How do you spell chutzpah? R-Y-A-N B-R-A-U-N


It wasn’t so long ago that Ryan Braun was just a rookie phenom, racking up numbers that had Jewish sports junkies rushing to put the Milwaukee Brewers’ slugger in the pantheon with Greenberg and Koufax.

These days, not so much.

The news this week is that Braun has accepted a suspension from Major League Baseball for the rest of the season, all but admitting to using performance-enhancing drugs. I say “all but admitting” because in accepting the time he still hasn’t explicitly acknowledged the crime.

As I have acknowledged in the past, I am not perfect. I realize now that I have  made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions. This situation has taken a toll on me and my entire family, and it is has been a distraction to my teammates and the Brewers  organization. I am very grateful for the support I have received from players, ownership and the fans in  Milwaukee and around the country. Finally, I wish to apologize to anyone I may have disappointed – all of the baseball fans especially those in Milwaukee, the great Brewers organization, and my teammates. I am glad to have this matter behind me once and for all, and I cannot wait to get back to the game I love.

What makes his non-admission admission particularly lame and weasely is how lame and weasely his response was to his failed drug test back in 2011. First he (successfully) challenged his suspension on technical grounds and then turned that victory-by-technicality into an unabashed declaration of innocence.

Chutzpah.

Just man up already and admit what you did. Until then, you’re not even in the same league as Shawn Green and Ian Kinsler. And no more calling you “The Hebrew Hammer” either.

Israeli basketball player suspended for calling rival ‘Nazi’


Guy Pnini of the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team was suspended indefinitely and stripped of his captaincy after calling an opposing player a “Nazi.”

Pnini also was fined more than $26,000 for his trash talk directed at Jonathan Skjodebrand of rival Hapoel Tel Aviv during a game Sunday night.

Pnini was caught on camera shouting at Skjodebrand, a blond Israeli of Swedish descent, “You piece of garbage, bastard, German Nazi … cancer in your head, your father should die.” Skjodebrand did not respond.

After the game, Hapoel Tel Aviv filed a complaint with the Israel Basketball Association, which also will discipline Pnini.

Pnini apologized for his court behavior.

“I apologize to Jonathan and his family and to Maccabi Tel Aviv, my teammates and any sports fan who was offended by what I said,” he said. “I would also like to apologize to my family who are Holocaust survivors. I’m ashamed of myself and of the way I acted.”

Fans of the Hapoel Tel Aviv soccer team in March sang Holocaust songs during a match with Maccabi Tel Aviv, according to reports, and also have done so during basketball games.

Israeli officer who hit activist suspended pending investigation


A senior Israeli military officer caught on tape hitting an activist in the face with the butt of his rifle has been suspended pending the results of an investigation.

The International Solidarity Movement posted on YouTube a video of the incident, which took place Saturday during a protest bike ride in the Jordan Valley.

Approximately 200 activists, including Palestinians from the West Bank and foreign activists, rode their bikes along Route 90, the Jordan Valley’s main north-south route, to protest what the ISM calls on its website “regular harassment and attacks from Israeli settlers and soldiers.”

Israel Defense Forces soldiers halted the activists, who were blocking the main thoroughfare to traffic and began taking away their bicycles. The video shows Lt.-Col. Shalom Eisner hitting an activist in the face with his M-16 rifle. Four activists were wounded in the incident, according to Haaretz.

Central Command Chief Ma.-Gen. Nitzan Alon late on Sunday ordered an immediate investigation into the incident. In addition, Military Judge Advocate General Brig.-Gen. Avi Mandelblit ordered a criminal investigation against Eisner.

“This event does not reflect the IDF’s values and will be thoroughly investigated and handled with the necessary severity,” IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz said in a statement.

Eisner reportedly said he regrets the incident, but said the video represents one minute out of a two-hour event in which the protesters attacked the soldiers, breaking one of Eisner’s fingers and injured his wrist. He is seen later in the video with his wrist and finger in a white bandage.

According to Ynet, Eisner said he did not use a water cannon that he had at the scene in order to disperse the protesters because there was an ongoing dialogue and he wanted to end the event peacefully.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the incident, saying: “Such behavior does not characterize IDF soldiers and officers and has no place in the Israel Defense Forces and in the State of Israel.”

Israel suspends ties with U.N. body


Israel suspended ties with the cultural body of the United Nations over its decision to classify the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb as Palestinian.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which is in charge of preserving historical sites, at the end of its biannual session last week adopted several proposals by Arab states classifying Jewish and Muslim holy sites. It classified Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem as a mosque and ruled that the Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs was integral to the Palestinians.

“Israel rejects all five of UNESCO’s decisions and has no intention of cooperating with the organization,” Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon announced Wednesday evening in Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the decision last week in a statement, saying that “The attempt to detach the people of Israel from its heritage is absurd. If the places where the fathers and mothers of the Jewish nation are buried, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Leah and Rachel some 4,000 years ago are not part of the Jewish heritage, then what is?

“It is regrettable,” the Israeli leader added, “that the organization established to promote historical heritage sites worldwide is trying for political reasons to detach the ties between the Jewish people and their heritage.”

In February, Netanyahu included both sites on the country’s new national heritage list and allocated money to refurbish them. The decision was condemned throughout the international community; UNESCO asked Israel to remove the sites from the list.

UC Suspends Israel Program


The University of California has suspended its junior year abroad program in Israel and is recalling its 27 remaining students there, though not all are heeding the call.

Citing "dramatically escalating violence" in the region, UC made the recall official on Thursday, April 11 for its students enrolled mainly at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv University.

An additional 28 UC students, who had enrolled at the Israeli universities last fall, have already returned because they had completed the semester or for personal reasons.

The decision applies to students from all nine UC campuses, although the bulk of the recalled students are from the campuses at Berkeley, Santa Barbara and San Diego.

Jennifer Dekel, one of three UCLA students in Israel, told the campus paper, The Daily Bruin, that she was staying put.

"I have decided to remain in Israel and I am deeply disappointed in EAP’s [Education Abroad Program] decision. I do not believe that it is anyone else’s position to decide for me whether or not I feel safe living here," Dekel wrote in an e-mail to The Daily Bruin.

Another UCLA student, Robbie Hurwitz, said that he had not yet decided whether to leave or stay. UC spokesman Hanan Eisenman said that he did not know at this point how many other students would decide to stay in Israel.

Although UC will make every effort to smooth the way for students who are returning in the middle of the spring semester, those deciding to stay would have to enroll on their own at their Israeli institutions, renegotiate academic credits with their home campus and risk some financial aid, Eisenman said.

UC will reevaluate the situation in the fall and in the meanwhile, leave its administrative infrastructure in Israel in place, Eisenman said.

He added that UC had consulted with unspecified Jewish community leaders before deciding on the suspension.

Gia Daniller, director of government relations and legislative affairs for the Jewish Community Relations Council in San Francisco, who has been the chief liaison with the state’s academic institutions, said there had been no formal consultation with UC officials, but that there was no intention to protest the university decision.

"Our main concern is that whether the students stay or come home, they should not be penalized academically or financially, whatever their decisions," Daniller said. USC does not have a formal program in Israel but assists students who enroll on their own at the Hebrew University or Tel Aviv University, said study abroad adviser Peter Hilton.

Four USC students were studying in Israel during the 2001 spring semester. However, all had returned and none were in the pipeline when USC suspended the program in August of last year.

The only California university, and certainly the only public one, to continue its program in Israel at this point is the 23-campus California State University (Cal State).

While Cal State is evaluating the situation on a daily basis, at the time of the interview, two of its students and their American faculty adviser were remaining at the University of Haifa, said Leo Van Cleve, director of international programs at Cal State headquarters in Long Beach.

There is some irony in the continuing presence in Israel of Cal State, since it was the first to suspend its program and recall its students in October 2000.

Under heavy pressure by the Jewish Public Affairs Committee of California, the university reversed its stand, with the provision that its students would study only in the "safer" city of Haifa, but not in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.

However, even disregarding conditions in Israel, it "would be difficult to justify continuing the program" without a substantial increase of participants over the two students now enrolled in Haifa, Van Cleve said.

The University of Colorado and the University of Washington have also suspended their Israel programs, the Los Angeles Times reported, while the Brandeis University program remains in place.