The Spine

Oh, My God! Another East Jerusalem Building Project And Nobody Is Paying Attention
September 07, 2010

There are two Christian sites where Jesus is said to have been interred. The first is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where the Greek Orthodox Church is centered and where Roman Catholic, Syrian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox and Abyssinian Orthodox clergy also have authority, the poorer the church, the less its authority. The Abyssinians live on the roof. The cartography of their dominions is carefully delineated, with some of the demarcations shifting with the clock.

The New York Times Laments "A Sadly Wary Misunderstanding of Muslim-Americans." But Really Is It "Sadly Wary" Or A "Misunderstanding" At All?
September 04, 2010

UPDATE: I have written an apology for one sentence written below.  Of course, this first sentence presumes that the Times in its olympian wisdom has a more accurate view--one it could describe as both "shrewdly knowing" and "sensitively knowing"--of this group and its beliefs than ordinary metropolitan mortals. The newspaper has done a poll of New York City residents which found that 33% of them thought Muslim-American "more sympathetic to terrorists" than other citizens. Frankly, I don't trust opinion surveys on matters like this.

The Mosque Is In Trouble, Very Big Trouble
September 02, 2010

Nancy Pelosi who always has her ear to the ground for a simple-minded explanation of an intricate matter has demanded to know whose money is behind the campaign against the Ground Zero mosque. Maybe she can't imagine anything other than a grand conspiracy: maybe Glenn Beck or David Koch, maybe Sarah Palin or some other ditzy lady with access to right-wing money. In my view, the really modest struggle against the mosque is probably the closest thing we've had to a genuinely grass roots effort against the casual and elitist First Amendment fundamentalists.

The Living And The Dead In The Holy Land
September 01, 2010

As I pointed out several times in the last few days there are in Israel haredim—those who tremble before the Lord—who are murder-inciting Zionists. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is one of them, although his followers seem not to go the way of his sermons. Thank God. Another ripple in his life is that he was and is an extraordinary scholar. My TNR colleague Leon Wieseltier tells me that Ovadia has recently published an incandescent volume on the meaning of mourning in Jewish life.

The S.E.C. Finds Moody's Guilty of Breaking Its Own Rules But Still Will Charge Them With Nothing
September 01, 2010

When the really true history of the financial collapse is written there will be a special place of infamy for the three major rating agencies: Moody's, S & P, and Fitch. I'd written about them before the system-wide disaster and during the weeks and months when American capitalism was truly on the ropes. Some sectors of the economy got their comeuppance; some didn't, getting away wholly unpunished and gloating about their escape by claiming that their lies about companies and public bonds were protected by the First Amendment. Free speech has insulated many rogues and criminals.

Ovadia Curses; In the Meantime Hamas Shoots Four Israelis Dead, One Pregnant
September 01, 2010

Yes, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, one of those scholarly madmen in the Israeli orbit, did call forth a malediction against the Palestinians and their leaders. And, frankly, he deserves a similar anathema from all of us, he with his direct line to God from which he derives his marching orders to his followers. Fortunately, these followers may adore him.

I've Touched A Raw Spot Among My Jewish Readers, And That's Exactly What I Intended To Do
August 31, 2010

It happened when I wrote about Rabbi Ovadia Yosef as a paradigmatic instance of moral and intellectual backwardness in the ultra-ultra-orthodox communities of Israel. On the day that I wrote I'd noted a headline and article in the Jerusalem Post: "'Sinner' singer given 39 lashed by rabbis." I have no idea whether the rabbis involved were in the circle of "Ovadia", as the grand rabbi is called by his faithful who are many, or not. But the sin for which the singer, Erez Yechiel, was sentenced and, in fact, punished was to have performed in front of a "mixed audience" of men and women.

The Worthless Babies of South Africa: A New Low in the Moral Rottenness of the Most Morally Portentous Country in the World
August 31, 2010

This story was brought to the world by Benjamin Pogrund who for years was a writer and ultimately deputy editor of the Rand Daily Mail, a fiercely anti-apartheid newspaper in South Africa. After I acquired The New Republic, Pogrund wrote for us during the seventies and eighties, bringing our readers a white liberal's view of the rotten apartheid government and a wise view of the predicaments that would face the black movements that were arrayed against it. After the R.D.M.

Baroness Ashton Is Not Coming To The Party
August 29, 2010

Maybe it's an admission of her utter irrelevance as kind-of foreign minister of the European Union, maybe she just wants her own show. But Baroness Ashton is not coming to Hillary Clinton's Middle East confab, no she is not. I wrote about her two or three times a while back, and not admiringly. And her performance since then, even in the eyes of official Europe sitting in Brussels, has not brought her many but also not any fans. She is one of those international bureaucrats whose life is travel, travel, travel. And pronounce, pronounce, pronounce.

The Taliban And Rabbi Ovadia Yosef
August 27, 2010

I was for the American involvement in Iraq. And I am for the American involvement in Afghanistan, more or less and so-so, not (I readily admit) a responsible position. Perhaps out of naivete. Perhaps out of nostalgia for the good the United States brought with it in most of its foreign entanglements. Don’t forget World War II in which our troops were decisive in rescuing the world from an ideologically motivated system of cruelty even unto its ultimate form, genocide. And, for that matter, don’t forget Korea where the U.S.