Israeli news media are citing a London Sunday Times report that claims Israel is considering establishing a security zone along its border with Syria to protect itself against attacks by jihadist forces following the expected fall of the Assad regime. The zone would extend 10 miles into Syria and would have two infantry brigades and a tank battalion patrolling it.
The territory to be protected, the Golan Heights, was seized from Syria in June 1967 and has been declared an essential asset since then because it serves as a security zone to protect Israel from Syrian attacks. The new security zone is apparently intended to protect the old security zone. Israeli military sources told the Times it will be modeled after the security zone Israel maintained in south Lebanon between 1985 and 2000.
The anomalous role of the Golan has been a source of tension since the mid-1970s between Israel’s politicians and military strategists. Politicians from across the map see the heights as inseparable from Israel and promote civilian settlement there. Military planners complain that Golan civilian settlements undercut its value as a security buffer by adding a new vulnerability. This first arose during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when Israel lost valuable time evacuating civilians before it could mount an effective counterattack against Syria’s armored advance into the Golan.
The Assad regime has kept border quiet since the 1975 Israeli-Syrian separation of forces agreement, but the civil war threatens to loosen the regime’s hold.
When Ed Koch died this morning, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo released a statement. “I will miss his friendship,” the 55-year-old governor said.
Ed Koch thought that Andrew Cuomo was a schmuck.
He said so on election night in 2010, in a conversation preserved in a new documentary about Koch’s life.
Koch said what he meant. That’s not to say he always meant what he said.
Back in July, Koch said he had plans to organize a rally of 50,000 people against the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk tactics.
“We’re going to turn City Hall Park into Tiananmen Square, Tahrir Square, and Moscow Square,” the 88-year-old former mayor told me, citing three iconic uprisings.
That didn’t quite happen.
The first thing I learned about Ed Koch is how unusually accessible he was.
It was September, 1977, and I was a new, eager student at the Columbia School of Journalism, passionate about city news and interested in learning photography. The school published a weekly newspaper at the time, and I wanted to be the one to photograph Ed Koch during his mayoral campaign. He seemed to be the most interesting candidate, and the one most likely to win.
I figured the best way to get the assignment was to prove that I already had an established relationship with the Koch campaign. Which I didn’t. So I needed to create one, quick.
Koch was a member of Congress then, and his phone number was listed in the phone book (an ancient precursor to online directories, for those who weren’t alive then.) So I called him. He picked up after a few rings, and with only a little irritation in his voice told me the address of his campaign office. No handlers or press representatives. And he was in line to run the biggest city in America? Who was this guy?
When traditional Jewish law, or Halacha, hampers observance for congregants with disabilities, rabbis face tough questions. At a recent conference, Orthodox rabbinical students in Manhattan grappled with disability-related dilemmas.
What would you decide? Step into the rabbi’s shoes and let us know what you think in the comments section.
Question 1 Your impoverished and shrinking synagogue has 10 steps up to the entrance. You don’t know that you have any congregants who can’t climb steps, and you’ve already taken a pay cut of 10% this year after Hurricane Sandy damaged the building. You’re the rabbi; what do you do?
The leader of Israel’s Labor party, Shelly Yachimovich, met with President Shimon Peres, and reiterated her resolve to sit in opposition. “Our commitment to the national interest comes before all else, we are thinking of the good of the country and re-starting the peace process,” she told Peres, adding: “That support we will be able to provide from the opposition, and without being in the coalition.”
And so, as Labor settles down for a stint in opposition, it is worth asking whether Labor has succeeded in this election or not. It never expected to win, but the question is whether it came out of election season well or badly.
Some of the polls ahead of the election predicted that Labor would win far more than the 15 Knesset seats it ended up with — and so it should have. It emerged from the last election in 2009 with 13 seats and everyone said it was dismal, and yet four years on only has two more seats. These were four years, it should be added, in which the national agenda played into Labor’s hands — the social protests were the perfect chance for the party to make itself relevant again.
Yachimovich actually did quite well at branding Labor as the party taking up the agenda of social justice that brought people out on to the streets. But she simply couldn’t compete with Yair Lapid., leader of Yesh Atid. She is viewed as prickly and aloof while he is seen as smooth and approachable. And he managed to steal her thunder when it came to the frustrations raised by the social protests. Lapid doesn’t want the far-reaching welfare changes that Labor wants and has far gentler demands, yet he managed to harness the momentum from the movement more effectively than Yachimovich.
Chuck Hagel will step into the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday morning to face what is expected to be the toughest grilling any Obama nomination has yet to encounter.
It will be long, grueling, and could easily draw some sweat from the Vietnam veteran sitting across the room from his former Senate colleagues. But at the end of the day, if Democrats have done their math right, Hagel will be confirmed by the committee, and later by the entire Senate. Democrats believe they’ll have all of their caucus on board, which will provide for 55 votes, and some more votes from the Republican side, to make sure filibuster attempts, like the one suggested by Senator Lindsey Graham, do not succeed.
Here are few things to watch for as the Senate Arms Services Committee begins the confirmation process.
There are two of them on the committee: chairman Carl Levin from Michigan and Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal and both have made clear they back Hagel. As chairman, Levin gets to ask the first round of questions and he could use this privilege to defuse the contentious Israel-related issues by throwing Hagel some soft balls. Hagel’s critics will, of course, get their chance to pose tough questions on these issues, but Levin could help set the tone at the outset of the hearing.
Zvi Barel, Haaretz’s impeccably cautious Middle East commentator, reports (might be paywall; here is the Hebrew original) that Hamas secretary general Khaled Meshaal has agreed to accept a two-state solution, with a Palestinian state alongside Israel based on the 1967 borders. This follows talks in Amman this week between Meshaal King Abdullah of Jordan. Barel cites a Saudi newspaper, A-Sharq, which in turn cited “Jordanian sources.”
He said Meshaal had authorized Abdullah to pass the new Hamas position along to President Obama.
The report continues:
The meeting is also said to have covered Palestinian reconciliation and relations with Jordan. So far neither Hamas nor Jordan has officially verified the Saudi report, but Meshal’s public statement after the meeting, in which he said, “Jordan is Jordan, and Palestine is Palestine, and any talks about relations between a Palestinian state and Jordan will only be held after the establishment of a Palestinian state,” more than hint at an essential change in Hamas’ position.
To date, Hamas has rejected the two-state solution, although it welcomed the Arab peace initiative whose core was the existence of two states based on the 1967 borders. In the past, however, Meshal has stressed that the 1967 borders are only a first step in the ultimate liberation of all of Palestine. This change in position is an extension of a previous shift in orientation in which Hamas, after fierce opposition, decided to support Mahmoud Abbas’ effort to gain international acceptance of Palestine as a non-member observer nation in the United Nations.
No official confirmation from Jordan or Hamas, but Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator with Israel, seems to take the report very seriously:
When it comes to cartoons, it’s usually Muslim fundamentalists that throw hissy fits. But, in a turn of events, some of our storied communal defenders, Abraham Foxman and Marvin Hier among them, have been taking the lead. Indiscriminately tossing around accusations of anti-Semitism, our fearless leaders have attacked at least three editorial cartoonists over the past few months on charges that they have defamed the Jewish people.
Representing important institutions, you’d think that Foxman, of the Anti-Defamation League, and Hier, who represents the Simon Wiesenthal Center, might have figured out how to differentiate an anti-Semitic cartoon from an editorial cartoon that criticizes Israeli policy. Although both are undoubtedly experts on anti-Semitism, they both seem to take leave of their senses when it comes to criticism of Israel. And yet both claim to be ardent supporters of free speech. Except when it comes to that one thing, that Israel thing.
So when the London Times published a cartoon showing Benjamin Netanyahu cementing Palestinians between bricks of a wall, it was a perfect opportunity for Foxman to pipe up, accusing the cartoonist of evoking the blood libel. Britain’s Chief Rabbi opined that the cartoon caused “immense pain to the Jewish community in the UK and around the world.” The Israeli ambassador to Britain, who also chimed in on behalf of the International Jewry, argued that the cartoon added insult to injury, as it was published on European Holocaust Memorial Day.
Okay, so the cartoon and its timing were a bit ham-handed, for which Acting Editor of The Sunday Times Martin Ivens apologized. Gerald Scarfe, who has been visually excoriating British politicians since the late 1960s, was the artist behind Pink Floyd’s, The Wall. It appears, walls are, when all else fails, his fallback metaphor.
Sure, his cartoon wall dripping with Palestinian blood references the separation wall, which incidentally, isn’t particularly newsworthy right now, so it doubles as a symbol of Netanyahu’s recalcitrance vis-à-vis the peace process and how it crushes Palestinian life. Netanyahu comes in for some harsh criticism here, but so do all the other public figures Scarfe has drawn over the years. In fact, compared to Margaret Thatcher, Bibi gets off easy. It’s an obnoxious cartoon, but it’s not anti-Semitic. It’s also been removed from the Times website.
Prior to Holocaust Memorial Day — officially commemorated across Europe on Sunday — a Book of Commitment was placed in the British House of Commons for Members of Parliament to sign. The purpose of this simple act is to “publicly commit both to remembering the Holocaust and to working towards a future in which prejudice and hatred are never again allowed to gain a foothold in society.”
After placing his name in the Book, however, David Ward (MP for Bradford East) felt it necessary to issue an addendum of sorts on his website. His postlude could hardly have been more opposite to the spirit of his earlier dedication to tolerance and reflection, replicating as they did what Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks calls one of the “great slanders of our time: that Jews, victims of the Holocaust, are now perpetrators of a similar crime.” Here is what Ward wrote:
Having visited Auschwitz twice - once with my family and once with local schools - I am saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza.
In the hours following the public dissemination of his comments, instead of showing the sort of shame and penitence such barefaced bigotry demands, Ward reached for his shovel, thumping and scratching at the scarred earth beneath him. Initially, Ward attempted to utilise a quote from Elie Wiesel in his defence.
“Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented,” he cited in part. Wiesel did not much care for this: “Although he quotes me correctly, I am outraged that he uses my words at the same time he utters shameless slanders on the State of Israel.”
Grand Central Terminal turns 100 this year, and the party kicks off February 1 with celebrity appearances, musical entertainment and vendor promotions, including vintage 1913 prices at selected shops in the terminal.
But six-cent loaves of rye bread at Zaro’s aren’t the only Jewish connection to the famed station.
Here are five Jewish things to know about one of the world’s busiest transit hubs.
• It’s been called the gateway to a million lives, but for some, Grand Central Terminal provides a place to transcend worldly concerns. Orthodox Jews gather in a corner near Eddie’s Shoe Shine and Repair to pray at 1:40PM on weekdays.
• In the 1980s, Grand Central functioned as a de-facto homeless shelter, with hundreds taking refuge in the terminal. Mayor Ed Koch drew fire from homeless advocates for cracking down on loitering, particularly after the death of an elderly homeless woman on Christmas Day 1985.
More questions are raised than answered with an Israeli government official’s letter on the birth control scandal in the country’s Ethiopian community.
Health Ministry Director General Ron Gamzu has instructed HMOs to stop injecting women of Ethiopian-born women with the long-acting contraceptive Depo-Provera. The background is that last month an Israeli television report alleged that Ethiopian immigrant women were coerced into taking contraceptive shots in transit camps in Ethiopia when waiting to move to Israel, and continue to receive the shots in Israel.
Gamzu has not confirmed in so many words that women have been coerced to take the contraceptive, but has indicated that there are Ethiopian women who don’t understand exactly what they’re taking and why. His letter instructs gynecologists “not to renew prescriptions for Depo-Provera for women of Ethiopian origin if for any reason there is concern that they might not understand the ramifications of the treatment.” (To be clear, Gamzu did not indicate that the government is responsible for the situation, but just that it must stop.)
This is a step forward from the previous situation that saw everyone, in Israel and the Diaspora, denying knowledge of a problem, but it’s far from the comprehensive investigation needed in to such a serious matter.
Sitting in my living room wearing pajamas on an especially frigid night watching a live stream of the Yuri Foreman fight, I could not help but marvel at the ability to watch a non-title boxing match in such a small arena (a Times Square blues club!) live over the Internet. Truly, we are in the golden age of the micro-broadcast.
Yuri Foreman stood in the center of the ring wrapped in an Israeli flag with the referee holding Foreman’s right glove awaiting the results. After a scheduled six round fight that went the full six rounds it was now up to the judges to declare a winner.
A loss for Foreman would most likely abort his nascent comeback. A win for Foreman would be a small step closer to his goal of reclaiming a middleweight championship belt.
Foreman fought a well-defended fight and displayed his trademark blistering lateral movement throughout the entire six rounds. Foreman did show the expected rust after a two-year layoff in terms of offense and lack of rhythm. He landed plenty of left-hand straight jabs at will, but multiple punch combinations rarely materialized. Though Foreman was never considered a power puncher, he did seem to hold back on setting his feet and throwing a strong right a little more than usual.
A delegation of American senators met earlier this month in Cairo with a spokesperson for Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, according to the New York Times. The spokesperson clarified press accounts of Mr. Morsi’s recent description of Jews as “bloodsuckers,” “pigs” and “dogs.” The remarks, he explained, were “taken out of context.” The senators left the meeting “feeling as if Mr Morsi had addressed the issue,” according to the report.
In order to place the Egyptian spokesperson’s remarks in context, a ramble across past and present might be in order so as to uncover other examples of remarks being similarly “taken out of context.”
• Meeting on the beach outside besieged Troy with Greek bards, a spokesperson for mythical hero Achilles discussed a recent exchange he had with King Agamemnon over a war prize. Forced by Agamemnon to turn over the booty, god-like Achilles informed his commander that he was “a dog-faced, staggering drunk who was the most shameless, cowardly and grasping man alive.” He quit the army and retired to his tent.
When a bard asked for a clarification of the swift-footed warrior’s remarks, the spokesperson grabbed a spear and ran him through as rosy-fingered dawn appeared over the wine dark sea. The other bards felt as if Achilles had addressed the issue. (The prize, Chryseis, whose father was employed by Apollo as his priest, had no say in the matter.)
• Meeting with a single English reporter on the god-forsaken volcanic rock called Saint Helena, Napoleon Bonaparte, the recently retired Emperor of the French, was asked to clarify a remark he made about his former minister Charles Talleyrand, describing him as a “serving of s— in a silk stocking.”
What is Yair Lapid’s next move?
The man who shocked Israel with a stunning showing in the elections could try to establish a “blocking coalition” by uniting parties that want to stop Benjamin Netanyahu from forming the next government. Labor would definitely be game for that, as would Meretz, Hadash, the Arab parties and probably the Tzipi Livni party. But according to the exit polls, there would not be quite enough mandates to make this possible.
If he could convince the Haredi Shas party he could make it work, and such a move may appeal to Shas’ recently returned dovish leader Arye Deri. However, given that Yesh Atid is all guns blazing to draft Haredim to the army and Shas is dead against the draft, it’s difficult to imagine Shas cooperating with Lapid.
Lapid’s other hope is that exit polls may have underestimated Livni’s showing and Labors. If this is the case he could pull off the blocking coalition.
But even without a blocking coalition, Lapid’s victory is big news. If the figures are right Netanyahu could form a coalition It means that Netanyahu could leave the Haredi parties out in the cold and push through the Haredi draft. If he did this Lapid, who after all went in to politics to become a minister, could negotiate handsome portfolios for his party — I predict he will become Education Minister. The other coalition partners would be the Tzipi Livni Party and Jewish Home.
The difficulty with this option is that both Yesh Atid and the Tzipi Livni Party say they wouldn’t enter a government that won’t negotiate for a peace deal, while Jewish Home is totally opposed to a two-state solution. This raises the possibility that Netanyahu could substitute Jewish Home for Shas and resolve to advance negotiations. It’s hard to imagine given that much of his party is against a Palestinian state, but it’s a possibility nevertheless.
Exit polls are just out in Israel, and the results are, simply put, astonishing. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s list — an alliance between his Likud party and the further-right Yisrael Beytenu — was placed with 31 of the Knesset’s 120 seats according to all three polls that were conducted. The Yesh Atid party headed by political novice Yair Lapid, a popular journalist, surprised pollsters and is placing at 18 to 19 seats.
On the surface, this doesn’t seem amazing, but take a closer look. Netanyahu’s own Likud party will control just 20 seats if you discount Yisrael Beytenu’s seats. This is a very real calculation, as Yisrael Beytenu’s lawmakers will be loyal to their party leader Avigdor Liberman, and not necessarily to Netanyahu.
Labor looks set to come in close behind Yesh Atid with 17 seats. So what is the bottom line? Netanyahu probably will still get to form the coalition, but as a far weaker leader than he would have hoped. And he will do so with either a very strong opposition led by Lapid, or a powerful Lapid inside his coalition, trying to keep him central.
The Israel Land Administration is a notorious government bureaucracy, whose precise functions are a mystery to most Israelis. And yet, one day before polling opens here in Israel, the whole country is talking about it.
The reason is that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced yesterday that the popular minister Moshe Kahlon, who aid ahead of the campaign that he was leaving politics, will become director of this body which controls the release of land for building.
Kahlon is loved because he’s a salt-of-the-earth kind of guy in a Likud party which is increasingly seen as serving Israel’s tycoons. In a country where ethnicity matters in politics he’s Sephardi in an Ashkenazi-dominated faction. Last but not least, in these important hours in which the parties try to catch floating voters (more than 10% of voters are still undecided) Kahlon has the ability to attract socially-concerned voters who may otherwise go for the centrist parties.
And so, while Netanyahu can’t undo the fact that Kahlon isn’t standing for Knesset, he’s done the next-best thing — appointed him to a high-profile unelected post. His big achievement as Communications Minister in the last Knesset was to reduce cellphone prices, and Netanyahu is indicating that he’ll have the same kind of impact on house prices.
But house prices are far more complex than cellphone packages, and one wonders why, if bringing house prices down is really so simple as appointing the right man to the job, why Netanyahu didn’t do exactly that 18 months ago when the social protestors took to the streets objecting to high living costs? If the answer is that this has more to do with the poll than with real concern about housing prices, one wonders how ethical making civil service appointments is as a form of electioneering. What happened to good old fashioned baby-kissing?
President Obama’s first inauguration in 2009 was full of Jewish side events. There was a fancy ball at a downtown hotel co-sponsored by major Jewish groups and attended by Jewish politicos, activists and even Dr. Ruth Westhehimer, plus a string of private events hosted by Jewish Democratic donors and supporters.
WATCH President Obama’s inauguration LIVE:
This time around, the entire inauguration has been downsized as the president looks to send a message that he is taking into account the tough economic climate. And after all it’s his second term.
The Jewish community is also taking a low key approach. But here’s a few things to watch out for. And if you find a way into the inaugural lunch, Sen. Chuck Schumer is making apple pie for dessert.
Two Jewish groups, Repair the World and the D.C. Jewish Community Center, participated in the Day of Service volunteer fair on the National Mall on Saturday. The event aims highlighted volunteering opportunities, all part of the inauguration’s theme of community service.
The two groups shared the stage with 90 other organizations offering ways to help those in need.
“We hope to reach a part of the population we don’t usually reach,” said Erica Steen, director of community engagement at the DCJCC, which organizes throughout the years volunteers food drives for the homeless, house repairs for low income families and work with local schools.
This week, the Forward’s web site was overwhelmed by traffic from the social news site Reddit, which featured my piece about the Newtown school rampage, “Wrestling With the Details of Noah Pozner’s Killing.” In the post, I outlined and explained the Forward’s decision to publish Noah’s mother’s description of her son’s body during our December 23 interview.
“[Noah’s] jaw was blown away,” Veronique Pozner told me. “I just want people to know the ugliness of it so we don’t talk about it abstractly, like these little angels just went to heaven. No. They were butchered. They were brutalized.”
Why, a month after the killings, does the story of a Newtown mother’s insistence on sharing the brutality of her son’s death continue to resonate so strongly? The answer might be found in the Reddit thread, which attracted thousands of comments. Several users compared Veronique Pozner to Mamie Till Mobley, the mother of Emmett Till.
Emmett Till was a 14-year-old African-American boy whose 1955 murder helped galvanize the civil rights movement. Originally from Chicago, Till was visiting relatives in Mississippi where he was accused of flirting with a white female shopkeeper.
In the past, Israeli political parties have gotten themselves in to trouble for slurring their opponents during campaigns, with election authorities clamping down on what they see as negative campaigning.
Strangely enough, there’s the opposite problem this time — a contest to campaign for Bibi.
Given that it’s pretty much taken-as-given that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will win Tuesday’s election with his Likud-Beytenu list, parties on the right have decided that their best strategy is to hang on his coattails.
So Shas and Jewish Home have been declaring their allegiance to Bibi, telling voters that they’ll back him as Prime Minister and join his coalition — and saying that a vote for their party is the best of both worlds. In other words it’ll bolster their party in Knesset, and also bolster Bibi as Prime Minister.
Jewish Home advertisements featured that party’s leader, Naftali Bennett, next to a picture of Bibi, and a slogan “strong together, voting Bennett.” Likud-Beytenu objected, saying the advertisement gave the impression that Bennett and Bibi were actually running together, and election authorities insisted that the advertisements were removed.
Now, Shas has a video with a similar message. Arye Deri, one of the party’s leaders, has promised in a video that whoever votes Shas “gets a double benefit.” He used the slogan: “Voting Shas, keeping Netanyahu.”
Could this extent of devotion to Bibi work against Jewish Home and Shas when it comes to the coalition negotiations? Given that the parties have all but promised their voters they’ll be in the coalition, they’re going in to bargaining with Netanyahu with a pretty weak position.
Two confessions: I am neither a speaker of Yiddish nor a fan of professional cycling. But as we hover in the halftime break of Lance Armstrong’s interview with Oprah Winfrey, I can’t help but wonder if the televised confession has implications for the meaning of chutzpah.
Most of us are familiar with Leo Rosten’s classic definition: chutzpah denotes “gall, brazen nerve, effrontery…presumption plus arrogance as no other language can do justice to.”
As an illustration of the word’s usage, Rosten famously offered the man who, having murdered his parents, then seeks the court’s mercy because he’s an orphan. There is decidedly a dark element to chutzpah, one that smacks of the ineffable, the awesome, even the amoral. There is nothing cute to chutzpah, though there may well be something sublime.
Can Lance Armstrong’s cheating be justified under Jewish law? Read Micah Kelber’s assessment.
But one needn’t be a lexicographer, much less a Jew, to notice the word has changed. We have moved from the sublime to the slick. Passing through the Cool Hand Luke or Sky Masterson type we now seem mired in the bog of Disney heroes, where chutzpah morphs into pluckiness.
I think about my kids who ask to be paid for doing their homework. I chuckle in admiration before I send them packing to their rooms.