reference works, not consulted for daily reading but good to have on the shelf when needed. This edition omitted Israel from maps in the Middle East. The West Bank and Gaza are noted, but not Israel.
Confronted with this omission, a HarperCollins spokesman said that maps marked with Israel’s location would have been “unacceptable” and the omission — clearly intentional — was a bow to “local preferences.”
Leaving Israel off the map in Middle East textbooks and atlases is nothing new. Arab countries, from 1948 on, have perfected the practice. Palestinian textbooks not only leave Israel off the map but put Palestinian place names instead of Israeli cities and towns.