If Tzipi Livni’s defeat in the Kadima leadership contest results in her diminution in Israeli public life, then Shaul Mofaz’s victory will prove to be entirely Pyrrhic. If Livni merely heads towards the door marked exit and retires from public life, Israel’s domestic scene and the international community will be all the poorer for it, for Livni is a first-rate politician whose intellect and vision for her country is equal only to her striking beauty and grace.
It is not unreasonable to place her philosophically in a line of Israeli leaders which runs from David Ben-Gurion through Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon, who came to the necessary conclusion that in order to secure a Jewish and democratic state for future generations, Israel would have to relinquish lands gained in war beyond the Green Line, and forge some kind of peace with the Palestinian leadership.
“The dispute,” Livni remarked on the anniversary of Rabin’s assassination, “is around the question of whether you can have it both ways – maintaining Israel as a Jewish state and keeping the entire Land of Israel”. The answer, she concluded, is that you can’t.
Her flaw, and what may indeed have resulted in her defeat to Mofaz, is that once the decision was made to take Kadima into opposition as opposed to coalition with Likud in 2009, she appeared lacking when it came to articulating a powerful and gripping counter-narrative to the more hard-line stance Benjamin Netanyahu has adopted towards both the Palestinians and Iran. Whilst Livni remains popular amongst the international community and in particular within the U.S. State Department, at home recent polling data before the primary showed that though Likud would stand to gain seats in the next election, Kadima under Livni would see their chunk of seats in the Knesset slashed in half.
Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, whose family has given a “Super PAC” backing Newt Gingrich’s candidacy some $15 million, told the Jewish Journal, of Los Angeles, that the former House Speaker is “at the end of his line.”
Reading between the lines, it seems that Adelson might be ready to throw his (very reluctant) support behind Mitt Romney, whom the Las Vegas Sands chief executive said he “has spoken to many, many, many times, as recently as when he was here in Vegas for the caucuses.” Whether or not he’ll kick down millions for the former Massachusetts governor ‘s cause may be a different story.
That’s because he said Romney is “not the bold decision-maker like Newt Gingrich is,” and said he is risk-averse, “like Obama. “
But his criticism did not preclude some form of future support, as his remarks about Rick Santorum seemed to. Adelson said unequivocally that he doesn’t want Santorum “running my country,” and that the former Pennsylvania senator was too socially conservative for his taste.
“I’m what you might call a social liberal,” the billionaire businessman said.
Though Adelson, a close ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has long been betting on Gingrich — whom he said isn’t afraid to use words like ‘Islamo-fascism’ or ‘Islamo-terrorists’ when that’s what they are” — he acknowledged that the former House Speaker, “mathematically can’t get anywhere near his numbers, and there’s unlikely to be a brokered convention.”
The results of the elections for leadership of the Kadima party are in and Shaul Mofaz has won a decisive victory over Tzipi Livni. With 100% of the votes counted, Mofaz won 61.5 percent to Livni’s 38.5 percent. Ouch.
There was nothing really for Livni to say as she stood in front of her supporters on Tuesday night besides, “These are elections, and these are the results.”
The big mystery at this point is whether Mofaz intends to join Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, as Livni was never willing to do — and whether Netanyahu would have him
To hear Mofaz on Tuesday, he has no plans to accept any portfolio besides prime minister: “I intend to win the general elections and bring Netanyahu down. Our country deserves a new social agenda, a different government system, equality of civic duties, and more serious attempts to achieve peace in our region.”
But there have been comments from other Kadima members that Mofaz wouldn’t mind ousting Avigdor Lieberman as foreign minister.
We will have to wait and see. What is sure is that Mofaz is now emerging as a serious political player, and we’ll be eager to learn a little more about him and his core principles. On the biographical front, we know that he was born in Iran in 1948 and is married with four children. He jumped into politics in 2002 after a long military career. Haaretz has a brief bio here. Surely, there will be more in the coming days and months.
In 2008, billionaire media mogul David Geffen was among Barack Obama’s most visible Hollywood supporters. A top-level fundraiser for the Obama campaign, Geffen hosted major Hollywood events and launched a tide-turning media attack against primary opponent Hillary Clinton.
In 2012, he’s all but absent from the political landscape.
Sure, Geffen has given the maximum allowable personal donation of a few thousand dollars to the Obama campaign, but that’s not saying much in the age of the super PAC. Unlike fellow Dreamworks founder Jeffrey Katzenberg, Geffen is missing from Obama’s list of bundlers and his list of super PAC donors.
Geffen is the only top-tier Jewish 2008 bundler for Obama who is not bundling in 2012, excluding those currently working for the federal government.
Geffen’s reduced role this cycle is puzzling. And though it hasn’t entirely been explained by Geffen’s office, it appears to coincide with his relative withdrawal from public life since 2008.
Queens Rep. Gary Ackerman isn’t running for reelection, and the Queens Tribune seemed to be the only media outlet that knew why.
A column, penned by Tribune publisher Michael Schenkler, reported that Ackerman had signed on as a managing partner of a group of investors that had reached a deal to buy the New York Mets from the Wilpon family.
It sounded like a plausible explanation for Ackerman’s surprising decision to retire from Congress, and an interesting twist in the tale of the Wilpons, who lost big in the Bernie Madoff scam.
Or so I thought. At an overwrought editor’s urging, I started looking into the report.
It seemed a little strange that the paper posted the piece Thursday, yet no other media outlets had picked it up. Maybe no one has the Queens Tribune on their Google alerts, I thought.
I was halfway through putting out a round of phone calls when I found out the truth: It was all a (very) pre-April Fools Day joke.
The foreign policy chief of the European Union, Catherine Ashton, is under furious attack for a speech she gave March 19, several hours after the deadly shootings at the Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse, in which she mentioned the Toulouse attack and deaths of Palestinian youths in Gaza in the same sentence.
First Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, called the supposed analogy “inappropriate.” Then others piled on: Defense Minister Ehud Barak called her words “outrageous.” Interior Minister Eli Yishai demanded she resign. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized her more indirectly, just before a meeting with French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, who had flown to Israel for the funerals of the Toulouse victims. The Anti-Defamation League expressed “outrage.” The American Jewish Committee expressed “profound dismay.” For a more detailed critique, here’s Middle East scholar (and my old high school chum) Barry Rubin, dissecting what’s wrong.
Actually, what’s wrong is the false notion that Ashton’s words were, as Barry puts it, “a statement” issued “in response to the Toulouse shooting.” They were nothing of the sort. As I write in my latest Forward column, she was delivering the keynote address at a U.N.-E.U. conference on the challenges facing Palestinian refugee youth. She concluded with a sad litany of unrelated tragedies around the world that clearly share nothing except that young people die. Here’s the video of the speech.
How did everyone get it so wrong?
A Jewish fundraiser for Mitt Romney says she turned against President Obama over his 2011 call for Israel to return to 1967 borders with mutually agreed land swaps, the Washington Post reported.
The bundler, Susan Crown, is a descendant of the now-deceased Henry Crown, a billionaire investor who once owned the Empire State Building.
Crown gave $2,300 to Barack Obama’s campaign in 2007. She does not appear on a list of volunteer fundraisers, or bundlers, for the Obama 2008 campaign. The Romney campaign has released no information on its fundraisers, so it’s impossible to know how much she has raised in this cycle.
“There are a lot of people here who are very disappointed in the president,” Crown told the Post. “I’m an independent and I’m working as hard as I can for Mitt.”
Last year, Israeli adult film star and newly-minted right wing activist Michael Lucas used his financial clout to bar an anti-Israel group from meeting at New York’s LGBT Center. I was one of many who protested: LGBT community centers are meant for the entire community, including groups with whom we may disagree.
But in case we needed a lesson that intolerance exists on the Left as well as the Right, a reciprocal outrage took place last week in Seattle. There, an anti-Israel LGBT activist pressured the city of Seattle’s LGBT Commission to cancel an event featuring three LGBT activists from Israel, scheduled for March 16 at City Hall. I write to protest this action as well. It is unconscionable, reprehensible, and ignorant. And the fact that it was undertaken in the name of fighting oppression, led by transgender activist Dean Spade, makes it even worse.
There are some differences between the two cases. First, the Seattle LGBT Commission’s meeting was in City Hall, not an LGBT community center, and thus conveys a higher level of endorsement of the program’s views. On the other hand, unlike the Siegebusters/Queers Against Israeli Apartheid meeting in New York, this program had absolutely nothing to do with the Israel/Palestine conflict. In fact, I happen to know some of the intended speakers personally, and they happen to hold quite left-wing views on that conflict. This program — one of many coordinated by the American organization A Wider Bridge, seeking to unite LGBT Jews and Israel — was purely about the struggles and successes LGBT people have faced inside green-line Israel.
If you weren’t on Facebook this weekend, then you probably missed a huge love fest going on between Israelis and Iranians. As would be expected, the governments of the two countries were not proclaiming their undying devotion to one another. Rather, it was ordinary Israeli and Iranian citizens who were expressing mutual admiration and a hope that war between their two nations can be avoided.
It’s amazing how quickly good will and gestures of solidarity can spread in the Internet age, even between peoples who generally have nothing to do with one another. On Saturday night, two graphic designers, Israeli couple Ronny Edry and Michal Tamir uploaded photos of themselves superimposed with a logo saying, “Iranians, we will never bomb your country. We ♥ You” to the Facebook page of Pushpin Mehina, a small preparatory school for graphic design students. In no time, others were copying the meme and the Facebook page garnered a thousand “likes.”
No sooner had the Israelis started posting their own versions on the Facebook and the “Israel Loves Iran” blog, than the Iranians came up with their response. By Sunday, they were uploading photos with the logo, “ We ♥ You, Israeli People. The Iranian People do not like any war with any country.” While some posted personal photographs, others utilized historical examples of benevolence by Persians and Iranian toward Jews. One was of a photo of the Mausoleum of Esther and Mordecai in Hamadan, Iran. Another was of Abdol-Hossein Sardari, the “Iranian Schindler” who helped 2,000 Iranian Jews flee France during the Holocaust. Yet another had the seal of Cyrus the Great, the ruler of the Persian Empire from 600-530 BCE, with the tolerant proclamation: “I announce that everyone is free to choose a religion. People are free to live in all regions and take up a job provided that they never violate others’ rights.”
Myriad hypotheses have been floated already about what compelled Goldman Sachs executive director Greg Smith to write the New York Times op-ed that shot around the globe this week.
Smith’s broadside against Goldman’s “toxic and destructive” culture has been depicted as the ranting of a disgruntled employee, the “objection of the underclass of younger bankers and traders stymied by a lack of career mobility” and a sure sign of an impending midlife crisis.
But what if Smith, a South African Jew, was simply continuing a South African Jewish tradition of speaking truth to power?
Tony Karon, of Time magazine, has spent years as an outspoken critic of Israeli policy. Sasha Polakow-Suransky’s controversial book on Israel’s military cooperation with apartheid-era South Africa caused a few red faces in Jerusalem in 2010. Next week, as he gins up publicity for the release of his book, Peter Beinart will launch another attack on the American-Jewish establishment for fueling disillusionment with Israel among young, Jewish liberals.
Judea Pearl, father of the slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, has been named winner of what is considered the “Nobel Prize in Computing,” a prestigious honor that also carries a $250,000 award.
The Association for Computing Machinery announced Thursday it would give its 2011 ACM A.M. Turing Award to Pearl, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, for his pioneering work. The association said in a press statement that Pearl’s innovations “enabled remarkable advances in the partnership between humans and machines that is the foundation of Artificial Intelligence.” In particular, his work created a foundation for processing information under uncertain circumstances, and created methods that enable machines to reason about actions and observations and assess cause and effect.
The prize is named for a British mathematician, Alan M. Turing. It will be given to Pearl in June at an ACM conference in San Francisco that will also gather previous prize winners as part of a centenary celebration of Turing.
In February in New York, Pearl delivered the “state of anti-Semitism” lecture, an annual speech sponsored by the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance.
Jon Stewart treads where others don’t dare: skewering America’s decision to defund UNESCO for recognizing Palestine. And this was no mere tweak: Stewart skipped his interview segment last night to air a special, two-part “investigation” by John Oliver on the UNESCO flap. Oliver actually traveled to Gabon in West Africa (not a fake blue-screen standup), which apparently donated an extra $1 million to the UN agency toward making up the U.S. shortfall. And he visited schoolchildren in Gabon who benefit from UNESCO’s programs – and suffer from the defunding. More innuendo than fact – it’s the Daily Show after all – but pretty harsh.
Note that they barely mention Israel, much less the, um, U.S. domestic influences that pushed for the defunding-UN-over-Palestine policy. Even Stewart isn’t that suicidal. Nonetheless, it’s very pointed. Here’s Part One:
Part Two (after the jump):
We all know politics makes for odd bedfellows. Just how odd, though, was revealed in this morning’s news. The presidential candidacy of Marine Le Pen, leader of the extreme right wing Front National, has just been made possible by a French Israeli citizen.
In order to run for president in France, an individual must secure five hundred signatures from elected officials serving in local or national office. This constitutional requirement was, in principle designed to prevent “frivolous” candidacies from making a mockery of the deadly serious business of electing a president. Given that this year’s candidates include Madame Cindy Lee, the scantily-clad nominee for the Party of Pleasure, and Dédé de l’Abeillevaud, the bee-costumed representative for a bio-diversity movement, the law has not quite had its desired effect.
Unless, that is, you are Madame Le Pen.
For several weeks, the FN candidate had been scrambling to find five hundred officials willing to sign her petition before Friday’s deadline. Le Pen’s mad dash has made great copy for the media. There was, after all, the striking disparity between Le Pen’s solid ranking in national opinion polls — shifting between 16% and 20% — and her difficulty in convincing a mere 500 officials, out of a pool of 42,000, to endorse her candidacy. Were officials reluctant to be identified with Le Pen? (By law, the names of those who sign are a matter of public information.) Was President Nicolas Sarkozy’s party, the UMP, twisting arms to prevent officials from signing? (The hemorrhage of traditional UMP voters turning to the FN has become an acute concern for Sarkozy.) Or was Le Pen simply gaming the system and waiting until the last moment in order to depict her candidacy as one the traditional parties wanted to suffocate before the voters could have their say?
The questions are now of a different order: Why did Sylvain Semhoun, who represents Israel as a deputy in the Assembly of French Citizens Living Abroad, elect to be the official to push Le Pen’s campaign over the bar of 500 signatures? According to Semhoun, the reason is simple: “Civic duty.” As he told a journalist from the magazine Le Point, “It would have been intolerable to see millions of voters deprived of their preferred candidate.” Semhoun added that political battles are best fought at the ballot box, not in the street.
Israelism, the idea of a nation or people’s direct descent from one of the ten lost tribes of Israel, or the appropriation of Jewish ideas or texts for use in new belief systems, is not unique to the Mormon faith. At the height of British imperial power in the early twentieth century, notions of a lineage from King David to the House of Windsor were too at their zenith. The country’s national canon is awash with Israelism and references to Jerusalem, ranging from the King James Bible to the poetry of William Blake.
But it is the recent spate of stories regarding Mormon posthumous baptism of deceased Jews — an activity, it should be noted, which is neither secretive nor obscure within the faith — including Anne Frank, Simon Wiesenthal, Daniel Pearl, and the not-yet-dead Elie Wiesel that has brought into question the peculiar relationship which exists between Mormonism and Judaism, one where feelings of love and admiration very much journey down a one way street.
On the one hand, as a branch of Christianity, there is nothing inherently unusual about the fact that 25,000 words of the Book of Mormon are taken directly from the Old Testament. Nor that, of the 350 names published in the text, more than 100 are lifted straight out of the Bible, and the same amount again are near matches.
Yet there is something inherently distinctive about the Latter Day Saints’ origin story. For, Mormons believe themselves to be the spiritual descendants of the Nephites, a lost tribe of Israel who led by the prophet Lehi fled Jerusalem around 600 BC at the time of the Babylonian conquest, ending their journey in the New World by 586 BC.
The golden plates from which the Book of Mormon is derived were claimed, by the faith’s founder Joseph Smith, to have been revealed to him in upstate New York by the angel Moroni, the last Nephite who chronicled the adventures of his wandering tribe after it was all but wiped out by the Lamanites (another lost tribe) in a series of wars which occurred in the 4th century AD. The baptisms themselves occur in large fonts of water that rest upon twelve oxen, representative of the tribes of Israel.
Jonathan Tobin, senior online editor of Commentary magazine, writes. A lot. At least a lot of short, sharp blog posts on his magazine’s website in the unabashedly conservative style that has defined Commentary for decades. It’s an ideological publication, which holds to a point of view that certainly has its place in the firmament of Jewish media and ideas.
But it’s commentary, like its name. It’s not straight journalism.
I fear that the distinction may sometimes be lost on Tobin.
That’s the only explanation I can offer for his diatribe against my colleague J.J. Goldberg over his latest column, and his criticism of our profile of Ali Abunimah, published in the same issue of the Forward.
J.J. is a brilliant, seasoned journalist, who knows more about the history and dynamics of the American Jewish community than probably anyone in our profession, and I feel no need to dignify Tobin’s unfair criticisms with a response. But Tobin pointedly denigrates the Forward’s decision to profile Abunimah, and since that was my decision, I have to respond.
Leslie Stahl’s “60 Minutes” interview Sunday night with former Mossad chief Meir Dagan (transcript) gave important exposure to his views on the folly of attacking Iran. However, she got two things very wrong, both of which weakened the strength of his case against a military strike. The bottom line is, she let you think Dagan is a lone voice. In fact, it’s Bibi Netanyahu who’s nearly alone on this. The trouble is, Bibi’s the one who gets to make the decision. That’s why Dagan and nearly every other military or intelligence chief is speaking out against him: They’re scared of him.
Stahl suggested as though it were credible that Dagan was pushed out of the Mossad, supposedly because of the messy assassination of Hamas arms procurer Mahmoud Mabhouh in Dubai in January 2010 — and hence that his campaign against the Netanyahu-Barak war talk is a petty act of revenge. In fact, Dagan was supposed to retire in late 2009 at the mandatory age of 65, but Netanyahu asked him to stay on for another year and he ended up retiring on schedule in January 2011.
More seriously misleading is her assertion early on that it’s “unheard of for someone who held such a high-classified position to speak out publicly.” That makes it sound like he’s a lone voice in the wilderness. In fact, as I’ve written before, Dagan’s views have been publicly echoed by every single ex-Mossad or Israel Defense Forces chief going back to 1996, with the single exception of super-hawk (and Netanyahu ally) Moshe Yaalon. Now, that is unheard of.
Even more astonishing, the current heads of the IDF and Mossad, Benny Gantz and Tamir Pardo, have now gone public resisting Netanyahu’s war push. Even Dagan didn’t dare to do that. That’s beyond unheard-of.
Here’s the roll-call:
Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, 28, announced last night that he had purchased The New Republic, the 100-odd-year-old journal of liberal opinion.
The most striking piece of news here is that a man under thirty has bought one of the most important names in American letters. It’s like when Jared Kushner bought The New York Observer at 25, though somehow more jarring.
But it’s also notable that Hughes, who is not Jewish, has bought a magazine that’s been associated with Jewish interests, and with Martin Peretz, its exceptionally vocal Jewish owner, for decades.
Peretz is a onetime Harvard professor and an outspoken and often controversial voice on Jewish and Israel issues. Peretz apologized and more or less retreated from public life following a 2010 controversy over a blog post in which he wrote that he “wondered” whether Muslims were worthy of First Amendment protections.
It’s International Women’s Day, a good excuse to return to my “Where Are the Women?” campaign. You might recall an editorial documenting and lamenting the absence of women in American Jewish public life, published in January.
Since then, I’ve heard from a number of women with examples of their own — times when a public program or panel discussion featured no women, or maybe only one. As I noted in another editorial, a rabbi in the Reform movement was particularly upset about the lineup of leadership in the Union for Reform Judaism.
Now, it’s the Conservative’s turn.
So you want to be a U.S. ambassador? Meet kings at fancy parties? Carry a black diplomatic passport?
Short of spending a career in the Foreign Service, your best shot at an ambassadorship has always been to be a major fundraiser, known as a bundler, on a successful presidential campaign.
That could change this year.
The advent of the super PACs has created a new sort of political moneyman. Now, ultra-wealthy givers to a candidate’s nominally independent super PAC can donate as much to a candidate’s cause with a single check as the best bundlers raise over the course of an entire campaign.
This new species of powerful political givers raises a question: When the next president is doling out the spoils in 2013, will major super PAC givers beat out bundlers for choice ambassadorships? And without incentives like ambassadorships, will future presidential candidates find it harder to recruit bundlers?