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     Shmaltz
Fat, especially chicken fat. Used in place of butter in kosher homes when a meat meal is served. The cracklings left after chicken fat is rendered are gribbenes or greevn. My mother made her own chicken fat and kept it in the refrigerator in a Skippy’s Peanut Butter jar.
    There’s a Romanian-Jewish restaurant on the old Lower East Side, Sammy the Waiter’s, that has one of those glass pitchers other restaurants use for cream or maple syrup, filled with schmaltz on every table. Marvin Hamlisch’s dad used to play accordion at this restaurant. It was during one of his breaks that Zero Mostel stood up and shouted at the top of his lungs, “This food killed more Jews than Hitler!”
    My theory is that although Jews in Eastern Europe were poor, we were fairly certain of two good meals a year; for the new year in the fall and for Passover in the spring. So we invented a cuisine we could taste for six months just to remember.
    Shmaltz and its Americanized adjective, shmaltzy (in Yiddish it would be shmaltzik), also refer to high-cholesterol styles of music and tear-jerking drama.
    —Joel Siegel, Lessons For Dylan: On Life, Love, the Movies, and Me, PublicAffairs, 2004, p. 239.
Zero Mostel’s restaurant review is corroborated by The New Yorker, Volume 50 (1974), p. 84.

European cultures are of three kinds: wine drinkers who cook their food in olive oil; beer drinkers who cook their food in butter; and vodka drinkers who don’t much care for cooking, or food. My lifelong project is to ascend from the last position, to the first.
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Omer Bartov, one of the world’s leading authorities on the subject of genocide, recounts its lessons to Salon:
Just imagine the Jews of Germany exercising the right to bear arms and fighting the SA, SS and the Wehrmacht. The [Russian] Red Army lost 7 million men fighting the Wehrmacht, despite its tanks and planes and artillery. The Jews with pistols and shotguns would have done better?
As a matter of fact, though nowise limited to pistols and shotguns, my Jewish father and his brother did a lot better inflicting disproportionate casualties upon the Wehrmacht on behalf of the Red Army. By contrast, owing to the Soviet policy of victim disarmament, they were unable to resist the emissaries of their triumphant State, dispatched to convey them to the GULag after the closing of international hostilities.

Is Professor Bartov making the point that in so far as my family and my kind are powerless to resist la raison d’État on our own, we might as well put our trust in our democratically elected princes, and learn to relax and enjoy their periodic infringements of our fundamental rights? Or is his reference to having been a combat soldier and officer in the Israeli Defense Forces, and knowing “what these assault rifles can do” meant to suggest to the contrary, that we Jews ought to arm ourselves with the deadliest small arms available, in consideration of two millennia of oppression and genocide visited upon our ancestors?

Arms, kept and borne individually or institutionally, aren’t a panacea. Thus France was heavily armed, but quickly succumbed to the Nazis, whereupon she used her arms to round up French Jews for extermination on their behalf. Would I and my likes be morally, physiologically, or economically better off armed or disarmed on the occasion, or in the anticipation, of the next Vel d’Hiv roundup?
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Еврейский анекдот наоборот:
— Мойша, а ты знаешь, что Жора — пидорас?
— Что, он занял денег и не отдаёт?!
— Да нет, в хорошем смысле.

Une histoire juive à rebours :
— Moishe, tu savais que Gégé est un pédé ?
— Quoi, il a emprunté de l’argent et ne le rembourse pas ?
— Non, dans le bon sens.

The contrary of a Jewish joke:
— Moishe, you know that Gerry is a fag?
— What, he borrowed money and refuses to repay?
— No, in a good way.



Tenue de soirée vingt-sept ans après:

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Среди нас оказался вчерашний школьник, мальчик с нефритом, на строжайшей диете. Вся еда ему не годилась, вся без исключения. Но кто это будет учитывать в бараке? Жри, что дают! Узнал об этом старик, отсидевший по тюрьмам семнадцать лет, принес назавтра пару плиточек шоколада. На свои купил, на запрятанные деньги.
    — Кто против них, — сказал, — тот мой друг. Где бы их ни давили, я рад.
    Это он притащил горстку конфет, пачку вафель, белый хлеб для школьника. В жестокий шмон умудрился пронести под стелькой ботинка еще одну плитку шоколада. От тепла шоколад расплавился, потек, пропах лишним запахом: пришлось его выкинуть.
    — Феликс Кандель, Зона отдыха, 1979
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В 1989 году на кампусе Калифорнийского университета в Лос-Анджелесе меня окликнул хасид.
—Молодой человек, вы еврей?
—Предположим, что да.
—Не хотите ли исполнить мицву, наложив тфилин?
—Спасибо, я это уже пробовал. Ничего из этого не вышло.
—Как это так? Исполнение мицвот является Вашей обязанностью.
—Наши мнения расходятся. Я так не считаю.
—А что же Вы считаете? Скажите, кто по-Вашему самый мудрый человек в мире?
Разговор явно шёл по направлению к Менахем-Мендлу Шнеерсону, предполагаемому Божьим помазанником. Я решил резко изменить курс.
—Я считаю, что самым мудрым человеком в мире на настоящий день является Алонзо Чёрч.
Хасид взволновался.
—Как так? Кто это такой?
—Это мой учитель логики. Он преподаёт в нашем университете. Если хотите, я могу Вас познакомить.
—Нет, спасибо… не надо.
На этом разговор и закончился.

Чёрч научил меня, что ничьё мнение никогда не является, и не может быть решающим. К сожалению, его больше нет в живых. В качестве нынешнего авторитета, я назову Карло Гинзбурга.
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To claim an interest, I have been in social media for over 21 years, and signed up on Facebook long before it opened beyond Harvard students and alumni. From this perespective, I am reminded of an anecdote told by Jerry Weintraub:
Samuel and Rose Weintraub came west to visit their older son, the one who would not go into the gem trade, to see what kind of life he had made for himself. “Now I have a big mansion in Beverly Hills, a Rolls, a chauffeur, fresh flowers, butlers, swimming pools—everything,” Jerry told me. “My mom and dad arrive, and I pick them up with my driver, and my mom is beaming. We get to my house and we’re serving caviar, Havana cigars for my father, and champagne—the whole deal. After a couple of days of this, my dad says, ‘I want to talk to you. Let’s take a walk.’ We get outside and he says, ‘I want to ask you a question and I want you to tell me the truth and I don’t want any bullshit from you. Are you in the Mafia? How did you get all this? You were never that smart.’”
    I’m creative. I did it.
    Where’s your inventory? How can you have this much money and not have an inventory? It doesn’t make sense to me.
    “The next day I made arrangements. My mother’s favorite was Cary Grant. And horses. We drove to Hollywood Park [racetrack] and Cary Grant was waiting for us. He opened the door and looked at my mother and said, ‘Rose, I’m your date for lunch.’
    “They had lunch and he made her bets for her and sat with her. I don’t think my father liked it so much. That evening I made a dinner party with all the stars. And Cary came. I remember going to the bar, and my mom was having a glass of champagne. And Sinatra came up and said, ‘Hey, Rose, I heard you had a great date for lunch today.’ And she said, ‘Yeah, but I like my Sammy better.’”
— Rich Cohen, “Jerry Weintraub Presents!”, Vanity Fair, March 2008
In the instant conversation, I am struck by the preponderance of cutting edge XXIst century cinematographers channeling an itinerant Jewish jeweler from a century ago. Lighten up. Everyone serves as inventory to all sorts of entities, from governments to maggots. No one leaves this world uneaten. My favorite strategy is enjoying the set and its setting whilst pacing my consumption, as an agent and patient alike.

our 4:20

Apr. 20th, 2012 10:21 pm
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…certainly beats the Old World version. Then again, we have inherited a bit of that latter in our New World. Founded by Josef Bischof in 1978, the Old World German Restaurant has long hosted periodic celebrations of Hitler’s birthday and conferences of Holocaust revisionists. In 1997 Josef exercised his inalienable rights under the First Amendment thusly: “Aust these no good [Santa Barbara County] supervisors. They deprived me of my property rights! They deserve the Auschwitz treatments.” Here is his daughter putting a spin on it:
He probably would have been better off saying, “The Santa Barbara County Supervisors should be sent to Siberia”—maybe then he wouldn’t have been such a “Bad Guy”. If you know your history, Stalin was just as evil as Hitler, and during WWII, people were deathly afraid of being sent to Siberia. However, the remark about Russia would not have pushed the buttons of so many, nor will Stalin ever be as memorable to the American public because of the significant amount of Jews in this country.
—Cyndie Bischof of Huntington Beach, 20 January 2000, OCWeekly
For my heritage of a GULag survivor, the best part is the mass noun amount used in lieu of numbering Jews.


Unheimlichen Geburtstag, Herr Schicklgruber! I’m taking Bragmardo and my Swiss friends on a stroll in the Old World.
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Человек стремится всю жизнь не быть посредственностью (חוצפה, если не ὕβρις), или хотя бы не осознавать себя оною (tragische Konflikt, не ἁμαρτία, а ἀμαθία). Кончает посредственным скандалистом—не в силу лени, и не за неимением таланта, а из-за провинциальной ограниченности.

В Париже или Берлине пожалуй вышел бы Доминик Стросс-Кан или Даниэль Кон-Бендит; в Лос Ангелесе или Нью Йорке—Майкл Милкен или Эл Франкен. В Питере знаменательно произошёл Виктор Леонидович Топоров.

r.i.p.

Mar. 1st, 2012 10:33 pm
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Better to be king for a night than schmuck for a lifetime” quoth Rupert Pupkin thirty years ago. Hibernian Hebrew Andrew Breitbart assclowned summa cum laude for seventeen years. May all nincompoops celebrating his untimely passing bend over for The New York Times in infernal perpetuity.
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СТАРЫЙ ДОБРЫЙ ЙОСИФ

1. Ах, Йосиф, Йосиф, старый добрый Йосиф, —
Какие есть на свете имена.
Состриг ли ты свою больную мо́золь,
Иль до сих пор она тебе нужна?

Ах, Йосиф, Йосиф, славный, добрый Йосиф,
Состриг ли ты любимую мозо́ль?
Зачем чтоб наступали все,
Лучше, чтоб упали все.
Выставить лишь ножку ты изволь.
Припев:

С добрым утром, тётя Хая, ой-ёй-ёй.
Вам посылка из Шанхая, ой-ёй-ёй,
А в посылке три китайца, ой-ёй-ёй,
Три китайца красят яйца, ой-ёй-ёй.




2. Я как-то встретил Йосифа на рынке,
Он жидкость от мозо́лей покупал,
В зубах держал сметану Йосиф в крынке,
Ну, а руками мо́золь обнимал.

Хотел я поздороваться с ним чинно,
Улыбку сотворил и шляпу снял,
Но Йосиф вдруг заметил тётю Хаю,
Нырнул кормой и мимо прошагал.
Припев.
3. Так вот она какая, тётя Хая,
Йосиф, видно, с нею не в ладах.
Ей кто-то шлет посылки из Шанхая,
А Йосиф умирает в мозоля́х.

Но Йосиф сострижет больную мо́золь
И кой-кому намнёт еще бока,
И вспомнит он тогда про тётю Хаю
И ей подставит ножку, а пока…
Припев.
2-й и 3-й куплеты исполняются на мелодию первой части 1-го куплета.

За основу мелодии песни взят фокстрот “Джозеф” (музыкальная обработка А. Цфасмана, не позднее 1941 года). Слова и мелодия записаны с голоса Г. Димонда не позднее 1980 года.


Шел трамвай десятый номер… Городские песни. Для голоса в сопровождении фортепиано (гитары). / Сост. А. П. Павлинов и Т. П. Орлова. СПб., “Композитор – Санкт-Петербург“, 2005. Переделка песни 1920-х гг. “Тетя Хая” на мелодию фокстрота 1920-х гг. “Joseph“. Написана в начале 1970-х годов в Ленинграде Рудольфом Фуксом для Аркадия Северного.

Из книги Игоря Ефимова и Дмитрия Петрова “Аркадий Северный, Советский Союз!” (2007):
Ну, и наконец, Фукс даёт “путёвку в жизнь” ещё одной тёте, в пару к тёте Бесе, – тёте Хае!!! На мотив джазовой мелодии 20-х годов “Joseph” ещё с нэповских времён были известны весёлые куплеты с припевом про трёх китайцев. Рудольф знает же только припев, и дописывает к нему куплеты опять-таки сам. И, что особенно примечательно, на основе “личных впечатлений“, привезённых им всё из того же Бердичева:
      Ах, Ёзель, Ёзель, старый, добрый Ёзель,
      Какие есть на свете имена!
      Состриг ли ты свою больную мoзоль,
      Иль до сих пор она в тебе видна?
“…Именно Ёзель, а не Йозеф, как стали потом петь. Так звали дядю моей жены. И мозоль у него была, и все об неё спотыкались. Вот я про это и сочинил песню” – так рассказывал об этом Рудольф Фукс. История, действительно, куда как содержательна… Что не помешало, однако, стать этой песне очень популярной. “Как раз в это время кто-то нам принёс кассету с записями Аркадия Северного. Голос Аркаши всем очень понравился, но песни на кассете были не очень интересные, кроме одной – про тётю Хаю. А точнее – про дядю всем известного Рудика Фукса, про которого Рудик эту песню и написал, и которого звали Йозеф. Мы её выучили, и первый раз сыграли на дне рождения нашего официанта, которого тоже звали Юзя. Песня настолько понравилась народу, что мы её стали играть каждый день раз по десять на заказ” – так вспоминал потом о своих впечатлениях от этого поэтического шедевра будущий “Брат Жемчужный” Евгений Драпкин.
ВАРИАНТ

Йозеф

Ах, Йозеф, Йозеф, старый добрый Йозеф, —
Какие есть на свете имена!
Состриг ли ты свою больную мо́золь,
Иль до сих пор она в тебе жива?

Ах, Йозеф, Йозеф, старый добрый Йозеф,
Состриг ли ты любимую мозо́ль?
Лучше чтоб не знали все,
Лучше чтоб упали все, …
Выставить лишь ножку ты изволь!

С добрым утром, тётя Хая, ай-ай-ай!
Вам посылка из Шанхая, ай-ай-ай!
А в посылке три китайца, ой-ой-ой!
Три китайца красят яйца, ой-ой-ой!

Я как-то встретил Йозефа на рынке, —
Он жидкость от мозо́лей покупал.
В зубах держал сметны Йозеф крынку,
Ну а руками — руками мо́золь обнимал.

Хотел я поздороваться с ним чинно,
Улыбку сотворил и шляпу снял, —
Но Йозеф вдруг заметил тётю Хаю, —
Вильнул кормой — и мимо прошагал!

С добрым утром, тётя Хая, ай-ай-ай!
Вам посылка из Шанхая, ай-ай-ай!
А в посылке три китайца, ой-ой-ой!
Три китайца красят яйца, ой-ой-ой!

Так вот она, какая тётя Хая, —
И Йозеф с нею, видно, не в ладах, —
Ей кто-то шлёт посылки из Шанхая,
А Йозеф умирает в мозоля́х!

Но Йозеф сострижёт больную мо́золь
И кой-кому, ой, кой-кому намнёт бока!
И встретит он тогда и тётю Хаю,
И ей подставит ножку, а пока…

С добрым утром, тётя Хая, ай-ай-ай!
Вам посылка из Шанхая, ай-ай-ай!
А в посылке три китайца, ой-ой-ой!
Три китайца красят яйца, ой-ой-ой!

Тексты песен из репертуара Аркадия Северного, Тихорецкий концерт (1979 г.).

JOSEPH! JOSEPH!
(Sammy Cahn / Nellie Casman / Saul Chaplin / Samuel Steinberg)



The Andrews Sisters - 1938

A certain maid I know, is so afraid her boy
Will never ask her, will she name the day
He calls on her each night, and when she dims the light
It’s ten to one that you would hear her say

Oh Joseph, Joseph, won’t you make your mind up
It’s time I knew just how I stand with you
My heart’s no clock that I can stop and wind up
Each time we make up after being through

So listen Joseph, Joseph time is fleeting
And here and there my hair is turning grey
My mother has a fear, wedding bells I’ll never hear
Joseph, Joseph, won’t you name the day

Oh Joseph, won’t you name the day
Oh Joseph, won’t you name the day
Oh Joseph, won’t you name the day
Name the day, name the day

Oh Joseph, make your mind up
It’s time I knew just how I stand with you
My heart’s no clock that I can wind up
Oh Joseph, each time we make up after being through

Oh Joseph, Joseph, Joseph, time is fleeting
And here and there my hair is turning grey
My mama has a fear, wedding bells I’ll never hear
Oh Joseph, Joseph, Joseph, won’t you name the day

Oh Joseph, won’t you name the day
Oh Joseph, won’t you name the day
Oh Joseph, won’t you name the day
Name the day, name the day



Also recorded by: Stanley Black; Ruby Braff; Café Accordion Orch.; London Festival Orch.; Glenn Miller; Russ Morgan & His Orch.; Gus Viseur.
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    Все жиды города Киева и его окрестностей должны явиться в понедельник 29 сентября 1941 года к 8 часам утра на угол Мельниковой и Доктеривской улиц (возле кладбища).
    Взять с собой документы, деньги, ценные вещи, а также теплую одежду, белье и пр.
    Кто из жидов не выполнит этого распоряжения и будет найден в другом месте, будет расстрелян.
    Кто из граждан проникнет в оставленные жидами квартиры и присвоит себе вещи, будет расстрелян.
    Наказується всім жидам міста Києва і околиць зібратися в понеділок дня 29 вересня 1941 року до год. 8 ранку на вул. Мельника — Доктерівській (коло кладовища).
    Всі повинні забрати з собою документи, гроші, білизну та інше.
    Хто не підпорядкується цьому розпорядженню, буде розстріляний.
    Хто займе жидівське мешкання або розграбує предмети з тих мешкань, буде розстріляний.


    Sämtliche Juden der Stadt Kiew und Umgebung haben sich am Montag, dem 29. September 1941 bis 8 Uhr; Ecke Melnik- und Dokteriwski-Strasse (an den Friedhoefen) einzufinden.
    Mitzunehmen sind Dokumente, Geld und Wertsachen sowie warme Bekleidung, Waesche usw.
    Wer dieser Aufforderung nicht nachkommt und anderweitig angetroffen wird, wird erschossen.
    Wer in verlassene Wohnungen von Juden eindringt oder sich Gegenstaende daraus aneignet, wird erschossen.
    All Jews of Kiev and its environs must appear on Monday, 29 September 1941 at 8 o’clock in the morning on the corner of Melnikova and Dokterivska Street (near the cemetery).
    All must take along documents, money, valuables, as well as warm clothes, underwear, etc.
    Any Jews who fail to comply with this order and are found elsewhere will be shot.
    Any citizens who enter the apartments vacated by Jews and appropriate their goods will be shot.


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Random Reflections of a Second-Rate Mind

Dining at a fashionable restaurant on New York’s chic Upper East Side, I noticed a Holocaust survivor at the next table. A man of sixty or so was showing his companions a number tattooed on his arm while I overheard him say he had gotten it at Auschwitz. He was graying and distinguished—looking with a sad, handsome face, and behind his eyes there was the predictable haunted look. Clearly he had suffered and gleaned deep lessons from his anguish. I heard him describe how he had been beaten and had watched his fellow inmates being hanged and gassed, and how he had scrounged around in the camp garbage for anything—a discarded potato peel—to keep his corpse-thin body from giving in to disease. As I eavesdropped I wondered: If an angel had come to him then, when he was scheming desperately not to be among those chosen for annihilation, and told him that one day he’d be sitting on Second Avenue in Manhattan in a trendy Italian restaurant amongst lovely young women in designer jeans, and that he’d be wearing a fine suit and ordering lobster salad and baked salmon, would he have grabbed the angel around the throat and throttled him in a sudden fit of insanity? 
    Talk about cognitive dissonance! All I could see as I hunched over my pasta were truncheons raining blows on his head as second after second dragged on in unrelieved agony and terror. I saw him weak and freezing—sick, bewildered, thirsty, and in tears, an emaciated zombie in stripes. Yet now here he was, portly and jocular, sending back the wine and telling the waiter it seemed to him slightly too tannic. I knew without a doubt then and there that no philosopher ever to come along, no matter how profound, could even begin to understand the world. 
    Later that night I recalled that at the end of Elie Wiesel’s fine book, Night, he said that when his concentration camp was liberated he and others thought first and foremost of food. Then of their families and next of sleeping with women, but not of revenge. He made the point several times that the inmates didn’t think of revenge. I find it odd that I, who was a small boy during World War II and who lived in America, unmindful of any of the horror Nazi victims were undergoing, and who never missed a good meal with meat and warm bed to sleep in at night, and whose memories of those years are only blissful and full of good times and good music—that I think of nothing but revenge.
***
Confessions of a hustler. At ten I hustled dreidel. I practiced endlessly spinning the little lead top and could make the letters come up in my favor more often than not. After that I mercilessly contrived to play dreidel with kids and took their money. 
    “Let’s play for two cents,” I’d say, my eyes waxing wide and innocent like a big-time pool shark’s. Then I’d lose the first game deliberately. After, I’d move the stakes up. Four cents, maybe six, maybe a dime. Soon the other kid would find himself en route home, gutted and muttering. Dreidel hustling got me through the fifth grade. I often had visions of myself turning pro. I wondered if when I got older I could play my generation’s equivalent of Legs Diamond or Dutch Schultz for a hundred thousand a game. I saw myself bathed in won money, sitting around a green felt table or getting off great trains, my best dreidel in a smart carrying case as I went from city to city looking for action, always cleaning up, always drinking bourbon, always taking care of my precious manicured spinning hand.
***
On the cover of this magazine, under the title, is printed the line: A Bimonthly Jewish Critique of Politics, Culture & Society. But why a Jewish critique? Or a gentile critique? Or any limiting perspective? Why not simply a magazine with articles written by human beings for other humans to read? Aren’t there enough real demarcations without creating artificial ones? After all, there’s no biological difference between a Jew and a gentile despite what my Uncle Max says. We’re talking here about exclusive clubs that serve no good purpose; they exist only to form barriers, trade commercially on human misery, and provide additional differences amongst people so they can further rationalize their natural distrust and aggression. 
    After all, you know by ten years old there’s nothing bloodier or more phony than the world’s religious history. What could be more awful than, say, Protestant versus Catholic in Northern Ireland? Or the late Ayatollah? Or the expensive cost of tickets to my local synagogue so my parents can pray on the high holidays? (In the end they could only afford to be seated downstairs, not in the main room, and the service was piped in to them. The smart money sat ringside, of course.) Is there anything uglier than families that don’t want their children to marry loved ones because they’re of the wrong religion? Or professional clergy whose pitch is as follows: “There is a God. Take my word for it. And I pretty much know what He wants and how to get on with Him and I’ll try to help you to get and remain in His good graces, because that way your life won’t be so fraught with terror. Of course, it’s going to cost you a little for my time and stationery…” 
    Incidentally, I’m well aware that one day I may have to fight because I’m a Jew, or even die because of it, and no amount of professed apathy to religion will save me. On the other hand, those who say they want to kill me because I’m Jewish would find other reasons if I were not Jewish. I mean, think if there were no Jews or Catholics, or if everyone were white or German or American, if the earth was one country, one color; then endless new, creative rationalizations would emerge to kill “other people”—the left-handed, those who prefer vanilla to strawberry, all baritones, any person who wears saddle shoes. 
    So what was my point before I digressed? Oh—do I really want to contribute to a magazine that subtly helps promulgate phony and harmful differences? (Here I must say that Tikkun appears to me as a generally wonderful journal—politically astute, insightful, and courageously correct on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.) 
    I experienced this type of ambivalence before when a group wanted me to front and raise money for the establishment of a strong pro-Israel political action committee. I don’t approve of PACs, but I’ve always been a big rooter for Israel. I agonized over the decision and in the end I did front the PAC and helped them raise money and get going. Then, after they were off and running, I quietly slipped out. This was the compromise I made which I’ve never regretted. Still, I’d be happier contributing to Tikkun if it had a different line, or no line, under the title. After all, what if other magazines felt the need to employ their own religious perspectives? You might have: Field and Stream: A Catholic Critique of Fishing and Hunting. This month: “Angling for Salmon as You Baptize.”
***
I have always preferred women to men. This goes back to the Old Testament where the ladies have it all over their cowering, pious counterparts. Eve knew the consequences when she ate the apple. Adam would have been content to just follow orders and live on like a mindless sybarite. But Eve knew it was better to acquire knowledge even if it meant grasping her mortality with all its accompanying anxiety. I’m personally glad men and women run to cover up their nakedness. It makes undressing someone much more exciting. And with the necessity of people having to earn their livings by the sweat of their brows we have a much more interesting and creative world. Much more fascinating than the sterile Garden of Eden which I always picture existing in the soft-focus glow of a beer commercial. I also had a crush on Lot’s wife. When she looked back at the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah she knew she was disobeying God. But she did it anyway. And she knew what a cruel, vindictive character He was. So it must have been very important to her to look back. But why? To see what? Well, I think to see her lover. The man she was having an extramarital affair with. And wouldn’t you if you were married to Lot? This self-righteous bore, this paragon of virtue in a corrupt, swinging city. Can you imagine life with this dullard? Living only to please God. Resisting all the temptations that made Sodom and Gomorrah pulsate with vitality. The one good man in the city. Indeed. Of course she was making it with someone else. But who? Some used-idol salesman? Who knows? But I like to think she felt passion for a human being while Lot felt it only for the deep, pontificating voice of the creator of the universe. So naturally she was crushed when they had to leave town in a hurry. And as God destroyed all the bars and broke up all the poker games and the sinners went up in smoke, and as Lot tiptoed for the border, holding the skirts of his robes high to avoid tripping, Mrs. Lot turned to see her beloved cinque à sept one more time and that’s when unfortunately the Almighty, in his infinite forgiveness, turned her into a seasoning. 
    So that leaves Job’s wife. My favorite woman in all of literature. Because when her cringing, put-upon husband asked the Lord “Why me?” and the Lord told him to shut up and mind his own business and that he shouldn’t even dare ask, Job accepted it, but the Missus, already in the earth at that point, had previously scored with a quotable line of unusual dignity and one that Job would have been far too obsequious to come up with: “Curse God and die” was the way she put it. And I loved her for it because she was too much of her own person to let herself be shamelessly abused by some vain and sadistic Holy Spirit.
***
I was amazed at how many intellectuals took issue with me over a piece I wrote a while back for the New York Times saying I was against the practice of Israeli soldiers going door-to-door and randomly breaking the hands of Palestinians as a method of combating the intifada. I said also I was against the too-quick use of real bullets before other riot control methods were tried. I was for a more flexible attitude on negotiating land for peace. All things I felt to be not only more in keeping with Israel’s high moral stature but also in its own best interest. I never doubted the correctness of my feelings and I expected all who read it to agree. Visions of a Nobel danced in my head and, in truth, I had even formulated the first part of my acceptance speech. Now, I have frequently been accused of being a self-hating Jew, and while it’s true I am Jewish and I don’t like myself very much, it’s not because of my persuasion. The reasons lie in totally other areas—like the way I look when I get up in the morning, or that I can never read a road map. In retrospect, the fact that I did not win a peace prize but became an object of some derision was what I should have expected. 
    “How can you criticize a place you’ve never been to?” a cabbie asked me. I pointed out I’d never been many places whose politics I took issue with, like Cuba for instance. But this line of reasoning cut no ice. 
    “Who are you to speak up?” was a frequent question in my hate mail. I replied I was an American citizen and a human being, but neither of these affiliations carried enough weight with the outraged. 
    The most outlandish cut of all was from the Jewish Defense League, which voted me Pig of the Month. How they misunderstood me! If only they knew how close some of my inner rages have been to theirs. (In my movie Manhattan, for example, I suggested breaking up a Nazi rally not with anything the ACLU would approve, but with baseball bats.) 
    But it was the intellectuals, some of them close friends, who hated most of all that I had made my opinions public on such a touchy subject. And yet, despite all their evasions and circumlocutions, the central point seemed to me inescapable: Israel was not responding correctly to this new problem. 
    “The Arabs are guilty for the Middle East mess, the bloodshed, the terrorism, with no leader to even try to negotiate with,” reasoned the typical thinker. 
    “True,” I agreed with Socratic simplicity. 
    “Victims of the Holocaust deserve a homeland, a place to be free and safe.” 
    “Absolutely.” I was totally in accord. 
    “We can’t afford disunity. Israel is in a precarious situation.” Here I began to feel uneasy, because we can afford disunity. 
    “Do you want the soldiers going door-to-door and breaking hands?” I asked, cutting to the kernel of my complaint. 
    “Of course not.” 
    “So?” 
    “I’d still rather you hadn’t written that piece.” Now I’d be fidgeting in my chair, waiting for a cogent rebuttal to the breaking-of-hands issue. “Besides,” my opponent argued, “the Times prints only one side.” 
    “But even the Israeli press—” 
    “You shouldn’t have spoken out,” he interrupted. 
    “Many Israelis agree,” I said, “and moral issues apart, why hand the Arabs a needless propaganda victory?” 
    “Yes, yes, but still you shouldn’t have said anything. I was disappointed in you.” Much talk followed by both of us about the origins of Israel, the culpability of Arab terrorists, the fact there’s no one in charge of the enemy to negotiate with, but in the end it always came down to them saying, “You shouldn’t have spoken up,” and me saying, “But do you think they should randomly break hands?” and them adding, “Certainly not—but I’d still feel better if you had just not written that piece.” 
    My mother was the final straw. She cut me out of her will and then tried to kill herself just to hasten my realization that I was getting no inheritance.
***
At fifteen I received as a gift a pair of cuff links with a William Steig cartoon on them. A man with a spear through his body was pictured and the accompanying caption read, “People are no damn good.” A generalization, an oversimplification, and yet it was the only way I ever could get my mind around the Holocaust. Even at fifteen I used to read Anne Frank’s line about people being basically good and place it on a par with Will Rogers’s pandering nonsense, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” 
    The questions for me were not: How could a civilized people, and especially the people of Goethe and Mozart, do what they did to another people? And how could the world remain silent? Remain silent and indeed close their doors to millions who could have, with relative simplicity, been plucked from the jaws of agonizing death? At fifteen I felt I knew the answers. If you went with the Anne Frank idea or the Will Rogers line, I reasoned as an adolescent, of course the Nazi horrors became unfathomable. But if you paid more attention to the line on the cuff links, no matter how unpleasant that caption was to swallow, things were not so mysterious. After all, I had read about all those supposedly wonderful neighbors throughout Europe who lived beside Jews lovingly and amiably. They shared laughter and fun and the same experiences I shared with my community and friends. And I read, also, how they turned their backs on the Jews instantly when it became the fashion and even looted their homes when they were left empty by sudden departure to the camps. This mystery that had confounded all my relatives since World War II was not such a puzzle if I understood that inside every heart lived the worm of self-preservation, of fear, greed, and an animal will to power. And the way I saw it, it was nondiscriminating. It abided in gentile or Jew, black, white, Arab, European, or American. It was part of who we all were, and that the Holocaust could occur was not all so strange. History had been filled with unending examples of equal bestiality, differing only cosmetically. 
    The real mystery that got me through my teen years was that every once in a while one found an act of astonishing decency and sacrifice. One heard of people who risked their lives and their family’s lives to save lives of people they didn’t even know. But these were the rare exceptions, and in the end there were not enough humane acts to keep six million from being murdered. 
    I still own those cuff links. They’re in a shoe box along with a lot of memorabilia from my teens. Recently I took them out and looked at them and all these thoughts returned to me. Perhaps I’m not quite as sure of all I was sure of at fifteen, but the waffling may come from just being middle-aged and not as virile. Certainly little has occurred since then to show me much different.
—Woody Allen, “Random Reflections of a Second-Rate Mind”, Tikkun, Jan/Feb 1990, pp. 13-15, 71-72


Israeli Beatings Are No Laughing Matter

I’m not a political activist. If anything, I’m an uninformed coward, totally convinced that a stand on any issue from subway fares to the length of women’s skirts will lead me before a firing squad.
    I prefer instead to sit around in coffee houses and grouse to loved ones privately about social conditions, invariably muttering imprecations on the heads of politicians, most of whom I put in a class with blackjack dealers.
    Take a look, for instance, at the Reagan Administration. Or just at the president himself. Or the men hoping to become president. Or the last cluster of presidents. These characters would hardly inspire confidence in the average bail bondsman.
    Another reason I’m apathetic to political cross-currents is that I’ve never felt man’s problems could be solved through political solutions. The sporadic reshuffling of pompous-sounding world leaders with their fibs and nostrums has proved meaningless. Not that one is always just as bad as the next—but almost.
    The truth is that whenever the subject turns to ameliorating mankind’s condition, my mind turns to more profound matters: man’s lack of a spiritual center, for example—or his existential terror. The empty universe is another item that scares me, along with eternal annihilation, aging, terminal illness and the absence of God in a hostile, raging void. I feel that as long as man is finite, he will never be truly relaxed.
    Having said all the above, I should also point out that there have been a few times that I have taken a public stance. Some people may remember that recently I came out vehemently against the colorization of movies without the director’s consent. This is hardly a life-and-death political issue, but it is an ethical one, and I was quite amazed at the lack of support my position received.
    Not that everyone was unsympathetic, but the moral indignation and protective legislation I thought would follow was not quite equal to the ire aroused when a person gets in front of you at the bakery. In the end, it was not the artist’s rights that prevailed but rather the “realities of the marketplace.”
    Another example was my anti-apartheid stance. So infuriated was I with treatment of blacks in South Africa that I proclaimed I will not allow my films to play there until a total policy change is agreed to. This unfortunately failed to topple the existing regime, and apartheid continues, though I have received grateful letters from Afrikaners who say that while they avoided my films before, now they are prevented from even wandering into one of them accidentally, and for this they thank me with all their hearts.
    Still, there was the gesture and the hope that it would stir others. And to a small degree, it has. And now after months of quiet in my own life, an other situation has arisen—a situation that is quite painful and confusing—and a stand must be taken.
    As a supporter of Israel, and as one who has always been outraged at the horrors inflicted on this little nation by hostile neighbors, vile terrorists and much of the world at large, I am appalled beyond measure by the treatment of the rioting Palestinians by the Jews.
    I mean, fellas, are you kidding? Beatings of people by soldiers to make examples of them? Breaking the hands of men and women so they can’t throw stones? Dragging civilians out of their houses at random to smash them with sticks in an effort to terrorize a population into quiet?
    Please understand that I have no sympathy for the way the Arabs have treated the Israelis. Indeed, sometimes you get the feeling you want to belt them—but only certain ones and for very specific acts.
    But am I reading the newspapers correctly? Were food and medical supplies withheld to make a rebellious community “uncomfortable”? Were real bullets fired to control crowds, and rubber ones only when the United States objected? Are we talking about state-sanctioned brutality and even torture?
    My goodness! Are these the people whose money I used to steal from those little blue-and-white cans after collecting funds for a Jewish homeland? I can’t believe it, and I don’t know exactly what is to be done, but I’m sure pulling out my movies is again not the answer.
    Perhaps for all of us who are rooting for Israel to continue to exist and prosper, the obligation is to speak out and use every method of pressure—moral, financial and political—to bring this wrongheaded approach to a halt.
—Woody Allen, The New York Times, 1 February 1988
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     “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism.”
—Martin Luther King, Harvard University, 1968

     “I was amazed at how many intellectuals took issue with me over a piece I wrote a while back for the New York Times saying I was against the practice of Israeli soldiers going door-to-door and randomly breaking the hands of Palestinians as a method of combating the intifada. I said also I was against the too-quick use of real bullets before other riot control methods were tried. I was for a more flexible attitude on negotiating land for peace. All things I felt to be not only more in keeping with Israel’s high moral stature but also in its own best interest. I never doubted the correctness of my feelings and I expected all who read it to agree. Visions of a Nobel danced in my head and, in truth, I had even formulated the first part of my acceptance speech. Now, I have frequently been accused of being a self-hating Jew, and while it’s true I am Jewish and I don’t like myself very much, it’s not because of my persuasion. The reasons lie in totally other areas—like the way I look when I get up in the morning, or that I can never read a road map. In retrospect, the fact that I did not win a peace prize but became an object of some derision was what I should have expected.”
—Woody Allen, “Random Reflections of a Second-Rate Mind”, Tikkun, Jan/Feb 1990

“Thanks to Weininger, I realised how wrong I was—I was not detached from the reality about which I wrote, and I never shall be. I am not looking at the Jews, or at Jewish identity, I am not looking at Israelis. I am actually looking in the mirror. With contempt, I am actually elaborating on the Jew in me.
    The Jew in me is not an island. He is joined by hostile enemies and counter-personalities who have also settled in my psyche. There are, inside me, many characters that oppose each other. It isn't as horrifying as it might sound. In fact, it is rather productive, amusing and certainly revealing. […]
    The present should be understood as a creative dynamic mode where past premeditates its future. But far more crucially, it is also where the imaginary future can re-write its past. I will try to elucidate this idea through a simple and hypothetical yet horrifying war scenario. We, for instance, can envisage an horrific situation in which an Israeli so-called ‘pre-emptive’ nuclear attack on Iran escalates into a disastrous nuclear war, in which tens of millions of people perish. I guess that amongst the survivors of such a nightmare scenario some may be bold enough to argue that ‘Hitler might have been right after all.’”
—Gilad Atzmon, The Wandering Who?: A Study of Jewish Identity Politics, O Books, 2011, pp. 94, 179

“Gilad Atzmon has written a fascinating and provocative book on Jewish identity in the modern world. He shows how assimilation and liberalism are making it incredibly difficult for Jews in the Diaspora to maintain a powerful sense of their ‘Jewishness.’ Panicked Jewish leaders, he argues, have turned to Zionism (blind loyalty to Israel) and scaremongering (the threat of another Holocaust) to keep the tribe united and distinct from the surrounding goyim. As Atzmon’s own case demonstrates, this strategy is not working and is causing many Jews great anguish. The Wandering Who? Should be widely read by Jews and non-Jews alike.”
John J. Mearsheimer, Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, September 2011

tuco blogs

Jul. 23rd, 2011 05:57 pm
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Like a circular firing squad, outstanding members of our Lumpencommentariat take aim at their opposites.

Anders Behring Breivik, conservative Norwegian activist currently credited with a body count steadily approaching three digits, has delivered a priceless boost for equal-opportunity bigotry, by inspiring a flurry of fallacious finger-pointing towards Muslim fundamentalists throughout the ranks of Western media. In recognition of his fair and balanced mayhem, liberal Jews at Tikkun Olam are gleefully reporting the allegations of Norwegian bloggers, crediting Beivik with having guest blogged for Atlas Shrugs, Jihad Watch and Gates of Vienna, and outing him as the author of a blog called Fjordman, long concerned with their goal of Defeating Eurabia. Meanwhile, their antagonists have published an alleged statement by Fjordman disclaiming “the utterly false rumor that [he is] the evil shooter from Utøya, the island just outside of Oslo”.


At the end of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti western The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, a tale of three gunslingers competing to find a fortune in buried Confederate gold, the last eponymous antagonist, more formally known as Tuco Benedicto Pacífico Juan María Ramírez, finds himself consigned to an apex of an equilateral triangle inscribed in the circular center of a Civil War cemetery, facing a Mexican standoff with his Good and Bad counterparts, Blondie and Angel Eyes. As The Good prevails over The Bad, The Ugly attempts to contribute to his triumph, but discovers that Blondie had unloaded his gun the night before. Tuco’s homicidal frustration enables Blondie to delegate the dirty work: “You see, in this world there’s two kinds of people, my friend—those with loaded guns, and those who dig. You dig!”

Alas, hot air blown back and forth falls short of flying lead. You dig?
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A young Muslim maid from old Guinea
Sucked frog cock to summon a djinnea:
“I wish for a way
To make the Jew pay!”
Alas, the DA was a ninnea.



Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney,
on 19 May 2001 after the DSK indictment.
Seth Wenig/Associated Press
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More bad writing from The New Yorker:
How do you know that a Jewish woman has had an orgasm?
[…]
Oh, and you know about the Jewish woman climaxing because she drops her emery board.
The punchline muddies up the lede. You know that a Jewish woman has had an orgasm because you see her drop her emery board.

Caravaggio, “Giuditta e Oloferne”, 1598-1599

No one but barely possibly herself knows anything about a Jewish woman having an orgasm.
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P.J. O’Rourke: Foreigners Around the World Read more... )
JAPANESE

Racial Characteristics:
Resembling the Chinese in many respects but mercifully less numerous. Their idea of a good time is to torture people, preferably by inserting a glass rod in the penis, then doing the predictable thing. And this is only for captured business competitors. During time of war, they resort to more drastic measures entirely. They have no new ideas of their own or any native creativity, but they are able to copy everything we do quite nicely, considering the color of their skin. Their diet consists principally of fish, which they do not cook or even, in many cases, kill. It’s rumored that they know of sex acts peculiar unto themselves, and with any luck, so it will stay. The most frightening thing about the Japanese is that we’ve tried the atomic bomb on them twice and it doesn’t seem to have much effect.

Good Points:
Frequently commit suicide.

Proper Forms of Address:
Nip, Jap, dink, gook, yellow rat.

An Anecdote Illustrating Something of the Japanese Character:
There was once a half-Japanese, half-Polish businessman in Tokyo who attempted to export miniaturized dildos.
Read more... )
National Lampoon, May 1976

P.S:
Allied prisoners often reported on individual cases of mistreatment they had personally witnessed: Kanburi No. 2 Coolie Hospital, where “coolies were kept standing for hours with weights tied to the penis” — apparently for sport; Kinsayoke Checking Station, where coolies undergoing rectal swab examination for dysentery were, “one after the other, kicked violently by the Japanese medical officers”; Niki Camp, where members of a Japanese hygiene unit, during routine examinations, delighted in inserting glass rods into the vaginas of Chinese women patients; Upper Concuita Camp, where “sick coolies were used for the practice of judo and thrown over the shoulders of Japanese.” At Concuita, too, fifty to sixty workers were killed with doses of morphia and potassium permanganate.
    “These instances could be multiplied,” Crawford said, “ad nauseam.”
    Repeatedly, the Allies protested the mistreatment of prisoners of war and others in the Thai-Burmese camps. As in a game of badminton, the Japanese foreign minister of the day swatted back the diplomatic shuttlecock, dismissing the accusations as lies. On July 24, 1943, for example, the defendant Mamoru Shigemitsu, through the Swiss ambassador in Japan, replied to one protest by observing that “competent authorities … inform me that the prisoners of the Thailand Camp are equitably treated; furthermore, those who are sick have received the best medical treatment in the prisoners-of-war hospital.” Shigemitsu’s “competent authorities” were officials of the War Ministry. But repeated Swiss requests to visit the camps as a neutral power were denied. “So far as the matter of visiting the camp is concerned,” Shigemitsu wrote, “authorization will not be given for the moment.” It never was.
— Arnold C. Brackman, The Other Nuremberg: The Untold Story of the Tokyo War Crimes Trials, William Morrow & Co., 1987, p. 258
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On 16 September 1941, my maternal grandmother and great-grandmother were exterminated by Einsatzgruppe C, led by Otto Rasch, holder of two university doctorates in political economy and philosophy. On 13 June 1942, my 16 year-old maternal aunt was raped and killed by a Tadjik collective farmer. I owe my descent to my mother’s refusal to follow the example of three generations of women in her family, expressed by her bearing arms against Nazi invaders.

Comes now Slate senior editor Dahlia Lithwick to bemoan and decry “hurt feelings” that according to her comprise the real concern driving the hotly contested Florida law that makes it illegal for any physician to “ask questions concerning the ownership of a firearm” or “harass … a patient about firearm ownership during an examination”. She fails to note the symmetry of this law across the political spectrum with proposed and existing laws that bar insurance companies such as those that bear the costs of medical inquiries at issue, from asking potential clients about their sexual orientation or framing questions in such a way as to determine their sexual orientation. In Lithwick World, protecting the purview and privacy of citizens’preference in the pursuit of happiness goes without saying—until and unless their private preference stays outside the purview of pursuing the right to keep and bear arms. In Lithwick World, concern over President Obama “coming for yer guns”, realizing his signed support for legislation to ban the manufacture, sale, and possession of handguns and assault weapons, is concern over “the lie that keeps on giving”.

According to Wikipedia, Dahlia Lithwick is Jewish, and keeps a kosher home. Regrettably, her Yiddishkeit does not deter her from pandering to lily-white middle-class gentiles eager to turn a blind eye to the perennial perils that inspire the keeping and bearing arms by Untermenschen not privy to their innate privilege. The last word on her subject belongs to Zero Mostel: “With kikes like you on the loose, who needs Hitler?
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In “Why I’m a Pacifist: The Dangerous Myth of the Good War”, published in Harper’s May 2011 issue, Nicholson Baker argues that Hitler’s Jewish policy was that of a hostage-taker. Baker concludes that the Allies should have heeded the pacifists such as Abraham Kaufman, Dorothy Day, Jessie Wallace Hughan, Rabbi Abraham Cronbach, Vera Brittain, Arthur Ponsonby, Clarence Pickett, Bertha Bracey, Runham Brown, Grace Beaton, and Victor Gollancz, by negotiating peace with Hitler in order to rescue Jews, instead of demanding unconditional surrender of Germany. According to Baker, this insistence inculpates Winston Churchill and FDR in Nazi genocide of the Jews.

So the Allies should have let The Axis absorb most of Europe in Germany and let Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere pay tribute to Japan, in exchange for Hitler letting the Jews go? I see no clues as to what Nicholson Baker might recognize as bargaining chips for the Allies to control and trade with the Axis. The Untermenschen residing in the occupied territories might want to have their say. Furthermore, the notion of Hitler holding Jews hostage against escalation of a European conflict into a world war is belied by the body count achieved by the Einsatzgruppen prior to America’s declaration of war against Germany. In the event, the lesson Hitler failed to teach to his adversaries, that terrorism on large enough scale can earn immunity from prosecution and be traded for political gains, is recapitulated today in the position taken by that Hamas-Fatah alliance:
ROBERT SIEGEL: You said recently that by signing this accord with Fatah, Hamas, and I quote you now, “became part of the Palestinian legitimacy,” that the movement gained legitimacy. The Israelis and others, some others, point to the 1988 Hamas charter very often and say that you should renounce that.

And I looked at the document, and, you know, at one point it claims that the Jews started the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, both World Wars, that they operate in league with the Freemasons and set up the Rotary Clubs and Lions Clubs to do their bidding. Do you think that Western democracies are going to grant legitimacy to people with a document that reads like the paranoid conspiracies of the Ku Klux Klan or the American Nazi Party?

Mr. HAMAD: Look, and first of all, I think people should not judge Hamas according to their charter because many changes happened inside Hamas. But many people in United States and the West or in Israel, they say no, no. Hamas is still as it is before 20 years, no. I think Hamas show a lot of flexibility, and it became more pragmatic, more realistic. Hamas could be a good player in making peace in this region, but please don’t use stick against them and punishment against Hamas.

SIEGEL: But people who point to the charter say, well, even if Hamas says it has changed and there’s evidence that it has changed, the charter hasn’t changed. These are still the declared principles of your movement, aren’t they?

Mr. HAMAD: No one talk about removal of Israel. We’re only talking about removal of the occupation, and I think this is according to United Nations resolution, this is legitimate.

For example, my parents were born in Tel Aviv. We have seven millions Palestinian refugee - as refugees living in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, every - and Europe and Brazil and everywhere. They have no chance to return to their homeland. Is it their destiny to live as refugees forever? And Israel have a right to bring the Jews from South Africa, from the United States, from Russia, from everywhere to live inside the Palestinian territory, in settlements in the West Bank. I think it’s not logic. It’s not fair.

SIEGEL: Well, Mr. Hamad, thank you very much for...

Mr. HAMAD: Thank you.

SIEGEL: …spending time with us.

That’s Ghazi Hamad, who is deputy foreign minister of Hamas. He spoke to us from Gaza City. And we’ve also requested interviews, I should add, with a leader of Fatah and also with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
This is the endgame. Hamas will renounce its “great hope of bringing to an end the Zionist project in Palestine”, avowed three days ago by Ismail Haniyeh, the prime minister of the its government in Gaza, in exchange for Israel recognizing a Hamas-led Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank with its capital in Jerusalem.



Hard-liners in Israel and the U.S. will resist this capitulation to two generations of terrorists taking Jews and gentiles hostage, when not blowing them up. But there is a difference between Israel considering a compromise with Hamas and Fatah and the Allies considering a compromise with the Axis. Unlike the Nanking massacre and Babi Yar, Arab terrorism did not proceed under the color of authority endowed with international legitimacy. It must be well understood by both sides in asymmetrical warfare, that terrorist acts lose their advantage of asymmetry upon being perpetrated in the name of a state that itself is liable to be held hostage to a crushing military defeat, the likes of which befell Germany and Japan sixty-six years ago. So let the terrorists raise the stakes by getting their state this time. We’ll always have our recourse to carpet bombing and show trials.
larvatus: (MZ)
The other day I found myself tasked with explaining to a young Chinese woman the concept of an ancient Chinese curse, such as “May you live in interesting times.” The best I could come up with by way of coining another example, admittedly drawn from my life experience of the past decade, was “May all your dealings be with lawyers.” Recalling the same experience later on suggested an effective way to intensify the malediction: “May all your dealings be with lawyers and surgeons.” Whereupon I drew upon my own store of maledictory Yiddishkeit, aptly summarized in a classic compendium: Read more... ) In all candor, gentiles tend to squander their imprecations. Thus according to world-class maledictorian Reinhold Aman, Anglo-Saxon cultures prefer insults dealing with excrement and body parts, Catholic countries are fond of blasphemy, and cultures of the Middle and Far East are partial to ancestor insults. I would add that, by contrast, we Jews derive the substance of our swearing from a higher authority, as exemplified in Deuteronomy 28:15-68 and Leviticus 26:14-45. Having had our ancestors worked over by the Almighty, my people know how to help our enemies find their proper level. Unlike gentile put-downs, Yiddish curses seek to put an end to their objects, and often succeed at that, in spirit if not in body. We aim not merely to revile or embarrass, but to depress, discourage, and demoralize. Watch this space for my contribution to the genre.

March 2014

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