stolen from Gawker, sue me!Gawker takes a swipe at…
Here’s the time line… the Associated Press ran a story last Tuesday about the release of the latest and final Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Like previous releases, all the bookstores that sell the book have to agree to release it simultaneously, and in Israel that was on Saturday at 2:01 am – on the Sabbath. The article noted that Israeli law requires most businesses to remain closed on the Sabbath (obviously the author hasn’t been to Tel Aviv or Haifa…) and that the usual suspects from the Israeli ultra-Orthodox political parties took great offense at this desecration. Industry and Trade Minister Eli Yishai, head of the Orthodox Shas party, threatened to fine any book store that opens Saturday in order to sell the Harry Potter book. Avraham Ravitz of the United Torah Judaism Party, who probably never read a Harry Potter book, stated that “We don’t have to be dragged like monkeys after the world with this subculture, and certainly not while violating our holy Sabbath.” OK, Fine. That reaction was to be expected. Steimatzky, Israel’s largest chain of book stores planned a big Friday night blowout at its Tel Aviv location, but as far as I know, none of the Jerusalem stores were open.

Then along comes Gawker… Gawker is one of the leading New York-based blogs. Gawker is also arguably the biggest, baddest Jewish blog – last year the Forward listed Gawker Editors Jessica Coen and Jesse Oxfeld amongst its 50 most important Jews in America. Anyways, the Wednesday following the AP story, Gawker editor Alex Balk wrote a post on the whole Harry Potter, Sabbath in Israel thing, adding a typical New York secular Jew slant:

Some stores are planning to open anyway—these are Jews, let’s remember, and a buck’s a buck—which has resulted in predictable outrage from the more Adonai-adoring elements of Israeli society. Avraham Ravitz of the United Torah Judaism Party slammed the Potter books for their “defective messages.” … Not to get all Hitchens on you, but isn’t this exactly how some of us feel about, you know, the Bible and its subculture of weird, tallis-wearing followers? Give us this wizard any day. (Actually, don’t, we’re fucking grown-ups, but you get the point.)

So along comes Mark Caro, an entertainment columnist for the Chicago Tribune. He cited the Gawker piece, which he found to be “stupefying in its casual offensiveness,” and concluded that the folks at Gawker could be real schmucks sometimes. Of course Heeb magazine, cited in Caro’s article, quickly took the bait and joined in the fray (gotta love RSS and Google alerts – as if anyone at Heeb ever reads the Chicago Tribune!). They predictably chided Caro for being a fuddy duddy. And Heeb Editorial Director Rebecca Wiener lusted over Caro’s cool photoshopped clip art icon. Gimme a call Rebecca, we’ll whip something up for you… but I digress.

Gawker responded to Caro’s criticism by stating that they weren’t being ironic at all – they were in fact “writing about life in a theocracy … But now that you mention it, yeah, we really hate the Jews too.” Given that Gawker isn’t exactly Judenrein, this time around I think they were in fact being ironic, unless of course you go by what one of the commenters on Caro’s column stated:

I read Gawker daily and enjoy it – but yes, it frequently veers into anti-Semitism. That’s because its editors believe its readership are leftwing, self-hating Jews, for whom anti-Semitism equals self-affirmation. In reality, however, its readers are not nearly as leftwing (and hence anti-Semitic) as they think.

Later that day, Gawker responded to the Heeb post, and more specifically to the negative comments it inspired, and issued a tongue in cheek apology:

Dear Jew,

We are sincerely sorry for offending your delicate Jew sensibilities. Yes, it’s true, there are a few Jews here in the office—we’ve crunched the numbers, and four out of five Gawker editors have at least some Jew blood in them (not on them!)—and we do think that gives us the right to make Jew jokes. But you know what? None of us are Irish, thank God, and we still knock the micks every now and again. We’re kinda of the opinion that the idea of ethnicity and its accompanying stereotypes are inherently hilarious. So, sure, we may not know a lot about life in Israel—do you guys still eat the Palestinian kids after your tanks run them over, or did you stop that once Rabin came into office? Do we still send Israel billions of dollars a year?—but, guess what, we think the comical ways in which your Jew country kowtows to the craziest Jew elements of crazy Jewiness could not be funnier. Hope that’s okay!

Shalom,
Balk

Finally, on Friday, as if to milk this issue for all it was worth, Gawker followed up with a diagram that shows things about the Jews that are funny – included in this brilliant, self-deprecating list were the following: Giant Noses (6/10 on the humor scale), Cheapness (8/10), Domineering Mothers (5/10), Comical Hats and Beards (4/10), Constant Bitching about Anti-Semitism (9/10), Love of Chinese Food (4/10), The Holocaust (2/10) etc.

Nice! Balk, brought in by Gawker owner Nick Denton to replace Jesse Oxfeld and broaden Gawker’s user base, doubtlessly scored points with the boss by resorting to crude Der Stürmer-like characterizations of money grubbing Jews with their weird rituals and observances. I like a good self-referential joke as much as anyone, but I couldn’t help but chuckle at the cluelessness of my holy brothers in New York who have no idea what Israel is really like. Thousands of copies of the latest Harry Potter book were sold on Saturday throughout Israel – not that I approve, as Balk noted, we are fucking grownups after all. The Jerusalem Post correctly noted that Jerusalem residents wishing to purchase the book could do so in east Jerusalem from an Arab-owned book store. It was also reported that an unnamed Jerusalem Rabbi stated that Sabbath observant Jews could get the book if it “is paid for before Shabbat, no Jews work in the store, and the store did not open specifically for Jews.” But how could one really expect Gawker to resist poking fun at their weird Jewish co-religionists living in that odd, shitty little country?

Never mind that in this theocracy, if you wanted to, you could have easily gotten the friggin book. Afterwards, while the whacky Jews wore their tallises and recited their Sabbath prayers, you could have gone and enjoyed breakfast shrimp and bacon at Bolinat in the center of town. This could then have been followed by a nooner with a non-Jewish Norwegian nympho that you met at a party at Hebrew U. You could have gone at it for a while and still have made it on time for seudat shlishit at the Brodt’s. In other words, Gawker’s humor fell flat. Anyone who knows Israel would not have found it funny as Gawker’s depiction of our country is deeply inaccurate. But whatever, I don’t want anyone to make fun of me! Perhaps what we ought to do at this point, is read about The Coming Jewish Schism by Joey Kurtzman, an editor over at Jewcy. “Coming” Joey? It’s already here.

Too depressing this close to Tisha B’Av where some of us fast and read the book of Lamentations? Well then, you can read another article in Jewcy – Harry Potter Gets Laid, a review of certain choice bits of Harry Potter fan fiction. And the best part? You don’t have to go to East Jerusalem to get it. Well that and the part where Hermione and Draco get it on.

No I’m kidding. It’s awful. It’s all awful.

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About the author

ck

Founder and Publisher of Jewlicious, David Abitbol lives in Jerusalem with his wife, newborn daughter and toddler son. Blogging as "ck" he's been blocked on twitter by the right and the left, so he's doing something right.

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