Bosnia genocide unrolls in scroll of shame

Radovan Karadzic has been arrested. He faces charges of genocide and crimes against humanity before the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague. It’s an occasion to recall the genocide in Bosnia and the shame of those who did not prevent it.

When Yugoslavia broke up into its constituent nations in the early 1990s, Yugoslav Communist Party leader Slobodan Milosevic reinvented himself as a Serbian nationalist. He called on all the Serbs in Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia to form a single state. In Karadzic, he found a willing henchman.

Karadzic was the leader of the Bosnian Serbs. Until the war, Bosnia was an ethnically mixed state of Serbs, Croats and Bosnian Muslims. Karadzic’s mission was to create an ethnically pure Serbian space in eastern Bosnia that could be assimilated into a “greater Serbia.” In the war that followed, the euphemism “ethnic cleansing” entered the unholy vocabulary of genocide.

The war raged from 1992 to 1995. It was an ethnic war; a religious war; a war against people, property and culture; a war of irredentism; a war of savagery and barbarism; a war of shame.

First in the scroll of shame are the Serbs themselves. While not alone in perpetrating war crimes in Bosnia, they excelled. They let themselves be swept up in the spirit of fascism.

In Bosnia, they murdered and destroyed like beasts. In Serbia, they cheered. The voices in opposition were too quiet, too few.

Even today, too many Serbs regard Karadzic, Milosevic and his military commander, Ratko Mladic, as heroes instead of war criminals. Many greeted the capture of Karadzic with dismay. He might be free still, were his dispatch to The Hague not a condition for Serbia’s accession to the European Union.

Shame on the United Nations. When the war began, it imposed an arms embargo on all sides to the Bosnian war. The Bosnian Serbs continued to receive arms from the Yugoslav army. The Bosnian Muslims had nothing. Thus, the United Nations did not merely equate the aggressors with the victims it favored the aggressors in the guise of evenhandedness.

The Bosnian genocide included the murder of some 7,000-8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica by Serb forces. Despite the fact that Srebrenica was a U.N.-designated “safe area,” Dutch peacekeepers stood aside and did nothing to protect the Bosnian Muslims from the Serbs.

Shame on America. President George H.W. Bush did nothing to intervene. During the 1992 campaign, candidate Bill Clinton criticized Bush for his inaction. Then Clinton was elected and did nothing. A stream of excuses poured out of Washington, while the agony of the Bosnian Muslims went on.

When Clinton was finally roused to action, two weeks of bombing brought Serb aggression to an end. This showed how heart-rendingly easy it would have been for earlier intervention to save scores of thousands of lives.

Shame on NATO. For over a decade, while it patrolled Bosnia after the war, it failed to arrest the indicted Karadzic. At various times, his location was known, but the political will to seize him was missing. It is even said that the NATO powers quietly agreed to let him be, fearful of the repercussions.

Shame on the Jews? It is possible that the Jews have the least reason to be ashamed. When there were rallies and protests to support the Bosnian Muslims, Jews were in the forefront. Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut was a leader in the Senate effort to end the U.S. arms embargo against Bosnia.

At the 1993 dedication of the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel turned to President Clinton and said, “Mr. President, I cannot not tell you something. I have been in the former Yugoslavia last fall. I cannot sleep since for what I have seen. As a Jew, I am saying that we must do something to stop the bloodshed in that country. People fight each other, and children die. Why? Something, anything must be done.”

Putting war criminals on trial doesn’t bring anyone back to life, doesn’t return a single refugee to his home. Evil must be fought before the thousands or the millions die, not merely deplored or put on trial afterward. If we don’t really believe this, we should stop saying, “Never again.”

Paul Kujawsky is a member of the board of directors of Democrats for Israel, Los Angeles. He can be reached at

The Lion in Waiting

Last Friday evening, I was pacing backstage at the University of Judaism’s (UJ) Gindi Auditorium, rehearsing my introduction for Ehud Barak.

Born on a kibbutz, 36 years in the Israel Defense Forces, fought in three wars, architect of the Entebbe raid, disguised as a woman to kill Munich terrorists in Beirut, Israel’s most decorated soldier, elected Prime Minister in 1999…

That’s when I saw him, sitting on a stage box in the shadows: Ehud Barak.

In person Barak is somehow both more and less imposing than he seems from afar.

He is stocky, with a healthy paunch for his 64 years. Glasses give him the professorial air — he received his master’s in engineering from Stanford University. But when he addresses me — How many people are here? What are their politics? What time do we end? — it’s clear I am in the presence of a man used to quick orders and decisive action. He tells an aide to have his driver come to the UJ on Mulholland Drive.

He turns to me: “There’s a David Lynch film about that?”

“Mulholland Falls,” I say. “A strange movie,” he says. “Very strange, but interesting.”

For an instant, I panic — is he going to order me to explain David Lynch?

For three days last week, Barak’s comeback trail to Israeli politics detoured through Southern California. On Monday he spoke to 6,000 people at the UJ lecture series at the Universal Amphitheatre; on Sunday he spoke at Congregation B’nai Israel in Tustin. And on Friday night he joined 200 guests for a Shabbat dinner at the UJ, followed by an onstage interview with me at Gindi Hall.

To prepare, I’d e-mailed a mutual acquaintance who’d worked closely with Barak at Camp David. I asked him what sort of questions would elicit the most interesting responses. “Barak is a highly educated, well-read person with exceptional (!!!!) analytical ability,” he wrote back. “You will enjoy asking him big picture questions and letting him elaborate.”

Our conversation began on familiar ground — the failed Camp David negotiations between Barak, President Bill Clinton and Yasser Arafat — then quickly circled the globe.

It was the collapse of Camp David in 2000, followed by the second intifada that brought Barak’s term as prime minister to a quick, crushing end. For Barak, it was the risk Israel took for peace that laid bare Arafat’s true intentions.

I realized for him it was not about “undoing 1967” — the occupation of lands captured in the Six Day War — but about “undoing 1947” — the year before Israel became a state.

“They should have taken away Arafat’s Nobel Prize and given him an Academy Award, for Best Actor,” he said.

Barak defended his offer to trade parts of Jerusalem and give the Palestinians control over the Temple Mount. His reasons were brusque and pragmatic. Why should Israel control Arab villages that have nothing to do with Jerusalem?, he said. As for the Temple Mount, it has long been in control of the Muslim waqf; he was codifying the status quo.

Right now, Barak doesn’t see a partner for peace among the Palestinians; not Hamas, and he has his doubts about Mahmoud Abbas. And so, where does that leave Israel? For now, he said, Israel can sit tight. When the Palestinians are ready to negotiate, he said, “we will stretch out one hand, and keep a gun in the other.”

In the meantime, Israel faces grave regional problems, the prospect of a nuclear Iran chief among them. He said that within a short time Iran could “cross the nuclear threshold.” He has no doubt their engineers are capable — he studied with some of them at Stanford.

How to thwart them? A multilateral solution that involves the United States, Russia, China and the Europeans is preferable. Would it work? He was pessimistic. And then what?: “I don’t believe in speaking openly, as some in the government do, about our other options.”

I asked Barak if the Iraq War has made Israel safer. The initial military victory, he said, took out an avowed enemy. But the subsequent occupation, the descent into civil war, and the rise of the Shiite influence, has made Israel less safe. (When I asked him if, as former commander-in-chief, he believes 21,000 more troops would solve anything, he took whatever the Israeli equivalent of the Fifth is).

The war in Lebanon — which Barak made clear the current Israeli government mishandled — did not erase the threat from Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorists in southern Lebanon. I asked if he believes the military inexperience of some current Israeli leaders was a factor in the war’s outcome.

He declined to answer directly: “Napoleon said an army is like a noodle. Lead it from the front and it follows straight behind. Try to push it from the rear, and it goes all squiggly.”

The upshot of these events, said Barak, is that Israel faces a Middle East in which radical Shiite power could extend from Teheran to Baghdad to Damascus to Beirut — “the Shiite banana,” he called it. And make no mistake, the virulently anti-Israel rantings of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are but the vocalization of beliefs that even more “moderate” Iranian leaders hold.

Bad as that scenario is, the world would be a safer place, he said, if America would work closely with China and Russia to set and enforce international norms. That means, Barak said, Democrats would have to overcome their revulsion to Russian and Chinese human rights abuses, and Republicans would have to overcome their antipathy to Russia and China. But, Barak said, there is no better way in today’s world to confront the threats of nuclear proliferation, Islamic fundamentalism and terror than for the three most powerful countries to band together.

On a more optimistic note, Barak offered the audience reassurance about Israel’s security.

Spectator – The Theme Park Without a Prayer

Bible Storyland must have a guardian angel. Dissolution by the clergy, dormancy for 45 years and a fatal fire were not powerful enough to erase the plans for this Bible-based theme park from history.

And now, art collector Harvey Jordan is working to inform Californians about this piece of their past in a new exhibition at the University of Judaism titled, “Dream Parks: Artwork From the Bible Storyland Theme Park.”

Nearly five decades have elapsed since Nat Winecoff, former Disney promoter and theme park developer, conceived of a $15 million Bible story-based Disneyland-esque place, which he planned to build on 220 acres of land in Cucamonga (now Rancho Cucamonga). Investors included actor Jack Haley and Donald Duncan of Yo-Yo and modern-day parking meter fame. However, the clergy allegedly quashed the idea and Bible Storyland was never erected.

More than 200 drawings and watercolor paintings of Winecoff’s brainchild, created by former Disney artist Bruce Bushman and a handful of other artists, remained after the deal went sour. Another art collector purchased the artwork from Winecoff’s estate and kept it holed up in his apartment until he and his possessions perished in a fire. Miraculously, 50 paintings of Bible Storyland survived the blaze.

Bible Storyland was a unique concept that mingled Disneyland-type family-oriented rides and attractions with biblical stories. A press release issued in 1960 described the plans at length.

To be constructed in the shape of a heart, Bible Storyland would have included different “lands,” each with its own theme, tied to either pre-Christian times, the Bible or the New Testament. Parkgoers would arrive at a Star of David garden and could then saunter through the Garden of Eden and visit Adam and Eve. Visitors could also venture to Israel and ride animals through Noah’s Ark Carousel, explore the inside of the whale with Jonah and watch Moses on Mount Sinai. Other locales would have included ancient Egypt, Babylon and Rome, as well as Ur, where Abraham began his journey to the Promised Land.

Jordan has assumed the role of promoter and savior of the history of Bible Storyland.

“I am now the holder of Bible Storyland,” he said. “From what I understand, I have the rest of the drawings and nobody else has kept them alive or written about it.”

The art can be seen at the Borstein Gallery at the University of Judaism through Aug. 20. 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel Air. For more information, call (310) 440-1201 or visit

Community Briefs

Rabin Tribute Marks 10th Anniversary of Assassination

A lively, heartfelt tribute to former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin brought more than 400 people to the University of Judaism to mark the 10th year since an assassin took his life.

“I miss the man himself; I miss the man who stole all the chocolates with me from his table,” said Eitan Haber, Rabin’s former chief of staff. “I also miss his fixation on all the small details, his nervousness and his short temper.”

The Labor Party prime minister was assassinated Nov. 4, 1995, at a Tel Aviv rally by extremist Yigal Amir, who opposed the Oslo peace accords. A year earlier, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had shared the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize with Rabin, a Six-Day War commander.

The two-hour Nov. 29 tribute, hosted by talk show host Dennis Prager, featured speakers and songs, including the children’s choir, Tzeirey USA (Agoura), singing The Beatles tune, “Let It Be,” in Hebrew. The tribute was organized by the Tarzana-based Council of Israeli Community, The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance and Temple Beth Haverim of Agoura Hills.

Haber recalled how the press statement announcing that Rabin had died during surgery was written by him on the back of a piece of paper he fished from his pocket while at the hospital. The paper’s front side was the schedule of the last week of Rabin’s life.

“I will not forget this until my very last days,” he said.

Israeli Consul General Ehud Danoch said that after the assassination, Israelis of all political stripes understood that “whatever the disagreement, whatever the argument, fulfilling the wishes of a democracy will not cost them their lives.”

Danoch described Rabin as “part of a unique generation — those who truly lived the history of Israel.”

Haber pointed out that Rabin would have preferred to talk peace with someone nonviolent, such as the “queen of Holland or the prince of Monaco.” Then he quickly added that Rabin told him peace “is made with the bitter enemies.” — David Finnigan, Contributing Writer

Cedars Hosts Conclave on Stem Cell Developments

When California voters passed a $3 billion stem cell research initiative, they not only opened the door to medical advances but also to a collaboration with scientists from Israel, which is an established leader in the field.

To seed that partnership, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center recently hosted a two-day symposium that attracted more than 300 physicians, scientists, bioethicists and entrepreneurs.

“Our goal was to … encourage collaboration between scientists and clinicians who are doing cutting-edge research,” said David Meyer, Cedars’ vice president for research and scientific affairs, who coordinated the program, along with Nissin Benvenisty of Hebrew University.

The first day of the program focused on research, drawing scientists from such institutions as Cedars-Sinai, Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles and UCLA, along with counterparts at Hadassah Hospital, Hebrew University, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and the Weizmann Institute of Science.

One presenter, Technion’s Lior Gepstein, described how he and colleagues used embryonic stem cells to produce heart muscle cells that can adapt to the structure and electrical pulse of the cardiac tissue into which it is implanted. While many hurdles remain, such technology might some day be used to produce heart pacemakers made of living tissues, rather than implanted electronic devices.

On the second day, seven Israeli biotech companies involved in developing stem cell therapies explained their work to potential investors. Southern California-Israel Chamber of Commerce helped organize that portion of the program. — Nancy Sokoler Steiner, Contributing Writer


Israel, N.Y. Schools Drop Weinberg Suits

Yeshiva University (YU) in New York and a Derech Etz Chaim yeshiva (DEC) in Israel have settled a lawsuit sparked by allegations that a former California rabbi made sexual advances toward students.

The settlement, which allows YU students to get credit for taking classes at DEC, closes one avenue through which to answer 20-year-old questions about whether Rabbi Matis Weinberg, who now lives in Jerusalem’s Old City, might have stepped over the line from a nonconformist educator to an alleged sexual predator.

YU unceremoniously cut ties with DEC last year when allegations arose about about Weinberg’s behavior toward a young man currently in Israel and about Weinberg’s tenure at Kerem, a boarding yeshiva he founded in Santa Clarita in the late 1970s.

Some critics believe YU is overcompensating for historic lapses in the Baruch Lanner case, when Orthodox institutions had for decades covered up his sexual and emotional abuse of teenagers (Lanner’s 2002 conviction for abusing girls in the high school is being appealed).

The dispute between YU and DEC ended earlier this month when the parties agreed to drop a suit and countersuit in Federal Court in Manhattan, where DEC had sued YU in June 2003 for cutting the school out of its Joint Israel Program, which allows YU students to enroll in yeshivas in Israel.

YU countersued DEC for "utterly failing to protect" its students, most of them post-high school students from the United States, from the accused rabbi.

The agreement, which came after a harsh rebuke from the judge when near-settlements failed because of disagreement over wording, drops both suits and states that students can apply for YU credits for their time at DEC. It does not reinstate DEC into the Joint Israel Program, which would allow students already enrolled in YU to take classes at DEC.

YU cut ties to DEC in February 2003 when allegations arose that Weinberg, whom YU claims was a figurehead at DEC, allegedly made sexual advances to boys at Kerem 20 years ago and to a young man in Israel last year. Weinberg denied any wrongdoing, and DEC, which claims its ties to Weinberg were tenuous to begin with, terminated the weekly class Weinberg gave soon after the allegations arose.

While Weinberg had no official role at DEC, his students founded the school, and his sons and many of his students teach there.

The case also went before a panel of rabbis in New York last May. The panel collected testimony from alleged victims, then sent the case to a beit din (rabbinic court) in Jerusalem. The beit din in Israel chose not to pursue the case.

While rumors have circulated that some alleged victims are planning to sue and that Interpol is investigating the matter, no such suits or investigations have been verified — proof, Weinberg supporters say, that he did nothing wrong.

Weinberg has many supporters in Los Angeles, mostly students he mentored in the 1980s at Kerem. Those students are convinced that the allegations against Weinberg are a cruel vendetta against a master educator whose only crime was refusing to conform.

"I believe that Rabbi Weinberg is a good, wholesome person and I do not believe any of the allegations against him," said Rabbi Ari Heir, director of the Jewish Studies Institute at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who is among a group of community leaders in Los Angeles and elsewhere who attended Kerem. "I think that 99 percent of what is going in is that people didn’t like him anyway because he’s an iconoclast, and people in the Orthodox world don’t like an iconoclast."

Heir and others who called The Jewish Journal said that Weinberg was affectionate and physical in his highly personal and effective pedagogical method, but never inappropriate.

Reports in the New York Jewish Week last year paint a different picture, where victims alleged that Weinberg stepped over the line and made clear sexual advances. Most of those allegations are from Kerem students, and one mother alleged that Weinberg behaved inappropriately with her son, who was a student in Israel (not at DEC) last year.

Many were looking to the beit din and to the trial court to either clear or condemn Weinberg’s reputation, but now both those avenues have been closed.

It is not clear whether or where this case will be pursued next.

DEC, meanwhile, hopes to get its program back off the ground. Before the controversy, the yeshiva had about 45 students, a number that dropped precipitously this past year. But Rabbi Aharon Katz, dean and founder of DEC, said with the settlement, students have already started enrolling and he is expecting about 30 boys next year.

A Class Trip to Remember

Yossi Sevy is the son of two Holocaust survivors who met and married in Israel. His father survived the infamous death march from Auschwitz to Germany, and his mother survived Bergen-Belsen.

Next month Sevy will relive, in part, his parents’ journey with his 18-year-old son, Nadav, as they traverse the 2-mile walk from the so-called “death gate” of the former Auschwitz Nazi death camp to the International Monument of Holocaust Victims of the Birkenau death camp.

Nadav is one of about 23 students committed to a three-week senior class trip planned for the fourth graduating class of Irvine’s Tarbut V’Torah Community Day School. Their sobering itinerary includes Auschwitz, Schindler’s factory and the Warsaw ghetto, followed by Israel’s modern cities, historical sights and natural beauty.

“It will be an emotional and strong experience for both of us,” said Sevy, of Irvine. “It’s a wonderful way of summarizing 12 years of Jewish education.”

He thinks witnessing the residue of ferocious anti-Semitism will strip away students’ complacence about their Jewish heritage and instill a protective pride for Israel.

“I don’t blame them. They live in normal neighborhoods just like Jews did in Germany,” Sevy said.

Today, unlike then, Jews under threat can escape, like the modern-day exodus to Israel by Jews from the former Soviet Union and Argentina.

“It’s my duty to make sure his grandchild will keep the inheritance,” Sevy said.

Last summer when Rabbi Claudio Kaiser Blueth, the school’s director of Jewish studies, proposed the trip he hoped it would become a school tradition.

“We’re not going to Disneyland to have fun,” he said. “We are going to Poland to expose the seniors to the reality to be there. Then we go to Israel to see what has been created, to see the secret of survival. The theme is from death to life, from destruction to the future.”

Recalling the Holocaust is a recurring subject at the school, whose founder, Irving Gelman, outlived Nazi persecution by hiding underground. It’s also a subject woven into the dinner-table conversations of many students. Several grandparents of students in the 31-member class were concentration camp survivors.

Although most in the class are 18-year-olds that could take advantage of a free stay in Israel courtesy of the Birthright Israel program, administrators and parents think the $3,000-per-person class trip is a fitting finale to years of friendship, and will convert textbook learning into a behavior-altering experience. An early May 20 graduation ceremony is planned before the trip, which runs May 30-June 20.

“We want to walk from Auschwitz to Birkenau, walking in the footsteps of their grandparents,” said Kaiser Blueth, who will accompany the teens. Also going on the trip are a few parents; the school’s principal, Howard Haas; and its ever-present security guard, Shalom Shalev.

Thousands of youths from around the world take part in the “March of the Living,” on April 19, marking the anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising in 1943.

Parent Sheila Stopnitzky, of Laguna Hills, expects the trip to give her son, Jesse, the grounding to assume similar roles as his parents, who support numerous Jewish causes and were founding members of Morasha Jewish Day School in Rancho Santa Margarita.

On a previous trip to Israel five years ago, the family felt the concussion of retaliatory bombing from Lebanon.

“They could see the necessity of protecting Israel,” Stopnitzky said.

But even more, she thinks the trip can solidify for her son his role in ensuring that Israel remains a haven for oppressed Jews.

“It’s a very real thing in this household,” said Stopnitzky, whose father-in-law, Karol, fled to Israel after surviving two concentration camps. His 11 siblings were exterminated.

“The most tragic part of all is the guilt that comes with survival,” he said. “The man could never just enjoy life because of the guilt that plagued him.”

The school is hoping to subsidize about half of each student’s travel costs through a $100-per-ticket raffle drawing this month for a 2004 Mustang.

For more information, call Tarbut V’Torah at (949) 509-9500.

Schwarzenegger Retracts Waldheim Wedding Toast

California gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger said that he regrets his 1986 wedding toast to former U.N. Secretary Kurt Waldheim.

"It was a mistake," Schwarzenegger told The Jewish Journal. "You can’t go [back]. It’s always easier to be smart in hindsight."

Schwarzenegger spoke to The Journal during a press conference following a live Sept. 25 town hall meeting on the nationally syndicated radio program "The Sean Hannity Show." The Republican Jewish Coalition, KABC and Fox News cosponsored the event.

Despite Schwarzenegger’s openness in addressing questions of his father’s Nazi past, the "Terminator" star had until now been less than forthcoming about repudiating the wedding toast he made to the former Nazi officer.

In a Sept. 19 editorial, Jewish Journal Editor Rob Eshman called on Schwarzenegger to "come clean on Waldheim."

"It may not expedient," Eshman wrote, "but it’s right."

Waldheim’s Nazi past came to light in March 1986 during his Austrian presidential bid; the former officer participated in an army intelligence unit that committed atrocities while stationed in the Balkans. In 1944, Waldheim approved anti-Semitic leaflets to be dropped behind Russian lines, one of which ended, "enough of the Jewish war, kill the Jews, come over." During Waldheim’s tenure at the United Nations, the international body passed the controversial resolution equating Zionism with racism.

The revelations of Waldheim’s Nazi past led the State Department to bar his entry into the United States. Schwarzenegger, during his May 1986 wedding to Maria Shriver, a niece of John F. Kennedy, took time to toast the absent Waldheim, who had sent a gift.

Schwarzenegger addressed his father’s participation in the Nazi Party after a 1990 investigation by the Simon Wiesenthal Center. A more recent follow-up investigation by the center found nothing to link his father’s unit to Nazi war crimes.

Schwarzenegger has personally donated $750,000 to the Wiesenthal Center and helped raised up to $5 million over the years, the center said.

As far as outreach to the Jewish community, two-thirds of which are registered Democrats, Schwarzenegger doesn’t have a specific plan.

"I think that it doesn’t matter what your background or religion is," he said. "I think the key is that everyone wants to have economic recovery in California."

Soldiers Celebrate High Holidays in Iraq

When Rabbi Mitchell Ackerson blew the shofar this past Rosh Hashanah, it reverberated throughout one of Saddam Hussein’s former palaces. More than 100 Jewish members of the U.S. forces stationed in Iraq attended the High Holiday services at the former Iraqi dictator’s Baghdad compound.

They seemed shocked and awed, not least by the echo.

Then under a late afternoon sun, the group performed the customary Tashlich ceremony outside the palace, casting pieces of bread representing sins into a private lake once owned by the Iraqi dictator’s sons, Uday and Qusay.

"It was a gorgeous setting," said Ackerson, who is from Baltimore. "It tells me we can actually put these places to good use."

As the senior rabbinic chaplain for the U.S. operation in Iraq, Ackerson said he wanted this High Holiday season to start with a spiritual bang for the estimated 500 Jews among the 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and Kuwait.

It seems to have worked.

"One sergeant told me it was the most meaningful Rosh Hashanah he’s had in 20 years," Ackerson said of the palace services.

There were also services for Jewish service personnel in Tikrit, north of Baghdad, which drew some 50 people, and two services in Kuwait, where U.S. forces also are stationed.

American donors enhanced the holiday celebrations for the Jews serving in the Gulf. Three New York synagogues donated four Torah scrolls, each insured for $10,000, and one Maryland congregation sent prayer books and Hebrew learning material for the holiday events, which will include Yom Kippur and Sukkot services.

The Torahs capped a months-long civilian grass-roots effort dubbed "Operation Apples and Honey" by the Jewish Educators Network of New York. The group also sent 1,200 kosher dinners and 800 bagel-and-lox lunches to the troops to complement their usual ready-to-eat meals, along with prayer books, books on Judaism and ritual objects such as Kiddush Cups.

Maj. David Rosner, a U.S. Marine who served in the first Gulf War in addition to the current conflict, said Jewish troops deeply appreciate such efforts.

But not all Jewish armed personnel made it to the holiday services.

One Jewish GI who had planned to attend the Baghdad service on Rosh Hashanah was Spc. Matthew Boyer, 24, a member of the field artillery unit of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, 3rd Brigade, which is guarding oil fields north of the city.

But Boyer — who participated in the mission that hunted down Uday and Qusay — was called to a special mission instead. During that mission, a friend was fatally shot in the neck.

Others Jewish servicemen were able to come home, at least briefly, for the High Holidays.

Kayitz Finley, 21, a marine corporal from Los Angeles, is at home on 30 days’ leave. The son of ex-Marine Rabbi Mordecai Finley of Congregation Ohr HaTorah in Los Angeles, the young Finley said he has encountered all kinds of hostilities in Iraq.

In his first of many firefights during the war, Finley recalled lying in a ditch and watching a rocket-propelled grenade fly over his head "so close you could see the engravings on it. But I wiped away all the fear, picked up my rifle and just went to work."

Netanyahu’s Tactical Mistake

Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a major tactical blunder when he pushed through the vote in the Likud Party central committee to the effect that they would no longer discuss or consider the future establishment of a Palestinian state as a means to resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict. Not only did he lose public support inside Israel, not only did he lose the international image he has taken so long to build up in the foreign news media, especially in the United States, but more important than all that, he tried to force his party into adopting a policy that is passé. The decision of the Likud Party was, to put it simply, meaningless.

Veteran hawk, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, had no problem opposing the Netanyahu proposal, even if it clashes with his own long-term ideological position on the issue of a Palestinian state. Sharon has, since coming to power, mentioned the future establishment of such a state — even if his version of such a state is unlikely to be accepted by the Palestinians because it probably falls far short of their expectations — because everyone knows that, if and when this conflict is ever to be resolved, it will only be through complete physical separation between the two peoples and their respective territories — the two-state solution.

The two-state solution has become accepted by all — the international community, the Palestinians and the vast majority of Israelis — precisely because it is a realistic solution to the conflict. People are gradually moving away from the radical ideological positions they have held for so long and are coalescing around a centrist position based on realism. Fewer people today believe that Israel can, or should, continue to control three million Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, regardless or not of whether they believe that this is part of a Greater Israel promised to their forefathers by God many thousands of years ago. Equally, fewer people believe that a single binational democratic state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean is a feasible possibility in today’s political climate, even if they truly believe that this is the only just solution to the conflict.

The return to violence and terrorism during the past 18 months has brought more and more people to understand that the only way forward to some sort of future regional stability is for ultimate separation between the two peoples into their own states, within each of which the respective governments will be responsible for their own affairs, maintaining law and order and ensuring that the “other” state is not, nor does it feel, threatened by activities taking place beyond the border.

Ten years ago, one couldn’t even talk about the idea of a Palestinian state amongst Israelis. But this is just one more of those issues that has been taboo in the past, and which has gradually become part of the public discourse as a result of the changing events within the region. Fifteen years ago, most Israelis couldn’t even think about the possibility of directly negotiating with, or talking to, the Palestinian representatives, and now it is second nature for many Israelis. Five years ago it was still taboo to even suggest that the issues of Jerusalem or refugee return could be discussed as negotiable topics, and yet they have all been firmly placed as part of the public discourse, despite the problematic and sensitive nature of these highly symbolic issues. The most recent taboo to bite the dust concerns the active role to be played by international peace-keeping forces if, and when, a new agreement is implemented on the ground. Public surveys show that Israelis are increasingly supporting the role of strong third-party intervention, whereas in the past, they would never have accepted such a move.

All of these issues — Palestinian state, Jerusalem, refugees, international intervention — have their own way of creeping into the public discourse and becoming part of the agenda. At first, they are usually attributed to the domain of the “radical” thinkers with no basis in reality. They are rejected as being non-negotiable, nondiscussable, by the mainstream politicians. Then they creep into the academic debate and, at the same time, are introduced again and again into political chat shows and on the op-ed pages of the newspapers. Then, some politicians begin to mention these ideas and they appear on the “informal” documents and proposals of back room, off-the-track negotiations as each side tries out new ideas on the other without making any formal commitment. And then they appear in the public opinion surveys that are so common in Israel, as a means of sounding out the wider population and gauging the level of support for such ideas. Once the taboo ideas get this far, they are part of the public agenda and there is absolutely nothing — certainly not a politically manipulated vote in the Likud Party meeting — which can do anything to turn the clock back and remove them from the public debate or from the negotiating agenda.

If there is to be a return to political negotiations when the current bout of violence comes to an end, then there cannot be any issue which either side wants to raise and which is not placed firmly on the table. Back at Oslo, some major issues such as Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, etc., were put off to a later date, because it was felt they were too sensitive to discuss at such an early stage of the negotiations. But all of these issues have now become part of the public debate. Netanyahu — in his attempt to remove the debate over a Palestinian state from the negotiating agenda — simply proved that he didn’t understand the way in which public discourse is created and legitimized and, as such, has proved beyond a doubt that he will never be a prime minister to bring peace to the troubled land of Israel.

David Newman is chairman of the department of politics and government at Ben Gurion University of the Negev and editor of the International Journal of Geopolitics. He recently visited Los Angeles.

Eulogies:Albert Spiegel

Albert Spiegel, former president of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, died at the age of 86.

Spiegel’s commitment and dedication to our community was surpassed only by the passion and zeal he displayed as he worked tirelessly to fulfill the Jewish tradition of tikkun olam — making our world a better place.

He was a member of National Campaign Cabinet for United Jewish Appeal, member of the board of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, trustee for the Jewish Publication Society of America, member of the board of Overseers for The Jewish Theological Seminary of America and many more leadership positions in a total of some 18 organizations.

Spiegel was a Harvard Law School graduate, resided in Beverly Hills and was married to Bernice, with whom he shared four children.

The officers and board of directors of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles mourn his passing and wish to express their condolences to his family. — The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles

Milosevic in The Hague

"A triumph for the civilized world." So characterized The New York Times about the war crimes trial of Slobodan Milosevic that started this past week in The Hague.

Certainly there is cause in the international legal community for such triumphalist sentiment. When the United Nations Security Council created the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in 1993, few could have possibly foreseen that Milosevic would ever stand trial.

As Richard Dicker, a lawyer for Human Rights Watch, put it: "When I was here in 1996, it was derided as the international tribunal for small fry. Tomorrow the biggest fish of them all goes on trial."

Yet in trying the "biggest fish," the tribunal also faces several risks. A first set of concerns involves the nature of the charges and the character of the defendant.

The political thinker Otto Kirchheimer argued that all trials, at least those that are fairly conducted, must be characterized by an "irreducible risk" — the chance that the prosecution will fail to shoulder its burden of proving guilt, and that the accused will consequently be acquitted. In the case of Milosevic’s trial, this risk is not entirely negligible.

Proof that might be persuasive to a historian or neutral observer might run afoul of the court’s rules of evidence. However else one might characterize Milosevic, none gainsay his cunning, and to create a legally compelling case against him will require both a solid prosecutorial strategy and acts of great courage on the part of witnesses called to testify against their former president.

But even if Milosevic should be convicted, the trial could founder in other respects. Spectacular trials of international crimes — such as the Nuremberg, Eichmann and, now, Milosevic trials — are inevitably asked to do more than simply render justice to the accused in a conventional legal sense.

These trials are asked to clarify the historical record and to demonstrate to the world community the sober and grand neutrality of the law. In his self-pitying, yet intelligently prepared, harangues before the tribunal, Milosevic threatens these aims.

The trial promises to be long — lasting for two years, by most estimates — and the court will have to work hard to make sure that Milosevic’s attacks on its jurisdiction and self-serving presentation of history do not end up hijacking the didactic aims of the trial.

A second set of concerns implicates the larger trend of judging international politics by the standards of criminal law. Until Nuremberg, the notion that a statesman could be treated as a criminal in international law was unthinkable.

The act of state doctrine and the principle of sovereign immunity — basic norms of international diplomacy and law — barred foreign courts from subjecting independent states and their representatives to criminal proceedings. This arrangement long left international criminal law something of an oxymoron. A nation found in violation of an international convention could be punished — but only collectively through the kind of reparations disastrously imposed upon Germany following its defeat in World War I.

Nuremberg changed much of this. The charter of the ground-breaking trial of Hermann Göring and other leading Nazi functionaries adopted the radical idea that statesmen could be held personally responsible for the criminal acts of their regime, even acts committed against their own domestic population.

For years, however, Nuremberg’s legacy remained more conceptual than practical. Decades of Cold War struggle cynically cast international law as a partisan tool of geopolitics, to be championed when advantageous and ignored when not. Only with the explosion of regional violence unleashed by the demise of the Cold War’s strategic equipoise has the world community rededicated itself to the enforcement of international criminal law.

The trial of Milosevic stands as the greatest achievement of this redoubled commitment. Unfortunately, some international legal activists have aggressively sought to push the Milosevic precedent in directions that are far from salutary.

In Belgium, a nation that has adopted a remarkably liberal approach to matters of jurisdiction, legal groups have prepared cases against everyone from Ariel Sharon to Yasser Arafat and Fidel Castro. And no less a writer than Christopher Hitchens has passionately argued in favor of trying Henry Kissinger as a war criminal.

These agitations, however well-meaning, are to be regretted. For better or worse, the law is not generally concerned with political complexity; it remains oblivious to the nuances of diplomacy and realpolitik and cares only that violators of its norms receive punishment.

Long after emerging as a suspect in international crimes, Milosevic apparently received personal calls from President Bill Clinton, the tenor of which was intimate, and, on the Serb’s part, avuncular. To the legal crusader, this no doubt stands as an odious example of Clinton’s spineless kowtowing to an international thug; to others, however, it signals a politically sensitive gesture to prod a bellicose foreign leader to respect a precarious peace (in this case, the Dayton Accords).

In this regard, of equal importance to the future of international law as the opening of the Milosevic trial was the recent decision (Feb. 14) handed down by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), also housed in The Hague, though institutionally autonomous from the Milosevic tribunal. In a case involving an arrest warrant issued by a Belgium magistrate for Aboulay Yerodia Ndombasi, the Congolese foreign minister at the time of the warrant’s issuance, the ICJ concluded that serving statesmen were shielded from criminal prosecution in foreign national courts.

On first blush, this decision seems to contradict the spirit of the Milosevic trial: it appears to defend the very prerogatives of statesmen that have long permitted them to flaunt international law with impunity. But in fact, the decision simply places a necessary corrective on the agitations of overzealous international lawyers, a corrective that points international law in a direction both practical and wise.

The decision, which effectively ends any effort to put Sharon on trial in Belgium, guarantees that international law is not turned into the mouthpiece of global political grievance. By limiting the opportunities to turn the law into an all-purpose tool of political harassment, the ICJ has properly increased the likelihood that international trials will be reserved for the perpetrators of only the most extreme abuses and atrocities. In so doing, it has preserved and enhanced the ultimate efficacy of international justice.

The trial of Milosevic goes forward, but not that of Sharon. And so it should be. To treat Sharon as a Milosevic would not demonstrate that such law binds the strong as well as the weak, the triumphant as well as the conquered. It would simply demonstrate that a fervid breed of legal crusaders had placed diplomacy under the majestic tyranny of the law.