One Thursday morning this past July, Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, holed himself up in his office with his communications team. He was supposed to be chairing a staff meeting, but Iran and Syria had just announced their candidacies for the U.N.’s Human Rights Council, and Prosor wanted to make sure that the absurdity of two of the world’s most egregious human rights abusers running for its highest human rights body was not lost on the press. “The staff is still waiting for the meeting to start, and nobody has any clue what’s going on,” said Avishai Don, one of Prosor’s former speechwriters. “So, the crowd in his office slowly gets bigger, as we’re thinking of a funny way to say the inmates have taken over the asylum.”
Finally, Prosor released a quote to the wire services: “Putting Iran and Syria on a Human Rights Council is like putting the Godfather in charge of a witness-protection program.” As far as Prosor was concerned, it wasn’t enough that Syria and Iran be condemned—they had to be mocked. And it worked: That night, Reuters included the line in its report about Syria’s decision to withdraw its candidacy.
The incident is emblematic of the signature style of Israel’s unorthodox ambassador to the United Nations. For Prosor, who assumed the position in June 2011, humor is an essential tool for conducting diplomacy—and the often comical corridors of U.N. are the ideal stage for his act.
As the annual United Nations gathering of heads of state kicks off in New York today, I profiled Israel's ambassador to the body, who may just be the world's funniest diplomat:
At the end of August, Peter Beinart published an essay titled "American Jewish Cocoon" in the New York Review of Books, arguing that American Jews haven't sufficiently opened themselves to dialogue with Palestinians. His piece is sharp, sometimes harsh, and certainly worth reading in full. Over at Tablet, I offer a response aimed at filling in the other side of the story:
When I was an undergraduate, the Harvard College Progressive Jewish Alliance invited the Palestine Solidarity Committee to the movies–specifically Boston’s Jewish and Palestine Film Festivals. It was a creative concept for a coexistence event. The response from the PSC, however, was less inspired. The organization explained that while PJA was welcome to join them at the Palestine Film Festival, and that some PSC members might be interested in attending the Jewish one, under no circumstances could the fact that Palestinians accompanied PJA to the Jewish Film Festival be advertised. PSC would not officially co-sponsor such an outing. In other words, the Jewish community was welcome to offer its empathy and legitimacy to the Palestinian perspective, but the Palestinian community would not reciprocate. The event did not take place.
Read the whole thing and learn about how many young Jews are, in fact, reaching out to Palestinians, only to be rebuffed by an ascendant rejectionism among their interlocutors.
I see journalism as an excuse to interrogate people who interest me under the guise of professional obligation. So when I report, I tend to collect a lot more information from my sources than can fit into my pieces. Here I post some of the greatest hits for your entertainment, along with other brief thoughts on religion, politics and culture. Well, that and funny YouTube videos.