Global March to Jerusalem could bring thousands of Arabs to Israel’s borders


If pro-Palestinian calls for a so-called Global March to Jerusalem are heeded, thousands of Arabs from the West Bank, Gaza, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria could converge on Israel’s borders.

The day, March 30, marks Land Day, which commemorates the deaths of six Arab Israelis killed in 1976 during protests against Israeli government land policies that confiscated privately owned Arab land.

While last year’s Land Day commemorations were held without incident, rallies two months later to mark the anniversary of what the Palestinians call the Nakba—the “catastrophe” of Israel’s founding in 1948—brought thousands of Arabs from Lebanon, Syria and Gaza to march on Israel’s borders, and 13 marchers were killed.

A month later, on June 5, hundreds of Syrian protesters stormed the border with Israel on Naksa Day, the anniversary of the 1967 Six-Day War, and there were more casualties.

“The IDF is prepared for any eventuality and will do whatever is necessary to protect Israeli borders and residents,” the Israel Defense Forces’ spokesman told JTA this week when asked how the IDF is preparing for Land Day.

Citing senior defense officials, Haaretz reported that the IDF is prepared for “relatively serious events.” The Israeli daily added that the most current intelligence assessments believe that the demonstrations Friday will be “limited.”

Preparations for Land Day security have used last year’s Nakba and Naksa day rallies as models, according to reports. Security forces have updated their knowledge of non-lethal crowd dispersal methods, while border troops have gone on higher alert and additional IDF troops have been moved to the borders.

Israeli officials reportedly were most concerned about the Lebanese border and asked the Lebanese government to rein in protesters. The main Lebanese demonstration is planned for the Beaufort Castle, which is several miles north of the Israeli city of Metullah, rather than the border with Israel, the Lebanese branch of the Global March to Jerusalem announced last week. The number of demonstrators at Beaufort will be limited to 5,000, according to the Lebanese Daily Star newspaper, citing organizers of the march.

March general coordinator Ribhi Halloum told reporters earlier in the week that the march would be peaceful.

“The aim of the Al Quds march is to express a message of protest and condemnation against the policy of Israeli occupation in the occupied Palestinian territories,” he said, using the Arabic name for Jerusalem. “We will under no circumstances agree to violence or a violation of the borders. We will maintain the policy of nonviolent protest we have agreed to uphold.”

Land Day events also will be held inside Israel’s borders under the auspices of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee with the banner “Save the lands and prevent the Judaization of Jerusalem.”

Israeli police have been cautioned to keep out of Arab villages in Israel in order to maintain calm.

Meanwhile, jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences in an Israeli prison for his role in five murders during the second intifada, called on Palestinians to launch a popular resistance campaign against Israel. His statement, issued in advance of Land Day, called on the Palestinian Authority to stop all coordination with Israel in the economic and security realms and to stop peace negotiations.

Israel and the Palestinian Authority currently are not engaged in negotiations.

Local diabetes fighter goes global with Discovery Health Channel documentary


Dr. Francine Kaufman has seen the incidence of diabetes skyrocket in the last 30 years. The pediatric endocrinologist is director of the Comprehensive Childhood Diabetes Center at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, and she says the disease’s local increase is part of a worldwide phenomenon.

In Los Angeles, the number of adults with diabetes stands at about 600,000, or 8.6 percent of the population, up from 6.6 percent in 1997. Nationally, 20.8 million children and adults — about 7 percent of the population — have diabetes. Worldwide, more than 180 million people are estimated to have diabetes, a number expected to double by the year 2030.

The author of “Diabesity: The Diabetes-Obesity Epidemic that Threatens America and What We Must Do To Stop It,” Kaufman has been on the front lines of fighting these escalating numbers as a clinician, researcher and a former president of the Diabetes Association of America.

Now Kaufman is turning to the small screen to bring attention to this global epidemic in a one-hour, commercial-free Discovery Health documentary narrated by actress Glenn Close, “Diabetes: A Global Epidemic,” on Sunday, Nov. 18.

Kaufman spent six months visiting every continent except Antarctica to explore the challenges of diabetes as well as the success stories. Logging about 150,000 air miles, she visited clinics, met with government officials and spoke directly with patients.

“There’s a common theme: Diabetes can potentially devastate people’s life anywhere, both the countries with tremendous resources and the countries with almost no resources,” Kaufman told The Journal. “It knows no boundaries.”

Diabetes is an inability of the body to use or produce insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar. Over time, diabetes can damage the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves. Ninety percent of people with diabetes worldwide have Type-2 diabetes, which is largely the result of excess body weight and physical inactivity. Lifestyle changes can delay or prevent its development, which is why Kaufman is so passionate about the issue.

Kaufman’s journey began in December 2006 in Capetown, South Africa, during the 19th World Diabetes Congress. Traveling to the city’s outskirts, she saw the poor living in shacks that lacked running water or electricity. She visited a residential hospital where children receive care because their families cannot provide it. While some don’t believe in Western medicine, others suffer due to unreliable insulin delivery or a lack of resources to refrigerate the perishable animal hormone.

At each destination she visited, Kaufman found cultural factors that impact diabetes:

  • In Los Angeles, she focused on the largely Latino patient population, whose genetics and dietary customs pose problems. “I was raised on rice, beans, tortillas, meat and cheese,” explains one woman, whose weight had once reached more than 300 pounds.
  • In India, a country with a history of starvation, the populace largely perceives obesity as a sign of health and wealth. Street vendors sell fried foods on every corner, and the bikes that Kaufman had seen on her previous visit have been mostly replaced by scooters and cars. The cultural practice of bare feet poses particular challenges because diabetics often lose sensitivity in their feet. As a result, small cuts can go unnoticed until they become infected or gangrenous.
  • In Australia, a country associated with physical fitness, Kaufman learned that citizens are now more likely to watch sports than participate in them. And the country’s Aboriginal population, whose bodies are hardwired to store calories, have an astounding 50 percent prevalence of diabetes.

    However, Kaufman also saw some successes.

  • In Helsinki, Finland, the government’s proactive approach to prevention showed that those at high risk of developing diabetes could decrease their risk by 58 percent. Peka Puska, director general of the National Public Health Institute, told Kaufman, “We have to change the environment so the healthy choice is the easy one.”
  • In India, Kaufman visited a comprehensive clinic that treats 100,000 patients and addresses every aspect of diabetes care. In one location, patients see specialists such as dentists, dieticians and opthalmologists, and can purchase items including medication, food and special shoes.

“I would love to be able to replicate that in Los Angeles,” she said.

While Kaufman did not visit Israel as part of the documentary, she said she was there last month for a symposium hosted by D-Cure, an Israeli nonprofit organization that funds diabetes research and collaborates with research projects around the globe.

“With its focus on healthcare and technology, Israel is likely to emerge as an international player in finding solutions [to the diabetes epidemic],” Kaufman said.

At the same time, Israel’s rate of diabetes is 7.8 percent.

“It’s a struggle there like it is for all of us from cultures that intermingle nourishing with nurturing,” she said. “It’s hard to overcome how we were raised, where our grandparents were starving, and overweight was a sign of health.”

Whatever a nation’s specific challenges relating to diabetes, the disease is universally devastating when not managed, Kaufman said. She does, however, have the prescription.

“To manage it, you need a government that can give resources; a health care system that is focused on it; the environment in which you live supporting a healthy lifestyle; and, ultimately, your own personal choice of whether you’re going to do everything you can to combat this or not.”

“Diabetes: A Global Epidemic” will air on Discovery Health, Nov.18, 9 a.m. For more information, see http://health.discovery.com/centers/diabetes/diabetes.html and

http://www.d-cure.org/English/

A Blog World After All


Last year, the Pew Internet and American Life Project estimated that 8 million American adults had created blogs. Although the number of specifically Jewish blogs is unconfirmed, those with knowledge of the blogosphere say the pool is substantial. Jewish blogs, or Web diaries, run the gamut from kosher cooking to Israeli advocacy. They include leftist rants, dating melodramas, rabbinic ruminations and secular musings from all corners of the globe.

“I’d estimate the number of active blogs at some several thousand,” says Steven Weiss, who currently blogs about religion (canonist.com), food (kosherbachelor.com) and the Jewish college experience (campusj.com).

“Among young, highly affiliated Jews, J-blogs are very popular,” the 24-year-old New Yorker continued. “As you move up the age brackets, the popularity drops off somewhat, though many in the organizational and rabbinic establishment have started paying a lot of attention to them.”

What exactly are these Jewish bloggers seeking on the Web?

Some, like 30-something New York blogging guru Esther Kustanowitz, say the blogosphere connects them to a larger, global Jewish community.

“I started looking at other Jewish blogs to see if there were other people like me out there — single, Jewish and blogging,” she explained.

The No. 1 thread on Jewlicious (jewlicious.com), a group blog focusing on Judaism, Israel and pop culture, addresses premarital sex in the Orthodox community. It pulled in 676 comments.

The No. 2 post, with 502 responses, tackles an equally contentious topic — the identity of Conservative Judaism.

Oftentimes, noisemakers walk a fine line between healthy debate and mudslinging.

“There are definitely blogs where the conversation tends to be acrimonious,” said Barenblat, who recently received anonymous hate mail. “People feel free to be obnoxious because it’s just through a computer screen.”

Fiery language also peppers the Jewlicious site, with posts often descending into vitriolic exchanges.

“It’s a paradigm for disagreement,” Kustanowitz said. “I think because of the anonymity and lack of accountability, people tend to not think before they write.”

Where exactly this blogging phenomenon is going remains unseen.

Schiano, for one, predicts a continuously evolving blogosphere.

“I think there will always be this room for grass-roots voices on the net,” she said.

And as long as rabbis continue to preach, advocates to crusade, singles to gripe and ideologues to spar, Jews will continue clicking — and posting — away.

 

Wake Up and Smell the Fish


For UCLA geography professor Jared Diamond, the fall of a great civilization can come down to fish.

“Fish prices have tripled; fish form a significant part of our diet,” Diamond told The Journal. “At the rate we’re going, most of the world’s major fisheries will be gone within a decade.”

He doesn’t expect Los Angelenos to obsess about it. “Fish don’t focus the attention the way a single earthquake does,” he said.

But Diamond knows what he’s talking about. He’s the author of the best-selling nonfiction book “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed” (Viking, 2004). His book is the inspiration for a special exhibit at the L.A. County Natural History Museum. Diamond will talk about his book and his ideas on Jan. 10 at a Writers Bloc Presents lecture at the Skirball Cultural Center.

Diamond, who received a 1985 MacArthur Foundation genius grant, won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction with his earlier book, “Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies” (W. W. Norton & Company). The scope of Diamond’s research spans not only geography, but also ornithology, physiology and environmental history.

In the earlier book, Diamond examined how and why Western civilizations developed the technologies and immunities that allowed them to dominate much of the world. “Collapse” looks at the flip side: What caused some of the great civilizations to collapse into ruin and what can people today learn from their fates?

Some of what happens could come down to fish, Diamond said, or to other somewhat overlooked factors. Diamond expects a future massive fish decline to be a global version of the New Orleans levees breaking during Hurricane Katrina. A world without fish, he said, will result in “countries collapsing…. A substantial fraction of the world’s people rely on fish for protein.”

The Cambridge-educated Diamond, who is Jewish, said he has not found evidence that Jews, Judaism or any other major religion played a dominant role in why a civilization ended.

“I have not noticed that one particular religion is more prone or less prone to collapse,” he said.

Nor does he list the modern scourge of terrorism among crucial factors — at least it doesn’t rank nearly in importance with the supply of fish. “People don’t get excited about the gradual disappearance of fish,” he said, “until 2 billion people start sending out terrorists because they’re starving.”

Jared Diamond will discuss “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed” at Writers Bloc Presents on Tuesday, Jan. 10, at 7:30 p.m. at the Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, call (310) 855-0005.

Spectator – The Holy Land of Progress


The Israeli firm, M-Systems, developed flash technology that allows huge amounts of computer data to be stored on a key chain. Given Imaging Ltd. created a miniature, disposable video camera that can be fitted into a capsule and swallowed, giving doctors thousands of images of a person’s intestines. Nemesysco invented voice-sensitive technology that reveals, over the telephone, whether someone is telling the truth.

The achievements of these Israeli companies aren’t the kind that are likely to make headlines, especially coming from a region long dominated by violence and political turmoil. But for British philanthropist Trevor Pears — who conceived and funded the 2005 book, “Israel in the World: Changing Lives Through Innovation” (Orion Publishing Group, Limited) — they were just the kinds of stories he wanted to share.

“Other books tell you how to argue for Israel,” he said. “They don’t tell you why you should…. [So I] figured perhaps I might make that happen.”

Eventually journalists Helen and Douglas Davis signed on to write the book, and media mogul Rupert Murdoch wrote the forward.

“From media and telecommunications to … banking, Israeli technological advances are key contributors to the progress and strength of the global economy,” Murdoch wrote.

Pears’ favorite “Innovation” story is about Yoel Margalith, an Israeli scientist known worldwide as “Mr. Mosquito.” Margalith, a Holocaust survivor, is credited with saving millions of lives through his discovery of a naturally occurring bacteria that kills disease-carrying mosquitoes without harming the environment.

Researcher Yossi Leshem saves lives in a different way. His pioneering use of unmanned aerial vehicles has tracked the flight paths of hundreds of species of migratory birds so airplanes can keep away from them. Leshem provided the United States government with information on the birds’ migratory patterns during the 1991 Gulf War; he now works closely with other Western governments, as well as the Jordanian and Turkish air forces.

“It’s breathtaking how broad Israel’s innovative genius has become in the 21st century,” said Larry Weinberg of Israel21c, which works to give a fuller picture of Israel beyond the Palestinian conflict. A number of the stories in the book are from his organization’s archives, Weinberg said: “People look at this book and go, ‘Wow! Even Jews don’t know what Israel has become in the 21st century.”

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Spectator – A Hand in Global Harmony


The Middle Eastern fusion music on “Hamsa” is so insidiously infectious and rhythmic that you will not only be humming along but tapping your feet, as well.

“It was never intended to become an album,” said Carvin Knowles, the CD’s creator. “It was how I felt at the time. But I kept hearing from people I had given it to as a gift about how much they loved the music, so I put together this collection.”

Knowles, 41, a native of Long Beach who now lives in Hollywood, has been scoring films since 1991 — perhaps his best-known track is from the infamous pie scene in “American Pie.” His creative flair, though maybe not his name, is best known to Jewish Journal readers through the award-winning covers he designs for the publication.

Knowles, who is not Jewish but a student of Jewish culture and mysticism, wrote “Ghita” and “Taqsim,” the first of the 12 songs that would eventually make up “Hamsa,” for a documentary about Egyptian archeology that was in production prior to Sept. 11, 2001. The unique sound was an amalgamation of musical influences, such as klezmer, Egyptian pop, hip-hop and Rai (a combining of Arab classical music with R&B).

In the aftermath of Sept. 11, the documentary was never released, and Knowles temporarily lost his taste for Middle Eastern music.

“For a full year I didn’t listen to Middle Eastern music at all, because I was really angry,” he said. “Working in the media, I saw images of Arabs celebrating our loss, and I was angry.”

Knowles’ anger dissipated when he started hearing from music scene friends about how many Middle Eastern artists were concerned, rather than gloating. Some artists canceled concerts to show solidarity with the victims; others used their fame to promote peace and dialogue. Newly inspired, Knowles picked up his ud (like the oud — a round backed string instrument — but smaller and Turkish) and started recording again. The result was “Hamsa,” a mostly instrumental CD.

In concert with his desires for global harmony, Knowles produced and played rhythms that borrowed from many cultures (North African, Turkish, Lebanese) — then fused them together.

He titled the CD “Hamsa” — a hand-shaped amulet, thought to represent the hand of God, which is used to banish the “evil eye.” He also designed the beautiful, filigreed, earthy-red hamsa that appears on the cover. “Part of what the hamsa means is ‘Go away Westerner. We don’t want you here,'” said Knowles. “But the hamsa is also a signpost marking where East and West touch. It is a symbol not just of the conflict, but the meeting, the cooperation.”

For more information, go to href=”http://www.carvinknowles.com” target=”_blank”>www.carvinknowles.com. To order “Hamsa,” visit

The Self-Denying Prophecy


This address was given Sept. 17, 2002, at morning prayers at Harvard University’s Memorial Church in Cambridge, Mass.

I speak with you today, not as president of [Harvard] University, but as a concerned member of our community, about something that I never thought I would become seriously worried about — the issue of anti-Semitism.

I am Jewish — identified, but hardly devout. In my lifetime, anti-Semitism has been remote from my experience. My family all left Europe at the beginning of the 20th century. The Holocaust is, for me, a matter of history, not personal memory. To be sure, there were country clubs where I grew up that had few, if any, Jewish members, but not ones that included people I knew. My experience in college and graduate school, as a faculty member, as a government official — all involved little notice of my religion.

Indeed, I was struck during my years in the Clinton administration that the existence of an economic leadership team with people like Robert Rubin, Alan Greenspan, Charlene Barshefsky and many others that was very heavily Jewish passed without comment or notice — it was something that would have been inconceivable a generation or two ago, as indeed it would have been inconceivable a generation or two ago that Harvard could have a Jewish president.

Without thinking about it much, I attributed all of this to progress — to an ascendancy of enlightenment and tolerance. A view that prejudice is increasingly put aside. A view that while the politics of the Middle East was enormously complex, and contentious, the question of the right of a Jewish state to exist had been settled in the affirmative by the world community.

But today, I am less complacent. Less complacent and comfortable, because there is disturbing evidence of an upturn in anti-Semitism globally, and also because of some developments closer to home.

Consider some of the global events of the last year:

There have been synagogue burnings, physical assaults on Jews, the painting of swastikas on Jewish memorials in every country in Europe. Observers in many countries have pointed to the worst outbreak of attacks against the Jews since World War II.

Candidates who denied the significance of the Holocaust reached the runoff stage of elections for the nation’s highest office in France and Denmark. State-sponsored television stations in many nations of the world spew anti-Zionist propaganda.

The United Nations-sponsored World Conference on Racism — while failing to mention human rights abuses in China, Rwanda or anyplace in the Arab world — spoke of Israel’s policies prior to recent struggles under the Barak government as constituting ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. The NGO declaration at the same conference was even more virulent. I could go on, but I want to bring this closer to home. Of course academic communities should be, and always will be, places that allow any viewpoint to be expressed. And certainly there is much to be debated about the Middle East and much in Israel’s foreign and defense policy that can be, and should be, vigorously challenged.

But where anti-Semitism and views that are profoundly anti-Israeli have traditionally been the primary preserve of poorly educated right-wing populists, profoundly anti-Israel views are increasingly finding support in progressive intellectual communities. Serious and thoughtful people are advocating and taking actions that are anti-Semitic in their effect if not their intent.

For example:

  •  Hundreds of European academics have called for an end to support for Israeli researchers, though not for an end to support for researchers from any other nation.
  •  Israeli scholars this past spring were forced off the board of an international literature journal.
  •  At the same rallies where protesters, many of them university students, condemn the [International Monetary Fund] IMF and global capitalism and raise questions about globalization, it is becoming increasingly common to also lash out at Israel. Indeed, at the anti-IMF rallies last spring, chants were heard equating Hitler and Sharon.
  •  Events to raise funds for organizations of questionable political provenance, that in some cases were later found to support terrorism, have been held by student organizations on this and other campuses with at least modest success and very little criticism.
  •  And some here at Harvard, and some at universities across the country, have called for the university to single out Israel among all nations as the lone country where it is inappropriate for any part of the university’s endowment to be invested. I hasten to say the university has categorically rejected this suggestion. We should always respect the academic freedom of everyone to take any position. We should also recall that academic freedom does not include freedom from criticism. The only antidote to dangerous ideas is strong alternatives vigorously advocated.

I have always, throughout my life, been put off by those who heard the sound of breaking glass, in every insult or slight, and conjured up images of Hitler’s Kristallnacht at any disagreement with Israel. Such views have always seemed to me alarmist, if not slightly hysterical. But I have to say that while they still seem to me unwarranted, they seem rather less alarmist in the world of today than they did a year ago.

I would like nothing more than to be wrong. It is my greatest hope and prayer that the idea of a rise of anti-Semitism proves to be a self-denying prophecy — a prediction that carries the seeds of its own falsification. But this depends on all of us.

Hate Israel, Not Jews


It was on full display last year at the global anti-racism conference in Durban, South Africa, but the "demonization" of Israel has reached a fever pitch during the past month with the surging death toll in the Middle East, say Jewish observers.

Even as Holocaust Remembrance Day is marked this week, anti-Israel critics worldwide increasingly are employing Nazi and Holocaust imagery and analogies to describe the Jewish state’s behavior toward the Palestinians.

At the same time, Western Europe — particularly France — has seen a rash of attacks on synagogues and other Jewish institutions, prompting one French Jewish leader to compare the current situation to Kristallnacht.

All of which seems to prove the adage coined by the French writer and philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre: "Words are loaded pistols."

Pro-Israel advocates say they accept the fallibility of Israel and the right to criticize it. However the line between anti-Israel sentiment and anti-Semitism blurs when the world seems to hold Israel to a higher standard than all other countries.

"I wouldn’t have a problem if the Fourth Geneva Convention were convened to discuss Rwanda and Northern Ireland and Kashmir and the Middle East, but why is it that it’s been convened only twice in its 53-year history — both times to discuss Israel? That’s anti-Semitism," Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), said, referring to a set of human rights guidelines passed after World War II.

Veiled beneath today’s vitriol for Israel, Jewish observers detect a form of anti-Semitism of the we-don’t-hate-Jews-just-the-Jewish-state variety, which was first formally enshrined when the United Nations equated Zionism with racism in 1975. Likening Israelis to Nazis is particularly nefarious, advocates say, and goes hand in hand with the Holocaust denial pervasive in the Arab world.

"To open the world for new crimes against Jews, you either have to say the Holocaust did not exist or to minimize or trivialize it by saying that the victims are really the victimizers," said Rabbi Michael Melchior, Israel’s deputy foreign minister. "This is total demonization of the state of Israel, and, therefore, of the Jew. Whether they be an Israeli Jew or a French Jew."

In some cases, the rhetoric is purely political, aimed at damaging Israel’s image. For many of those who blindly mimic the rhetoric, it’s ignorance of history. But for a sizable portion — especially many in Western Europe — it is a way to ease the conscience, said Holocaust historian Michael Berenbaum.

"It’s some measure of solace for Europeans that Israel seems to be in the morally compromised position, because it relieves them of the residual guilt they have for the Holocaust," said Berenbaum, a professor at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles and the former director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Research Institute. "It’s a way of getting even with Jews, whom they think have lorded the moral depravity of the Europeans over their heads."

The current movement can be traced to the 1960s, Foxman said, when some in the Arab world embraced the Holocaust denial propagated by unreformed Nazis.

"The idea was, if the only reason Jews were given Israel was because of the Holocaust, then if this is a hoax, they don’t really deserve it," Foxman said. Over time, he said, Arab and Muslim Holocaust deniers have generally become even more zealous than neo-Nazis. Then came the "Zionism Is Racism" equation, a U.N. resolution that remained on the books until it was rescinded in 1991. U.N. officials, including Secretary-General Kofi Annan, have described that period as a stain on the world body’s record.

Nevertheless, it was feared the Arab world was angling to resurrect the equation at the U.N.-sponsored World Conference Against Racism, late last summer in Durban. In fact, the denunciations of Israel there were broader and more visceral. Israel and the Middle East overwhelmed all other issues, as Israel was branded an "apartheid state" guilty of "genocide," "ethnic cleansing" and "war crimes."

As Irwin Cotler, a Canadian politician and human rights lawyer, said in Durban, "In a world in which human rights has emerged as the secular religion of our time, Israel, portrayed as the worst of human rights violators, is the new anti-Christ."

Most disturbing to Jewish observers was not that Arab and Muslim delegates were ganging up on Israel, but how easily so many otherwise compassionate activists from around the world jumped aboard the bandwagon.

In light of the now-renewed rhetorical offensive against Israel, Foxman said, "Durban was the dress rehearsal to see if this kind of anti-Semitism could sell. And with all these well-meaning people there who would have laid down their lives for others, no one was willing to stand up for the Jews."

With Israel’s siege of Palestinian cities, refugee camps and the Ramallah headquarters of Yasser Arafat, Israel has been barraged with Holocaust denials, Nazi comparisons and blood libels that circulate globally via the Internet.

On March 7, according to the ADL, the director of the Palestinian News Agency, Ziad Abd-al-Fatah, said: "What they are doing now to our people is a ‘Holocaust’ in every sense of the word, while what happened to them was not a ‘Holocaust,’ since researchers doubt its veracity and the testimonies are also doubtful."

On March 21, Algerian diplomat Mohamed-Salah Dembri told the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in Geneva that "Kristallnacht repeats itself daily" against "the ghettoized Palestinian people."

The fusillade has also come from beyond the Arab world.

On March 26, Portuguese writer Jose Saramago, who won the 1998 Nobel Prize in Literature, was quoted as describing the Israeli blockade of Ramallah as "in the spirit of Auschwitz" and "this place is being turned into a concentration camp." On April 5, the Kuala Lumpur-based newspaper, The Star, quoted Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad saying Israelis needed to be stopped, like the Bosnian Serbs.

Not many are speaking out against the incendiary rhetoric.

One notable exception, though, was the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Jakob Kellenberger. On March 26, in his address to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, Kellenberger said: "It would be misleading to think that recent or present-day international crimes surpass the evils that humans have historically inflicted on humans. Does anyone really believe that the suffering caused by current conflicts around the globe surpasses the ravages of World War II and the atrocities that accompanied it?"

Still, rebuttals seem few and far between.

"I’m concerned that people have not stood up," Berenbaum said, "but maybe what I’m saying is that I’m also concerned that I haven’t stood up.

"I’m equally concerned that perhaps we haven’t made our point over many years about the Holocaust, which allows for this ignorance and God-awful abuse of history."

To more forcefully counter this "demonization" of Jews, Melchior announced in January plans to create the International Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism. The blue-ribbon panel of non-Jewish figures should be in place within six months, he said.

Why non-Jews?

"Anti-Semitism undermines the basic fundamentals of democracy and decency, and anyone who cares about those two things should fight against it," Melchior said." As someone once said, anti-Semitism is a sickness that non-Jews have, but which Jews die of."

We have to start taking seriously what they say, because they mean what they say."

The Global Minute


Suddenly, we find that an alternate universe shadows our world. Its inhabitants see our culture as their poison, our politics as their oppression, our freedom as their threat — The question is how we could have been so blind. Only now is most of America learning about fundamentalist Islam. Just one year ago, when then-candidate George W. Bush didn’t know the name of President George W. Bush’s best friend, the president of Pakistan, the public’s response was, “So what?” So, this: Our blissful ignorance turned out to be deadly.

What are the reasons we revelled in ignorance? Americans, ensconced on a continent oceans away from Eurasia, have been historically inward-looking.

Another reason can be found by looking at one American institution that has changed drastically since the attacks: television news.

As the hype correctly states, more Americans get their news from television than from any other source. Journalist Edward R. Murrow saw this potential long before anyone else, in 1951, when CBS showed the Golden Gate Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge simultaneously: “No journalistic age,” he said, “was ever given a weapon for truth with quite the scope of this fledgling television.”

For some time now, that weapon has been woefully dull. Remember pre-Sept. 11 CNN? Squeezed between Gary Condit, the Beltway infighting, sports, weather, business and entertainment news was something labeled, “The Global Minute.” That’s it: 60 seconds to fill us in on what was happening with the other 5.9 billion people on this planet. Where were they suffering? Whom did they hate? What did they need? Weeks could go by without hearing a peep about South America or Indonesia, not to mention Afghanistan. Once I even timed a global minute. It lasted 49 seconds.

CNN was not the greatest offender — at least it spared a minute for the rest of the world. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, other networks sharply curtailed their spending on international coverage. News divisions were no longer seen as the standard-bearers of network quality: they had to turn a profit, or at least cover their costs, same as soap operas and game shows. CNN scaled back too, though with about 30 foreign bureaus, it stayed ahead of the networks.

And it stayed way ahead of our local television news. KCBS, KTTV, KNBC, KABC and KCOP used serious coverage of international news as a segue between Tom Cruise’s marital problems and freeway car chases. In the happy/glitzy world of local news, an in-depth look at oil policy or Third World ideologies went out with John Chancellor’s overcoat.

The stations argued that they were giving the viewers what they wanted.

Maybe so, but they were also abdicating their responsibility as for-profit licensees entrusted with public airwaves. When former Sen. Gary Hart released his commission’s report two months ago on the probability of domestic terror, how many stations covered it? If he had another affair while researching terrorism, then he would have gotten some airtime.

How did this sad, pre-Sept. 11 state of affairs come to pass? Television news producers are generally smart and committed people who spend an inordinate amount of time defending the product they create. They blame the penny-pinching network executives. Network executives blame the bottom line: Advertisers pay for ratings, not civics lessons.

And so the chicken faces the egg. Are we ill-informed because we don’t care, or do we not care because we’re ill-informed? I know that Jewish Americans, who do care about the Middle East and other faraway lands, are often ill-served by facile evening news coverage of Israel and its neighbors.

The solution is really simple: make international news as gripping and as relevant as it is. Nowadays, TV news is having no problem doing that: CNN and other outlets are giving us good, even courageous coverage at considerable expense.

It may be, when the lull comes in this war, that we will yearn to flip on TV news and see nothing but amazing animal rescues. But a lot has changed in America in the past six weeks, and judging from the high Nielsen ratings that CNN and MSNBC have been getting, so has our taste for global news. It’s true that sex and celebrity sell, but so, it turns out, do life and death.

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