September 24, 2018

Fareed Zakaria’s Analysis of the State of the World

Photo by Tom Moorehouse.

Should American democracy ever vanish, it will end — like the world in T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Hollow Men” — “not with a bang but a whimper.”

That somber warning was sounded by one of America’s top journalists, Fareed Zakaria, while delivering the Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture at UCLA last week.

Zakaria, 54, born in India and a self-described “nonpracticing Muslim,” is the host of the eponymous Sunday morning CNN television program, frequent contributor to The Washington Post, and, in the judgment of Esquire magazine, “the most influential foreign policy advisor of his generation.”

The annual Pearl lecture, usually given by a top journalist or veteran public figure, commemorates the life and brutal murder of the young Wall Street Journal bureau chief by Islamic extremists in Pakistan in 2002.

The remembrance of Pearl’s death melded with the gist of Zakaria’s warning that this country’s and the world’s democratic values are endangered not by the “bang” of a fascist or communist takeover, but rather the “whimper” of a gradual erosion of long-held standards and ideals.

The erosion is a worldwide phenomenon, but if anyone currently embodies the threat, said Zakaria, it is Donald Trump by virtue of his position as president of the United States and his gradual chipping away of various traditions of behavior and civility.

The world’s democratic values are endangered not by a “bang” but by a “whimper” of a gradual erosion of long-held standards and ideals.

What we are seeing under Trump, he observed, is the collapse of the Republican Party as a gatekeeper of democracy, and the question is whether government agencies will be able to preserve their independence.

Markers in the erosion of standards are the nondisclosure of Trump’s tax returns and an almost daily demeaning of the media, Zakaria said. He warned that future presidents would now find it much easier to ignore past standards and taboos.

During some 90 minutes of stand-up analysis, one-on-one interview with professor Kal Raustiala, director of the UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations, and questions from the audience, Zakaria displayed a preternatural grasp of international affairs.

On China: Through a “Make China Great Again” policy, the country’s leaders are raising China’s global standing through economic, rather than military, power.

On Russia: It is now a “spoiler state,” which feels that it gave away too much after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, the country also has an interest in economic stability, which, for instance, affects the price of its oil exports.

On North Korea: Its regime is playing a clever game of deterrence. It will take serious work, not flippant insults, to strike a balance with Kim Jong Un’s regime.

In a rare note of optimism, Zakaria said that despite some chaos at the top, American institutions were still robust, although he particularly deplored the decline of a vibrant local press on the state and municipal levels.

There are, however, also worrying signs elsewhere. Turkey “has become the world’s leading jailer of journalists,” he observed; Hungary and Poland are slowly destroying a free press through economic and financial pressures; and even in England and Israel, there are attempts to limit press freedom.

Zakaria was introduced by Rabbi Aaron Lerner, director of the co-sponsoring Yitzak Rabin Hillel Center for Jewish Life and by UCLA professor Judea Pearl, who with his wife, Ruth, heads the Daniel Pearl Foundation, commemorating their slain son.

Judea Pearl is also a world authority in computer science and artificial intelligence, and even showed his biblical chops by quoting, in Hebrew and English — from the biblical Prophet Zechariah (no relation to the evening’s speaker).

Leon Panetta criticizes Obama for non-activism at Pearl lecture

With some 50 years of public service as an eight-term California congressman, as President Clinton’s chief of staff and President Obama’s Secretary of Defense and CIA director, Leon Panetta believes in the value of experience.

So it came as no major surprise when he endorsed two old political hands as his favorites in the 2016 presidential race – Hillary Clinton for the Democrats and Jeb Bush for the Republicans.

Panetta advanced his choices at the annual Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture, established by the Pearl’s parents, Professor Judea and Ruth Pearl, at UCLA on March 30. The event commemorates the life of the Wall Street Journal reporter who in 2002 was murdered by Islamic extremists in Pakistan.

The lack of such experience, and civility, by many of today’s political incumbents has led to a state of affairs described in stark words by Panetta.

“In 50 years, I never saw Washington as bad as it is now. There are no rules anymore, so that 47 senators decided to write to our enemy [Iran],” he said,  though adding that even in the best of times “governing is not a pretty-please process. It’s essentially a kick-ass process. You have to fight for every vote. You have to roll up your sleeves and engage.”

Although Panetta got his political start in 1966 as legislative assistant to California Senator Thomas Kuchel, a Republican, Panetta subsequently became a Democratic stalwart, and he apportioned most of the blame for the current Washington gridlock to Republican legislators in the House and Senate.

However, he did not spare President Obama entirely. During questioning by journalist and moderator Jim Newton, Panetta praised his former boss as “supremely intelligent” and responsible for important progress in some areas, But he faulted the president for “lacking fire” and, until recently, not fully using his executive power when his policies were stymied on Capitol Hill.

By contrast, Panetta cited previous presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson and Bill Clinton as activist chief executives.

“It would be wonderful if political decisions were made by logic alone, but if that doesn’t work, you have to go out and fight for every vote,” Panetta said.

Leon Panetta (right) was interviewed by journalist Jim Newton during the Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture at UCLATodd Cheney/UCLA

He devoted little time to American foreign policy, but called for a “comprehensive policy on the Middle East, rather than responding to each new crisis separately.”

While endorsing recent moves by Saudi Arabia and Egypt to form a combined force confronting ISIS and other terrorist groups, Panetta warned that as new Arab coalitions are formed, “You never know what the hell they are going to do.”

Regarding the current rift between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Panetta warned that “the security of the Middle East is too important to allow these divisions to go on.”

A capacity crowd of some 500 in UCLA’s Schoenberg Hall reacted with frequent applause and laughter to Panetta’s outspoken political points and his reminiscences of growing up as the son of struggling Italian immigrants in California’s Monterey area.

After the lecture, a lengthy line formed to purchase autographed copies of Panetta’s book “Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace.”

The event was sponsored by UCLA’s Burkle Center for International Relations, Luskin School of Public Affairs, and Yitzak Rabin Hillel Center for Jewish Life, joined by the Daniel Pearl Foundation

Thomas L. Friedman on what’s wrong with Islam

The following is excerpted from remarks New York Times columnist Tom Friedman gave Feb. 8 at Stanford University at the annual Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture. We’re reprinting here because it is one of the most succinct and cogent approaches to the heated debate over whether Islam is inherently violent. A student journalist asked Friedman to address the Muslim nature of the Muslim extremist problem. This was Friedman’s response. Below is video of the full presentation:


I do not believe we should be in the business of telling Muslims what their religion is or isn’t. So I kind of recoil from anyone who says it’s all this, or anyone who says it’s not any of that.

I think we should be in the business of asking them, “Why is this happening?” We don’t know. We have an overwhelming number of Muslims who are American citizens living in this country and who are wonderful citizens. So we don’t have this problem. So maybe you could explain it to me, but I sort of recoil at anyone sitting back who’s not a Muslim, saying, “That is not Islam.” What the hell do you know what Islam is? “Oh, I read the Quran in college” … you don’t know anything, OK? And that’s not our job, it seems to me.

So, the way I’ve written about it is that obviously this is emerging from their faith community. First of all, it’s not emerging from across their faith community. It’s not a problem in Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim country. It’s not a problem in India, the world’s second-biggest Muslim country. We’re talking about a problem that has clearly been emerging from the Arab world and Pakistan, primarily. Now what is that about?

I think it’s a really complicated mix of a product of years of authoritarian government, mixing with the export of Wahhabi puritanical Islam from Saudi Arabia, all over that world, that has really leached out the more open, joyous, synchronistic Islam that you had in Egypt. You look at pictures of graduates from Cairo University in 1950, you’ll see none of the women were wearing veils. Today you look at the picture and probably most of the women will be wearing veils. Thank you, Saudi Arabia. That is the product of the export of a particular brand of Islam from Saudi Arabia with the wealth of that country. And that’s mixed in also with the youth bulge and unemployment.

And so where Islam starts in that story and where authoritarian begins, how much people hate their own government, bleeding into Wahhabism, bleeding into massive amounts of young men who have never held power because they’re not allowed to in their country, never held a job, never held a girl’s hand. And when you have lots of young males who have never held power, a job, or a girl’s hand, that is real dynamite.

And so I like to talk about it in its full complexity. But I also don’t want to excuse it. We need to have a serious conversation. But we should be in the business of asking them, not excusing them, not accusing everyone. 

We need to understand there is a pattern here. You can talk about the Crusades in the 13th century — we’re not living in the 13th century anymore, OK? It’s very hard, I think, for us to get into someone else’s narrative. Only they can get into that narrative. And we need to leave it to them. But I think it is important to ask, to probe, and to challenge in a serious way and stop telling them who they are. 

 

Moving and Shaking: 12th annual Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture, Rabbi David Baron honored

The 12th annual Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture, honoring the life and legacy of the Wall Street Journal reporter murdered by Islamic extremists in Pakistan in 2002, was held on Feb. 23 at UCLA. Samantha Power, United States ambassador to the United Nations, delivered the lecture and spoke out against the longtime exclusion of Israel from U.N. regional groupings. The diplomat was introduced to the audience of some 600 listeners by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

The United States firmly opposes any boycotts of Israeli institutions and products “as disruptive of the peace process,” Power declared. (Her complete remarks on BDS are at jewishjournal.com.)

She went on to hail the Jewish state’s admission earlier this month to the U.N.’s JUSCANZ group of 15 democratic countries, including the United States, Japan, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, Norway and New Zealand.

Her generally non-controversial talk drew some unexpected media attention when she tweeted afterward that “Daniel Pearl’s story is a reminder that individual accountability and reconciliation are required to break cycles of violence.”

The tweet drew puzzled or indignant responses instantly, with some asking whether Power believed that Pearl himself was responsible for his own death.

Early Feb. 24, Power posted a correction, which explained that her reference was to the global outreach of the Daniel Pearl Foundation, established by the slain journalist’s parents, Ruth and Judea Pearl.

Power added, “As I said last night, the men who murdered Daniel Pearl did so because he was an American and, most of all, because he was a Jew.”

Although the Irish-born Power came to her U.N. job with a reputation as a feisty journalist, author and academic, as President Barack Obama’s chief representative to the international body, she delivered her remarks on current world problems with considerable circumspection. She did become visibly moved while describing the civil war in Syria as an unmitigated human disaster.

— Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor


 


From left: Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters Los Angeles (JBBBSLA) CEO Randy Schwab with JBBBSLA honorees Weston Cookler, Shoshana Kline, John Shane and Aaron Levy.  Photo by Vince Bucci

Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles (JBBBSLA) honored John Shane, Weston Cookler, Aaron Levy and Shoshana Kline on Jan. 30 at the Beverly Hills Hotel during an evening dubbed “The Big Event.” 

Shane, a recipient of the organization’s Spirit Award and a member of the organization’s board of directors, has funded JBBBSLA camperships and more. He practiced law for more than 20 years and also has worked as a real estate developer. He previously served as chairman of the board of the JBBBSLA non-denominational Camp Max Straus.

Cookler, Levy and Kline were named the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of the Year.

Cookler, who joined the JBBBSLA board in 2013, has served as a mentor for the organization since 2008. He is vice president of Avalon Investment Co.

Levy serves on the organization’s board of directors, the scholarship committee and on the match activities committee. He became a JBBBSLA mentor in 2008 and is a manager at Lodgen, Lacher, Golditch, Sardi, Saunders and Howard.

Kline began mentoring in 2010. Her efforts include aiding adults with special needs. She is director of operations at Irmas Financial Holdings.

“The mission of Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles is to assist children and young adults in achieving their full potential through innovative, impactful programs,” according to the organization’s Web site.



From left: Meir Fenigstein and Bob and Greg Laemmle. Photo by Abraham Joseph Pal

The 28th Israel Film Festival honored Rabbi David Baron of Temple of the Arts; Laemmle Theatres co-owners Robert and Greg Laemmle; and Israeli actor Sasson Gabai during a luncheon on Feb. 12. The event was held at the London West Hollywood and raised funds for the coming festival, which will take place f Oct. 23-Nov. 6. 

IsraFest, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit and organizer of the annual film festival, recognized Baron’s leadership of a synagogue that serves members of the entertainment industry with the IFF Community Leadership Award. It honored the Laemmles with the IFF Community Partnership Award for running a company that, among other things, exposes audiences to Israeli films. The IFF Career Achievement Award celebrated the career of Gabai, whose work includes the acclaimed film “The Band’s Visit.” 

The event also spotlighted a milestone for the Laemmle Theatres. Last year, the theater chain celebrated its 75th anniversary.

The Israel Film Festival “has grown to become one of the most important Israeli cultural events in America and the largest showcase for Israeli films in the United States,” according to its Web site. Los Angeles is one of three cities that host it every year. The others are New York and Miami. For more information about the festival, visit israelfilmfestival.com.



From left: Jane Zuckerman and Jeffrey Popkin. Photos courtesy of ETTA.

ETTA announced this month that it has brought on Jane Zuckerman to be the organization’s director of development. Zuckerman is the nonprofit’s first employee to hold this position.

Zuckerman’s work experience includes serving as executive director of Temple Israel of Hollywood, director of resource development at Temple Beth Am and development director for Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles’ SOVA Community Food and Resource Program.

In a press release, Zuckerman expressed enthusiasm for the opportunity to work with ETTA, which provides support to people living with special needs.

“ETTA is a vital agency to our city — no one else provides the range and type of services they do for our Jewish population,” Zuckerman said. “I am very excited to be a part of this team and help the organization grow.”

Additionally, the organization has taken on veteran special-needs professional Jeffrey Popkin as its new director of operations. Popkin, whose hiring became effective Feb. 10, said that ETTA’s track record of meeting a diverse set of needs for an oft-neglected community makes him excited to be joining the organization.

“I look forward to be beintg part of the ETTA team, which is meeting the goal of providing additional quality, community-based living arrangements,” he said.

Popkin previously served as associate director of Kern Regional Center, which coordinates services for Californians with developmental disabilities. 



From left: L.A. City Councilman Bob Blumenfield, Ryan E. Smith, Susan Freudenheim, Wendy Coleman Levin, Armin Szatmary, Leon Shkrab, Sidonia Lax, Stephen M. Levine, Councilman Paul Koretz. Leslye Adelman.  Photo by Paul  Michael Neuman

The Jewish Journal and subjects of its 2014 Mensch List were honored at Los Angeles City Hall on Feb. 14. A plaque was presented to the Journal’s editorial staff on behalf of the City of Los Angeles by L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz.

The community newspaper’s annual Mensch List profiles volunteers who do great — often unheralded — work on behalf of others. Representing the publication at the ceremony, which took

place in the council’s chambers, were Susan Freudenheim, executive editor, and Ryan E. Smith, associate editor. 

Members of Los Angeles City Council and honorees from this year’s 10-member Mensch List were present as well.


Moving and Shaking highlights events, honors, simchas and more. Got a tip? E-mail ryant@jewishjournal.com.

Ambassador Samantha Power condemns BDS

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement against Israel hurts the chances of a just and lasting peace in the region, Ambassador Samantha Power, the permanent U.S. representative to the United Nations, declared Sunday evening, Feb. 23, at UCLA.

Delivering the 12th annual Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture, Power outlined her critique of the international effort to isolate Israel. 

“I'd say a couple of things,” Power said in response to an audience member's question.  “First, we oppose boycotts and divestments and do not feel as if they are appropriate in this context at all, but also feel that they are disruptive to the most lasting way to bring about dignity and peace to both parties involved, which is this peace process that we have underway.”

The Middle East peace negotiations initiated by Secretary of State John Kerry, Power said, “really does stand a meaningful chance of achieving, again, security, peace, dignity and ultimately prosperity as well for the Palestinian people as well as for the State of Israel.” 

Power went on to condemn all efforts to delegitimize Israel, especially within the United Nations itself.   

She said that for years Israel was excluded from membership in the UN caucus on human rights, despite having a voting record on human rights that surpassed that of the United States.

“Israel has been trying to become a member of that group for as long as that group has existed, and Israel's record of voting coincidence with those of us who are a part of that group is higher than the United States's rate of voting coincidence with these other so called like minded; I mean we were close but Israel is completely like-minded with the countries in the group,” the ambassador said.

Two weeks ago, after months of “relentlessly lobbying” and making Israel's case, Power was finally able to persuade caucus members to admit Israel. 

Before assuming her ambassadorship in August 2013, Power established herself as a leading defender of human rights and an expert on genocide in the modern era. Power served as a senior advisor to Barack Obama in 2008 during his presidential campaign.   In late November 2008, she was named Special Assistant to President Obama and Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights on the National Security Council and chaired the Atrocities Prevention Board. While serving as ambassador, she has focused  on UN reform, women's and LGBT rights, human trafficking, refugees and the promotion of human rights and democracy.  She is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, a study of the U.S. foreign policy response to genocide.  

“It is completely anachronistic that all these years after the country's founding it's literally like the kid in the corner who can't even find its way into a group when at the same time, it's sending, you know, medical doctors to Haiti in the wake of the earthquake, it's laying down resolutions in the General Assembly to try to alleviate poverty through entrepreneurship and through new technologies in agriculture, which Israel of course has a lot of experience on,” Power concluded. 

Israel, Power said, “has a lot to offer the rest of the world so we are believers that integration is the best route actually to bring about peace and security and ultimately justice.” 


The full text of Power's reply is here:

“I'd say a couple of things,” Power said in response to an audience member's question.  “First, we oppose boycotts and divestments and do not feel as if they are appropriate in this context at all, but also feel that they are disruptive to the most lasting way to bring about dignity and peace to both parties involved, which is this peace process that we have underway.  It really does stand a meaningful chance of achieving, again, security, peace, dignity and ultimately prosperity as well for the Palestinian people as well as for the State of Israel.”

“I think efforts of delegitimation are counterproductive and something we deal with at the United Nations a lot, and I'll just give you a couple examples of, you know, things we have done in the short time that I have been there.”

“Every country in the United Nations belongs to a kind of regional group in which they do their work.  We do our negotiating within a sort of caucus, it's like caucuses within the Senate, and at the United Nations in New York, we have a little caucus that works on human rights issues; human rights issues, you know let's say South Sudan or LGBT issues and so forth.  Israel has been trying to become a member of that group for as long as that group has existed, and Israel's record of voting coincidence with those of us who are a part of that group is higher than the United States's rate of voting coincidence with these other so called like minded; I mean we were close but Israel is completely like-minded with the countries in the group.”

” Despite years of trying to get Israel into the group it was excluded, and finally two weeks ago just again through relentless lobbying and through making a functional case for why it was in our interest to bring Israel into this conversation and into this grouping, Israel was admitted. This has been a priority of mine… since I [ ] work…slowly in Geneva, Israel had been… there is a regional group known as the Western European and other group and, yeah you never want to be the other until you have no place else to go.  And again, you know, it is in all of our interest to bring Israel into the community of nations.”

” It is completely anachronistic that all these years after the country's founding it's literally like the kid in the corner who can't even find its way into a group when at the same time, it's sending, you know, medical doctors to Haiti in the wake of the earthquake, it's laying down resolutions in the General Assembly to try to alleviate poverty through entrepreneurship and through new technologies in agriculture which Israel of course has a lot of experience on and has a lot to offer the rest of the world so we are believers that integration is the best route actually to bring about peace and security and ultimately justice.”

 

Hear Samantha Power's comments in the video above.

Rice dissects American policies

For people with a palate for intellectual, social and physical nourishment, the annual Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture at UCLA is a not-to-be-missed event.

The lecture is one of the global events sponsored by the Daniel Pearl Foundation, established by Judea and Ruth Pearl after the death of their son, a brilliant Wall Street Journal reporter who was murdered by Islamic extremists in Pakistan in 2002.

In past years, the lecture series has hosted speakers of the caliber of journalists and authors Thomas Friedman, Ted Koppel, Anderson Cooper, Christiane Amanpour, The New Yorker editor David Remnick as well as the late Daniel Schorr and Christopher Hitchens, who generally discussed their world views and values.

Last week, the featured attraction was Condoleezza Rice, introduced by retired Gen. Wesley Clark as the country’s 66th secretary of state — only the second woman and first African-American woman to hold the post — as well as a Rhodes scholar, accomplished musician and now political science professor at Stanford.

During the reception before the event, Rice stood patiently for half an hour as wave after wave of admirers sought to have their pictures taken with the honored guest.

At the podium, Rice proved herself a polished speaker with an impressive arsenal of facts, who recalled movingly her own sense of shock and disbelief when confirmation of Daniel Pearl’s murder reached the State Department.

In a survey of past and present American foreign policy, Rice noted that in the Muslim Middle East, Washington had too often opted for stability under autocratic rulers over freedom for their people.

She also criticized this country’s “cultural paternalism,” which mistakenly has held in some instances that the people of Africa and Latin America are not yet developed enough to live under a democratic system.

However, the general tone of her talk often veered toward that of a Fourth of July peroration, in which American exceptionalism is seen as the only guarantor of freedom, since no other country would be willing to carry such a burden.

“The United States is extraordinarily willing to sacrifice for others,” she declared, while also lauding this country as a worldwide champion of human rights.

During George W. Bush’s presidency, Rice served as national security adviser during his first term, and as secretary of state during his second term.

While her performance in the two posts had many supporters, she has also been criticized for her roles, real or alleged, in advocating the invasion of Iraq, waterboarding and other forms of torture on real and suspected terrorists, and in general lowering America’s prestige abroad during her tenure.

Given such a mixed background, it might have been expected that university students in the humanities would have lobbed a few pointed questions at the speaker.

However, when the audience was invited to participate after the lecture, the students — given first crack at questioning Rice — politely stuck to bland, technical queries, easily fielded by the accomplished speaker.