Palestinians split on two-state solution


Palestinians are divided in their feelings on a two-state solution with Israel, while 42 percent believe that armed action is the best way to achieve a state, a new poll found.

The survey conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that a slight majority, 51 percent, oppose the two-state solution while 48 percent are in favor. The margin of error, however, is 3 percent.

While armed action was the preferred method to a state, 29 percent of Palestinians surveyed think negotiations is the most effective way to achieve a state and 24 percent favor popular nonviolent resistance.

To carry out the poll, 1,270 Palestinian adults in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip were interviewed face to face in 127 randomly selected locations from Sept. 17 to 19.

Some 66 percent of Palestinians reject a return to unconditional negotiations with Israel if it means that settlement activities will continue. In addition, 88 percent of Palestinians demand that the Palestinian Authority take Israel to the International Criminal Court in the Hague over the settlement building.

The poll also found Palestinians mostly split on the Arab Peace Initiative, which offers a return to Israel’s pre-1967 borders in return for peace, with 45 percent in support and 49 percent in opposition. Forty percent back a mutual recognition of Israel’s national identity as the state for the Jewish people and Palestine as the state for the Palestinian people, but 58 percent oppose it.

Some 65 percent of Palestinians support indirect negotiations between Hamas and Israel to reach a long term hudna, or truce, in the Gaza Strip in return for lifting the siege and 32 percent oppose such negotiations. At the same time, 59 percent of Palestinians believe that Hamas won last summer’s Gaza war, which breaks down to 69 percent of those in the West Bank and 42 percent in Gaza. Some 67 percent believe that rocket launches at Israel from Gaza should resume if the blockade of Gaza is not ended.

The poll found that 65 percent of the Palestinian public wants Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to resign. Satisfaction with Abbas’ job performance dropped to 38 percent from 44 percent three months ago and from 50 percent in June 2014.

If new elections were held today, according to the poll, 35 percent each would vote for Hamas and Abbas’ Fatah party.

Diverse trio running for mayor in troubled Jerusalem


It sounds like the beginning of a joke: A rabbi, a Russian oligarch and a high-tech millionaire are running for mayor of Jerusalem. Except there’s no punch line, just each of them offering up himself as salvation for the hallowed capital’s many troubles.

Many Jerusalemites view this year’s municipal elections, scheduled for Nov. 11, as a historic turning point for a city that is Israel’s poorest, still vulnerable to terrorist attacks and wracked by economic, political and religious divisions. At stake, many say, is Jerusalem’s very character and future viability.

Among the foremost concerns for Jewish Israelis is the hemorrhaging of Jerusalem’s Jewish population, particularly its middle class. These Israelis are being driven out of the city by high housing costs and scarce employment opportunities.

For secular residents, the growth of the ultra-Orthodox population is further cause for concern that the Orthodox will dominate the personality and priorities of the city.

In the predominately Arab eastern half, where most residents long have refused to vote in municipal elections in protest of Israel’s sovereignty over the city, basic social services have been neglected for years by local government. Many families live in cramped quarters because building permits are difficult to acquire, classroom shortages are so bad that at some schools different grades take turns using the same room and road repair and garbage collection are routinely ignored.

Some observers argue that the neglect of eastern Jerusalem ensures that the capital may again be divided by an international border. Within the city’s Arab community, many warn that the gap in services leads to resentment that can be seen in the growing political and religious radicalization of Arab youth. Several times this year, relatively young Palestinians from eastern Jerusalem perpetrated terrorist attacks against Jews in Jerusalem, sometimes with deadly results.

Elias Khoury, a lawyer who represents Arab residents of Jerusalem on issues of property, building and residency rights, said the boycott of municipal elections by Jerusalem Arabs only hurts the community.

“Today the situation in East Jerusalem is ‘tohu va’vohu,'” he said, using the biblical term for chaos. “If we don’t participate in elections, we need an alternative to managing our lives.”

The youngest of the three mayoral candidates is Nir Barkat, 49, a City Council member who made his fortune developing pioneering anti-virus software in the 1990s. A secular Jerusalemite, Barkat advocates reviving the city and its economy by focusing on tourism and making Jerusalem a world-class center for medicine and life sciences.

The Orthodox candidate is Rabbi Meir Porush, a seventh-generation Jerusalemite and longtime fixture on Israel’s Orthodox political scene who officially joined the race at the last minute.

The current mayor, Uri Lupolianski, who is ultra-Orthodox, had agreed to step aside for another Orthodox candidate, but it took the Orthodox political establishment until the 11th hour to settle on a final candidate. Several names were floated, but Porush became the man of choice only after Aryeh Deri, disgraced ex-Shas Party chairman and Knesset member who spent time in prison for taking bribes, was disqualified from running because his crimes constituted acts of moral turpitude.

Porush, who advocates holding the federal government accountable on unfulfilled pledges to invest millions of dollars in Jerusalem, hopes to win the mayoralty by galvanizing the city’s powerful, Orthodox voting bloc. Orthodox residents make up 30 percent of the city’s Jewish population but comprised the majority of voters in the city’s last municipal election, helping usher in Lupoliansky, the city’s first Orthodox mayor, in 2003.

Porush cites Jerusalem’s Arab-Jewish demography as the city’s greatest challenge. He said the first thing he would do as mayor would be to declare “an emergency situation” to boost the city’s Jewish population, which stands at about 66 percent.

Rounding out the field is Arcady Gaydamak, Israel’s flashiest political enigma, a billionaire who says he speaks for the people. Gaydamak’s past includes an international arrest warrant for allegedly illicit arms dealing in Angola and paying out of his own pocket to house Israelis fleeing the rocket fire in the north during the 2006 Lebanon War.

Zuhir Hamdan, who briefly ran as Jerusalem’s first Arab mayoral candidate, recently joined Gaydamak’s campaign in the hope of becoming his adviser on Arab affairs if Gaydamak is elected.

On a recent campaign foray to Jerusalem’s open-air Mahane Yehudah market, Barkat shook hands and smiled for the cameras. His plans include tapping international philanthropists and private-sector funds for support of Jerusalem.

Addressing the poverty issue, he noted that the average annual Jewish income in Jerusalem is $16,000, compared with $24,000 in the Tel Aviv area and $4,000 among Arab residents of eastern Jerusalem.

All of the candidates are trying to woo voters on the issue of affordable housing. Foreign demand for property in Jerusalem has contributed to skyrocketing housing prices and a dearth of new middle-class housing. Most of the city’s current building projects are luxury housing for Diaspora Jewish buyers, with prices per meter ranging from $7,000 to $10,000.

The high cost of living in Jerusalem has driven many residents to the suburbs.

Two new parties comprised of young Jerusalemites have made the issue their focus in the race for City Council seats. Aimed at trying to stem the tide of young people fleeing the city, one party is made up predominately of university students and other 20-somethings and is called Hit’orerut, Hebrew for “wake up.” Earlier this month, it merged with the other like-minded party, Yerushalmim, Hebrew for “Jerusalemites.”

“We need a change, and we understood it had to come from within,” said Ofir Berkovitz, 25, head of Hit’orerut.

Divided we fall? A once-united Jewish Los Angeles breaks apart again


Last summer, Los Angeles’ Jewish community stood united. As Hezbollah missiles rained on Israel, 10,000 Jews, including members of groups spanning the political spectrum — from the liberal Progressive Jewish Alliance (PJA) to the conservative StandWithUs — braved a sweltering July sun to rally for Israel, and, in the process, to show their support for one another.

That cohesiveness lasted for a while. In September, major Jewish groups banded together and nearly succeeded in preventing Maher Hathout, founder of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and an ardent critic of Israel, from receiving a prestigious award from the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission. A month later, a tidal wave of pressure led the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) to deny use of its headquarters to a UTLA committee that wanted to discuss launching an economic boycott of and divestment from Israel.

But the time for harmony may have passed. As memories of the war in Lebanon fade, and with them the palpable fears about Israel’s imminent destruction, old antagonisms have re-emerged, exposing growing fissures within the Jewish community on Israel.

How best to support Israel is the key issue that divides left, right and center.

As just one example, when the left-leaning group Americans for Peace Now recently co-sponsored an event at the Skirball Cultural Center that featured former Israeli and Palestinian soldiers (see story below), who spoke critically of Israel’s handling of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the right-leaning group StandWithUs questioned Peace Now’s decision. Similarly, when the PJA launched a new interfaith project with MPAC, a few other Jewish groups accused them of aiding and abetting a radical, anti-Israel organization.

“We haven’t figured out in the Jewish community, given the pressures on us and Israel’s instability, how to find common ground,” said Steven Jacobs, rabbi emeritus at Temple Kol Tikvah in Woodland Hills. “We are doing ourselves a great deal of injustice by making everything black and white.”

The growing schism between politically liberal and conservative Jews has assumed national proportions. In January, the American Jewish Committee (AJCommittee) featured an essay on its Web site titled Progressive Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism, written by Alvin H. Rosenfeld. In the piece, Rosenfeld, director of the Institute for Jewish Culture and the Arts at Indiana University, asks whether some Jews are fanning anti-Semitism by questioning Israel’s right to exist. The New York Times, among other publications, has reported on the fallout, including accusations from progressive groups that Rosenfeld’s true purpose is to curb all criticism of Israel.

On a separate front, the Zionist Organization of America, a pro-Israel advocacy group, just failed in an attempt to have the liberal Union of Progressive Zionists (UPZ) expelled from the 31-member Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC), a 5-year-old outfit committed to improving Israel’s image at universities. The UPZ’s transgression: sponsoring campus appearances by ex-Israeli soldiers who discuss human rights abuses they allegedly committed, or say they saw committed, against Palestinians in the territories. In protest, another ICC member, the American Jewish Congress (AJCongress) — a policy advocacy organization that defends Jewish rights internationally — might soon quit the ICC.

What it all boils down to is a question of timing versus free speech, even though there is still general agreement that Israel’s future is being threatened on a variety of fronts: Iran is believed to be developing nuclear weapons; Syria and Iran are said to be rearming Hezbollah in violation of U.N. agreements; and a Hamas-led Palestinian government is refusing to renounce violence or recognize Israel.

In addition, former President Jimmy Carter has written a much-publicized book calling Israel’s handling of the Palestinians “apartheid.” Because of all this, many conservative Jews believe that now is not the time for Jewish groups to stridently criticize Israel, said Rabbi David Eliezrie, president of the Rabbinical Council of Orange County, an organization comprised of 20 Orthodox rabbis.

“I think that Jewish leaders have to be careful that their words not be used by our enemies,” Eliezrie said, adding that such “failed” liberal initiatives as the Oslo Accords and the disengagement from Gaza have left Israel more vulnerable.

In this highly charged environment, many progressive Jews believe the right has ratcheted up the pressure to marginalize them, said Lila Garrett, host of the KPFK radio news program “Connect the Dots,” who describes herself as a supporter of Israel.

“If you don’t agree with the right wing; if you don’t agree that all Arabs should be driven out of Israel; if you don’t agree with them politically, then they say you don’t support Israel and are not a good Jew,” Garrett said.

Yet many liberal Jews feel “it’s a religious obligation, a spiritual obligation, an ethical obligation and a family obligation to criticize policies that are self-destructive,” said Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of the progressive magazine Tikkun, pointing to what he calls Israel’s “addiction to militarism and domination over others.”

The recent disagreement between the L.A.-based StandWithUs and the local branch of Peace Now reflects the widening chasm separating conservative and liberal Jews here. After learning that StandWithUs had used its Web site to label as anti-Israel an event by Combatants for Peace presented by Brit Tzedek v’Shalom — a pro-Israel, pro-peace outfit, and co-sponsored by Peace Now, David Pine, Peace Now’s West Coast regional director, sent an angry e-mail in protest to StandWithUs. In response, StandWithUs initially dropped the anti-Israel designation, the group’s Executive Director Roz Rothstein said. However, StandWithUs later reinstated it after further investigation revealed that Combatants for Peace, in her words, “paint the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] with a broad ugly brush” and try to “demonize Israel.”

Rothstein said StandWithUs was not trying to intimidate Peace Now, but wanted to warn of what the group saw as Combatants for Peace’s true agenda. Pine responded, in a Jan. 26 e-mail to Rothstein, blasting her for brandishing “your version of a ‘Scarlet Letter’ (‘A’ for anti-Israel).” In a subsequent interview, Pine said he thinks StandWithUs has “missed a major point about the importance of discourse and the fact that differing opinions exist but remain pro-Israel.”

In another example of the growing divide between local Jews, criticism has mounted — especially from the right — of a new interfaith initiative that will be unveiled this month by PJA and MPAC, both of which are Los Angeles-based policy advocacy organizations. As envisioned, the new dialogue would train a fresh cadre of young Jewish and Muslim leaders to move beyond stereotypes, forge friendships and work together to tackle some of Los Angeles’ most pressing social issues, such as homelessness. Liberal and moderate Jews and other clergy have lauded the program.

Don’t Let Affirmative Action Fade


Louisville, Ky., is a city divided between white and black, rich and poor; between the West End of town, where blacks live in camelback shotgun shacks and the East
End, with its leafy neighborhoods of white gentility.

But after decades of court-ordered school integration, Louisville’s Jefferson County Board of Education has one of the most successful voluntary desegregation programs in the country. Schoolchildren take the bus from one end of the city to the other to maintain a broad racial balance, attending schools in both the inner city (black) and the outer suburbs (white).

Two years ago, Crystal D. Meredith, a white mother, sued the school board after her son was refused admittance to his neighborhood school because of his race. The board argued in court that his attendance would have tipped the school’s racial balance, and won. But after the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower courts decision in favor of the board, Meredith’s lawyer, Teddy B. Gordon, a self-made civil rights attorney and a Jewish liberal, believed the new conservative Supreme Court would hear the case, and he was right: After prolonged review, the case is on the Supreme Court docket for December.

The Louisville case may seem far away and far removed, but the outcome will impact hundreds of public school districts in the country if it turns back the clock on voluntary desegregation programs.

For instance, as part of a court-ordered voluntary desegregation plan in 1981, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) created its popular magnet programs, using race as one of the determining factors for school assignments. In a city rife with racial tensions, the LAUSD’s aim was for a more diverse student body.

If the Louisville school board fails to win its argument before the Supreme Court, these popular LAUSD programs will be in jeopardy. Magnet assignments, based on points that use race to achieve ethnic balance, would be invalidated by this ruling. Permits With Transportation (PWT), another LAUSD program, which buses minority students, whose resident schools are highly segregated, to more integrated schools outside their neighborhoods, would probably cease to exist.

Why is the Louisville case so important? Why should we, as Jews, care about its outcome, especially if our children may not even attend public schools? Is affirmative action even relevant in 2006, in our schools, in our world? What are the benefits of diversity in education anyway?

To answer these questions, one first needs to look at the repercussions of the decision by the Supreme Court in Dowell v. Oklahoma City in 1991 that ordered a return to neighborhood schools and an end to court-ordered desegregation, replaced by voluntary desegregation plans — such as the one Louisville developed.

For many in fiercely segregated and poor areas, the return to neighborhood schools meant a return to the segregated classrooms of the past. According to Jonathan Kozol in “The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America” (Crown, 2005), inner-city schools are now experiencing levels of segregation that haven’t been seen since 1954, when Brown v. Board of Education declared segregation unlawful.

A look at the 2005-2006 statistics from a few of LAUSD’s urban schools tell the story: Jefferson Continuing High School: 91 percent Latino, 9 percent black, no white students; Fremont High School, 91 percent Latino, 9 percent black, one white student; Locke High School; 65 percent Latino, 35 percent black, .1 percent white; King/Drew Magnet: 67 percent black, 31 percent Latino, .5 percent white; Crenshaw High School: 65 percent black, 35 percent Latino, .1 percent white; Garfield High School: 99 percent Latino, .2 percent black, .2 percent white.

If one looks, it’s not too hard to see the connection between the resegregation of our urban classrooms to the numbers of minorities admitted to our public colleges. Prop 209, the California voter-initiative passed in 1996, that banned consideration of race and gender in admissions to public colleges and hiring, has only added to the problem.

In June, the Los Angeles Times reported a “startling statistic” — that out of 4,800 incoming freshman at UCLA, only 96 were African American, the lowest level of black student enrollment in three decades. Students, professors and administrators mutually blame the school’s admission process and the passage of Prop 209 for the falling numbers of black students — a number that has been slipping for a decade.

If prospective black students were to visit the Westwood campus today expecting to see a reflection of its big-city surroundings, they would be sorely disappointed. The same goes for other UC campuses: UC San Diego counts 52 incoming African Americans this fall; UC Berkeley, 140; UC Merced, 33.

How does a return to segregated LAUSD classrooms and the end of affirmative action at the UC schools reflect upon Jewish concerns? Do we read these statistics and shrug our shoulders? Do we accept a de facto, “separate but equal,” for blacks and Latinos in our public schools and colleges?

Jews have always invested themselves in the fight for fairness and equality in the realm of public school education. After World War II, the American Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith waged campaigns against discrimination in schools and the workplace.

In the late 1940s, Jewish activist Esther Swirk Brown initiated the case that eventually landed in the Supreme Court as Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.

That 1954 landmark ruling declared that “separate but equal” has no place in the field of public school education, and is “inherently unequal.”

In 2003, the Supreme Court returned to Brown v. Board of Education when it upheld affirmative action in higher education at the University of Michigan’s law school. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor reflected upon the enduring impact of Brown in America, and expressed the hope that improvements in lower levels of education would make such policies unnecessary in 25 years. Speaking for the majority opinion, she wrote:

“This court has recognized that education … is the very foundation of good citizenship. (Brown v. Board of Education). Effective participation by members of all racial and ethnic groups in the civic life of our nation is essential if the dream of one nation, indivisible, is to be realized…. The skills needed in today’s increasingly global market place can only be developed through exposure to widely diverse people, cultures, ideas and viewpoints.”

For all these reasons — good citizenship, an appreciation of different cultural values, preparation for the future — our children benefit most when they participate in a diverse society. As fully functioning citizens they must learn to sit down and talk to others to appreciate cultural differences.

Without exposure to different viewpoints, races and values, our children will be stuck with their heads in the sand, with impenetrable dunes forming on their backs. A diverse student body is necessary in assuring that all children have equal opportunities, which should be as important to Jews as to any other minority.

In December, the Supreme Court will decide if the same principles for higher education apply to public schools.

Does “race” still matter?

Although Louisville’s desegregation plan may be flawed, as attorney Gordon will try to argue, an end of affirmative action and a return to segregated schools, as we are witnessing in the LAUSD and on the UC campuses, doesn’t bode well for anyone. Affirmative action is not only for the benefit of minorities, but for the benefit of all our children as well.


Charlotte Hildebrand is a freelance writer and editor living in Los Angeles.

One Summer Night


I dream of a summer night long ago. I’m a 17-year-old usher in a neighborhood theater. We play second-run films. Most of that summer we show “Pursued,” starring Teresa Wright and Robert Mitchum.

After my ushering job each evening I rush home to meet my girlfriend, Florence. Both of our families are living in Rockaway, a beachfront peninsula community on the south shore of Long Island. We live in separate one-story cottages on opposite ends of the same block.

Tuesdays is fireworks night. This Tuesday night in August, Florence and I walk under the boardwalk and on to the sand of Rockaway Beach. We spread a blanket among other couples and cuddle. The surf is pounding. We watch the white foamed waves crashing on the shore as the sun sets over Jamaica Bay beyond. It seems to me to be the best of times.

At 9 p.m., with the sky a blue-black, the fireworks begin with a star burst. We look on in silence. The couples near us squeal their appreciation and applaud when the fireworks explode into an image of the Statue of Liberty. The fireworks end with a rapid burst of shells.

Some of the other couples, hand in hand, leave after the fireworks. Florence and I stay. We can hear the waves crashing and see a little slice of silvery moon above.

I’m 17 and poetry is my current passion. William Blake is my favorite. I think of his wonderfully simple poem about the moon:

“The moon, like a flower,

In heaven’s high bower,

With silent delight,

Sits and smiles on the night.”

It’s necking time. That’s what we called it in those days. Necking is a prelude to petting — that’s hands on, groping and fondling. But pert, sweet Florence was frum, religious, observant, Orthodox. One didn’t progress from embracing and kissing to fondling and muzzling easily. This was a girl brought up in a household where there was physical separation between men and women during prayer; and for married couples, sexual abstinence during and for about 12 days after a woman’s period.

I come from a different world, a non-observant one. I respect her and her upbringing, but there’s no denying my raging adolescent hormones.

It’s getting late. Florence warned me earlier she had to be home by 11 p.m. Yet it’s now beyond that hour and she says nothing. We’re too far-gone in our lovemaking.

Florence and I sit on a boardwalk bench overlooking the sand and sea. A light breeze is blowing. From a distance we hear the strains of a popular jukebox favorite coming from a beachfront bar. The tune is “Peg O’ My Heart.” It’s a harmonica instrumental.

“Peg O’ my heart, I love you;

We’ll never part for I love you.”

It’s very romantic. There are only a few stragglers walking the boardwalk. We resume our petting. It goes on long, hot and heavy. Florence’s blouse and skirt are askew. Suddenly out of the darkness comes a screeching apparition in a nightgown. Hair loose and blowing in the wind, she descends on us like the wrath of God.

“Kurveh,” she screams. I know it means prostitute. In Yiddish or English it’s a word forbidden in my house.

It’s Florence’s mother who screeches it. I freeze. She grabs Florence by the hair, yanks her off the bench. Florence is dragged across the boardwalk, down the steps, into the street and out of sight. I don’t hear her utter a word other than a cry of surprise and dismay.

I’m left on the boardwalk bench dazed, ashamed, sexually frustrated. I go through the rest of that summer haunted by that night. I sneak around Florence’s cottage the next night but she doesn’t appear. She doesn’t come to the beach again. I’m told she was shipped back to Brooklyn by her family.

After work, I go to that beachfront bar where every night I hear The Harmonicats playing “Peg O’ My Heart.” I sip my beer, watch young couples dancing, hugging and kissing, and I feel sorry for myself. I never hear that song without thinking of that bitter, sweet night. I also never see or hear from Florence again. I wonder what became of her. Did she turn into a rebbitzin with many kids?

She wanted to be an artist. For her 17th birthday, I bought her a paint set. It cost me $22.50, more than a week’s salary as an usher. Did that ever happen?

Some years later I see Tony Perkins in a fright wig pounce on Janet Leigh in the shower. It’s Florence’s mother come back to haunt me. Thank God she didn’t have a knife and Alfred Hitchcock as director.

Morrie Gelman is a freelance writer. He’s written for the New York Post, Theatre Magazine, Broadcasting Magazine, Advertising Age and Variety.

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Vote Confirms Westside, Valley Split


 

The mayoral primary on March 8 reconfirmed the existence of a political gap within the Los Angeles Jewish community between Jews who live on the Westside and those who live in the Valley.

According to the Los Angeles Times exit poll, Bob Hertzberg carried Valley Jews (6 percent of all voters) with 56 percent of the vote, to 18 percent for Antonio Villaraigosa and 12 percent for Mayor James Hahn. Among Westside Jews (5 percent of all voters), Hertzberg barely edged Villaraigosa, 37 to 36 percent, with Hahn at getting 20 percent.

Overall, Hertzberg took nearly half the Jewish vote (47 percent) to Villaraigosa’s 27 percent and Hahn’s 17 percent. Despite his Jewish support, Hertzberg finished third and failed to make the runoff.

He thereby continued the pattern set in 1993 and 2001 by Jewish candidates who did very well among Jews in the mayoral primary but fell behind the two leading contenders. In 2001, it was Steve Soboroff and Joel Wachs; in 1993, it was Richard Katz and Wachs.

In the post-Tom Bradley era, Jewish candidates for mayor are tending to run on the Richard Riordan base of Republicans, Valley voters and conservatives. I just presented a paper to fellow political scientists with my colleague, California State University, Fullerton geographer Mark Drayse, that shows a very strong overlap between the Hertzberg and Soboroff coalitions. This coalition provides a significant base of support among whites, but may fall short of citywide success in a city in which the Republican share of the vote has dropped 50 percent in the last decade.

The gap between Westside and Valley Jewish voters goes back at least to the busing controversy of the late 1970s. Overall, Los Angeles Jews, wherever they lived, were enthusiastic supporters of Bradley and his liberal biracial coalition. Bradley largely stayed out of the busing battles.

But school busing divided Westside Jews, many of whom favored busing but were not much affected by it, from Valley Jews, who provided key support for the anti-busing movement. Since then, citywide candidates with a somewhat less liberal leaning have done well with Valley Jewish voters. Meanwhile, liberal candidates continued to win in the high-turnout Westside, a pattern continued by the emerging Villaraigosa coalition.

We should not overestimate the Valley-Westside gap. Both voted heavily for the Jewish candidate in the primary. Both provided many votes for Villaraigosa and for Hahn in both 2001 and 2005. The gap is far smaller than that between white Democrats, which includes most L.A. Jews, and white Republicans.

But clearly, the emphasis in the Valley is on moderate politics, compared to a more liberal version on the Westside. Valley Jews are cross-pressured; they are as overwhelmingly Democratic as Westside Jews, but have reservations about the more urban liberal agenda.

While the split among Jewish voters might play a role in the lack of success of Jewish mayoral candidates, a bigger issue is the extremely low minority support they have received. Hertzberg received only 5 percent of African American votes and 6 percent of Latinos, though a surprising 12 percent among Asian Americans.

The electorate in the 2005 primary was slightly more liberal, more Latino, more Asian and more African American than four years before, and less white and less Jewish. Without minority support, no one, Jewish or non-Jewish, can be elected mayor of Los Angeles.

The center-right model, moreover, is not the only way for a Jewish candidate to run citywide. Both Laura Chick, the former Valley council member who won as city controller in 2001 and 2005, and Mike Feuer, who was nearly elected city attorney in 2001, ran more progressive-center campaigns than either Hertzberg or Soboroff. (Of course, neither faced a strong African American and Latino candidate at the same time, as did Hertzberg in 2005.)

Both won huge majorities of Jewish voters (with no Westside-Valley gap) but also did very well in minority communities. Had Feuer won half instead of 41 percent of the African American vote, he might have been elected.

Some will blame the division among Jewish voters as the reason it is hard to elect a Jewish mayor. I think this is wrongheaded.

First, it is extremely hard for anyone to win a citywide election, let alone the mayoralty, in this diverse city. Second, the Jewish role in Los Angeles politics does not depend on having a Jewish mayor. It depends on being valued by all competing forces in the city.

As the city electorate becomes less white and more diverse, Jewish voters, with their relatively high turnout and generally progressive (if not always liberal) stance, will be much sought after, even if they present two overlapping faces, one moderate and one liberal, to potential allies.

If a Jewish mayor does arise, he or she will have to win far more than Jewish voters, indeed, more than white voters, and that in itself will make such a candidate more than a representative of the Jewish community. That Jewish candidate might be a liberal appealing to the Westside or a moderate appealing to the Valley.

But from the very start of the campaign, such a candidate will have to work nonstop to reach out to minority voters. Minority votes might not be available until the runoff, if there are strong minority candidates in the primary, but the ground must be laid.

The reconnection of the Jewish political community, whether starting in the Valley or the Westside, into the heart and soul of Los Angeles’ minority communities will be a fine and appropriate reminder of the long years of mutual trust and effort during the Bradley years.

Raphael J. Sonenshein, a political scientist at California State University, Fullerton, was the Election Day political consultant for the Los Angeles Times’ exit poll.

 

Drama in Israel, High Stakes in the U.S.


Israeli politics is always a mix of high drama and low comedy, but the current fight within Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s divided government is anything but entertaining for Jewish leaders here.

Israeli commentators have noted that it is a struggle for the soul of the Likud party. How that turns out will have consequences for the U.S.-Israel relationship and on Israel’s already-low standing around the world.

It will also have a major impact on an American Jewish community that has come together to support a beleaguered Israel, but which is unlikely to stay together to support settlers who want to remain in their Gaza and West Bank enclaves.

According to sources here, the pro-Israel lobby has sent an unambiguous message to Sharon and his warring government ministers: expect problems in U.S.-Israel relations if you can’t approve a comprehensive Gaza withdrawal plan.

The reasons aren’t hard to grasp.

President George W. Bush, initially cool to the plan, latched on to it last month as an alternative to the stalled Mideast “road map.” To help Sharon win the promised Likud referendum on the pullout, the president offered some dramatic concessions, including rejection of the Palestinian right of return and an acknowledgment that Israel can retain some West Bank land after a settlement with the Palestinians.

Bush paid a big diplomatic price for those concessions; European and Arab allies were incensed at just the moment when the administration was seeking their help in the Iraq tangle. Their anger intensified when Sharon lost the Likud referendum and began talking about a watered-down or phased plan, making President Bush look like the sucker of the decade.

The administration can’t afford a second loss. Now, officials here clearly expect Sharon to find a way to sell the plan to his government and start implementing it — pronto.

Bush’s need for a diplomatic victory will only increase as he holds a series of meetings here and abroad this month trying to enlist international cooperation in the effort to bring a semblance of stability to Iraq.

Officials here expect a full withdrawal, not a piecemeal or partial one, and they expect Israel to coordinate with the hated Palestinian Authority to prevent a Hamas takeover when Israeli troops and settlers evacuate Gaza.

Sharon has gotten that message; this week he is sending his foreign minister to Cairo to discuss the handover with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

With an election only five months away and both parties scrambling for Jewish support, the Bush administration has no intention of publicly squeezing Israel.

But the message is going out through diplomatic channels: after Nov. 2, there could be hell to pay if Sharon does not make good on his deal with Bush.

If Sharon loses the withdrawal fight to the well-organized settler minority, the role of the settlers in setting national policy will dramatically increase, with huge diplomatic consequences.

President Bush’s unusually strong affinity for Sharon has everything to do with the Israeli leader’s tough and uncompromising response to terrorism, nothing to do with his longtime advocacy of settlements, which this administration, like its predecessors, continues to regard as an impediment to any peace process.

Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), the House majority leader, may identify with Israeli settlers, but the core of Israel’s political support on Capitol Hill has little sympathy for Israel’s not-one-inch crowd.

Since Sept. 11, the American public has gained a better understanding of the problems Israel faces. But that new sympathy could evaporate if Sharon is defeated by a small band of settlers regarded here as ideological and religious zealots.

There are also potential communal consequences.

The Jewish community has long been divided over the best route to peace in the region, but it has mostly put those divisions on hold since the resumption of widespread Palestinian terrorism in 2000.

Sharon has been a divisive figure over his long career, but by and large American Jews have stood behind his government as it confronts terrorists and a Yasser Arafat that even avid doves concede is not a fit partner for peace.

But beneath today’s veneer of unity, the Jewish community is more divided than ever. An increasingly vocal minority, backed by powerful friends in the Christian community, reject any new territorial concessions. But a majority still support the concept of land for peace negotiations, although many remain skeptical about the current Palestinian leadership.

A failure by Sharon to put over the plan will bring those divisions back into the open and intensify them as American Jews choose up sides in the fight between settlers and mainstream Israel.

The groups that call the Gaza plan a “surrender” or “retreat” plan may be among the loudest in Jewish life today, but it’s the Jewish mainstream that Israel relies on as the foundation of its political support in this country.

That foundation, as well as relations with a sympathetic administration, is at risk as Sharon fights the most difficult battle in a life of difficult battles.

Supreme Court to Rule On Vouchers


The U.S. Supreme Court’s long-awaited decision on the constitutionality of school vouchers is expected this term, with the high court apparently ready to tackle one of the most significant church-state rulings in years.

The U.S. Supreme Court, which opened its new term this week, agreed to hear three related cases involving government funds for students to attend parochial or private schools.

A high court ruling is expected by June.

Beyond the issue of vouchers itself, which divides the Jewish community, the ramifications of a Supreme Court decision could extend beyond education to the government financing of other activities, including charitable choice.

In its first week, the Supreme Court ruled on an issue of concern to the Jewish community when it rejected an appeal by four Orthodox Jewish students who claimed that Yale University had violated their religious beliefs by requiring them to live in coed dorms.

School vouchers were an integral part of the Bush administration’s original education plan, but the White House abandoned the proposal after it gained little support in Congress.

Many Jewish groups are opposed to vouchers on the grounds that they violate the separation of church and state and drain money from the public school system. Orthodox groups, however, favor the use of vouchers and believe government support to religious schools is acceptable.

A Supreme Court decision in favor of vouchers could jettison vouchers back up to the top of the education policy debate.

But even if vouchers are deemed constitutional, state legislatures will have a final say in whether to allocate money to local voucher programs.

The voucher decision could have a major effect on charitable choice, the expansion of government funding to faith-based groups to provide social services.

The issues are seen as similar because both involve public funding for religious-based programs.

The policy, which had been a top priority in the early months of the Bush administration and is still favored, remains one of the most divisive issues in the Jewish community.

"Charitable choice will turn on this," said Marc Stern, co-director of the American Jewish Congress’ (AJCongress) legal department. "If vouchers are upheld, it will be hard to argue that charitable choice is unconstitutional."

Many Jewish groups fear that an expanded partnership between government and faith-based Jewish organizations could break down the constitutional walls separating church and state and infringe on religious liberties.

Orthodox groups favor allowing religious institutions to play a greater role in providing social services.

The high court, often controlled by a 5-4 conservative majority, is closely divided on church-state separation issues.

The justices had several opportunities to rule on the constitutionality of vouchers in the past few years, but chose to sidestep the issue by declining specific cases.

The three cases the court has agreed to hear stem from a Cleveland-based school-voucher program that provides tuition to families who want alternatives to public schools.

Agudath Israel of America has argued in numerous legal briefs that as long as funds are provided to parents and not directly to schools, such school choice programs, even when used for religious schools, do not violate the First Amendment’s separation of church and state.

"For far too long, the debate over school vouchers has been dominated by legalistic discussions of constitutional concern," said David Zwiebel, the fervently Orthodox Jewish organization’s executive vice president for government and public affairs.

"If the Supreme Court upholds the Cleveland program, as we expect it will, perhaps we’ll finally get around to focusing on the really important issue: improving education by expanding parental choice."

In contrast, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and other Jewish groups view vouchers as subsidies that essentially provide government funding of religion.

If vouchers are deemed constitutional, it will likely trigger a "new series of programs effectively channeling government funds to religious institutions using the voucher schemes," said Steven Freeman, director of legal affairs for the ADL.

The high court’s decision could fall to Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the expected swing vote in the decision. O’Connor has been somewhat cryptic in her assessment of government aid to religious schools, and experts are going to be watching her closely.

Last year, O’Connor seemed somewhat at odds with the decision in Mitchell vs. Helms, where the court ruled that government aid to religious schools for items such as computers was acceptable and does not have the effect of advancing religion, since the aid is offered without spending directives and is secular in content.

In its 6-3 ruling, the court rejected the distinction between direct and indirect aid, O’Connor noted in her separate concurrence, and held that the diversion of secular aid by a religious school to the advancement of its religious mission is permissible.

She wrote that the expansive scope of the decision was "troubling" and she felt that the approval of actual diversion of government aid to religious indoctrination "is in tension with this Court’s precedents."

O’Connor also tried to nuance her decision. "In terms of public perception, a government program of direct aid to religious schools based on the number of students attending each school differs meaningfully from the government distributing aid directly to individual students who, in turn, decide to use the aid at the same religious schools," she wrote.

In the Jewish community, some have distinguished between their opposition to vouchers and their support for government money for auxiliary services, such as bus transportation or textbooks. This, they say, is not a diversion of funds from the public school system.

Last year, however, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs voted to return to its position that public funding should only go to public schools. In 1998, the umbrella organization of community relations councils and national agencies had decided to favor exceptions where the public funds are used for court-approved, nonsectarian benefits.

The significant financial burden faced by many parents of children at Jewish day schools will not be eased if the court decides narrowly and applies the voucher system to assist the needy, though some Chassidic schools would likely benefit, according to Stern of the AJCongress.

Regardless of the decision, many in the Jewish community believe more creative methods of raising money from the private sector will be needed to sustain day schools. Jewish day schools are becoming increasingly popular.

Another case of interest to Jewish groups that is already on the court’s docket this term is one that addresses how people with disabilities are accommodated in the workplace.

The court’s decision in that case could shed light on how it might deal with cases involving religious accommodation in the workplace.

Jewish groups also are watching several cases that the Supreme Court may yet decide to take. One would examine the constitutionality of a moment of silence and another would further delve into the constitutionality of prayer at a graduation ceremony.

The court could also take up one of several cases challenging race as a factor in college admissions policy, an issue that divides Jewish groups.

Also, some terrorism-related cases could find their way to the high court as a result of the Sept. 11 terror attacks in New York and Washington.

These cases could look at issues of interest to the Jewish community such as racial profiling, search and seizure techniques, wiretapping and detention of suspects.