The Boxer, the Rabbi and the Bomb in the Basement

OK, I also had to click on a picture of a boxer with the word “Talmud” in the headline underneath. But when I read the NY Times story about Yuri Foreman, Orthodox rabbinic student and light middleweight pro boxer, what jumped out at me – for its fine surrealistic madness – was the explanation a Yeshiva University Talmud teacher of boxing could be deemed permissible under Jewish law:

Rabbi Benjamin Blech, an assistant professor of the Talmud at Yeshiva University, said Foreman could help fight the belief that Jews were weak or could be bullied.

Lest there be a misunderstanding, I’m not knocking Foreman, an immigrant kid from Belarus who didn’t fit into Israel, chose boxing as a way up,

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Are You Listening, Joe Lieberman?

Kudos to Rabbi Eric Yoffie, head of the Union for Reform Judaism, who has publicly spoken out against Jewish political cooperation with Christian Zionists, their most prominent organization – Christians United for Israel – and its leader, John Hagee:

The heart of Pastor Hagee’s message is to be found in these words: “Stop giving the land away. The land belongs to you. Keep it.”

…mainstream Christian Zionists are, by their own admission, not “”advocates” of Israel but “Biblical advocates” of Israel, and this means that they oppose any territorial concessions by the Government of Israel for any reason whatsoever. It follows that their vision of Israel rejects a two-state solution, rejects the possibility of a democratic Israel,

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Excuse me, Ariel isn’t in Israel

The Government Press Office was kind enough to send me a notice from the Municipality of Ariel:

Some 600 American Christian Zionists, led by well-known Evangelical leader, Pastor John Hagee, will arrive in Israel this week to express their support for Israel on the Jewish Homeland’s 60th year of Independence. One of the highlights of their visit will take place on Thursday evening, April 3rd in Ariel…

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GDP = Greatly Diverting Propaganda

The problem with calculating a nation’s well-being via per-capita GDP:

…you and your friend are the only people sitting at a bar. Then Bill Gates walks in, and your friend states (correctly) that “The average person in this bar is a billionaire!”

That’s from The G-Spot, where Blogger Kathy G. (didn’t Dylan write a song by that name? and if not, why not?) has some fine riffs on inequality.

Measured by per-capita GDP, as I’ve noted, Israel is in superb economic shape. In reality, the Republic of Tel Aviv flourishes, while the rest of Israel languishes.

Kathy G. proposes

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The Politics of Measurement: Miscalculating Public Health

Here’s an update in the value of doubt from veteran health journalist and muckraker (the word is a medal of honor) Shannon Brownlee, writing in the Washington Post:

Striking fear… serves pharmaceutical companies, which want you to worry about diseases, because people who worry are more likely to go to their doctors and ask for drugs than people who don’t. It turns out that much of what we — and our doctors — think we know about many health problems has been shaped by drugmakers and their marketers.

High anxiety happens to be good for the bottom line of some big corporations. But perhaps that money could be better spent

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Our Children Will Repair What We Have Shattered

I live in a supposedly united city that in reality is fragmented. The average Jewish teenager in Jerusalem would not be able to name a major street in Palestinian East Jerusalem. The average Palestinian teen knows Israelis as Border Policemen in dark green uniforms. Arabic, supposedly a required third language in Jewish schools, somehow gets left out of the curriculum in many. Even where it’s taught, only a small number of kids take it long enough to be able to puzzle out a headline. Language is only a metaphor for the real chasm. Our children grow up in separate worlds.

Now for some hope:

Three years ago, my son went off to a summer camp called Face-to-Face in America. The delegation from Jerusalem included six Jewish and six Palestinian teens. There was also a delegation from Northern Ireland and one from South Africa, and a host group of American kids. They learned how to listen, how to understand that every date and every place in their history means something entirely different to people who live very near them.

There are a number of such camps (links below) that bring together Israelis and Palestinians on neutral ground. The people who run them are blessed with amazing faith: in an age of quarterly returns, they make the long-term investment of educating. If you’re young, I recommend applying. (Yes, adults have left you a broken world. Fix it.) If you have kids, get them interested.

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The Land of Asylum

This idea that Israel should offer asylum to non-Jewish refugees – how new is that? Some crazy concept thought up by secular Tel Aviv liberals with no concern for Israel’s Jewish character?

Actually, no. Just a bit older than that.

After my post a few days ago on the need for a new policy on African refugees reaching Israel, I got an email from my son, who’s now studying at Ma’aleh Gilboa, the yeshiva of the Religious Kibbutz Movement. He sent me a text from Sefer Hahinukh, an anonymous 13th century religious text

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Road to Annexation: The Paper Trail

Ethan Bronner’s article on Highway 443, the Israelis-only West Bank road, is now up at the New Yorks Times.

Bronner cites the documents first published at South Jerusalem, proving that the road was conceived from the start as part of settlement plans, contrary to what the government told the Supreme Court. As I’ve written:

…the road was planned in the mid-70s as part of a wider plan for Israeli settlement around Jerusalem. In turn, that plan reflected the original Allon Plan, drawn up by the-Labor Minister Yigal Allon in July 1967, immediately after the Six-Day War. The road’s purpose was to serve settlements and the eventual annexation of West Bank land to Israel. Everything else was purely a cover story…

My previous post on the subject, Lies, Damn Lies, and Supreme Court briefs, referred to the Yigal Allon’s July 1967 proposal to annex the area where the road now lies. Here’s the original document:

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Barak v. Barack: The Strange Case of Robert Malley

My new piece at The American Prospect explain what’s behind attempts to smear Barack Obama by smearing one of his advisers, former Clinton administration foreign-policy expert Robert Malley. There’s more at work here than the usual, nearly boring, attempts to slime a liberal candidate as anti-Israel for the “sin” of supporting what Israel needs most … Read more

Road 443 documents

If you’ve come to visit our fair blog in search of the documents on Road 443, as described today in Ethan Bronner’s story in the International Herald Tribune, just click here. But while you’re here, we invite you to read more, and to come back again.

Liberal Israel Lobby: Update II

Though organizers of the new, dovish Israel lobby are still not talking about their plans, James Besser has a report in the Jewish Week:

Dubbed the J-Street Project – “K Street” has become a cipher for Washington’s lobbying establishment and “J Street,” missing from Washington’s downtown grid, has become a local “in” joke – the new project kicks off with a hush-hush fundraiser next Monday hosted by former Clinton administration official Jeremy Ben Ami and Daniel Levy, director of the Prospects for Peace Initiative of the Century Foundation.

“For too long, the loudest American voices in political and policy debates have been those on the far right – often Republican neoconservatives or extreme Christian Zionists,” according to the invitation. “J Street aims to change that. We are the first and only lobby and PAC (political action committee) dedicated to ensuring Israel’s security, changing the direction of American policy in the Middle East and opening up American political debate about Israel and the Middle East.”

Besser quotes University of Florida political scientist Ken Wald making two points, both of which seem outdated to me:

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Liberal Israel lobby: Update I

Stephen Walt, co-author of “The Israel Lobby” complains that I misrepresented his views in a post on Tuesday. I wrote that “I reject the claims of Mearsheimer, Walt & groupies that a pro-Israel cabal controls American policy toward the Mideast.” He’s right that I should have avoided the word “cabal,” which implies a well-coordinated, secret group.

In fact, one of the infuriating aspect of the book is that the “the lobby” they attack is such a “loose coalition” that it changes shape from page to page. Is Tom Friedman part of “the lobby’s” media contigent, or a victim of “the lobby’s” efforts to silence critics? Is the dovish Israel Policy Forum part of the lobby, or opposed to it?

A serious work of scholarship would have chosen a specific organization or organizations, and closely followed their work – using primary documents and interviews with the people involved. Mearsheimer and Walt did not perform 

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