France’s wake-up call


The kosher supermarket was chosen deliberately. Men, women and children were shopping and preparing for Shabbat. Only two days before the attack, terrorists had left 10 of the best-known satirical journalists and cartoonists dead at Charlie Hebdo. Three French police officers were also struck down, one of them a Muslim. Each Islamist terrorist attack targeted a symbol of the French Republic, seeking to bring the country to its knees.

That Jews were targets of radical Islam was, alas, unsurprising. Four of the hostages — Yoav Hattab, Philippe Braham, Yohan Cohen, François-Michel Saada — were killed at the kosher market. Survivors of the attack are anguished. So, too, are most French Jews, who again are discussing and evaluating not only the future of our community but the fate of France itself.

Let’s be clear: France is under assault. The enemy is in our midst. Extremists, faithful to a brand of Islam that celebrates violence and martyrdom, have no respect whatsoever for the core, longstanding French values of democracy, pluralism, freedom of expression — and, indeed, for life itself. Traditional forms of protest are alien to them. Instead, as seen in the carnage wrought by ISIS, al-Qaida and other jihadists in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, pure barbarism is their vehicle to achieve their perverted notion of salvation.

Tragically, the events of recent days are not a new phenomenon. The Jewish community, including the American Jewish Committee in Paris, has warned for years about the developing and deepening threat that radical Islam poses to France. In March 2012, a lone, heavily armed Mohammed Merah murdered three French soldiers in cold blood and, a week later, slaughtered a teacher and three children at a Jewish school in Toulouse. The Toulouse attack was a game changer for French Jews. And although French political leaders voiced outrage, as time passed and the numbers and frequency of anti-Semitic incidents rose, the country seemed to get used to them — even anesthetized to this reality — while many Jews felt a sense of loneliness and isolation.

The recent attacks in Paris have shocked the entire nation, indeed the entire world. What is new this time is the depth and breadth of the reactions, crisscrossing French society, the realization that combating the threat of radical Islam must be, and remain, a national priority. But will this be the necessary wake-up call for France as a whole to confront the danger?

The terrorists who struck in Paris — as in Toulouse and at the Jewish Museum in Brussels last May — are not isolated lone wolves. They most likely are the tip of a radical Islamist iceberg, the small visible part. To counter this lethal trend, we must delve deeper and understand the factors that draw certain individuals to radical Islam, and find ways to counter this evil that endangers all of France.

French schools must teach mutual respect and responsibility, a component of the curriculum that today is stunningly missing. Indoctrination in extremist ideologies in prisons demands attention, as does recruitment by radical, violent groups through social media and in mosques. The Toulouse and Paris terrorists spent time not only in prison but also with jihadist groups in Syria and Yemen. Hundreds more are currently in Syria and Iraq, and maybe in other Arab countries. That they could return with French passports to settle back in our communities, or in other European countries, is a nightmare. Their objective is to create fear and division in French society, of which the extreme right and populists may take advantage. So let’s have the courage not to let fear take over.

The French government cannot stop this trend alone; the effort will require the active involvement of political, religious and civil-society leaders. Immediate reactions to the attack on Charlie Hebdo were inspiring, as millions of French citizens gathered in central Paris and throughout France, communicated their outrage on social media and called for action. Unfortunately, the voices of Muslim community leaders —with some notable exceptions — have until now been barely audible. Those leaders, too, must speak loudly and clearly, as Muslims and as French citizens.

Many of us in the Jewish community regretted that no large solidarity movement rose up after the gruesome kidnap-murder of Ilan Halimi nine years ago, or after Toulouse, or during last summer’s transparently anti-Semitic demonstrations. While the government did speak out after attacks on Jews and firmly decries anti-Semitism, many in French society and in the media refused to see that our French values were at stake and that Jews were indeed a target.

Hatred of Jews never ends with Jews. The menace of rising anti-Semitism threatens French society at large. The future of France will be decided in the coming days, weeks and months. The Charlie Hebdo massacre makes clear that the war against France’s democratic values is in high gear.

Sunday’s mass rally, with more than 3.7 million people across the country in attendance — including, in Paris, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other political leaders — was a powerful statement of outrage and solidarity against this barbarism in France and in the rest of the world.

But what happens in the days and weeks ahead will truly test France. Now more than at any other time in its postwar history, the fate of France is entwined with the fate of its Jews. If France loses them, sooner or later it will also be lost. Is this the wake-up call that will help the French people understand the nature of the threat to our country, and will they respond firmly and effectively?

The very soul of France is at stake.

(Simone Rodan-Benzaquen is the director of the American Jewish Committee’s Paris office.)

Al-Quds University president denounces extremist rally


This story originally appeared on themedialine.org.

A Nov. 5 rally at the West Bank-based Al-Quds University that featured demonstrators from the Islamic Jihad flashing Nazi-like salutes resulted in Brandeis University recalling its faculty from a joint program. Divisions racked the Palestinian university’s student body and faculty following the demonstration and word that the Boston-based school was suspending its presence at Al-Quds.

International pressure mounted on Al-Quds University President Dr. Sari Nusseibeh to respond to Brandeis President Frederick Lawrence’s demand to condemn what was being called a “radical” behavior at the rally. Nusseibeh told The Media Line that, “We don’t believe in oppressing freedom of opinion, but respecting it. I said clearly about what happens in this rally that such manifestations are harmful to the university. The university will not allow the breaching of respect.”

As for the demand from Boston, Nusseibeh said, “I’m not answerable to Brandeis or anyone else for that matter.”

Fadi Shawahin, the head of the university’s student council, explained that such gestures are often used to signify an oath by members of political organizations and that was what was being seen on Nov. 5.

“One of the ways an oath is done is by putting the hand to the heart; others by raising one finger; and the Islamic Jihad’s oath is done by pointing the full hand to the sky,” Shawahin said. He claimed that some media outlets portrayed the gesture as if it were a Nazi salute and Nazi-style demonstration being permitted on the campus. “This is clear propaganda to put pressure on the Palestinian leadership,” he charged.

The lack of an immediate response from the university administration inflamed reactions from both Brandeis and the Jewish community.

In his statement to The Media Line, Nusseibeh said, “I’m not here as president of the university under occupation and I’m not required to offer a condemnation. I’m required to educate people. I stated very clearly that I am against fascism and Nazism.”

Shawahin said that the student council approved of a proposed activity by the Islamic Jihad student-bloc at the university that was presented as an event to welcome new students. As part of their presentation, “Fifteen members of the party participated in a play that ended with a march on the anniversary of the martyrdom of the late Islamic Jihad leader Fathi Al-Shiqaqi, and to welcome the university’s new students,” he explained. Shiqaqi was killed by Israel in 1995.

Participants dressed in military garb and carried fake assault rifles while performing the Nazi-style salute before a gathered crowd of about 200 people. Israeli flags were laid on the ground and walked on, while a large poster with photos of Palestinian suicide bombers was erected in the square. Some people were also reported to have dressed up as dead Israelis.

“I do not honor suicide bombers. I do not know for a fact that this was the case because I was not there,” Nusseibeh said. “What I did find unacceptable was the picture of the people of the arms extended upwards wearing military uniforms. This is not acceptable on a university campus. Any manifestation of this must be told in a clear way that it is unacceptable. I made this very clear to my students, all 3,000 of them, in Arabic — not in English or Japanese.”

In a statement released on Nov. 11, Brandeis University expressed concern about the event and demanded an investigation by Al-Quds. President Lawrence then reached out to his counterpart requesting that Nusseibeh condemn the rally in both Arabic and English.

“The response that we received was unsatisfactory,” said Ellen de Graffenreid, senior Vice President of Communications at Brandeis University, citing the lack of a condemnation as the primary reason for Brandeis’ decision to remove their faculty.

“I’m very sorry that these pressures made President Lawrence take the action that he did,” Nusseibeh said. “Our mission and his should be to fight extremism and to bring about a peaceful future. I’m happy anytime they decide to go back on the decision. I welcome it anytime.”

A statement issued by Al-Quds elaborated on the relationship with Brandeis, calling it “a partnership promoting peace and human values and is mutually beneficial by bringing minds together to think of the power of education and use it against the extremist influences that exist out there.”

Social media was awash with outrage on both sides of the conflict. A Jerusalem member of the movement that advocates anti-Israel boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) posted, “Brandeis University endorses academic boycott…of Palestinians. Do they have an issue w/ Israeli racism on campus?”  Pro-Israel NGO Monitor said that it was “glad to see @BrandeisU did the right thing in the face of appalling intolerance and anti-Semitic rhetoric.”

Al-Quds University has 18,000 students spread across three West Bank campuses. The collaboration with Brandeis began in 1998, but more recently budget issues reduced the program to only a faculty exchange between the two universities. Bard College in New York, which also operates an exchange program with Al-Quds University, did not enter the controversy.

“The majority of staff and students were disappointed by the disturbances of the rally and that they were against the event,” an Al-Quds professor who requested to remain anonymous told The Media Line. “Some people are extremists and are destroying everything, all the efforts we have put into the university investing in people to respect each other. The extremists help the extreme. We do not agree with honoring suicide bombers. We are in the middle.”

Islamic Jihad has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union. It has carried out dozens of attacks against Israeli citizens since its foundation in the 1970s.

Al-Quds University has set up an investigative committee to determine who participated in the event and in particular, whether the participants included members of the university’s faculty or student body. Dr. Nusseibeh told The Media Line that he is waiting for the report and will act as the case will warrant.

Diana Atallah contributed reporting from Ramallah.

Extremely moderate


Opinion: Islam navigates the shoals of extremism


Which is the more serious problem today: Islamic extremism or anti-Islamic bigotry?

The latest contribution to this debate comes from The Nation, the leading magazine of America’s left, in its current special edition on “Islamophobia: Anatomy of an American Panic.” Its articles address a real and serious issue — but they also illustrate the pitfalls of ignoring its other side.

There’s no doubt that virulent rhetoric depicting all Islam as inherently evil and violent, and virtually all Muslims as potential jihadists, has gained alarming currency on the right. Such Muslim-bashing is not simply demeaning but also can lead to violence, harassment and infringements on the fundamental liberties of American Muslims. The New York Police Department has been criticized for overly broad surveillance of ordinary Muslims. Recent years have seen a wave of attempts to block construction of mosques and Islamic centers across the country. Bills seeking to outlaw the use of Sharia law in American courts — already illegal if it infringes on citizens’ constitutional rights — could interfere with private contracts rooted in religious law.

Yet nowhere in The Nation will one find recognition that extremism in Islam is a particularly serious problem. One author dismisses the issue by stating that “every group has its loonies.” Another writes that while misogyny and religious repression in some Muslim countries should be denounced, it can be done without generalizing about Islam.

Of course all religions have fringe groups and ideas. But for complex historical and cultural reasons, radicalism in Islam is far closer to the mainstream than in other major religions right now. There is no country today where a Christian government executes people for blasphemy, apostasy or illicit sex; several Muslim states do, including Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Some supposedly moderate Muslim clerics, such as Qatar-born Sheik Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, defend executions of gays, sanction “light” wife beating and peddle hatred of Jews.

Most American Muslims do not share such repugnant views; the Muslim community here is far more integrated into the mainstream than it is in Europe. Yet the problem of radicalization is real. Freedom House, an esteemed human rights organization, reports that many U.S. mosques carry extremist literature. Supposedly moderate Muslim groups such as the Islamic Circle of North America have hosted speakers with extreme ideas. A 2007 Pew poll found that 27 percent of American Muslim men younger than 30 believe suicide terrorism in defense of Islam is at least sometimes justified.

Many American Muslims stress the importance of combating not only anti-Muslim bigotry but also extremism in Muslim ranks. The modernization of Islam is an essential priority for the world. Right-wing Islamophobes such as bloggers Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer are hostile to this effort, insisting that Islam is beyond reform and any talk of moderation is a deceptive smoke screen.

But where do left-wing defenders of Muslims’ civil rights stand? One of The Nation’s articles attacks philanthropist Nina Rosenwald for bankrolling supposedly Islamophobic causes. Some groups Rosenwald has funded deserve the criticism, but the article also singles out her support for the work of “dissident” Muslims such as Irshad Manji, an openly gay Canadian journalist who argues that Islam must overcome the still-powerful legacy of sexism, homophobia and anti-Semitism. When a progressive leftist magazine goes after a gay Muslim feminist because she is too outspoken against religious reactionaries, something’s wrong.

Concerns about bigotry are justified. But they should not deter legitimate debate about problems in modern Islam.


Cathy Young is a contributing editor at Reason magazine and a columnist at The Boston Globe. She is the author of “Growing Up in Moscow: Memories of a Soviet Girlhood.”

France arrests more suspected Islamic militants


Ten suspected Islamic militants were arrested in France in the second mass arrest there in recent days.

The suspects are alleged to have ties to radical Islamist websites and had similar profiles to Mohammed Merah, the gunman who killed three children and a rabbi at a Jewish school in Toulouse, Reuters reported, citing a police source.

Some 19 suspected Islamic militants were arrested last week, including who are members of the extremist group Forsane Alizza, or Knights of Pride. They are under investigation for alleged terrorist activities, Paris public prosecutor Francois Molins told reporters Tuesday, including planning the abduction of a Jewish judge.

French officials have said the arrests are not related to the recent attack on the Toulouse Jewish school.

The latest arrests occurred in the southern French cities of Marseille and Valence, two towns in the southwest, and in the northeastern town of Roubaix, according to Reuters.

The suspects were discovered on Islamist websites expressing extreme views.

Religious zealots attack “immodest” Jerusalem shops


A sign at the ice cream parlor may caution men and women not to lick cones in public, but the warning didn’t stop Jewish zealots vandalizing the shop in Jerusalem’s main ultra-Orthodox neighborhood.

Other businesses in Mea Shearim, including a book store and dress shops, have been damaged in night-time attacks by Sikrikim, a group of some 100 ultra-religious men who want one of the holy city’s most tradition-bound quarters to become even more conservative.

“Promiscuity” reads graffiti scrawled in black at the entrance of a clothing shop selling dresses whose lengthy hemline and drab colors have been deemed too racy by the group.

Other stores in the neighborhood, where men wear traditional black garb and women bare little but their face, have had their windows broken, locks glued and foul-smelling liquid smeared on walls.

“They also threw once a bag of excrement inside and smashed our windows three times,” said Marlene Samuels, manager of the Or Hachaim bookshop, whose bright lights and large storefront sign stand out among smaller and more dimly lit businesses.

The shop has been attacked more than 10 times since it opened a year and a half ago, Samuels said. The latest assault was last week when one of the store’s branches had its locks glued overnight.

Samuels said the shop’s owner met with the Sikrikim several times. The store stocks only religious books, but they include volumes published by Orthodox institutions that are Zionist—anathema to the Sikrikim, who believe a Jewish state can be established only with the coming of the Messiah.

Named after a small Jewish group which 2,000 years ago fought against Roman rulers and suspected Jewish collaborators, the modern-day Sikrikim strike at night and some wear masks to hide their identities.

“They use aggressive tactics and they also ask for protection money which involves paying (a religious inspector) coming in and removing the books he deems unfit,” Samuels said.

Meir Margalit, a Jerusalem councilman from the secular Israeli Meretz party, voiced concern that the existence of the Sikrikim, although a tiny minority, signified a growing divide among Jews in Israel.

“Society is becoming increasingly extremist. With the Sikrikim particularly, who are religiously motivated and rule out any position but their own, one cannot reckon, only fight them,” Margalit said.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews make up about 8 percent of Israel’s 7.7 million population. With an average of eight children per family, they are a fast-growing population. Many live below the poverty line and keep to dozens of their own towns and neighborhoods.

Mea Shearim area is small, less than half a square mile (1.3 square km), and home to about 30,000 residents considered among the most tight-knit and reclusive of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Jews.

It takes about a minute to walk from Jerusalem’s city center to Mea Shearim, but the dozens of synagogues and Hassidic courts dotting its narrow alleyways are a world away from the cafes and bars of downtown Jerusalem.

Sikrikim attacks have also been reported at Beit Shemesh, a mixed secular and religious town with a growing ultra-Orthodox community, about half an hour’s drive from Jerusalem. The latest target there has been a religious girls’ school.

The Sikrikim who reside near the school object to the way the girls dress. Since the school year began in September they have regularly picketed outside shouting out at the students, most of them younger than 12, that they are promiscuous.

“They claim to be religious but what they do is a crime against God, against the Torah and against humanity,” said David Rotenberg, who works at Or Hachaim.

“SACRILEGE”

Up the road, the Zisalek ice cream parlor has separate entrances for men and women and a sign—posted at the request of local religious authorities—asking them to avoid any show of immodesty by licking cones in public.

“They (the Sikrikim) had a real ball with us,” said Guy Ammar, one of Zisalek’s owners, describing vandalism similar to attacks against other shops in the area.

“But we were not deterred. Residents here told us not to give up and business is going well now.”

Sikrikim shun the media and have made no public comment about their activities.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said an investigation was under way following two complaints lodged by Or Hachaim Center but no suspects have yet been arrested.

Some business owners in Mea Shearim said police has been slow to act, reluctant to get involved in what they see as internal disputes among different religious sects of a closed community.

Rosenfeld said that no other businesses have filed formal complaints in recent weeks.

A few minutes walk from Zisalek Ice Cream is the Greentech music shop, where Hassidic music plays in the background and one DVD in a collection of ultra-Orthodox movies is a suspense film about the battles of a rabbi against Christian missionaries.

The Sikrikim “do not like anything that changes the character of the shtetl and the way it was a hundred years ago,” a worker in the music store said, using a Yiddish term for the small towns where Eastern European Jews lived before the Holocaust.

Shlomo Kuk, an ultra-Orthodox journalist from Jerusalem, said the Sikrikim shouldn’t be seen as representative of devout Jews known as “haredim.”

“One thing is certain: they may dress like haredim but what they do is utter sacrilege which blackens the name of the entire haredi community,” Kuk said.

Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Sonya Hepinstall

’24’ producer Howard Gordon : Our only politics is to have an exciting show


Howard Gordon, 47, is an Emmy Award winner and executive producer of the hit action series, “24,” which portrays the life of Jack Bauer, an agent in the Los Angeles branch of the U.S. Counter Terrorist Unit.

Later this year, the American Jewish Congress, Western Region will give Gordon the Stephen S. Wise Award for his contributions in helping the American public understand the threat of terrorism.

Jewish Journal: ’24’ has been praised for fast-paced and complex plots. On the other hand, some critics have objected to the excessive number of torture scenes and the show’s “ticking-time-bomb” premise that if you don’t beat the information out of the suspect quickly, America will suffer irreparable damage.

Howard Gordon: The charge that we may be promoting Islamophobia is not entirely specious. You referred earlier to a giant billboard for our show along the 405 Freeway, which showed a recognizable Muslim family with the warning: ‘They Could Be Next Door.’ This was put up by the Fox promotion department without our knowledge, but I can see why it caused a fair amount of disgruntlement among Muslim advocacy groups.

On the other hand, we have also been accused of being pro-Obama, because we once featured an African American actor as a presidential candidate. We also hear that the show has a right-wing agenda, which is absurd. The only politics is to have an exciting show.

JJ: So how do you draw the line between putting on an exciting show and your responsibility as a citizen and human being?

HG: That’s a question we weigh very carefully. The old excuse, ‘It’s only a TV show, so it doesn’t matter,’ doesn’t hold water anymore. Yet our ticking-time-bomb narrative, the constant sense of urgency, that’s an unreal conceit. You get an unreal picture of the real world, by and large.

JJ: When did you realize that ’24’ was more than ‘just a TV show’?

HG: We had a visit from a high-ranking West Point officer, who said that his cadets were not only great fans of our show but were actually taking their cues from Jack Bauer. That was very disconcerting. We subsequently put out a public service announcement that our show presented a very hyped-up version of reality.

JJ: How does being Jewish play into all this?

HG: Well, I’ve had to confront my own sensitivities and proclivities. I am very pro-Israel, I love Israel, I consider it the Jewish homeland, but I am also not just a rubber stamp for Israeli policies. I am an advocate for a strong Israel, but I am also an advocate for peace.

I hope that my moral and ethical infrastructure is based on what I learned as a practicing and identified Jew, and these values have certainly influenced me as a writer. My wife, our three children and myself attend University Synagogue, and we’re going to Israel in December for our daughter’s bat mitzvah.

JJ: Dalia Mogahed, executive director of Gallup’s Center for Muslim Studies, speaking to the Writers Guild of America, West, cited figures from a poll of tens of thousands of Muslims in 35 countries that only 7 percent supported the actions of Muslim terrorists, with 93 percent opposed. What do you make of this?

HG: I take the Gallup figures at face value. There is widespread ignorance and contempt of Muslims and a streak of that in the United States, as well.
I am by no means blind to the threat of Islamic extremism and that Jews and Christians are subject to gross caricatures in Muslim countries, such as the dramatization of ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.’ That’s absurd. That’s like ‘1984.’ But we’re Americans, and we can’t use that as an excuse.

Unfortunately, we know so little about each other and, with the stakes so high, that’s not a good thing.

For more information on the Dec. 4 function, contact the American Jewish Congress at 310-496-4280.

Congress OKs bill barring military chaplains from mentioning Jesus in official prayers


Congress OKs bill barring military chaplains from mentioning Jesus in official prayers
 
The U.S. Congress rescinded language in Pentagon orders that allowed military chaplains to mention Jesus in official prayers. Controversy over including similar language in the Defense Authorization Act, a critical spending bill, dogged attempts to pull the bill out of a Senate-House conference committee before Congress recessed for midterm elections.
 
The conferees ultimately decided to strike the language and order the Pentagon to rescind its earlier instructions. Mikey Weinstein, a former U.S. Air Force officer who led the battle to remove the language, applauded the decision.”We welcome the opportunity Congress has afforded to discuss the appropriate role of religion and chaplains in the military,” Weinstein, who is Jewish, said last week in a statement issued by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which he founded. “The passage of this bill will be a victory for those of us who have been fighting so assiduously to protect both the rights of the men and women in our armed forces and the United States Constitution.”
 

Austrian extremists gain in elections
 
Two far-right parties with a history of anti-Jewish rhetoric made gains in Austrian elections. National elections held over the weekend saw a 50 percent rise since 2002 elections in the percentage of votes for the Freedom Party and the Alliance for Austria’s Future. Members of both parties have expressed antipathy toward Israel and are known for their campaigns against Muslims living in Austria.
 
The left-leaning Social Democrats won the election with nearly 36 percent of the vote, followed by the center-right People’s Party with 34 percent. The Freedom Party came in third with 11 percent, and the Alliance for Austria’s Future, run by right-wing extremist Jorg Haider, received 4 percent of the vote. The Social Democrats and People’s Party are expected to form a governing coalition.
 
Federal legislation Includes grant for Federation model elderly care program
 
A Jewish federation model to facilitate care for the elderly in their home communities will be included in federal grant legislation. The United Jewish Communities, the umbrella body for North American federations, launched the “Aging in Place” initiative in 2002, helping 40 communities in 25 states obtain federal dollars for naturally occurring retirement communities.The model was featured in a U.S. Senate hearing this year to consider re-authorization of the Older Americans Act. As a result, a federal grant program for the retirement communities is included in language agreed to by House-Senate conferees.
 
Swiss stage pro-Israel rally
 
Approximately 3,000 demonstrators held a pro-Israel rally in the Swiss capital. Saturday’s rally in Bern called for the Swiss government to support Israel’s right to exist and show solidarity with the Jewish state’s fight against terrorism. Twenty organizations signed a resolution urging the government to refuse negotiations with terrorist groups that reject the existence of the Israeli state.
 

British House of Lords member faces probe by party over Israel lobby remarks
 
A member of Britain’s House of Lords will be investigated by her party for comments about the “pro-Israel lobby.” Liberal Democrat Party members have announced that Baroness Jenny Tonge’s position in the party will be reviewed in response to her public remarks.
 
In a speech that recently aired on BBC Radio, Tonge said, “The pro-Israeli lobby has got its [financial] grips on the Western world. I think they’ve probably got a certain grip on our party.”
 
More than 20 of her peers in the House of Lords wrote a letter to the Times condemning Tonge’s comments, stating, “Baroness Tonge evoked a classic anti-Jewish conspiracy theory,” and that her language “as a member of the House of Lords, was irresponsible and inappropriate.”
 
In early 2004, she was fired from her position as Liberal Democrat spokeswoman on international development for saying she could understand why a Palestinian would become a suicide bomber and also that she would consider becoming one were she a Palestinian.
 
Remains of Czech Jewish graveyard found
 
Evidence of a medieval Jewish cemetery was discovered in the Czech Republic.Researchers from a preservationist organization in the city of Pilsen say they found documents in the city archive revealing details of what they believe was one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in Czech lands in the 14th century.
 
The cemetery’s existence was already known, said archaeologist Radek Siroky of the West Bohemian Institute for Heritage Conservation and Documentation, but the new documents reveal more specifics about its location.
 
He said that only excavations, approved by religious authorities, could provide more details about the cemetery’s size and the nature of the Jewish community there.
 
Briefs courtesy of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Muslims and Jews must move on and strengthen ties


Muslim-Jewish relations in Los Angeles have undoubtedly undergone a test the past several weeks, the outcome of which is still unclear. But out of an acrimonious political battle,
many Muslims would like to move on and attempt to re-establish discussion and dialogue with our fellow Jewish Angelenos.

What is being referred to is last week’s decision by the L.A. County Commission on Human Relations to give its John Allen Buggs Humanitarian Award to Muslim leader Dr. Maher Hathout and the vitriolic rhetoric from a segment of the Jewish community in the weeks preceding. It has, amongst other things, been a trial for Muslim-Jewish relations. But interestingly enough, the period has also seen certain bonds between the two groups solidify.

Based on his past criticisms of Israel, a segment of the Jewish community engaged in what can be fairly called a smear campaign against Hathout. In doing so, it took a long-standing moderate and intellectual Muslim leader and painted him as an extremist in an attempt to make him, and the organizations he represents, politically radioactive.

In a Sept. 1 press release, the American Jewish Committee (AJCommittee) called Hathout “a radical Islamic leader masquerading as a moderate and deceiving the American public.” The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) on Sept. 6 accused Hathout of “promoting violence, hatred and divisiveness”; this again because Hathout likened Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to “apartheid,” a term even Israeli news organizations use to characterize Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories.

Led by these two groups, and eventually joined by others such as The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and the FBI-designated terrorist group, the Jewish Defense League, an unsuccessful campaign to rescind the award was orchestrated.

This unfortunate effort, filled with more anger by some of these groups than I care to describe, did nothing but build resentment in Muslims. In their view, this campaign continued a pattern of opposing Muslim political integration purely because of its differing viewpoint on a foreign country.

But to others in the Jewish community, Hathout was none of the above. In fact, Hathout and the organizations of which he is a part, should be embraced and recognized for their struggle to bring moderation to the Muslim community and harmony in interfaith relations.

The Progressive Jewish Alliance, Rabbi Leonard Beerman of Leo Baeck Temple, Rabbi Steve Jacobs of Temple Kol Tikvah and David Wolf, son of the prominent late Rabbi Alfred Wolf of the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, were among the numerous interfaith leaders attesting to Hathout’s genuine and decades-long effort to build harmony and trust amongst Jews and Muslims in Los Angeles. Yes, they acknowledge there are differences on the Middle East, but that should never exclude Muslims like Hathout from the political process or make him ineligible to receive the award.

To these Jewish leaders who had the courage to stand on principle, we express our deep thanks. Their actions should not only make many Jews proud; they have also set an example for us as Muslim Americans. They represent the best of what Muslim-Jewish relations can bring.

To the AJCommittee, ZOA, Jewish Federation and others who have never really engaged us in dialogue, we stand at the ready. We stand ready to meet and engage on our differences, not expecting to come to agreement but expecting to make things more civil.

Brutal tactics such as those used in this campaign risk poisoning overall Muslim-Jewish relations and building resentment. Such a negative outcome could potentially impact not just Muslims and Jews in Los Angeles but, unfortunately, extend into Muslim-Jewish relations around the country.

To those in the Jewish community who know us, it is time to take our efforts to the next level. Rather than predicate our relations on the dynamics of the Middle East (of which we have no control and to which we actually stand opposed to dictatorial Arab regimes), we should work on domestic issues, such as homelessness, health care, education and other issues which our respective faiths have much in common and which effect us equally as members of the same society.

At the end of the day, Muslims and Jews have far more in common than they realize. It is time to start building on those commonalities for the betterment of our communities, our nation, and our world.

Omar Ricci is chairman of the

Maher Hathout — partner for peace or anti-Semite in centrist clothing?


To progressive Jews, he is a partner for peace and a moderate Muslim in a world darkened by Islamic extremism. To conservative Jews, he is a strident anti-Israel critic, perhaps even a closet anti-Semite, masquerading as a centrist.
 

Dr. Maher Hathout, like no other local Muslim leader in recent memory, has divided the Jewish community, exposing fissures between Jews who fervently believe in reviving the frayed Jewish-Muslim dialogue and those who have lost faith.

 
The chairman of the Islamic Center of Southern California and senior adviser to the national Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), Hathout became a lightening rod for criticism soon after the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission tapped him in July for the prestigious John Allen Buggs Award for excellence in human relations, which he is slated to receive next month.

 
Following the announcement, terrorism expert Steven Emerson penned an article published in New Republic Online depicting the Egyptian-born cardiologist, who immigrated to the United States in 1971 and is a U.S. citizen, as an apologist for terror groups and a strident critic of the Jewish state. In his piece, Emerson points to Hathout’s past attacks on Israel, including publicly characterizing the country as “a racist, apartheid” state, as his accusation that “the United States is also under Israeli occupation.”

 
These remarks, which Hathout says were made in the context of criticizing the Israeli government, Emerson argues are actually code words for anti-Semitism, and should disqualify Hathout from receiving an award established to promote positive race and human relations in multicultural Los Angeles County.

 
Hathout, in an interview with The Jewish Journal, said he has no intention of withdrawing. To do so, he said, would reward the forces of intolerance and intimidation.

 
At a Sept. 11 commission meeting convened to allow for public comment about the proposed award, Hathout said that “probably my words were harsh” at times, but that he stands by his statements. Hathout said he had no problem with the Israeli people but only with their government. He has helped to organize interfaith services and has traveled to Israel on joint missions in the past.

 
After the publication of Emerson’s article, three major Jewish groups, the American Jewish Committee, the Zionist Organization of America and StandWithUs, criticized Hathout and questioned the commission’s decision to honor him. On Sept. 11, The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles joined the trio.

 
Hathout’s “words regrettably create the very fissures and divides that the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission is seeking to repair,” Los Angeles Federation President John Fishel said in a speech before the commission meeting.
Rabbi John Borak, director of inter-religious affairs at the L.A. chapter of the American Jewish Committee said that the fact that someone with Hathout’s opinions is considered a moderate Muslim shows why Muslim-Jewish dialogue has faltered in recent years.

 
“The Muslim community doesn’t have honest brokers,” Borak said in an interview before the meeting on Monday. “They say they’re for peace, but their actions don’t accord with that. [Hathout] is an example of that.”

 
Yet some Jews who have worked closely over the years with Hathout dismiss the criticism as mean-spirited and counterproductive. His defenders include rabbis and political activists, among others, who characterize him as a moderate Muslim who opposes Muslim extremism and favors tolerance and inclusion. They argue that intemperate remarks about Israel should not be justification to marginalize him.
“He’s a man who’s demonstrated in every way his commitment to what is humane,” said Rabbi Leonard Beerman, the retired founding rabbi of Leo Baeck Temple in West Los Angeles. “He’s a moderate in the Muslim world. If we can’t embrace him, we’re left twisting in the wind.”

 
Rabbi Steven B. Jacobs, rabbi emeritus at Temple Kol Tikvah in Woodland Hills, argued that Hathout’s humanity and decency was especially evident at a 2002 Jewish-Muslim Passover seder he and Hathout helped organize.

 
Hathout called the seder one of the most moving religious experiences of his life, Jacobs said.

 
“If I felt [Hathout] was an extremist prone to violence and approved of things that are antithetical to Jews, I wouldn’t be here,” Jacobs said at a Sept. 8 press conference at the Islamic Center, which attracted more than 20 prominent local religious leaders who support Hathout.

 
Appearing three days later before the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission, a confident and resolute Hathout said he has worked tirelessly to promote dialogue and diversity. Attempting to allay concerns over his past remarks, he told the commission and the emotionally charged audience of 100 that he supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestianian confict, as well as Israel’s right to exist, and that he has long condemned suicide bombings and other forms of terrorism as antithetical to the Quran’s teachings.

 
At the same time, Hathout remained steadfast in his criticisms of Israel. The retired cardiologist defended his right to criticize the president and Congress of the United States, as well as the state of Israel, and he said he would continue to do so long as he saw injustices. He said he believes that it is only his sharp comments about the Jewish state that have created the pressure on the human relations commission to rescind.

 
“There’s a storm of hate raised to a hurricane directed to me, my name, and, I guess, to you,” Hathout told the commissioners. “You can be sure if I had been talking about Canada or Brazil, we would not have such a hurricane.”

 
The human relations commission, after listening to nearly 50 speakers in a two and half hour meeting, decided to postpone a decision on what, if anything, to do about Hathout’s award until its next meeting on Sept. 18.

 
Some of Hathout’s critics used their time before the commissioners to raise questions about the nomination process. Normally, a commission subcommittee accepts nominations for the award and the full commission accepts the nomination. The county supervisors themselves have no vote in the matter.
According to sources, ordinarily commissioners themselves put forward names. In this instance, Hathout’s name was put forward by MPAC Executive Director Salam Al-Marayati. Al-Marayati represented that Supervisors Mike Antonovich and Zev Yaroslavsky supported Hathout’s nomination, though both men have said they never took a position.

Quartet of Movies to Tell Pearl’s Story


Filmmakers are currently wrestling with four different projects to document or dramatize the story of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter beheaded by Islamic extremists in Pakistan in early 2002, leaving behind a pregnant wife.

Pearl’s life and tragic death would seem a natural for the Hollywood treatment, but the delays and uncertainties of most of the projects are now raising two concerns.

When will the films be completed? And will they reflect the complex nature, Jewish heritage and true legacy of the slain journalist?

At this point, only one project is finished, a 90-minute documentary titled, “The Journalist and the Jihadi: The Murder of Daniel Pearl,” narrated by CNN correspondent Christine Amanpour and to be broadcast by HBO.

The film was directed by AlluTamal, a Pakistani, and Ramesh Sharma, an Indian, and was briefly screened — but not reviewed — at the Tribeca Film Festival in April.

An HBO spokeswoman said that the 90-minute documentary is to air sometime in October, but Judea and Ruth Pearl, Daniel’s parents, said they have been given a specific date of Oct. 10, when their son would have marked his 43rd birthday.

A fair amount of publicity has surrounded the feature film, “A Mighty Heart,” in part because it is based on a book by Daniel Pearl’s widow, and because the project has been inadvertently caught up in the Brad Pitt-Jennifer Aniston-Angelina Jolie saga.

When Mariane Pearl completed her book, “A Mighty Heart: The Brave Life and Death of My Husband Daniel Pearl” in late 2003, Warner Bros. reportedly paid more than $500,000 for the film rights.

The production company, Plan B, was designated to actually make the film under the direction of Plan B owners — the then-married couple — Pitt and Aniston — and film executive Brad Gray, now head of Paramount Pictures.

At that time, media reports had it that Aniston would play the part of Mariane Pearl. But, soon after, the actress and Pitt severed their marital and professional relationships.

Pitt then entered into a well-publicized relationship with Jolie, and that actress is now reportedly in line to essay the role of Pearl’s wife.

Dede Gardner, president of the reclusive Plan B, would disclose only, through a spokeswoman, that the film “is in development and we are currently working on the script.”

None of the others involved in “A Mighty Heart” have publicly commented, but screenwriter John Orloff’s script is expected to follow the book’s focus on the young couple’s romance and marriage, followed by the wife’s agonizing vigil after Daniel Pearl was kidnapped.

Looking at the same topic with a different perspective and approach is “Who Killed Daniel Pearl?” which is “inspired” by the book of the same title by Bernard-Henri Lévy, in which the French philosopher-novelist describes his yearlong investigation into the reporter’s death.

Producer Charlie Lyons has teamed up with up with executive producers Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz, director Tod “Kip” Williams and screenwriter Peter Landesman, a New York Times Magazine foreign correspondent, to make the film for Beacon Pictures.

They are a bit farther along than the “Mighty Heart” project. Lyons, who is in New Zealand shooting another movie, e-mailed that he hopes to start filming the Pearl story in the fall.

According to the studio, the script will differ from the book to avoid infringement on the “Mighty Heart” movie, or, as Lyons wrote, “Some elements of the story will allow for literary inspiration.”

For one, the movie will be mainly a political thriller in which author Lévy will be transformed into an American celebrity television reporter, portrayed by actor Josh Lucas.

Daniel Pearl himself will be fictionalized to some extent, “but the symbol and inspiration of Daniel is core” to the film, Lyons wrote.

Finally, there are one or two references on Google to a film project billed as “Infinite Justice.” The title is not to be confused with a German effort, “Operation Infinite Justice,” which was the code name for the American buildup preceding the current war in Iraq, later renamed “Operation Enduring Freedom.”

According to skimpy reports, that film is to deal with “an American reporter (named Arnold Silverman), who is held hostage by Muslim fundamentalists in Karachi against the release of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay.”

The Pearl parents say that they have been unable to learn anything more about the project.

Judea Pearl, Daniel’s father, is a UCLA professor and widely known authority on artificial intelligence. Ruth Pearl is an electrical engineer; they both expressed mixed sentiments about the rash of film projects.

“I don’t think they will be able to capture my feelings,” said the father, while his wife added, “They [the filmmakers] are probably doing their best, but how can they express the emotions of a mother for her son?”

Hoping for that degree of empathy may be asking for the impossible. But the Pearls, who have been consumed in finding a meaning for their son’s death, also fear that his legacy might be ignored in favor of the more dramatic details of the last weeks of his life.

For the past four years, the Pearls have poured their thoughts and energies into the Daniel Pearl Foundation, “to further the ideals that inspired Daniel’s life and work.”

The broad aim of the foundation (www.danielpearl.org) is to address the root causes of his murder by promoting “cross-cultural understanding,” particularly between the Muslim and Western worlds, through journalism, music and innovative communication.

“We would like the films, and other media coverage, to express the deeper significance of Daniel’s life and death and to concentrate on the legacy and inspiration he left behind,” Judea Pearl said.

 

Not All Wish Sharon Well


Words of concern and sympathy poured in from all over the world after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a major stroke. Especially striking were supportive comments from quarters that had once cast Sharon as an inflexible hawk — or even a war criminal — but who now gave him credit as a force for progress toward peace in the Middle East.

The condolences, however, were not unanimous — and some critics made for odd bedfellows.

Predictably, a barb arrived from new Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He’s quickly become the most quotable anti-Semite in office today in the wake of his calls for Israel’s destruction and his questioning of whether the Holocaust occurred.

“Hopefully, the news that the criminal of Sabra and Shatila has joined his ancestors is final,” said Ahmadinejad, as reported by the semiofficial Iranian Student News Agency. Ahmadinejad was referring to the 1982 massacre of Palestinian civilians by a Lebanese Christian militia at two refugee camps.

An Israeli commission of inquiry held Sharon, who was Israel’s defense minister at the time, indirectly responsible for not anticipating the carnage. Sharon was forced to resign, which, at the time, seemed to end his political career.

Ahmadinejad, at least, was referring to events on earth. It was for the Rev. Pat Robertson, the warhorse of America’s religious right, to bring higher powers into his critique.

Speaking on the “700 Club” last week, Robertson suggested that Sharon and former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (who was assassinated by an Israeli extremist in 1995) had been treated harshly by God for dividing Israel.

“He was dividing God’s land,” Robertson said. “And I would say woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the EU, the United Nations or the United States of America. God says, ‘This land belongs to me. You better leave it alone.'”

 

Fast and Loose With Facts at Ha’aretz


 

The Israeli daily Ha’aretz, a favorite of the intelligentsia in Israel and the West, and widely cited by the North American press, is frequently referred to as “Israel’s New York Times.” But a New York Times it is not.

Since the Jayson Blair scandal, the state-side Gray Lady has stepped-up its commitment to accountability, hiring public editor Daniel Okrent, who rigorously investigates complaints about the paper’s reports, dialogues with readers about their concerns and diligently ensures that the necessary corrections run.

Don’t expect comparable accountability at Ha’aretz, which describes itself as “an independent newspaper with a broadly liberal outlook,” but which allows its writers to espouse extremist views unfettered by the facts.

Why, exactly, should this Tel Aviv media outlet be of concern to Boston-based CAMERA, whose mission is to promote an accurate and balanced press in North America?

As Eric Weiner, former Jerusalem bureau chief for National Public Radio, once told a Palestinian media symposium, he began every working day by scanning local papers for stories. He leaned especially on what he termed the “very respectable newspaper” Ha’aretz. He is not alone. This September, Ha’aretz was cited by the Western press corps more than five dozen times.

And, for a close-to-home example as to why Ha’aretz’s prominence in Western media outlets is our problem, readers may recall the July 30 column in this newspaper by Ha’aretz writer Gideon Levy (“If the Situation Were Reversed”). The column, which originally appeared in the July 18 issue of Ha’aretz, was filled with factual errors, both substantive and incidental.

Levy claimed that Golda Meir “said that after what the Nazis did to us, we can do whatever we want.”

Challenged for a source for the virulent quote, Levy acknowledged in an Aug. 12 e-mail he had none.

“Therefore we dropped the quotation in the original version in Hebrew and by mistake it was printed in the English version,” he stated.

Neither CAMERA nor the editor of The Jewish Journal were able to obtain a correction from Levy or Ha’aretz.

That’s not all. Arguing that Israelis are utterly indifferent to Palestinian suffering, Levy cited the killing of Ibrahim Halfalla, an elderly Palestinian in Gaza, and claimed that Yediot Achronot “didn’t bother to run the story at all.” In fact, Yediot deplored the killing in a hard-hitting editorial July 14. Again no correction.

Levy also misinforms when he alleged “our Education Ministry announces that it will not permit Arabs to attend Jewish schools in Haifa….” However, the decision regarding where particular students attend particular schools is the responsibility of the Municipality, not the Education Ministry. Last academic year, parents of students at the Arabic public schools had lobbied the Municipality for improvements. After negotiations, the improvements were agreed to. At no point did the Ministry or Municipality prohibit Arab attendance in Haifa’s Jewish schools.

Levy’s journalism is likewise substandard when he stated as fact: “Last week settlers poisoned a well at Atawana, in the southern Mount Hebron region, and the police are investigating.”

Indeed, the police were investigating the poisoning of a well with dead chickens but they had not determined that settlers were the culprit. Palestinians accused settlers, and the police suspected settlers, but it was not a foregone conclusion as Levy asserted.

For instance, The Jerusalem Post quoted a police officer: “We are also investigating the possibility that the chickens were thrown inside the well as part of an inner Palestinian dispute.”

Unfortunately, nobody at Ha’aretz is investigating how Levy’s numerous errors, many of them egregious, made it into print, despite the fact that CAMERA and The Journal both provided editors with the substantive counterpoint.

The newspaper’s silence regarding Levy’s defamatory distortions is no surprise in light of the observation of Nahum Barnea of Yediot Achronot, who wrote about Israeli reporters who flunk the “lynching test.”

These are writers who refused to criticize Palestinians even when two Israeli reservists were brutally lynched in Ramallah by a Palestinian crowd. They are: Amira Hass, Akiva Eldar and Levy, all from Ha’aretz.

In November 2000, Barnea wrote: “And then the lynching test came, and before it the test of the shooting and fire bombs of the Tanzim fighters, and before it the test of the violations of the Oslo agreement by Arafat, and it turns out that the support of some of the prominent reporters [for Palestinian positions] is absolute. … They have a mission.”

We at CAMERA also have a mission. And as long as Ha’aretz continues to shape — and distort — Western news reports, that Israeli media outlet is fair game for this American outfit.

Tamar Sternthal is senior research analyst for CAMERA.

 

Why Some Jews Hate the L.A. Times


On April 1, Los Angeles County children’s social worker Jules Weingart sent the Los Angeles Times a letter protesting its predilection for calling Palestinian suicide-bombers "militants." As a courtesy, Weingart attached a list of normative definitions of the terms "militant," "terrorism," "terror" and "extremist."

On April 18, Weingart received a response from Times Readers Representative Jamie Gold. "The word terrorist is not applied to combatants in Israel," Gold informed Weingart on behalf of the newspaper, "because it is considered a politically loaded word."

That this is some perverse form of political correctness, few can doubt. But as Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center has asked repeatedly over the last year, "Political correctness for whom — suicide-bombers?"

Foreign Editor Simon Li, meanwhile, sent an automated e-mail message to Weingart, indicating that he was out of the office until April 22. Li, who has long attracted resentment for what many perceive as his imperious stance toward critics of the Times’ coverage of Israel, concluded his e-mail with: "And if it’s a complaint about our alleged anti-Israel bias, thank you, but I’ve received so many, that mere repetition only serves to dilute the impact of your protest."

The Times announced on Tuesday that Li was stepping down as foreign editor to be replaced by former Mideast correspondent Marjorie Miller.

Even so, given such a history of editorial policy, is it any wonder that the local Jewish community sometimes finds itself skating perilously close to hysteria when it comes to the Times?

In recent weeks, the Times has been the target of several distinct readership revolts. In mid-April, the grass-roots group StandWithUs organized a 10-day boycott on home subscriptions. It was an attempt to get the paper’s attention without actually abandoning it, said a founding member, who for fear of retribution asked to be called Ruth.

"We loved the Times," Ruth said, "and we want to love it again. But when the only two reporters in the region charged with covering Israel deliver a pro-Palestinian spin day after day after day — I don’t need the Times. I can get Al Jazeera instead."

Concurrently, several local synagogues, including Beth Jacob, Stephen S. Wise and Valley Beth Shalom, urged a more modest one-day delivery stoppage on Israel’s Independence Day, April 17.

A cursory review of Internet discussion groups reveals a pervasive belief that there is a direct link between this tame and limited expression of disquiet and the Times’ failure to report on the community’s celebration of Israeli Independence Day, one of the largest ethnic gatherings of the year.

The Times’ editorial department told irate members of the community through a reader’s representative that (a) the assignment to cover the festival had gone to the international desk, which decided that since the event was receiving coverage in Israel, there was no reason to do so here; (b) that the one reporter it reserved for such events had attended a memorial for Daniel Pearl (less than a mile away) instead; and (c) the e-mail flagging the Independence Day ceremonies had disappeared.

In a letter to reader Michael Zarrabian, who complained about the dearth of coverage, the Times’ Gold wrote: "In any other year, for almost any other country celebrating its independence here in L.A., I could tell you that the answer would be that the paper cannot possibly cover all of these celebratory events that take place on any given weekend in the five counties that the Los Angeles Times serves. However, given the circumstances in the world today, that editorial decision to not cover this seems questionable."

However, the damage was done. Large numbers of Jewish subscribers from across the domestic and Israeli political spectrum have cancelled their subscriptions. On April 18, two days before the conclusion of the StandWithUs boycott, Bill O’Reilly of the Fox News Channel’s "The O’Reilly Factor" announced that 1,000 people had stopped delivery of the paper. According to StandWithUs, however, an internal document recently spirited out of the Times’ headquarters and into the hands of a competing newspaper reported that number of cancellations climbed to more than 6,000 last week alone. The Times would not confirm that number.

Times Senior Editor David Lauter defended his paper’s record April 28 at Temple Beth Am. The event, sponsored by the temple’s Brotherhood, drew a capacity crowd of about 100 . Several audience members waved clippings of offending articles at Lauter, demanding explanations. (For Lauter’s defense, see p. 7. )

Jewish communities in Minneapolis, Chicago, Boston and New York have registered grievances against their papers’ coverage of the Middle East. The protests were notable for the fact that the protesters came from across the political spectrum. In Los Angeles, concern for Israel and dislike of the Times has united Jews over the past months as few issues have.

Mention the Los Angeles Times to attorney Eric Menyuk, 42, of Agoura Hills, for example, and he vents his anger: "Their hypocrisy is almost beyond belief," he said, "and I’m a lawyer. If we are supposed to tolerate the killing of innocents in Kabul because we’re going after the Taliban — if the Times has no trouble calling Al Qaeda terrorists — then why do they make excuses for Palestinians, who dressed as Israeli soldiers go door-to-door shooting 5-year-olds?"

Sandy Beim, a member of Valley Beth Shalom who is active on the Valley congregation’s computer discussion board, said she did not cancel her subscription to the Times. However, she does have some sense that the community’s unhappiness may have registered with the paper.

"The layout of headlines and photos, especially on the front page, seems so much more even-handed then was the situation as recently as one week ago," she said. "If this is the product of boycotts or a general shift in reporting, I do not know. There is the probability that the boycott and threat of further and enlargement of this boycott movement contributed to this ‘new’ L.A. Times editing policy."

Mainstream community leaders said they sympathize with public dissatisfaction with the Times, but said a boycott is only one way of expressing dissatisfaction. "There are other ways," said Los Angeles Federation President John Fishel, noting that people should write letters to the editor about errors or misreporting. Over the years, Fishel said they have met with the editorial board to discuss the community’s concerns, and they are trying to set up another meeting soon.

Other community members suspect the efficacy of boycotts. "About a year ago, there was an attempt to boycott Radio Station KABC in an attempt to get conservative radio talk show host Larry Elder off the air," said boycott sympathizer Barry Lowenkron. "That didn’t work either."