Community Briefs

Palestinian Journalist Critical of Arafat toSpeak Here

“Arafat is a powerful symbol. But today it’s very difficult to say that he has control over what’s happening on the ground.”

Coming from an Israeli journalist, such a statement would hardly be surprising. However, these are the words of a Palestinian journalist who used to work for the Palestine Liberation Organization newspaper.

Now a producer for NBC News, as well as a correspondent for U.S. News and World Report, The Jerusalem Post and Jerusalem Report, Khaled Abu Toameh is not afraid to criticize the Palestinian leadership.

Abu Toameh will be in the Los Angeles area next week for a number of appearances. His visit is being sponsored by Bridges to Israel-Berkeley and, locally by StandWithUs and the Jewish Community Relations Council.

Sounding frustrated with the Palestinian leadership, Abu Toameh said that in general, the leaders find it “convenient to blame Israel and America and the West for their failure,” rather than looking internally at their own corruption.

Abu Toameh was born in 1963, in the West Bank city of Tulkarm. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Hebrew University, he went to work for the PLO newspaper. After several years, he grew tired of being a mouthpiece for the PLO and began seeking work with the foreign media, specializing in Palestinian affairs.

Jews who openly criticize Israel can be accused of airing dirty laundry at best, being a traitor at worst. But for Palestinians who openly criticize the Palestinian leadership, it can be far worse. A Palestinian journalist reporting on the Palestinian Authority might face harassment, beatings, imprisonment or in rare cases death.

Abu Toameh said that, for the most part, his colleagues don’t begrudge him for writing for the Israeli media.

“If the Palestinian media opens and gives me and my colleagues a platform, we’d go there tomorrow morning,” he said.

Khaled Abu Toameh will speak Thursday, May 6, at 8 p.m. at Temple Beth Haverim, 29900 Ladyface Court, Agoura Hills. $10-$12. For more information, call (818) 991-7111. He will speak Friday, May 7, at 8:15 a.m. at The Jewish Federation, 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Conference Room B. Free. For more information, call (310) 836-6140. — Alexandra J. Wall, j., the Jewish Newsweekly of Northern California

Journal Marketing Director Joins Governor’sStaff

Michelle Kleinert, former director of marketing and communications for The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, has left the newspaper to become the liaison to the Jewish community for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Kleinert, whose official title is deputy director of community affairs, has more than 14 years of marketing and public relations experience.

The Journal has tapped Lisa O’Brien to replace Kleinert. An international affairs graduate of UC Davis, O’Brien has held a number of marketing positions in the corporate world, including at Sony Pictures Entertainment, Mattel Inc. and Andersen Worldwide.

Kleinert, a Democrat, has long roots in California and a tight connection to the Jewish community. A graduate of Beverly Hills High School and UC Berkeley, she went on to work at the Shoah Foundation and in 2001 served as director of public relations for The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. She joined The Journal staff in 2002. A Santa Monica resident, she has a thick Rolodex of prominent California Jews that she has assembled over the years.

O’Brien, 30, said she hopes to grow The Journal’s readership, increase its visibility in both the Jewish and non-Jewish community and boost its advertising. — Marc Ballon, Senior Writer

Claremont Teacher Charged in Hate-CrimeHoax

In a case that deeply affected Jewish college students, prosecutors have accused a faculty member at Claremont McKenna College of perpetrating a hate crime hoax.

The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office charged Kerri Dunn, 39, a visiting assistant professor of psychology, with a misdemeanor count of filing a false police report, and she may also face federal charges of making false statements to the FBI.

Dunn reported in early March that while she was speaking at a campus forum on racial intolerance, her car was vandalized and spray painted with the words “Kike Whore,” “Nigger Lover,” “Bitch” and “Shut Up.”

According to various reports, Dunn was considering converting from Catholicism to Judaism, “although no one seems to have any first-hand knowledge about this matter,” said professor Jack Schuster, a faculty leader on the campus Hillel Council.

The initial vandalism report shocked the campus and Jewish students and professors in particular. There was a full day of protest rallies and Hillel Council director Rabbi Leslie Bergson reported that a large number of previously indifferent students showed up at the Hillel Center.

A week later came another bombshell, when Claremont police announced that according to two eyewitnesses, Dunn herself had vandalized her car.

Dunn has declined comment, but her lawyer, Gary S. Lincenberg, issued a news release stating that his client “maintains her innocence and hopes that this case will not divert attention from the racism problems on the Claremont College campuses.”

D’ror Chankin-Gould, 20, student president of the Hillel Council, said that he, for one, doesn’t care whether the “Kike Whore” slur was spray painted by Dunn or another perpetrator.

“It doesn’t matter who did it,” he said. “It’s anti-Semitism and it’s unacceptable.” — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

L.A. Entrepreneur Funds Technion BioMedicalInstitute

A $100 million pledge by Los Angeles entrepreneur Alfred E. Mann to establish a biomedical engineering institute at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, has been announced by the American Technion Society.

The Mann institute, bearing the donor’s name, is to focus on the development of medical devices and processes to improve human health and well-being.

The pledge, when redeemed, would constitute the largest philanthropic gift to an Israeli institution, Technion sources said.

Mann, 78, is a veteran inventor and entrepreneur in medical technology, who has created and sold a string of companies over a 50-year span. He is currently chairman and CEO of Advanced Bionics Corp., headquartered in Sylmar, and of the MannKind Corp.

“He is that rare combination of an engineer who also understands business, and has tremendous drive and energy,” said Robert Davidow, Mann’s friend and a Technion Society board member.

Mann has previously established a similar institute, whose researchers work at the intersection of science, medicine and engineering, at USC. Plans are under consideration for other such institutes at UCLA and Johns Hopkins University, but the Technion is the sole beneficiary outside the United States.

Mann praised the Technion as a “world-class research university, characterized by excellence, passion and brainpower, that is as good as any on the planet.”

He is currently on an extended travel schedule and was unavailable for comment. However, Mann is known as a hands-on and closely involved donor, and it is unlikely that the Technion institute will get under way until he has an opportunity to discuss its function and research scope on the ground.

Mann was born in Portland, Ore. and already showed his future bent as a school boy when he melted down the family’s old flatware into silver sheets and sold them to classmates in a jewelry-making class.

His Advanced Bionics Corp. manufactures and distributes cochlear implants for hearing disabilities and a broad range of neurostimulation systems. His other company, MannKind, specializes in biopharmaceuticals and novel therapeutic technologies. — TT