British authority upholds complaint against Travel Palestine ad


Complaints against an advertisement for travel to Palestine were upheld by the British Advertising Standards Authority.

The authority in a ruling released Wednesday said that the Travel Palestine ad should not be published again as it is currently constituted.

The advertisement, which was published in the National Geographic Traveler magazine, read that “Palestine is a land rich in history with a tradition of hospitality. From the famous cities of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron, Jericho, Nablus, and Gaza, the Palestinian people welcome you to this Holy Land.”

It also says, “Palestine lies between the Mediterranean Coast and the Jordan River … It takes a visit to this wonderful country to appreciate the most palpable facet of its culture: the warmth and humor of the Palestinian people. Join a long list of visitors over the centuries who have seen the beauty of this land.”

Some 149 complaints were filed with the Advertising Standards Authority saying that Palestine is not a recognized country, that the advertisement suggested that all of the land mentioned was Palestinian, and that Jerusalem and the other cities mentioned are Palestinian.

The authority’s verdict agreed that the ad was misleading in saying that the cities listed were accepted as Palestinian—though it did point out that the “status of Jerusalem is in dispute”—but did not uphold the complaints that the ad claimed Palestine was a “recognized country, or that the whole area “between the Mediterranean Coast and the Jordan River” was Palestinian.

Debate rages over attack on Jewish soldier at Ft. Benning


NEW YORK (JTA)—All sides agree that a beating last month left a Jewish U.S. Army trainee, Pvt. Michael Handman, with facial wounds, severe oral injuries and a concussion. What’s in dispute is whether the assault—at the base in Fort Benning, Ga.—was carried out by multiple attackers, and if it was the product of an anti-Semitic campaign waged by Handman’s superiors.

The military has charged just one person, a fellow trainee, and insists that he was not motivated by anti-Semitism. Handman’s supporters, on the other hand, believe multiple attackers were involved and feel the incident was connected to anti-Jewish slurs dished out to Handman by two company drill sergeants.

Military officials declined to make Handman available for comment, and separate efforts to reach him were unsuccessful. His mother, Randi Handman, told JTA that her son only remembers being called into the laundry room to retrieve clothing, was struck and spun on his back while sorting through a pile, then covering his head to shield it from blows before drifting into the blackness of a concussion. He says several recruits were in the room before the beating commenced, his mother added.

Just days before the Sept. 24 assault, the two drill sergeants were issued letters of reprimand, in which they were accused by the military of addressing Handman with anti-Jewish slurs, including “Juden.” In the base’s mess hall, one of the drill sergeants also demanded that he remove his yarmulke, which he had begun to wear in the few weeks following his induction.

Though army regulation allows for individuals to wear a yarmulke, praying while on guard duty—which Handman was rebuked for—is against regulation, because soldiers must limit their focus to guarding weapons. According to his mother, Handman says that he was not praying, but merely reading Jewish canon—three feet from where another guard had been reading the New Testament undisturbed.

She also said that prior to the assault, she received a foreboding letter from her son, warning her that he would be attacked.

“I have just never been so discriminated against/humiliated about my religion,” he wrote, adding: “I just feel like I’m always looking over my shoulder. Like my battle buddy heard some of the guys in my platoon talking about how they wanted to beat the shit out of me tonight when I’m sleeping. It just sucks. And the only justification they have is [because] I’m Jewish. Maybe your dad was right…The Army is not the place for a Jew.”

The case has attracted the attention of Mikey Weinstein, leader of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an outfit that fights alleged religious bias in the U.S. military. Weinstein, whose foundation has launched its own investigation of the beating, says that the drill sergeants referred to Handman as “fucking Jew” and kike. According to Weinstein, platoon members attempted to dispirit Handman by ejaculating in his pillow.

Handman’s father, Jonathan, contacted U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) in the hopes that he would take an interest in the investigation, and urge the military to switch his son to a less hostile company. In response to the senator’s inquiries, Fort Benning’s Deputy Chief of Staff Samuel Selby Rollinson wrote that he does not condone the actions of the non-commissioned officers in slurring Handman, and denying him the right to wear a yarmulke or attend Jewish prayer services. But, Rollinson added, their actions were “not meant to be malicious, and were done out of ignorance for regulations and cultural awareness.”

Military police have concluded that Handman was attacked by a lone assailant, a fellow trainee that they refuse to identify, citing army regulations. The suspect has been charged by military police with assault, and is subject to yet-to-be determined penalties, including 45 days of restricted movement, extra duty, reduction in grade and forfeiture of pay. Military officials denied JTA requests to speak with the private who was charged in the assault.

Handman has been moved out of his original platoon to a rehabilitation platoon to recuperate from his injuries, and is now in a different battalion.

When asked through what method of investigation it was determined that the non-commissioned officers “inadvertently” violated the private’s religious rights, a spokeswoman for Rollinson, Monica Manganaro, said that they acted “out of character,” are experienced drill sergeants and had a superb record of performance up until this incident.

Weinstein said that the military frequently attempts to portray such incidents as one-time occurrences. He criticized the army’s choice of Lt. Dan Kim to lead the investigation of the motives behind the assault, saying that he would ultimately be the one accountable for prevalent misconduct.

According to army officials, Kim spent days gathering 100 sworn testimonies from every member of Handman’s company, all of whom denied that religious prejudice was pervasive, or that it provoked the beating.

Fort Benning’s spokeswoman was unaware of the “battle buddy” who Handman said had warned him of a pending assault fueled by anti-Semitism. According to the spokeswoman, Kim and military police officials say they have uncovered another motive during the investigation, but military privacy regulations prohibit her from sharing that information.

Weinstein argued that the sworn testimony of the privates is unreliable, since it was solicited by a lieutenant who ranks above them.

Claims that a conflict of interest exists were dismissed by an army spokeswoman, who pointed out that Kim answers to his superior, the battalion commander, and is obligated to render a truthful investigation.

Weinstein criticized the penalty, saying it was an outrage that the assailant was not even given the lowest form of a court martial. Handman’s father called the punishment “cute” and merely a slap on the wrist.

Stay Tuned


 

Last October, a man called with a complaint. Before I could ask what was the matter, he launched into a tirade about a biased and

inaccurate article. He said he couldn’t believe a serious newspaper would print such lies. He was so angry, he was this close to canceling his subscription.

I wasn’t sure which article he was referring to, so I gently asked him to be more specific. He went on to describe a piece I had absolutely no memory of.

“Are you sure you read this in The Jewish Journal?”

“The Journal?” he said. “No! This was in The Los Angeles Times.”

“The Times?” I said. “So why are you calling me?”

“Because they won’t pick up the phone!”

I tell the story often, because among other things, it says a lot about the role of community journalism. We are the paper that responds. We are the paper that can’t help but listen attentively to its readers. We are the paper that picks up the phone. My hope is that readers will keep this in mind as The Journal embarks on a new business model that is, as far as we know, unprecedented for a Jewish newspaper.

Starting Jan. 1, Journal readers who received their weekly newspaper by donating to The Jewish Federation will still be able to get it, but not as part of their Federation donation. For 18 years, The Federation purchased annual Journal subscriptions for its donors. Last year, it purchased about 20,000 of the 60,000 papers The Journal distributed each week. Beginning next week, it will no longer do so.

Readers will be able to subscribe directly to The Journal for home delivery or pick it up for free at distribution sites around Los Angeles (subscriptions and a list of sites are available at www.jewishjournal.com).

When we announced this new arrangement earlier this year, many people approached me with their condolences, as if we had been consigned to our doom. But the impetus for this change came from us — yes, from us — and I believe it is a big step forward for the paper and the community.

Granted, of the 135 Jewish community papers in North America, none has a distribution plan like ours. But Los Angeles is a Jewish community like no other, and our new model will serve it well. Most importantly, it will enable us to reach the greatest number of readers across a vast and diverse landscape. Under the previous arrangement, postal regulations limited the number of papers we could distribute for free. But free distribution has been a boon to us — bringing the paper to readers who might otherwise have no connection to Jewish life, increasing our visibility to advertisers and giving us an audience far more diverse in terms of age and background than that of almost any Jewish institution I know of.

Our goal is to reach every possible reader we can (thereby becoming, not incidentally, the largest circulation mainstream Jewish weekly in the country), and this step takes us leaps and bounds closer to achieving it.

The move also establishes The Journal as one of a handful of truly independent community Jewish newspapers. About 85 percent of Jewish papers are either owned by or sell thousands of subscriptions to federations or other major Jewish philanthropies. These arrangements provide a cushion of guaranteed income.

But even when there is little question of outside editorial influence, as at the superb New York Jewish Week or at this paper, the arrangement is less than ideal. It diverts Federation dollars from urgent philanthropy, it involves a charitable organization in a business where it has little expertise and it creates a temptation for either censorship or self-censorship, which isn’t healthy for the Jewish community.

If a Jewish paper can survive economically free of one organization or the other, it should make every attempt to do so.

Jewish newspapers have played an important role in Jewish life since the very first one was published just 70 years after the printing press was invented. As Jews dispersed, they no sooner established mikvahs and cemeteries as they did newspapers. There is no community without communication, and these papers have functioned over the centuries to deliver important news, to serve as a kind of communal bulletin board, to broadcast the teachings and values of Judaism itself.

Is the form antiquated? If anything, I believe a Jewish paper, whether delivered on newsprint or by Internet, is more important than ever.

We are a far-flung community, spread out from the South Bay to the East Valley to Thousand Oaks. We contain multitudes of different backgrounds, practices and beliefs. And The Journal is one place where we can meet each week, if only virtually, to engage in a common discussion on the things that matter so much to us. That conversation needn’t be parochial — it mustn’t be.

The crisis in Sudan and the disaster in Southeast Asia may not have a “Jewish angle,” but they do implore a Jewish response, which can be called forth and described in the pages of the Jewish press.

Since we announced our change in the business model several months ago, the response from current subscribers has been heartening. Far more Federation subscribers than we expected to took out new subscriptions. Of course, if you haven’t already done so, I hope you will, too.

But in any case, I hope you keep reading. We are heading into uncharted waters here, but we are doing so with a terrific group of journalists, sales personnel, office staff and board of directors. We also do so with a community we are so proud to be a part of, and so excited to continue serving.

 

Muslim Hate Is Self-Inflicted Harm


The Arab and Iranian complaint that they are threatened and victimized by the Zionists is fascinatingly twisted. In fact, they do themselves considerable damage through their own anti-Semitism. Two recent examples come to mind.

United States taxpayers paid for the liberation of Iraq, and are footing the bill to rebuild the country. Anyone from a rather large list of eligible countries can bid on the billion-dollar U.S.-funded rebuilding contracts. But while the list is large, it is not comprehensive. Nations that hindered our efforts to liberate Iraq failed to make the cut. France and Germany, for example, are conspicuously ineligible.

But there is a more newsworthy, yet less-noticed story about the eligibility list: Israel is not on it. Why?

The two major purposes of our foray into Iraq were to fight terrorism and to make Iraq a democracy. In the volatile and strategically important Middle East, Israel is the most democratic nation. One would think that if Iraq is to become a stable, liberal democracy, we should foster a good relationship between it and Israel, from which it could learn so much about free expression, multiparty politics, minority rights, an independent judiciary, religious freedom and all the other ingredients of a healthy, free society.

Israel’s exclusion becomes particularly galling in light of the fact that Saudi Arabia — the nation most responsible for Sept. 11, Al Qaeda, Hamas and Moslem Brotherhood terrorism — is allowed to bid on Iraq reconstruction contracts. We ousted Saddam, in part, because he was getting cozy with Bin Laden. Now that we ousted him, the Binladen Group, a huge Saudi Arabian engineering concern, can bid on a taxpayer-funded contract to rebuild Iraq, but an Itzik of Tel Aviv cannot — even though Itzik of Tel Aviv is more likely to bring humane values (as well as Western building standards) to a Baghdad construction site than the Binladen Group.

President Bush is considered by many a friend of the Jewish State, so the fact that he has stiffed Israel requires explanation. The likeliest reason is simply that he believes the Arabs, including Iraqis, would object. Substituting a short-sighted pragmatism for principle, Bush lets the most unreasonable voices in the Middle East dominate, to the detriment of Iraq. Congress should look into this.

The second example of anti-Semitism becoming a self-inflicted wound comes from the terrible earthquake in Bam, Iran. The losses in life and property are virtually beyond imagination. Iran, overwhelmed, has welcomed aid from the four corners of the earth, including from the United States, without reservation. Oops, one reservation: help from the "Zionist entity" was rejected.

Israel is the most technologically advanced country in the Middle East, and the most prepared to deal with large-scale disaster (let’s not discuss why). There is no possible doubt that Israel’s participation in the rescue efforts would have saved lives.

The government of Iran preferred that its citizens die, rather than accept the hand of the Jewish State stretched out in compassion. In view of the fact that Israel has never done any harm to Iran, this is insane.

Peace will come to the Middle East if, and only if, the Arabs and Muslims end their pathological hatred of Israel. Everything else is a side issue. The United States must use its newly enhanced stature in the region to insist on an Arab/Muslim change of heart, and help it along.

On Sun., Jan. 25, at 3 p.m., DFI-LA will sponsor a program titled, "Iranian Reformers and Israel." For more information, call (310) 285-8542.


Joe Ribakoff is a member and Paul Kujawsky is the president of Democrats for Israel, Los Angeles. The views expressed are theirs and do not necessarily represent the views of DFI-L.A.

Recapturing the Dream


A curious thing happened in the pages of The Jewish Journal the week of Nov. 20. During a period when a host of issues of major importance to the American Jewish community were occuring that commanded front page attention elsewhere, The Journal chose to devote the cover story and an editorial in the Nov. 20 issue to the complaints of a disgruntled documentary director and his co-writer against Moriah Films of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. In spite of The Journal’s claims that it was not “picking on the Wiesenthal Center,” one wonders what the editorial staff’s true motives were in giving an inordinate amount of space to the attempt by these individuals to politicize what was for all intents and purposes a dispute over the best creative approach to a film about Israel’s first 50 years.

As one of the producers of the documentary in question (and now the director as well), I am especially concerned and aggrieved at the number of inaccuracies and distortions that appeared in The Journal’s coverage of the events surrounding our decision to reject the creative approach taken by Mark Jonathan Harris and Stuart Schoffman to our film looking at Israel’s 50th birthday. On the cover, in Managing Editor Rob Eshman’s editorial and in reporter Tom Tugend’s cover story, it was stated that $1 million had been spent on a documentary that we will never see. This is just not true. The $1 million is the overall budget for the film. Approximately $250,000 — the amount paid to Harris and Schoffman — can be considered a loss. The other funds spent to date were for shooting interviews, live action footage and archival film and stills, material that will be used throughout the documentary we are continuing to produce. In the worst case scenario, this loss could contribute to an expansion of our $1 million to $1.2 million. The Journal’s banner headline and later assertions that $1 million had already been spent on this project is patently untrue and had The Journal cared about the truth it could have verified this with me or my producing partner, Rabbi Marvin Hier.

Furthermore, The Journal gives the impression that this film has been shelved by the Wiesenthal Center. This is also completely false. The only thing that has been shelved was the approach taken by Harris and his co-writer, which led to what I believe is a dull and plodding film. Our present approach involves a dramatic and hard-hitting narrative based on the writing of respected historian Sir Martin Gilbert and adapted by Emmy Award-winning screenwriter Scott Goldstein. The new script will not only examine dramatic moments in Israeli history, it will look realistically at the problems that have faced and continue to face the country today. Major players who have figured prominently in this history will also appear throughout the film, which will be ready for release in the spring of 1999. This has been a project that has been ongoing in spite of the problems created by the approach of Harris and Schoffman.

In Rob Eshman’s editorial, he alleged that the Weisenthal Center had “approved the script, gave the filmmakers a green light every step of the way and then pulled the plug.” Mr. Eshman only got part of the scenario correct. In spite of the fact that Stuart Schoffman calls himself one of the screenwriters of this project, the approach he and Mark Harris took to the film had no script. It was all interviews with no narrative whatsoever. A treatment, which I helped to develop during several weeks of travel throughout Israel with Harris and Schoffman, was approved by Rabbi Hier, Merv Adelson and Marvin Josephson (the two chairs of the International Israel at 50 commemoration committee). Hier raised his concerns that a totally interview-driven film might not be as engaging or dramatic as the narrative-driven documentaries the Wiesenthal Center had made its reputation with: the Oscar-winning “Genocide,” the award-winning “Echoes That Remain” and “Liberation,” and, most recently, the Oscar-winning “The Long Way Home.” Hier was also concerned that the decision by Harris and Schoffman not to interview major figures in the Jewish and Arab world about their roles in 50 years of Israeli history might also be a mistake. At the same time, the promise of the kind of film described in the treatment was so encouraging that Hier and others put their misgivings aside and production began.

Almost as quickly as production began, so did production problems and creative disputes. The green light stopped with the treatment and red lights became a regular occurrence with this project. In Tugend’s cover story, Harris himself acknowledged how much trouble the film was in from the time its first rough cut was screened at the beginning of 1998. In February, Hier, who was seeing a complete rough cut for the very first time, was most vocal in his complete dissatisfaction with the film. “It’s boring, it’s too negative and lacks any political balance,” he said. Most of us on the creative side were also concerned that the film contained almost no historical context. I also strongly objected to the lack of any material about Israeli arts, culture, science and industry. The most telling response to this rough-cut screening came from one attendee who stated after seeing this film he could not understand why anyone would want to spend five minutes there. After that screening, Harris agreed with some of the criticisms and admitted that not only was the film too negative and unbalanced politically, it was not working from a structural point of view. He promised Hier that he would fix the problems in time for a planned second rough-cut screening in March.

From March until May, the director and his co-writer tried over and over again to restructure their approach to fix what in our view was the dull and plodding rhythm of the film and its historical problems. What was becoming eminently clear was that no amount of restructuring or revisiting their approach was going to fix what was essentially unfixable.

Mark Harris stated to reporter Tugend that neither Hier nor I saw his final cut of the film, thus making our decision appear to be capricious or based on our fear of offending Wiesenthal Center donors. Nothing can be further from the truth. I sat and watched what was to become his final cut. Simply put, I thought it was a disaster. I based my decision to halt production on this approach to the film on this cut that did not deviate at all from what Harris and Schoffman consider to be their final cut. The only way to fix this film, I told Harris, was to return to a script-driven format, a change Hier had been advocating for some time. Harris was understandably disappointed. Out of respect to our past relationship, I did allow him to finish his rough cut over a four-day period.

I have sympathy for both Harris and Schoffman. No one likes to be told their work is uninteresting. No one likes to be rejected. But it happens in the film world. And while it may make them feel better to blame their rejection on what they claim are politics or the inability of the American Jewish community to look realistically at Israel, it does not change the fact that what they called “A Dream No More” was dismissed because it did something I believe no film should do: it bored people. No amount of political posturing can change that fact. Fortunately for Moriah Films of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and its supporters who have come to expect a certain caliber of filmmaking, our “bad dream” has ended and we are on the road to completing an exciting, dramatic and realistic documentary about Israel’s first 50 years. We look forward to sharing it with movie audiences come spring. I only hope that The Jewish Journal devotes half the coverage to the release of our film as it did to the sour grapes of Mark Harris and Stuart Schoffman.

+