Facebook sued for $1 billion over Third Intifada page


Facebook and its co-founder Mark Zuckerberg are being sued for more than $1 billion for not immediately taking down a page calling for a Third Intifada against Israel.

The lawsuit was filed March 31 in U.S. District Court in Washington on behalf of Larry Klayman, an attorney and activist who is described in the filing as “an American citizen of Jewish origin” who is “active in all matters concerning the security of Israel and its people.” Klayman is the founder of Judicial Watch, a conservative public interest group.

Facebook removed the “Third Palestinian Intifada” page on March 29 after it had been up for a couple of weeks and garnered 350,000 friends. Israel’s minister of diplomacy and Diaspora affairs,Yuli Edelstein, had sent a letter to Zuckerberg a week earlier asking for the page to be removed. The Anti-Defamation League also had called on Facebook to remove the page.

The page, which called for a third Palestinian uprising to begin May 15, included quotes and film clips calling for killing Jews and Israelis, and for “liberating” Jerusalem and Palestine using violence. It also directed users to related content on Twitter, YouTube and elsewhere on the Internet.

In the lawsuit, Klayman also calls on Facebook to remove from its site all pages using the words “Third Intifada” or any other pages that encourage violence toward Jews.

Facebook said it would fight the case, calling it “without merit,” the French news agency AFP reported.

Meanwhile, a new page with the same name already has attracted thousands of friends, according to reports.

Facebook did not release a statement on last week’s removal. But in a statement released to several media outlets in the days before the page’s removal, Facebook commented on the Third Palestinian Intifada page controversy.

“While some kinds of comments and content may be upsetting for someone—criticism of a certain culture, country, religion, lifestyle, or political ideology, for example—that alone is not a reason to remove the discussion,” the statement said. “We strongly believe that Facebook users have the ability to express their opinions, and we don’t typically take down content, groups or pages that speak out against countries, religions, political entities, or ideas.”

Individual posts and comments on the page considered problematic were to be investigated by Facebook and removed, according to reports.

Groups weigh in on flotilla confrontation


The main U.S. Jewish umbrella organization is defending Israel’s raid of the flotilla heading to Gaza, but several left-wing groups are blaming the incident on officials in Jerusalem and calling for an investigation.

“We regret the loss of life and the injuries. But the responsibility for these tragic events lies primarily with those who organized and carried out this extremist mission and those that aided and abetted them,” said the heads of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the main pro-Israel umbrella group in the United States.

Several members of the Presidents Conference and other pro-Israel groups issued similar statements, including the American Jewish Committee, which accused the pro-Hamas Free Gaza movement and its supporters of deliberately provoking a violent confrontation with the Israeli Navy early Monday morning.

But several U.S. Jewish groups on the left—including J Street, Americans for Peace Now and Ameinu—are pointing the finger at Israel.

Nine activists were killed and several dozen protesters injured aboard a flotilla of ships bound for Gaza during rioting after Israeli naval forces boarded the ships to redirect them to an Israeli port. The flotilla was attempting to break the Israeli Navy’s blockade of the strip. Seven Israeli soldiers were injured.

Israel has circulated videos showing that their troops were attacked as they boarded the ships.

J Street and Ameinu called for independent investigations and cautioned observers against making any judgments before all the facts are know. At the same time, both organizations blamed the confrontation on Israel’s ongoing blockade of Gaza—a policy adopted in order to isolate and weaken Gaza’s Hamas rulers, help bring home captured soldier Gilad Shalit, end Hamas rocket fire on Israel and halt the flow of weapons into Gaza.

Ameinu said that such incidents play into the hands of Israel’s enemies. J Street argued that there are “better ways to ensure Israel’s security and to prevent weapons smuggling than a complete closure of the Gaza Strip.”

In addition to slamming the blockade, Americans for Peace Now also sought to portray the flotilla incident as part of an ongoing Israeli government effort to stifle dissent. It called for “an end to the radicalization of the Israeli government’s language and policy” and endorsed the idea that Israel is increasingly earning “the brutal and violent image it acquired in the last years.”

The Union for Reform Judaism, the largest synagogue movement in the country and an organization that has backed robust U.S. peacemaking efforts, issued a statement that defended Israel’s actions and called for stepped-up efforts to “examine” any humanitarian needs in Gaza.

“We note that the Hamas government, which is committed to Israel’s destruction and which has long been responsible for attacks against Israeli forces and civilian centers, cannot expect to have open borders,” said the URJ’s president, Rabbi Eric Yoffie. “We also note that humanitarian aid sent to Gaza in the past has often been used as a cover for delivering weapons and military supplies.”

Yoffied added that in addition to working to address Jerusalem’s security need, the U.S. government and Israel needed to examine “the plight of those living in Gaza who require additional humanitarian assistance.”

“Recent events underscore the urgent need for real progress in addressing both sets of concerns,” Yoffie said.

Denounce Muslim group, UC Irvine chancellor urged


Nearly 2,700 people have signed an online petition encouraging a California university chancellor to publicly condemn an annual Muslim student event.

The document urges University of California, Irvine’s Michael Drake to denounce the Muslim Student Union’s “Israel: The Politics of Genocide” event, which began May 5 and runs through May 21.

“As an American, you have the right to speak out and explicitly denounce anti-Semitism, especially when it occurs on your campus,” the petition reads. “As an educational leader, you have the moral obligation to speak out.”

The petition also calls on Drake to condemn the Muslim group as a whole, alleging that it consistently violates a campus pledge to create “a learning climate free from expressions of bigotry.”

The Irvine campus has been a hotbed of pro-Palestinian activism, and Drake himself has drawn fire in the past from some Jewish groups who have urged him to publicly denounce activity that is said to cross the line into anti-Semitism. Drake thus far has declined to denounce specific activities, speaking out only against hate speech in general.

The two-week program features lectures from noted Palestinian activists such as British Parliament member George Galloway and former Georgia congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, among other events, according to the Orange County Weekly.

Rolls of Veterans Groups Dwindling


Seymour Goldman spent World War II with an Army cleanup crew handling mustard gas drums in India.

“It was a terrible job,” said the 83-year-old, a retired TV repairman who lives in Culver City. “When I got out, I just didn’t want anything more to do with it.”

For Goldman and millions of other veterans — Jews and non-Jews alike — service in World War II was not a grand struggle, but exhaustive work.

Of the estimated 12 million to 13 million American men and women in uniform during World War II, only 1 million to 2 million of them saw actual combat. While Thursday’s Veterans Day services brought out many veterans who have vivid memories of fighting the Nazis, scores of veterans served in support positions, which left them with little interest in remembrance or nostalgia.

“I had no illusions about action. We were quartered in mansions,” said the Brooklyn-bred Goldman, whose unit was composed of himself, another Jewish soldier and 26 non-Jews, all from Texas.

The paucity of Jews serving on front lines may explain the dwindling numbers of members belonging to Jewish war veteran organizations.

Other reasons for the fewer members in the organization include the graying of the membership, and the fewer younger Jews serving in the military — and therefore joining — local Jewish veterans groups.

The San Fernando Valley’s Jewish War Veterans Post 603 has 325 members, but that is a decline over the past decade. The post is part of California’s 20,000 members who make up the Jewish War Veterans 110,000-member national roster, once dominated by World War II veterans.

Navy veteran Si Prussin, 81, spent most of the war in San Diego, waiting to be shipped out as a motor machinist on a landing craft.

“I wouldn’t have avoided going into the service; there was a feeling that it was an important and useful thing to do,” said Prussin, who later used the G.I. Bill to go to college

Prussin, raised in the Bronx, received an advanced degree from Pittsburgh’s Carnegie-Mellon University. He has had a long career in metallurgy and semiconductor engineering and still teaches electrical engineering at UCLA.

He briefly joined a veterans group for a short time, but then dropped out. “It was not my atmosphere,” he told The Journal.

Prussin and other Jewish veterans who did not see combat said they didn’t need to belong to veterans groups, with Prussin noting that no combat means no nightmares.

Yiddish translator Hershel Hartman, 75, also didn’t serve on the front lines in the Korean War — but not by choice. The Army kept him at New Jersey’s Ft. Dix for 15 months, because he was considered a security risk due to his memberships in left-wing, communist-allied groups.

“I refused to sign the loyalty oath,” said Hartman, who was trained at an Army radio school but never was sent to Korea while he and his family were being investigated.

What Hartman remembers most of his service is not combat but tragedy. With Ft. Dix being close enough to New York, Hartman traveled to Manhattan for a rally on the day in 1954 that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed as Soviet spies. “I remember that day very well.”

There are other Jewish veterans who saw terrible events, and do participate in Veterans groups. But Jewish veterans from World War II and Korea are aging and their memories are slipping, which is why it’s important to the groups to attract younger members.

At 32, U.S. Army Capt. David Sellen is the youngest member of Jewish War Veterans Post 603. The Valley Glen resident was an infantry officer in Afghanistan and now serves as a civil defense operations officer at Missouri’s Ft. Leonard Wood.

“I think the next guy is in his early 60s or late 50s,” said Sellen, whose mother is a nursery school teacher at Encino’s Valley Beth Shalom. “There are more Jewish soldiers at least known today, and so I think more of it has to do with getting the word out. I didn’t know it existed.”

Why don’t younger Jewish war veterans join organizations?

“They don’t have the time to get into organizations,” he said. “They save most of the [free] time for their families.”

Raising Concerns About Patriot Act


Two years after the USA Patriot Act became law, Jewish groups are still searching for the balance between law enforcement and civil liberties.

The passage of the legislation in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks divided Jewish groups who were ambivalent about the legislation from allies in the civil-rights community that immediately sought to have the law revoked.

The central reason for the Jewish groups’ hesitancy to defend civil liberties — one of the causes Jews generally champion — is that the act’s provisions were designed to target groups viewed as hostile to Jews.

"We can’t ignore the fact that every Jewish community is threatened by terrorism," said Michael Lieberman, Washington counsel of the Anti-Defamation League.

Now, however, Jews are among those behind new legislation that would curtail some of the expanded powers the Patriot Act granted law-enforcement authorities.

On Sept. 24, Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.), who is Jewish, joined Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and other lawmakers and civil-rights groups to introduce a new bill called the "Benjamin Franklin True Patriot Act," which would repeal many of the Patriot Act’s provisions.

The new legislation, Kucinich said, balances liberty and safety.

"There is a sentiment in Congress to move to challenge this idea that we have to forsake the Bill of Rights in order to be safe," said Kucinich, a Democratic candidate for president.

He is supported by many civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Kucinich was also joined by the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, one of the first Jewish groups to speak out against the Patriot Act.

Mark Pelavin, the RAC’s associate director, said his organization does not officially endorse every provision of the proposed legislation but agrees that the bill addresses concerns the Reform movement has raised about the Patriot Act.

While Jewish law allows for the infringement of individual privacy when lives are at stake, those intrusions should be as limited as possible, Pelavin said.

"We must be vigilant in ensuring that our effort to destroy terrorism does not undermine the very liberties that make this country worth celebrating and protecting," he said.

Privately, some Jewish activists admit that had law enforcement used the tools in the original Patriot Act to target a minority other than Arabs or Muslims, Jewish opposition to the legislation might have been more pronounced.

Provisions in the bill, such as the freezing of terrorist assets and new rules for border crossing, can be used by law-enforcement authorities to protect Jews, Lieberman said.

"Every congregant who walks through a synagogue" in the Jewish holiday season "will walk past security guards and cameras," he said. "This has an impact on the analysis we do on tools we want law enforcement to have."

The law updated procedures to allow police to track new technology, such as cellular phones and e-mail. It also removed barriers that prevented information-sharing between local and national law-enforcement agencies.

Post-Sept. 11, intelligence groups said those barriers hampered cooperation that might have helped anticipate the Sept. 11 attacks. Civil libertarians say the barriers, which were in place since the 1970s, prevented spying on U.S. citizens.

Proponents of the legislation say the provisions in the Patriot Act are essential for staying ahead of present-day threats of terrorism and for updating law-enforcement tools that were crafted to fight the Mafia, not terrorist networks.

Critics say the new laws reverse traditional American notions that a suspect is innocent until proven guilty and has a right to counsel.

Rep. Filner said, "I have constituents in jail without charges, without their family officially knowing what’s going on."

Pelavin says many of his constituents in the Reform movement are unsettled by a perceived threat to civil liberties. He hopes that Kucinich’s legislation will start a dialogue about the Patriot Act and its effect on individual rights.

"I think many people are concerned that some of the provisions this bill targets do not contribute to security," he said.

Other Jewish groups are hearing the same thing. Some Jewish community-relations councils are backing referenda seeking to recall the legislation.

Some Jewish leaders support the repeal of individual provisions of the law but will not call the entire bill a failure.

"It certainly has not been our position that the USA Patriot Act is a perfect document," said Richard Foltin, legislative director of the American Jewish Committee. "If we were not in the middle of a war on terrorism, there would be different judgments made."

That led the AJCommittee to back a sunset for the bill that would force Congress to re-examine the Patriot Act after several years. They also support a bill that would repeal some specific Patriot Act provisions, such as the "sneak and peek" law, which allows delayed notification for search warrants.

Kucinich says the Patriot Act was rushed through Congress before members could take a full accounting of its implications. Jewish groups make the same argument, saying that time has allowed them to better understand the act and the way law enforcement uses the provisions.

"The impact, both emotionally and security-wise, of 9/11 was so big that America needed time and needed to be able to sort out the pieces of it," said Reva Price, Washington representative of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

Even with such reservations, Jewish groups also are wary of Kucinich’s strident tone.

Jews may be frustrated with some actions of Attorney General John Ashcroft, but they don’t want to demonize him, because they believe he is sincere in wanting the bill purely because it is a helpful tool to guard against terrorism.

Jewish groups also are eager to examine new legislation Ashcroft wants, including his Patriot Act II, which would give law enforcement more tools for homeland security protection. Jewish leaders say the approach is piecemeal, separating what is necessary for security from what is superfluous.

What’s clear, Jewish groups say, is that such considerations are uncharted territory. While opponents compare the Patriot Act to the herding of Japanese into detention camps during World War II and other violations of civil liberties, Lieberman says the difference now is that the threat is real, not perceived.

"You have to start from the idea that terrorism is different," he said. "You are not trying to find the criminal, because the criminal may kill himself. You are trying to prevent the crime."