What’s Behind the Jane Harman Allegations?


“This conversation doesn’t exist,” U.S. Rep. Jane Harman allegedly told the person on the other end of the line. Now she wants everyone to know exactly what, if anything, was said.

The Venice-based Jewish Democrat, in the fight for her political life after allegations surfaced this week that in 2005 she agreed to intervene on behalf of two former AIPAC staffers charged with relaying classified leaks, called a chorus of bluffs on Tuesday when she sent a letter to the U.S. attorney general asking for the release of any tapes of classified conversations.

“I used the word ‘outrage’ twice in my letter, which I wrote this morning standing in my kitchen drinking cappuccino,” she said in a phone interview. “Three anonymous sources, former national security officials, are selectively leaking portions of an alleged intercept about which I knew nothing.”

The allegations are not new — allegations that Harman agreed to help out the AIPAC officials in mid-to-late 2005 first surfaced just prior to the 2006 midterm elections, reportedly leaked by Republicans on the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, where Harman served as the ranking Democrat.

Which leaves the question, why now?

Congressional Quarterly, which first broke the story this week, reports profound anger in the intelligence community at Harman for getting away with what they believe to be a major crime: conspiring to wield her influence in exchange for preserving political power.

Others have noted as possible factors the deep-seated antagonism between Harman and Republicans on the intelligence committee and between Harman and Porter Goss, the former CIA director who ordered the investigation opened against her.

And then there is the imminence of the trial of the two former AIPAC staffers, due to start on June 2, and substantial weaknesses in a case in which the intelligence community is heavily invested.

Although the story is well known, several new wrinkles have emerged. Harman says she was aware of the allegations against her, but never realized she had been recorded.

The CQ story quotes national security officials as saying that Harman’s statements — one in particular at the end of the conversation, when she allegedly said, “This conversation doesn’t exist” before hanging up — were enough to establish a criminal case.

According to the security sources cited by CQ and The New York Times, the case against Harman hinged on an alleged quid pro quo: She would intervene on behalf of Steve Rosen, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s former foreign policy chief, and Keith Weissman, its former Iran analyst; in exchange, Haim Saban, the Israeli American kids entertainment magnate and a major contributor to AIPAC and to the Democratic Party, would support her bid to become Intelligence Committee chair.

Saban reportedly, in a conversation with U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), then the House minority leader, threatened to pull funding for Democrats unless Harman got the top job on the committee. It’s a report not inconsistent with his subsequent behavior; a year ago, he was one of 20 backers of Hillary Rodham Clinton to make a similar veiled threat to Pelosi: Endorse Obama during the primaries, and prepare to lose our backing for your congressional races.

Another new allegation is that Alberto Gonzales, then the attorney general, shut down the case as soon as it was open, believing that Harman would be useful in keeping The New York Times from revealing the Bush administration’s expansion of its eavesdropping powers to American shores. Records show that Harman indeed backed such suppression subsequent to the recorded conversation — but that she had done so long before federal authorities opened a case against her.

Harman’s letter Tuesday asked Eric Holder, the U.S. attorney general, to release the tapes to undercut the theory of a quid pro quo.

“This abuse of power is outrageous, and I call on your Department to release all transcripts and other investigative material involving me in an unredacted form,” she said. “It is my intention to make this material available to the public.”

Harman said she could not recall what she would have considered a routine conversation from four years ago.

“Let’s just wait rather than speculate what I might have read and said, and we can parse it together,” she said.

She said she never made representations on behalf of Rosen and Weissman and suggested that whatever conversation occurred was a routine one, especially considering her acknowledged closeness to AIPAC.

“I’m proud of my friendships with members of AIPAC; I have conversations with them,” she said.

Referring to her alleged instruction that the conversation did not exist, she said: “Let’s see if I said that, let’s see the context in which I said it, what I might have been discussing with people I knew well, with an advocacy group or constituency group — we still don’t know who was at the other end.”

Harman had learned in 2005 that Pelosi, then the minority leader, planned to remove Harman from the committee; Harman enjoyed the work and wanted to stay on in her role as senior Democrat. It was a fight that would intensify in 2006, as it became clear that Democrats would retake the House and Harman had a shot at the chair.

The original leak about the alleged conversation came in October 2006, just after Harman had released a report accusing the committee’s Republican staffers of looking the other way while Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.), who had just been convicted in a bribery scandal, funneled tens of millions in contracts through the committee to his co-conspirators.

The Republicans were about to lose leadership of the House, which they had controlled for 12 years, and the election was already nasty; the stage was set for a leak that would harm Harman and — perhaps not coincidentally — warm the cockles of Goss, who had hired many of the committee’s GOP staffers implicated in Harman’s report and who was close to another figure convicted in the scandal — Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, his No. 3 at the CIA.

Finally, there is the issue of the timing: Rosen and Weissman are on track for trial on June 2, a date their lawyers say seems “real” after close to a dozen delays. Their case is strong: In recent months The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld tough constitutional restrictions on the government imposed by T.S. Ellis III, the trial judge; and Ellis overruled a prosecution effort to ban the testimony of Bill Leonard, who ran classification procedures for the Bush administration from 2002-2007 and who says the government’s case is an overreach. Reintroducing Harman into the mix may help shape opinions in the potential jury pool in northern Virginia, a region known for its preponderance of security hawks. Additionally, targeting a prominent Democrat sends a subtle message to an Obama administration that is considering prosecutions against intelligence officials for Bush-era alleged crimes, including torture and domestic spying.

Jeff Stein, who wrote the CQ story, denies that his sources entertained such considerations.

“The fact is, there is no ‘timing’ to any ‘leak,’” he said in an online chat. “No sources ‘came forward,’ so to speak. I learned about this quite a while ago and was just recently able to turn my full attention to it. Total coincidence.”

Harman says she’s “moved on” and is content with her spot on the Homeland Security Committee, chairing its intelligence subcommittee.

She equivocated about whether she would make her scheduled appearance at the AIPAC policy conference next month. “I’m scheduled to go, my schedule changes from time to time, I haven’t changed any of my plans,” she said.

Briefs: West Bank withdrawals coming, Peres says; Israel wants U.S. to stay the course on P.A.


West Bank withdrawals coming, Peres says

Israel plans to remove some West Bank settlements according to Shimon Peres.

The Israeli vice premier said Saturday that, while Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s plan to “realign” the West Bank deployment was shelved after last year’s Lebanon war, settlement evacuations are still on the agenda.

“Yes, settlements will be removed — not all the settlements, and I’m not even sure most of the settlements,” he told Israel’s Channel 2 television, adding that the number of communities evacuated could be in the dozens. “I think that a serious effort will be made to do that which we undertook to do, which is removing settlements.” Peres said the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority could affect the scale and pace of the withdrawals by accepting peace talks with Israel.

Israel wants U.S. to stay the course on P.A.

Israel is trying to shore up U.S. objections to the planned Palestinian Authority coalition government. Top aides of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert traveled Sunday to Washington, where they will urge Bush administration officials not to yield to European calls to engage the Hamas-Fatah unity government when it is formed.

The Palestinian Authority power-sharing pact, which was signed in Saudi Arabia last month, contains a vague reference to “respecting” past peace deals with Israel, falling short of Western demands that the Hamas-led government recognize the Jewish state and renounce terrorism. But Israel believes that some European nations are wavering for fear that the Palestinian Authority’s continued isolation will harm its president, Mahmoud Abbas, the Fatah leader and a perceived moderate.

Separately, U.S. Under Secretary of the Treasury Stuart Levey was in Israel on Sunday for talks with local officials on the effect of the Western aid embargo on the Palestinian Authority, and whether such measures could also be applied against Iran’s nuclear program.

Jordan’s King Abdullah wants more U.S. involvement

Jordan’s King Abdullah said the United States was not balanced in its handling of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.

“It is our duty to push this great nation, and others, to take balanced positions and support the peace process,” Abdullah told Jordanian television in a weekend interview ahead of a trip to the United States. He said Washington should use its influence on Israel “to prove its transparency to the peoples of the region, and that it is not biased.”

Abdullah, whose pro-Western country is considered an important regional broker, suggested that Israel was not displaying sincerity in its efforts to restart peace talks with the Palestinians.

“The main responsibility lies with Israel, which must choose either to remain a prisoner of the mentality of ‘Israel the fortress’ or to live in peace and stability with its neighbors,” he said.

Hungarian political unrest spurs anti-Semitism

Hungary’s leader warned of rising anti-Semitism. Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany said in an interview published over the weekend that the hatred of Jews in Hungary has reached new heights since a wave of anti-government protests last year.

“I have to say that there have never been so many anti-Semitic remarks as now,” Gyurcsany told Britain’s Times newspaper.

Hungary’s left-leaning government was disgraced in September after it was revealed to have lied about the economy in order to win the previous election. Gyurcsany said that during the resulting demonstrations, protesters tried to blame Jewish politicians, apparently with the encouragement of right-wing opposition members.

“There is something horrible happening,” said Gyurcsany, whose wife is of Jewish descent.

Hadassah receives $75 million for Jerusalem hospital

Hadassah received a $75 million contribution for a new inpatient tower at its Jerusalem hospital. William and Karen Davidson gave the gift on behalf of Guardian Industries Corp. of Auburn Hills, Mich., of which William Davidson is president. Hadassah will name the new facility at the Hadassah Medical Center the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Tower in memory of William Davidson’s mother, who was a founder of the organization’s Detroit chapter.

“The power of family is truly a binding one, and I feel privileged to be the third generation to support Hadassah’s goals and achievements,” Davidson said in a statement.

Davidson, who owns several sports teams, including the Detroit Pistons, said he was impressed by the way Hadassah treats patients of all religions and backgrounds. The $210 million inpatient tower will be a 14-story structure with 500 beds, 20 state-of-the-art operating rooms and 50 intensive-care beds. The tower is expected to boost Hadassah’s capabilities in many fields, such as cardiology, telemedicine and laparoscopic surgery, and will facilitate the use of advanced robotics and computers.

Minister denies war crimes allegations

An Israeli Cabinet minister denied Egyptian accusations that he was involved in the killing of Egyptian prisoners of war.

Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, a retired army general, said Sunday that his record during the 1967 war with Egypt was spotless. His comments came after some of his former subordinates said in an Israeli documentary that they had killed Egyptian prisoners, a claim that was picked up by the official Cairo newspaper Al-Ahram and prompted calls in the Egyptian Parliament for Ben-Eliezer to be tried for war crimes.

“The commandos under me did not kill Egyptian soldiers,” Ben-Eliezer, who is due to visit Egypt later this week, told Yediot Achronot.

“When the commandos encountered POWs from an Egyptian battalion, they gave them food and water.”

RJC launches anti-Reform Iraq resolution

The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) launched an effort opposing the Reform movement’s call for withdrawal from Iraq.

“If you or someone you know is a member of the Reform movement, you should know that the movement’s leadership is pushing the Executive Committee of the Union for Reform Judaism’s Board of Trustees to adopt a dangerous and wrongheaded resolution opposing the U.S. efforts in Iraq,” the RJC said in an action alert sent out this week.

It urged RJC members who belong to Reform synagogues to register their protests locally and nationally. “RJC will continue to speak out on this and make it clear that the Union for Reform Judaism does not speak for all Reform Jews or all Jews in general,” the RJC said.

L.A. Gafni Event Canceled


Revelations about sexual misconduct have led to the cancellation of an upcoming local event featuring prominent Rabbi Mordechai Gafni.

Gafni had been scheduled for a public talk at Stephen S. Wise Temple on June 9. Over the past two years, since being appointed to the Wisdom Chair in September 2004, Gafni has returned every few months to the Bel Air shul, where he’s had a loyal following.

Last week, four women in Israel — students and staff members at Tel Aviv’s Bayit Chadash, the Jewish renewal center that Gafni co-founded — filed complaints of sexual misconduct with Israeli police. In a public letter, Gafni, 46, admitted to being “sick” and promised to seek therapy. Leaders of Bayit Chadash immediately dismissed him.

Gafni was appointed to the Wisdom Chair at Stephen S. Wise two years ago — despite anecdotal allegations that he had a history of sexual misconduct. The temple’s senior rabbi this week issued a short statement denouncing Gafni.

“It is with a deep sense of shock and disappointment that I have learned of the sexual misconduct that has led to Rabbi Mordechai Gafni’s dismissal from Bayit Chadash,” senior Rabbi Eli Herscher said in a written statement responding to an inquiry from The Journal. “His actions, including vast deception, are indefensible.”

Herscher declined further comment, but the temple canceled Gafni’s June participation in a public conversation with commentator Dennis Prager.

Before being appointed to the Wisdom Chair, Gafni had been a regular scholar-in-residence at the 3,000-family Reform synagogue since 2002. His lectures and sermons attracted thousands.

Congregant Alan Finkelstein said he remembers Gafni’s 2003 Rosh Hashanah sermon as, “my finest moment in shul. He involved the crowd, He helped you connect with the person next to you. It was one of the best sermons I’ve ever heard.”

Finkelstein said he was moved to go back to hear Gafni on several other occasions.

But Gafni’s popularity was undermined by persistent rumors that he had, in the past, manipulated women into sexual relationships. In October 2004, The Jewish Journal reprinted a Jewish Week article exploring allegations that Gafni had inappropriate sexual contact with students when he was 19.

Attendance reportedly decreased at Gafni’s events following the publication of the article.

At the time, Herscher said he had discussed the rumors with Gafni and, after investigating them on his own, found them baseless. Herscher was in good company defending Gafni, as some of the country’s top Jewish thinkers, of all denominations, called Gafni a remarkable teacher who was the target of a malevolent campaign. Herscher also decried Jewish newspapers for printing lashon harah (malicious gossip).

“Rabbi Gafni coming to teach here makes a deeply important Jewish statement – that if rumors and allegations and innuendo are allowed to destroy someone who only wants to teach, Jewishly, that is tragic,” Herscher said in October 2004.

This week, Hersher’s sympathies lay elsewhere.

“I pray that all who have been misled and hurt by him — first and foremost the women he has harmed — will soon recover,” Herscher wrote.

 

False Endorsement Allegations Continue


 

The campaign to re-elect Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn is struggling to contain damage from newly emerging allegations that it falsely claimed endorsements from local Jewish leaders.

Four more community members have inspected Hahn endorsement letters and declared their signatures on them to be forgeries, bringing the total of alleged forgeries to eight since the issue first came to light last month.

The total of bad endorsements may well surpass 30, said community sources, but this claim has not been independently verified.

The Hahn campaign has denied any wrongdoing and continues to insist that the forms were provided by the late Joe Klein, a longtime Hahn backer who served as head of the city’s Planning Commission. Another community member, Alan Goldstein, has stepped in to repair the harm, urging angered Jewish leaders to reconsider supporting the incumbent mayor.

The furor arose out of Hahn campaign ads that listed more than 100 Jewish endorsements. The ad ran twice in The Jewish Journal prior to the March primary. In the primary, City Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa placed first and Hahn finished second, just ahead of challenger Bob Hertzberg. Villaraigosa and Hahn will meet in the May 17 runoff. Hertzberg, who is Jewish, was the candidate favored by most of the Jewish endorsers who said their names were misused. The matter did not surface publicly until a March 18 article in The Jewish Journal.

The latest development is that four additional Jewish community leaders, when shown their Hahn endorsement letters, insisted that their signatures were obvious fakes.

The four are Joseph Kornwasser, chair of National Bank of California; Irving Bauman, president and COO of Sunmar Health Care; Rabbi Baruch Kupfer, executive director of Maimonides Academy; and Rabbi Nachum Sauer, rosh kollel of the Yeshiva of Los Angeles.

“Someone has scribbled my name here,” Bauman said. “I’ve never seen the form to begin with.”

“This document is not authentic. It is not my signature,” Sauer wrote in an e-mail to The Journal after seeing his name.

Kupfer also wrote in an e-mail he had never seen the form before and never signed it, but believes Klein may have mentioned it to him at some point.

A sore point in this saga has been the Hahn campaign’s insistence on blaming any problems on Klein, a beloved leader in the Orthodox community who has been universally praised for his integrity (even by the Hahn campaign), and who died in June 2004.

Several individuals incorrectly named as Hahn endorsers say Hahn supporter Goldstein, a local businessman who owns the Shalom Retirement Home and was a close friend of Klein’s for decades, contacted them.

One person who says he got a call is Rabbi Steven Weil. Weil said he was contacted shortly after he complained about his name being used in Hahn ads without permission. At the time, Weil knew only about the published endorsement; he didn’t realize that his signature appeared on a Hahn endorsement form until The Journal showed it to him — and Goldstein didn’t tell him, Weil said.

Goldstein apologized about the published endorsement, telling Weil, “We had the names from years ago and we just assumed,” according to Weil.

In an interview this week, Goldstein confirmed that he spoke with “one or two people” after the endorsement controversy began.

“I was curious to see if they changed their minds,” he told The Journal.

Goldstein denied that he was acting on behalf of the Hahn campaign.

“Nobody asked me to do anything,” he said.

Goldstein added that he remembers Klein collecting endorsement forms in 2003 and early 2004. In fact, he signed such a form himself. He insisted that nobody in the Hahn campaign could possibly have forged them.

“The mayor’s campaign did not know these people or have access to them,” he said.

Hahn campaign consultant Kam Kuwata would not discuss Goldstein’s specific role with the campaign, adding his view that there was no reason to write anything more about the issue. Kuwata had provided The Journal with copies of the questionable endorsement forms, but last week called The Journal a “tool of the [Villaraigosa] campaign.”

Hahn’s campaign suffered a widely anticipated setback this week when former mayoral candidate Bernard Parks, who lost in the primary, endorsed Villaraigosa. Support from the African American Parks, an ex-police chief, could sway some black voters.

Meanwhile, both campaigns continue an aggressive play for the Jewish vote that went with Hertzberg in the primary. Hahn and Villaraigosa each appeared at last week’s fundraiser for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills. Neither candidate spoke at the event for the pro-Israel lobby group. The candidates competed only in the applause meter, and in that category the edge went to Villaraigosa. The same thing happened at a San Fernando Valley event honoring Rabbi Harold Schulweis.

But Hahn had the spotlight to himself during an event at the Museum of Tolerance. There he joined Jewish leaders in accusing London’s mayor of anti-Semitism for remarks he made in February likening a Jewish newspaper reporter to a German concentration camp guard (see briefs page 28).

At a press conference, Hahn released a letter to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, in which he wrote, “Unless and until Mayor Ken Livingstone of London apologizes for his comments … he will not be accorded or offered any official welcome to the city of Los Angeles, and I am urging my fellow mayors to do the same.”

 

Valley AIPAC Shows Support for Lobby


Hundreds of people — politicians and rabbis, Democrats and Republicans, Americans and Israelis, young and old — squeezed past dozens of tables to find their assigned seats for dinner.

Just two weeks after CBS News broke the story that the FBI has been investigating an American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) staffer for alleged espionage, the pro-Israel lobby hosted its largest event ever in the San Fernando Valley.

For several weeks, various news outlets implied that the U.S.-Israeli relationship had become too close for comfort and may have even influenced U.S. policy toward the Iraq War. There were fears that one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington was wounded.

However, 800 people at the Marriott in Woodland Hills on Sept. 12 proved the loyalty of the organization’s Southern California members, as they doubled the attendance of the previous year’s event.

"Los Angeles as a city has always been a very active part of AIPAC," Deputy Director Diana Stein said about Los Angeles, which ranks No. 2 behind New York City in terms of membership and donations.

Although AIPAC members in the San Fernando Valley have always existed as part of Los Angeles, it’s only in the past five years that they have taken on an identity of their own, Stein said. Since the Valley has been hosting its own AIPAC events, members there have doubled in attendance each year.

Elliot Brandt, AIPAC Western states director, vehemently denied all the espionage allegations before the Valley crowd, firing up the audience with indignation that AIPAC has been subject to "innuendo, slurs and leaks" surrounding the story, and that the only judge in the case so far has been the media.

"Investigators should talk to AIPAC, not the press," Brandt bellowed, saying that AIPAC would cooperate fully.

AIPAC’s specific positions on the investigation were made clear by all the speakers.

Although the investigation has been known to President Bush for two years, it has led to no action against AIPAC. On the contrary, the lobby maintains a list of quotes (written after the CBS story broke) from 16 members of Congress lauding AIPAC and its mission.

"Many Jewish organizations realize this [accusation] was a shot across the bow of Jewish political influence and involvement in U.S. government," Brandt said.

"I’ve known the two staffers for 20 years. They are as honorable, honest and hard working as anybody," Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) told The Journal before addressing the audience. "AIPAC is caught in the crossfire between administration factions warring over Iran and U.S. foreign policy."

The speakers all emphasized that the leak to CBS refers to an investigation that is two years old and is actually "intended to be a public relations smear" against U.S.-Israeli cooperation.

Rep. Howard Berman (D-North Hollywood) suggested that some factions in the government were hoping to make AIPAC and the U.S.-Israel relationship in general "a scapegoat for what’s happening in the world."

It was clear from the AIPAC event — and another one held at the Museum of Tolerance Sept. 9, hosting Omri Sharon, the Israeli prime minister’s son, and Labor Knesset member Isaac Herzog — that AIPAC members strongly support the organization, especially in times of trouble. Despite the rallying cries here, no one is quite certain of how the allegations will impact in the long-term the organization — and relations between Israel and the United States.

"The plain fact is, the scandal will affect Jewish and pro-Israel interests in myriad ways — even if the federal investigation fizzles and no charges are brought," James Besser wrote in The Journal when the scandal broke.

But that’s precisely what AIPAC officials and speakers were trying to stem.

"Some hope that AIPAC will become confused or stand on the sidelines, or that legislators will distance themselves [from us], but AIPAC is on the march," Brandt said.

"[These accusations] run the risk of hurting the organization, but we cannot afford to be sidetracked" from supporting Israel, Sen. Norm Coleman’s (R-Minn.) said.

Despite the evening’s message of total unity against the allegations, Coleman’s speech veered toward the partisan, proving that AIPAC is not completely immune to unpredictable election-year politics.

Coleman’s comments began with a nonpartisan appeal for unity on Israel. Soon, though, the senator began openly endorsing Bush’s re-election, surprising many in the audience, including the nonpartisan AIPAC leaders, who said they had no idea Coleman’s speech would careen in that direction.

Coleman said he saw a difference in how the two presidential candidates would treat the U.S.-Israeli relationship. While Sen. John Kerry may appeal to diplomacy to seek peace in the Middle East, Coleman said that he himself agrees with Bush that the U.S. must "establish free and just societies" around the world, and that Bush would never be "nuanced" on U.S.-Israeli relations.

Though his speech was occasionally punctuated by shouts from opposing tables alternately supporting Kerry or Bush, Coleman and the rest of the speakers all returned to AIPAC’s main message: The future of the Jews is dependent on the State of Israel; Israel in turn is dependent on its relationship with the United States, and AIPAC actively strengthens that relationship as a nonpartisan lobby.

Berkley reminded the audience that in the darkest days of the Holocaust, when American Jews appealed to President Franklin D. Roosevelt to consult with them, they were not able to obtain a meeting.

Donna Bender, AIPAC dinner chair, summed up that sentiment: "[U.S.] support for Israel is not guaranteed. It is up to us."

Hate Crime Stats Not Always Precise


The Council on American-Islamic Relations’ (CAIR) new report titled, "Unpatriotic Acts," warns that acts of hate against Muslims in the United States skyrocketed in 2003. At face value, the numbers are grim: CAIR notes a 70 percent increase in "reports of harassment, violence and discriminatory treatment" against Muslims in the United States between 2002 (602 acts) and 2003 (1,019 acts). That also represents a 300 percent increase between the years 2000 and 2003.

Those numbers, however, do not entirely speak for themselves. Tracking hate is a complex process; statistics may be influenced by outside variables. That’s especially true since the CAIR report also includes noncriminal acts of discrimination, sometimes called "hate incidents." CAIR is not alone in using this methodology: Some groups tracking anti-Semitism do the exact same thing.

For example, to reach the number 1,019, CAIR lumped the 91 recorded violent or property hate crimes against Muslims in 2003 (e.g. assault, vandalism) with all other manner of reported bigotry, some more serious than others. This sort of noncriminal hate can take the form of religious profiling, discriminatory application of the law or denial of services.

CAIR, however, notes that even these nonviolent cases could conceivably be brought before a court of law.

"A lot of those incidents are actionable, although they’re not violent criminal acts," Mohammed Nimer, director of research at CAIR, told The Journal.

On the other hand, in cases that are never prosecuted by the authorities, there may be no police reports, medical records or witnesses to corroborate the claims or measure their severity.

"When I look at the cases, if the allegation has the ‘what, when, where, why and how,’ and the information is specific, I would include it," said Nimer about the report. "The rejection rate [was] between 40 percent and 60 percent."

While many of the criminal offenses in "Unpatriotic Acts" are obviously eggregious, the criteria used to measure other incidents are less clear. For example, "Unpatriotic Acts" includes this record: "On Jan. 1, an unknown man confronted a Muslim couple at [a] shopping center in … Maryland and asked them whether they were planting a bomb in the area."

"I think that once you move beyond what constitutes a hate crime according to the law, it’s a pretty vast universe that you’re trying to measure," said Marshall Wong, hate crime coordinator for the L.A. County Commission on Human Relations, which also publishes a report on hate crime statistics.

"There must be a consistent measure against which [noncriminal] complaints are set," said David Lehrer of Community Advocates, Inc., a local civil rights group. "Depending on the headlines of the day, and what the mood of the public is, you may get a whole variety of complaints, and 90 percent of them may have no merit whatsoever. There has to be some rigor [in order] to determine whether there is any veracity to the charges that have been made."

Like CAIR, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) also reports hate incidents, despite the difficulties.

"We keep track [of hate incidents] to suggest trends, but we are fully aware that the final results of such a report can be impacted by factors that are not scientific, like the reporting," said Amanda Susskind, regional director of the ADL. Susskind noted that an appalling crime or other event can shock a community into realizing the importance of reporting, and they may flood the phone lines, indicating a spike in discrimination incidents.

That same amount of bigotry, however, may have simply gone unreported in the community for years. Wong cited an example of this in the massive spike of reported hate crimes against gay men in September and October of 2002.

"It coincided [with] a very highly publicized attack on a West Hollywood resident that occurred on Sept. 1, 2002, so it’s highly likely that during that period of time, gay men who were victimized felt an obligation to report [it] in larger numbers," he said.

Nimer acknowledges those inherent variables: "That’s very hard to control. [The number of] CAIR offices have increased tremendously since Sept. 11, and may have contributed to community-wide reporting."

Hate crime numbers, compared to hate incident numbers, may be slightly less susceptible to these reporting variables since the government can prosecute and record the underlying crime before the hate-fueled motivation is alleged.

When hate crime numbers are separated from all the noncriminal reports in "Unpatriotic Acts," CAIR’s study reveals that only 49 more anti-Muslim hate crimes occurred in 2003 than 2002 in the entire United States (91 crimes, up from 42).

Nimer emphasized the solidity of that measured increase: "Even before CAIR became an organization with 25 offices, most of those [violent crimes] were very well documented, so you cannot say the CAIR report indicates more hate crime because CAIR is more capable of recording [it]."

On the other hand, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer released a report on July 8 detailing an approximately 10 percent decrease in statewide hate crimes in 2003. Though no data on crimes against Muslims in specific was noted, the category of crimes called "Anti-Other Ethnicity/National Origin," which includes crimes against Arab or Middle Eastern people, decreased by 19 percent since 2002 (199 to 161). According to that report, blacks and homosexuals are the No.1 and No. 2 targeted groups in California, respectively.

But, in one final layer of complexity, Wong also noted that even hate crime reporting has built-in flaws: "Some law enforcement agencies in entire cities are not aggressively pursuing investigations with hatred as a motivation," he said. "You may in fact see that those jurisdictions labeled as hotbeds of hate crime activity, because they report larger numbers, may simply be doing their jobs better."

"Those are all variables," he said. "That’s why we have to be very careful about what we read into the numbers."

He’s No Robert Redford


An Irish multimillionaire pining for a London teacher offered her husband $1 million to divorce her in a real-life "Indecent Proposal" that has scandalized London’s Orthodox Jewish community, according to a May 4 report in London’s Sunday Times.

Brian Maccaba made the offer to Alan Attar after he allegedly became infatuated with his wife Nathalie Attar, an instructor at Beth Yosef preschool, which is funded by a nonprofit chaired by Maccaba.

Australia’s Daily Telegraph reported that Maccaba, who is married, became interested in Nathalie Attar soon after she arrived at his $3.8 million home in North London to teach his children.

In a handwritten letter sent to the couple, Maccaba referred to Nathalie Attar as his "true soulmate" and the money as a "golden key" that would "set her free" and give the husband "a bachelor’s freedom again … to be a playboy in the south of France for a while."

Nathalie Attar was so shocked by the letter that she took it to Rabbi Dayan Lichtenstein, a senior rabbinic judge with the Federation of Synagogues’ beit din, for advice.

The 30-something couple rejected the computer executive’s offer.

A Jewish court cleared Maccaba of sexual harassment allegations and said that he had not acted inappropriately, according to The Sunday Times. But the letter has now become Lichtenstein’s main piece of evidence in a defamation suit filed against him by Maccaba, alleging that the rabbi has damaged his personal and professional life.

Maccaba’s suit alleges that the rabbi referred to him on two separate occasions as a known adulterer who pursued "young Jewish newlyweds" and who "has been involved in numerous affairs with married women within the Jewish community."

A spokesman for Lichtenstein denies the claim that the rabbi had made any slanderous comments.

Friends of Nathalie Attar told The Sunday Times that she was so distressed by Maccaba’s alleged behavior that the couple has since left London for Israel.

World Briefs


Police: Suspects Financed TerrorIndirectly

There’s no evidence that members of the Islamic Movement arrested this week in Israel used funds to directly finance terror attacks, Israeli police said.

“We do not claim that the money was used to buy explosive belts” for suicide bombers, a police spokeswoman said.

But the movement is suspected of transferring money from abroad to help support families of suicide bombers.

“Without this financial support, Hamas would not be able to carry out terror attacks,” the spokeswoman said. Israel arrested 15 members of the northern branch of the movement on Tuesday.

Court Hears Petition Against ChiefRabbi

Israel’s High Court on Wednesday heard a petition challenging the appointment of the chief Ashkenazi rabbi. The petitioner, a Tel Aviv accountant, cited allegations against Rabbi Yona Metzger, including sexual harassment and forgery. Metzger’s attorneys rejected the allegations as baseless. The accountant also said Metzger is not qualified to serve as a rabbinic court judge because he did not complete the appropriate studies. Israel’s state attorney recommended that the court reject the petition on the grounds that under current law, the appointment of a chief rabbi can be canceled only if the rabbi resigns. The court will publish its decision at a later date.

Crown Heights Conviction

Lemrick Nelson was found guilty of violating the civil rights of yeshiva scholar Yankel Rosenbaum during the 1991 Crown Heights riots. However, the jury in the civil trial found Wednesday that Nelson was not responsible for Rosenbaum’s death. As a result of the conviction, which came a day after the jury said it was deadlocked, Nelson faces up to 10 years in jail.

Man Beaten in Berlin

An Orthodox Jew was beaten up in Berlin. Tuesday’s attack on the 19 year old, who wears a black hat and sports a beard, occurred in the Berlin subway. Three youths made anti-Semitic remarks to the man. They then followed him out of the subway, throwing fruit at him and asking if he is Jewish. They beat him when he refused to answer. The men are believed to be of Arab descent, police said. Earlier this week, a non-Jewish man who was wearing a Star of David also was beaten in Berlin by attackers who mistook him for a Jew.

British Burial Practices Questioned

Britain’s chief rabbi is calling for certain post-mortem procedures to be phased out after it was revealed that a Jewish man was buried without his brain, contrary to Jewish law. Jonathan Sacks made the call after the publication of the Isaacs Report, a three-year government study that reveals that tens of thousands of brains were removed from British corpses without the consent of relatives. The report focused on Cyril Isaacs, who committed suicide in 1987 and whose brain was removed for medical research into mental illness, unbeknownst to his family. He had suffered from depression.

N.J. Pressed to End Poet Laureate Job

A Jewish coalition is calling for the elimination of New Jersey’s poet laureate post. The coalition, which includes Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, U.S. Jewish groups and New Jersey rabbis, wants the position eliminated in order to oust the current holder, Amiri Baraka. Baraka made headlines last year when he read a poem that said Israel was responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

Harvard Center Investigates Donor

Harvard’s divinity school may return a $2.5 million gift from the president of the United Arab Emirates with ties to a controversial Arab think tank.

The executive director of the Zayed Center for Coordination and Follow-up once denounced Jews as the “enemies of all nations.”

In addition, the Web site for the center, which is described as a “fulfillment of the vision” of Sheik Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, features a list of speakers including a Holocaust denier and one who alleges that the United States was behind the Sept. 11 attacks.

A spokesman for the school said a researcher recently had investigated the ties, but the spokesman declined to discuss the researcher’s findings, according to newspaper reports from Boston.

French Rabbi Scandal Deepens

A member of a Paris synagogue whose rabbi is accused of staging his own stabbing last January wrote a threatening letter to the rabbi shortly after the incident, police believe.

The man, whose identity has not been divulged, was arrested and appeared in court last week, the Le Monde daily reported Monday. Gabriel Farhi, the rabbi of Paris’ Liberal Synagogue, was treated for knife wounds following an alleged stabbing outside his synagogue on Jan. 3. Around two weeks later, he received a threatening letter regretting “that the job had not been completed.”

Anti-Israel Boycott Fails

A British teachers union rejected a motion to boycott Israeli academics. By a 2-1 vote, the Association of University Teachers (AUT) rejected a motion by Sue Blackwell, a pro-Palestinian activist from Birmingham University, for AUT members to “review immediately, with a view to severing, any academic links they may have with official Israeli institutions, including universities.”

Andy Marks, founder of the International Academic Friends of Israel, said, “We are pleased that the AUT came to the right conclusion. However, it concerns us that such a motion ever made it on their agenda.”

Orthodox Group Eyes Liquor Ban

A rabbinical group will consider banning hard liquor in Orthodox congregations. Rabbi Hershel Billet, the president of the Rabbinical Council of America, told the New York Jewish Week that he will propose restricting the use of hard liquor on Shabbat and other religious occasions during the group’s annual convention later this month.

Billet is the rabbi of Young Israel of Woodmere, N.Y., which recently issued its own liquor ban after a teenage member drank too much and got sick at a “Kiddush.”

3 Charged in Tel Aviv Bombing

British police charged three people in connection with the recent deadly suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. Zahid Hussain Sharif, 46; Paveen Akthor Sharif, 35; and Tahari Shad Tabassum, 27, all from Derbyshire in England, were charged with failing to disclose information about a terrorist act. Paveen Sharif also was charged with aiding and abetting acts of terrorism overseas.

General Strike Resumes

Israeli public sector workers renewed a general strike Tuesday after negotiations between Treasury and trade union officials on an emergency economic plan broke down. Seaports, trains and government offices were shut down, while schools opened an hour late and hospitals operated on a Sabbath schedule. There also were disruptions at Ben-Gurion Airport, where work stoppages by baggage-handlers Monday prompted the pilot of a Czech airlines flight to take off without boarding outgoing passengers and with the luggage of those who had just disembarked still in the cargo hold.

El Al to Fly on Shabbat?

The privatization of Israel’s national airline could lead to El Al flying on the Sabbath. El Al’s stock will be sold on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange by the end of the month, according to a decision made Tuesday by the Knesset Finance Committee. El Al’s new management would decide whether the airline would fly on Shabbat.

Bush Won’t Party for Israel

President Bush will not attend a gala for Israel later this month in Washington because he never received an invitation, White House officials say. Organizers of the Spirit of Israel Concert had touted the expected appearance of Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the May 19 event. But White House officials told JTA they did not receive an invitation and have a state dinner planned that night with the president of the Philippines.

Condoms for Israel

Student activists in San Diego passed out condoms that read, “Israel: It’s Still Safe to Come.” Activists with Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life at the University of California at San Diego dispersed the condoms with a pamphlet promoting Israel’s record in protecting the rights of women and gays, in contrast to other countries in the region, the San Diego Jewish Press-Heritage reported May 2. The move is part of UCSD Hillel’s “Got Israel” campaign

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency

‘California Eight’ Sue Italy’s Generali


When Suzanne Weiner-Zada was growing up in Hungary, her father, a wealthy lumber merchant, took out eight insurance policies with Assicurazioni Generali of Italy, one of the world’s largest insurance companies, which operated extensively in the pre-World War II Jewish communities of Central and Eastern Europe.

One policy was on the life of her 10-year-old brother, Laszlo, who was killed in Auschwitz, as were their grandparents.

Weiner-Zada survived Bergen-Belsen and Auschwitz and eventually settled in Los Angeles, working as an artists’ representative. Until two years ago, she didn’t try to redeem the policies, because "I didn’t want blood money," she said.

When she finally did apply, she received a settlement offer of $10,533, later raised to $16,012. The figures were ridiculously low, she said, but what really set off the feisty 73-year-old was Generali’s demand that she sign a statement to the effect that the money was being paid out as an act of charity and not as a legal obligation.

"They want to make us look like beggars," Weiner-Zada exploded. "I said to hell with it. Even if the sums were much larger, I would never sign such a thing. There’s still a lot of spunk in me."

Weiner-Zada is among eight parties of Holocaust survivors and their descendants from the Los Angeles area, who in early April filed a suit against Generali in Los Angeles Superior Court. They claim that for more than 50 years the company had stonewalled their requests for payment on policies or fobbed them off with meager settlement offers.

The actual and potential stakes in this and a half-dozen other lawsuits filed against Generali are huge. Attorney William M. Shernoff, who represents the "California Eight" and has been confronting Generali for five years, estimates that the policies in the current suit might now be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and might reach millions if a jury ultimately adds bad faith and punitive damages to its verdict.

But that may be only the tip of the iceberg. If the eight win their case, they might be followed by tens of thousands of other plaintiffs seeking billions of dollars from Generali and other European insurance companies.

Generali has used various lines of defense, according to Shernoff and his co-counsel, Lisa Stern. First, the company said it could not find records of the disputed policies, or demanded, according to numerous survivors, death certificates for Jews killed in Auschwitz or other extermination camps, a charge denied by Generali.

When these arguments failed, Generali said that the insurance payments had been paid to Hitler’s regime after it confiscated the policies held by Jews.

Generali also argued that its branch offices in Eastern Europe had been expropriated and nationalized by communist governments after World War II. But the latest and strongest barrier was Generali’s position that all claims be routed through a body known as The International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims.

The commission was established in 1998 by major European insurance companies, insurance commissioners from various U.S. states, with the participation of major Jewish organizations, including the World Jewish Congress, and the State of Israel. It was hoped that through the commission setup, claimants would get their money faster and easier than going through lengthy court proceedings.

In practice, critics say, only a trickle of claims has been approved by the commission, which is funded entirely by the insurance companies, with Generali contributing the biggest stake, $100 million.

In a landmark decision, Manhattan Federal District Judge Michael B. Mukasey ruled in early April that the commission could not dispense fair treatment and functioned, in his words, as a "company store."

The decision unblocked the path for the filing of the "California Eight" suit, and other suits which had been backing up.

The other Los Angeles plaintiffs in the case are Stephen Lantos, Edith More, Iga Pioro, George Kunstadt, Helga and Tom Sorter, Susan Ungar, and Jack Weiss and his daughter, Judy Friedman.

The allegations against Generali were vigorously contested by Kenneth Bialkin, the company’s lead attorney, who said that Generali "couldn’t be more forthcoming" in trying to settle 60-year-old policy claims.

There is a certain irony in Generali being cast as the heavy in the ongoing legal battles with Holocaust survivors. The company was founded in 1831 by Jewish merchants in Trieste, had thousands of Jewish agents throughout Europe and, even now, its current chairman of the board is Jewish.

Bialkin said he was particularly disturbed by the claim that Generali had demanded official death certificates from Jews killed in extermination camps, a charge that "immediately raises a horrid image."

Despite testimonies from survivors, Bialkin insisted that the death certificate demands were false and had been officially denied by Generali.

He pointed to a voluntary trust fund established by Generali in 1998 and its $100 million contribution to the international commission as proof of the Italian company’s fairness and good faith.

A former national chairman of the Anti-Defamation League, Bialkin charged that "the plaintiffs want to give Generali a bad name, and that bothers me as a Jew and a lawyer."

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