Tag Archives: Israel

Israel Apologizes To Lynsey Addario

Today’s New York Times “The Lede” blog contains this story about Lynsey Addario — a Westport native and Staples graduate:

Israel’s Defense Ministry apologized on Monday for forcing a pregnant New York Times photographer to remove her clothes and submit to a physical search after she had already passed through an X-ray machine three times at a checkpoint in Gaza last month.

The photographer, Lynsey Addario, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning war photographer who was one of four Times journalists subjected to brutal treatment in March after being captured by Libyan government forces and held for six days.

Lynsey Addario

In a letter to the Israeli ministry last month, Ms. Addario wrote that soldiers at the Erez Crossing in northern Gaza had treated her with “blatant cruelty” when she arrived there on Oct. 24 and asked not to have to pass through the X-ray machine. Because she was seven months pregnant at the time, she had been advised by her obstetrician to avoid exposure to radiation.

Ms. Addario had phoned an official at the border crossing in advance to make her request and had been assured that there would be no problem. When she arrived at checkpoint, however, she was told that if she did not pass through the X-ray machine, she would have to remove all of her clothes down to her underwear for a search. To “avoid the humiliation,” Ms. Addario decided to pass through the X-ray machine.

“As I passed through,” she wrote, “a handful of soldiers watched from the glass above the machine smiling triumphantly. They proceeded to say there was a ‘problem’ with the initial scan, and made me pass through two additional times as they watched and laughed from above. I expressed each time that I was concerned with the effect the radiation would have on my pregnancy.”

She added:

After three passes through the X-ray, I was then brought into a room where a woman proceeded to ask me to take off my pants. She [asked me to lift] up my shirt to expose my entire body while I stood in my underwear. I asked if this was necessary after the three machine checks, and she told me it was “procedure” – which I am quite sure it is not. They were unprofessional for soldiers from any nation.

In an e-mail to the head of Israel’s government press office on Monday, the Defense Ministry wrote that, after “a deep and serious investigation into the matter of Ms. Addario’s security check last month,” it had concluded that her request to avoid the machine had not been passed on to the security officials at the checkpoint because of “faulty coordination between the parties involved.”

Lynsey Addario at work

Although the statement said, “We would like to apologize for this particular mishap in coordination and any trouble it may subsequently have caused to those involved,” the ministry dismissed Ms. Addario’s concern about radiation. “The relevant machine is situated at numerous borders and airports across the world and presents no danger for those who use it,” the statement said.

The ministry added that although the search “was carried out according to the accepted security procedure,” officials have “decided to hone the procedure for foreign journalists.”

Ethan Bronner, the Jerusalem bureau chief of The Times, said in response to the statement:

The Times remains shocked at the treatment Lynsey Addario received and shocked at how long the investigation has taken since our complaint was lodged a month ago. The careless and mocking way in which she was handled should not be considered accepted security procedure. We welcome the announcement by the Defense Ministry of plans to hone that procedure.

In a message posted on Twitter on Monday night, Ms. Addario’s husband, Paul de Bendern, referred to the incident as one of “terrible humiliation for my pregnant wife.”

Ms. Addario’s experience came nine months after a pregnant Arab-Israeli journalist working for Al Jazeera was denied entry to a cocktail party hosted by the Israeli government because she agreed to take off some of her clothes for a security check but refused to remove her bra. Before the same event, other journalists, including the bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal, were also strip-searched.

Sunday In Elvira’s With Joe

You never know who you’ll run into in Westport.  I’ve seen Diana Ross, Brian Williams and Manute Bol, to name 3 random famous folks.

Last Sunday at Elvira’s, Sef Brody saw Joe Lieberman.

The 1990 Staples graduate did more than just say, “Good morning, Senator.”  Here’s his story, direct from his Tumblr, “Brody Post.”

He was wearing a baseball cap in front of the deli counter, standing with his wife and 2 friends, wondering out loud what kind of egg sandwich to order.  I had just rolled out of bed but there was no way I could miss that face.

Half-hidden under my green hoodie, I told the former vice president-elect that they make delicious spinach and feta at this place.  He wanted to make sure it was vegetarian.

He asked me my name and what I did. We talked about our shared Hebrew name and its origins.  He told me a related story about his wife.  I told him I grew up in the neighborhood and that I got my first job in this same deli when I was 15, they put me to work integrating the various sections of The New York Times in the back garage before dawn on weekends, that now I’m a clinical psychologist living in Paris.

He said that sounded pretty great, how’d I manage that?  Not wanting to get into it, I said, “It seems you’re not doing too bad yourself.”  He introduced me to his Westport friends.  For a man who I’ve come to see as a total disgrace, whose politics I detest, I found this guy very charming in person.  I imagine he must share this trait with most successful politicians.

Joe Lieberman, the senior senator from Connecticut.

Itching to talk politics, after we both ordered I started asking him questions.  I shared my concern with him that the next financial crisis will be worse than the last one, asking him how realistic our chances were to break up the mega-banks before it’s too late.  He said that funnily enough someone just asked him the same question— as if “too big to fail” was a new concept— and went on to blame Republicans for blocking reform.

I said, mistakenly, “You’re caucusing with them now, right?” He looked down and away sheepishly, replied that he’s still caucusing with the Democrats.  I responded, “But you can understand why I could make that mistake, right? Everybody’s like, ‘What happened to Lieberman?’”

Wondering about the best way to broach US-Israeli injustices towards Palestinians, a topic of deep personal concern to me and one in which he holds unique power, I asked the chairman of the US Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs another crucial question:  “Don’t you wonder whether we’re endangering both US and Israeli security by lending full support to Israeli aggressions?”

He responded that “it’s not a blank check” we’re giving Israel.  He claimed that Israel has so few discussion partners in the region that they’ve become “paranoid”— he puffed his chest out and balled his fists to demonstrate what he meant.

When I bemoaned the lack of real public debate on such a serious issue in the US compared to the relatively vibrant debate happening in Israel, he corrected me that there’s actually plenty of debate happening in the US — “just not in public.”

Sef Brody, the clinical psychologist from Paris.

I very much wanted that conversation to continue but he eluded further clarification, and left to join his wife and friends at the picnic tables outside.  I stood there thinking that despite the mysteriousness of that last response, it was very revealing about how he views American democracy, about how he understands the way it’s supposed to work.

What would you say or do, given a surprise opportunity to face a contemptible politician mano-a-mano?  Throw your shoe?  Spit in his general direction?  Curse him out?

It might have felt good to let out some real anger, to at least remind Lieberman of his deep betrayal of Connecticut voters, or about how profoundly he has shamed himself and the United States.  I might have liked also to ask him which country he wants to invade next.  Or about how many civilian deaths he thinks he might be personally responsible for across the Middle East and Central Asia.

I instead asked myself, What approach is mostly likely to have a desirable effect? Looking into the sympathetic eyes of a man who has successfully mastered an enormous, complex and corrupt political system, I found myself taking the polite-but-critical tack.

Leaving the store, still groggy and hooded, I headed toward Compo Hill Road, coffee and egg sandwiches in hand.  He waved goodbye, and called out to me by name.  I swung around past his table, put my hand on his shoulder and reminded him of one short-term need that might possibly get through.  “Break up the mega-banks, Joe.”

He turned and called out, smiling:  “That’s the message of the day.”  

Catching Up With Harvey Brooks

What do Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, the Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Richie Havens, Stephen Stills, John Sebastian, Seals & Crofts, Boz Scaggs, Judy Collins, Loudon Wainright III, Phoebe Snow, John Cale, Phil Ochs, the Fabulous Rhinestones and Fontella Bass have in common?

Harvey Brooks.

Harvey Brooks (left) and Mike Bloomfield in Electric Flag.

Anyone who has read a liner note knows the name.  The gifted bassist laid down some of the most famous lines in music history, including “Like a Rolling Stone.”  His work was the hook on the Doors’ “Touch Me.”

Brooks — Davis’s 1st electric bassist — played on “Bitches Brew,” the best-selling jazz album of all time.

And, for many years, Harvey Brooks lived on North Compo Road, right here in Westport.

He and his wife Bonnie Behar have moved to Israel — that’s a whole other story — but he’s still in the news.  The International Guitar Hall of Fame recently inducted Brooks.  He joins legends like Muddy Waters, Willie Nelson, and Westonites Keith Richards and Jose Feliciano.

Bass Musician Magazine also featured Brooks.  After showcasing his career — his big break at age 20, when his friend Al Kooper hooked him up with Dylan; his iconic playing in rock, folk and jazz for over 4 decades; his new life in Israel — the interview included these tidbits:

I had an apartment on Thompson Street and the Au Go Go was around the corner on Bleecker Street, and I became the house bass player there.  I would play with whoever was on the bill that evening, with no rehearsal and just a quick run-through backstage.  [To] be a musician in Greenwich Village in the mid-sixties…was AMAZING!

Monterey Pop was [Electric Flag’s] 1st gig.  We were pumped.  [Mike] Bloomfield kept using the word “groovy” in all its variations, in his excitement to describe the scene that was set out before us.  We played in the afternoon so we able to see people dancing and the expressions on their faces as we played.  Their feedback was amazing.  The band was nervous and tense, but once we started performing and the audience accepted us we relaxed enough to play a decent set.

When I began to do session work after the Highway 61 Dylan album, I was expected to read music on some of the more structured sessions.  I could read chord charts but not bass clef, so I had to learn to read.  I began to acquire books on rhythm, scales, chords, composing, ear training and method books, and all kinds of fakebooks (books of tunes).

At the same time that this literary musical awakening was going on, I was getting all kinds of sessions that were pure instinct, demanding only my heart and soul.  No problem– I have always been a melodic player who could at the same time “keep it simple.”

Over the years my ability to hear the music has evolved and my technique has grown to accommodate what I’m hearing.  I’ve learned enough guitar and piano to harmonize the music and bass parts I compose.  I’ve also been blessed with the most wonderful wife and partner Bonnie, who inspires me to create and continue to grow.

As for Israel:  Brooks — who was born Harvey Goldstein — “caught the Zionist bug” from Bonnie, who for years took her daughters backpacking there.  In 2009, the couple moved permanently.

Harvey Brooks

“I’m very relaxed here.  I’m with my people,” Brooks told the Arizona Jewish Post.

Though not religious, Brooks says he “feels spiritually connected to Judaism” after long years in which music was his “only religion.”  He’s gotten into the Israeli music scene, and performs at local clubs.

He continues to write and record, too.

Who knows?  The multi-talented Harvey Brooks might soon add bass lines to klezmer music.

It couldn’t hurt.