Palestine

There is an old Washington adage that the ultimate “man bites dog” story is one in which a politician tells the truth in public. Chris Matthews pointed out on his show recently that there was something almost uplifting about the response of the new senator from Massachusetts, Scott Brown, who, when asked whether he was demanding changes in the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill to protect the interest of the Boston-based State Street investment firm, replied that, no, it wasn’t just for them.

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Europe’s cathedrals, churches, monasteries, and baptisteries cover the countryside like Veronica’s veil. They comprise the continent’s landmarks and focal attractions and, for centuries, have been integral to its culture. It is curious, then, that, in the history of art, architecture has been a relatively infrequent subject—in Western painting before 1900, only scattered examples come to mind, such as the Dutch seventeenth-century church interiors by Emanuel de Witte (pictured here) or the panoramas of Venice by Canaletto.

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Is there any more eloquent or definitive evidence of human individuality, of human dignity, than the face? My face shows that I am unlike you, that I am myself; and in this beautiful incommensurability we establish solidarity with each other, because your face also looks only like itself, only like you.The hiddenness of the face—the Divine face, too—is commonly regarded as a curse or a punishment, and its revelation as an epiphany.

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The brilliant young(ish) Catholic intellectual Michael Sean Winters has alerted us in the National Catholic Reporter to a venomous streak among “progressives” of the faith. The particularly repulsive iteration of this streak appeared in The American Catholic. Here is its essence: Is the ultimate plan of the Israeli braintrust to find a rationale for one big war to ethnically cleanse most of the rest of the Palestinians into Jordan/Egypt/Lebanon et al? Catholics have too much collective experience themselves in the ethnic cleansing of Jews to ever speculate on their intentions in this regard.

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It is as clear as daylight, and my particular information with all the caveats and special emphases comes from the most respectable pro- Palestinian journalist there is.  His name is Tobias Buck and he writes for the Financial Times where every piece published about the Jewish state--whose capital, in case you didn't know, is Tel Aviv--is jaundiced.  Jaundiced as in exhibiting distaste and hostility. Buck has a story in today's FT about the state of the talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.  They are, as I've been suggesting for months they would be, going nowhere.  George Mitche

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Emissary of the Doomed: Bargaining For Lives in the Holocaust by Ronald Florence (Viking, 336 pp., $27.95)  I. March 18, 1944 was an unusually pleasant spring day in Budapest, with crowds filling the outdoor cafés: it was difficult to tell that Hungary was at war. Rumors were spread about the government’s secret negotiations with the Western Allies, and all surmised that an unspoken agreement existed according to which the Hungarians would not fire on American and British aircraft overflying the country and the enemy aircraft would not drop any bombs.

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Emissary of the Doomed: Bargaining For Lives in the Holocaust by Ronald Florence (Viking, 336 pp., $27.95)  I. March 18, 1944 was an unusually pleasant spring day in Budapest, with crowds filling the outdoor cafés: it was difficult to tell that Hungary was at war. Rumors were spread about the government’s secret negotiations with the Western Allies, and all surmised that an unspoken agreement existed according to which the Hungarians would not fire on American and British aircraft overflying the country and the enemy aircraft would not drop any bombs.

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The president doesn’t like Mort Klein. I don’t know whether they’ve ever met. But the Obama folk did convene a meeting for the president with the “Jewish leadership,” which included, as it happens, American Jewish organizations (new on the block and who are financed mostly by Jewish billionaires who care not a fig for the survival of a people they do not think of as their home) believing that Israel is basically responsible for the intensity and duration of the conflict with the Arabs, in general, and the Palestinians, in particular.

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The recent suicide bombing against Pashtun tribal elders in Mohmand, a region not far from Peshawar, the capital city of Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province, made my mind return to conversations I’d had in Peshawar in 2000. Westerners could then roam the non-restricted areas of the province without much fear.

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The Patriarch

Moses Montefiore: Jewish Liberator, Imperial Hero By Abigail Green (Harvard University Press, 540 pp., $35) In 1827, an upright, well-to-do English gentleman, traveling through the Levant with his lady wife, ran into some dirty weather en route from Alexandria to Malta. But this particular gentleman was called Moses and his notion of calming the sea was to throw the afikoman half of the middle matzoh of the Passover seder into the churning waters. Apparently, as Abigail Green tells it, in some Sephardi traditions the breaking of the afikoman symbolizes the parting of the Red Sea.

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