Palestinians deliver to U.N. documents to join war crimes court

In a move certain to anger Israel and Washington, the Palestinians on Friday delivered to U.N. headquarters documents on joining the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and more than a dozen other international treaties.

The chief Palestinian observer, Riyad Mansour, and U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq confirmed the handover at the United Nations. It is a step that will likely further exacerbate tensions between Israel and the Palestinians and could lead to reductions in U.S. aid or U.S. sanctions.

“This is a very significant step,” Mansour told reporters. “It is an option that we are seeking in order to seek justice for all the victims that have been killed by Israel, the occupying power.”

The U.N. press office issued a statement saying the Palestinians had delivered documentation to join 16 international treaties. “The documents are being reviewed with a view to determining the appropriate next steps,” it said.

According to the Rome Statute, the Palestinians will become a party to the court on the first day of the month that follows a 60-day waiting period after depositing signed and ratified documents of accession with the United Nations in New York.

The ICC move paves the way for the court to take jurisdiction over crimes committed in Palestinian lands and investigate the conduct of both Israeli and Palestinian leaders over more than a decade of bloody conflict. Neither Israel nor the United States belongs to the ICC.

Mansour said the Palestinians have also formally requested retroactive ICC jurisdiction “with regard to the crimes committed during the last war in Gaza.” He was referring to Israel's 50-day war against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip this past summer.

More than 2,100 Palestinians, 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel were killed in the July-August war.

Regarding the threat of possible U.S. sanctions or cuts in aid for joining the ICC, Mansour said: “It is really puzzling when you seek justice through a legal approach to be punished for doing so.”

The United States has said the move was of deep concern and unhelpful to peace efforts in the region.

“It is an escalatory step that will not achieve any of the outcomes most Palestinians have long hoped to see for their people,” State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said in a statement. “Actions like this are not the answer.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Abbas' action would expose the Palestinians to prosecution over support for what he called the terrorist Hamas Islamist group and vowed to take steps to rebuff any potential moves against Israel.

“We will take steps in response and defend Israel's soldiers,” Netanyahu said in a statement issued on Thursday.

U.S. officials say that around $400 million in annual aid could be in jeopardy after the Palestinian move to join The Hague-based court, which looks at cases of severe war crimes and crimes against humanity, such as genocide.

The other signed treaties the Palestinians delivered to the United Nations include the U.N. Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, two additional protocols to the Geneva Conventions and the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

The Palestinian government signed the Rome Statute on Wednesday, a day after a bid for independence by 2017 failed at the U.N. Security Council.

Palestinians seek a state in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem – lands Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East War.

Momentum to recognize a Palestinian state has built up since Abbas succeeded in a bid for de facto recognition of Palestinian statehood at the U.N. General Assembly in 2012, which made Palestinians eligible to join the ICC.

Judge rejects Demjanjuk claim that documents withheld

A federal judge in Cleveland rejected a claim by convicted Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk that U.S. prosecutors withheld documents that could have helped his case.

U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster ruled Tuesday that a 1985 FBI memo that questioned the legitimacy of a Nazi identification card placing Demjanjuk at the Trawniki guard camp was immaterial to his case.

Polster said that because internal FBI documents are merely speculative, they did not need to be turned over to the defense, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. He also said that Demjanjuk “willfully lied about his whereabouts during the war,” which led to the revocation of his U.S. citizenship.

Federal public defender Dennis Terez had claimed that prosecutors withheld documents that could have helped Demjanjuk’s case. Terez had asked the judge to order a hearing to determine why prosecutors did not turn over the 1985 memo and to allow Demjanjuk, now 91, to return to the United States in order to defend himself.

Demjanjuk, a retired Cleveland-area autoworker, was extradited to Germany in 2009 to face charges of being an accessory to more than 28,000 deaths at the Sobibor Nazi concentration camp. A Munich court in May found Demjanjuk guilty of war crimes and sentenced him to five years in prison; he is residing in a German nursing home while the case is appealed.

Demjanjuk is stateless and has no passport. He cannot enter the United States unless Polster decides to overturn a 2002 denaturalization order. Demjanjuk’s citizenship was revoked for lying about his Nazi past to gain citizenship. The U.S. government has asked Polster not to reopen the citizenship case.

In the early 1980s, Demjanjuk was accused of being the notorious guard “Ivan the Terrible” at the Treblinka death camp. He was deported to Israel in 1986 and sentenced to death in 1988, but the Israeli Supreme Court overturned his conviction in 1993 after finding reasonable doubt that he was the guard in question.

“Holocaust survivors welcome the court’s decision and are relieved that this convicted war criminal will not set foot in the United States again,” said Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants. “Demjanjuk lied to get into this country and his ongoing efforts to cover up his terrible past have been foiled.”

The Al Jazeera document dump and you

Map making seems to be an increasingly popular pastime in the Middle East these days.

The Palestinians claim they prepared their mapped vision of the two-state solution but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to look at it. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is reportedly preparing maps that will give Palestinians an interim state on land they already control but no more. Now a leading Washington think tank has unveiled a series of maps detailing proposals for drawing Israeli-Palestinian borders.

The central question in all this cartography is what to do about nearly 300,000 Israelis living in some 120 West Bank settlements.

Documents released Jan. 23 by Al Jazeera show Israelis and Palestinians may have made more progress toward an agreement — at least with the prior Israeli government — than previously known, but the reality is the peace process is comatose, and each side is conditioning resumption of talks on terms it knows are unacceptable to the other.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas refuses to meet with Netanyahu until Israel freezes all settlement construction, which the prime minister has rejected by sanctioning a new building spree.

The Al Jazeera documents revealed Abbas appears much more flexible on that issue in private than in public, and that may land him in big trouble with the Palestinian public to which he has made unrealistically maximalist promises not only on settlements but also on refugees, borders, Jerusalem and security.

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) has published a report (see it at by senior fellow David Makovsky detailing three scenarios for redrawing borders to allow Israel to retain the maximum number of settlers in a minimum number of settlements along with 1:1 land swaps that would give Palestinians the equivalent of 100 percent of the West Bank.

“Territory is not the only issue on the peace agenda,” said Makovsky, “but a breakthrough on this issue may open the door to progress on the others.”

He estimated it could cost nearly $1 million per family to relocate settlers to inside Israel’s new borders based on the 2005 Gaza withdrawal and on a family size of 5.3 (more for smaller families).

Any West Bank withdrawal will be more complex and more traumatic than the one in Gaza that saw radical rabbis ordering their followers to resist and IDF soldiers to disobey the orders of their commanders.

In September 2005, Israel evacuated 8,500 settlers from Gaza, plus another 500 from the northern West Bank, at a cost of $2 billion. Five and a half years later, an estimated 70 percent still do not have permanent housing.

West Bank evacuation for civilians will cost between $11 billion and $24 billion, depending on the extent of the land swap and the number of people affected. The cost of the army and the overall redeployment will be billions more.

Guess who’s expected to foot the bill. You. The American taxpayer. That could create a problem. Current U.S. law prohibits spending American aid beyond the 1967 border; it was written specifically to prevent using foreign aid for settlements.

Netanyahu recently forced the United States to withdraw an offer of $3.5 billion in advanced stealth planes and other equipment in return for a 90-day settlement freeze when he insisted on deal-killing conditions. Meanwhile, senior U.S. diplomats are in Israel discussing security needs in the event of a peace agreement.

Makovsky briefed top Israeli, Palestinian and American officials on the report but declined to characterize their responses.

The WINEP scenarios envision removing most West Bank settlements (77 to 88 out of 120) but only a minority of settlers (60,000 to 94,000 out of 300,000). That’s because most settlers live in the major settlement blocs near the 1967 border, which are expected to be annexed to Israel in a peace agreement.

In a land-for-land deal, each side gets something tangible, Makovsky said. It is “not realistic” for Palestinians to demand all settlers be removed.

The Washington Institute report does not deal with the nearly 200,000 Jews who live in East Jerusalem.

Some in Congress may question why Americans taxpayers should help foot the bill to remove settlements every president has said never should have been built in the first place.

On top of that, American taxpayers will be expected to increase the hundreds of millions already going to help the Palestinian build their state. Arab leaders will be expected to chip in, but so far they’ve been more generous with pledges than checks.

I’m not arguing against withdrawal. To the contrary, I think it is long overdue and in the vital interest of Israel’s survival as a Jewish, democratic state.

But it may not be realistic to think Congress and the administration, facing unprecedented budget shortfalls and intense pressure to curb spending, will serve as the new ATM for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement.

The longer both the Palestinians and Israelis delay, the higher the price tag of peace.

Douglas M. Bloomfield is a nationally syndicated columnist.

WikiLeaks reveals secrets, backroom dealmaking—and cluelessness

A careful reading of the WikiLeaks trove of State Department cables—which is laying bare some 250,000 secret dispatches detailing private conversations, assessments and dealmaking of U.S. diplomats—reveals a notable if perhaps surprising pattern: how often they get things wrong.

Again and again the cables show diplomats, lawmakers and heads of state predicting outcomes that never come true.

A year ago, top Israeli defense officials in a meeting with their U.S. counterparts set 2010 as the absolute, must-be-met deadline to squeeze Iran on its nuclear program. Now Israeli officials say date is 2012. In a 2005 assessment, the same Israeli cadre told U.S. interlocutors that the point of no return would be Iran’s ability to enrich uranium without assistance. Iran has had that capacity for years.

In January 2008, Egypt’s intelligence chief said Hamas was isolated and would not stand in the way of a peace agreement. Hamas’ continuing control of Gaza, even after the war that broke out 11 months after the Egyptian assessment, still undercuts Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

In 2007, U.S. diplomats called Tzipi Livni an up-and-comer. Though now the leader of the Israeli opposition as head of the Kadima Party, Livni twice failed in bids to become Israel’s prime minister. The same State Dept. cable from 2007 said the Israeli military and government don’t get along—“never the twain shall meet!” But they do get along, mostly, and meet often; the lack of cooperation in 2007 was the result of the short-lived term of Amir Peretz as Israeli defense minister.

The disparities between predictions and reality reflect the on-the-fly nature of the discussions detailed in the newly revealed cables.

Ed Abington, a former U.S. consul in Jerusalem who has consulted for the Palestinian Authority, said the authors of such cables work under pressure to come up with “added value” in analysis, and fill in the vacuum with chatter that might not have any basis in reality.

“You’re looking for what you can add that makes it relevant to policy makers in Washington and elsewhere—analysis, insight,” Abington told JTA. “A lot of the reporting, in hindsight, is irrelevant.”

David Makovsky, a senior analyst with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said facts on the ground also change rapidly—a factor that helps explain how dire Israeli predictions about Iran’s imminent weapons program have dissipated, at least for now. Part of that may be attributable to western efforts to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program. Makovsky cited to the recent success of the Stuxnet computer worm, which apparently disrupted Iranian centrifuges necessary to enrich uranium to bomb-making capacity.

Much of the material in the leaked cables offers frank U.S. assessments of everything from the temperament of foreign leaders to the shipment of arms between foes of the United States. In late 2009, U.S. officials told their Russian counterparts that they believed North Korea had shipped Iran missiles capable of hitting capitals in western Europe. The Russians were skeptical, but agreed that there was evidence of increased cooperation between the two rogue nations and that it posed new dangers.

The cables also track increasing concern among the United States, Israel and western nations that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is leading Turkey along a path to Islamism—and beyond the point of no return of accommodation with the West. In Cairo, U.S. diplomats prep secretaries of state in both the Bush and Obama administrations for meetings with Egyptian leaders and tell them to defer to Egyptian self-regard as the indispensable Arab state, while acknowledging that this perception is long past its due date.

Tracking the cables that straddle the Israeli and U.S. administrations also demonstrates that on some matters policies have changed little, if at all. Stuart Levey, the Treasury undersecretary charged with enforcing Iran sanctions, in December of 2008 reassures Israeli Mossad chief Meir Dagan that Obama is as determined as Bush was to isolate Iran through sanctions. Within a few weeks, Obama would confirm it by reappointing Levey to the job, ensuring consistency.

The leaks also show Iranian and Syrian duplicity. A 2008 memo, apparently from an Iranian source, details how Iran used the cover of the Iranian Red Crescent to smuggle officers into Lebanon in 2006 to assist in Hezbollah’s war against Israel. Syria apparently provided sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah within weeks of pledging to U.S. officials that it would not do so.

Some of those named in the leaks worried that their publication could inhibit frank dialogue. Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), was outraged that her private exchange with Netanyahu on Iran and Palestinian issues in a 2009 meeting was now public knowledge. “If Congress has no ability to have candid conversations with foreign leaders, we won’t have some of the critical information we need to make the judgments we need to make about countries like Iran,” she told The Daily Beast.

Photos capture numbers and words of Nazis’ Final Solution

Every now and then, a momentous life chapter can be triggered by a seemingly insignificant occurrence. That’s what happened to Dr. Richard Ehrlich on a plane a few years ago. The monotony of the flight was broken by skimming an issue of the International Herald Tribune. A small item mentioned the Holocaust archives at the International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen, Germany.

For most of the past decade, Ehrlich, a urological surgeon, has enjoyed an avocation as an art photographer. He’s been widely shown and published, preferring nature and travel subjects.

A selection of 52 color digital images from Ehrlich’s documentation of Nazi bureaucracy from Hitler’s Final Solution will be on display in “The Holocaust Archive Revealed” at the Craig Krull Gallery in Santa Monica beginning Tuesday.

Relaxing in a UCLA examining room, Ehrlich — dressed in green scrubs — took time recently to speak about his portfolio of enlarged photographs documenting the assembled archive.

“My interest was piqued,” he confessed. “The idea that all of the data concerning the Holocaust was stored in one place stirred something compelling in me.”

A “60 Minutes” segment on the International Tracing Service (ITS) further inspired Ehrlich to access the archive. He set about petitioning the ITS, but even with the help of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., Ehrlich was blocked. He’s quite circumspect about how he gained access, offering obliquely that a friend in the State Department was involved.

A meeting was arranged between Ehrlich and the director of the archive. He filled out the requisite forms and was granted two extended sessions to take pictures. Although the materials he photographed amounted to little more than printed words and numbers, the staggering volume — six buildings (including a former SS barracks) and 16 miles of records — impressed upon Ehrlich the huge effort that went into eradicating European Jewry and other “undesirable” minorities under the Nazi master plan.

Ehrlich came to photography through an evolutionary process. He has a background in painting, and the works of Paul Cézanne were his first important sources. Cézanne, the 19th century post-impressionist painter, took everyday elements and scenes — people, landscapes, objects — and subtly reordered them. Hard edges found their way into figures, fruits and face planes. Multiplicity of viewpoint, a defining element of 20th century modernism in all the arts, first surfaced in Cézanne.

The California abstract expressionists Elmer Bischoff and Richard Diebenkorn were Ehrlich’s next great influence, and their input can be discerned in his photographs. Through positioning and scale, Bischoff’s figurative work looked abstract, and his abstract paintings looked figurative. Diebenkorn could reorder the space of a picture — thereby abstracting it — simply by the way an open pair of scissors or the head and legs of a figure diagonally touched the plane’s edges.

While his painting satisfied a personal need to make art, Ehrlich first turned to photography as a byproduct of his professional work. Documentation of his surgeries was a practical application of picture taking. At some point, the two merged. Ehrlich’s love of travel fit nicely with his interpretive photographs of far-flung locales. Thus was born Richard Ehrlich, serious photographer.

Longtime observers of Ehrlich’s work know him as a colorist. His landscapes are often imbued with brilliant hues, some of the most intense found in nature. His studies of the Namibian outdoors contain breathtaking vistas and swaths of color. A series of Malibu sky and horizon studies are turned into a homage to the stark format that painter Mark Rothko settled on in his final phase through clever cropping. Graffitied walls in Belmont Park are riots of color and kinetic energy, although they’re held still and silent by Ehrlich’s exposures.

His focus is always sharp, and Ehrlich stays clear of lens trickery. The viewer need never wonder what is being depicted. Angles may be skewed (the legacy of Bischoff and Diebekorn at work) but never to the point of fool-the-eye dynamics. It also seems to be a point of pride that Ehrlich’s light is natural and never manipulated. He clearly has the eye and the patience to mentally frame the photo and to wait for just the right moment.

At the same time, the human element is mostly recessed. People are not out of the question in his picture planes, but most often it’s their handiwork that stands in for the human form. The starkness of handmade houses in Namibia, their floors deep in sand, suggest past lives and actions — ghosts if you will. The same applies to the tagged Belmont walls. History is implied as much as it is notated.

As artist Tony Berlant has said of the photographs: “In Ehrlich’s work, what you see is who you are.”

Those longtime Ehrlich observers may be thrown by his Holocaust archive prints. The manmade spaces are constricted and viewed head-on. Overhead fluorescent lighting gives the materials — shelves, boxes, stacks of files and rows of ledgers — an appropriately institutional pallor. Gray greens, metallic blues, muddy taupes all denote a place far removed from nature’s extravagance.

As he flipped open a large, black box on an examining table, Ehrlich explained some of his prints. He began by saying, “I went to Wannsee, a beautiful little town outside of Berlin. There’s a nice old hotel there, where they held the Wannsee Conference in 1941. That’s where they planned the Holocaust. Here’s a shot of the minutes of the meeting, including a break for lunch. In the middle of the planning of the systematic murder of millions, they had lunch.”

Moving through images of ledgers, official papers that dispassionately note the minutiae of the Final Solution — including Anne Frank’s transfer papers to Bergen-Belsen and the actual Schindler’s List — Ehrlich’s calm demeanor developed an incredulous edge.

“You see this much detail,” he noted with suppressed pique, “and you have to understand that this massive effort wasn’t just carried out by a small group of people. It required an enormous amount of work by tens of thousands, if not millions.”

At the time of the Nazi takeover, Germany had the most educated population in all of Europe. “It’s a chilling thought, and it makes you wonder how that level of evil could flourish in such a place,” Ehrlich said.

Asked what it was that sparked him to the extraordinary effort that produced his Holocaust images, Ehrlich was hesitant.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I mean, I’m not particularly religious, and I didn’t lose any relatives. I went to Auschwitz when I was a student at Columbia in 1959, and I was moved, but the Holocaust is not something that I’ve been obsessed with all these years.”

“Look,” Ehrlich said, sitting forward in his chair. “People read about what’s going on in Darfur, and they often can’t relate to it. And at the same time, we’re hearing the voices of Holocaust denial again. This is a concrete record of something that the world is in danger of forgetting about.”

“The Holocaust Archive Revealed: Bad Arolsen Through the Lens of Richard Ehrlich” will run Aug. 26-30 at ” target=”_blank”>Richard Ehrlich Photography

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Schindler’s List

The new face of Russian Jewry

When Tatyana Sharfman applied to immigrate to the United States, she was not yet sure that she wanted to leave her native country of Russia. Her aunt, who had left Russia in 1992 and now lives in the San Fernando Valley, was determined to bring over the rest of the family, and so Sharfman began to fill out the necessary documents.

“She kept asking us, ‘What are you doing over there?'” Sharfman recalled. “We didn’t take it seriously, really, but we filled out some papers just because we had these papers.”

Sharfman knew that it was typically a long process to emigrate from Russia, and she did not really expect to be accepted. However, one day the approved documents were returned by the government, and her family faced a life-changing decision: “To come or not to come?”

Life in Russia was good. Well, maybe not exactly good, but livable. Although Sharfman was a single mother living in an apartment with her parents, she worked as a cardiologist in a local hospital in central Russia, and both she and her father had jobs, which enabled the family to live a fairly comfortable lifestyle.

The decision to leave really came down to the future of her son, Aleksandr. Although he was only 8 years old at the time, Sharfman knew that when he turned 18, he would be required to join the army, a fate she did not desire for him.

“If we were just old people, we probably would have remained there,” she explained. “But when I thought about the future of my Alek, my son, I [was] so concerned about his future in my country.”

So four years ago, Sharfman and her family decided pack their belongings and move to California. She is one of the new immigrants from the former Soviet Union. She did not leave during the last great wave of Russian immigrants, which began after Mikhail Gorbachev came to power and instituted his policy of glasnost. At that time, tens of thousands of Russian Jews fled their homeland and came to the United States, where they largely settled in densely populated urban areas, such as New York and Los Angeles.

According to the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), the greatest number of Russian Jews immigrated to the United States in 1992, with 45,871 arrivals. After the peak, the number of Russian Jews entering the country declined steadily until 2001 — the last year documented by HIAS — when only 2,077 refugees resettled in the United States.

Largely due to the influx of Jewish refugees in the ’90s and the new immigrants who continue to come, the city of Los Angeles considers the Russian community the fastest-growing community in the city. Patricia Villasenor, immigration policy adviser for the city’s Human Relations Commission, said this information is based on the 2000 census, which actually measures population change from 1990.

“According to the 2000 census, one of the fastest-growing communities in Los Angeles County is the Russian and/or Eastern Bloc ethnicities, in particular Russian Jews,” Villasenor reported by e-mail. “Now, this isn’t saying it [is] the largest community but the fastest growing, the total population for Los Angeles County is less than 3.8 percent, but it has grown significantly in the last five years, a growth rate of almost 22 percent.”

Not everyone is convinced that the figures are accurate.

Despite Villasenor’s statement, it is impossible to gauge the exact number of Russian Jews immigrating to the United States, because official U.S. census information only records the number of Russian immigrants to the country. It does not break down groups according to religion.

There are a few guesses, however, and Los Angeles-based demographer Pini Herman of Phillips and Herman Demographic Research estimates that at the peak of the mid-’90s immigration wave, about 8,000 Russian Jews moved to the Los Angeles area annually.

These Jews were fleeing a Russia that offered no freedom of religion. Even the government practiced discrimination as part of its official policy.

However, Sharfman, her parents and son did not flee this earlier Russia. The immigrants who have come since 2000 left a somewhat reformed Russia. At the time they left, there was even a new synagogue built in the town were Sharfman lived.

Sharfman is typical of this fast growing immigrant group, of Russian-born Jews in Los Angeles, especially the San Fernando Valley. These newer arrivals are more savvy, educated, and able to deal with the system. They are not the “poor Russian Jews” from decades past, who needed to be the local Jewish community’s first priority, in getting them out of communist Russia and in resettling them here.

But for people like Sharfman, the new realities of the Russian community present a problem: because they are no longer a priority, sometimes they are left to flounder on their own. And the local Jewish community still needs not to forget them.

“The American Jewish community is not as interested anymore in the immigrants as they were when we were coming, and there is not as much help,” said Helen Levin, executive director of the West Hollywood Russian Community Center who came to Los Angeles in 1988 after being a rufusenik for nine years. She and her husband, Eugene Levin, publisher of the Russian-language newspaper, Panorama, have thrived in their new country, but she fears adjustment may be harder for the new immigrants.

Although it would seem that life in the United States would be easier for the new immigrants, because there are many established sources of information and already a sizable community of previous Russian immigrants, this is not always the case. “Then, there were calls coming in from employers who [specifically] wanted to hire Russian immigrants,” Levin said.

Upon arriving in the United States, Sharfman moved into a small apartment in Van Nuys with her son and parents. In her new country, the 38-year-old doctor was not licensed to practice medicine and has since returned to school in hopes of getting a nursing degree. But first, she had to learn the language.

Sitting at a Starbucks in a strip mall in the San Fernando Valley, the petite brunette, wearing a red shirt under a bright pink vest, blends in with the rest of the morning coffee crowd. It is not until she begins to speak that her broken English, still tinged with Russian inflections, reveals her immigrant status.

Sharfman was never a rufusenik. She did not lose her job when she applied to leave Russia, was not harassed by the government and was not trapped. Sharfman said that her decision to leave Russia had nothing to do with her Jewish heritage.

This is not to say that there is no anti-Semitism in Russia. Sharfman acknowledged that her sense of safety came from the fact that she did not tell anyone that she was Jewish, and she did not practice Judaism. Sharfman also thinks that she blended into the Russian population, so people did not know she was Jewish.

“I am not look like, maybe completely like, Jewish,” she said tentatively, as if searching for the right words. “Maybe that is why I didn’t feel it so hard, because people, of course, think negatively about Jewish people.”

Sharfman said at times co-workers would tell her negative things about Jews, not realizing that she was also Jewish. Although she does not claim anti-Semitism as a factor in her decision to emigrate, Sharfman is grateful for the religious freedom she found in the United States.

Many of the new immigrants do claim anti-Jewish attitudes play a role in their decision to leave Russia. For Michael B., a 29-year-old doctor who prefers to remain anonymous, it was his Jewish roots that caused him to leave his home in central Russia two and a half years ago and move to the Valley with his brother and parents.

“We had some problems there,” he said. “Well, to be sincere, I didn’t see any future there. I had just graduated from university, and I became a doctor, and I saw that I won’t be able to achieve anything else in my life — to become the head of a department or to have a good salary.”

Michael B. attributes this glass ceiling to the fact that he is Jewish. Although his hometown also had recently built its first synagogue and there seemed to be some movement toward religious tolerance, on a professional level, it is still considered detrimental to be Jewish. In Russia, he said, there are only a few prominent figures in every industry.

“If you are not Russian, this is much harder to obtain any higher position,” he said. “Especially when you are Jewish.”

Michael B.’s grandparents lived in the United States, so when the rest of the family immigrated, they settled in the San Fernando Valley, where they already had family. Although Michael B. did not speak or read much English when he arrived, he began to both learn the language and study for his U.S. medical boards.

As if the task were not arduous enough, Michael B.’s family also had to deal with the added complications of immigrating in the post-Sept. 11 world of strict border policies.

“We had some problems when we came here, because we came right after that incident in New York — Sept. 11 — so we couldn’t obtain our legal documents for a long time,” he remembered. “The INS told us that we came in the wrong time, so we are illegal here because the president ordered to close the borders.”

For many new immigrants the problem is no longer getting out of Russia, as it was in the case of the rufuseniks, it is gaining legal entry to the United States.

Michael B. and his family lived in California illegally for six months without many basic necessities, such as driver’s licenses. At first, they also were unable to rent an apartment, because they did not have Social Security numbers.

“That was a very difficult time for us,” he said.

Despite the hardships, Michael B. studied for his medical boards “day and night” and now is a doctor about to embark on a three-year residency at a Brooklyn hospital.

According to Sima Furman, director of the immigration and resettlement program for Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles, Sept. 11, 2001, marked a turning point in the migration of refugees to the United States.

“The number has diminished since Sept. 11. That slowed the flow to the United States dramatically,” Furman said. “Our numbers are getting smaller and smaller. For this calendar year from January to April, so far we have had only 94 arrivals — and that is from the former Soviet Union and Iran.”

Furman thinks that refugees like Sharfman and Michael B., who are coming to the United States at a relatively late date compared to the vast influx of refugees before, stayed in Russia for personal reasons, such as taking care of an older family member who did not want to leave or perhaps because they did not have enough money to leave. She is not surprised that they are coming over now, however, and cites anti-Semitism as the main reason for leaving.

Even though most people left the Soviet Union because of religious freedom, the new immigrant experience is vastly different from those who came over in the past two decades, said Si Frumkin, a self-described “real old-time Soviet Jew.” Frumkin immigrated to the United States in 1949 and created the Southern California Council for Soviet Jews.

“The people coming over these days, by and large, they are middle age, they are not very poor and they are well acquainted with the system and how to get along,” Frumkin explained. “It is not like 25 years ago. [Now] they are much better informed, they are coming from a society that has become capitalist. In the past, for an immigrant to come here, it was like coming from another planet.”

Today, it is like coming from another country, Frumkin said. The new immigrants not only know about government programs, such as Social Security and Medicare, he explained, but they often speak English and even know about the subtleties of Southern California real estate. For example, he said, they know it is less expensive to live in the Valley than in the city–spreading out from their traditional West Hollywood community.

Herman, the Los Angeles-based demographer, said this is predominantly because of the reduced cost of living.

“For a condominium in the West Hollywood, you can have a house in the Valley,” Levin said.

While the American Jewish community may not be as focused on the plight of Russian Jews as it was a decade ago, the city of Los Angeles considers Russian Jews to be the fastest-growing community in the county. This fact is surprising in light of the well-documented growth of the Latino population in Los Angeles.

At about 3 million and 32 percent of the population, Latinos are the largest population. But according to Villasenor of the Human Relations Commission, the Latino population is growing at a rate of only 3 percent, while the Russian and/or Eastern Bloc population is growing at a rate of 22 percent.

While Villasenor stands behind this math, Furman of Jewish Family Service does not think this information is accurate, based on her own observations.

“I wonder about that,” Furman said of Villasenor’s statement. “In terms of newly arrived refugees from the former Soviet Union, the rate of arrivals has diminished over the years, and the number of refugees has dropped. Our experience is contrary.”

Demographer Herman, an expert on Los Angeles’ ethnic communities, also questions the data. He said that the census does not measure communities based on religion, so there is no way to determine that the 22 percent growth rate from Russia and the Eastern Bloc reflects refugees from the Jewish community.

The fact remains that while their plight is no longer in the spotlight, Russian Jews are still immigrating to the United States, and they still face the same challenges of acculturation as the rufuseniks.

“Even a penny has two sides,” Sharfman says, concerning the process of becoming an American.

She worries that her son will forget how to write in Russian, that she does not speak English very well, that she will not be granted U.S. citizenship. And Sharfman worries that she will not be able to return to Russia to see her friends.

But still, she counts herself as lucky that she now lives in a place where each individual is judged based on abilities and not religious heritage.

“[In America] it does not matter if you are Jewish or Mexican, it just matters who you are, who you are inside, what are your skills,” she said. “Everything depends from you, nothing from your relation to some nationality. It is very nice.”

Caltech Seeks the Complete Einstein

He was a lifelong atheist who was offered the presidency of the State of Israel.

He was a dedicated pacifist who helped usher in the atomic age.

He was a modest man whose face may be the most familiar one in the world.

Though pictured mainly as a frail, unkempt old man, he was adored by women, fathered an illegitimate child when he was 23 and after marriage engaged in a number of extramarital affairs.

The complex and contradictory man was, of course, Albert Einstein, one of the greatest intellects of all ages, who radically transformed our understanding of the universe.

Scholars, biographers and journalists in search of the complete Einstein find their destination at a converted private home on a leafy Pasadena street, with a blue sign on the front lawn pointing to the Einstein Papers Project.

On the bottom floor of the house, a phalanx of file cabinets hold copies of some 65,000 documents, ranging from path-breaking scientific papers to intimate letters, political and Zionist statements and scribbled notes from school children, totaling more than 500,000 individual pages.

On the second floor, in a sunny room, sits Dr. Diana Kormos Buchwald, the general editor and director of the project, surrounded by papers, page proofs and photos of Einstein, alternating with pictures of her husband and their three children.

Stacked on a shelf are the first eight volumes of "The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein" and that’s just the beginning. The complete series will consist of 30 volumes and is considered the most ambitious publishing venture in the history of science.

At the rate of one new volume every two years, at a cost of $1 million, Buchwald is assured of a lifetime job.

Working with her are the equivalent of six full-time editors, each of whom must be fluent in German, English and one other language, be computer savvy and preferably have some scientific and historical training.

All the material in each volume is in strict chronological order. Momentous theories are followed by mundane activities or random thoughts, such as a scribbled note to "Dear Posterity, If you have not become more just, more peaceful, and generally more rational than we are (or were) — why then, the devil take you. Having, with all respect, given utterance to this pious wish, I am (or was) Yours, Albert Einstein."

"It’s important to keep the strands of Einstein together. There’s Einstein’s science, which is very difficult, and Einstein the man, who is relatively accessible, especially after he becomes famous," Buchwald said.

March 14 marks the 125th anniversary of Einstein’s birth in 1879. But the big celebration for Einstein buffs around the world will be next year, marking the centennial of his annus mirabilis, or miracle year.

It was in 1905 when the 26-year-old "technical expert third class" at the Swiss patent office published four papers, including the special theory of relativity, which completely revolutionized the concepts of time, space, energy and matter.

The centennial will be marked by a national homage to "The Engineer of the Universe" in Einstein’s native Germany, and at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem where, according to Einstein’s will, the originals of all his documents are housed in a bomb-proof shelter. In Los Angeles, the Skirball Cultural Center will host a widely heralded exhibit on Einstein from September 2004 to May 2005.

It took until 1919, when a British solar eclipse expedition confirmed the bending of light near the sun, exactly as predicted in Einstein’s theories, that the scientist became an international celebrity.

As recently as February 2004, striking new measurements of distant exploding stars by the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope confirmed Einstein’s 1917 prediction that a dark, unseen energy permeating space, which he called the cosmological constant, is pushing the universe apart.

Raised in an assimilated German Jewish family, Einstein’s ties to his people grew deeper and closer as he witnessed the rise of anti-Semitism on a personal and global level.

In 1920, though revered throughout the world, he was viciously attacked in German university classes and mass rallies for both his scientific theories and his Jewishness.

He championed the East European immigrant Jews in the 1920s, a position not popular among many established German Jews.

Though a believer in world government and opponent of nationalism, Einstein became a strong supporter of Zionism and made his first trip to the United States in 1921 to help Chaim Weizmann raise funds for the projected Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

When Weizmann, Israel’s first president, died in 1952, Einstein was offered the post by then-Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. Einstein declined, but wrote in his response that "My relationship to the Jewish people has become my strongest human bond."

Einstein defined his religious views in a 1947 letter. "It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropomorphic concept which I can not take seriously," he wrote. "I feel also not able to imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere. My views are near those of Spinoza: admiration for the beauty of and belief in the logical simplicity of the order and harmony which we can grasp humbly and only imperfectly.

"I believe that we have to content ourselves with our imperfect knowledge and understanding and treat values and moral obligations as a purely human problem — the most important of all human problems."

On the lighter side, "Einstein loved Jewish jokes and had an intuitive sense for things Jewish," Buchwald said.

The Einstein Papers Project started in 1981 at Princeton University, moved to Boston University and then to the California Institute of Technology in 2000, when Buchwald, an associate professor of history at Caltech, was named as the new director.

A native of Bucharest, where her father was a correspondent for the British media, Buchwald moved on her own to Israel in 1979 and earned degrees in chemistry at the Technion and Tel Aviv University.

She came to the United States in 1983, took her master’s and doctoral degrees in the history of science at Harvard, and joined the Caltech faculty in 1990.

The arrival of the Einstein project marked a kind of homecoming since the great physicist himself spent three consecutive summers in the early 1930s on the Caltech campus.

He wrote enthusiastically about the pre-smog environment, noting that "Here in Pasadena it is like paradise. Always sunshine and clear air, gardens with palms and peppertrees and friendly people who smile at you and ask for autographs."

The only complaint of the rather slovenly dresser was that "everything is formal and respectable."

Einstein might well have become a permanent Caltech professor, but for the salary offered by the university’s penny-pinching president, Robert Millikan, meager even by Einstein’s modest standards.

Buchwald and her team have completed the ninth volume, which will be published by Princeton University Press in the fall. It covers the years 1919-20, when Einstein became a global icon.

Last May, Caltech and the Hebrew University collaborated in vastly expanding access to their trove of material by inaugurating the Einstein Archives Online,, with support from Los Angeles philanthropists David and Fela Shapell. It has a database of some 43,000 documents, images and research on Einstein’s life and work.

Another Web site,, provides information about the Einstein Papers Project.

Although Buchwald and her group receive support from Caltech and the Swiss government, she is seeking — in a rather low-key way — private support to expand online, fund internships and sponsor a photo exhibit and lecture series in 2005. Inquiries can be directed to Robert E. McQuinn of the Caltech development office at (626) 395-6215 or

For Einstein aficionados, new and old, an excellent, highly accessible book is "The Einstein Scrapbook" by Ze’ev Rosenkranz, curator of the Einstein Archives at the Hebrew University. Published by the Johns Hopkins University Press, the book is profusely illustrated and contains some fine examples of Einstein’s doggerels and quirky humor.

One instance is a 1919 interview in The Times of London, in which the suddenly celebrated scientist showed that fame had not unsettled his sense of Jewish skepticism.

In a frequently misquoted observation, Einstein said: "By an application of the theory of relativity to the taste of readers, today in Germany I am called a German man of science, and in England I am represented as a Swiss Jew. If I come to be regarded as a bete noire, the description will be reversed, and I shall become a Swiss Jew for the Germans and a German man of science for the English."

Playing at Pollard

Playwright Martin Blank confesses he has an affinity for spy
stories. It was this attraction that drew him to a book about great American
espionage cases a few years ago — and to the story of Jonathan Pollard, an
American Jew who received a life sentence in 1987 for passing documents to Israel.

“I immediately thought … this was a play,” he said. Six
months later, he said he had “this massive attack of realization that I had a
real responsibility toward telling this story.”

Blank spent about two years researching and writing “The
11th Hour,” based on true events. While the world premiere is scheduled for the
Center Stage Theatre in Jerusalem in late May, the play is now being read
locally at Valley Cities and Westside JCCs on Feb. 8 and 9, respectively. The
JCC readings star Edward Asner, Bruce Nozick and Allen Williams, and are
produced and directed by Alexandra More, artistic producing director of the
Celebrity Staged Play Reading Series.

Asner knows the Pollard story well. He’s also performed
readings of “Bitter Friends,” a Pollard-based play in which pseudonyms were
used. In comparing the two, Asner praised Blank’s more straightforward version.
“I think it’s a much braver position that the author has taken in this one,” he

“The 11th Hour” presents an analysis of Pollard’s
psychology, focusing on Pollard’s point of view from the time he decides to spy
for Israel, culminating in his capture and confession. It’s an approach that
steers away from much of the controversy — what some call Pollard’s harsh
sentencing given the circumstances — and yet it may not avoid it completely.

By humanizing Pollard, Blank’s play may draw some criticism
from those who feel he should be viewed simply as a traitor.

“Everyone has an almost irrational response to the guy,”
Blank said, admitting to being sympathetic toward Pollard. “Jay Pollard is a
tragic character and the play is a tragedy. It cannot be anything but. Whether
you sympathize with him or you don’t, he’s a tragic character.”

‘Dreamers’ Still Hold Hope for Peace

Sometimes, they say, hope shines brightest in the darkest hours. Palestinians and Israelis have never been further apart in the past decade, with nearly 3,000 people killed in the two years of the Palestinian intifada.

Yet "the dreamers," as some call them, are still busy preparing peace plans, as if all that is needed to bring peace to the Holy Land are a few intelligent position papers. Many of the peace plans are the work of academics and would-be politicians.

Lacking the authority to implement their plans, the authors are free to combine fantasy with wishful thinking. However, among the "dreamers" are some with sound political records, and — perhaps more importantly — they represent Palestinian-Israeli collaboration.

While the plans may have little chance of being implemented in the near future, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has many examples where once-radical ideas slowly moved from the margins to the mainstream, finally becoming policy. Even the Oslo accords, which radically reshaped relations between the two parties and held out the prospect of peace, began in talks led by Israeli academics before the Israeli leadership offered its sponsorship.

Top on the list of "dreams" right now are the joint peace plans of Yossi Beilin and Yasser Abed Rabbo, on the one hand, and Ami Ayalon and Sari Nusseibeh on the other. Beilin, the architect of the Oslo accords and a former justice minister, recently quit the Labor Party and joined Meretz. Abed Rabbo, the Palestinian Authority minister of culture and information, is considered among the more moderate Palestinian figures.

Ayalon is a decorated commando, former commander of both the navy and the Shin Bet general security service and an outspoken dove. Nusseibeh, the president of Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, holds the Palestinian Liberation Organizatio’s Jerusalem portfolio and is a longtime advocate of peace with Israel.

All four are respected figures, yet all represent a minority in their communities, without the power to initiate real change.

It’s not always easy to find the differences between the plans. Both call for many of the same principles: a full Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Palestinian renunciation of the right of return and of terrorism, an end to Israeli control of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount and the dismantling of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

According to Beilin, the main difference between the two documents is that the Ayalon-Nusseibeh blueprint serves as a declaration of principles, whereas the Beilin-Abed Rabbo paper goes into details, trying to continue negotiations that broke off in Taba nearly two years ago. Beilin and Abed Rabbo began working on their agreement shortly after the Taba talks ended.

"A few days after Taba, I told Yossi that had we had a little more time, we could have reached a final and absolute settlement," Abed Rabbo said. "Even today, I believe that never before in the history of the two peoples were they so close to an agreement."

Beilin and Abed Rabbo say they are again close to reaching an agreement — but they no longer have the political influence to carry it out.

Both teams are still working on their papers, and want to publicize them after Israel’s Jan. 28 election. Beilin is convinced that Labor Party Chairman Amram Mitzna would support his plan if he didn’t feel obligated to take Labor toward the center to attract undecided voters. Both teams have refrained from officially publishing their papers, fearing that publication would cause more harm than benefit.

Though Labor recently chose a Knesset list that is more centrist than Mitzna, there are some indications that the left still maintains strong influence within the party. For example, the party’s election platform for the first time will refer to Jerusalem just as "Israel’s capital, including its Jewish neighborhoods." Gone is the traditional reference to Jerusalem as "whole and united," implying that Labor would be willing to relinquish Arab parts of the city.

Even former party chairman Benjamin Ben-Eliezer said that control over the "holy basin" — the holy sites in Jerusalem’s Old City — would be negotiated among representatives of the three major religions, a far cry from the official Likud policy that no concessions will be made on Jerusalem.

Similarly, Palestinian moderates have published advertisements in the East Jerusalem media calling on the Palestinians to support the Israeli peace camp, specifically mentioning Mitzna and Ayalon. The ads are signed by The Popular Campaign for Peace and Democracy-Palestine, apparently a front organization for Nusseibeh’s supporters.

The ads openly call for Palestinian intervention in the elections on Mitzna’s behalf. "Mitzna is committed to the solution proposed by Ami Ayalon," one ad read. "Let us help him to implement its clauses." "Supporting the Ayalon document means evacuation of the settlements," another ad read.

The ads quote parts of the Ayalon-Nusseibeh document. For the first time, they say, the document includes "recognition of the Palestinian right of return," but specifies that Palestinian refugees will be able to return only to a future Palestinian state, not to Israel.

Previous, unofficial versions of the document had referred only to "recognition of the suffering and plight of the Palestinian refugees." The Beilin-Abed Rabbo draft refers to "a symbolic solution of the refugee problem," without specifically mentioning that the Palestinians give up the "right of return."

In any case, Abed Rabbo said, a worldwide plebiscite among Palestinian refugees will have to be held for them to endorse such a solution. For its part, Israel would give up control of the Temple Mount under the Beilin-Abed Rabbo plan, though it doesn’t say so explicitly.

While such proposals may seem far-fetched given the current level of violence and terrorism, most Israelis and Palestinians believe their leaders one day will return to the bargaining table — and they may just be looking for some fresh ideas to revive the peace process.

Ninth Circuit Misses on Iran

I once appeared in court to ask that three additional defendants be held liable on a judgment.

The judge was skeptical — until I showed him that the additional defendants had forged both a set of articles of incorporation and a doctor’s business license.

The judge looked at the forged documents. He looked at the evidence that proved the documents were forged. Then, he exploded.

He gestured and yelled: "I don’t like it when people play fast and loose with the law." And with a stroke of a pen, he held the additional defendants liable.

I wonder what that judge thinks of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ refusal last week to allow a terrorist victim’s family to hold an Iranian national bank in California liable on a judgment against Iran.

In Flatow v. Bank Saderat Iran the 9th Circuit decided whether heirs of American Alisa Flatow ("Flatow"), a New Jersey native who was murdered when the bus she was riding on in Israel in 1995 was bombed, could enforce their judgment against property owned by Bank Saderat Iran in Carlsbad.

Flatow had already won a judgment against the Islamic Republic of Iran: Iran had provided material support and resources to the terrorists. The sole question was whether the property held by an Iranian national bank could be used to satisfy the judgment.

The 9th Circuit relied upon a 1983 case where Citibank recovered assets from a Cuban national bank as a setoff against property seized by Cuba.

In the case, the court had found a nationalized Cuban bank to be wholly owned by Cuba, but would only hold the bank liable on the Cuban regime’s debts if the claimant could show either that the bank was acting as an agent of the Cuban government, or that the claimant was entitled to recover the money to prevent fraud and injustice.

In Flatow, the 9th Circuit found the Iranian bank to be wholly owned by the government — it was nationalized in 1979 — but rejected the contention that the Iranian national bank was a principle-agent of the Iranian government, or that justice required payment to Flatow.

I have some sympathy for the 9th Circuit. It, like many Western legal and government institutions, is now struggling to address the right to recover from Islamic terrorists within the Western framework of jurisprudence.

But the apology the court makes to Flatow at the end of the opinion "expressing regret" that the holding "forestalls" recovery is an admission of the court’s mistake.

The court’s own opinion shows that the Iranian national bank in question was supervised entirely by government ministers on various committees. In addition, the Iranian constitution mandates central control of the banking industry as part of the state sector of the economy.

Just like the former Soviet Union, where the state pushed every industry into the struggle against the West, terrorist states like Iran

utilize every component of society in support of jihad.

Other terrorist states similarly use their national institutions for terror. For example, recovery of Palestinian Authority documents by Israel over the past several months shows an entire state apparatus aiding and abetting terror. The Iraqi regime also uses various government entities to advance its nefarious goals.

In sponsoring worldwide terrorist attacks, Iran has done more than just "play fast and loose with the law." Iran has murdered and maimed innocent people.

This is not a case about two forged documents; it’s a case about continuing Islamic terror.

And since the Iranian regime has assets, the victims should be compensated.

At this point, Flatow’s case is not over; Flatow may ask for a rehearing of the 9th Circuit’s decision to a wider panel of 11 judges in the 9th Circuit.

The 9th Circuit made a mistake by not taking the Islamic Republic of Iran at its word and deed, namely, that the Islamic state directs both terrorist operations and the banking industry.

The 9th Circuit should reverse its initial decision, recognize Iran as a terrorist entity and order full recovery from the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nationalized bank.

Nathan D. Wirtschafter is a co-chair of the Israel Speaker’s Bureau for The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

World Briefs

Variety Comes Down on Egyptian

Variety, the daily newspaper covering the entertainment industry, admonished Egyptian television in a Nov. 13 editorial for running its 41-part series called “Horseman Without a Horse,” a series which is based on the anti-Semitic tract

“Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” The series has not only come under fire from Jewish groups, but the U.S. government as well. Last week, U.S. lawmakers sent a letter urging Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to condemn an anti-Semitic television program; the Bush administration also has urged Egypt to review the miniseries. This week the entertainment industry weekly jumped into the fray. “Leaders of the U.S. entertainment industry must come up with some sort of suitable admonition to Egyptian state television for running its 41-part series,” Variety Editor-in-Chief Peter Bart wrote. “The U.S. pumps some $2 billion a year in aid to Egypt and Hollywood dispatches a flow of movies and TV shows to that nation, which pretends to be one of the more enlightened centers of the Arab world,” he noted. “But if state-run television in Egypt effectively transforms itself into a prime time propaganda organ, it should hear about it from Hollywood. Loud and Clear.”

Israeli Army Moves Into Nablus

The Israeli army took control of the West Bank city of Nablus. Soldiers, heavy armor and helicopter gunships moved on Nablus early Wednesday morning after the army took control of Tulkarm and an adjacent refugee camp a day earlier. Operation Wheels in Motion is the biggest Israeli military operation in months, according to The Jerusalem Post. Israeli officials said the operation is focusing on Tulkarm and Nablus because the two cities have been linked to Sunday’s attack on a kibbutz in which five Israelis were killed. After taking control of Nablus, soldiers imposed a curfew and began house-to-house searches for terrorists. In a statement, the army said its operation also involves a crackdown on Bir Zeit north of Ramallah.

In another incident early Wednesday, Israeli helicopters fired missiles at a suspected weapons-making workshop in downtown Gaza City. It was the second such strike on the site in two days. There were no reports of casualties.

Report: U.S. Puts Peacemaking On

The United States reportedly agreed to an Israeli request to put U.S. peacemaking efforts on hold until after Israel’s January elections. Agreement was reached Monday in Washington during a meeting between the head of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s office, Dov Weisglass, and the U.S. national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, according to the Israeli daily Ha’aretz.

Netanyahu Pledge Angers Arafat

Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat responded angrily to Israeli Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledge that, if elected prime minister, he would expel Arafat. “Netanyahu has to remember that I am Yasser Arafat and that this is my land and the land of my great-great-grandfathers,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) dismantled 23 settlement outposts in the past month, according to Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz. Speaking before the Knesset on Wednesday, Mofaz also said three outposts are currently being evacuated and that the High Court of Justice will soon decide the fate of six others, Israel Radio reported. The IDF is currently investigating the status of 35 other settlement outposts.

Harvard Uninvites Controversial Poet

Harvard’s English department retracted an invitation to a poet who once said West Bank settlers should be “shot dead.” Following student complaints, the department chair, Lawrence Buell, issued a statement saying the reading had been canceled “by mutual consent of the poet and the English Department.” Buell also said he “sincerely regretted the widespread consternation that has arisen as a result” of the invitation to Tom Paulin, who lectures at Oxford University.

The invitation “had been originally decided on last winter solely on the basis of Mr. Paulin’s lifetime accomplishments as a poet,” the statement added. Paulin told an Egyptian newspaper earlier this year that “Brooklyn-born” Jewish settlers should be “shot dead,” according to National Review Online. These settlers are “Nazis, racists, I feel nothing but hatred for them,” he also was quoted as saying. “I can understand how suicide bombers feel.”

Former Bank Guard to be Naval Reservist

A former Swiss bank guard who rescued sensitive Holocaust-era documents from the shredder decided to become a reservist in the U.S. Navy. Christoph Meili moved to the United States after his actions at the bank in January 1997 brought him adulation from the U.S. Jewish community, but prompted death threats in his native Switzerland. Now living in California, Meili recently signed up to be a naval reservist a move that can again get him in hot water back in Switzerland.

A Swiss Foreign Ministry official said it is against the law for a Swiss citizen to serve in a foreign army without the government’s approval. As a result of his actions, Meili could face arrest upon his return to Switzerland. But this is apparently not a concern for Meili. “I will apply for U.S. citizenship very shortly, and therefore I am not afraid,” he told the Swiss daily Blick.

Six Egyptians Charged as Spies

Six people were arrested in Egypt on charges of spying for Israel. Egyptian officials said Wednesday that the six, operating under the cover of a travel agency, had spied for Israel in exchange for money, according to The Associated Press. Earlier this year, two other Egyptian nationals were found guilty of spying for Israel and sentenced to 10 years and 15 years in prison with hard labor. Israel has denied such allegations in the past.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Artifacts of a Survivor

In 1949, 16-year-old Ernest Michel never dreamed that the very belt and pants he wore at Auschwitz would become treasured relics in a special exhibit. At the time, the young labor camp inmate was more concerned with survival. Now at age 79, the former executive vice president of the United Jewish Appeal (UJA) is proud to present "Birth of Two Democracies," a historic exhibit which will make its West Coast premiere in Los Angeles this month.

The collection includes over 130 items focusing on historical Judaica. Highlights include Michel’s admission papers to Auschwitz; a letter from an SS officer, which was transcribed by an inmate; an autographed photo of David Ben-Gurion signing the Israeli Declaration of Independence; a speech that Albert Einstein delivered to the UJA in 1952; and a photo of the Peace Treaty signing between Egypt and Israel, which was autographed by Anwar Sadat, Menachem Begin and Jimmy Carter.

Also part of the display is the Kaller family exhibition, a collection of historical documents related to birth of the United States. Items include a rare copy of the U.S. Declaration of Independence and original documents signed by George Washington, John Hancock and Benjamin Franklin.

"This [collection] has become a lifelong obsession for me because I survived the camps," said the native of Mannheim, Germany, who was arrested by the Gestapo two days after Germany invaded Poland. After spending over five years at labor and extermination camps, he escaped from the last death march in April 1945.

Michel has visited Auschwitz several times over the years. Three years ago, he went with family and friends for what he deemed his final pilgrimage to the former concentration camp. "My feeling is that [Auschwitz] should be preserved as long as humanly possible. It should not be beautified or rebuilt," the survivor said, "but it should be preserved."

Why Jonathan Pollard is Still in Prison

On January 7, 2002, former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived
without fanfare at the Federal Correction Center in Butner, North Carolina
to visit America’s most controversial Jewish prisoner. Now serving his 17th
year of incarceration Jonathan Jay Pollard, prisoner 09185-016, pleaded
guilty in 1986 to spying for Israel. He was sentenced to life imprisonment
despite a binding plea bargain that would have guaranteed his eventual

For several hours, within earshot of a National Security Agency monitor,
Netanyahu and Pollard spoke about the anguish of Pollard’s imprisonment and
practical ideas to set him free. “Contrary to perfidious rumors about his
manner,” remembers Netanyahu in a telephone interview, “Pollard was
absolutely clear and in control, both intellectually and emotionally.”
“A great injustice has been perpetrated by keeping Pollard endlessly in
jail,” Netanyahu asserted, summarizing a key point among those advocating
that he be freed.

Netanyahu’s crusading tone is now a common feature of the Jonathan Pollard
saga. Since that tumultuous afternoon, March 4, 1987, when federal Judge
Aubrey Robinson stunned his courtroom by imposing a life sentence, Pollard
has been the cause célèbre of an international movement to free him. The
roster of those advocating for Pollard’s release, or the overturn of his
sentence, includes Israeli prime ministers; Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, who
has visited Pollard twice in prison; numerous members of Congress; and an
armada of America’s most celebrated defense attorneys, including Harvard’s
flamboyant Alan Dershowitz and Theodore Olsen, now the U.S. Solicitor
General. Legions of grass-root supporters both within America’s Jewish
community and the Israeli electorate call for Pollard’s immediate release.
But an equally impressive group insists on his continued incarceration.
Virtually the entire U.S. intelligence and defense establishment, with CIA
director George Tenet acting as point man, want Pollard to remain in jail
forever. Few are as adamant about that as senior intelligence officers who
happen to be Jewish. Numerous ranking members of Congress, including Sen.
Joseph Lieberman, and a large number of American Jewry’s top communal
leaders do not object to Pollard remaining behind bars. What’s more, some
top Jewish professional leaders privately express revulsion at efforts to
win Pollard’s freedom.

Endless articles and several books have been written about this complex and
mysterious case, but one haunting question towers about all others: why has
Jonathan Pollard been imprisoned so long?

He was convicted of a single count of disclosing documents to an ally
foreign government, in violation of Title 18, section 794c. The far more
serious crime of selling classified information to an enemy nation, such as
Iraq or the Soviet Union, violates section 794b, and generally fetches a
life sentence. But in contrast, those who divulge the nation’s secrets to
allies, as Pollard did, always receive lesser sentences.

His life term rivals only those handed down to America’s greatest traitors,
such as Aldrich Ames, whose treachery killed American agents, and John
Walker who revealed our nuclear submarine positions to the Soviets.
So why is Pollard still in prison with no end in sight to his life sentence?
Pro-Pollard groups suggest anti-Semitism, but numerous Jewish organizations
insist that is not the case. Some pundits maintain the spy’s knowledge of
America’s secrets are so sensitive, his enemies so powerful, the politics so
volatile, his crime so severe, that he can never be released.

But after an intense review of thousands of pages of Pollard-related
documents, and dozens of interviews with prosecutors, senior intelligence
officers, current and former Israeli and American government officials, the
defense attorneys, and an exclusive prison interview with Jonathan Pollard
himself, it seems clear the reason Pollard remains in prison has more to do
with legal technicalities and foolhardy bravura than political intrigue.
The focus now comes down to just two men. The first is Pollard’s own
defense attorney, Richard A. Hibey, who is accused in court papers of having
irrevocably mishandled the case 15 years ago in ways that may never be
undone. The other is Jonathan Pollard himself, whose provocative conduct
while in federal custody sealed his own fate. Pollard’s only hope for
freedom is now a habeas corpus action launched by his new pro bono


No one has ever been able to identify reliably exactly what secrets Pollard
sold to Israel. Jewish leaders who have been briefed by trustworthy sources
have constantly been told the same refrain: “If you only knew how severe the
damage was.” Despite reams of guesswork and Washington’s porous nature, the
details are still undisclosed.

But those details are clearly enumerated in a 46-page sworn declaration to
the sentencing judge by then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, most of
which has been classified top secret. The secret affidavit includes a
classified analysis of 20 illegally disclosed documents.

“The judge requested — the court asked — for a confidential,
highly-classified summary to report the damage done,” Weinberger told me in
an interview. Although the declaration was signed by Weinberger and
submitted as the Secretary’s personal affidavit, the damning document was in
fact assembled piecemeal by an inter-agency group of intelligence officials
independently assessing Pollard’s damage to their own operations. A redacted
copy of that sworn 46-page declaration, obtained by this reporter, together
with information and analysis reported by several of the actual
contributors, indicates that Pollard indeed compromised the most sensitive
aspect of American intelligence, providing Israel with the highest level of
secret information. “More than 1,000 unredacted messages and cables,” of
which a significant number were not just top-secret but “codeword
sensitive,” were delivered to Pollard’s Israeli handlers, according to the
Weinberger Declaration.

Washington feared that Israel could have traded the secret materials with
other intelligence services. The information could have even ended up in
Moscow, perhaps as a bargaining chip at a time when Israel was trying to
free Soviet Jews. Numerous intelligence reports about Soviet missile
systems, delivered by Pollard, exposed the way America analyzed Soviet
weapons. He transmitted regional surveillance data from the VQ-2
reconnaissance squadron in Spain, thereby enabling Israel to virtually track
America’s own intelligence capability in the Mediterranean and even over
Israel itself. This was crucial in Israel’s 1985 bombing of the P.L.O.
headquarters in Tunis, which depended upon Israeli F-15s evading both
American and Arab listening posts over North Africa.

But all of this was dwarfed, according to a principal author of the
Weinberger Declaration, by photocopying for Israel the massive 10-volume
RASIN Manual. An acronym for Radio and Signal Intelligence [RASIN], the
precious manual is known as “the Bible,” according to the intelligence
officer. The RASIN Manual details America’s global listening profile,
frequency-by-frequency, source-by-source, geographic slice by geographic
slice. RASIN was, in effect, a complete roadmap to American signal
intelligence. Informed sources say Pollard’s RASIN Manual disclosure was the
crux of a secret exchange in Judge Robinson’s courtroom just moments before
the outraged judge finally pronounced a life sentence. Some estimate the
loss of the RASIN manual cost America billions of dollars and many years in
completely restructuring America’s worldwide eavesdropping operation. Though
Pollard has sought to downplay the consequences to the U.S. of his actions,
his crime was lasting and devastating to the U.S. intelligence community.


To avoid a public trial, the government negotiated a binding, written plea
agreement with both Pollard and his wife at the time, Anne. By way of
background, plea agreements govern conduct of prosecutors and defendants in
the time leading up to sentencing.

“A plea agreement is exactly what the two words suggest,” explains
distinguished former federal Judge George Leighton, who has studied the
Pollard case. “It is an agreement between defendant and government governing
the guilty plea and the length of sentence the government will insist upon.
This is done to induce the defendant to relinquish the important right of
trial. The government must live up to the agreement, and the plea agreement
can be enforced against the government.”

Pollard’s binding plea agreement required him to cooperate fully with
numerous polygraph examiners and intelligence investigators. This he did. In
return, prosecutors promised that while they would indeed request
substantial jail time, they would not ask for the maximum: life. Toward that
end, prosecutors promised to stress to the judge the spy’s post-arrest
cooperation with investigators and polygraphers, and limit their allocution
of facts to the circumstances of his espionage.

Prosecutors agreed to omit aggravating details of Pollard’s high
Israeli-paid lifestyle, suggestions of cooperation with South Africa, and
other aggravating factors that could easily inflame the sentencing judge to
mete out a longer term. As part of the overall deal, Anne, who assisted
Pollard’s espionage, would be shown leniency with a minimal term, and her
bail while awaiting sentence would not be opposed. The two agreements were
“wired,” that is, both Pollards had to comply with all provisions.

Both agreements also routinely required the Pollards to obtain specific
approval from the Director of Naval Intelligence for any media interviews or
publication. Clearly, the government’s intent was to restrict further
classified disclosures, including inadvertent ones, and basically deprive
the Pollards of any notoriety, prestige, income or other benefit that
interviews, books, or movies might bring. Such conditions are standard in
many plea agreements, especially those involving espionage. Keeping one’s
mouth shut and displaying remorse is the first priority when seeking the
mercy of the court.

But the Pollards tried to outsmart mercy. They decided to rally the American
Jewish community and massage public opinion, hoping to create outside
pressure on the judge and prosecutors to dispense a reduced sentence.
Without the knowledge of his attorney, Pollard granted two exclusive prison
interviews to Wolf Blitzer, the CNN journalist who was then Washington
correspondent for the Jerusalem Post. In these interviews, Pollard presented
himself as a highly motivated Jew determined to help Israel in the face of
an intransigent American intelligence community that was endangering the
Jewish State.

“No Bumbler But Israel’s Master Spy,” the headline declared. Moreover, a
letter from Pollard ran on the front page of the Jerusalem Post decrying his
“judicial crucifixion,” and assuring “the gains to Israel’s long-term
security were worth the risks” he took. The letter even lamented the fact
that “no one has summoned the [Jewish] community to put a stop to this

The result of the interview was a disaster for Pollard, who infuriated the
government with his defiant stance.

After learning of one of the interviews, Pollard’s defense attorney, Richard
Hibey, is said to have shrieked so loudly into the phone, a partner rushed
in to see if he was hurt. As damaging as the Jerusalem Post interview was,
Anne Pollard’s interview with “60 Minutes” a few days before the scheduled
sentencing did far more damage. In that interview, Anne told the nation, “I
feel my husband and I did what we were expected to do, and what our moral
obligation was as Jews, what our moral obligation was as human beings, and I
have no regrets about that.”

Remorse now seemed a moot point.

Prosecutors Joseph diGenova and Charles Leeper were outraged, as was Judge
Robinson. So was Pollard’s now humiliated defense attorney Hibey, who was
expected to keep his client in line.

“I assure you, Judge Robinson got a videotape of the 60 Minutes interview
the very next day,” recalls Hamilton “Phil” Fox, one of Pollard’s subsequent
defense attorneys. “It was a classic case of how not to behave,” a senior
member of the prosecution team told this reporter.

Jewish officers throughout the American intelligence community were equally
incensed that the Pollards might make all American Jews seem disloyal.
“There are more than a few Jews loyally and quite properly serving their
country in intelligence,” explained one highly placed Jewish intelligence
analyst. “None of us wants to be looked at cross-eyed when we walk into a
room, people wondering if we are the next Pollard. He had no right.”
Pollard’s antagonistic media gamble sealed his fate. He was now doomed.


Angry prosecutors would now manifest their rage and exact revenge. The
government could have thrown out the binding plea agreement, claiming the
Pollards breached the spirit of the media strictures. But with no plea
agreement, the government would have to start from scratch and prosecute the
case in a public trial, a source of great embarrassment. So instead,
prosecutors simply breached the plea agreement themselves to make sure
Pollard was thrown in jail for life.

Prosecutors were obligated by the plea agreement to confine their arguments
to the details of the crime and make no effort to provoke a life sentence.
Instead, in a memorandum to the judge originally classified “secret,”
prosecutor diGenova castigated Pollard for “attempts to glorify his actions”
and declared: “This pattern of public relations gambits undertaken by
defendant … has demonstrated that he is … contemptuous of this Court’s

Such complaints were outside the four walls of the binding plea agreement.
But prosecutors wanted the judge to grasp that Pollard was trying to go over
the court’s head to publicly or politically pressure a reduced sentence. Any
judge would be incensed.

For reinforcement, diGenova presented an unprecedented last minute four-page
affidavit from Secretary of Defense Weinberger who essentially asked for
“life imprisonment,” even though the plea agreement expressly prohibited
such a request. Life sentences had been dealt just months before to several
notorious spies. Weinberger’s affidavit made clear to the judge, “It is
difficult for me, in the so-called ‘year of the spy’ to conceive of a
greater harm to national security.” The message was clear: give him life,
regardless of the plea agreement.

At the sentencing on March 4, 1987, prosecutors again emphasized that
Pollard was a deceitful and outrageous media manipulator, hammering at the
Blitzer interviews.

Judge Robinson was “steamed, really steamed,” recalls a senior member of the
prosecution team. Pollard’s attorneys thought he would receive 15 to 17
years in jail, perhaps as many as 25. But Judge Robinson ignored the
prosecution’s clear violation of the binding plea agreement and agreed that
Pollard deserved the worst punishment possible.

When he announced “life” for Pollard, Anne collapsed in hysteria, only to be
lifted by guards to hear her own five-year sentence.
Pollard was taken away to begin his life sentence.


Actually, what might have saved Pollard from a life term would have been
several seemingly obvious moves by his attorney, Richard Hibey. He should
have objected to the government’s breach of its plea agreement and excessive
sentencing by Judge Robinson, insist many legal authorities. Most damaging,
in the wake of all the errors and breaches, Hibey never filed the simple
one-page Notice of Appeal form within the requisite 10 days. The damage was
as good as permanent. By not filing the appeal form, Hibey assured there
would never be legal recourse to undo the grievances.

“After a defendant has been sentenced in a federal case,” explained Abraham
Abramovsky, a Fordham University professor of criminal law who has studied
the Pollard case, “he has only 10 days to file a notice of appeal from the
sentence. If he fails to do so, he can never again file for direct appellate
review, no matter how outrageous the error.”

At least three members of Congress are among the long list of eminent
reviewers who agree. Representatives Anthony Weiner (NY), Jerrold Nadler
(NY) and Janice Schakowsky (IL), signed a November, 2000 letter to
then-president Bill Clinton complaining of a “very disturbing picture of
serious misconduct that appears to have gone unchecked by Mr. Pollard’s
then-counsel. … Perhaps most troubling, after Mr. Pollard had been
sentenced to life in prison, his attorney failed to file a Notice of Appeal,
a simple and straightforward task that a competent attorney would routinely
have done. By that failure, Mr. Pollard’s then-counsel appears to have …
doomed Mr. Pollard to an unreviewed sentence of life in prison.”

In addition, Hibey did not call for an evidentiary hearing on the
last-minute affidavit by Secretary Weinberger using language essentially
signaling a life sentence and justifying it with the assertion, “It is
difficult for me, in the so-called ‘year of the spy’ to conceive of a
greater harm to national security.”

During a May, 2002 interview with Caspar Weinberger regarding his recent
published memoir, In the Arena, this reporter asked Weinberger why the
Pollard incident was left out of the book. Weinberger casually replied,
“Because it was, in a sense, a very minor matter, but made very important.”
Asked to elaborate, Weinberger repeated, “As I say, the Pollard matter was
comparatively minor. It was made far bigger than its actual importance.”
Pressed on why the case was made far bigger than its actual importance,
Weinberger replied, “I don’t know why, it just was.”

Had Hibey called for an evidentiary hearing on Weinberger’s damning
affidavit, its veracity could have been assessed.

In response to Weinberger’s startling admission some 15 years later, Malcolm
Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major
American Jewish Organizations, declared, “This raises serious questions
about Weinberger’s sworn comments at the time, which now seem contradictory.
I wish he had made this clear years ago.”

Moreover, Hibey failed to object to the repeated prosecution assertions that
Blitzer’s interviews with Pollard were unauthorized, a notion that seems
impossible since they were conducted with the permission of the Department
of Justice and Bureau of Prisons inside the prison itself. All journalists
are subjected to rigorous bureaucratic and security screening before being
granted access to prisoners.

In addition, a legal advisor to Director of Naval Intelligence confirmed to
me, “If the DNI approves the request, the Bureau of Prisons [BOP] sends you
written permission. … that written authorization is all that you need —
the DNI’s permission is implicit in the BOP authorization.”

More than failing to object to the characterization of Blitzer’s interviews
as unauthorized, a demure Hibey conceded to the judge in open court, just
moments before the final sentence: “The action was ill-advised,
unauthorized, there is no question about that in my mind. … Yes, your
honor, you are correct, that it was done without the pre-clearance

Pollard’s new pro bono attorneys, Eliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman, filed a
recent motion complaining that “Hibey did not protest, either in writing or
orally at the sentencing, that by asking for life in prison in this manner,
the government had violated the plea agreement.”

Judge Leighton, who reviewed Pollard’s case on the Hibey issue, was among
those who filed a declaration with the court asserting Pollard was denied
due process during his sentencing. “The evidence shows,” wrote Judge
Leighton, “that the government engaged in serious misconduct that went
unchecked by an ineffective defense counsel, Richard Hibey, and that these
constitutional violations severely prejudiced Mr. Pollard, and resulted in
his sentence of life in prison.”


Added to Pollard’s woes has been his conduct while seeking clemency. Every
attempt to gain presidential clemency, spearheaded by Israeli prime
ministers and American Jewish leadership has been thwarted. Why?

The same inexplicable behavior streak that caused him to alienate his
prosecutors, judge and defense counsel, has been visible during Pollard’s 17
years of incarceration. Although most convicts seeking early release learn
to conduct themselves passively and speak in a fashion that will play to
parole boards, Pollard has gone on the offensive. Pollard’s voluminous
handwritten letters to supporters insult the integrity of prosecutor
diGenova, and bitterly challenge the commitment of American Jewish and
Israeli leaders petitioning for his release. For example, on May 24, 2001,
Pollard wrote an open letter to Israeli president Moshe Katsav about a
meeting with President George Bush. “Even if you were to bring up the issue
of my release with Bush yourself as you claim, your past record on my case
leaves no room for doubt that you would not do so in a serious or effective
manner. Rather just so that you can return to Israel and claim that you
brought it up but were unsuccessful.”

When in late 1999, Israel Prime Minister Ehud Barak asked his Minister of
Diaspora Affairs to meet with Pollard’s second wife, Esther, Pollard issued
a statement: “I was shocked at the Government’s sleazy attempt at deflecting
public attention away from the fact that Prime Minister Ehud Barak will
absolutely not take any responsibility for bringing this agent home. …
They are sending the lightest of the lightweights, which will be … treated
as a joke in Washington. … The point is this: I am an Israeli agent who
worked for the Ministry of Defense. As such, it is up to General Barak, who
is now Prime Minister Barak, to get me home and nobody else.”

Pollard’s Israeli attorneys ultimately filed a lawsuit against Barak for
non-responsiveness, seeking, among other things, to compel him to meet with
Pollard’s wife and issue weekly reports on efforts to obtain his early

Not a few in the Jewish community have been harassed by Pollard supporters
For straying from the Pollard camp’s line. For example, in 1993, David
Luchins, a senior advisor to Sen. Daniel Moynihan’, became embroiled in a
tactical dispute over Pollard’s seeking a parole, and also a letter of
remorse obtained by Rabbi Aaron Soloveichik of Chicago. The late Rabbi
Soloveichik was considered one of American Judaism’s most revered rabbinic
authorities. The letter was a Congressional initiative to secure
presidential commutation. But after Pollard signed, he reportedly expressed
regret over a portion of the letter that apologized for violating Jewish
law– to the utter dismay of those who had organized the letter. Luchins’
life was threatened by Pollard supporters, who circulated a flyer one press
report dubbed a Salman Rushdie-style religious decree calling for Luchins’
murder. A source close to Sen. Moynihan says federal marshals were summoned
to protect Luchins.

Observers say it is understandable for an embittered Pollard to lash out,
since he is facing a harsh life term. But legal experts consider it
inadvisable for a man seeking clemency to offend those needed to champion
his cause.


Despite the noisome and self-defeating tactics by Pollard and some
supporters, it is entirely believable that the legal establishment ran
roughshod over his constitutional rights–and in broad daylight, with the
world watching.

In one of Pollard’s early unsuccessful efforts, federal judge Stephen F.
Williams dissented, writing, “The government’s breach of the plea agreement
was a fundamental miscarriage of justice. … Pollard’s sentence should be
vacated and the case remanded for re-sentencing. …the fault here rests
upon the prosecutor, not on the sentencing judge.”

Yet attempts to obtain juridical justice for Pollard have faltered over the
years. One of his early attorneys, Hamilton “Phil” Fox III, moved to
withdraw Pollard’s guilty plea in 1990. Fox, a former assistant U.S.
Attorney himself, charged that the government breached its plea agreement.
But the court refused his effort, citing the absence of any original
objection by Hibey in 1987. The only way for Fox to get around that
stumbling block was to assert that Pollard had been denied “effective
assistance of counsel,” in other words, claim Hibey deprived the spy of his
Constitutional rights.

“Indeed, that was the first thing under consideration, ineffective
assistance of counsel,” recalled Fox in an interview. “When I interviewed
Hibey, he did ask me if I would raise the question of ineffective assistance
of counsel. I said if I did, I would let him know. Actually, at about that
time, my assistant was working on a memo on that very topic. But we thought
there was no chance under Supreme Court guidelines … which sets an
extremely high standard. So we never did it.”

But more than just not raising it, Fox went out of his way to praise Hibey.
“We do not challenge the government’s claim that Pollard’s prior counsel
skillfully negotiated a plea agreement and effectively allocuted for his
client,” wrote Fox in his pleading. “Our criticism is not of prior counsel
but of the government’s failure to live up to its side of the bargain.” This
conspicuous praise for Hibey has caught the attention of more than one legal
expert, who question how Fox could make such a unilateral concession.

Lauer’s and Semmelman’s pleadings assert that an old-boy network was at
work. Judge Leighton’s declaration on Pollard agrees, stating, “I doubt that
the bar in the District of Columbia is any different from … other cities.
Certain lawyers will simply not attack or criticize another member of the
bar, especially one who practices in the same specialty. … Many such
lawyers will not … risk ostracism within their professional community by
accusing a fellow lawyer of ineffective representation in any case — much
less a high profile case, as this one was.”

Fox, aware of the insinuation, told this reporter, “I have never gotten a
single referral from Hibey” and reminds, “remember, we took a shot at a
sitting judge.” Asked why he wrote those words of unsolicited praise for
Hibey, Fox replied, “I just don’t know why I wrote those words.” Asked to
explain why Hibey did not file the all-important ten-day Notice of Appeal,
Fox speculated, “it probably didn’t occur to him.”

A flabbergasted Semmelman commented, “How can a former assistant U.S.
Attorney fail to immediately file a Notice of Appeal from a life sentence?”
Indeed, one current assistant U.S. Attorney who years ago briefly worked on
the Pollard case, said “Yikes” when informed that Hibey had not filed the

Hibey, called one of Washington’s most effective lawyers, now practices with
the mega law firm Winston & Strawn. He has declined to reply to the legal
and Congressional challenges to his representation of Pollard. And Hibey did
not reply to repeated requests for an interview. At one point, this reporter
sat in the reception area outside his Washington office for five hours
waiting for a spare moment to posit questions. Hibey refused to meet.
Lauer said he was “eager to have the court conduct a hearing and put Hibey
on the stand to explain his conduct.”

But juridical justice for Pollard has been frustrated over the years because
so many in the Department of Justice and cooperating intelligence
establishments have become so hardened against the spy. Pollard advocates
say he has never sought parole because he believes the system is stacked
against him, though critics believe it is because he would have to express
unequivocal remorse for his actions.

Lauer and Semmelman, the latest and best hopes for Pollard, have filed
mountains of motions. Direct appeals are not possible, so they are seeking
habeas corpus on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel. In other
words, they are asking that Pollard be re-sentenced in accordance with his
plea agreement, which could theoretically result in yet another life
sentence (although most scholars think that is doubtful after 17 years).
Lauer and Semmelman have been frustrated at every step by protracted delays,
refusals and volumes of hair-splitting government legal arguments. Lauer and
Semmelman can’t even get an evidentiary hearing. “If we could only get the
court to give us a hearing,” says Lauer, “we could subpoena documents and
take testimony, and once and for all establish the facts.”


Jonathan Pollard is grasping what may be that last straw now. In a
wide-ranging 90-minute exclusive interview–his first in years–Pollard
presented a jumble of emotions and mixed messages about his original
motives. But he was clear about his predicament. Asked if he regretted his
espionage, Pollard focused hard and replied, “I don’t think regret is strong
enough a word to use. No one who has seen what has happened to me over the
past 17 years could possibly say I feel good, to any degree, over what I

Did he regret his transgression or just being caught? “The transgression,”
he quickly answered. His explanations for his crime wandered, but were
summed up with the painful admission, “Whether this was done to Israel or
that was done to Israel–you know what, that’s not my responsibility
anymore. … I fought that battle with myself 17 years ago, and you know …
I lost that battle and I’m not going back to it. I’ve been destroyed and I
destroyed a lot of people around me.”

That statement is irrefutable. But the tragedy of Jonathan Pollard
continues, in part self-inflicted, evidenced by his daring the prosecutorial
establishment to put him away forever, even at the risk of bending or
breaking due process. That is exactly what happened.

Over the years Pollard seems to have lost his faith in political paroles and
magical commutations. No doubt he has come to realize his only hope is the
rule of law, and whether or not he deserves public sympathy, it is clear he
deserves his hearing on habeas corpus — because the American way of justice
demands it.

Sidebar:Face To Face With The Pollard

The Federal Correctional Institution at Butner, NC, nestled within a
woodland and meadow perimeter, appears trim and proper. Its housing units
and yard are spotless, groomed, and in many ways resemble a YMCA locker
room. There are no bars on the cells, only steel doors with small windows.
Prison officials understand they are holding a high-profile convict.
Visitors are treated with extreme courtesy and professionalism within the
confines of a medium security facility. But make no mistake, this is highly
regimented prison. Hell can also be an antiseptic place.

Pollard himself, wearing a yarmulke, appeared in the interview room with all
the verve of a dinner host. His mental faculties are razor sharp.
Subscriptions to numerous Jewish newspapers and magazines, as well as
constant attention to National Public Radio and CNN, keep Pollard informed
about world events up to the minute. He devours books on a multiplicity of

Why have you alienated so many who try to help you, I asked?

“It’s a sore subject,” he replies. “For the first 10 years of this case, I
worked quietly and behind the scenes to advance basically a political agenda
to get myself out of this jam. … hopefully, some kind of deal between the
Israeli government and the American government to secure my release ….
During the course of this initiative we got to know an awful lot of Jewish
leaders here in the United States … and they seem to fall into one of
several groups in their response to me. Some ran away from it…. Others
promised to do things but basically didn’t… and others did harm. … I
didn’t really know how to react to these guys because I never had anything
to do with these people before. I was naïve.”

Asked if he would continue attacking those who tried to help, he replied,
“I’m looking for help wherever I can get it. I am thankful for anybody who
can do anything constructive to help me.” He explained, “I’ve only tried to
correct the record when people say things that are not correct or allege
that I’ve done things that I haven’t done, or misstate my case, misrepresent
my intentions and my agenda. I want help and I need help. When people say
we’re going to help you, they come here and they look at me …I’m in the
pit and they look over and they say, ‘Jonathan, we’re going to get help for
you.’ That sets off [in me]… you can’t imagine–I hope you’re never in a
situation like this, where all you’re doing is staring up through a pit, an
opening, praying that the person who just made you a promise, looking down
at you, was sincere.”

Asked if he thought he should be freed as a “Jewish patriot,” or because he
was denied due process, Pollard decisively replied, “Denied due process.” He
was pressed, “What about the ‘Jewish patriot’ part?” Without hesitation, he
responded, “That’s irrelevant. … It has absolutely nothing to do with it.”

Pollard was then asked, “So those many organizations which rally for you and
say you’re a Jewish patriot, you wish them to stop?” Pollard replied, “I
wish them to focus on the merit of our case. The legal merit.”

What would he do if he was released? “I’ve learned an awful lot over
the past 17 years,” says Pollard. “I’ve grown quite a bit. I’ve learned the
whole notion of consequences. My only interest when and if I get out is to lead
as productive a life as possible. … I’d like to leave this behind me. This
case and everything associated with it is the source of unmitigated, unqualified
horror to me.” He added that he has zero intention of writing a book, granting
interviews on intelligence matters, or attacking those he senses failed to
expedite his release.

Arafat’s Paper Trail

These battleground spoils cannot explode or kill, but Israel considers them important benefits of its military operation in the West Bank: Thousands of documents, pamphlets and posters that provide written evidence of the Palestinian Authority’s massive involvement in terrorism. The documents were captured at places like Yasser Arafat’s headquarters in Ramallah and other P.A. offices, offices of the P.A.’s Preventive Security Service and Arafat’s Tanzim militia, Palestinian organizations throughout the West Bank and the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s (PLO) Jerusalem headquarters at Orient House.

Israeli intelligence officers are just beginning to analyze the abundance of material, but the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) rushed to publicize parts to bolster Israel’s argument that Arafat himself has been directly involved in terrorist operations and stands at the head of an enormous terror entity. Israeli officials were said to be shocked by the extent of P.A. complicity in terrorism.

"In the West Bank, the more we enter, the more we understand," an Israeli military official told the New York Times. "This is coming directly from Arafat personally."

Some of the documents were publicized by the IDF spokesman in their original form in Arabic. The Palestinians claim that the documents are part of an elaborate Israeli fabrication operation, pitting their word against the IDF’s. The most important finding is that senior P.A. officers were actively involved in terrorism, providing logistical and financial assistance even to supposedly oppositionist elements such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Within the more mainstream Palestinian organizations, Arafat oversees two parallel and competing structures, each with its own funding, chain of command and capability for directing bombing attacks, the IDF told the Times. The cells that carry out the attacks are located in eight regions — Jenin, Tulkarm, Nablus, Bethlehem, Hebron, Ramallah, Kalkilya and Gaza. Both structures report to Arafat and receive his financial backing.

"One of the most telling revelations of the documents, is that the broadly accepted view that Arafat leaves the details to others is completely incorrect," said Michael Widlanski, a Hebrew University researcher who monitors the Palestinian press. "The documents repeatedly show that Arafat is in day-to-day control of the details of all his organizations, relaying the information for comment to the senior members of his military branches."

Arafat signed off on various operational invoices for the Tanzim, the militia of Arafat’s Fatah Party that has been responsible for a large number of terrorist attacks, including the bombing near Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market April 12 that killed six. The IDF exposed documents showing that Arafat personally signed checks for Tanzim activists involved in terrorism. This, according to the IDF, contradicts Arafat’s usual denial that he has any control over the Tanzim. Other documents show militants within Arafat’s Fatah requesting money for bomb and weapons parts, itemizing the cost of each component and how many bombs per week the organization plans to use.

Moreover, evidence from documents and captured terrorists indicates, according to the IDF, that the P.A.’s West Bank intelligence chief, Tawfik Tirawi, helped recruit, arm and dispatch terrorists for attacks inside Israel.

When given lists of "Most Wanted" terrorists — whom the Palestinian Authority is obligated to arrest, under its agreements with Israel — Tirawi allegedly used the lists to warn the terrorists, so they could evade arrest. According to the IDF, Jamal Sawitat, the deputy head of the P.A.’s Preventive Security Service in Jenin, also constantly informed Islamic Jihad of the names of terrorists Israel was after.

Mortars and heavy machine guns, as well as kippot and other disguises for suicide bombers, were found even at the headquarters of Jibril Rajoub, the head of Preventive Security in the West Bank, who often is praised as a Palestinian moderate. However, Israeli military officials were careful not to assert that Rajoub himself had directed specific attacks. Prior to the recent escalation of the situation, Rajoub often was mentioned as a possible successor to Arafat. However, the fact that his security compound surrendered to Israeli soldiers — and that Rajoub did not join Arafat in his besieged headquarters in Ramallah — may have damaged his political prospects.

Some of the documents were found in the office of Fuad Shubaki, Arafat’s financial aide. Shubaki allegedly masterminded the Palestinian attempt to smuggle arms from Iran on the Karine A weapons ship that Israel seized in January. Palestinians had claimed that Shubaki’s was a rogue operation and that he was under investigation for his role, but he is currently believed to be holed up with Arafat in his headquarters, along with several of Arafat’s closest aides and a host of wanted terrorists. The army charged that members of Palestinian security services were directly involved in planning, and in some cases even perpetrating, attacks against Israelis. Uzi Landau, Israel’s minister of internal security, used the momentum to publish documents seized last year at Orient House, the Jerusalem headquarters of the PLO. Landau convened a press conference in early April at which he exposed documents reinforcing the link between Arafat and the Tanzim. The documents show that Faisal Husseini, the late PLO official in charge of Jerusalem, was updated by Tanzim leaders — such as Atef Abayyat, who was later killed by the IDF — on attacks against Jews, and was asked to intervene to get more money for Tanzim operations. Police confiscated a letter sent by Husseini to his lawyer on Sept. 28, 2000, the day Ariel Sharon made his controversial visit to the Temple Mount that the Palestinian Authority says provoked spontaneous riots that grew into the intifada. Husseini’s letter, however, mentions the "Al-Aksa Intifada" — before it had even begun. According to Landau, this proves that the intifada was preplanned. "These documents, many of them signed by Arafat, are more than a smoking gun," Landau said. "They are a smoking pen, a pen dripping blood held by Arafat."

Landau said the Palestinian leader "cannot deny these documents, that show he and his top aides planned and financed acts of terror."

But the Palestinians have done just that, challenging the documents’ authenticity and hoping that the world will not take too much notice — as, indeed, it hasn’t.

"No one can say they are 100 percent authentic," Hassan Abdel Rahman, the Washington representative of the PLO told the Times. "And in the past, Israel was able to take many expressions out of context and distort their meaning."

The IDF has posted some of the documents on its Web site, The documents and intelligence provided to the Bush administration are more comprehensive. Other major findings include:


A Hero’s Struggles

“Once you’ve tasted fame. It’s very difficult to live without it.”

Christoph Meili was living as an average guy when he did an extraordinary thing and suddenly found himself idolized as a superhero.

After basking in the adulation of the Jewish community for his allotted span, the spotlight shifted, and he had to figure out how to build a new existence in a foreign country.

The strain of this process left him sometimes embittered and split up his family but also opened up new opportunities for the 33-year-old Meili.

The story began five years ago when Meili was working as a night watchman at the Union Bank of Switzerland in Zurich.

While making his rounds, he discovered a stack of ledgers and documents destined for the shredder. He took a closer look and discovered extensive financial records on bank accounts and other assets belonging to Holocaust victims that the bank had withheld from survivors and heirs.

At that point, Meili made an irrevocable decision. Instead of continuing his rounds, he took some of the incriminating bank records and turned them over to a Jewish organization in Zurich.

When the deed became public, the bank fired Meili. A few months later, when he testified against the Swiss bank before the U.S. Senate Banking Committee, he started receiving hate mail and death threats and was denounced in much of the Swiss media.

In July 1997, Congress passed a special act granting permanent residence in the United States to Meili, his wife, Giuseppina, and their two small children.

The family arrived in New York and Meili embarked on his new and strange double life. Jewish organizations and institutions vied in heaping encomiums on him. He was lauded as a moral giant and righteous gentile, as a simple man who dared confront the avaricious Swiss banks. As Meili’s English improved, he proved to be an adept speaker.

But away from the glittering banquet circuit, he had to face the reality of surviving as an unskilled and uneducated immigrant in a new country.

He got a job as a security guard at a Manhattan high-rise and rented a small apartment in New Jersey, but his salary was barely enough to make ends meet.

Meili looks back on his 18 months in New York with some bitterness. “The media called me a superhero, but I was used by everyone,” he complains. Though he received donations from individual Jews, “the big Jewish organizations did not help me.”

His life took a turn for the better following a 1998 visit to California, where he addressed a Whittier Law School conference in Orange County.

Among the listeners was William Elperin, an attorney, son of Holocaust survivors and president of the 1939 Club, an organization of mainly Polish Jewish survivors and their families.

In short order, Elperin arranged for a tuition-free scholarship for Meili at Chapman University in Orange County, a Christian institution with a major Holocaust education program, and a $5,000 monthly stipend for the Meili family from the 1939 Club, as long as Meili remained in college.

Elperin also took Meili’s finances in hand and saw to it that he received an adequate speaker’s fee when he appeared before Jewish organizations.

As the Meilis tried to build a new life in California, they were under constant scrutiny by the Swiss media. Reporters checked regularly on their doings, and some papers labeled Meili a traitor and a “Nestbeschmutzer” — someone who fouls his own nest.

“When I was a child at school, I remember reading cruel headlines in the Swiss papers about this or that murderer,” Giuseppina Meili says. “The headlines about Christoph are worse, they are trying to crucify him.”

The Swiss media hit paydirt toward the closing months of last year, when they reported that Meili had threatened to kill himself, had separated from his wife, spent several nights in jail, was flat broke and living in a hostel.

The reports, unfortunately, were pretty close to the mark. Giuseppina Meili confirmed in a phone interview that during one violent argument, her husband threatened to kill her and the two children and then himself. She called police, who took Meili away — “without socks and shoes,” he says — and held him in jail. His wife bailed him out after two days and dropped the charges.

The couple, who married in 1989, has separated and Giuseppina Meili has filed for divorce.

Meili acknowledges the altercation, but says the supposed threats of physical harm were based on a misunderstanding. However, he has moved out of the house and lives in a rented room in a private home.

Elperin sees Meili as a man who loves politics, much of it absorbed through the Internet. “I have never seen Christoph get violent; it seems totally out of character,” Elperin says.

During a recent phone interview, Meili said he was unhappy about the separation from his wife and two children, compounded by a lack of friends and a breakup with a new girlfriend. But he is trying to get on with his life; is now in his third year in college, majoring in speech and communication, and eventually hopes to become a human rights lawyer.

Giuseppina Meili is also getting along, working occasionally as a gardener and waitress, and is proud of her children, 9-year-old Miriam and 7-year-old David, who go to public schools and have become well- integrated Americans.

She tries to understand what happened to her husband. “He gets frustrated and moody when he doesn’t get any attention,” she says. “Sometimes he is close to depression. It is difficult to understand his thoughts.”

Two experts who have studied the impact of sudden fame on human behavior are not surprised at Meili’s mood swings.

Professor Leo Braudy of USC has written a book on the history of fame, from Alexander the Great to Judy Garland, titled, “The Frenzy of Renown.”

The attention lavished on a suddenly famous person “becomes like a drug,” Braudy says. “When the attention is withdrawn, it is often replaced by a feeling of resentment, a feeling that he has been let down.”

Dr. Rex Beaber, who maintains parallel practices as a clinical psychologist and an attorney and has dealt with numerous celebrities in both his professional fields, agrees.

“Once you’ve tasted fame. It’s very difficult to live without it,” he says. “It’s like the man who for one time is taken to a lavish restaurant and served the finest cuisine. After that, he won’t be satisfied going back and eating at McDonald’s. He is never the same.”

Meili, who in a lengthy phone interview comes across as an intelligent and pained man, says that much of his resentment is directed against what he perceives as promises of large financial compensations that have never materialized.

Foremost, he points to a 1998 agreement, in which Swiss banks agreed to pay $1.25 billion to settle all Holocaust-era claims.

As part of this settlement, says Meili, $1 million was to be paid to him, the money to come out of the substantial fees paid to American lawyers in the case. So far the money, though transferred by the Swiss, has been tied up in lengthy legal proceedings.

Edward Fagan, a lead lawyer in the class-action suit against the Swiss banks, confirmed the special $1 million arrangement with Meili.

Meili also believes that some major Jewish organizations raised considerable money by featuring him as a speaker, but failed to share the proceeds with him.

His criticism of Jewish organizations, based partly on complaints he has heard from survivors that much of the Holocaust reparation funds from Germany, Austria and Switzerland have benefited these organizations, rather than individual survivors, has been gleefully picked up by the Swiss media.

Even without the $1 million, which will probably be halved by taxes and lawyers’ fees, Meili should be doing all right.

Besides the monthly $5,000 from the 1939 Club and speaking fees, a Beverly Hills fundraiser for him less than two years ago grossed about $125,000, or about $70,000 after taxes.

Elperin advised Meili to invest the money through a money manager just at the moment when the stock market started slipping.

And while the $5,000 monthly stipend ($4,000 of which Meili says goes to his wife and children) sounds adequate, in affluent and expensive Orange County, it is just at the poverty line for a family of four, Meili says.

Elperin believes that the Meili lifestyle is fairly frugal, except for an expensive trip to Italy last year to visit his in-laws.

Given all that has happened to him and his family since the fateful night he discovered the bank documents, would he do it again if faced with the same choice?

“Yes, I would still do it,” he says. “I knew there would be side effects, and life has not been easy. But I have helped lots of people and Switzerland has been forced to deal with its past.”

In Their Rightful Place

The first part, titled “Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor,” forbade marriage and sexual relations between Jews and “citizens of German blood.” (This section contains the only handwritten change in the typed text, when someone crossed out the word “sexual” in strictures against “extramarital sexual intercourse.”)

In the second part, those not of German blood are stripped of their citizenship, and the third part designates the swastika as the official German flag. (Jews are forbidden to fly the national flag but are permitted to display the “Jewish colors.”)

To no one’s surprise, the laws were passed unanimously by the Reichstag, the rubber-stamp German parliament, and then signed by Hitler, the ministers of the interior and justice, and Hitler’s deputy.

Almost 10 years later, on April 28, 1945, and during the final days of the Thousand-Year Reich, men of the 203rd Counter Intelligence Corps detachment arrived at the town of Eichstatt, near Nuremberg.

As Patton described the action later, “They came to a stairway which they went down with grenades, in case there were any Germans. There were no Germans. They found a vault, not open, and persuaded a German to open it for them. In it they found this thing. That was all that was in the vault.”

The “thing” was a large Manila envelope, secured with the wax seals of the Third Reich. Inside the envelope were the Nuremberg Laws.

Patton, whose family home adjoined the Huntington estate, had, a few weeks earlier, dispatched another present to his neighbor.

It was a deluxe, ceremonial copy of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf,” bound in white leather with bronze clasps, embossed with a gold swastika and weighing 35 pounds. The book, captured by Patton’s troops near Weimar and inscribed by the general, also disappeared in the Huntington Library’s vault.

Over the next 50 years, succeeding Huntington presidents and librarians were certainly aware what was in the vault, but they couldn’t figure out what to do about it.

The Huntington complex, consisting of the library, art collection and botanical gardens, is primarily devoted to British and American history and art. Its officials thought that Patton’s presents were not appropriate for display, nor did they think of offering them to a more appropriate institution. “They viewed the documents as artifacts that didn’t relate to their collections,” said Herscher. “They weren’t aware of their emotional impact.”

What triggered a change was the opening of the Skirball in 1996, when, as a professional courtesy, Herscher invited Dr. Robert Skotheim, president of the Huntington Library, for a preview tour.

The Skirball and the Huntington are located some 20 miles apart, but the institutions and their presidents existed in different worlds. The Huntington is situated in old-moneyed, Protestant San Marino, and its president is an old-line American of Norwegian descent.

The Skirball was created to interpret the Jewish experience in America. It is located between West Los Angeles and the southern San Fernando Valley, both centers of vibrant Jewish communities. Its president was born in Palestine, the son of Jewish refugees from Germany, and is a rabbi and former executive vice president of the Hebrew Union College.

Skotheim acknowledges that before he met Herscher, he had never been to a Jewish or Holocaust museum, neither in Washington nor the nearby Museum of Tolerance. Herscher acknowledges that before he met Skotheim, he had never been to San Marino.

Yet, despite their different backgrounds, the two men hit it off, and their friendship deepened after Herscher invited his colleague to a family seder.

Gradually, the idea of transferring the content of the Huntington vault ripened, helped along by influential mutual friends. Both institutions share several board members. Robert Erburu, chairman of the Huntington and the Getty Museum, is a member of the Skirball Board of Directors. “It is,” said Herscher, “all about relationships.”

The mechanics of the loan transfer took some time, but, last March, Herscher was invited to the Huntington to inspect Patton’s gifts.

First, Huntington librarian David Zeidberg presented Herscher with the copy of “Mein Kampf.”

“As soon as he handed me the book, I fumbled and dropped it,” said Herscher. “I felt that I was holding a death warrant in my hands. Then I started crying. Then I went to the bathroom and for 10 minutes washed my hands over and over again.”

Receiving the original Nuremberg Laws triggered another line of thought. “We have a small Holocaust exhibit at the Skirball, but it shows only the results of what happened there.” Herscher said. At the Skirball, the documents will be contrasted with the vibrancy of Jewish life in America. “We can contrast this evil with the result of the democratic fabric.

“I feel that the documents that meant to destroy us are now in the hands of the persecuted. The Final Solution turned out not to be the final word in Jewish life. We now preside over the very documents that were meant to destroy us.”

Although the Skirball stands mainly as an immigrant’s tribute to Jewish life in America, the Holocaust is never far from Herscher’s mind.

His spacious office is devoid of the usual testimonial plaques and honorary degrees. Instead, its most noticeable object is a large framed display with the photos of 18 family members who perished in the Holocaust, with the dates of their births and deportation to death camps.

“I was born into a mournful family, and the memory, especially of the grandmothers I never knew, has had much to do with the shaping of the Skirball,” Herscher said.

The exposure to the Skirball has also affected the Huntington president. In a recent handwritten note to Herscher, Skotheim wrote in part: “We Norwegians are not very expressive. But I must confess my deep satisfaction at being in a position wherein I could make the transfer of documents happen. There is no doubt that the Holocaust is the governing event for our generation … [it] assaults all of us, spiritually and intellectually, even though most of us were not attacked literally or physically.”

The Nuremberg Laws and “Mein Kampf” are now on display at the Skirball Cultural Center through Sept. 5. Following renovation and expansion of museum galleries, the document will be on permanent exhibition, starting in December.