Thursday, August 19, 2010 | return to: columns, the column


‘Man pets dog’ and other memorable stories of the year

by dan pine

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The votes have been tabulated. The accounting firm of Dewey, Cheetham & Howe has verified the results. Cue the klieg lights: It’s time for the fifth annual Golden Jack Awards (named for my cat, Jack) recognizing my most memorable j. stories of the past year.

dan pine

Biggest News: The uproar over the S.F. Jewish Film Festival screening a film about anti-Israel activist Rachel Corrie. The S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation took heat for funding the festival, though it has since tried to strike a balance between free expression and the limits of anti-Israel rhetoric.

The fallout continues, because the Jewish community doesn’t run in lockstep regarding Israel. I hope the community heals. And I hope I never again type the words “‘Rachel’ controversy.”

Another big story this year has been the recession’s devastating impact on Jewish agencies. This isn’t over, and we  might see more financial hemorrhaging in the years ahead. Both stories serve as  reminders that our Bay Area cocoon is not as invulnerable as we think.

Biggest Thrill Ride: Heading down 101 in a black SUV last February with Israel’s U.S. Ambassador Michael Oren for an interview-on-the-run. The time was short, but he was a nice guy, and he told me all kinds of cool stuff off the record. Sorry, can’t share.

The “You Learn Something New Every Day” Award: Last March, I interviewed author Norman Gershman, who chronicled the story of Albania’s Muslims rescuing all of the country’s Jews during the Holocaust. It’s all due to besa, the Albanian code of honor.

Most Delicious Assignments: Israeli chef Gil Hovav, in town last April, hosted a cooking demo in a San Francisco hotel, whipping up a luscious couscous. Days later, I found myself at the Local Mission Eatery, interviewing owner Yaron Milgrom and sampling his poached egg and asparagus sandwich on baguette. I love this job.

Favorite Headlines: For a story about Noah Alper, founder of Noah’s Bagels: “The Audacity of Shmear.” For an interview with funny lady Joan Rivers: “Joan of Snark.” For a piece on a Yiddish film festival: “The Plotz Thickens.”

Best Turn of Phrase: In a feature about mohel Moshe Trager, who at one point recalled the anxiety over his first bris, “Opening knife jitters.” Oh, the cleverness.

Most Disheartening Interview: Rae Abileah, a smart and thoughtful South Bay woman who grew up in the Jewish community, went on to join the far-left group Code Pink, and is now radically anti-Israel. We cannot keep losing our kids like this.

Z’l: Goodbye to Seymour Fromer, who died last October. He co-founded both the Judah L. Magnes Museum and Lehrhaus Judaica. Quite a legacy.

Goodbye and Good Riddance: To the print edition of the flagrantly anti-Zionist Berkeley Daily Planet (the web version lives on). This rag still rags on Israel all the time, and its editor doesn’t have the cojones to admit she flat-out hates the Jewish state.

The “As the World Turns” Awards: To my colleagues, copy editor Rachel Leibold, on the birth of her son, Levi (he’s wicked cute); former j. writer Joe Eskenazi, on his May wedding to Alexia; and fellow j. writer Stacey Palevsky, off to greener pastures. I love you all.

Story of the Year: They say you can’t miss with kids and dogs. My April cover story “Ruff Love,” about the Jewish Family and Children’s Services’ Canine Corps program, which brings companion dogs into the homes of housebound seniors, was pure joy. There is so much tsuris in the world; sometimes you just have to pet a dog.

Yes, there is much tsuris in the world. I read and write about it every day. There are too many moments I want to give up on this melting planet and the army of fools leading us off a cliff.

Then I think about JFCS bringing dogs to lonely seniors. Or Birthright taking kids to Israel for free. Or the Jews leading the fight against genocide in Darfur. Or the Chabad rabbi who keeps inviting me over for Shabbat dinner, despite my waffling.

I end up a little bit restored, happy I run with such a good crowd.

Dan Pine can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


Posted by RachelForJustice
08/23/2010  at  01:22 PM
One more Golden Jack Award for the record

Dan, I think you missed one category in your recent online post:

Most Disheartening Interview Recap of the year: JWeekly’s Dan Pine summarizes interview with human rights activist Rae Abileah by saying “We cannot keep losing our kids like this,”  though his article earlier this year quoted Abileah as saying, “The principle that resonated with me was tikkun olam, putting our faith into action. It’s such an amazing legacy of Jewish activism I learned in college. I feel I’m, doing the work my ancestors have paid the pathway… [The Israeli] government is doing illegal things every day… We have a moral responsibility to speak up when that is happening.”  Sounds more like a young woman embodying the values of Judaism than a loss to the faith!

Dan, it’s time to stop labeling human rights activists as “anti-Israel”.  I’ve heard too often this sentiment: “It’s one thing to be anti-war. It’s quite another to be anti-Israel.” I am beyond exhausted from hearing this phrase “anti-Israel” used to describe actions that take a stand for human rights and justice. I have dedicated much of my 20′s to working to end the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and been at many rallies where angry white men three times my age have roared their Harley engines, spat at me, and called me “un-American” for protesting the occupation of Iraq. They have said I don’t support the troops because I don’t want them to die unnecessarily in a place far away that we should have never invaded over false pretenses of WMDS. I don’t support the troops because I want them to have adequate armor in the field and healthcare and psychiatric care when they get home and above all wish that they were never sent into the front lines of an unwinnable battlefield. I am un-American for wanting to spend our precious financial resources on our schools, libraries, and jobs for Americans so that we can rebuild our own country in the aftermath of a devastating recession. To this label of “un-American” I have replied time and again that “dissent is patriotic,” and that our country was founded on the principle of dissent and freedom.

So when I say that I want freedom of travel for fellow human beings in Palestine to be able to eat, pray, and love where they want to, I am called “anti-Israel”. When I say that I want to see a new generation of Israelis grow up without having to go through a draft and defend checkpoints and kill innocent children with bulldozers, and shoot out American young women’s eyeballs, I am called “anti-Israel”. When I say I want to see integrated schools and shared highways, I am “anti-Israel,” which I recall being taught in Sunday school was “the only democracy” in the Middle East. And finally, when I say that I want Israel to be held to the same standards of economic and social law as the rest of the global community in the United Nations, which has supported the Geneva Conventions, I am called “anti-Israel.”

Anti-war marchers have never accepted the term “un-American.” Pro-choice advocates have never accepted the term “pro-Life”. So how can pro-justice for Palestine activists accept the term “anti-Israel”? It is the Israeli government and military’s actions that are both “anti-Israel” and “un-American.” Israel’s illegal policies—separation walls, settlements, the siege of Gaza—have been tragic for the Palestinians, but also hurt Israel and the United States. The Israelis are forced to live in a constant state of fear and increasing international isolation and disdain. For the United States, the one-sided support for Israel is endangering our troops overseas and tarnishing our reputation worldwide. It’s time to break the stranglehold that this false narrative has on U.S. policy and discourse and call reality for what it really is.

I respectfully ask you rethink your words and your allegation of the loss to the community.  This kid isn’t going to leave Judaism anytime soon.

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Posted by Becky O'Malley
08/24/2010  at  11:33 PM
Why You're Losing the Kids

Guess what, Dan?  Us gals have never wanted balls—yours appear to be occupying the cavity in your skull where the brains belong.  Of course I don’t hate Israel, I just lament some of the policies of its current rulers, as many Israelis and Jews worldwide do.
When you exhibit glee at the loss of the print edition of the Planet, you only make yourself look stupid. You’re doing harm to your own interests.
These days, when friends call my attention to articles in J.Weekly, it’s usually with an apology, something like “I don’t normally read it, but I picked it up at my grandmother’s house.” People like you, as the above comments writer pointed out, are losing the sympathy of the younger generation, for all the reasons she enumerates.
J.Weekly, like the ADL, has had a sterling reputation, but if its staff writers continue to turn a deaf ear to all the answers about Israel now blowing in the wind, it will soon be as irrelevant as Abe Foxman.

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Posted by Dan Spitzer
08/25/2010  at  07:42 PM
The O'Malleys-Berkeley's Biggest Losers

Oh come on Becky, we all know you have balls. Your husband said so and, poor bastard, I suspect he would be in a position to know.

Virtually everyone in Berkeley knows you, your monumentally inept reporter Brenneman (no one else in journalism will hire that former advocate of psychic surgery and astrolger to a guru), and your pathetic put-upon husband excreted a disgusting anti-Semitic publication.

As for your on line edition, I doubt if anyone other than the KPFA crowd reads it and I would be shocked if your need to demonize Israel hasn’t continued apace. We all know why you have continued to vent your venom against half the Jews of the world who live in the Middle East’s only democracy: you live to hate…

Pine was absolutely right in that Berkeley has celebrated the collapse of your paper. Only your fellow Jew-haters miss the falsehoods you spewed.

In a small masterpiece of irony, you appear to be fully ignorant of the fact that 90% of Berkeley
was laughing at you and your whining at the demise of your repulsive rag.

Dan Pine, an excellent reporter (you won’t know a good reporter if he/she camped out in your office) was right. The death of the Daily Planet was a happy day for Berkeley and worth celebrating for open-minded, truth-seeking people everywhere…

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Posted by DrMike
08/25/2010  at  07:44 PM
what a surprise!

What a surprise that Rae Abileah and Becky O’Malley both responded with vitriol (I’ll at least give Rae credit for avoiding ad hominem insults, although her logic is just as flawed as O’Malley’s—“Israel to be held to the same standards of economic and social law as the rest of the global community”!  Yes, I’d love for the global community to hold itself to the same standards—perhaps then we wouldn’t have stonings in Iran, forced labor camps in China, and other such atrocities around the world.  Rae also conveniently forgets that before Arafat’s terror war in 2000 Palestinians were free to eat, pray and love in Israel. It was their insistence on being free to blow up women and children in pizzerias and on buses that led to Israel’s separation fence. 

But one thing both women have in common—they do not accept the right of the Jewish people to have national self-determination in our own homeland, just as the Iranians have in Iran, the Egyptians have in Egypt and so on. 

You may say you don’t HATE Israel, Rae and Becky—but one of you works with groups to help make it disappear, and the other one happily publishes diatribes from others who want to see that happen.

Criticism from those who want to stop a friend from doing something bad is one thing.  Criticism designed to hurt and to kill—yes, that’s anti-Israel.

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Posted by Zionism is Self determination
08/25/2010  at  07:53 PM
Rae and Code Pink are a joke

Rae Abileah and Code Pink are notorious for silly “Look at me Look at me now” tactics, more appropriate to a two year old than to “peace activists”.
Yes, Code Pink are the ones who repeatedly interrupt Jewish community events. (They paid $90 to get into the AIPAC dinner for a 20 second barely noticed interruption). They are are the ones who staged a “two hour hunger strike” in front of the Egyptian consulate in solidarity with Gaza. (Most people would have considered that a “late lunch”, but to Code Pink, it was a photo op and a publicity stunt) And they are the ones who smear themselves with mud in an effort to discourage the purchase of Ahava products. I can’t imagine Rae’s mother or grandmother are proud of their girl covering herself with dirt and interfering with people’s shopping experience. I can’t imagine they’d be proud of her association with an organization that harasses people in their homes, and interrupts free speech.

Real peace activists work hard- they encourage dialog and communications. They know that is the path to peace.  Rae, and Code Pink just continue to engage in childish pranks so they can take photos of each other before they are arrested.
Code Pinks’ poorly organized Gaza excursion left an Egyptian policeman dead.
They are silly, irrelevant, and are an embarrassment to those who are truly dedicated to peace.
Dan Pine is right on target with this one. I hope that age brings wisdom and maturity to Rae, although it hasn’t for her partners in crime at Code Pink.

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Posted by marshall_schwartz
08/25/2010  at  08:43 PM
Equal treatment -- utterly absent

Rae and Becky are uniquely myopic in their criticisms.  When the only country deserving of their verbal assaults is Israel, it shines a bright light on their true feelings towards the country.  Let’s take Becky first.  I never joined the effort to shut down the Daily Planet; as a former journalist (and the father of one), I fully support the principle of freedom of the press.  But the incredible number of anti-Israel screeds that graced the pages of the Daily Planet was so out of synch with the needs of the audience (if, in fact, the intended audience of the paper was the residents of Berkeley and environs), the only rational conclusion available is that the publishers (yes, that’s you, Mrs. O’Malley) have a jones on for Israel-bashing.  If the Planet had done its proper job, focusing on the failings of the Berkeley city government and the needs of its citizens, then the paper would still be publishing, if not flourishing.  Becky has made her sentiments clear to all (hatred of Israel) by what she chose to print.  As for Rae, I have several questions:  Why have you never criticized any other country or government for their antihumanitarian actions.  Yes, the Israeli government—particularly the IDF—has acted immorally and shabbily toward Palestinian Arabs on many occasions, and is fully deserving of criticism.  [If I listed all the offenses, this letter would be far too long.]  But what of the Moslems who slaughtered Christians in Sudan and Indonesia (and Christians who slaughered Muslims)?  What of Hamas’ constant rocket barrage against Israeli civilians, or the fact that they killed more Fatah members (18) during Operation Cast Lead than Israelis (13, including a few who died from friendly fire)?  Where was she and her cohort in 1970 when Jordan murdered many thousands of its Palestinian residents?  Or when they stripped thousands more of Jordanian citizenship only a few months ago?  Or when the Lebanese army slaughtered 3500 Palestinians in a refugee camp in northern Lebanon in the mid-1970s? Why have they not called for a boycott of all Chinese goods for the brutal Beijing government’s actions against Buddhists in Tibet and Moslem Uigurs in Xinjiang?  The silence you hear from Rae and her associates is a clear indication that their criticism of ONLY Israel is nothing more than antisemitism.  [And yes, you can be Jewish and an antisemite at the same time; it’s an old phenomenon, first recorded in the Talmud in the story of Kamtsa and Bar Kamtsa.]  If and when these self-deluding individuals finally turn their vituperation against all the other offenders in the world (let’s not forget Russia in Chechnya, Ingusetia, et al), then perhaps they will be deserving of our attention.  Until then, they are merely vile antisemites.

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Posted by RachelForJustice
10/21/2010  at  08:35 PM
Follow Up

To all the folks who posted that I “only” protest re Israel, such as this comment “Why have you never criticized any other country or government for their antihumanitarian actions.”.  You don’t know me or my history of activism at all to write this.  Shame for jumping to such conclusions and speaking such lies.  I have worked passionately to end violent conflicts and wars in many other regions, continents, countries.  My primary area of focus has been on the Iraq occupation, in which 5,000+ American soldiers have been killed.  The conflict in Israel and Palestine just happens to be happening in my homeland and is funded by my tax dollars so it seems right to take a moral position on the issue.  Think twice before you jump to conclusions or put someone in a box - they just may not fit into it!

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