Ponzi’s Victims

Gershom Gorenberg

A parable that will lead me to the fall of Bernie Madoff:

My first newspaper job was in the old Jerusalem Post, back when the rag was union-owned, left-of-center, and still one-fourth worthy of being called a newspaper. I wanted to work with words and ideas and politics. I also believed – and still do – in the old fifth-grade civics-lesson mission of a free press. I wouldn’t have considered for a moment being a wordsmith for an ad agency, certainly not one hawking cigarettes, no matter how much more money I could have made. The Jerusalem Post ran front page ads. Some were for cigarettes.

So while I considered journalism a calling, worth more than a big paycheck, I too lived off the scraps from the tables of the tobacco shareholders. I didn’t like it. I could tell myself that were I the boss, I wouldn’t have taken those ads, and that if the cancermongers went broke the next day, the paper would still limp along. But I couldn’t get around the fact that I was a vegetarian living off his uncle the butcher.

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Is Birthright for Bibi?

Haim Watzman

Is Birthright a wonderful program that encourages Jewish identity and commitment to Israel, or is it a propaganda machine aimed at promoting a particular right-wing nationalist vision of the Jewish state?

The latter, says Josh Nathan-Kazis in his op-ed How Your Free Trip Will Help Israeli Hard Liner Benjamin Netanyahu Become Prime Minister in the Jewish student magazine New Voices . Nathan-Kazis focuses on Birthright’s dependence on the largesse of right-wing casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson. According to Nathan-Kazis, Adelson has donated $67 million to Birthright and supplied a third of its operating budget for 2008. Adelson also funds the right-wing, pro-Likud newspaper Yisrael HaYom and is a major backer of the Jerusalem-based neo-con think-tank, The Shalem Center

Nathan-Kazis is right that wherever money is involved, we should suspect political influence. And, in fact, some young American Jews who sign up for a Birthright trips find themselves being handed a largely Greater Israel, neo-con bill of goods on their trips. But certainly not all, and evidently not because of Adelson’s money.

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