Forward Thinking

Does Brian Williams Punishment Fit 'Crime'?

By Uriel Heilman


(JTA) — By now, anyone interested enough to have read about the issue knows the basic facts: Longtime NBC anchor Brian Williams lied about having been on a helicopter that was shot down in Iraq in 2003. In truth, he was on a different helicopter that landed unimpeded about a half hour after the other chopper was forced down by hostile fire.

The apology Williams offered last week when the truth of the matter became impossible to ignore (thanks to a reporter from Stars and Stripes) was deemed insufficient by the commentariat and, eventually, by NBC. Williams essentially said it was an honest mistake – “I made a mistake in recalling the events of 12 years ago,” was how he put it. But critics said it was an outright lie and that his failure to own up compounded the original lie with a dishonest apology.

Now NBC has suspended Williams without pay for six months and is undertaking its own internal investigation to determine what else Williams has said doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.

There are a couple of things that are confounding to me about this whole turn of events.

The first is the most obvious: that a man this likable, this good-looking, this … tall could have peddled this untruth for so long. Who could ever have imagined he was lying through those picture-perfect white teeth? (Except for the ignored military veterans who have been grumbling about Williams’ dishonesty for years, of course.) Shame on you, Williams, for ruining what had been up till now a happy relationship.

Not that I watch “NBC Nightly News,” of course. Though I grew up on Tom Brokaw and still find his South Dakota lilt and peculiar staccato the ultimate authoritative voice in news, as an adult I don’t think I ever sat down to watch the early evening TV news, and now I don’t even own a TV. But I did like Williams’ cameos on “30 Rock,” stints on “Saturday Night Live” and guest appearances on the “Daily Show” with Jon Stewart (whose just-announced retirement from the show is a real tragedy, if we’re already bemoaning the loss of a news anchor).

What really confounds me about the Williams affair is this ill-conceived punishment.

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Why Losing Jon Stewart Hurts the Middle East

By Sigal Samuel

Jon Stewart and Bassem Youssef on “The Daily Show” / Youtube

Jon Stewart quitting “The Daily Show” is bad for the Jews. It’s bad for the Muslims. It’s bad for the entire Middle East.

If you want to know why, just watch this clip of the real Jon Stewart joking around with “Egypt’s Jon Stewart,” Bassem Youssef. It aired shortly before Jon announced his decision to leave the show, and it revolves around a simple question: What can America do to fix the Middle East?

Bassem’s answer is simple, too: “How about — nothing!”


Jon plays devil’s advocate, arguing, “If the people choose the wrong government, we’ll help them get it right. Some boots on the ground, some advisers.” Which, of course, sets Bassem up to explain just what’s wrong with America’s interventionist foreign policy.

But then Bassem takes it one step further — by laughing at himself, at his own argument, at his own people. He provides that dash of self-deprecation without which comedy fails to be, you know, comedic (Israel’s totally unfunny “Hakol Shafit” is a good example of this).

“We want you to f—k off and leave us alone,” Bassem says. “But not right away. We could still use the aid money, and a few weapons, and some investments… What I’m saying is, if you could f—k gradually off, that would be better for everybody.”

This is Middle East comedy at its best: an unflinching look at the catch-22s and double standards that plague both — no, all — sides.

And who’s been providing the mechanism for this comedy for over 15 years? Jon, of course. He’s been providing it not only in the U.S., but also in places like Egypt, where he inspired Bassem to start his own wildly popular satire show that began as a Middle Eastern riff on “The Daily Show.”

Every week, Bassem took to TV to wittily eviscerate the top leaders of the Arab world, and endear himself hugely to the Arab public (40 million viewers!). But then Sisi came to power in Egypt — and, sadly, the dissenters went the way of the Pharaohs.

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Award for Most Unfunny Israeli Comedy Goes to...

By Elisheva Goldberg

Tzipi Livni as depicted by Israeli satire “Hakol Shafit” / YouTube

When it comes to political satire shows, Israeli television spans the gamut. On Channel 2 there’s Israel’s version of Saturday Night Live, called “Eretz Nehederet” or “A Wonderful Land.” Israel’s Jon Stewart-esque “Gav HaUma” recently moved to Channel 10. Both of these shows have dedicated followings — “Eretz Nehederet” consistently tops charts and “Gav HaUma” grabs an elite audience.

So when a new political satire show rolled into town broadcasting on Channel 1, you might have thought it would make a splash. But that hasn’t been the case with “Hakol Shafit” (liberally translated, “It’s All Fair Game”).

In some ways, “HaKol Shafit” has everything you want from political comedy: a news desk, fake interviews, costumed sketches. But it all falls flat — it’s just not funny.

Part of the reason for this unfunniness stems from the show’s inability to laugh at itself. There’s no self-reflective humor here, no self-deprecation — in fact, no apologetics at all. It’s vulgar, and intentionally so. The last scene of the 25-minute pilot, for example, depicts Tzipi Livni as a motorcycle-and-leather, stand-up-to-pee punk, and Isaac Herzog as a fawning effete in a wedding dress. (No Hebrew skills necessary: just go to the 22:22 mark and you’ll see what I mean.)


This is not a show that laughs at itself — it’s a show that laughs at others. It’s like a cocksure bully, taking punches because it can. “HaKol Shafit” doesn’t mock the grotesque or the absurd, it is the grotesque and the absurd. And the grotesque and the absurd can’t be funny without some sort of self-reflection.

This failure to tickle has a lot to do with the show’s right-wing roots. “Hakol Shafit” was founded by right-wing journalist and Jerusalem Post deputy managing editor Caroline Glick in 2009. Back then, the show was called “Latma” (“slap” in Hebrew), and it was Glick’s way of getting her opinion pieces to broader, younger audiences and expressing her “frustration” with the liberal media. Latma was a project of the Center for Security Policy, an Islamophobic think tank run by Frank Gaffney Jr., where Glick, in her capacity as the CSP’s senior fellow for Middle East Affairs, put it together.

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Let the Bibi-Gate Blame Game Begin

By Nathan Guttman


Let the finger-pointing begin.

Two weeks into the Bibi-gate (or perhaps Bohener-gate, or simply speech-gate) controversy, with no sign of Democratic anger subsiding, Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies are starting to look for excuses.

The defense Bibi has settled on can be summed up in three words: “It’s Boehner’s fault.”

Policymakers and congressional staff members have been hearing this line in closed-door meetings with Israelis for the past week. Israelis, including Netanyahu’s office and the Israeli embassy in Washington, have been arguing that they were blindsided by House Speaker John Boehner.

It was all, they say, one big misunderstanding.

According to this explanation, Netanyahu, through his ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer, had understood that Boehner would make sure that Democrats were on board with the idea of inviting the Israeli leader to address a joint meeting of Congress on the problem of Iran’s nuclear development activities. Maybe not all Democratic leadership, but at least enough to allow all sides to say with a straight face that it was a bipartisan invitation.

Furthermore, Netanyahu and Dermer did not know — at least according to people who have been in touch with Israeli officials dealing with the mess created by the invitation — that Boehner would announce the visit the morning after President Obama delivered his State of the Union speech. The timing appeared designed to rebut the president’s stand on Iran, thus infuriating the president and his fellow Democrats.

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Should I Fly Home To Vote in Israeli Elections?

By Lior Zaltzman

Illustration by Lior Zaltzman

I was exactly 18 the first time I voted in the Israeli elections. I was a newly minted soldier, uniform all fresh and stiff, with the dent of the strap of my M16 on my shoulder, waiting in line at an army base. More than anything I was welling up, filled with hope and a sense of importance, just a sting of it. And for a second I felt empowered in a country that often left me feeling hopeless and powerless.

It’s eight years later and I’m walking around downtown Brooklyn with my Israeli best friend from elementary school. I tell her that I’m thinking of going back home for the elections. And she laughs. It’s such a waste of your time, she says. Come for Passover instead.

I wish I had something to say in response.

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Guide to Israeli Elections as Read by a MacBook

By Adam Langer

MacBook’s Dictation function / Apple

So, while messing around with my MacBook Pro, I must have inadvertently hit the “fn” button twice, thus triggering the computer’s Dictation function. I’d never tried it before, so I spoke a few sentences into it. It’s actually astoundingly good at converting speech into text.

In advance of the upcoming Israeli elections, I thought I’d try to stump it by dictating the names of Israeli politicians and cabinet members. The results were less encouraging. Here, therefore, is your guide to the 2015 Israeli election as interpreted and transcribed by a Mac:

LIKUD PARTY:

Benjamin Netanyahu: Nothing yahoo
Gilad Erdan: Aragon, you’re done
Silvan Shalom: Sylvana shalom
Yisrael Katz: Israel Katz
Danny Danon: Danny done on
Moshe Ya’alon: Moshe you are alone
Ze’ev Elkin: Set of Elton
Tzipi Hotovely: To be a totally
Yariv Levin: Your evil Levin
Yuli Edelstein: You like Apple store
Haim Katz: Fighting cats
Miri Regev: . Marriott Regular
Moshe Feiglin: Moshe 51
Yuval Steinitz: You’ve all-star nuts
Tzachi Hanegbi: Cioffi: Hi baby sake
Limor Livnat: Anymore leave not

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Why I, an Israeli Jew, Will Vote for the Arab Party

By Gilad Halpern

Arab politician Ahmed Tibi addresses the press / Getty Images

The general mood in Israel, ahead of the second general election in just two years, is that little to nothing is going to change. Whether you’re an admirer of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or his sworn enemy, everybody agrees that his chances of a third reelection are good, and that his new government will be similarly composed of several medium-size parties with differing agendas. Another safe assumption is that it will fail to address people’s substantial concerns, chief among them the soaring cost of living.

Barring those on the left who are encouraged by the prospects of a Labor-led government recently moving from nonexistent to slim, most people see the 2015 elections as the most inconsequential in Israel’s recent history. For me, however, they are momentous. In these elections, I’m going to part with the party that has been my political home throughout my adult life.

The March 17 polling day will be the first that I won’t vote for Meretz, the decidedly left-wing, progressive, pro-human rights and anticlerical party. And it’s not because my views have changed or because they’ve done a poor job — on the contrary, especially since Zahava Galon took the leadership in 2011, they’ve been a steadfast and courageous mouthpiece for Israel’s beleaguered peace camp. In spite of all this, in these coming elections I have decided to cross the line, as it were, and, as an Israeli Jew, vote for the newly founded joint Arab list.

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Meretz Is a Lost Child on the Internet

By Lior Zaltzman

Still from Yotam Perel
Say what you will about Naftali Bennett’s “I’m Not Sorry” viral ad campaign — we certainly did. But one thing you can’t deny is that it was smartly done. Bennett’s ad was internet-savvy and in touch with its target audience.

The same cannot be said for Meretz’s latest ad campaign. I wish I could tell you exactly what goes on in it, but all I can do is use my finest army intelligence training to try and surmise. The gang from Meretz appear to be crashing (not very convincingly) a wedding party and breaking out into dance to the balkan beat of Meretz’s new jingle (you guys, balkan beats are so 2011). No one is looking at the camera and everyone seems embarrassed to be there. It feels like my cousin’s bar-mitzvah.

The head of the party, Zehava Galon, is a bar-mitzvah aunt, jumping from side to side with eyes glazed, awkwardly mumbling along with the lyrics. Galon can’t even handle her vodka shots. So how can she handle another four years as a political party head?

The music is as embarrassing as the visuals, with tacky lyrics like “I’ll just have good times, not bad times, everything is possible, it’s just a matter of choice” and “Let’s stop the hate and choose love.” And the balkan beat is a conscious PC choice, so as not to make the ad feel too Ashkenazi or too Sephardic. The result is this lackluster, dated song.

Meretz, after all, is filled with good intentions. They’re staying away from inflammatory and derogatory ads. Everyone from the Likud to the Zionist Block have been up to the usual pre-election mud-slinging and Meretz wants to set itself apart. “Suckers” is what Hipster Naftali Bennett would say, along with a bunch of Israelis. And suckers is a very nice name when compared to some of the name-calling directed at the Israeli left recently, especially in the wake of the recent Gaza war.

I understand that Meretz wants to be good. It just has to be better at being good. Meretz is all that’s left in the Israeli left.

And Meretz does have accomplishments to tout. You don’t have to look too hard to see that they are the most pro-gay party there is. They are constantly rated the number one party for workers’ rights. They are very strong when it comes to human rights as well. Galon is a great politician and she gets things done. So why does every Meretz video feel so awkward and ill-fitting?

Bottom line: Meretz needs to fire whoever is in charge of their PR, pronto. And I’ve got a suggestion for a new hire: animator Yotam Perel, the guy who made the following spoof of the Meretz campaign video. In less than 20 seconds, his animation managed to be more evocative — definitely more weirdly mesmerizing — than anything Zehava has managed to put forth so far. Here, see for yourself:

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Why I Fled Argentina After Alberto Nisman Scoop

By Damian Pachter (Haaretz)

Argentine journalist Damian Pachter after arriving in Tel Aviv on January 25 / Haaretz

So here they are, the craziest 48 hours of my life.

When my source gave me the scoop on Alberto Nisman’s death, I was writing a piece on the special prosecutor’s accusations against President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, her (Jewish) Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman, two pro-Iran “social activists” and parliamentarian Andrés Larroque. I learned that Nisman had been shot dead in his home.

The vetting process wasn’t too tough because of my source’s incredible attention to detail. His name will never be revealed.

Two things stood in my mind: my source’s safety and people’s right to know what happened that day, though not necessarily in that order.

Of course, for both speed and the contagion effect, Twitter was the way to go. The information was so solid I never doubted my source, despite my one or two colleagues who doubted me because I only had 420 Twitter followers — a number now eclipsing 10,000.

As the night went on, journalists contacted me in order to get the news from me even more directly. The first to do so was Gabriel Bracesco.

Once I tweeted that Nisman had died, hundreds of people quickly retweeted the news and started following me. That was my first of many sleepless days.

“You just broke the best story in decades,” lots of people said. “You’re crazy,” was another take. Either way, nobody questioned that the situation was very grave.

The following days were marked by a government trying to create an official story. First, the head of state suggested a “suicide hypothesis,” then a mysterious murder. They of course were not to blame. In anything.


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Want To Stop Terror Attacks? Cover Up!

By Sigal Samuel

Illustration by Lior Zaltzman

“Short clothing = shortened life.”

That’s a message currently winding its way through Jerusalem’s streets, thanks to a new ultra-Orthodox modesty campaign.

The ad, plastered across 20 Egged buses, has been sparking social media protests among secular Israelis who resent being told how to dress. They’re saying that it’s hypocritical of the bus company to agree to run such an ad, while often refusing to run ads by liberal groups that include photos or drawings of women.

But the Haredi advertiser claims there’s nothing for secular Israelis to be upset about. After all, the goal of the ad is “the transcendence of the soul of the Har Nof righteous” — the Orthodox Jews murdered at a Jerusalem synagogue back in November.

What do short hemlines have to do with a terror attack, you might ask? Well, here’s the advertiser’s logic:

“It’s clear that those who were murdered did not receive a punishment they deserved. They were righteous people. They woke up to pray at 6 am. They are public victims, and it happened to them because of us, because of our acts.”

In other words, terror attacks happen because Israeli women flounce around in racy dresses. Sure. Okay. Clearly.

The Jerusalem bus ad reads: Short clothing = shortened life

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#JeSuisCouteau Trending After Tel Aviv Attack

By Sigal Samuel

This might just be the world’s worst hashtag — ever.

Hours after a Palestinian terrorist stabbed 12 people on board a Tel Aviv bus, extremists took to social media to praise his actions with #JeSuisCouteau, which is French for “I am the knife.”

The hashtag, a clear play on the #JeSuisCharlie hashtag used around the world to express support for the people of Paris after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, has the opposite effect: Instead of supporting the victims of violence, it supports the perpetrator.

“Palestine more damaged than Charlie,” one image states, linking together two separate issues and drawing a comparison that trivializes the deadly assault on Paris’s satirical newspaper. This profoundly misguided response is perhaps not surprising when we consider the cues given by people like Hamas spokesman Izzat al-Risheq, who praised today’s attack, saying, “The heroic stabbing incident against the Zionist in Tel Aviv is a daring and heroic act. It comes as a natural response to the terrorist occupation crimes against our people.”

Some tweets even seem to draw a visual connection between the Charlie Hebdo killing and the Tel Aviv attack. This cartoon, for example, says “10 stabs for those who don’t pray for the prophet.” Notice the bus in the background bearing the Star of David and that #40 — the bus line targeted by the terrorist, identified as 23-year-old Hamza Mohammed Hasan Matrouk, earlier today.

Still other tweets try to highlight a discrepancy between Western reactions to Israeli violence against Palestinians (see the cavalier response in panel #1) and Palestinian violence against Israelis (see the outraged response in panel #2).

The #JeSuisCouteau hashtag has been shared on social media almost 4000 times in the past few hours alone, according to the social media measuring site Topsy.

Probably lost on most of those social media users is the hashtag’s (unwitting?) allusion to French author Charles Baudelaire, who used the phrase “I am the knife” in his famous work, Fleurs du Mal: “Je suis la plaie,” he wrote, “et le couteau!”

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Bibi's Challengers Spoof Cartoonish Election Ad

By Ben Sales

(JTA) — Remember that Hillary Clinton ad from 2008, the one where it’s 3 a.m. and the White House phone is ringing? The spot, an attempt to highlight Clinton’s superior experience compared to then Sen. Obama’s ostensible naivete, didn’t do much to save the Clinton campaign, which lost the Democratic primary that year.

But that hasn’t stopped Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and two of his challengers from copying it.

Netanyahu is facing a strong challenge from the center-left alliance of Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni. In response, he’s telling voters that he’ll be dependable no matter what happens. But with two leaders at the helm, who knows?

One of his latest ads shows Herzog and Livni both avoiding a call from President Obama. Even if you don’t understand the Hebrew, the message is clear.


Herzog and Livni hit back with an ad telling Netanyahu, “The question isn’t who will answer the phone. The question is: Who’s going to call you?” A voiceover then mocks the prime minister for damaging relations with Europe and the United States and says, “Bibi no one in the world wants to talk to you anymore.”


But wait, there’s more!

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Handsome Men as Hasbara

By Jonathan Katz

Eliad Cohen is Israel’s top gay icon / Haaretz

Some people visit Israel for the holy sites. Some visit Israel as a political statement. Some visit Israel because they think Israelis are “hot.”

Disagree? Well, the Israeli Tourism Ministry and City of Tel Aviv do not. Recently, Israel’s economic capital held a Winter Gay Festival advertised using not just a sand-snowman, but also posters and videos replete with muscular Israeli men, armed with bursting biceps in tank tops. You could be forgiven for thinking Israel was advertising the virility of its menfolk, from both the posters and admiring European tourists on the city’s beaches this winter.

This trend is not just a one-time fluke. Witness the various posters and advertisements it has produced replete with the images of the strong, muscular, Israeli men of the IDF, or the beautiful women of Tel Aviv’s beaches. Of course, many countries use the attractive bodies of their citizens to invite tourists — but in many ways, this effort for Israel is political as well: it is sexy hasbara.

It is no secret that a certain type of hasbara operates below the belt buckles of Jews and Gentiles alike from Brooklyn to Birobidzhan. From the shirtless, muscular frat brothers in Birthright ads to the landscapes of bikini-clad female combat soldiers in the IDF, Israel not infrequently uses its sex appeal to garner support. The goal? Well, it seems to be that if enough people have “hot” associations with Israel, they will then support its government’s actions.


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The Real Problem With Miss Israel's Lebanese Selfie

By Sigal Samuel

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?

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Is Moshe Kahlon the New Yair Lapid?

By Harris Engelmann

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.

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8 Things You Might Not Know About French Jews

By Gabrielle Birkner


(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.

1) How many Jews are there in France?

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.

2) How does that compare to other faith groups in the country?

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.

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What Tim Willcox's Paris Question Says About BBC

By Liam Hoare

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.

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France Was Dead Wrong To Ask Bibi To Stay Home

By Gal Beckerman

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.”

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How Bibi Tried To Make Paris All About Him

By Lisa Goldman

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.

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Now, Sadly, France Knows How It Feels To Be Israeli

By Danielle Ziri

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.

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