November 15, 2018

The Kavanaugh Fiasco: Winning at all Cost

Suissa writes, "Who were they kidding? This was hand-to-hand combat where no one took prisoners."

I was never this cynical. If anything, I like to believe people, even politicians. I’ve met some amazing politicians who work very hard and have strong convictions. I know they don’t have an easy job.

So why was I disgusted with the political spectacle of the Brett Kavanaugh Senate committee hearings? For a number of reasons, but one in particular: I felt as if I was watching a UFC championship fight. Two combatants locked in a cage ready to do absolutely anything it took to crush their opponent.

Whenever the combatants pretended to be part of a procedural debate rather than a cage fight, I just rolled my eyes. Who were they kidding? This was hand-to-hand combat where no one took prisoners.

Before the hearings even started, before anyone had even heard the name Christine Blasey Ford, one side had already announced that the candidate in question, Brett Kavanaugh, was evil and must be crushed by any means necessary.

In fact, a few years earlier the other side wouldn’t even allow a hearing for another candidate, Merrick Garland. Why? For the same reason the latest candidate was called evil: because one must do whatever it takes to win. Nothing else matters.

The crazy thing is, I’m not saying anything new. We’ve always known that “partisan politics” is a contact sport where people fight over power. So why has this episode disgusted me so much?

“Our politics have descended all the way down to the UFC cage.  Actually, they’re lower. At least with UFC, no one is pretending to have a conversation.”

Maybe because I don’t recall it ever being so viciously and shamelessly blatant. It’s possible that the stakes were seen as so high — a majority in the Supreme Court for years — that the combatants threw every scruple out the window. Still, this isn’t the first time we’ve had battles over high stakes. Somehow, this one felt different.

“This does feel different,” Gail Collins wrote in The New York Times, in a conversation with Bret Stephens. “I’m wondering if it’s the internet. Back in days of yore the media was mainly TV networks and big newspapers that wanted to communicate with a large audience. Now the stars are — people who yell. Blogs, Twitter — we’ve been painfully aware since 2016 that power belongs to whoever can get their followers really, really worked up.”

Stephens responded: “I think the difference is that the fights aren’t really about policy. They’re about our personal experiences and deepest fears. Christine Blasey Ford was electrifying because so many women said: She’s me; her suffering is so much like my own. And, at the same time, a lot of men fear that their careers could be upended by an allegation from long ago, unprovable but devastating. So we’re not just arguing about the best course for the nation in the abstract. We’re fighting for our own corner.”

“Why are we not jumping into the fray and swinging away like everyone else?”

So, this is now the state of our union: We’re all fighting for our own corner. Not debating or arguing but fighting, clawing, scratching, screaming and kicking for our political tribes.

Our politics have descended all the way down to the UFC cage. Actually, they’re lower. At least with UFC, no one is pretending to have a conversation. They’re only there to fight. The Kavanaugh hearings were UFC without the honesty.

In our cover story this week, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach does a deep dive into all this madness.

“There is something rotten in America,” he writes. “We all feel it in our bones…. A gnawing feeling that something is desperately wrong. But we can’t quite put our finger on it.”

Deep partisanship and the abominable hatred between left and right, he adds, are merely symptoms of a deeper disease.

“What has died in America,” he says, “is truth itself … because we have forgotten that no one party or individual ever has the truth.”

Truth, he writes, is “not monolithic but complex. It is not singular but multifaceted. It is not masculine or feminine but created through the synergy of both. Truth is comprised of right and left joining together and enriching one another to create a higher, more colorful whole.”

“Why are we taking a step back in the middle of this national brawl to reflect on the deeper issues of truth and  humility?” 

Such idealism must sound downright naïve at a moment of such societal rancor. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine anything good coming out of the Kavanaugh fiasco. Since he’s been sworn in, the bitterness and polarization have only gotten worse.

Why, then, are we taking a step back in the middle of this national brawl to reflect on the deeper issues of truth and humility? Why are we not jumping into the fray and swinging away like everyone else?

For the simple reason that, in our view, what this country needs right now is not another round in the fighting cage but a little timeout to recuperate and see a bigger picture.

That timeout alone would be a victory.

NYT Forced to Issue Correction on Haley Story

Photo from Flickr.

The New York Times was forced to issue a correction to a Thursday story accusing United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley of spending $52,701 on curtains for her residence.

The story was initially titled, “Nikki Haley’s View of New York Is Priceless. Her Curtains? $52,701.” However, the sixth paragraph of the story stated, ““A spokesman for Ms. Haley said plans to buy the curtains were made in 2016, during the Obama administration. Ms. Haley had no say in the purchase, he said.”

CNN’s Jake Tapper confirmed that Haley didn’t have a say in the matter:

At the top of The New York Times article is currently an editor’s note that reads:

An earlier version of this article and headline created an unfair impression about who was responsible for the purchase in question. While Nikki R. Haley is the current ambassador to the United Nations, the decision on leasing the ambassador’s residence and purchasing the curtains was made during the Obama administration, according to current and former officials. The article should not have focused on Ms. Haley, nor should a picture of her have been used. The article and headline have now been edited to reflect those concerns, and the picture has been removed.

The headline now reads: “State Department Spent $52,701 on Curtains for Residence of U.N. Envoy.”

H/T: Washington Examiner

Trump Official Claims to Be ‘Resisting’ In NYT Op-Ed

REUTERS/Leah Millis

A senior official in the Trump White House wrote in an anonymous New York Times op-ed that he is part of the “resistance” to President Trump in the White House.

The unnamed official clarified that this “resistance” inside the White House isn’t “the popular ‘resistance’ of the left”; it’s a resistance against Trump’s worst impulses.

“In addition to his mass-marketing of the notion that the press is the ‘enemy of the people,’ President Trump’s impulses are generally anti-trade and anti-democratic,” the official wrote.

The official added that Trump frequently changes his mind and makes decisions and statements on whim, causing his aides to have to frequently contain his errant nature.

“It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room,” the official wrote. “We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t.”

The official noted that this is why Trump’s statements don’t necessarily translate to policy.

“In public and in private, President Trump shows a preference for autocrats and dictators, such as President Vladimir Putin of Russia and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and displays little genuine appreciation for the ties that bind us to allied, like-minded nations,” the official wrote. “Astute observers have noted, though, that the rest of the administration is operating on another track, one where countries like Russia are called out for meddling and punished accordingly, and where allies around the world are engaged as peers rather than ridiculed as rivals.”

For instance, the expulsion of Russian spies and sanctions on Russia have been occurred despite Trump’s protestations.

“Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president,” the official wrote. “But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis. So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until — one way or another — it’s over.”

Trump responded by calling the op-ed “gutless”:

The op-ed comes as the White House has been dealing with claims from veteran journalist Bob Woodward’s upcoming book that various top members of the Trump administration think that the president is an “idiot.”

New York Times Publishes a Rejection of Yossi Klein Halevi’s Plea for Reconciliation

Yossi Klein Halevi

If you want to better understand why peace between Israel and the Palestinians is a hopeless illusion, read Raja Shehadeh’s response in The New York Times this week to Yossi Klein Halevi’s soulful and conciliatory “Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor.”

Instead of responding in kind, Shehadeh falls back on the tired trope of chronic victimhood that has served only to perpetuate Palestinian misery. In this narrow view, every Palestinian woe is Israel’s fault; and Palestinians are a weak people with no agency just waiting for big, bad Israel to “withdraw from the territories it has occupied and leave us to go on with our lives.”

Shehadeh, who’s an author and an intellectual, knows better than to simplify such a bedeviling conflict whose complexity Halevi tried to honor. He knows, for example, that on the very day the IDF would abandon the territories, terror groups like Hamas and ISIS would jump to try to fill the vacuum and massacre Palestinians, just like Hamas did in Gaza.

But such complexity plays no role in Shehadeh’s takedown of Halevi’s offer to embark “on a journey of listening to each other.”

Shehadeh acknowledges that Halevi recognizes the importance of a Palestinian “counterstory,” one of “invasion, occupation and expulsion,” a history of “dislocation” and “humiliating defeats.” But how does he respond to such humility and contrition? By blasting Halevi for being “condescending” and for focusing so much of his book on trying to help Palestinians understand the Zionist story that is ingrained in Halevi’s soul.

Shehadeh also knows better than to casually dismiss Israeli offers of peace rejected by Palestinians as “old and discredited narratives.” He can’t even bring himself to admit that Palestinians are partly responsible for the absence of peace. The furthest he will go is to say, “I was involved in the Oslo negotiations and I can tell you that Israel shares plenty of responsibility for their failure.”

Everything else in his piece is a hodgepodge of polite aggression disguised as sophisticated lamentations. He claims that, “To make peace possible the Palestinians are not required to become Zionists,” as if Halevi ever asked for that. Betraying his intent to undermine Halevi’s book, he twists a plea to “understand us” into a demand to “become Zionist.”

Perhaps the deepest sign of his bad faith is when he admits to having zero interest in Israelis understanding his narrative: “Unlike you,” he writes triumphantly, “I will not demand that you see the Nakba, the catastrophe that Israel’s founding caused for my people, in the same way as I see it.”

Why? Because “You couldn’t.” Shehadeh is so drenched in smug victimhood that he can’t possibly imagine a Jewish neighbor being able to understand his narrative—not even a neighbor who has already made a genuine effort to do precisely that.

What he wants is that Israel recognizes its responsibility and “put a recognition of that culpability on the agenda for negotiations when the time comes for arriving at a settlement between us.”

But that time will never come if the Shehadehs of the Palestinian world continue to treat Palestinians as hopeless victims who are too weak to ever understand the authentic longings of their Jewish neighbors.

NYT Calls On Abbas to Resign

FILE PHOTO - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas waves in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank May 1, 2018. Picture taken May 1, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman/File Photo

The New York Times called on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to step down from his position in a May 2 editorial in light of his recent Holocaust comments.

The remarks in question came on Monday, when Abbas blamed the Jews for the Holocaust.

“The Jewish question that was widespread throughout Europe was not against their religion, but against their social function, which relates to usury (unscrupulous money lending) and banking and such,” Abbas blustered.

The Times editorial board excoriated Abbas for “feeding reprehensible anti-Semitic myths and conspiracy theories” and losing “all credibility as a trustworthy partner.” They also criticized Abbas record, from his Holocaust denial dissertation and his failure at governance.

“Mr. Abbas, who oversees a governing system plagued by corruption and dysfunction, has lost support among the Palestinian people,” the Times editors wrote. “He has weakened government institutions that are essential for a future state and refused to call new elections, thus overstaying his term by many years and preventing younger leaders from emerging. He has also failed to unify the Palestinians in the West Bank, where his Fatah faction dominates, with those in the even more desperate circumstances of the Gaza Strip, where Hamas holds sway.”

Even with this abysmal record, the Times called Abbas’ Holocaust remarks “a new low.”

“By succumbing to such dark, corrosive instincts he showed that it is time for him to leave office,” the Times editors stated.

The editorial concluded, “Palestinians need a leader with energy, integrity and vision, one who might have a better chance of achieving Palestinian independence and enabling both peoples to live in peace.”

Interestingly, the Times published an op-ed by Abbas in 2011 titled “The Long Overdue Palestinian State,” suggesting that these recent remarks could be a turning point against Abbas in the international court of opinion if even The New York Times is souring on Abbas. The Palestinians have certainly lost confidence in Abbas as well, as a December poll found that 70% of Palestinians think that Abbas should step down.

And yet, Abbas is reportedly going to double on “even harsher” and “more extreme” rhetoric.

Mayim Bialik to Deliver UCLA Commencement

Mayim Bialik. Courtesy of UCLA.

Maybe expressing an unpopular viewpoint could be the theme of Mayim Bialik’s forthcoming commencement address at UCLA.

On April 4, the public university announced its selection of the “The Big Bang Theory” actress and UCLA neuroscientist alumna as the distinguished alumna speaker for the UCLA College commencement on June 15.

“Dr. Bialik embodies the values of a Bruin,” UCLA College Senior Dean Patricia Turner said in a statement. “Throughout her career, she has shown how hard work, determination and civic duty can lead to success. I know that our graduates will be inspired by her story as they set out to make their own mark in the world.”

What she will talk about when she addresses both commencement ceremonies, scheduled for 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., in Pauley Pavilion, remains to be seen, but the experience of expressing challenging opinions during challenging times would be appropriate. Throughout her career, Bialik has never shied from supporting Israel. And following the publication of her 2017 New York Times essay, “Being a Feminist in Harvey Weinstein’s World,” she demonstrated an ability to deal with backlash among those who accused her of victim blaming.

Bialik became a household name portraying the title character in the hit 1990s sitcom, “Blossom.”

After “Blossom” ended in 1995, Bialik enrolled at UCLA. While there, she was active at the campus Hillel, founding a women’s Rosh Chodesh group and participating in Hillel High Holiday services.

She is an observant Jew.

She earned her degree from UCLA in 2000, and her doctorate in 2007, before returning to the screen.

“I had no health insurance and missed performing and making people laugh,” she said in the aforementioned 2017 New York Times piece of her return to acting.

Since 2010, she has appeared on the popular CBS sitcom, “The Big Bang Theory.” She plays Amy Farrah Fowler, a neurobiologist who is romantically involved with Jim Parsons’ Sheldon Cooper.

U.S. Media Largely Ignored Abbas’ ‘Son of a Dog’ Slur Toward U.S. Ambassador

FILE PHOTO: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting of the UN Security Council at UN headquarters in New York, U.S., February 20, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is in hot water for calling United States Ambassador to Israel David Friedman a “son of a dog” over the weekend, yet it didn’t really receive much coverage from U.S. media outlets.

In their weekly talking points brief, The Focus Project – an organization that features the consensus view of various Jewish organizations on matter the of Israel and anti-Semitism – noted the lack of attention on Abbas’ comments in U.S. media.

“Major news outlets in the U.S., such as the New York Times, Washington Post and CNN ignored this story entirely or buried it by carrying syndicated wire reports instead of doing original reporting,” The Focus Project wrote. “Statistics show they are obsessed with a narrative where Israel is the oppressor and Palestinians are passive victims.”

The links provided in the aforementioned statement show nothing from CNN about Abbas’ comments; the New York Times and Washington Post covered Abbas’ by running a report from Reuters and the Associated Press (AP), respectively. ABC News also relied on the AP’s wire service to report on the matter and Yahoo News used a report from Agence France-Presse (AFP).

The Journal searched the sites of NBC News, CBS News and Fox News and found nothing on Abbas’ comments.

This would certainly not be the first time that the U.S. media has been accused of having an anti-Israel bias, as Newsbusters has documented how the media once falsely reported that Pope Francis called Abbas “the angel of peace” and didn’t give much coverage on Abbas declaring in 2011 that he would never recognize a Jewish state and that Israel was committing “ethnic cleansing.”

Abbas’ latest comments stemmed from him being angry that Friedman claimed they were building settlements on land that belonged to Israel, prompting the PA president to exclaim, “You son of a dog, building on their own land? You are a settler and your family are settlers!” Abbas is now attempting to walk back that comment, as one of his advisors is now saying that “dogs are pets in the Arab world, and they are generally viewed positively.”

Mayim Bialik under fire for suggesting women should dress modestly to avoid sexual harassment

Television star Mayim Bialik questioned the timing of the March for Racial Justice on her Facebook page. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Actress Mayim Bialik has faced criticism for writing in a column that women should dress modestly to avoid sexual harassment in Hollywood.

In a New York Times op-ed published on Saturday, the Big Bang Theory star wrote that she began her career in Hollywood “as a prominent-nosed, awkward, geeky, Jewish 11-year-old” and that while she was “shocked and disgusted” by the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, she was not necessarily surprised.

“I have always had an uncomfortable relationship with being employed in an industry that profits on the objectification of women,” wrote Bialik. “Though pressure to ‘be like the pretty girls’ started long before I entered Hollywood, I quickly learned even as a preteen actress that young girls with doe eyes and pouty lips who spoke in a high register were favored for roles by the powerful men who made those decisions.”

Bialik proceeded to recall how she was the butt of jokes over her looks when she was younger, yet she’s had a successful career in Hollywood. She noted that she takes precautionary measures to avoid scenarios of sexual harassment in Hollywood.

“I have decided that my sexual self is best reserved for private situations with those I am most intimate with,” wrote Bialik. “I dress modestly. I don’t act flirtatiously with men as a policy.”

She acknowledged that engaging in that kind of behavior “might feel oppressive to many young feminists” but it’s the best course of action.

“In a perfect world, women should be free to act however they want. But our world isn’t perfect,” wrote Bialik. “Nothing — absolutely nothing — excuses men for assaulting or abusing women. But we can’t be naïve about the culture we live in.”

Bialik concluded her column with a note of encouragement to women who are “not a perfect 10.”

“There are people out there who will find you stunning, irresistible and worthy of attention, respect and love,” wrote Bialik. “The best part is you don’t have to go to a hotel room or a casting couch to find them.”

Bialik was criticized for her op-ed:

Others were less critical:

Bialik addressed the outrage on Facebook Live with New York Times editor Bari Weiss.

“I really do regret that this became what it became, because literally I was trying to speak about a very specific experience I had in a very specific industry,” said Bialik. “I was not looking to speak about assault and rape in general.”

She then said she was “deeply hurt” if anyone thought she was “victim-blaming.”

Moving & Shaking: JFLA gala, Bret Stephens lecture, and LA Jewish Comedy Festival

Among those attending the Jewish Free Loan Association annual gala were (front row, from left) board member Jim Kohn, honoree Emily Feit, JFLA board President Harold Tomin; and (back row, from left) honorees Randy Schwab, David Gardner, Alan Feit, Kenny Tashman and Jeffrey Feuer. Photo courtesy of Jewish Free Loan Association

The Jewish Free Loan Association (JFLA) held its annual gala on June 14 to “highlight the work of JFLA and its impact on the community,” said Rachel Grose, JFLA’s new executive director.

The event, attended by about 300 people at the Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel, began with a cocktail reception, followed by dinner and the event program.  

JFLA has been providing interest-free loans to people of all faiths in Greater Los Angeles for more than 100 years. The annual gala provides a setting to thank and reward those in the community who have contributed to the organization’s success.

Four awards were given out. The Salter Family Foundation Client Recognition Award was presented to the Tashman Family in honor of their successful use of a JFLA loan they took out in the 1960s to realize their dream of starting a hardware store. They made Tashman Home Center in West Hollywood a community landmark.

Emily and Alan Feit received the the Mitchell Family Foundation Philanthropy Award. With the help of JFLA, the Feits started the Feit 4 KidZ Fertility Loan Fund, a program for families that cannot conceive children on their own but who instead decide to conceive through in vitro fertilization.

The Nathan Shapell Memorial Lifetime Commitment Award was given to immigration attorney David Gardner for creating a citizenship loan fund through JFLA. His loan fund helps people who are in the process of gaining citizenship by aiding in paying for attorney fees and other necessities.

The Ben and Anne Werber Communal Service Award went to Randy Schwab, CEO of Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles, recognizing his leadership and commitment throughout the community.

— Isabella Beristain, Contributing Writer


New York Times columnist Bret Stephens (right) participates at Stephen Wise Temple in a Q-and-A with Stephen Wise Temple Senior Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback. Photo by Ryan Torok

As a New York Times columnist, Bret Stephens expresses views on some of the most complicated topics of the day, including terrorism, immigration and President Donald Trump. He also recognizes the value in a healthy dose of self-doubt.

“The challenge of a columnist, I think the challenge of all intelligent people, on the one hand is to express your views confidently, but to have enough internal security to know you might be wrong — to know that there is some floating small percent of wrongness in any single point of view,” Stephens said on June 20 at Stephen Wise Temple.

Stephens delivered a lecture and participated in a Q-and-A with Stephen Wise Senior Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback at an event titled “The Jewish Future in a Changing America.” Among the topics Stephens discussed were anti-Semitism in the Arab world, free speech on college campuses and the future of journalism.

“The people who have been most damaged by anti-Semitism in the long run have been the anti-Semites,” Stephens said. “In this case, the Arab world has done itself irrefutable harm by expelling 800,000 talented people, as they did in the wake of the creation of the State of Israel.”

Stephens lived for several years in Israel while serving as editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post. The former Wall Street Journal columnist predicted the top newspapers in the United States will survive well into the future, despite predictions about the death of traditional journalism.

“I have no doubt there is going to be a New York Times in 20 years,” he said. “I have no doubt there is going to be a Wall Street Journal. And I have no doubt that people do want reliable, authoritative news that they don’t have to double check or wonder [if] that could be true.”

Stephens appeared before a crowd that featured many of Los Angeles’ Jewish leaders, including Valley Beth Shalom (VBS) Rabbi Ed Feinstein, Stephen Wise Temple Senior Rabbi Emeritus Eli Herscher, former L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, UCLA Jewish history professor David Myers, Community Advocates Inc. President David Lehrer and VBS Rabbi Noah Farkas.

Stephens expressed frustration with the culture on college campuses that has fomented the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel while stifling other speech found by some to be disagreeable.

“One of the things I find disturbing at colleges [is] they seem to be incapable of dealing with an opposite point of view,” he said. “Their way of dealing with it is saying, ‘That’s evil,’ ‘That’s stupid,’ or something like that, as opposed to saying, ‘That’s another approach to the truth.’ ”

— Ryan Torok, Staff Writer, and Jakob Marcus, Contributing Writer


Israeli comedian Gali Kroup performs at the June 24 Jewish Comedy Night at Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills. Photo by Mark Rius

Jewish comedians cracked jokes about bar mitzvahs and guilt-tripping mothers at the June 24 Los Angeles Jewish Comedy Festival, held at Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills (TEBH) and organized by the production group Comic Cure.

Proceeds from the show benefited YoPro, TEBH’s social group for young professionals.

Among the 23 performers was headliner Kira Soltanovich, a stand-up comedian and former correspondent on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.” Alex Kojfman, a comedian and TEBH director of communications and marketing, was the emcee.

Israeli stand-up comedian Gali Kroup won the Judges’ Choice Award, receiving $100 and a spot in one of Comic Cure’s “Comedy Upstairs” shows at The Social Attic in Eagle Rock.

The event’s 200 attendees cast ballots and awarded performer Brandon Morganstein with the Audience Choice Award, consisting of the same prizes. Three runners-up — Kari Assad, Adam Gropman and Jared Goldstein — won guest spots in a Comedy Upstairs show.

The judges were local entertainment producer Samantha Shahi, comedian Greg Berman and public relations agent Penny Vizcarra.

Comic Cure produces live comedy events to raise awareness, funds and volunteers for local charities.

— Gabriella Kamran, Contributing Writer


Singer Alex Clare performs in honor of the 23rd yahrzeit of Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson.
Photo courtesy of Chabad of California

“An Evening With the Rebbe,” an event honoring the 23rd yahrzeit of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, was held June 19 at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

The Lubavitcher rabbi, also known as the Rebbe, for four decades was the face of Chabad, a sect of the Chasidic religious movement. Schneerson was the last of seven rabbis who led the Chabad movement.

The event featured performances by Alex Clare and the Cunin Brothers. Clare is a pop music star and baal teshuvah Orthodox Jew who sings in the secular world but observes Shabbat and Jewish holidays. The Cunin Brothers is a group of six shluchim, or emissaries, of the Rebbe. The six, all rabbis, performed together and then sang with Clare.

Also featured at the event was guest speaker David Suissa, the president of TRIBE Media and the Jewish Journal, who spoke about the Rebbe’s unique contributions to the Jewish world. A short film, “Marching Orders,” which explains the importance of the Rebbe’s legacy, was shown.

The legacy of the Rebbe, who died in 1994, lives on, said Rabbi Chaim Cunin, CEO of Chabad of California.

“The Rebbe’s marching orders to each and every one of us was to seek out every opportunity to spread goodness and kindness, and in so doing, to unite world Jewry and all of humanity, and bring about an era of peace and redemption,” he said. “Despite the chaos and darkness that seems to continue and intensify throughout the world, the flip side is that you see a coming together like never before.”

— Clara Sandler, Contributing Writer


From left: Rabbi Richard Camras and Carolyn Reznik-Camras, Benjamin Reznik and Janice Kamenir-Reznik, Daniel Farkas, David and Jeanne Herman, Claudia and Sandy Samuels, Ivy and Burt Liebross, Tzivia Schwartz Getzug and Steve Getzug, and Orly and Howard Fisher are honored by L.A. Hebrew High School. Photo by Curtis Dahl Photography

More than 200 people attended the 68th anniversary of Los Angeles Hebrew High School (LAHHS) on June 4 at Hillel at UCLA.

The gathering, titled “A Night of Dinner and Comedy,” honored the organization and nine alumni couples that have emerged over the course of the part-time religious school’s years. Honorees were Carolyn Reznik-Camras and Rabbi Richard Camras; Tzivia Schwartz Getzug and Steve Getzug; Anita and Theodore Farkas; Dalia and Daniel Farkas; Orly and Howard Fisher; Jeanne and David Herman; Ivy and Burt Liebross; Claudia and Sandy Samuels; and Janice Kamenir-Reznik and Benjamin Reznick.

Hebrew High is a supplementary school and program that teaches teens the Hebrew language and a variety of subjects pertaining to Judaism and Israel.

Attendees included Amittai Benami, head of school at LAHHS; Carolyn Reznik-Camras, the outgoing board president; Karen Freed, the incoming board president; and Debbie Holzer, development coordinator at LAHHS.

Organizing partners for the event included Hillel at UCLA, Judith Boteach of Kosher Express Catering and Jeremy Broekman, the event producer.

Emcee Elon Gold provided the laughs as the comedian roasted LAHHS, which raised about $180,000 at the event.

— Avi Vogel, Contributing Writer


Moving & Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas.

Got a tip? Email ryant@jewishjournal.com. 

Trump blew it, big-league

President Donald Trump is flanked by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, left, and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office of the White House on May 10. Photo by Russia Foreign Minister Press Office/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The New York Times has a new feature called “Say Something Nice About Trump.”

Last week, I was all set to do so. As President Donald Trump was preparing to embark on his first official trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia, I found myself thinking nice things. It occurred to me that on the Israel-Palestinian issue, Trump had come out of the gate in a far more effective way than his predecessors.

On May 8, for instance, I was on a phone call with Dennis Ross, the former United States ambassador who served four American presidents as a Middle East envoy and negotiator. And this is what Ross said: Donald Trump has a better chance than President Barack Obama did at making peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Despite Trump’s support from the anti-two-state-solution crowd, despite the fact Trump’s own ambassador to Israel called pro-two-state groups “worse than kapos,” Ross said Trump has handled the Middle East diplomatic dance better than Obama so far. He said Trump has impressed the Palestinian leadership, gained their trust. And he had the Israelis in his pocket.

For someone who has seen Trump as dangerous to Israel’s future and ill-informed on Middle East affairs, it was surreal —but heartening.

“What is going on,” Ross said of the president, “is he continues to emphasize that this is a deal he really wants to do. Only last week, he said he couldn’t think of a single reason why he can’t reach agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians. I think what he meant by that, not that there weren’t differences, but that ultimately those differences shouldn’t prevent a deal. In any case, this is one of those challenges that is deeply rooted [for Trump]. What the president has done is make [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] more relevant, which is important at a time when he does not have a lot of popularity.”

Ross’ call, arranged by The Israel Project, came on the eve of Trump’s visit in Washington with Abbas. The remarkable part was that Ross outlined a clear way forward toward an Israeli-Palestinian agreement, out of the long and dangerous impasse between the sides. And the Moses who could lead them? Donald J. Trump.

Trump has leverage, Ross said. He is seen as someone who can deliver and, beyond that, someone who, unlike Obama, will exact a cost if he’s rejected. So Trump can make tough demands of Abbas, including ending payments to the families of terrorists, and — in private — can ask for difficult sacrifices from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

I was listening, shaking my head, wondering if I had completely misjudged Trump when it comes to Middle East policy. Perhaps I had overestimated the hard-line attitude of his ambassador to Israel, David Friedman. Perhaps I hadn’t taken into account the moderating forces of Trump’s childhood friend, Ron Lauder.

But more likely, I had forgotten my cardinal rule for understanding Donald J. Trump: The man will say anything in a room to make a sale. Alec Baldwin is not Trump. Trump is Alec Baldwin — in “Glengarry Glen Ross.”

“Because only one thing counts in this life!” Baldwin’s real estate huckster character says. “Get them to sign on the line which is dotted!”

To get elected, Trump had to appeal to evangelicals and pro-Israel hard-liners like Sheldon Adelson. But to sell a bigger deal as president, he has new constituencies. The Saudi vote isn’t big in Florida or Wisconsin, but it sure matters in the Middle East.

“The more the administration, the president and his representatives are dealing with the Arab leaders, the more what they’re hearing from them is they’re prepared to work with them,” Ross said. “But on [the Palestinian-Israeli] issue, they’re asking for a two-state outcome.”

So in the spirit of saying something nice about Trump, I was all set to assert that he would continue to confound the very people who trusted him to do exactly what hard-liners in Israel, and their American armchair Golanis, want him to do.

But then, Trump happened. That is, shortly before his trip abroad, the president gave sensitive intelligence information to the Russians, intelligence that was revealed to have come via Israel.

Here’s how bad this is: Israeli intelligence had somehow penetrated ISIS command well enough to get detailed knowledge of its upcoming terror attacks. Now those methods and sources are burned, thanks to the president of the United States. The fact that Russia can now discern the methods and sources for that intelligence and pass it on to their allies the Iranians, who can funnel it to Hezbollah, is a criminal act against Israel.

This disaster will shadow Trump’s trip, shuffle the equation in ways that are now impossible to imagine — even if no other shoes drop between now and when he touches down in Israel.

The evidence was building that Trump was not going to be the hand puppet Sheldon Adelson thought he bought Bibi for Chanukah. Now, flying across the Atlantic with a self-inflicted puncture to his competence and credibility, Trump needs Bibi more than ever to keep his credibility afloat.

A week ago, Trump was positioned perfectly to land in Israel and shake things up. Now he will arrive, shaken, weakened, vulnerable, neutered.

I tried so hard to say something nice. It’s still not the time. And there’s no one to blame but Donald Trump.


ROB ESHMAN is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. Email him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @foodaism and @RobEshman.

Former Trump girlfriend rebuts NY Times story on history with women

A woman at the center of a New York Times piece detailing Republican Donald Trump's history with women took issue with the story on Monday, saying she never had a negative experience with the billionaire and does not believe he ever mistreated women.

Rowanne Brewer Lane, a former model who dated Trump for several months starting in the late 1990, said her words were mischaracterized in the Times article, which used dozens of interviews to show a pattern of unsettling personal behavior by the presidential candidate with women.

The Times story said Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for the Nov. 8 election, asked Lane to change into a bikini shortly after meeting her at a pool party at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. According to the article, he then introduced her to the crowd outside, saying, “That is a stunning Trump girl, isn't it?”

On Monday, Lane told the same story in a series of television interviews but said she had been flattered by his comment.

“They spun it to where it appeared negative,” Lane said on Fox News. “I did not have a negative experience with Donald Trump.”

Lane also said she supports Trump's presidential run.

The New York Times responded to Lane's accusations by saying she was quoted “fairly, accurately and at length.”

“The story provides context for the reader including that the swimsuit scene was the 'start of a whirlwind romance' between Ms. Brewer Lane and Mr. Trump,” Times spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades Ha said in a statement.

Trump has deflected criticism about his attitude toward women throughout his campaign. On Monday, he called the New York Times “so dishonest.”

“Their hit piece cover story on me yesterday was just blown up by Rowanne Brewer, who said it was a lie!” Trump posted on Twitter.

Times reporters Michael Barbaro and Megan Twohey defended their story in several television interviews on Monday, saying it showed how Trump behaved privately with women and revealed common themes including unwelcome advances, aggression and commentary on their appearance.

“People can evaluate the story … on its own merits,” Barbaro said on CBS “This Morning.”

Trump adopts Netanyahu’s stance on two-state solution

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump clarified his previous comments, in which he suggested that he would remain “neutral” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in an in-depth interview with the 

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What if Tom Friedman is right?

Without warning, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman dropped a bombshell smack into the middle of his opinion piece on Feb. 10. Titled “The Many Mideast Solutions,” Friedman surrendered his decades-long belief in a two-state solution in negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. 

“The peace process,” he wrote, “is dead.” He continued: “It’s over, folks, so please stop sending the New York Times Op-Ed page editor your proposals for a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians. The next U.S. president will have to deal with an Israel determined to permanently occupy all the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.”

Friedman’s erstwhile commitment to the two-state solution was both personal and professional. He is a committed Jew and liberal Zionist who hoped to see Israel flourish as a Jewish and democratic state. He is also a seasoned observer of the Middle East who, in the course of having won three Pulitzer Prizes, did tours of duty as a New York Times reporter in both Beirut and Jerusalem. It was Friedman who proposed to the Arab League in 2002 that it recognize Israel in return for a full return to 1967 borders — only to be surprised when then Saudi prince Abdullah informed him in Riyadh that he had just such a proposal in his desk drawer. Over the years, there have been few more persistent supporters of the two-state idea than Friedman.

Although he has many critics on both the left and right, it is not so easy to dismiss Friedman. He seeks to avoid ideological extremes in the name of common sense. And his common sense tells him the clock has struck midnight on the idea of two states between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. The combination of unrelenting Israeli settlement on the West Bank and Palestinian intransigence and dissimulation has delivered the death knell to the division of the land. A motley crew of unlikely allies who support a one-state solution will rejoice at Friedman’s call — Israeli right-wingers who believe in a Jewish state from the river to the sea, as well as a mix of far-left Israelis, Palestinian activists and Western proponents of BDS who call for a single, decidedly not-Jewish state.

What are those who do not count themselves among the advocates of a single state to make of Friedman’s declaration? Perhaps he is wrong, and time does remain to realize the two-state vision. But if so, there is very little time until the presence of 600,000 Israeli settlers becomes irreversible.

And if Friedman is right, what are we to do? In the first instance, we may want to scour the dustbin of history for alternative visions, ones that dwell between the poles of one and two states. For example, Jewish, Arab and British leaders during the Mandatory period proposed various kinds of confederations. David Ben-Gurion advanced in the 1930s the idea of a confederation of a Jewish state with a larger regional Arab state. Others, such as Mandate-era Palestinian official Musa Alami and, more recently, Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Meron Benvenisti called for a division of the land in demographically concentrated cantons. And in 2014, a group of academics and diplomats proposed a scenario in “One Land, Two States: Israel and Palestine at Parallel States (edited by Mark LeVine and Mathias Mossberg, Berkeley: University of California Press) in which a Jewish and Palestinian state held joint ownership over the land between the river and the sea. 

Even as we set about thinking of future alternatives — for we no longer have the luxury of avoiding doing so — we should also remember that there is much work to be done in the present. Rather than lapse into despair, it is necessary to recall that the fight for justice and equality continues every day. This struggle is different from the efforts of politicians and diplomats to achieve an overarching, top-down solution. Rather, it is a bottom-up, grass-roots, people-to-people campaign to assure dignity to all who live in Israel and Palestine. The good news is that there is a remarkably vibrant culture of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Israel that engage in precisely this kind of campaign. The bad news is that there are high-ranking government officials and Knesset members who are doing all within their power to silence and shut down these NGOs, especially the New Israel Fund, the remarkable organization that supports a wide range of important social justice causes that has become the chief target of vilification (and with which, in the name of full disclosure, I am affiliated). It is not enough to acknowledge these NGOs as symbols of the morality of Israeli society. One must actively and constantly support them. 

Whatever the ultimate political disposition of this land will be, we are not free to desist from working toward a more equitable, harmonious and just society for all, one in which the marginal and disenfranchised — Arabs, Mizrahim, women, Ethiopians and immigrants, among others — find their rightful place as equal partners. This is not work for the messianic era, but rather for the here and now. 

David N. Myers is the Sady and Ludwig Kahn Professor of Jewish History at UCLA. He is also a member of the board of directors of the New Israel Fund. 

Fake anti-Israel New York Times distributed in Manhattan

Activists distributed thousands of fake and anti-Israel versions of The New York Times in Manhattan and promoted an online version via social media.

The fake New York Times — which included such fictitious articles as “IDF Generals Blame Israeli Government for Recent Violence” and “Congress to Debate U.S. Aid to Israel” — was handed out Tuesday morning at several bustling commuter hubs, including Grand Central Terminal and Penn Station. The organizations or individuals behind the campaign was not clear.

The fake paper mimics the Times’ trademark fonts and formatting, and describes itself as “Rethinking Our 2015 Coverage on Israel-Palestine — A Supplement.” In addition to its “corrections” (“It has come to our attention that the vast majority of articles about violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories have failed to include the names of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces.”) and articles, it includes fake ads, such as one for “TimeUp” watches with the motto “The Moment is Now: End U.S. Military Aid to Israel.”

According to The Independent, a spokeswoman from The New York Times said in a statement: “We’re extremely protective of our brand and other intellectual property and object to this group (or any group’s) attempt to cloak their political views under the banner of The New York Times. We believe strongly that those advocating for political positions are best served by speaking openly, in their own voice.”

Some are speculating that the publication is the work of a group called The Yes Men that did a similar campaign in 2008.

In a statement, Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said the “creators of the phony newspaper are entitled to their view that The Times is biased in Israel’s favor, and to disagree with critics of The Times, some of whom think The Times has a bias against Israel. However, to do it in a surreptitious manner, as they have done, is deceptive.”

Greenblatt also criticized the fake publication for being published anonymously and conveying “false facts and themes consistent with anti-Israel advocates and supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.”

“New Yorkers are sophisticated enough to see that this ‘news’ was not fit to print,” Greenblatt added, a reference to the Times’ slogan, “All the News That’s Fit to Print.”

The New York Times’ ‘Big Lie’ about the Temple Mount

Last week, I opened The New York Times to Rick Gladstone’s article, “Historical Certainty Proves Elusive at Jerusalem’s Holiest Place,” happy that the newspaper of record would explain to its audience the historical context of this embattled piece of real estate.

As I read on, I was horrified.

“The question, which many books and scholarly treatises have never definitively answered, is whether the 37-acre site, home to Islam’s sacred Dome of the Rock shrine and Al Aqsa Mosque, was also the precise location of two ancient Jewish temples, one built on the remains of the other, and both long since gone,” Gladstone reported.

The article received an avalanche of comment from scholars and lay readers, Jews and Christians, who well understood that beneath this article was an attempt to problematize the very existence of the Jewish temples on Mount Zion.

While it is true that the temple shrine has not been found, the entire platform of the Temple Mount was built by Herod and his successors and are part of the temple complex — visible to the eye and described in detail by the first-century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus and others. The attempt to throw doubt on this is obfuscating, taking advantage for political or religious benefit of the appropriate willingness of historians to question sources.

While this is quite disheartening, what is most disturbing about this article is that The New York Times gave voice to yet another Big Lie about Jews and Judaism. Joining claims of deicide and ritual murder, which are broadly believed in the Islamic world, Muslim commentators in recent years have purveyed the belief that there never was a Jewish temple on the Haram al-Sharif.

“They claim that 2,000 years ago they had a temple,” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has written. “I challenge the claim that this is so.”

Palestinians have much to gain in claiming that there was no Jewish temple. If there was no temple on Mount Zion, then Jews have no claim on that hill, nor to the land of Zion and Jerusalem. Hence, no Zionism.

The Big Lie that there was never a Jewish temple is thus a cipher for discrediting and undercutting the entire Jewish claim to the Holy Land — the very claim that, in fact, makes this particular land holy.

What Palestinians stand to lose by purveying this untruth, however, is the trust of those, like me, who are willing to listen carefully to legitimate claims and to act on them. The claim that there was never a temple is offensive and in no way furthers Palestinian national aspirations.

The claim that there is no “Palestinian people” is similarly offensive to Palestinians. But while that claim has mostly disappeared among Jews and Israelis, the Big Lie that Jews are foreign to the Holy Land, and that the temple never existed, is alive and well.

What disturbs me most is that The New York Times totally missed this complicated history and unintentionally gave the Big Lie a voice on its pages, as if it is equal to actual historical fact.

The Times deserves credit for (somewhat) correcting the article online, but what about the millions who read only the paper version?

Steven Fine is the Pinkhos Churgin professor of Jewish history at Yeshiva University and director of the university’s Center for Israel Studies and the Arch of Titus Project.

UCLA must take action to address anti-Semitism

A foul odor is in the air. Lest we have any doubt about it, The New York Times has caught a whiff of it, reporting in its March 6 edition on the Rachel Beyda case at UCLA. Simply put, we are in the throes of another version of the infamous Jewish Question here on campus. 

From the time of the 18th-century Enlightenment, European society has posed the Jewish Question in various guises: Do the Jews, the classic “other” in medieval Christendom, belong in our domain? Do they owe loyalties to their home countries or rather to their narrow group interests? The question has arisen in this country as well, though in recent decades, many had come to conclude that Jews could operate in American society without aspersions cast on their loyalty. 

Not so fast. Sadly and remarkably, the Jewish Question is resurfacing in the most progressive of venues: college campuses. Last week, at the University of Chicago, anonymous postings on the secret-sharing site Yik Yak and a UChicago Secrets Facebook page were riddled with anti-Semitism. One post claims that “a bunch of butthurt Jews cry and scream ‘anti-Semitism’ to their media mogul daddies.” The most shocking of posts expressed the wish that the “final solution had worked.” 

And of course, we have our own local outbreak of the Jewish Question: the case of Beyda, whose qualifications for a position on the Undergraduate Students Association Council (USAC) judicial board were challenged by a number of councilmembers because of her Jewish religious background. Fortunately, USAC reversed its earlier decision to deny Beyda a spot, and the four board members who voted against Beyda in the first round have issued an apology for suggesting that the candidate’s religion might incline her to bias. 

Their contrition is welcome, but these cases are wakeup calls. As much as we assumed it to be dead, the Jewish Question lives on. At UCLA, it took the form of the myth that Jews are beholden only to their own and incapable of unbiased participation in society. At the University of Chicago, it took on a more blatant form of hatred. 

At UCLA, it took the form of the myth that Jews are beholden only to their own and incapable of unbiased participation in society. At the University of Chicago, it took on a more blatant form of hatred.

Animating the two cases is a dynamic that has emerged on university campuses in the wake of the Israeli-Palestinian controversy. As the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement has gained traction, sharp divisions among students have boiled over, blurring the line between political attitudes, religious affiliation and cultural tastes. Alexandra Tashman gave this development eloquent and poignant testimony in a recent Daily Bruin op-ed. She describes how, rather than choose between two undesirable positions on Israel politics, she simply ceased to identify herself as Jewish. 

How have we gotten ourselves into this mess? It is true that many Jews strongly identify with the State of Israel. It is also true that some Jews are strongly critical of the State of Israel or have relatively little connection to it. The danger of the current discourse about Israel-Palestine is that it sweeps in all Jews, branding them as monolithic, biased and incapable of sound judgment. Moreover, Jews have come to be regarded as the vanguard of the oppressive, white majority establishment. 

Only 70 years ago, Jews were as disempowered a group as could be imagined. In today’s world, intimations about Jewish power are not openly discussed in polite company, at least not in this country, as distinct from Europe. But they are whispered conspiratorially in some circles, and sometimes leak out into the public as anti-Semitism, as they did at the USAC meeting several weeks ago. 

We must not ignore the signs that the Jewish Question, with its unique ability to impute clannishness and self-interest to Jews, is hovering. Its context has evolved, as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to unravel complicated and charged associations between identity and politics on American campuses. But its potentially toxic effects remain. 

In light of this volatile situation, we urge the campus to take the following steps: 

• Survey campus attitudes regarding Jews, Muslims and other groups on campus. 

• Sponsor a series of high-profile public programs and research initiatives to examine anti-Semitism in the past and present. 

• Conduct facilitated conversations among student groups invested in the Israeli-Palestinian issue. 

• Add courses on Jewish identity and anti-Semitism to the proposed new diversity requirements. 

• Undertake a concerted campaign to raise awareness about anti-Semitism and its perils among all elements of our campus community, just as we affirm that it is intolerable to stigmatize or discriminate against other groups.


David Myers is a professor and chair of the UCLA department of History. Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller is the executive director of Hillel at UCLA. Maia Ferdman is a graduate student in Latin-American studies and a former Daily Bruin opinion columnist. This article first appeared in the Daily Bruin and is reprinted with permission.

Dead Argentinian prosecutor had drafted request for president’s arrest

An Argentinian prosecutor found dead in mysterious circumstances last month had drafted a request that President Cristina Fernandez be arrested for conspiring to derail his probe into the deadly bombing of a Jewish center, the investigator into his death said on Tuesday.

The papers were found in the trash at Alberto Nisman's apartment while his property was being scoured for clues over whether the father-of-two committed suicide or was murdered.

He was found in a pool of blood with a single bullet to the head on Jan. 18.

“The drafts are in the file,” Viviana Fein, the lead investigator into Nisman's death, told a local radio station.

The request for Fernandez's arrest, which the prominent pro-opposition daily newspaper Clarin said Nisman drafted in June, was not included in his final 350-page submission to the judiciary delivered days before his death. Instead Nisman called for Fernandez to face questions in court.

On Monday, Fein's office had denied the existence of the document containing the arrest request and the government denounced a Clarin story about it as “garbage”.

Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich even dramatically tore up a copy of the paper in his daily news briefing. But on Tuesday, Fein backtracked, saying there had been a misunderstanding between her and her office, and the documents did exist.

“They are properly incorporated into the case file, nothing is missing,” Fein said of the papers on Tuesday.

Nisman spent almost a decade building up a case that Iran was behind the 1994 attack on the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) that killed 85 people. Iran's government has repeatedly denied the allegation.

Nisman had been due the day after his death to answer questions in Congress about his allegations that Fernandez sought to cover up Iran's involvement in return for Iranian oil. Fernandez has called the claim “absurd”.

Argentine judges are proving reluctant to take on a case some are calling a “judicial hot potato”. Two judges turned down hearing the case on Monday, including one who is already presiding over separate charges of attempts to derail the investigation into the 1994 bombing.

The other cover-up charges involve ex-President Carlos Menem, who ruled the South American country from 1989 to 1999.

In N.Y. Times ad, Hollywood elite slams Hamas for conflict with Israel

Some 300 Hollywood elite published an ad in The New York Times holding Hamas responsible for the “devastating loss of life” in the latest Hamas-Israel conflict.

[Related: Hollywood Zionists are alive and well]

Actors to directors to studio heads signed the statement by members of the Creative Community for Peace. Among the signers are Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Seth Rogen, Aaron Sorkin, Roseanne Barr, Sherry Lansing, Sarah Silverman and Kathy Ireland.

“Hamas cannot be allowed to rain rockets on Israeli cities, nor can it be allowed to hold its own people hostage,” the statement reads. “Hospitals are for healing, not for hiding weapons. Schools are for learning, not for launching missiles. Children are our hope, not our human shields.”

The statement laments the “devastating loss of life endured by Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza” and expresses ” hope for a solution that brings peace to the region.”

Amid the conflict, the statement had been published in August in Hollywood publications including Billboard, The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. The statement with additional signatures reportedly will be printed in international publications.

The statement concludes: “We join together in support of the democratic values we all cherish and in the hope that the healing and transformative power of the arts can be used to build bridges of peace.”

Creative Community for Peace was formed to counter the singling-out of Israel as a target for cultural boycotts.

NYT photographer: I’ve never faced pressure from Hamas on photos

For the second day in a row, The New York Times’ photography blog, Lens, asks one of its photographers in Gaza about covering the Hamas-Israel war.

Q. Have you had pressure from any of the parties involved in Gaza to take certain photos or not take certain photos?

A. Never. Not once in all my years.

The exchange on Lens with Times freelance photographer William Nassar comes on the heels of heavy scrutiny of the Times for its response to questioning from JTA last week about why the paper of record had failed to show photos of Hamas fighters during the conflict.

Our photographer hasn’t even seen anyone carrying a gun,” Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy told me.

The Q&A’s on Lens are interesting (Tuesday’s was with Tyler Hicks), but they don’t answer the central question of why the Times has failed to obtain or show images of Hamas shooting at Israelis — a crucial element of this war. Even after two TV stations aired footage this week of Hamas rocket crews operating in Gaza, the Times failed to run images of the footage in the paper.

Here’s what Nassar had to say about taking photographs in Gaza, where he lives:

Q. Have you seen and photographed any Hamas fighters or other militants?

A. There was only one time I saw militants and photographed them and that was on the first day of the humanitarian pause which the sides agreed to on July 20. I did not find any problem photographing them. I have not seen any other militants since then.

 

NYT on why it hasn’t shown photos of Hamas fighters: We don’t have any

After my piece Thursday morning asking why mainstream media outlets aren’t showing photos of Hamas fighters in Gaza, The New York Times offered me this response: We don’t have any.

Of the 37 images that make up the Times’ most recent three slide shows of photos from the conflict, there’s not a single shot of a Hamas rocket launch (though more than 2,800 rockets have been fired at Israel) or of Hamas fighters using mosques, schools or hospitals as bases of operation.

Why not? After all, Hamas attacks against Israel are crucial to understanding what’s underpinning this conflict.

Here’s what Eileen Murphy, the Times’ vice president for corporate communications, says:

Our photo editor went through all of our pictures recently and out of many hundreds, she found 2 very distant poor quality images that were captioned Hamas fighters by our photographer on the ground.  It is very difficult to identify Hamas because they don’t have uniforms or any visible insignia; our photographer hasn’t even seen anyone carrying a gun.

I would add that we would not withhold photos of Hamas militants.  We eagerly pursue photographs from both sides of the conflict, but we are limited by what our photographers have access to.

Now, I’m no war reporter. It’s a risk I’m not willing to take, and I commend those who do. So I’m hesitant to question the work of reporters in Gaza right now.

But here’s what I don’t get: With the hundreds of journalists there, including numerous photojournalists with experience covering bloody conflicts in Syria, Ukraine, Iraq and Afghanistan, how is it that they aren’t able to get any images of Palestinians fighting the Israelis? We know these images exist — unless you believe the Israel Defense Forces is fabricating its footage of Palestinian fighters using ambulances to transport rockets, firing from hospitals and mosques, and launching rockets at Israel.

It’s certainly important to show the human and structural devastation in Gaza. But with more than 2,800 rockets fired at Israel thus far from Gaza, and plenty of other fighting there, you’d think media outlets would be able to document some of it. But they haven’t. (Israeli news outlets are barred from Gaza, so they get a pass.)

Maybe they’re not looking in the right places? By all accounts Hamas is running a command center out of the basement of Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza. How about showing us that? Three UNRWA schools so far have reported finding Hamas rockets on their grounds. How about showing us that?

Here’s what Times photographer Sergey Ponomarev, who is in Gaza, recently told the paper’s Lens Blog about his routine covering the conflict:

You leave early in the morning to see the houses destroyed the night before. Then you go to funerals, then to the hospital because more injured people arrive, and in the evening you go back to see more destroyed houses.
It was the same thing every day, just switching between Rafah and Khan Younis.

Maybe it’s time to switch it up a little?

Condi’s cost per minute

Forget whether former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson was paid more or less than her predecessor, Bill Keller.  I want to know why Condoleezza Rice was paid more than Condoleezza Rice.

Rutgers University offered $35,000 to George W. Bush’s national security advisor and secretary of state to speak at its commencement exercises on Sunday.  But just a few weeks ago, Rice got $150,000 for giving a speech at the University of Minnesota’s Hubert Humphrey School of Public Affairs. 

As it turned out, pushback from some Rutgers faculty and students caused Rice to bow out, saying she didn’t want to be a “distraction.”  Still, she had accepted their lowball offer in the first place.  Why the deep discount? Was she planning to be 80 percent more platitudinous in New Jersey than in Minnesota?  Or maybe it was a pro rata deal, and she going to speak for 14 minutes in New Brunswick instead of the hour she talked in Minneapolis.

It couldn’t be that she was embarrassed to have had such a good payday at the Humphrey School.   Her 150 bills is apparently what the graduation market will bear.  As “>points out, at one of them Rove recently theorized – to Gibson’s thundering silence – that Hillary Clinton suffered traumatic brain damage. 

Rice’s Minnesota tab was picked up by the Carlson Foundation, so no tuition dollars were harmed in putting on the event, though money is money, and arguably the dough that went to her might instead have gone to student scholarships, faculty salaries or a century’s supply of Cremora® for the U of M’s lounges.  But her Rutgers fee – which her replacement, former New Jersey governor Tom Kean, has waived – would have come from a public university’s revenue, not from a benefactor, which means that anyone who paid for a parking pass or a student fee this year might have been able to claim some pride of ownership if she’d shown up.

But the controversy over Rice’s Rutgers gig hasn’t so much been about money.  Instead, it’s turned on free speech (intolerant liberals won’t let conservatives speak truth to them), academic integrity (bubble-dwelling lefties should welcome an intellectual challenge) and pre-emptive nostalgia (don’t spoil my family’s graduation memories with politics).  A respectable case against inviting her in the first place is that honoring Rice, as “>Don’t Look Back doctrine.  When it comes to national security, he told George Stephanopoulos a few days before his inauguration, “what we have to focus on is getting things right in the future as opposed to looking at what we got wrong in the past.” Turn the page.  Which meant no accountability for W, nor for Vice President Cheney, nor for Karl Rove, nor for Donald Rumsfeld, nor for Condoleeza Rice. 

When she testified before the 9/11 commission, co-chaired by her Rutgers understudy Tom Kean, former Watergate prosecutor Richard Ben-Veniste asked her about the Aug. 6, 2001, PDB – the president’s daily briefing – headlined, “Bin Laden Determined To Strike in U.S.”  Why didn’t she act on this threat? Oh, no, “This was not a ‘threat report,’ ’’ she replied. The PDB “did not warn of any coming attack inside the United States.”  It’s just “historical information,” she said.  You know: “Bin Laden Determined” doesn’t mean “Bin Laden Is Determined”; it means “Bin Laden Was Determined.”  That’s the best she could do.  That’s all she’s ever been asked to do.  Why should that get in the way of a fine American university’s laundering an martyk@jewishjournal.com.

New York Times unexpectedly replaces top editor Jill Abramson

The New York Times Co on Wednesday abruptly ousted the newspaper's top editor, Jill Abramson, after less than three years in the job and named managing editor Dean Baquet to replace her.

Baquet, 57, a Pulitzer prize-winning reporter and former editor of the Los Angeles Times, becomes the paper's first African-American editor.

Abramson, 60, became the Times' first woman executive editor in 2011.

The shakeup is the latest sign of turmoil at the New York Times Co, which is controlled by the Ochs-Sulzberger family. It has been selling assets, cutting staff and looking for new revenue sources as print advertising revenue declines.

While its shares have stabilized and its latest quarterly earnings exceeded expectations, the Times' business model, like that of other newspapers, remains under pressure. Abramson's departure is the latest sign of upheaval in the management of the paper and its publisher.

Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr abruptly ousted Janet Robinson as chief executive officer three months after Abramson was given the top job as editor. Robinson, who received a $24 million pay package, was replaced by Mark Thompson, the former director general of the BBC.

Sulzberger told stunned staff members on Wednesday the appointment of Baquet “would improve some aspects of the management of the newsroom,” according to his remarks obtained by Reuters.

He did not elaborate on what those issues were but said they did not relate to the direction of the journalism or the paper's digital future.

“This is also not about any sort of disagreement between the newsroom and the business side over the critical principle of an independent newsroom,” he said.

Thompson said in a statement: “Jill has been a brilliant and supportive partner to me over the 18 months we've worked together. She is handing over to Dean a newsroom in superb form.”

Abramson, who was not present at the meeting, did not respond to a request for comment.

'LOVED MY RUN,' ABRAMSON SAYS

Abramson said in a statement, “I've loved my run at The Times. I got to work with the best journalists in the world doing so much stand-up journalism.”

The New Yorker reported that Abramson had confronted Times' executives after she discovered her pay and pension benefits were less than those of Bill Keller, whom she succeeded, citing an unnamed close associate of Abramson. (http://nyr.kr/1mYSQG6)

In a statement the Times said that Abramson's “total compensation as executive editor was not considerably less than Keller's. It was directly comparable.”

The company also said Abramson's pension benefit is based on her years of service and compensation.

Keller worked for the Times for three decades. He succeeded Howell Raines, who left in 2003 after less than two years in the post, following a plagiarism scandal involving reporter Jayson Blair.

After Sulzberger made his remarks announcing Baquet's promotion, the newsroom responded with long applause, according to a source present at the meeting.

Baquet is a popular editor among journalists and was hand-picked by Abramson to be her deputy when she ascended to the top.

Baquet is known among staff for defying management. While he was executive editor of the Los Angeles Times, owned by the Tribune Co, he was ordered by executives in Chicago headquarters to slash staff. He refused and shortly after lost his job.

Abramson joined the New York Times in 1997. Before that she worked at The Wall Street Journal. Earlier this month she wrote a personal essay published in the Times about her recovery after being struck by a car.

New York Times shares fell 4.5 percent on the news but are up 55 percent over the past year.

Reporting by Jennifer Saba in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler and Cynthia Osterman

Chinese businessman says he is just as smart as Jews

A Chinese businessman seeking to buy the New York Times said he is just as smart as Jewish owners of American newspapers.

Chen Guangbiao said in an interview with the South China Morning Post that he was aware many American newspapers are owned by Jews and that his IQ is “equally competent” as theirs.

The chairman of Jiangsu Huangpu Recycling Resources, Guangbiao made his fortune in recycling construction materials in China. Last month he announced he would travel to New York to meet with shareholders of the New York Times in a bid to acquire the newspaper. His announcement led to the cancellation of the Jan. 5 meeting, according to Forbes.

Earlier this week, Chen said in an interview with Sinovision, a New York-based Chinese television station, that he was investigating whether The Wall Street Journal is for sale.

Chen added that he is “very good at working with Jews,” according to the Post.

Porn pioneer Al Goldstein dies at 77

Al Goldstein, the man who brought his particular brand of hard-core porn to the masses, died on Thursday in a nursing home in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. The cause of death was renal failure, The New York Times reports.

Goldstein was best known for sharing his raunchy sensibilities and radical ideas via Screw magazine and his New York City public-access cable show “Midnight Blue.”

“Mr. Goldstein did not invent the dirty magazine,” the Times obituary states, “but he was the first to present it to a wide audience without the slightest pretense of classiness or subtlety. Sex as depicted in Screw was seldom pretty, romantic or even particularly sexy. It was, primarily, a business, with consumers and suppliers like any other.”

If you’re not familiar with his over-the-topness, this about sums it up.

“Apart from Screw, Mr. Goldstein’s most notorious creation was Al Goldstein himself, a cartoonishly vituperative amalgam of borscht belt comic, free-range social critic and sex-obsessed loser who seemed to embody a moment in New York City’s cultural history: the sleaze and decay of Times Square in the 1960s and ‘70s.”

The piece goes on to detail Goldstein’s path to—as well as influence on–the sex industry, the rise and fall of his mini empire, and his eventual descent into poverty and poor health.

Here he is, dispensing Words of Wisdom, and sounding vaguely rabbinical. (Don’t worry, it’s totally clean).

Israeli woman in N.Y. Times breast cancer photo speaks out

An unnamed Israeli woman pictured in a controversial photo on the front page of The New York Times last Wednesday spoke out in response to critics of the paper’s choice of images.

An image of the woman’s upper body — including an incision scar, a portion of her aureola and a Star of David tattoo — was featured as the lead photo in the paper that day to illustrate a story about breast cancer screening in Israel.

In describing her decision to remain anonymous, the woman wrote, “The cancer I fought this past year is a part of me, but it’s not who I am.” But the photo, which some critics called inappropriate, was “artistic,” she said, a depiction of her struggle with breast cancer.

Some readers took offense at what they said was a shocking and sensationalistic image, citing the partial nudity. And some were upset by the prominent display of the Star of David tattoo on her shoulder. (Under traditional Jewish law, tattoos are prohibited.)

But for this Israeli woman, whose family, she says, includes Holocaust survivors, the tattoo is an expression of her Jewish and Israeli pride.

“When I was 17, I went with my high school on a trip to the concentration camps in Poland,” she wrote. “It was a very emotional and difficult trip, and when I returned to Israel I was so proud that I am Jewish and Israeli that I wanted the whole world to know.”

After the New York Times photo, that desire is certainly closer to coming true.

The Obamacare Apocalypse

Last week, a professor of physics and astronomy ” target=”_blank”>Koch brothers’ plan to stop them.  It’s possible that some of the Republican governors who refused Medicaid money for 8 million of their constituents will find themselves so wildly unpopular that they’ll do a 180.  It’s possible that people in the individual market stranded by the law and their insurance companies will find solutions.  Hell, it’s even possible that healthcare.gov will work.

So it’s not nuts to think that by the time Obama leaves office, the American health care system will be better in lots of ways, Obamacare will be the new normal and solid majorities will like it.  There may be no “Keep Your Hands Off My Obamacare” signs during the 2016 campaign, but it’s possible that the painful rollout of the exchanges will be forgotten.

That would ruin things for the drama queens in the media.  Their master narrative is Countdown to Armageddon.  Demagogues need end times to raise money.  News needs to shout apocalypse to get attention.

It’s not just Obamacare.  Imagine that CBS News had no reason to retract the Benghazi piece on “60 Minutes.”  If accounts of Dylan Davies’s F.B.I. interviews hadn’t made their way to the ” target=”_blank”>The Last Hours: Warming the World to Extinction,” a 10-minute movie written by Thom Hartmann and directed by Leila Conners makes terrifyingly clear, climate change is on track to cause the sixth mass extinction in geologic history. The fifth, the K-T extinction 65 million years ago, was caused by an asteroid hitting the earth off the coast of the Yucatan peninsula – and it killed the dinosaurs.  The third mass extinction – the Permean, the worst – was caused by volcanic eruptions in the Siberian Traps that warmed the oceans six degrees Celsius and melted trillions of tons of methane that had been frozen beneath the sea floor and ice sheets.  The methane this released into the atmosphere doubled the warming the volcanoes caused and killed 95 percent of all life on earth.  Today, fossil fuel burning and industrial agriculture are increasing greenhouse gases at rates never before recorded by humans, physicist Michael Mann says in the film, “far greater than any of the most rapid events that happened in the deep geological past,” including the Permean extinction. 

Talk about doomsday scenarios.  If this keeps happening, Obamacare, along with everything else we love, hate or talk about, will be irrelevant, because our species won’t be around to love, hate or talk about anything. But you would not know that things are as dire as they are from watching the news, which is just how Exxon-Mobil, Monsanto and the Koch brothers like it.

The day before the Times reported a tenfold increase in the odds of an asteroid strike, Erik Petiguara, a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley martyk@jewishjournal.com.

Dempsey: Israel, U.S. have ‘better military options’ against Iran

Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Israel and the United States have “better military options” against Iran than they did a year ago.

“That’s because we’ve continued to refine them,” Dempsey told The New York Times in an interview from Jordan. “We’ve continued to develop technology, we’ve continued to train and plan.”

Dempsey told the newspaper that he “sensed agreement” that diplomatic initiatives and economic sanctions levied in an effort to halt Iran’s nuclear program were “having an effect” on the Islamic Republic.

Dempsey arrived in Amman on Wednesday after spending several days in Israel meeting with military and political leaders to discuss Iran, as well as the situations in Egypt and Syria.

He told the Times that Israel has security fears regarding the current civil war in Syria, including that the conflict will encourage an arms flow to Israel’s enemies and a growing Iranian influence on Syria.

Reza Aslan on Jesus, the Jew

Reza Aslan, an author and scholar of religion, has established himself as a familiar face and voice on American television, the go-to guy for commentary on the Islamic world, and he embodies all the right stuff: youthful good looks, depth of knowledge and the kind of media savvy that enables him to answer even the most nuanced questions in measured sound bites. So it was no surprise when Aslan showed up on Fox News last month to talk about his new book, “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth” (Random House, $27).

But the Fox interviewer, Lauren Green, was apparently unaware that Aslan does not suffer fools gladly.

“You’re a Muslim,” the network’s religion specialist said at the start of her very first question. “So why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?”

“To be clear, I am a scholar of religions with four degrees, including one in the New Testament, with fluency in biblical Greek, who has been studying the origin of Christianity for two decades, who happens to be a Muslim,” Aslan admonished his inquisitor. “Anyone who thinks this book is an attack on Christianity hasn’t read it yet.” When Green pressed the point, Aslan deftly schooled her on the Islamophobia that suffused her questions: “I think it is a little strange that, rather than debating the arguments of the book, we are debating the right of the scholar to actually write it.”