Forward Thinking

Scholastic Erases Israel in 'Stilton' Book

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: thea stilton and the blue scarab hunt, scholastic, jordan, israel, geronimo stilton

Kerry's New Road Map for a Mideast Peace Deal

By J.J. Goldberg

From Tuesday’s Yediot Ahronot, as translated in the emailed Daily News Update of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace comes a fairly detailed description by Alex Fishman of John Kerry’s game plan for restarting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Fishman is Yediot’s veteran, impeccably well-sourced military affairs correspondent. He attributes this information to State Department sources. It doesn’t appear on line (neither in Hebrew nor English) so I’m posting the Abraham Center’s translation below in full.

In brief, Fishman reports that Kerry is aiming for a 4-way meeting in Amman between Israel, the Palestinian Authority, the United States and Jordan. (Kerry is very eager to have Jordan step in as a sponsor of peace talks, both to give Abbas some substantive Arab backing and to give King Abdullah II a boost.) You’ll note at once that Abbas is already refusing to attend without a clear gesture from Israel. In the past he’s demanded a full Israeli settlement freeze. Lately he’s begun demanding a map showing Bibi Netanyahu’s notion of a future Palestinian state. As I’ve reported in the past, Abu Mazen has been refusing to talk to Bibi (after willingly talking to Ehud Olmert before him) because his sense is that Bibi has no intention of ever ceding enough land for a real state. The idea of the map is to show that the talks will go somewhere, so Abu Mazen doesn’t enter a dead end and end up looking like a fool.

So if you stop reading after paragraph 2, you get the sense that Kerry’s plan is dead in the water. But Fishman goes on to report that Kerry thinks he can eventually get Bibi to give up some lesser concessions that will satisfy Abu Mazen and get the talks started. The two sides’ notions of final borders are impossibly far apart at this point, but Kerry is aiming for an interim agreement on Israel ceding 80% of the West Bank as a first stage. It’s a long shot, but who knows? So were the 1969 Mets…

The Kerry Plan

By Alex Fishman, Yediot Ahronot, April 9, 2013

The new American secretary of state, John Kerry, is trying to get Israel and the Palestinians to sit down to a four-way meeting in Jordan. The answer he’s received from Abu Mazen, at least for the time being, has been flat out refusal.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Turkey, Yediot Ahronot, S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, Saudi Arabia, State Department, Phil Gordon, National Security Council, Palestinian Authority, King Abdullah II, Mahmoud Abbas, Jordan, John Kerry, Israel, Dennis Ross, Bibi Netanyahu, Amman, Alex Fishman, Abu Mazen

Hamas Accepts 2 States, '67 Borders: Report

By J.J. Goldberg

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:

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Saeb Erekat, Palestinian Authority, King Abdullah, Arab Peace Initiative, Khaled Meshaal, Hamas, Jordan

That 'Invented People'? The Idea Is Invented

By J.J. Goldberg

Getty images
Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich’s December 9 Declaration of Palestinian Inventedness (“we’ve had an invented Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs”) caused a bit of a stir at the Saturday night GOP debate.

Both Mitt Romney and Ron Paul condemned the remark as, in Paul’s words, “just stirrin’ up trouble.” Interestingly, though, both agreed that Gingrich’s point was historically accurate. No one on stage disagreed.

Responding to the charge of troublemaking, Newt doubled down, adding some historical detail to show that the “Palestinian claim to a right of return is based on a historically false story.”

Somebody ought to have the courage to go all the way back to the 1921 League of Nations mandate for a Jewish homeland, point out the context in which Israel came into existence, and ‘Palestinian’ did not become a common term until after 1977.

Let’s take the professor at his word and go back to the League of Nations mandate. What do we find? First, that it’s from 1922, not 1921. Second, it’s not a “mandate for a Jewish homeland.” It is titled “Mandate for Palestine.” The difference is critical. The purpose of a mandate, as defined in the 1919 Covenant of the League of Nations, Article 22, was to govern territories formerly controlled by other states (mainly meaning the losers in World War I) and prepare them for independence. One of the conditions of the Palestine mandate was to help prepare a Jewish national home in Palestine (nothing about Palestine as a whole being a Jewish home). The mandate defines “all the inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race and religion,” as “citizens” (the mandate’s language) of Palestine, which in turn is defined in the league covenant as a state-in-the-making. In other words, from August 12, 1922, Palestine was a political entity in international law, not just a geographic one, and its inhabitants were legally defined — and universally described—as “Palestinians.” Some were known as Palestinian Jews, some as Palestinian Arabs. The term was in general use long before 1977.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: United Nations, Syria, Resolution 181, Partition Plan, Palestinians, Palestine Liberation Organization, Palestine National Council, Newt Gingrich, League of Nations, Mandate, Jordan, Invented People, Egypt, Covenant, Arab League, Algiers Declaration

From Right and Left, Forecasts of Israeli Doom

By J.J. Goldberg

You know what they say: One is an anomaly, two is a coincidence, three is a trend. What about four? That’s how many leading commentators have weighed in over the past week with astonishingly gloomy prognoses about Israel’s future. They come from both left and right. The consensus is that the Jewish state is on the brink of a precipice.

The rightists seem to think there’s nothing Israel could do about it. The leftists say Israel could adjust its policies to respond to the changing realities in its region, but they don’t think Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to do it and they don’t see a more flexible, pragmatic government getting elected any time soon.

The titles include “Can Israel Survive?,” by neoconservative strategic affairs analyst Victor Davis Hanson, in the September 22 National Review Online; “Is Israel Over?” by Israeli dove-turned-hawk historian Benny Morris, in the September 11 Daily Beast; “Israel: Adrift at Sea Alone” by Thomas Friedman in the September 17 New York Times, and “Digging in, the essence of Netanyahu’s foreign policy” by Haaretz editor-in-chief Aluf Benn, which was published in his paper’s September 16 weekend edition and has since been quoted, analyzed, dissected and massaged in dozens of journals around the globe.

The make a variety of arguments, but Benn’s opening paragraph tells you most of what they’re all getting at:

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Victor Davis Hanson, Thomas Friedman, Turkey, Obama, Jordan, Iran, Egypt, Benny Morris, Aluf Benn




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