The day the United States opened its embassy in Jerusalem is a day the world has longed for, because of what it was supposed to represent: the end of a seemingly endless conflict, a blood-soaked tragedy with justice and cruelty on both sides. Israelis and Palestinians have envisioned a capital in Jerusalem, and for generations the Americans, the honest brokers in seeking peace, withheld recognition of either side’s claims, pending a treaty that through hard compromise would resolve all competing demands.
But on Monday President Trump delivered the embassy as a gift without concession or condition to the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu, and as a blow to the Palestinians. The world did not witness a new dawn of peace and security for two peoples who have dreamed of both for so long. Instead, it watched as Israeli soldiers shot and killed scores of Palestinian protesters, and wounded thousands more, along Israel’s boundary with the Gaza Strip.
Unilateral action, rather than negotiation and compromise, has served the purposes of successive right-wing Israeli governments. They have steadily expanded Jewish settlements in the West Bank, on land Palestinians expected to be part of any Palestinian state.
And even when the Israelis uprooted settlements in Gaza in 2005, they did so without negotiating an agreement that would have empowered a more moderate Palestinian government. They acted to increase Israeli security in the short term while increasing Palestinian despair and the power of militant groups like Hamas. For years, Israeli governments have insisted they have no peace partner on the other side, while behaving in a way that perpetuates that reality. The possibility of peace has continued to recede, and Israel’s democratic character has continued to erode under the pressure of a long-term occupation of millions of Palestinians who lack sovereignty of their own.
Mr. Trump has repeatedly promised a grand peace plan without delivering, and he has now lent America’s weight to this maximalist Israeli strategy. For decades, the United States prided itself on mediating between Israel and the Palestinians. Successive administrations urged a peace formula in which the two parties would negotiate core issues — establishing boundaries between the two states; protecting Israel’s security; deciding how to deal with refugees who fled or were driven away after Israeli statehood in 1948; and deciding the future of Jerusalem, which was expected to become the shared capital of Israelis and Palestinians.
Mr. Trump’s announcement that he was recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and moving the embassy from Tel Aviv, swept aside 70 years of American neutrality.
Israel has every right to defend its borders, including the boundary with Gaza. But officials are unconvincing when they argue that only live ammunition — rather than tear gas, water cannons and other nonlethal measures — can protect Israel from being overrun.
Led too long by men who were corrupt or violent or both, the Palestinians have failed and failed again to make their own best efforts toward peace. Even now, Gazans are undermining their own cause by resorting to violence, rather than keeping their protests strictly peaceful.
But the contrast on Monday, between exultation in Jerusalem and the agony of Palestinians in Gaza, could not have been more stark, or more chilling to those who continue to hope for a just and durable peace.
“It would really send a strong message to the public and the bottled water industry that we don’t need to rely on this unnecessary product,” said Lauren DeRusha Florez, a campaign director for Corporate Accountability, a nonprofit advocacy group. “The way forward is to continue to invest in a strong public water system and to make sure tap water is available to people all over the city.”
But the International Bottled Water Association, an industry group, has already raised objections, saying that such a ban would deprive people of a safe, healthy and convenient source of drinking water and unfairly target beverages when thousands of other foods also use plastic containers. “Restricting or banning the sale of bottled water is not in the public interest as it reduces access to water for adequate hydration,” according to the group.
The American Beverage Association, another industry group, said that it works with conservation groups to promote the recycling of bottles at home, work, and public places. “We believe there are more comprehensive ways to preserve and protect our environment and we are committed to working with cities and other groups to implement better solutions to reduce plastic waste,” the group said.
Some park vendors have also raised concerns that a ban would hurt their bottom line. “We try our best to get by and the water bottles help us to do it,” said Gabriel Freilich, manager of the Ballfields Café.
San Francisco passed a similar ban in 2014 on the sale of plastic water bottles 21 ounces or smaller in public spaces, including municipal buildings, streets and parks. David Chiu, a Democratic state legislator who championed the ban as president of the city’s board of supervisors, said it has helped change the culture. People now carry around their favorite refillable water bottle. Concerts and festivals set up refillable water stations instead of selling plastic bottles by the caseload. “While it was controversial when it was proposed, in hindsight today, it has been a no-brainer,” he said. “I think everyone has adjusted to it.”
The residents of Concord had gone even further in 2012, when they voted to ban the sale of one-liter or smaller plastic water bottles anywhere within town limits. As an alternative, public drinking fountains and water filling stations have been expanded and upgraded. Though plastic bottles still show up in recycling bins, “It’s definitely a lot less than you would see in other towns,” said Erin Stevens, Concord’s public information officer.
Bottled water sales were also eliminated in some national parks, including the Grand Canyon and Zion, under a 2011 National Park Service policy. But in August, the Trump administration ended that ban following years of opposition by the bottled water industry, which argued that it removed water from the shelves while leaving unhealthy sweetened drinks.
Continue reading the main story
Councilman Kallos said the Trump decision spurred him to action. He said he has wanted to ban disposable plastic water bottles since trying to buy one himself while visiting San Francisco several years ago and being told he could not. So he bought a reusable bottle to tote around — something he now does in New York.
“You see plastic bottles everywhere,” he said. “It makes New York look like a dump and we can do better.”
This is not the first time that New York has taken a stand against plastic bottles. In 2008, the office of the City Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, stopped buying bottled water for Council offices. A 2009 state executive order barred state agencies from buying bottled water, to save taxpayer dollars and improve the environment.
The city has also targeted other plastic waste. In 2016, the Council sought to encourage shoppers to give up plastic store bags by charging 5 cents for most plastic and shopping bags. But that law was blocked last year by state legislators, some of whom argued that it imposed a regressive tax on the poor, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
Mr. Kallos and Mr. Espinal said their proposed ban on plastic bottle sales was more limited than the plastic bag fee and less likely to draw interference from state lawmakers.
Michael Whyland, a spokesman for the Assembly speaker, Carl E. Heastie, said that while Mr. Heastie, a Democrat from the Bronx, had not yet seen the proposed ban, “The speaker has always said that the city has the ability to enact a ban on unnecessary plastic waste.”
Mr. Kallos and Mr. Espinal said they will introduce bills next week to lay out more details about the proposed ban. Mr. Kallos said that vendors in city recreational areas could face penalties for selling plastic bottles, including possibly having their concessions revoked.
The City Council speaker, Corey Johnson, a Democrat, said he would review the bills. “Personally, I drink out of a Mason jar as much as I can to reduce waste, and I am committed to finding the best ways to protect our planet,” he said.
City parks officials referred inquiries about the proposed ban to the office of Mayor Bill de Blasio, which said it does not comment on bills before they are introduced.
Continue reading the main story
Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, supported the 5-cent plastic bag fee and has also called for a ban on plastic bags, which cannot be recycled, unlike plastic bottles, which can. “The mayor has made clear that New York City needs a full ban on plastic bags — which are not recyclable — in order to help protect our environment and benefit New Yorkers,” said Seth Stein, a spokesman for the mayor.
Adrian Benepe, a former city parks commissioner, said that he had practical concerns about implementing a plastic bottle ban in city parks. He pointed out that outdoor drinking fountains are turned off in the winter and not always available in more remote sections. And the ban could prompt vendors to turn to glass containers, which are more difficult to clean up when broken. “In principle, I support the idea, but there are both assets and drawbacks,” he said.
Still, many park-goers said they would welcome a ban. Marcos Pichardo, 19, a college student from the Lower East Side, said that what mattered was that people had water to drink, not the plastic it came in. “As long as it doesn’t cause harm to society, I don’t mind if it’s in a glass cup or a cardboard box,” Mr. Pichardo said as he strolled through Central Park.
Julie and Kurt Neale, filmmakers from Dallas, said they bought bottled water while shooting a documentary in the city, but would be willing — if somewhat reluctantly — to forgo that to help the environment.
“I want the convenience,” Mr. Neale said. “But I think we have a major problem worldwide with plastics.”
For many Israelis the undignified backdrop was just the latest indication that the country’s leadership had forfeited any semblance of stateliness for partisanship and politics, and a sign of the country’s many divisions.
“It’s supposed to be about Israel and our story and not who takes credit for it,” said Micah Goodman, a popular Israeli philosopher of Jewish thought. “Instead of a moment that transcends tribalism and politics it became somehow very political. This is how you ruin the birthday party.”
Others, however, view the ruckus as part of the usual maelstrom and the informal, freewheeling spirit that is quintessentially Israeli.
“This is very typical for Israel — something that epitomizes Israeli culture,” said Avi Shilon, an Israeli historian who teaches at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and N.Y.U. Tel Aviv.
“When you think of Israeli achievements it starts from the balagan in Israeli society,” he said, using a Hebrew term for mess or chaos, borrowed from Russian. “Everyone wants to take it to their own direction. Sometimes this helps you to invent new methods.”
“The problem,” he added, “is of course if you want to be a serious state — and we are already 70 years old — you can expect to maintain some tradition.”
Israel declared independence on May 14, 1948, but the holiday, like all national holidays here, will be observed according to the Hebrew calendar.
Continue reading the main story
Palestinians generally mark what they call the Nakba, or the catastrophe, of 1948, when hundreds of thousands of them became refugees, on May 15, the day after Israel’s declaration of independence according to the Gregorian calendar. But some Arab citizens of Israel, who make up more than 20 percent of the population, are planning to hold a Nakba march on Thursday.
The ceremony promises to be a spectacle of almost Olympic proportions. On stage, three live orchestras and 1,600 people will render the digitally augmented story of Israel from Mount Sinai to the so-called start-up nation, while 300 drones are on standby to create illuminated symbols in the sky.
The main organizer of the event is Miri Regev, Israel’s minister for culture and sport, an often provocative, populist politician — the newspaper Haaretz has called her “Trump in high heels” — and a fierce loyalist of Mr. Netanyahu.
One day last week, she strode across the stage during a tour of the site at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl, flanked by reporters and television cameras. A former brigadier general in the Israeli military, she told the chief engineer that she wanted “zero casualties” in this event. In 2012, an Israeli Army officer was killed during a rehearsal for the ceremony’s flag parade when a lighting rig fell on her.
On the way out Ms. Regev instructed an aide to check on the number of portable toilets and quantity of toilet paper, so there wouldn’t be problems like in the past. “Write that down!” she said.
“This will be a breathtaking display, the likes of which we have never seen before in Israel,” she told reporters.
But many people apportion much of the blame for the brouhaha on her campaign to have her patron, Mr. Netanyahu, lead the ceremony instead of Mr. Edelstein, whom Ms. Regev views as a potential rival within Likud.
Mr. Edelstein said he would boycott the ceremony if Mr. Netanyahu gave the keynote speech. Carmi Gillon, a former chief of Israel’s Shin Bet internal security agency, called on Israelis to switch off their televisions while Mr. Netanyahu spoke. Netanyahu supporters said Mr. Gillon should be the last person to preach about prime ministers, since Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated on his watch.
Last week, the two sides announced a compromise that was to have ended the feud.
The prime minister’s office said that Mr. Netanyahu would light one of 12 torches, representing the 12 tribes of Israel, in the name of all the governments of Israel and, like the other torch lighters, make brief remarks relating to Israel’s Declaration of Independence.
Mr. Edelstein said in a video statement that the Parliament, “which represents all the state’s citizens, will lead the ceremony. To my regret the arguments that arose have clouded the public atmosphere and I am sorry for that.”
Continue reading the main story
But that was not the end of the blunders and mishaps.
The idea of inviting world leaders was quietly dropped after it appeared that few would respond positively, and the organizers belatedly realized that a large foreign presence would snarl traffic and disrupt the festivities for ordinary Israelis.
Yet President Juan Orlando Hernández of Honduras somehow made it to the prestigious list of torch lighters, the first foreign leader given that honor.
Honduras was one of nine countries to vote against a United Nations resolution condemning the Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and its congress passed a measure last week urging the government to move its embassy to Jerusalem. The formal reason given for the honor was that Mr. Hernández is the only graduate of an Israeli government leadership development course to have become president.
Still, the choice baffled many Israelis, not least because Honduras abstained from the 1947 United Nations vote for the partition of Palestine, paving the way for Israel’s creation. Last week, after Israeli critics noted Mr. Hernández won his second term in a disputed election and raised questions about his country’s corruption and human rights record, he canceled.
Israel often tries to include an Arab citizen as a torch lighter, though many would not want to be associated with the celebration. This year, the spiritual leader of the small but loyal Druze community will light a torch.
Some Israelis raised questions about another torch lighter, the Israeli actor Ze’ev Revach, who has been accused of sexual harassment. The case against him was closed for lack of evidence.
Mayim Bialik, the American actress and neuroscientist who stars in “The Big Bang Theory,” was chosen to represent the Jewish diaspora but was invited only recently. She could not change her filming schedule and so isn’t going.
Ms. Regev said the lessons had been learned for next year.
The deal with the United Nations refugee agency might have given Israel a bit of relief from international criticism of the latest violence along the border with Gaza, where Israeli forces killed at least 16 Palestinians on Friday during a mass protest against Israel’s longstanding blockade of the territory and in support of Palestinian claims to return to homes in what is now Israel.
Instead, it proved to be an international embarrassment.
Mr. Netanyahu’s latest troubles come at a time when he is already embroiled in multiple corruption scandals that could end up bringing down him and his government. But he still consistently ranks in polls as the most suitable candidate, by far, for the country’s top job and is already Israel’s second-longest-serving prime minister, after the state’s founder, David Ben-Gurion.
Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud party and his coalition partners have so far stuck by him despite the growing list of corruption allegations against him. But the migrant deal — which took most of his partners in the government by surprise — riled some of his closest allies.
As has often happened in the past, Mr. Netanyahu changed direction in the wake of harsh criticism from Naftali Bennett, the education minister and leader the Jewish Home party. While the far-right Jewish Home is in Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition, it also competes with his Likud party for votes.
Bezalel Smotrich, a Jewish Home legislator, said in a radio interview on Tuesday that he would be willing to topple the government over the migrant issue.
“We want the state of Israel to remain a Jewish state,” he said. “And this means sticking to the right migration policy.”
Tal Schneider, the political correspondent for Globes, an Israeli financial newspaper, said of Mr. Netanyahu’s reversal: “It shows weakness.”
Continue reading the main story
Mr. Netanyahu said he had made the deal with the United Nations high commissioner for refugees because it seemed the only way to reduce the population of African migrants in Israel, who number at least 35,000. The migrants, mostly Eritreans and Sudanese who surreptitiously crossed the border from Egypt before it was sealed in 2012, cannot be returned to their own countries under international conventions for fear of persecution.
The deal with the United Nations refugee agency was meant to replace a contentious Israeli plan to forcibly deport the migrants to Rwanda. That plan fell through because of legal obstacles and after Rwanda said it would accept only asylum seekers who left Israel voluntarily. Given the lack of options, Mr. Netanyahu apparently thought he would be able to sell the new plan to his supporters.
Mr. Netanyahu first trumpeted the deal on Monday in a live television broadcast, saying it was an extraordinary plan to resettle nearly half of Israel’s African asylum seekers in Western countries. A n equal number would have been granted legal status to stay in Israel. Several hours later, he suspended the deal, crumpling under the pressure from its opponents. By midday Tuesday, he had canceled it.
“Each year, I make thousands of decisions for the benefit of the state of Israel and its citizens. From time to time, a decision is taken that must be reconsidered,” Mr. Netanyahu said on Tuesday.
“Despite the growing legal obstacles and international difficulties, we will continue to act with determination to exhaust all the possibilities available to us to remove the infiltrators,” Mr. Netanyahu said, quickly falling back on the rhetoric of his base.
The United Nations refugee agency said it regretted Israel’s decision.
“U.N.H.C.R. continues to believe that a win-win agreement that would both benefit Israel and people needing asylum is in everyone’s best interests. And we encourage the government of Israel to consider the matter further,” the agency said.
William Spindler, a spokesman for the United Nations refugee agency in Geneva, said it found out about Mr. Netanyahu’s retreat only through a late-night post on his Facebook page.
Mr. Netanyahu appears to have burned bridges with Rwanda. Until this week, the Israeli government had not named Rwanda as the main African destination for migrants deported from Israel, only referring obliquely to a secret agreement with a “third country.”
But in his Facebook post on Monday night, Mr. Netanyahu identified the country as Rwanda, saying it had agreed to take in migrants who had been deported from Israel without their consent, but then capitulated under outside pressure. In response, Rwanda’s minister of state for foreign affairs, Olivier Nduhungirehe, told Israel’s public broadcaster, Kan Radio, on Tuesday that Rwanda had never agreed to take in the asylum seekers, either in writing or orally, adding that Mr. Netanyahu’s Facebook post “changes the way we should respond.”
To many in Israel, opposition to the United Nations plan makes little sense because all the migrants will remain in Israel, and in limbo, for the foreseeable future.
Continue reading the main story
Daniel B. Shapiro, a former United States ambassador to Israel, commended Mr. Netanyahu on Twitter for the migrant deal soon after it was announced. But he then wrote in a subsequent post: “I guess I have to eat my words. Advocates for Israel like me will have a hard time explaining reneging on a signed international agreement. And the crisis facing Israel and its asylum seekers remains unaddressed, helping no one.”
Palestinian health officials said 15 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire and more than 750 hit by live rounds Friday, making it the bloodiest day in Gaza since the 2014 cross-border war between Israel and Hamas.
In Friday’s confrontations, large crowds gathered near the fence, with smaller groups of protesters rushing forward, throwing stones and burning tires.
Israeli troops responded with live fire and rubber-coated steel pellets, while drones dropped tear gas from above.
On Saturday, the chief army spokesman, Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, said that while thousands of Palestinians approached the border Friday, those engaged in stone-throwing were in the hundreds.
General Manelis denied soldiers used excessive force, saying those killed by Israeli troops were men between the ages of 18 and 30 who were involved in violence and belonged to militant factions. He said Gaza health officials exaggerated the number of wounded, and that several dozen at most had been injured by live fire, with others suffering from tear gas inhalation or other types of injuries.
Shifa Hospital in Gaza City received 284 injured people Friday, the majority with bullet injuries, said a spokesman, Ayman Sahbani. He said 70 were under the age of 18.
Mr. Sahbani said 40 surgeries were performed Friday and that 50 were planned Saturday. “These are all from live bullets that broke limbs or caused deep, open wounds with damage to nerves and veins,” he said.
General Manelis said that Hamas and other Gaza militant groups are using the protests as a cover for staging attacks. If violence goes on, “we will not be able to continue limiting our activity to the fence area and will act against these terror organizations in other places too,” he said.
The border protests were seen as an attempt by Hamas to break the border blockade, imposed by Israel and Egypt after the Islamic militant group seized Gaza in 2007 from forces loyal to its rival, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority.
Continue reading the main story
At the United Nations, Secretary General António Guterres called for an independent investigation, while Security Council members urged restraint on both sides.
The crisis deepened with news on Thursday of the resignation of Christine Shawcroft, the chair of Labour’s internal disputes panel, after the leak of an email suggesting that she had lent support to a council candidate suspended after accusations of anti-Semitism.
Coming after criticism of Mr. Corbyn’s reluctance to blame Moscow for the poisoning attack on a Russian former spy and his daughter in Salisbury, England, the issue has recharged a bitter argument about his leadership. That, in turn, has led Mr. Corbyn’s supporters to complain of a politically motivated plot to destabilize his position because of his left-wing politics.
But there is little doubt that the atmosphere in the Labour Party has changed. A veteran of left-wing struggles, Mr. Corbyn learned his politics fighting apartheid in South Africa and campaigning against what he saw as Western militarism and neo-imperialism. While many of those battles have been won, the plight of the Palestinians remains a sore point on the left, one deepened by the hard-line policies of the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
At the same time, the Labour Party’s membership has grown bigger and more diverse, while Momentum, a campaign that promotes Mr. Corbyn’s radical brand of politics, has emerged as a powerful force, tilting the political balance further to the left.
This is not the first time that Mr. Corbyn’s party has faced allegations of anti-Semitism. In 2016, one lawmaker, Naz Shah, was temporarily suspended for sharing a graphic showing an outline of Israel superimposed on a map of the United States, suggesting the relocation of Israel to North America.
When the former mayor of London, Ken Livingstone — a longstanding ally of Mr. Corbyn — tried to defend Ms. Shah, he instead poured gasoline on the flames by arguing that, in 1932, Adolf Hitler “was supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.”
After that crisis, Mr. Corbyn commissioned an inquiry, led by Shami Chakrabarti, a leading human rights campaigner, which concluded that Labour was not overrun by anti-Semitism but acknowledged that there was an “occasionally toxic atmosphere” in the party.
Continue reading the main story
The mere fact that the party was having such a discussion would have been all but unthinkable in days past.
“Labour has a very strong tradition of support for Zionism and Israel,” said June Edmunds, a lecturer in sociology at the University of Sussex. That, she added, was “based on the formative impact of the genocide of the Jews on the postwar generation as well as the view that Jewish nationalism represented a form of anti-colonialism.”
Opinion began shifting after the Arab-Israeli War in 1967, though it was the Sabra and Shatila massacre in 1982 that generated sharper criticism of Israel alongside growing sympathy for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Ms. Edmunds said. Events in Gaza and Israeli settlement policy have only added to those feelings.
Criticism of Israeli policy is, of course, not the same thing as anti-Semitism, though, as Ms. Edmunds put it, “there can be overlaps — within Labour and other parties — between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.”
And anti-Semitism in wider society has deep roots, as the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, acknowledged in evidence to a parliamentary select committee inquiry into the issue.
“We had a shameful record until very recently, in historical terms,” he said, “England was the first European country to expel Jewish people, in 1290, with their exile lasting for 350 years.”
Nowadays, the insidious anti-Semitism of the British establishment has given way to something more overt. Reported anti-Semitic incidents in Britain have increased, the select committee report noted, accelerated by social media. Ms. Berger has released a snapshot of some of the abuse she has received, including Twitter posts likening her to a pig and calling for her head to be put on a spike. One read, “waking up and remembering you’re a Jew must be a horrid start to one’s day.”
Nevertheless, the majority of anti-Semitic abuse and crime “has historically been, and continues to be, committed by individuals associated with (or motivated by) far right-wing parties and political activity,” the report said.
The Labour Party’s problems with anti-Semitism have become intertwined with the personality and leadership of Mr. Corbyn, who spent three decades on the fringes of politics, opposing NATO and Western foreign policy, while championing anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist causes.
Continue reading the main story
In 2015, when he was elected leader, concerns were raised about Mr. Corbyn’s earlier reference to Hamas and Hezbollah as his “friends.”
“As a maverick backbencher, it wasn’t a problem to welcome Hamas or Hezbollah,” said Mark Wickham-Jones, a professor of political science at the University of Bristol. “But as leader, he’s supposed to have a more multilayered series of relationships, and the past comes back to haunt him.”
Donald Macintyre, a political commentator and author of “Gaza, Preparing for Dawn,” said that, by failing to deal with the anti-Semitism issue, Mr. Corbyn “weakens the credibility of wholly legitimate criticisms of Israeli occupation and settlements.”
Social media posts from the days when fewer people took notice of what Mr. Corbyn thought have resurfaced showing him to have been a member of several Facebook groups in which members had shared anti-Semitic comments and images.
Mr. Corbyn’s defense in 2012 of the mural by the Los Angeles-based street artist Mear One, whose real name is Kalen Ockerman, was first reported in 2015 by the London-based publication Jewish Chronicle, which failed to get any response from the Labour leader’s office, according to the paper’s editor, Stephen Pollard. Though the story went nowhere, it was remembered by the Jewish community, Mr. Pollard said, adding that “Corbyn’s first statement about freedom of speech genuinely shocked people.”
Other Corbyn controversies have often involved Israeli policy, on which there are different opinions in the Jewish community. But, Mr. Pollard said, “This mural was classic old fashioned anti-Semitism, nothing to do with Israel at all.”
Mr. Pollard said he thought that Mr. Corbyn was indifferent to anti-Semitism, and “doesn’t see it as ‘proper racism’ because most Jews are ‘part of the ruling elite.’ ”
But Sue Lukes, a member of the pro-Corbyn Jewish Voice for Labour group, said that she knows the Labour leader from their activities in North London politics and that she could vouch for him. “Do I think he’s an anti-Semite? Absolutely not,” she said, describing his Facebook comment on the mural as a “genuine mistake he was happy to admit to.”
Continue reading the main story
Ms. Lukes and other Corbyn supporters say they detect a plot by internal enemies to undermine a charismatic, left-wing leader.
“The timing is not coincidental; there has been a lot of talk about what the people who oppose Jeremy Corbyn are likely to do next,” she said, adding that they “may be thinking that it is quite a neat way to stir things up a bit.”
Ms. Luke, whose grandparents died at Auschwitz, said she believed that Labour needed to deal better with complaints of anti-Semitism, adding that the digital era had brought new people into political activism, some of whom were susceptible to internet conspiracy theories.
But she said she still saw the protest against Mr. Corbyn as politically motivated. “Faith and community leaders should not be interfering to unseat the leader of a political party, or skew the outcome of the elections,” she said, suggesting an intention to damage Labour’s standing in coming local elections and to increase pressure on Mr. Corbyn’s leadership.
Stewart Wood, a member of the House of Lords and former aide to the previous Labour leader, Ed Miliband, agreed that Mr. Corbyn was not anti-Semitic — indeed, for such a committed anti-racist it is “a horrific accusation,” he said — but he acknowledged that “a few elements inside the left of our party have drifted into it in the past few years.”
Under the Labour former prime minister, Tony Blair, Mr. Corbyn and his allies felt themselves outcasts in the party, and “the culture of the tribe of outsiders is to support each other, instinctively,” Mr. Wood said.
“But,” Mr. Wood added, “now that he is leader, the admirable instinct to support people who were with him in the tough times as an outsider can sometimes end up hurting his leadership by giving the impression that he is prepared to tolerate the intolerable.”
“We ripped the show completely apart from D.C.,” Mr. Nicholaw said.
Early on a snowy evening in the second week of previews, they straggled into a steakhouse down the block from the theater, ordered coffee like the night owls that they are and talked about bringing “Mean Girls” to Broadway. Here are edited excerpts from the conversation.
What are the pitfalls in adapting from screen to stage?
CASEY NICHOLAW The biggest mistake is when you’re like, “We have to give the fans everything they want.” The fact that Tina didn’t want to do that was a huge relief to me. All of us inherently know what’s theatrical and what needs to be onstage.
JEFF RICHMOND The biggest laugh lines are not the ones from the movie.
TINA FEY Which makes sense, because laughs are usually generated by some element of surprise. It’s hard to get a laugh on something people know is coming.
NELL BENJAMIN There are some people who are like, “Is there going to be a song called ‘Fetch’?” But if you think it through, how long do you want to sit in a song that’s based on one really good joke?
RICHMOND We had a ridiculous idea for a moment where the entire curtain call was going to be a medley of the songs you thought would be in it, all the iconic moments. Like “Fetch” and “On Wednesdays We Wear Pink” and — what’s the one about sluts?
FEY, NICHOLAW, BENJAMIN “Boo, You Whore.”
How do you make a musical that pits girls against girls at a time when the culture is more excited about female unity than we’ve ever seen?
FEY It is interesting. Since the film, we have ostensibly more female unity. But we also have trouble, right? We have white feminism and intersectional feminism. We have women not believing women. But it also does feel like the message of the show has expanded beyond just relational aggression among females, and it’s sort of about relational aggression, which has metastasized in many ways.
Continue reading the main story
BENJAMIN It’s not just girls being mean to girls. It’s whoever’s on top thinking it’s O.K. to push downhill.
Right now,people are deeply impressed with the youth of America. Does that impact the show?
FEY It does. We talk about it. We have a new song at the top of the second act called “Stop.” It’s sort of a comedic song about impulse control, and Nell and I are both so mindful about making sure that it’s not judging just girls for the choices they make. In some ways, it makes sense that our heroine by the end of the show is living her authentic life and being her best self — that she is teaching us.
The musical feels kinder than the movie.
FEY I think that partly is the form, because once you hear people sing, then you’re in their hearts. I always felt empathy for Gretchen in the movie and for Cady, for all of them. But I think it’s because of music.
NICHOLAW It sweetens everything up whether you want it to or not.
BENJAMIN I can’t not like a person I’m going to write a song for.
NICHOLAW We try to make sure that we undercut the sweet as much as we can.
BENJAMIN And sneak the message in.
Does having kids, maybe daughters in particular, affect your writing at all?
FEY When I first got Rosalind to license the book to us, I sort of promised her that we would honor the intention, which was to be helpful. We’ve carried that through.
BENJAMIN At 5, my daughter is already not on board for lectures. I have a lot that I want to say to her, but I cannot lecture her. In that respect it’s probably improved my writing, because I’m like, how am I going to work around a 5-year-old’s defenses? It better be funny.
I wasn’t thinking of the messaging so much as the tenderness of the show. It made me wonder if you’re writing more tenderly.
RICHMOND I think maybe.
FEY A moment of the show that has finally come to work, something that we struggled with, was the way we use Mrs. George — just wanting to represent a mother and acknowledge that grown women are judgmental of each other, too, and that we as the audience look at this character in the first act like: Oh, she’s a clown. And just wanting to find a way to empathize with her. That was important to me especially, and that is, yes, probably because I am a mother now, and when I wrote the movie I was not.
Continue reading the main story
There’s a poster outside the theater with photos of your little awkward-slash-adorable adolescent selves. Nerds are very dear to the show’s heart, it seems.
FEY It’s brought me so much joy, how much audiences have responded to the mathletes segment. I think embracing nerdery is what Cady does in a way. She embraces a part of herself that is not perceived to be cool. That’s at the core of the story.
RICHMOND Rooting for the underdogs.
FEY With the exception of Regina, every other character believes themselves to be an underdog in some way.
NICHOLAW Everyone can relate to that, especially in high school. How I coped was doing musicals. I was a gay kid that couldn’t come out because it was 1979, and I didn’t fit in anywhere and I didn’t like sports and I was called all kinds of things. So I found theater, and I found where I did belong.
Damian is like a valentine to every drama nerd who ever was.
RICHMOND Yeah. There’s this meta thing going on, too, because in the movie, you don’t get to see Damian actually in that world. You know he cares about it, but now you see the Damian within a musical theater structure who loves musical theater.
BENJAMIN And makes it happen wherever he goes.
What difference to your writing comes from having the audience in the room with you?
FEY It’s super helpful. You can take your own sense of humor as a guide for only so long, and then you’ve got to get it up in front of an audience. This is so much more alive, to have the chance every night to adjust things.
RICHMOND It’s also so much more rewarding. When you’re doing television, you don’t see the people who are enjoying your thing. I find myself spending so much time watching people in the audience.
Continue reading the main story
NICHOLAW I spend a lot of time deciding if I’m going to tell that person to stop crinkling their wrapper.
RICHMOND That’s why TV is better.
Tina, you’re the Broadway newbie. After “Mean Girls,” will theater see more of you?
FEY I would love to. Maybe we have to come up with something wholly original. But this process has been a joy. I know enough, just peripherally, to know that it could have been a bad arranged marriage, so I feel really very lucky.
SYDNEY, Australia — James Packer, a colorful Australian billionaire who has found himself embroiled in a corruption scandal involving Israel’s prime minister, has resigned as a director of Crown Resorts, the casino company that is a source of much of his wealth.
In a statement, Crown cited “personal reasons” for his departure without giving further details. But Consolidated Press Holdings, an investment company owned and controlled by Mr. Packer, said in a statement that “Mr. Packer is suffering from mental health issues.”
“At this time,” the company said, “he intends to step back from all commitments.”
Mr. Packer is one of Australia’s richest men, a globe-trotting billionaire who had been engaged to Mariah Carey, formed a film-production company with Brett Ratner in Hollywood — and most recently became entangled in a corruption investigation involving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.
According to the police in Israel, expensive cigars, jewelry and pink champagne flowed into the prime minister’s official Jerusalem residence — and one of the patrons was Mr. Packer, who has said he was only giving Mr. Netanyahu what he demanded.
Continue reading the main story
The case is still under investigation.
Recently, Mr. Packer has been shedding assets. In December, Crown sold a vacant Las Vegas lot where it had intended to build a major casino. A month ago, Mr. Packer sold off more than 100 million Australian dollars, about $75 million American, of his own shares in Crown.
After that sale, his remaining stake was valued at more than 4 billion Australian dollars.
Mr. Packer, 50, owns about 47 percent of Crown, the biggest listed casino company outside China, via Consolidated Press Holdings.