Netanyahu to visit Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will visit two Muslim countries, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, in a bid “to strengthen diplomatic, security and economic relations.”

Netanyahu left Tuesday morning for the trip to what he called “two large and significant countries in the Islamic world.” It will be the first visit by an Israeli prime minister to Kazakhstan, he said, and the second to Azerbaijan. Netanyahu was the first to visit Azerbaijan nearly two decades ago, during his first term as prime minister, when he met with the father of the current leader.

[ROB ESHMAN: The mysteries of Azerbaijan]

“In complete contrast to what is heard from time to time, not only is Israel not suffering from diplomatic isolation, Israel is a country that is coming back,” the prime minister said as he boarded the plane. “These countries want very much to strengthen ties with Israel and, following the strengthening of our relations with the major powers of Asia, with countries in Africa and with countries in Latin America, now come ties with important countries in the Islamic world.”

Netanyahu added: “This is part of a clear policy of going out to the world. Israel’s relations are flourishing in an unprecedented manner.”

Azerbaijan, a secular state with 98 percent of its population Muslim, has a long border with Iran. Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with members of the Jewish community there. The Jewish population of Azerbaijan is about 20,000.

Netanyahu also will meet with representatives of the Jewish community in Kazakhstan, his second stop on the trip. Estimates of the number of Jews in the country range as high as 30,000.

Three men charged with undermining Boston bombing probe


U.S. authorities on Wednesday charged three men with interfering with the investigation of the Boston Marathon bombing, saying they hid fireworks and a backpack belonging to one of the suspected bombers as a manhunt was under way.

The three, two students from Kazakhstan and a U.S. citizen, were described as friends of surviving bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19. They were not charged with direct involvement in the April 15 marathon bombings, which killed three people and injured 264.

But three days after the blasts, the trio moved swiftly to cover up for their friend when the FBI made public pictures of the suspected bombers, made a public plea for help locating them and conducted a day-long manhunt that left much of Boston on lockdown, according to court papers.

Authorities charged the two Kazakhs, Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev, both 19, with conspiring to obstruct justice by disposing of a backpack containing fireworks they found in Tsarnaev's dorm room. The third man, Robel Phillipos, also 19, was charged with making false statements to investigators.

Tsarnaev, who attended the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, is being held at a prison hospital where he is recovering from wounds sustained in a gun battle with police. His older brother, Tamerlan, died in the gunfight.

Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov face a maximum sentence of five years in prison and $250,000 fine. Phillipos faces a maximum sentence of eight years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

In their initial appearances at Boston federal court on Wednesday, Kadyrbayev, Tazhayakov and Phillipos were put in the custody of U.S. Marshals after prosecutor Stephanie Siegmann argued that all three presented a “serious risk of flight.”

None of the suspects addressed the court, other than to respond to the judge's questions. U.S. Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler reprimanded Phillipos for not seeming to pay attention to the proceedings.

“I suggest you pay attention to me rather than looking down,” Bowler said.

Kadyrbayev's lawyer, Robert Stahl, said before the hearing that his client was “not a target” of the bombing investigation, but declined to comment on any other specifics. He said his client had “cooperated fully” with investigators and “wants to go home to Kazakhstan.”

Phillipos' attorney, DeRege Demissie, declined to discuss the case in detail after the hearing.

A month prior to the bombings, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev told Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov over a meal that he knew how make a bomb, Tazhayakov told the FBI, according to court papers.

Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov had entered the United States on student visas and lived in New Bedford, Massachusetts, according to court papers. Phillipos is a resident of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

COVER-UP ALLEGATION

On April 18, three days after the Marathon bombings, authorities released pictures of two men they identified as the suspects in the attack. Investigators at the time said they did not know the suspects' names and called on the public for help in identifying them.

Dzhokhar's three classmates quickly figured out their friend was one of the suspects, according to court papers. After seeing Tsarnaev's photo in TV news reports, Kadyrbayev texted him to say that he resembled the suspect, according to the complaint.

Tsarnaev's response included the phrase “lol” and “you better not text me,” as well as “come to my room and take whatever you want,” according to the court papers.

The three went to his dorm room that night and found a roommate who said that Dzhokhar had left.

The trio spent some time watching movies and then discovered an emptied-out fireworks tube, according to court papers. That discovery scared Tazhayakov, who then began to believe that Tsarnaev was involved in the bombing, according to court papers.

They decided to remove the backpack, fireworks and a laptop to help their friend “avoid trouble,” according to court papers.

Tazhayakov is currently enrolled at UMass Dartmouth but has been suspended, the university said on Wednesday. Kadyrbayev and Phillipos are not currently enrolled in the school.

After waking up the next morning to learn that police were hunting for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and that his brother, Tamerlan, was dead, Kadyrbayev decided to throw away the backpack with the fireworks tubes inside, according to court papers. He put the backpack and fireworks in a dumpster near his apartment.

A New Hampshire fireworks store last month confirmed that the elder bombing suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, bought two large boxes of fireworks in February.

Investigators recovered the backpack on April 26 in a New Bedford landfill. In addition to the fireworks, it included a homework assignment sheet from a class that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was enrolled in.

In his first three interviews with police, Phillipos denied having gone to Tsarnaev's room on April 18, but in a fourth interrogation, on April 26, he confessed to the visit, the court documents said.

The parents of the Tsarnaev brothers have said in interviews in the North Caucasus region of Russia that they do not believe their sons were responsible for placing the bombs.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev's body has still not been claimed, a spokesman for the state's chief medical examiner said. His widow, Katherine Russell, on Tuesday said she wanted the medical examiner to release her husband's body to his family.

Additional reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss and Aaron Pressman in Boston and Mark Hosenball in Washington; Editing by Grant McCool and Jim Loney

Iran announces ‘comprehensive’ offer in resumed nuke talks


Iran said it has made a “comprehensive proposal” to “establish a new bedrock for cooperation” in resumed talks about the Iranian nuclear program between Tehran and six world powers.

The announcement by Ali Baqeri, deputy head of the Iranian delegation, came after the opening session in Almaty, Kazakhstan on Friday of talks.

Baqeri, who spoke as Iranian officials took a break for lunch and prayers, did not offer any details, the New York Times reported.

He suggested that Iran had more than met demands from American and European officials that his country offer a concrete show of willingness to address international concerns about its nuclear program.

“These steps are referred to as confidence-building measures, but they are part of a comprehensive set of measures,” he said at a news conference at a central Almaty hotel.

At the last round of talks in February, the international negotiators — the United States, Britain, France, German, Russia and China – offered a modest easing of international sanctions if Iran takes steps to limit its own supply of dangerous enriched uranium. That proposal would require Iran to shut its enrichment plant at Fordow.

While Iran says its nuclear program is exclusively for civilian purposes, American, Israeli, European and other western officials suspect that Tehran is seeking the technology for nuclear weapons.

Kerry sees ‘finite’ time for Iran nuclear talks


Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday there was “finite” time for talks between Iran and world powers on its disputed nuclear program to bear fruit, but gave no hint how long Washington may be willing to negotiate.

Israel, Iran's arch-enemy and convinced Tehran is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons, has grown impatient with the protracted talks and has threatened pre-emptive war against Tehran if it deems diplomacy ultimately futile.

Kerry's sentiment was largely echoed by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, who said that the negotiations cannot be endless like the debates of philosophers over how many angels can fit on the head of a pin.

“There is a finite amount of time,” Kerry, in the Saudi capital Riyadh on his first overseas trip as the top U.S. diplomat, said of the talks between a group of six world powers and Tehran, Saudi Arabia's main regional adversary.

Kerry was speaking at a news conference with Prince Saud al-Faisal, who suggested Iran was not showing enough seriousness about the discussions, which he said “cannot go on forever”.

Iran was positive last week after talks with the powers in Kazakhstan about its nuclear work ended with an agreement to meet again. But Western officials said it had yet to do anything concrete to allay their concerns about its nuclear aspirations.

The United States, China, France, Russia, Britain and Germany offered modest relief from economic sanctions in return for Iran reining in its most sensitive nuclear activity but made clear that no breakthrough was in the offing quickly.

“We can't be like the philosophers who keep talking about how many angels a pinhead can hold,” Prince Saud al-Faisal said.

“They (the Iranians) have not proved to anybody the urgency in their negotiation,” he said. “They reach common understanding only on issues that require further negotiation. And so this is what (has) worried us.”

The United States and many of its allies suspect Iran may be using its civil nuclear program as a cover to develop atomic weapons, a possibility that Israel, which is regarded as the Middle East's only nuclear power, sees as a mortal threat.

The possibility also deeply disturbs many Arab countries in the Gulf who, some analysts say, could choose to pursue their own nuclear programs if Iran were to acquire an atomic bomb, leading to a destabilizing arms race.

In Vienna on Monday, the U.N. nuclear watchdog raised pressure on Iran to finally address suspicions that it has sought to design an atomic bomb, calling for swift inspector access to a military base where relevant explosives tests are believed to have been carried out.

DIPLOMACY “FIRST CHOICE”

Iran says its program is solely for peaceful purposes, such as generating electricity and making medical isotopes.

Kerry, in the final stages of a nine-nation, 11-day trip that will also take him to Abu Dhabi and Doha, also had lunch with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the possibility of reviving peace talks with Israel.

Making his first trip abroad as secretary of state, Kerry also met Saudi Crown Prince Salman but a U.S. official said he would not see Saudi King Abdullah, who turns 90 this year.

Kerry said a diplomatic solution on Iran is still preferred by the United States and Saudi Arabia.

In 2008, Riyadh's ambassador to Washington said King Abdullah had repeatedly urged Washington to “cut off the head of the snake” by striking Iran's nuclear facilities, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks.

“We both prefer – and this is important for Iranians to hear and understand – we both prefer diplomacy as the first choice, the preferred choice,” Kerry said. “But the window for a diplomatic solution simply cannot by definition remain open indefinitely.”

Echoing Western concerns about a possible nuclear arms race in the Middle East in the event that Iran obtained a nuclear bomb, Kerry made a series of arguments for Gulf Arab countries not to pursue a military nuclear capability.

These included standing U.S. policy to prevent Iran from acquiring such arms, the dangers of nuclear proliferation, the diversion of resources that could otherwise go to economic development, and the general trend by the United States and Russia toward reducing their doomsday arsenals.

“The threat is not just the threat of a nuclear bomb, the threat is also the threat of a dirty bomb or of nuclear material being used by terrorists,” said Kerry.

In December 2011, former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal said that if Tehran did gain nuclear weapons capability, Saudi Arabia should consider matching it.

Riyadh has also announced plans to develop 17 gigawatts of atomic energy by 2032 as it moves to reduce domestic oil consumption, freeing up more crude for export.

Reporting by Arshad Mohammed, Angus McDowall and Mahmoud Habboush; writing by Sami Aboudi; editing by William Maclean and Mark Heinrich

Iran nuclear talks show progress, Western diplomat says


Nuclear talks between Iran and world powers this week were more constructive and positive than in the past, but Iran's willingness to negotiate seriously will not become clear until an April meeting, a senior Western diplomat said on Thursday.

The diplomat was more upbeat about the talks in Kazakhstan than other Western officials have been, suggesting there could be a chance of diplomatic progress in the long standoff over Iran's nuclear activities.

“This was more constructive and more positive than previous meetings because they were really focusing on the proposal on the table,” said the diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi struck an upbeat note about the talks, saying they had reached “a turning point” this week and suggesting a breakthrough was within reach.

“I call it a milestone. It is a turning point in the negotiations,” Salehi told Austrian broadcaster ORF during a visit to Vienna for a United Nations conference.

“We are heading for goals that will be satisfactory for both sides. I am very optimistic and hopeful,” he said, according to a German translation of remarks he made in English.

Years of on-off talks between Iran and the six powers have produced no breakthrough in the dispute over the nuclear program, which Iran says is peaceful but that Western powers suspect is aimed at developing a nuclear bomb capability.

Iran has faced tightening international sanctions over its nuclear program and Israel has strongly hinted it might attack Iran if diplomacy and sanctions fail.

At the latest talks, the six powers offered modest sanctions relief in return for Iran curbing its most sensitive nuclear work.

“We show a way into the easing of sanctions. We don't give away the crown jewels in the first step,” the diplomat said.

The two sides agreed to hold expert-level talks in Istanbul on March 18 to discuss the powers' proposals, and to return to Almaty for political discussions on April 5-6.

STEP-BY-STEP

The March meeting will be a chance for experts to explain in detail what the six powers' offer means, the senior Western diplomat said, adding that the April meeting would be key.

“This will be the important meeting. We'll see if they are willing to engage seriously on the package,” the diplomat said.

Western officials said the six powers' offer included easing a ban on trade in gold and other precious metals and relaxation of an import embargo on Iranian petrochemical products.

In exchange, a senior U.S. official said, Iran would among other things have to suspend uranium enrichment to a fissile concentration of 20 percent at its Fordow underground facility and “constrain the ability to quickly resume operations there”.

The U.S. official did not term what was being asked of Iran as a “shutdown” of the plant, as Western diplomats had said in previous meetings with Iran last year.

The senior Western diplomat denied the six powers had softened their position on Fordow, but conceded: “We may have softened our terminology.”

The diplomat sketched out a step-by-step approach, saying the six powers' proposals offered Iran the prospect of further steps in return for Iranian actions beyond a first confidence-building step. “There has to be a clear sequencing,” the diplomat said, without giving details.

Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili said on Wednesday the six powers had tried to “get closer to our viewpoint”, which he said was positive.

Editing by Roger Atwood

Powers to offer Iran sanctions relief at nuclear talks


Major powers will offer Iran some sanctions relief during talks in Almaty, Kazakhstan, this week if Tehran agrees to curb its nuclear program, a U.S. official said on Monday.

But the Islamic Republic could face more economic pain if it fails to address international concerns about its atomic activities, the official said ahead of the February 26-27 meeting in the central Asian state, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“There will be continued sanctions enforcement … there are other areas where pressure can be put,” the official said, on the eve of the first round of negotiations between Iran and six world powers in eight months.

A spokesman for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who leads the talks with Iran on behalf of the powers, said Tehran should understand that there was an “urgent need to make concrete and tangible progress” in Kazakhstan.

Both Russia and the United States stressed there was not an unlimited amount of time to resolve a dispute that has raised fears of a new war in the Middle East.

“The window for a diplomatic solution simply cannot by definition remain open forever. But it is open today. It is open now,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in London.

“There is still time but there is only time if Iran makes the decision to come to the table and negotiate in good faith,” he added in a news conference in London. “We are prepared to negotiate in good faith, in mutual respect, in an effort to avoid whatever terrible consequences could follow failure.”

It was not clear what he meant by “terrible consequences.” Top U.S. officials have repeatedly said the United States will not take any options off the table, code for the possibility of a military strike. They also fear Iran's getting a nuclear weapon could set off an arms race across the Middle East.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said there was “no more time to waste,” Interfax news agency quoted him as saying in Almaty.

The immediate priority for the powers – the United States, Russia, China, Germany, Britain and France – is to convince Iran to halt its higher-grade enrichment, which is a relatively short technical step away from potential atom bomb material.

Iran, which has taken steps over the last year to expand its uranium enrichment activities in defiance of international demands to scale it back, wants a relaxation of increasingly harsh sanctions hurting its lifeline oil exports.

Western officials say the Almaty meeting is unlikely to produce any major breakthrough, in part because Iran's presidential election in June may make it difficult for it to make significant concessions before then for domestic reasons.

But they say they hope that Iran will take their proposals seriously and engage in negotiations to try to find a diplomatic settlement.

“No one is expecting to walk out of here with a deal but … confidence building measures are important,” one senior Western official said.

The stakes are high: Israel, assumed to be the Middle East's only nuclear-armed arsenal, has strongly hinted at possible military action to prevent its old foe from obtaining such arms. Iran has threatened to retaliate if attacked.

GOLD SANCTIONS RELIEF?

The U.S. official said the powers' updated offer to Iran – a modified version of one rejected by Iran in the unsuccessful talks last year – would take into account its recent nuclear advances, but also take “some steps in the sanctions arena”.

This would be aimed at addressing some of Iran's concerns, the official said, while making clear it would not meet Tehran's demand of an easing of all punitive steps against it.

“We think … there will be some additional sanctions relief” in the powers' revised proposal,” the official said, without giving details.

Western diplomats have told Reuters the six countries will offer to ease sanctions on trade in gold and precious metals if Iran closes its Fordow underground uranium enrichment plant.

Iran has indicated, however, that this will not be enough.

Tehran denies Western allegations it is seeking to develop the capability to make nuclear bombs, saying its program is entirely peaceful. It wants the powers to recognize what it sees as its right to refine uranium for peaceful purposes.

The U.S. official said the powers hoped that the Almaty meeting would lead to follow-up talks soon.

“We are ready to step up the pace of our meetings and our discussions,” the official said, adding the United States would also be prepared to hold bilateral talks with Tehran if it was serious about it.

Ashton's spokesman, Michael Mann, said the updated offer to Iran was “balanced and a fair basis” for constructive talks.

Additional reporting by Yeganeh Torbati and Dimitry Solovyov and by Arshad Mohammed and Mohammed Abbas in London; Editing by Jon Hemming

Iran claims new uranium deposits


Iran claimed to have uncovered new deposits of uranium ahead of talks with world powers on its nuclear capacity.

Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, the head of the country's Atomic Energy Organization, made the announcement at an annual conference on the nuclear industry, Reuters reported Sunday, quoting Iranian media.

Abbasi-Davani told the conference that Iran will put the raw uranium “to use in the near future.”

Iran was believed to be running out of sources for raw uranium because of tough sanctions aimed at forcing the country to make its nuclear program more transparent.

Representatives of Iran are scheduled to meet this week in Kazakhstan with representatives of the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany to advance talks that would ease the sanctions in exchange for greater transparency. Iran denies Western claims that it has a nuclear weapons program and says its nuclear plans are peaceful.

The report by Reuters citing Irna, the Iranian news agency, also said that Iran had identified 16 new sites for nuclear power plants.

Separately, The Associated Press reported over the weekend that Iran claimed to have forced down an unmanned drone in its airspace.

Iran has made several such claims; they have not been verified.

The claims are significant because the ability to guide down the aircraft — as opposed to shooting them down — would suggest that Iran has the capability to breach the codes of the Western militaries that have launched the drones.

If Borat has offended … then he’s done his job


Virtually everyone who has already seen the comedy “Borat” at film festivals and invitational screenings has found the film uproariously funny.

But with its nationwide opening set for Friday, the question now is whether a mass, mainstream audience will also get the film’s satiric sensibilities, or, rather, be offended by its political incorrectness and by its lead character, who is a raging anti-Semite.

“Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” is a “mockumentary” starring British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat Sagdiyev, a cheerfully impudent, male-chauvinistic Kazakh journalist. He road-trips across America, speaking comically mangled English and constantly doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. His interactions mostly are with unwitting, everyday Americans who have been led to believe by filmmakers that Cohen’s alter ego, Borat, is the real thing.

The humor in the film, which is directed by Larry Charles, is sometimes raunchy, especially a nude wrestling match between Borat and his heavyset producer, Azamat Bagatov (Kenny Davitian). And it is sometimes bitingly politically satirical — “We support your war of terror,” Borat tells a rodeo crowd before massacring “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Borat fears Jews so much he has nightmarish hallucinations when forced to board with an elderly Jewish couple. He and his producer also choose to drive across America because they’re scared Jews would hijack their plane, “like they did on 9/11.”

Cohen, 35, is a modern-day Ernie Kovacs in his ability to subsume his personality in his comic creations. He is best known in the U.S. for playing the gay French NASCAR driver Jean Girard in “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.” But in Britain he became a star as the obnoxiously slow-witted rapper/talk-show host Ali G, which acquired a cult U.S. following when HBO’s “Da Ali G Show” was broadcast in 2003. Borat was a character on that show.

Because “Borat’s” anti-Semitism is so flagrant, the film raises some ethical questions. Is Cohen, who is Jewish and studied history at Christ’s College at Cambridge, crossing a line with his character’s anti-Semitism? And is his rendering of the central Asian nation of Kazakhstan as a stewpot of anti-Semites, child abusers, prostitutes and generally crude people too cruel?

According to answers.com, Cohen was born in the London-adjacent suburb Staines to a middle-class Jewish family — his father, originally from Wales, was the owner of a London menswear shop. Cohen has what the site calls an “active Zionist background,” including involvement in the Jewish youth movement Habonim Dror. His mother is an Israeli-born Iranian, and, according to answers.com, he told NPR in a 2004 interview that he wrote his college thesis on Jewish involvement in the American civil rights movement.

Borat’s anti-Semitism has folkloric, fantastical roots in his nation’s culture, as depicted in the film. It envisions, for instance, a “traditional” Kazakh “Running of the Jew” event, similar to Pamplona’s “running of the bulls.” And the Kazakhs are portrayed as simple, backward peasants — Borat mistakes a hotel elevator for his room in New York and carries a chicken onto the subway.

“I saw the movie yesterday,” said Roman Y. Vassilenko, an ambassadorial assistant and press secretary for Kazakhstan’s U.S. embassy, when interviewed last week. “Like Jonathan Swift wrote ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ and invented a country, Lilliput, to make a satire of England, this is the same thing. He invents a Kazakhstan in order to make a satire of a very different country.”

Just to make sure the public realizes that “Borat’s” Kazakhstan is not the real one, the embassy has released an official statement on the movie. It reads in part: “Kazakhstan, a Muslim majority country, is home to 130 ethnic groups and 40 religious faiths. Pope John Paul II, who visited Kazakhstan in 2001, called our country ‘an example of harmony between men and women of different origins and beliefs.'” (The nation has a sizeable Russian Orthodox minority.)

Cohen himself isn’t talking. Or, rather, he’s talking only in character. Two weeks ago, he came to Santa Monica’s Shutters on the Beach resort hotel for a “Borat” press conference, standing at a podium with an official-looking Kazakhstan emblem on it. Tall and dressed in a neat if staid suit, bearing a bright smile to contrast with his dark bushy brows and hair, he did what amounted to a comedy act. Questions had to be submitted in advance.

“Good evening, gentleman and prostitutes,” he began, in halting, bumbling, heavily accented English. He said he admired “mighty warlord George Walter Bush” as a “very strong man but perhaps not as strong as his father, Barbara.”

Asked whom he’d most like to meet, he mentioned “fearless anti-Jew warrior Melvin Gibsons. We in Kazakhstan agree with his statement Jews started all the wars. We also have evidence they killed off the dinosaurs. Hurricane Katrina, too. They did it.”

Cohen’s satiric target may well be America and its anti-Semitism, believes Joel Schalit, managing editor of the liberal Jewish magazine Tikkun. And in “Borat,” he may be drawing from world history to get at it.

“I see a film like ‘Borat’ as a very roundabout, tongue-in-cheek way of exploring that,” Schalit said.

A parallel can be drawn between Cohen’s imaginary Kazakhstan and the early 20th-century Russian peasants who accepted the fraudulent, anti-Semitic “Protocols of Zion” (which told of a Jewish plot to run the world) as truth and staged pogroms. (Kazakhstan, formerly a part of the Soviet Union, gained its independence in 1991.)

“By evoking that example, Cohen’s timing couldn’t be better,” Schalit said. “There remains a populist strand of anti-Semitism in the U.S. that is the parallel of pre-Bolshevik Russian anti-Semitism. And it’s emanating from the quarters of the religious right.”

Josh Neuman, editor of edgy, youthful Jewish humor magazine Heeb, thinks American Jews will get Cohen’s “Borat” and not be offended.

“I think Jews understand the power of satirical narratives, because we understand the power of narratives in general,” he said via e-mail. “[There’s] a desire to poeticize the absurdity of stereotypes rather than arguing against them. I think the former is much more effective than the latter.”

And, Neuman said, Cohen also has another target.

I think [he] is satirizing how mainstream anti-Semitism is around the world, but also and perhaps more importantly I think he’s satirizing a Western bourgeois notion of people from distant lands, their customs and beliefs. I think that he pulls it off with immense subtlety and creativity.”

“Borat” plays in theaters starting Nov. 3.