There were few surprises at the 2010 AIPAC Policy Conference last evening. The key topics were sanctions against Iran, the unbreakable relationship between the U.S. and Israel, and the fact that friends best disagree quietly. I was told by a fellow journalist that this year’s policy conference followed the structure of conferences in the past: the evening began with a roll call of the representatives, senators and other policy-officials in attendance, as well as a list of distinguished guests. I suspect that this conference was also similar to past conferences insofar as it was briefly disrupted by hecklers (who paid an awful lot of money just to yell for two seconds). At least, the quick reaction of the crowd to cheer these disrupters down suggests that the audience is used to such things. Continue reading →
The Fatah-affiliated Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades have threatened Sacha Baron Cohen’s life because of their inclusion in his latest film farce, Bruno. Fashionistas of the world, unite: Save Sacha! [Jewlicious]
Persian Jews live the high life in Los Angeles. [W]
According to cartoonist Rich Tenorio, the right beverage can solve even the stickiest problems. [TheDevilMadeMeBlogIt]
Iranian protesters meeting to honor the people killed in the post-June 12 presidential election fracas were met with violence and tear gas. [NYT]
Jewish author Michael Chabon dislikes circumcision. [Jewcy]
Haaretz examines the rumors that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is a “self-hating Jew” and is turning the Obama administration against Israel. [Haaretz]
It is interesting to see the long time peace supporter Rosensaft refusing to join in what he sees as premature admonition of hawkish new Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu.
Some select excerpts (but really, the piece is worth reading in its entirety):
Even before Netanyahu’s new government was sworn in, skeptics and pundits warned that he would both isolate Israel internationally and refuse to engage in good-faith negotiations with the Palestinians or Israel’s other neighbors….
Still, it was hardly a foregone conclusion that Rabin — who, as Defense Minister during the first Intifada of 1988-89 ordered Israeli soldiers to “break the bones” of Palestinian demonstrators — would shake Yasser Arafat’s hand on the White House lawn in 1993
And few could have foreseen in 2000 that Sharon would not only unilaterally disengage from Gaza but would leave the Likud together with Olmert and Livni to form the centrist, diplomacy-inclined Kadima Party….
Less than a week before taking office, Netanyahu told an economic conference in Jerusalem: “The Palestinians must understand that they have in our government a partner for peace, security, and for economic development of the Palestinian economy.” If past is prologue, he may well be true to his word. He needs to be given the opportunity to prove himself.
David Ignatius has a column today (also in the Washington Post) about tax-exempt charities that donate to various Israeli settlements in the West Bank, despite US government policy not to fund them. He says,
There’s nothing illegal about the charitable contributions to pro-settlement organizations, which are documented in filings with the Internal Revenue Service. They’re similar to tax-exempt donations made to thousands of foreign organizations around the world through groups that are often described as “American friends of … ” the recipient.
But critics of Israeli settlements question why American taxpayers are supporting indirectly, through the exempt contributions, a process that the government condemns. A search of IRS records identified 28 US charitable groups that made a total of $33.4 million in tax-exempt contributions to settlements and related organizations between 2004 and 2007.
Ignatius lists organizations like American Friends of the College of Judea and Samaria, American Friends of Yeshiva High School of Kiryat Arba, and Hebron Fund.
The glaring hole in the logic is that giving a charity a tax exemption, of course, doesn’t actually fund anything. It’s less an economic offense than a moral and pragmatic one: Considering the delicate arguments for peace in the Middle East and the controversy that settlements inevitably stir up, do these charities still deserve the tax-exemption if they help stymie US efforts towards peace?
And in other news about the peace process, new Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu spoke yesterday to allay some fears of his hawkish tendencies. For the record, his pick for foreign minister is the famous nationalist and right-wing Avigdor Lieberman, who lives in Nokdim–a West Bank settlement.
Not really. But check out the above screenshots of Obama and Netanyahu’s respective websites. See?!! Ynet caught it as well, and asked some Netanyahu people about it:
“We view the comparison as a compliment,” [Netanyahu spokesman Yossi] Levi said. “The guideline of the Likud’s online campaign is openness and maximal transparency to the public, with maximal public participation in the election process.”
A water crisis notwithstanding, tourists are having fun up here in the Kineret, Israel’s name for the Sea of Galilee and its environs. While they might shake their heads at super-long “beaches” where the inland sea once lapped, and might fret over the much more worrisome possibility of pumps’ going dry, they don’t seem particularly concerned about the impending national elections.
Not all tourists here can vote, of course, as they’re a multinational lot. In the national parks, you do hear a lot of Hebrew, as in the verdant spring-fed pools of Tel Dan. The tamer “Gan Yardan” (or Jordan River Garden) park also centers on flowing water, but diverted into masonry channels and pools; around shaded picnic tables, sometimes set right in the shallow streams, multi-generational Arab clans with boomboxes fire up grills, cool watermelons in the water, and watch their children splash. Meanwhile, on sun-baked roads overlooking the Galilee’s depleted waters, German, French, Japanese and English are some of the languages coursing through tour bus microphones, as Christian pilgrims make the rounds of sites commemorating the multiplying of loaves and fishes, Christ’s visitation to Saint Peter and the Sermon on the Mount. Continue reading →
You have no doubt heard that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, embattled in a corruption investigation and still taking heat from the 2006 Lebanon War, announced he will step down yesterday.
What do you think? Is this a good thing for Israel? Who should take Olmert’s place? The leading replacement candidates are Kadima’s own Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, as well as Defense Minister Ehud Barak (Labor) and Benyamin Netanyahu (Likud).
Who will step in?
(Stay tuned. We are working on republishing our profile of Olmert from the June 2006 issue.)