Elie Wiesel memorial statue proposed by Congress members


Several U.S. congressmen introduced resolutions to honor the life and work of Elie Wiesel, including a proposal to create a memorial statue to be placed in the U.S. Capitol building.

Three members of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council — Reps. Steve Israel, D-N.Y.; Patrick Meehan, D-Pa., and Ted Deutch, D-Fla. — offered a resolution Friday in praise of Wiesel’s contributions to the American understanding of the Holocaust.

On the same day, Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., proposed a bill for the statue to memorialize the activist and 1987 Nobel Peace Prize winner because his “moral leadership served as a beacon across our country and around the globe,” Cohen was quoted as saying in a release.

His bill as of Monday had 14 cosigners, both Democrats and Republicans.

“Elie Wiesel was one of the greatest examples of good the world has ever seen,” Steve Israel said of Wiesel, who died July 2. “He educated the world about the atrocities of the Holocaust, taught us the true meaning of ‘never again,’ and devoted his entire life to ridding the world of hate and intolerance. I am proud to introduce this resolution to honor Mr. Wiesel’s life and acknowledge the indelible mark he has made on the Jewish community and the entire world.”

“Elie Wiesel was a giant,” Meehan said. “His writings brought the truth about the horrors of Auschwitz and Buchenwald to the rest of the world and for decades he was a tremendous messenger for peace.”

Wiesel had been awarded numerous honors from the United States, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, the National Humanities Medal and the Medal of Liberty.

Shots fired in Capitol complex, gunman caught


A police officer may have been injured by shrapnel on Monday in the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center when a man fired a gun, media reports and congressional sources said.

There was confusion in early accounts about what occurred but police said a suspect was taken into custody with wounds after shots were fired.

MSNBC-TV reported that an officer who fired at an armed suspect may have been injured by shrapnel. Police said the suspect was taken to hospital. The officer did not identify or describe the suspect and he added that there were no additional suspects.

A U.S. government official told Reuters that initial reports were that a suspect walked into the Visitors Center, pointed a gun at one of the police officers on duty and a shootout erupted.

The official said no evidence had materialized of a connection to terrorism.

Separately, CNN reported that a person tried to gain entry into the White House but was caught.

Congress is in recess, with few lawmakers in Washington but the shooting happened just a few hours after a drill for an active shooter took place at the Capitol, creating further confusion.

The Secret Service temporarily cleared tourists from an area surrounding the White House after the incident, but activities quickly went back to normal. Capitol Hill was placed in lockdown immediately after the shooting but was later lifted.

Cathryn Leff, a licensed therapist, tweeted that she was at the visitor's center when she heard gunshots while going through a security check point.

“That moment when it goes down . Everyone is screaming & running and you can't see where the #ShotsFired are from,” tweeted Leff(@Cathrynlefflmft).

Ohio man accused of plotting government attack pleads not guilty


An Ohio man accused of plotting to attack the U.S. Capitol with guns and bombs pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and other charges in federal court on Thursday.

Christopher Cornell, 20, of Cincinnati, is being held without bail after prosecutors said he posed a threat to national security.

The charges against Cornell include attempted murder of government officials, possession of a firearm to commit a crime and solicitation to commit a violent crime.

Cornell, in gray prison garb, answered “yes” in a soft voice to U.S. Magistrate Stephanie Bowman's questions about whether he understood the charges.

Bowman on Thursday denied Cornell's request, made through his attorney, that he be addressed by his Muslim name, Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah.

Cornell was arrested on Jan. 14, after he researched the construction of pipe bombs, purchased a semi-automatic rifle and 600 rounds of ammunition and made plans to travel to Washington to carry out the plot, according to testimony from an FBI informant.

Cornell began plotting the attack in August, according to the indictment which was filed on Wednesday.

The arrest came after Cornell, using the name Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah, posted on Twitter that he supported the Islamic State, a militant group which has seized parts of Syria and Iraq.

According to court documents, Cornell met with an FBI informant to discuss his plans, and indicated to the informant that he considered the members of Congress as enemies and that he intended to conduct an attack on the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

No future court date has been set.

Ohio man arrested for planning attack on U.S. Capitol


An Ohio man claiming sympathy with Islamic State militants was arrested and charged on Wednesday in connection with a plot to attack the U.S. Capitol with guns and bombs, court documents disclosed.

Christopher Cornell, 20, of Cincinnati researched the construction of pipe bombs, purchased a semi-automatic rifle and 600 rounds of ammunition and made plans to travel to Washington to carry out the plot, according to an FBI informant's legal testimony.

Court documents showed that Cornell indicated on Twitter that he supported the Islamic State group under the alias Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah.

According to the documents, in instant messages to the undercover FBI informant, Cornell indicated that while he did not have support to conduct an attack on behalf of any group “we already got a thumbs up from the Brothers over there and Anwar al Awlaki before his martyrdom and many others.” Awlaki was killed by the United States in Yemen in 2011.

In a November meeting with the informant, Cornell said he considered members of Congress to be his enemies, and he outlined a plan to place pipe bombs at and near the U.S. Capitol and use firearms to kill employees and officials inside, according to the documents.

Federal Bureau of Investigation Acting Special Agent in Charge John Barrios noted that the public was not in danger during this investigation.

Spokesmen for congressional leaders in both parties of Congress said they had no information beyond what was publicly disclosed in court documents.

Cornell has been charged in a federal court in Ohio with attempting to kill a U.S. government officer and possession of a firearm in furtherance of an attempted crime of violence.

BREAKING: Gunfire forces brief lockdown at U.S. Capitol


The U.S. Capitol was locked down briefly on Thursday after gunshots were fired outside the building following a car chase across central Washington and a number of people including a law enforcement officer were hurt, officials said.

A female suspect was killed by police at the scene, a U.S. official said.

The shooting rattled the U.S. capital three weeks after 12 people were killed and three injured in a shooting spree by a government technology contractor at the U.S. Navy Yard, about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from the Capitol.

The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate were in session when the gunshots were heard. The U.S. government was partially shut down this week when lawmakers failed to agree on a budget.

A source familiar with the situation said the incident started when a vehicle struck a security barrier at 15th and Pennsylvania avenue, near the White House. Police chased the vehicle for about 1 1/2 miles to 2nd Street and Constitution Avenue, near the Capitol, where the shots were fired.

“I was just eating a hot dog over here and I heard about four or five gunshots, and then a swarm of police cars came in wailing their sirens,” said Whit Dabney, 13, who was visiting from Louisville, Kentucky, and heard the shots a couple of blocks away.

A policeman was injured in a car crash resulting from the chase and was taken from the shooting scene in a Medevac helicopter, a U.S. official and police said.

The lockdown order at the Capitol was called off and security along Independence Avenue was eased shortly before 3 p.m. (1900 GMT). Tourists were allowed back onto the Capitol grounds.

Just before Capitol Police sealed off the building, the Senate and House were in session. On the Senate floor, Senator John McCain of Arizona was urging that President Barack Obama and a bipartisan group of senators launch negotiations to break the deadlock over government funding and a debt limit increase.

The House had just passed a bill to fund the National Guard and reservists who are not on active duty during the shutdown.

The Capitol police, who were deemed “essential” staff, were at work despite the shutdown but they are not being paid.

President Barack Obama was briefed on the incident, a White House official said, providing no further details.

In 1998, a gunman burst through a security checkpoint at the Capitol and killed two Capitol Police officers in an exchange of fire that sent tourists and other bystanders diving for cover. The suspect, Russell Eugene Weston Jr., was not charged with a crime because of apparent mental instability.

Rob Eshman: The Shutdown


What the $%#@ is happening?

I’m writing this 17 minutes after the Federal government shut down — for the first time in 17 years.  I remember clearly the last time this happened.  It was stupid and superfluous and self-destructive then.  It’s stupid, superfluous and self-destructive now.

The Tea Partier Republicans set this in motion — they actually planned its implementation months ago.   You can go online and hear them at rallies back in the Spring promising to close down Washington, D.C.  “Shut it down!” their  audiences chanted back.

More mainstream Republican leaders went along with the demands of the far right.   House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Speaker John Boehner knew it wouldn’t work, knew it was dumb, knew Cruz and his ilk will likely hurt Republicans in the next election cycle — but went along. 

If only they were the only victims. 

Prior to zero hour, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs circulated a letter on Capital Hill calling on lawmakers to support a federal budget agreement and avoid a government shutdown

“Spending cuts should not unfairly target the most vulnerable among us,” Jared Feldman, JCPA’s vice president and Washington director, wrote. “We urge you to strengthen anti-poverty efforts and restore opportunities for all Americans. It is critical that Congress come together cooperatively and civilly in this effort. Regardless of the outcome, a cantankerous and divisive process is unacceptable.”

The shutdown will hurt thousands of furloughed Federal workers.  It will disrupt numerous services, including research at the National Institute of Health, and it will likely suspend the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, which provides food, health care referrals and nutrition education for pregnant women, new mothers and their children.

Because, you know, those heart disease researchers and low-income children are sucking this country dry.

[David Suissa: We should shut down the hysterics]

The shut down, which Tea Partiers and their enablers are promoting as a fiscally responsible way to thwart the implementation of Obamacare, will actually end up costing a couple billion dollars, not to mention a few points on the Dow.  If it continues for too long, the nation’s entire economy could backslide.

And if that’s not bad enough, the whole debacle may actually pay off for the people who cooked it up.

In recent polls, Sen. Ted Cruz shot ahead of his potential 2016 Presidential contenders.  Because of his Seussian 23-hour speech denouncing a funding bill the President could sign, Cruz “now has more credibility with the GOP base than the folks who have been leading the party for years,” according to outsidethebeltway.com.

This would all make sense if, at the end of this nightmare, Cruz would stare into our eyes, and say, like Walter White in “Breaking Bad” did to Skyler: “I did it for me!” At least that would be honest.  But like Walt’s alter ego, Heisenberg, Cruz has convinced himself he’s leading this charge for the greater good. Seriously, even in “Breaking Bad” the meth dealers respected the Feds.

It may sound petty, given the enormity of this debacle, to point out here that a Republican Party taken over by anti-government nihilists can kiss winning the Jewish vote goodbye.  Granted, it’s a small vote, but it comes with the added benefits of activism, donations and a couple of swing states.

Why do I say that? Because Jews, it turns out, like good government.  Stable government in democratic nations have enabled them to prosper and practice their faith freely.  Effective, accountable  government protects minority rights and property and creates the conditions for prosperity, including investment in and support of those less fortunate—which turns out to be good for all.

I’m assuming Eric Cantor, who is Jewish, knows this, which is why at press conferences he looks like a kid being dragged in front of the principal.

It’s why — little known fact — the Republican President who garnered the largest percentage of the Jewish vote in the modern era was Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Yes, he was a bit dull and unconscionably complacent on civil rights, but consider his achievements, as Stephen Ambrose enumerates them in his biography:  Instead of dismantling the New Deal, as more strident Republicans wanted, the number of people receiving Social Security benefits doubled under Eisenhower’s administration. He balanced the budget, froze military spending and refused to lower taxes. He kept New Deal regulatory commissions in place. Public works expenditures exceeded those of Truman or FDR—projects that included the Interstate Highway System and the St. Lawrence Seaway.  He refused to sell off public lands or open wilderness areas to mineral development. He stopped nuclear testing in the atmosphere.  He avoided all military entanglements.

“The United States never lost a soldier or a foot of ground in my administration,” Eisenhower said. “We kept the peace. People asked how it happened. By God, it didn’t just happen, I’ll tell you that.”

All that investment, all that government — and Eisenhower presided over the greatest decade of American prosperity in the twentieth century.

In 1956, Eisenhower received 40 percent of the Jewish vote—a number that hasn’t been topped since.  Even more telling, he campaigned and got that vote while delivering to Israel a series of punishing measures and blistering statements in response to its collusion with Britain and France in the Suez Campaign.

Call it ancient history.  Call it a distant fantasy.   But if Republicans want to come close to that accomplishment, it’s not the government they need to shut down, but Ted Cruz.


Rob Eshman is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. E-mail him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Twitter @foodaism.

White House: Romney’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital contradicts U.S. policy


A White House spokesman noted that Mitt Romney’s calling Jerusalem the “capital of Israel” contradicts United States policy over several successive administrations.

The spokesman, Josh Earnest, said that the presumptive Republican presidential candidate’s declaration that Jerusalem is “the capital of Israel” contradicts the policy of previous Republican and Deomcratic administrations. He said Romney could further explain the comments, according to The Jerusalem Post.

“Well, our view is that that’s a different position than this administration holds,” Earnest said in a news briefing Tuesday, according to the Post. “It’s the view of this administration that the capital is something that should be determined in final status negotiations between the parties.”

Palestinian groups also harshly criticized Romney for the remark, which was made in a policy speech given in Jerusalem on Sunday night.

Mixed Message to Bush


One message from this week’s rally at the Capitol was clear — solidarity with the State of Israel and its people. Much less clear was the message to the Bush administration.
Signs, speakers and more than 100,000 demonstrators touted support for the U.S. war on terrorism. But few expressed support for Secretary of State Colin Powell’s current mission in the Middle East, his meetings with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat and the Bush administration’s call for Israel to end its military incursions into the West Bank.

A handful of U.S. senators and non-Jewish political leaders mentioned the Powell mission. American Jewish and Israeli leaders skirted it.

But while the Jewish leadership tried to stick to positive tones, a State Department official said the lasting image of the rally will be the negative response to the Bush administration’s sole representative, who spoke from the administration’s playbook.

Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense who is considered one of Israel’s staunchest advocates in the administration, was drowned out by chants of “Down with Arafat” and at times, booed when he spoke of an eventual Palestinian state and the death of innocent Palestinians.

“The fact that Paul Wolfowitz is booed for talking about the sufferings of innocent Palestinians, in many ways reinforces the deep divide between many people in government — even those sympathetic to Israel — and the pro-Israel community,” said a State Department official.

But the real question is, what impact, if any, the rally will have on administration policy.

The Bush administration is engaged in a delicate balancing act, trying to walk a fine line between supporting Israel’s position that its offensive in the territories is part of the U.S. global war on terrorism, and asking Israel to withdraw its forces and return to political negotiations with the Palestinians.

Within the administration, the response appears mixed. One State Department official said he did not think the Powell team was about to change course because of the rally.
“Given his immersion in this problem,” the official said of Powell, “I am not sure he is worrying about what tens of thousands of people gathering on a spring day are saying.”
Others in the administration, however, said policy may not change, but the numbers that turned out can’t be ignored. “This is not going to change policy because policy is not based on what’s popular,” said a Bush administration official. But he added, “We hear so much from Jewish leaders. To see that many Jews turn out for this will just speak volumes.”