Nation & World Briefs

Israel Upholds Contested Immigration Law

Israeli Arabs are upset after Israel’s top court upheld a controversial law that prevents Palestinians married to Israeli Arabs from living in Israel.

By a vote of 6-5, the High Court of Justice on Sunday rejected petitions filed against the Citizenship and Entry Law.

While acknowledging that the law violates the human rights of the thousands of Israeli Arabs married to Palestinians, the High Court said national security must take precedence.

At least one of the Palestinian suicide bombers to have struck since 2000 was a resident of Israel through marriage, and Israeli Jews are all the more suspicious of Palestinians since they voted in a Hamas government earlier this year.

“The Palestinian Authority is an enemy government, a government that wants to destroy the country and is unwilling to recognize Israel,” Justice Mishael Cheshin wrote.

But Israeli Arabs, who make up 20 percent of the country’s population, voiced their opposition to the decision.

“On this day, the High Court effectively approved the most racist legislation in the State of Israel: legislation which bars the unification of families on the basis of national belonging: Arab Palestinian,” Adalah, the legal center for Arab minority rights in Israel, said in a statement.

Adalah likened the ruling, which means that many Israeli Arabs will either have to live apart from their Palestinian spouses or move to the West Bank or Gaza Strip, to South Africa under apartheid. Israeli officials have long rejected such comparisons as false, given the open conflict with the Palestinians and other constitutional rights generally enjoyed by Israeli Arabs.

First passed in 2002 at the height of the terrorist attacks, the Citizenship and Entry Law all but banned residency rights for the Palestinian spouses of Israelis.

An amended version in 2003, when the High Court petitions were first filed, loosened the law to allow eligibility for female candidates older than 25, and men older than 35 — ages at which Palestinians are statistically far less likely to take up arms.

Then-Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said national security justifies the law. But she also cited growing fear of an influx of Palestinians seeking the better life on offer in Israel, some of them through fictitious marriages with Israeli Arabs.

“There is nothing wrong with looking to safeguard Israel’s Jewish majority by law,” she said at the time.

Her successor, Haim Ramon, said Sunday that he would seek to enshrine the Citizenship and Entry Law in Israel’s Basic Laws.

“The High Court ruling appears to apply to a certain population sector, but I intend to make a law that will apply to everyone,” he told Army Radio. “Under the law, a citizen of a hostile country won’t be able to adopt Israeli citizenship, except under certain circumstances that the state will determine.” — Dan Baron, Jewish Telegraphic Agency

American Teen Dies of Bomb Wounds

An American teenager died of wounds sustained in last month’s Tel Aviv suicide bombing. Daniel Wultz, 16, succumbed Sunday in Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital, becoming the sole American fatality of the April 17 attack. Wultz, of Weston, Fla., was visiting downtown Tel Aviv with his father over Passover when they were hit by shrapnel from a Palestinian suicide bomber. Tuly Wultz, who suffered light injuries, went on to organize prayer campaigns for his son’s recovery. Daniel Wultz was the 11th fatality from the bombing, which was carried out by Islamic Jihad. Another casualty, 26-year-old Israeli Lior Enidzer, died last Friday. He had recently married.

Israel Gets Spot on U.N. Committee

Israel was appointed to a spot on the United Nations committee on nongovernmental organizations. The committee of the U.N. Economic and Social Council meets twice annually and reviews applications for special status with the commission. “Maybe our membership in the committee will help make Israeli NGOs more aware of this avenue and encourage them to seek a relationship with the economic and social council,” said Marco Sermoneta, a counselor at Israel’s mission to the United Nations. In addition, he said, membership would be a “good way to diversify our visibility in the United Nations.”

Poet Stanley Kunitz Dies at 100

Stanley Kunitz, a former U.S. poet laureate who made metaphoric use of the Talmud and other Jewish images in his poetry, died Sunday at 100. Kunitz, who was known for writing on themes ranging from life and death to gardens, received the Pulitzer Prize in 1959. The son of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, he gave up his dream of earning a doctorate at Harvard after being told that non-Jewish students wouldn’t enjoy being taught English literature by a Jew. A pacifist, Kunitz was a strong opponent of the Vietnam War and, later, U.S. military involvement in Central America and Iraq.

Abbas Criticizes Hamas

Mahmoud Abbas assailed Hamas for harming the Palestinians’ image abroad. In a speech broadcast Monday, the Palestinian Authority president called on the Islamic terrorist group to renounce violence and accept peacemaking with Israel now that it’s leading the P.A. government.

“We must not resign ourselves to fiery speeches and slogans that could bring about international isolation,” Abbas said.

He added that by continuing to call for the Jewish state’s destruction, Hamas justifies Israeli arguments that there is no Palestinian partner for peace. Abbas also appealed to Israel not to implement Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s “convergence plan,” under which it will withdraw unilaterally from parts of the West Bank and annex others in the absence of peace talks.

Pilgrims Flock to Tunisian Synagogue

Thousands of people attended the annual Lag B’Omer pilgrimage to the Tunisian island of Djerba. The two-day celebration at the Ghriba Synagogue marks the end of a legendary plague 2,000 years ago. The synagogue was the site of a 2002 Al-Qaida terrorist attack that killed 21 people, mostly German tourists. The synagogue is the oldest Jewish house of worship in Africa and serves one of the world’s oldest Jewish communities.

Holocaust-Era Archives to Open?

A commission of 11 nations is expected to vote to open Holocaust-era archives. Representatives of the countries that oversee the former Nazi files met Tuesday. Germany recently agreed to open up the archive, which contains 50 million files and is administered by the Red Cross.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency


Balancing the Scales

What is the duty to assist those in danger under Jewish law compared to American law? The question is no mere academic exercise to Neil H. Cogan, dean of the Whittier Law School, who spoke on the topic last week as the inaugural speaker of the recently formed Jewish Lawyers of Orange County.

More than 50 lawyers attended the Newport Beach luncheon at the Pacific Club, the second Jewish professional group organized under the Jewish Federation of Orange County. In addition to a 10-person advisory panel, the group’s honorary chair members include Todd Spitzer, a county supervisor; Joel Kuperberg, Irvine’s city attorney, and Kenneth Wolfson, counsel to developers of the Foothill Ranch and Rancho Santa Margarita.

"What the committee wanted was to tie into Jewish life," said Jeffrey Rips, the Federation’s campaign director and group organizer. Like the Federation’s other professional group, who are real estate executives, the lawyers’ group intends to meet three times a year. In addition to socializing and networking, the goal is for each event to also count as credit toward the State Bar’s continuing-education requirement. Whittier Law School certified the first event met credit requirements.

The school’s dean said such academic-sounding discussions can take on contemporary relevance when considering the extraordinary lengths the U.S. government sometimes takes to aid its citizens throughout the world. Yet, unlike Jewish law, which compels intervention to assist those in danger, most American statutes are absent a legal obligation and instead encourage autonomy, he said.

"Having talks about Jewish law or Japanese law or Islamic law, all of that is helpful because it helps thinking," Cogan said. "Lawyers have been trained to think outside the box before it was a phrase."

Cogan, too, will have to heed his own advice to achieve the goals he has set for himself and the school since relocating from Connecticut last July.

"I hope to take what is already a very fine school and build it into a state and national school," said Cogan, 57, who competed against 100 candidates vying for the job. The school’s previous dean, John A. FitzRandolph, who over a quarter century led drives for accreditation, relocation and growth, died last March, less than a year after retiring.

The 35-year-old law school relocated to a new Costa Mesa campus in 1997 from Los Angeles’ Hancock Park. Next year, two new teachers are to be added to the 27-person faculty, which includes three teaching deans. More than half of the school’s 653 students attend full time and 42 percent are minorities. Among the graduating class of 2000, 86 percent were employed a year later.

Cogan’s goal is burnishing Whittier’s reputation by encouraging faculty scholarship and establishing specialized centers where students learn the rules of their profession. He has also added a summer abroad program, including an alliance with Tel Aviv’s Bar-Ilan University.

"It’s really support and encouragement that will make a difference," said Cogan, editor of three works on constitutional subjects and author of numerous articles cited by law reviews.

When tapped last March for the job, Cogan had been on sabbatical, serving as a visiting scholar at Yale University and coordinator of a distance-learning venture at New York University School of Law. For the previous seven years, Cogan was a professor and dean at Quinnipiac College School of Law in Connecticut.

Cogan, one of the few Orthodox law school deans in the country, often must balance observant practices with the modern workplace. For example, bringing along kosher-prepared food to a lunch meeting would be gauche. "I have to meet people. I can’t bring a brown bag to a restaurant," said Cogan, whose typical order is a tuna fish sandwich. "I don’t neglect any part of my job," he added.

Cogan lives in the Pico-Robertson area of Los Angeles with two of his five children. His wife and three younger children will relocate later this year.

In May, the Federation will consider creating similar networking groups for the county’s Jewish physicians and high-tech executives.

Anxiety about Jewish Literature

As long as the Jewish people lives, it will generate a living culture, and as long as that culture values the written word, Jews will write books.

Individual genius notwithstanding, these books will reflect the Jewish culture of their time. The Talmud was argued and codified when the Jewish elites concentrated on interpreting Jewish law, and the New York intellectuals generated Commentary and Partisan Review when American Jewish elites began "arguing the world." In between, Jews of Spain took up poetry, and Jews of Poland created hagiography about their rebbes, each in creative response to their religious communities. The diarists of the ghettos during World War II raised the pen against the swastika in an appeal to history that was as absolute and passionate as their forefathers’ appeals to God.

Our present anxiety about Jewish literature derives not from a slump in contemporary Jewish writing, but from the insufficiencies of American Jewish life. An ignorant Jewry inhibits even the knowledgeable Jewish writer.

Sholom Aleichem, at the turn of the 20th century, assumed that his main readers would be familiar with the Jewish prayers, though they might no longer be observing the commandments. Thus, when he wanted to create an "ordinary Jew," he imagined a dairyman so saturated with liturgy and Bible that he could improvise riffs on the psalms as he guided his horse over a country road.

But when Tova Mirvis writes in the first-person plural about "the ladies auxiliary" of an Orthodox synagogue, she feels obliged to explain one Jewish ritual per chapter to educate a potential readership of Jews who may know as little as gentiles about their religion. Her self-consciousness about what earlier writers could take for granted — intimacy with Jewish languages, texts and way of life — saps the energy from her voice, which could just as easily belong to the Methodist down the block. Some Yiddish words used to draw a laugh in the general culture as reminders of the immigrant condition that American Jews had outgrown. Nowadays, every manifestation of Jewish observance is played for comedy.

Add indifference to the ignorance, and Jewishness becomes silly putty. Say what you will about the Jews who wrote in German, even Heinrich Heine and Karl Kraus — who accepted baptism as their passport to European civilization — but they never lost their awe or dread of the religion they no longer practiced.

Judaism throbs in their works as pulsating conscience and threat. They registered the high cost of being a Jew. There is no such tension in authors such as E.L. Doctorow or Grace Paley, who treat Jewishness as whatever they wish it to be. Because of the benignity of American democracy, conversion to American liberalism requires no ceremony. Modern Jews don’t have to acknowledge that they are switching allegiances as they substitute leftist pieties for the tough Jewish discipline: They can pretend that they have never defected at all. If American Jews judge Judaism by the standards of The New York Times rather than judging The Times by the standards of Judaism, those writers who dream of being reviewed by The Times will reflect its values instead of God’s.

Cowardice is the third and most serious hindrance to the quality of the Jewish book in America. I wonder whether there has ever been in the history of the Jewish people a generation as craven as the one in whose midst we live. The single Columbia University professor Edward Said — who falsified his biography so that he could blame the Jews for losses inflicted on him by the Egyptians — managed to cow thousands of his Jewish fellow academics into apologizing for the existence of the Jewish State. In the 53 years since the Arab countries launched against Israel the longest and most protean war in modern history, the Jews of America have been beating a steady retreat from defense of the Jewish homeland. Most American Jews don’t even have the grit to speak out for what other Jews daily defend with their lives. No wonder Mark Helprin looks for heroes in World War I, and Michael Chabon in the comic book supermen of World War II. They would be hard put to find models of heroism among the Jewish elites of Los Angeles or New York.

The Jewish book reflects this moral collapse, and our best books are those that tell of it most honestly. Saul Bellow’s "Bellarosa Connection" registers the consequence of forgetting and neglecting what is sacred and significant. Midge Decter wrote "Liberal Parents, Radical Children," and Philip Roth adapted it as the superb novel "American Pastoral." Cynthia Ozick is our toughest naysayer, refusing the placebos of a homogenized culture. Those books are the truest that expose the ignorance, the indifference and the cowardice, reminding us through negative, if not yet positive, representation of what the Jewish people could yet become.

Crime and Punishment

It’s time that the American Jewish community wascalled to account. One of its number is languishing in the jaws ofthe criminal justice system, suffering for a mistake — a gravemistake, admittedly — to which the system has responded far, far outof proportion to the deed.

This is a Jew who, though publicly regretful,faces what some might consider a very high price. The reason?Possibly because, in this mostly Christian society, the Jewish way ofseeing things doesn’t count for much when society sits in judgment.In a way, Jews have a permanent disadvantage. That’s supposed to beone reason Jewish organizations exist. But in this case, theorganizations and their leaders have been woefully silent.

We are speaking, of course, about Amy Grossberg,the New Jersey teen-ager accused of murdering her newborn son in aDelaware motel room in 1996.

Did you think this was about someone else?Jonathan Pollard, perhaps? Hold that thought.

Delaware police say that Grossberg, then 18, gavebirth in a motel room on Nov. 12, 1996, with the help of boyfriendBrian Peterson. The remains were left in a nearby Dumpster. She wasarrested the next day in a hospital room while being treated forlife-threatening complications from childbirth. Peterson turnedhimself in a week later. Both were charged with first-degree murder.Prosecutors have threatened to seek the death penalty.

Grossberg’s lawyers have submitted documents thatindicate she was not fully alert at the time of birth, thought thebaby was stillborn, and let Peterson dispose of it. Also submittedwas medical evidence of a rare fetal disease. Peterson, fearing asetup, agreed last month to testify against her in exchange for areduced charge of manslaughter. She goes on trial May 4.

The case has aroused vast national interest, withpundits wondering endlessly why the affluent, privileged teens failedto seek abortion or adoption. There’s been far less attention to themystery of the prosecutors’ unprecedented harshness.

Infanticide, killing a newborn baby, is a rare andlittle-understood crime. Patchy statistics suggest that it occursperhaps 600 times yearly in America, generally involving singlemothers, mostly young, poor and psychologically ill-equipped for thestresses of motherhood. Most cases end in manslaughter convictionsand prison terms up to four years, often suspended. In England, whereit’s been studied, courts usually mandate psychotherapy rather thanprison.

Delaware, by contrast, threatens lethal injection.What’s behind this fantastic overreaction? No one knows for sure.Some informed commentators call it a grandstanding prosecutor’sappeal for the influential right-to-life vote. You can’t prosecutemothers who kill babies before birth, but this comes close. Themessage: We defend babies.

Judaism, of course, insists that abortion is nothomicide. In Judaism, a fetus is not a person but, at most, apotential person. Its rights cannot outweigh the mother’s. Even afterbirth, rights accrue developmentally. An infant that dies beforeeight days is not named. One that dies within 30 days cannot receivea funeral. The idea of lodging capital murder charges against asemiconscious mother just after labor should be repellent bytraditional Jewish standards.

What does all this have to do with the Jewishcommunity? Not much, unless you believe the community is obliged todefend Jews whose mistreatment by the courts offends Jewishvalues.

Most of us don’t think so. American Jews tend tothink our best protection as a minority lies in demanding we betreated the same as everyone else, not differently. Unless there’s alegal attack on Judaism — denying inmates kosher food, for example– Jews who fall afoul of the law are on their own.

In recent years, however, a bold few have comeforward to advocate just that: defending Jews hurt by the judicialsystem. Their rallying cry is freedom for Jonathan Pollard, anAmerican Jew arrested in 1986 on charges of spying for Israel.

Pollard, a former U.S. Navy intelligence analyst,was sentenced in 1987 to life in prison — despite having spied foran ally, and despite a plea bargain promising a lesser sentence. Hisadvocates argue that the organized Jewish community has an obligationto demand his freedom.

The claim is not that Jews should be allowed tospy for Israel. No, advocates say that Pollard’s sentence wasexcessive, and that the community should protest because it wasIsrael he spied for.

Not that he’s innocent, but that his crime has adifferent meaning to Jews.

Pollard’s advocates, then, should be the first tospring to Amy Grossberg’s defense. Curiously, the suggestioninvariably prompts horrified protests: “The cases have nothing to dowith each other.” “Judaism doesn’t support killing babies.”

Well, does Judaism support spying for foreigncountries? Here’s where it gets messy. Pollardistas insist that theydon’t mean that. But it’s not clear they’re being frank.

The most vocal advocates tend to speak heatedlyabout Pollard’s violated plea bargain, in which he expressed remorseand was promised leniency. In the same breath, they often note theimportance of the information he supplied to Israel. Unfortunately,one claim undercuts the other. If he stands by the information hepassed on, how remorseful is he?

The discrepancy hasn’t gone unnoticed at thePentagon. High-ranking sources say that it was the Joint Chiefs ofStaff who urged the judge, through then-Defense Secretary CasparWeinberger, to ignore the plea agreement and throw the book atPollard. The reason was their fear of thousands more Pollards insidethe defense establishment. They wanted to send a message: This isn’tacceptable.

Pollard is still in jail, these sources say, notbecause his crime merits his lengthy sentence — it doesn’t — butbecause too many American Jews still haven’t gotten the message. IfPollard is a hero, if spying for Israel is defensible, then all thosedecades of Jews protesting their loyalty to America must be a joke.That can’t be.

Thus, these sources say, every time Jews rallyagain to call Pollard a hero, every time another Israeli leader treksto North Carolina to greet this loyal soldier of Israel, it adds amonth to his sentence.

Let’s be clear: Pollard should not be in jailanymore. He’s arguably done more time already than spies whose crimeswere greater. And there’s a strong case to be made that AmericanJewry should demand his release.

But not because he was working for our team. Hewas not. If the Jewish community should speak up for Pollard, it’sfor the same reason the community should speak up for Amy Grossberg:because the punishment is supposed to fit the crime.

J.J. Goldberg is the author of “Jewish Power:Inside the Amercan Jewish Establishment.” He writes from regularlyfor The Jewish Journal.