Begone, bygones! Green is the new blue and white


Let Bygones (Not) Be Bygones” (Nov. 7) infuriated me. Marty Kaplan is not happy that Barack Obama was generous to his opponents and their supporters in his victory speech, because in his opinion, they are guilty of lies and character assassination for suggesting the possibility that a Chicago politician who associated with the likes of the Rev. Wright and Bill Ayers to launch his political career might not be trusted to always put the best interests of his country above his own political ambitions or the best interests of his political party.

I have never read a more mean-spirited opinion piece, and I urge The Journal to stop printing such garbage.

Steven Novom

The Republicans have smeared many American citizens and disrespected us as human beings, called us traitors, called us un-American, made the word “liberal” into a mocked, disrespectful term, etc.

And many of us would like some accountability. Especially of the kind that lies us into wars and gets our kids killed. Because I am not just going to “get over it.”

How do we get it? What can we do to make sure that happens, because I am behind that campaign?

Bill Davis
Secretary, Democrats Abroad
Melbourne, Australia

Marty Kaplan so eloquently expressed my own disdain for the politics of personal destruction practiced by John McCain and his campaign. We as Jews know only too well that words count and that there are people who can be whipped into committing dangerous acts when encouraged by a leader they respect.

I once had enormous regard for McCain, but it will take me a long time to forgive him after he condoned — expressly or tacitly — the ugly accusations against an honorable opponent. We can’t allow this to be excused as politics as usual. It is unacceptable, dangerous and profoundly un-American. Enough is enough!

Barbara H. Bergen
Los Angeles

It seems a bit disingenuous when Marty Kaplan writes, “Along with the privilege of living in a democracy comes the obligation to be accountable for your actions,” right after making so many unsupported accusations against John McCain, Sarah Palin, Rudy Giuliani and President Bush.

The one quote he does supply is from McCain’s concession speech: “I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him [Obama] but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together,” which surely supports the idea that McCain is indeed a class act.

Kenny Laitin
via e-mail

New Jewish Agenda

You could not be more right when you said green is the new blue and white (“A New Jewish Agenda,” Nov. 7). Our community has been slow to grasp this. AIPAC has been slow to grasp it in a meaningful way. There is a sentence or two in its annual policy document but not much by way of content in the annual conference.

The League of Conservation Voters is in the same building as AIPAC in Los Angeles, and I can’t get my friends in each to have coffee. Israel’s percentage of solar energy is 4 percent, which is 1 percent higher than California.

I encourage you to stay on this topic.

Howard Welinsky
via e-mail

Thou Shalt Not Lie

I can understand why Teresa Strasser would want to lie to her grandmother in order not to break the old woman’s heart by telling her that her Catholic husband was not Jewish (“Thou Shalt Not Lie…ish,” Oct. 31). What I cannot understand is the obvious relish she received from the ruse.

The article made me very sad. If we are lucky enough to live to our 90s, is it better to live out our last days being lied to by our loved ones? When everything else is taken away from you, do you lose the truth as well?

Pat Weiner
Los Angeles

Same-Sex Marriage

Orthodox Judaism doesn’t even recognize civil marriage for Jewish couples (Advertisement, Oct. 31). Besides, we live in a constitutional democracy, not a theocracy. Why do you care that same-sex couples wish to marry?

I am the proud, Jewish father of a wonderful girl, and I was born gay.

I will not tolerate anyone telling my daughter that her family is less legitimate than any other.

William Kaplan
Los Angeles

It is troubling that some Orthodox rabbis have joined with the Christian right to eliminate same-sex civil marriage. Banning same-sex civil marriage is about as relevant to Orthodox Judaism as banning the sale of shellfish.

Jack Rosenfeld
Los Angeles

Policy Statement

We are in complete agreement with your policy statement regarding accepting advertisements (Advertorial, Nov. 7). The Jewish Journal is a paper that speaks to the entire and marvelously diverse Jewish community in greater Los Angeles.

Middie and Richard Giesberg
Los Angeles

Larry and Me

Jews have always felt for the downtrodden and then allowed themselves to be used and abused (“Larry and Me,” Oct. 31). They seem to have short memories and choose to overlook important issues. Since Larry Greenfield disagrees with you, you consider him wrong. No, you are. You prefer to believe in fiction, not facts.

There are plenty of Jewish Republicans who see the world more clearly than you, but you ridicule them. Thank God for Greenfield, who presents the real world, not the dream world.

Robert Reyto
Los Angeles

Spy vs. Spy

Over the past few weeks, as the anniversary of Sept. 11 approached, the FBI and the Department of Justice, along with investigative reporters at CBS, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, have focused their resources on what they must figure is a real threat to American security: the folks at AIPAC.

"Israel Has Long Spied on U.S., Say Officials" screamed a front page Sept. 3 headline by Times’ writers Bob Drogin and Greg Miller.

The article played catch-up to a report on CBS that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the pro-Israel lobbying group, is the focus of an ongoing federal investigation. According to the news reports, an indictment was imminent against lower-level Pentagon analyst official Larry Franklin for passing confidential documents regarding America’s Iran policy to two AIPAC officials, who then funneled them to the Israelis.

In June the Pentagon revoked Franklin’s security clearances, and the FBI has been tracking two AIPAC Iran analysts, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman. I suppose that’s just in case they try to enroll in flight school.

What is going on here?

No one I’ve spoken with believes this purported investigation will uncover serious wrongdoing. That’s not to say no one may have crossed lines, lines that are often blurry to begin with. The office of Doug Feith, the undersecretary of Defense for Policy, is under at least two separate investigations that don’t concern Israel, as is the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans, which was responsible for some of the dubious intelligence regarding pre-invasion Iraq. But as for the Franklin investigation, a Washington investigator told me, "We’re not even close to Jonathan Pollard territory here."

All along, the seriousness of the charges and the way they unfolded doesn’t square. If AIPAC were really the target of a two-year government investigation approved by national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, wouldn’t it have been radioactive by now? Would Rice herself have spoken to the group several times last year, and maintain her commitments to speak to it again in the coming months? Would she have allowed her boss, President Bush, to speak to AIPAC’s annual meeting on May 10? And would members of both parties have swamped AIPAC events in New York and Washington?

Is this affair about some nefarious pro-Israel spy ring that reaches from the Century Plaza AIPAC banquets to the halls of Congress to the neocons at the Pentagon to the White House? Or are the accusations volleys in a turf war over administration policy in the Middle East, from Israel to Iraq to Iran? The administration’s weak and incoherent Iran policy has pitted the State Department and CIA against the Department of Defense, and leaking a spy story is one way to discredit the latter. There is plenty of fault to be found with administration neocons, but smearing them with insinuations of dual-loyalty hurts Israel and American Jewry as a whole.

In all this, the press has been a willing accomplice. The Sept. 3 Los Angeles Times article lacked only a photo of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg to make it more sensational. The damning headline rested — if you read through the piece — on a few unnamed officials. Other than printing some pro-forma Israeli denials, the writers don’t bother to investigate the details of the accusations themselves. It’s Swift Boat Veterans for Truth-style journalism: print the accusations, let others sort out the truth. Meanwhile, the looney left and Buchanan right go off on an Internet posting binge of anti-Israel conspiracy theories.

The Los Angeles Times piece offers no context — zero — as to what kind of spying other allies engage in, or to what extent the United States does the same. It doesn’t detail the harm — if any — to America’s security that such a vast network may have caused. And, like any good spy information, it self-destructs toward the end: The unnamed former officials say, "The relationship with Israeli intelligence is as intimate as it gets," and "They probably get 98 percent of everything they want handed to them on a weekly basis." So Israel and AIPAC have an intensive, politically suicidal, ongoing spy network against Israel’s life-sustaining ally in order to snag that extra 2 percent?

Franklin has not been charged yet, but there are reports indictments are forthcoming. They are expected to be minor. But they will cast a major pall on the operations of an organization that has been critical to Israel’s well-being. I’ve often disagreed with AIPAC when it has appeared to act as a hand puppet in the lap of Israeli governments whose policies sometimes defied logic or decency. Even then I know it has sometimes served as a truth-telling intermediary to Israeli prime ministers who needed to face difficult facts.

In Los Angeles, home to a financially and politically active network of AIPAC supporters, no one is even thinking of jumping ship. That would change in a heartbeat if what looks like reporters getting spun turns out to be bona fide espionage.

"It would be a dealbreaker," said one AIPAC supporter, who preferred to go unnamed.

In the meantime, we can only hope the folks at State, the FBI and the press are working as hard to uncover our enemies as they are to discomfit our friends.

A Gift in the Hand is Worth…

Shimon Peres, the most experienced Israeli politician still in the harness, was not on Ehud Barak’s 25-man team negotiating peace with Syria in West Virginia this week. But the 76-year-old economic cooperation minister may have moved within striking distance of the last public position he still craves: the presidency.

The prospects of Ezer Weizman’s completing his second term have diminished after he confirmed a report by investigative journalist Yoav Yitzhak that he received nearly half a million dollars from a French Jewish tycoon, Edouard Seroussi, while serving as a legislator and minister in the ’80s.

The gift was never declared, either to the Knesset or to the tax man. A decade ago, with Weizman’s blessing, Seroussi was behind an abortive attempt to launch a second English-language daily to compete with the Jerusalem Post. He maintains a home in the upscale Tel-Aviv suburb of Saviyon.

Government lawyers have opened an investigation. Weizman says he did nothing illegal, since his friend Seroussi had no business interests in Israel and the money had been paid into a trust, administered by Weizman’s attorney (from whose office the president’s file appears to have been filched). It is alleged that thousands of dollars were transferred piecemeal to the private accounts of Weizman, his wife and daughter, even after he became president in 1993. In effect, Seroussi seems to have bankrolled the old pilot’s political career.

Justice Minister Yossi Beilin has warned against rushing to judgment. Nevertheless, the rumor mill is churning. Prime Minister Barak is reported to have promised Peres his support. Ra’anan Cohen, Labor’s secretary-general, has confirmed that the former leader is the party’s choice to succeed Weizman. Peres, the only Israeli to have held all four top government posts — prime minister, foreign, defense and finance — makes no secret that he is available. He remains as active and creative as ever.

The ailing, 75-year-old incumbent has “welcomed” the chance to clear his name and is turning over all relevant papers, but some commentators are already demanding that he step down. The clamor has been amplified by resentment — not only on the right — at the way Weizman has begun campaigning for a Golan withdrawal as part of a peace package with Damascus.

The president announced that he would resign if Israelis did not vote “yes” in the promised referendum. More than 60 percent of the public polled by Gallup condemned that as inappropriate intervention by a national figurehead who is supposed to be above the political battle.

So far, his fellow politicians have been more reticent than the media, who don’t want to be accused of gunning for right wingers suspected of bribe-taking, like Shas’ Aryeh Deri and the Likud’s Binyamin Netanyahu, while ignoring establishment peacenicks like Weizman.

In an editorial headlined “The president must resign,” the liberal daily Ha’aretz went for the jugular: “The public expects its representatives to make do with their monthly salaries and not be tempted to accept gifts, which could affect the recipient’s judgment. Nor was this a reasonable one-time gift that one friend gives another. It was in fact a second, and very hefty, monthly salary that was given to Weizman when he held a highly influential public position.

“In the past, some public servants faced trial for receiving gifts of far less value, the assumption being that any gift that is given to a public figure is suspect, and that the more senior the person and the larger the gift, the more suspect it is. The fact that it is impossible to point to a direct connection between the gift and the quid pro quo is not proof that the crime of bribery was not committed. A financial investment in a senior public figure can sometimes be a long-term affair.”

Writing on the same page, columnist Dan Margalit, argued: “The issue has nothing to do with criminality, but rather with norms. In a country whose president receives half a million dollars from a tycoon who is not a relative, it is impossible to put a junior civil servant on trial for having accepted a bribe in return for a building permit.”

Margalit, a former Washington correspondent who blew the whistle on then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s illegal American bank account 23 years ago, broadened the attack on Weizman. “His intervention on behalf of peace with Syria represents a serious deviation from the kind of behavior one would expect from an Israeli president,” he wrote. “Weizman will destroy much more than just the presidency, because he is not prepared to represent the minority in this country; because, after an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, he will lack the moral authority to heal the wounds in our society; and because he sets such a poor example as to how civil servants should act.”

In truth, Ezer Weizman has more critics than enemies. His story is the story of Sabra Israel, in war and in peace, this last half century. When he figured in a “This is Your Life” TV program in the ’70s, the nation came to a halt. He is a rude charmer, a chivalrous male chauvinist. When he was accused not long ago of shooting from the hip, he retorted that the gunslinger who didn’t shoot from the hip ended up dead on the saloon floor.

If he does have to resign, no one will dance on his political grave. In the fall, after he had his gall bladder removed, it was whispered that he would step down this spring when he completed seven years in office. Sadly, he may no longer have that honorable option.