FILE PHOTO: FBI Director Robert Mueller testifies before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on Federal Bureau of Investigation oversight on Capitol Hill in Washington June 13, 2013. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo

Robert Mueller indicts three former Trump campaign staffers as part of Russia investigation


Robert Mueller, the independent special counsel in the investigation on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, has handed down indictments to three former staffers in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

The three men who have been indicted are Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his former business associate Rick Gates as well former foreign policy campaign adviser George Papadopoulos. Manafort and Gates are facing charges of money laundering from a Ukrainian political party that has ties to the Russian government as well as failure to report that they were foreign agents. Both have currently been placed on home confinement; they are both pleading not guilty.

Kevin Downing, Manafort’s attorney, issued the following statement:

Papadopoulos plead guilty for lying to the FBI about his correspondences with the Russians. Emails show that Papadopoulos was in contact with the Russians about possibly securing a meeting with Trump to receive some opposition research on Hillary Clinton; the indictment alleges that Papadopoulos lied about those correspondences.

Papadopoulos’ attorneys issued a statement that they wouldn’t comment on the matter until the case reaches court:

Trump tweeted that the indictments didn’t reveal any evidence of collusion between his presidential campaign and Russia:

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders downplayed the indictments.

“Today’s announcement has nothing to do with the President, has nothing to do with the President’s campaign or campaign activity,” said Sanders. “The real collusion scandal, as we have said several times before, has everything to do with the Clinton campaign, Fusion GPS, and Russia.”

The White House has also stated that they expect Mueller’s investigation to wrap up soon.

Avigdor Lieberman formally charged in Jerusalem court


Former Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was formally charged with fraud and breach of trust.

The indictment, which reportedly includes new and stronger evidence against Lieberman, was filed with the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on Sunday morning. Lieberman is charged with advancing the position of Zeev Ben Aryeh, Israel's former ambassador to Belarus, in exchange for information on an investigation against him.

An abuse of authority accusation could mean the court will add moral turpitude to any conviction. Those convicted of moral turpitude cannot seek public office for at least seven years.

Lieberman had waived his parliamentary immunity, seeking a speedy trial that he hoped would be over before the Jan. 22 elections. That no longer appears possible.

The indictment followed questioning of members of a Foreign Ministry appointments panel who previously had not been questioned, as well as further questioning of Lieberman.

Lieberman resigned last week as foreign minister, although he remains a member of the Knesset and the head of the Yisrael Beiteinu party.

His resignation came days after Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein on Dec. 13 closed a 12-year investigation of Lieberman, dismissing most of the charges but saying he would file the indictment for fraud and breach of trust. Last spring, Ben Aryeh confessed that he had received and passed documents to Lieberman in 2008.

The filing of the indictment had been postponed in order to question the additional members of the appointments panel.

New evidence includes a conversation between Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon that reportedly shows Lieberman actively lobbying for Ben Aryeh's appointment as ambassador to Belarus. Ayalon reportedly will testify against Lieberman during the trial.

Lieberman announced recently that Ayalon would not be included on the Yisrael Beiteinu Knesset list for the January elections. The party is running on a joint candidates' list with the ruling Likud Party. Ayalon has stayed on at the Foreign Ministry despite Lieberman stepping down.

Olmert sentenced to community service for breach of trust


Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was sentenced to six months of community service for a breach of trust conviction.

Olmert was sentenced Wednesday in Jerusalem District Court. He could have faced up to three years in jail.

The state prosecutors office also dropped a request that the court find that Olmert 's conviction amounted to moral turpitude, which would have prevented the 67-year-old from entering politics for seven years.

Olmert had agreed to forgo the perks awarded to a former head of state, including a secretary, an office and a car, in exchange for the finding.

The Jerusalem District Court in July acquitted Olmert on charges of fraud, breach of trust, tax evasion and falsifying corporate records in what became known as the Talansky and Rishon Tours affairs. He was found guilty on a lesser charge of breach of trust in the Investment Center case.

Olmert is the first former Israeli prime minister ever to stand trial. He officially resigned as prime minister in September 2008 after police investigators recommended that he be indicted.

Following the verdicts, Olmert said he has no plans to reenter politics.

Olmert will be back in the courtroom, however. In January, he was indicted on bribery charges in one of Israel’s largest corruption scandals. Olmert is accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes during the construction of the Holyland apartment project in Jerusalem when he was mayor of the city and then trade minister.

Seventeen others have been indicted in the case, including his bureau chief, Shula Zaken, and Olmert's successor as Jerusalem mayor, Uri Lupolianski.

Avigdor Lieberman told he might be indicted


Israel Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has been told that he may soon be indicted on charges of fraud, money laundering and break of trust.

The punishment for money laundering alone could be up to a 10-year prison sentence.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein informed the Kadima Party leader of the possibility on Wednesday, reported Haaretz.

The foreign minister has the right to a hearing in the effort to persuade the attorney general not to move forward with formal charges. If he takes that option, he will not need to resign from the cabinet. If he forsakes the opportunity, his political fate is not clear, according to the newspaper.

About a year-and-a-half ago, the Israeli police’s head of investigations and intelligence division, Yoav Segalovich, recommended that Weinstein charge Lieberman. Conversations on the matter have continued since then between the State Prosecution and the Attorney General offices. Segalovich recommended indicting Lieberman on charges of bribery, fraud, money laundering, breach of trust, witness harassment, and obstruction of justice, according to Haaretz.

Police have alleged that Lieberman was given more than 10 million in bribes from businessmen, which was laundered via shell companies and fictitious bank accounts overseas.

The police also have recommended indicting Lieberman for breach of trust in the case of Israel’s former ambassador to Belarus, Ze’ev Ben Aryeh, who showed Lieberman secret documents from the investigation against Lieberman, Haaretz reported.

Turkish criminal court accepts indictments against Israeli commanders


A Turkish criminal court accepted indictments against the four top Israeli commanders who led the 2010 raid on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara ship.

İstanbul’s 7th High Criminal Court on Monday unanimously accepted the indictment submitted last week by a special Turkish prosecutor, according to the English-language Turkish news service Today’s Zaman.

The 144-page indictment seeks 10 aggravated life jail sentences against former Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi; Navy commander Vice Adm. Eliezer Marom; military intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin; and the head of Air Force intelligence, Brig. Gen. Avishai Levi.

The soldiers who carried out the raid are expected to be named in a separate indictment, following an ongoing investigation, according to Zaman.

The indictment mentions 10 “slain Turks.” Nine Turkish nationals, including a Turkish-American man, were killed in clashes during the raid. The 10th person is a man who remains in a vegetative state, according to Zaman. The indictment also reportedly refers to 490 victims and complainants, including 189 who were reported injured in the attacks.

Israeli Navy commandos on May 31, 2010 boarded the Mavi Marmara, which claimed to be carrying humanitarian aid, after warning the ship not to sail into waters near the Gaza Strip in circumvention of Israel’s naval blockade of the coastal strip.

Israel’s government-appointed Turkel Commission found in its investigation that the government and the military behaved appropriately, and that the blockade of Gaza was legal.

The United Nations’ Palmer Committee also found the blockade to be legal but said Israel used excessive force while boarding the vessel.

Turkey’s inquiry deemed the Gaza blockade and the Israeli raid to have been illegal. Ankara has called on Israel for an official apology and compensation for the raid, and to lift the Gaza blockade. The two countries have broken off diplomatic relations and military agreements since the incident.

Turkey ready to issue indictments in Marmara incident


Turkish government prosecutors have completed their investigation into the incident aboard the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara in 2010.

The prosecutors have requested from Israel’s Foreign Ministry the names of the Israeli soldiers to be listed on the indictment, Turkish Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin said Tuesday according to the English-language Today’s Zaman, citing the Anatolia news agency.

Israeli naval commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara,which claimed to be carrying humanitarian aid, after warning it not to sail into waters near Gaza. Nine Turkish nationals, including one Turkish-American man, were killed in the clashes.

The Israeli government-appointed Turkel commission investigated the incident, despite calls from the United Nations to hold an independent investigation. The commission found that the government and the military behaved appropriately and that Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza was legal.

The UN-appointed Palmer committee also found the Gaza blockade to be illegal but said that Israel used excessive force while boarding the vessel. .

Turkey’s inquiry deemed the Gaza blockade and the Israeli raid to have been illegal.

Lieberman says he is unconcerned about likely indictment


Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said he has no cause for concern following an announcement that he would be indicted on graft charges.

“I know and you know that I always acted in accordance with the law, and there is no reason for worry,” Lieberman said Wednesday. “After 15 years, I finally will have an opportunity to prove that I acted lawfully.”

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein said the State Prosecutor’s Office would press charges against Lieberman for fraud, money laundering, breach of trust and witness tampering. The announcement came just as Lieberman was about to deliver an address at a Yisrael Beiteinu party convention.

Lieberman can request a hearing to try to prevent the actual indictment. If he rejects the hearing in order to avoid exposing his defense strategy, the indictment will be served.

Lieberman has said in the past that if he is indicted, he will resign as foreign minister.

The charges come from several incidents. Lieberman allegedly operated six to 10 shell companies during his tenure in the National Infrastructure, Transportation and Strategies Affairs ministries, through which he is said to have laundered bribe money.

Alleged Tucson gunman Jared Lee Loughner indicted on 49 counts


Eight weeks after the tragic shooting in Arizona Jared Lee Loughner was indicted on 49 counts including murder and attempted murder Friday,

Briefs: Olmert indictment soon, Gaza boat will be blocked, Israel says ‘no’ to Cat Stevens


Police Sources: Olmert Indictment Near

An indictment in a fraud case could be filed against Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert within days, according to police sources.

Ha’aretz reported Monday that police sources made their claim based on depositions taken in the United States over the last few days in a double-billing case in which Olmert is accused of billing several non-profit organizations for the same flights and using the money for family vacations.

The investigators will return to Israel at the end of the week.

The police sources told Ha’aretz that the new evidence confirms earlier evidence on which the police recommended an indictment.

An official indictment could force Olmert out of office before new elections are held, likely in February.

Israel Will Stop Gaza Activist Boat

Israel plans to stop a boat of activists planning to set sail for Gaza.

The Free Gaza movement is scheduled to leave from Cyprus for Gaza Tuesday, the second time it will attempt to break Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-run strip. The first trip in August, comprised of two boats full of activists, was not blocked by Israel’s navy.

Israeli officials said a decision was made last month at the “highest governmental levels,” to stop the boat, when it was originally scheduled to make the second trip, the Jerusalem Post reported Tuesday.

The 26 activists, including an Arab-Israel lawmaker, 1976 Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire, and Palestinian Legislative Council member Mustafa Barghouti, will bring medicines to Gaza.

The Free Gaza Movement used August’s demonstration to gain publicity against Israel’s blockade of Gaza, despite the fact that Israel let the boats pass without stopping them.

The blockade was instituted after the terrorist group Hamas won Palestinian elections in 2006.

Palestinian Soccer Team Draws in First Home Game

The Palestinian national soccer team played its first match at its new West Bank stadium.

The Palestinians tied Jordan, 1-1, at the 6,500-seat stadium in al-Ram, near Jerusalem. FIFA, the international soccer federation, financed the construction of the stadium.

The Palestinian squad, which has been affiliated with FIFA for a decade, has hosted international games in other countries, often Jordan, because of the lack of an adequate stadium and security issues.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter attended the game and called it “historic.” Blatter also met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and laid a wreath at the tomb of Yasser Arafat during his visit.

The French press agency reported that several Jordanian players of Palestinian origin knelt and kissed the artificial turf when they took the field.

Newsweek: Israeli Strike Won’t Get Iranian Nukes

Israel would have a tough time significantly damaging Iran’s nuclear facilities from the air, according to Newsweek.

In its Periscope section now online and to be published Monday in its Nov. 3 issue, the magazine quotes “Western intelligence experts “as saying that the nuclear facilities are too deep underground for an Israeli air attack to be effective.

A Western official who requested anonymity told Newsweek the facilities are located in tunnels and fortified by barriers more than 60 feet thick. The official, as well as other U.S. experts, said that Israel does not possess conventional weapons capable of knocking out the facilities. Breaking through the thick shell would require, at minimum, several bunker-buster bombs striking precisely the same spot, Newsweek reported.

Newsweek suggested that Israel could do more damage against Iranian nuclear facilities located at four key sites with a nuclear strike of its own. But the magazine adds, “U.S. and other Western experts say there is no reason to believe the Israelis will abandon their policy against shooting first with nukes.”

The magazine also reported that efforts by the United States and its allies to keep tabs on the Iranian nuclear program suffered a blow recently when Germany accidentally arrested one of their own Iranian-Canadian informants, code-named Sinbad, for illegal missile-technology shipments to Iran in what has been called the Sinbad Affair.

Cat Stevens’ Israel Appearance Nixed

An appearance in Israel by Cat Stevens was canceled for security reasons.

The British singer, a convert to Islam also known as Yusuf Islam, was scheduled to appear at an upcoming 10th anniversary event for the Peres Center for Peace.

“The idea to bring Stevens to Israel sparked a huge row the moment it was made public, and we sent his passport number to a conventional security check,” Peres Center director Uri Savir told Ynet. “We took the matter into consideration and decided to cancel this idea.”

Stevens was last denied entry to Israel eight years ago during an airport security check.

“He may have supported Hamas once, but the fact that a singer who converted to Islam wants to come to Israel and express his support for peace and we’re not letting him do so infuriates me,” the show’s producer, Irit Tenhangel, told Ynet.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Grand Rabbi pleads not guilty


LOS ANGELES – The Grand Rabbi of Spinka, head of a Brooklyn-based Chasidic sect, and five other men pleaded not guilty Monday to federal charges of tax evasion and money laundering.

Naftalie Tzi Weisz, the 59-year old grand rabbi, and the other accused appeared in U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles before U.S. Magistrate Judge Alicia Rosenberg, who set Feb. 12 for trial.

A federal grand jury indicted the men and five Spinka charities on Dec. 18 on charges of participating in fraudulent kickback scheme that cheated the Internal Revenue Service of at least $33 million.

In the alleged scheme, donors to Spinka charities were refunded up to 95 percent of their donations, who then claimed the full amounts as tax deductions.

The kickbacks were laundered through the Mizrahi Bank in Tel Aviv and businesses in the Los Angeles jewelry district, according to prosecutors.

Other named defendants are Weisz’s gabbai, or assistant, Moshe Zigelman, 60, also of Brooklyn, Joseph Roth, 66, of Tel Aviv, and three Los Angeles area residents, Yaacov Zeivald, 43, Alan Jay Friedman, 43, and Yosef Nachum Naiman, 55.

Weisz and Zigelman allegedly made more than $750,000 from the transactions.

All are free on bond, except Roth, an assistant manager at the Mizrahi Bank, who is considered a flight risk to Israel by the prosecution. Roth had been granted a $1.9 million bond by another magistrate, but who stayed the decision so that government prosecutors could draft an appeal. The defendants face lengthy terms in prison terms if convicted of the charges.


Local Orthodox community in shock after arrest of Spinka rabbiBy Amy Klein, Religion Editor

The Los Angeles Orthodox Community went into shock this week over the federal indictment of four of their own. They were among eight men accused of running a tax fraud scheme funneled through a Brooklyn Yeshiva.

On Dec. 19, Los Angeles authorities arrested six people, including Naftali Tzi Weisz, 59, the grand rabbi of Spinka, a Brooklyn-based Hasidic sect, on charges of creating a money-laundering scheme that worked through financial networks in Los Angeles and Israel. Two of the eight remained at large as of Dec. 21. The four men arrested have been released on bail.

The 37-count indictment against the rabbi, who is being represented by well-known attorney Donald Etra, alleges that he and his gabbai (assistant), Moshe E. Zigelman, 60, raked in more than $750,000 by soliciting millions of dollars in contributions to Spinka charities while promising to secretly return up to 95% of donations.

Four Los Angeles men were among those charged with taking part in the scheme: Yaacov (Yankel) Zeivald, 43, a self-described scribe from Valley Village ; Yosef Nachum Naiman, 55, the owner of Shatz Et Naiman, dba Jerusalem Tours; Alan Jay Friedman, 43, a businessman, also from Los Angeles. All three were released on bail on Wednesday. Moshe (Marvin) Arie Lazar, 60, the owner of Lazar Diamonds here, is believed to be in Israel, according to the federal officials.

Naiman, Friedman and Lazar all reside in the Hancock Park/Fairfax ultra-Orthodox neighborhood, although they are not all Hasidic. Friedman sits on the Board of Directors of the Orthodox Union.

A fifth Angeleno, named in the indictment as R.K., was a member of the conspiracy from 1996 through October 2004 and then became a cooperating witness for the government. The Journal could not confirm at press time the alleged identity of R.K., which was being circulated in the Orthodox community.

“The Fraudulent Charitable Contribution Scheme,” according to the grand jury, began in 1996 and continued through 2007, where the defendants would secretly refund to certain Spinka contributors from 80 to 95 percent of their nominal contributions to Spinka charitable organizations,” the indictment said. “In this manner, the conspiring contributors could fraudulently claim as tax deductions the full amounts of their nominal contributions tothe Spinka charitable organizations, while having actually contributed as little as 5 to 20 percent of the amounts of the claimed deductions. The conspiring contributors could also usethe fraudulent Spinka charitable contributions to promote other unlawful activity including, in the case of co-conspirator R.K., the fraudulent concealment of assets from the SEC.”

In Los Angeles’ tight-knit ultra-Orthodox community in the Fairfax-Beverly, Hancock Park neighborhood, people were quietly talking about the case and were extremely upset that members of their community may have been involved in such a “non-religious” activity.

“One thing is clear: The Orthodox community deplores any attempt to defraud the government of the United States, and there is no excuse for it, and there’s no rationalizations that are acceptable,” said Rabbi Meyer H. May, president of the Rabbinical Council of California. “It’s against the Torah and it’s against our moral foundation. At the same time, regarding these specific individuals, they should be allowed to have a fair trial, as everyone is innocent until proven guilty.” He also stressed that people should beware of lashon hara, or gossip, of discussing this case, and to keep in mind that there are wives and children and family members who might also be hurt.

But whatever the verdict on the accused, Rabbi May said this should be a wake-up call to the community. “The community should look deeply inside itself to examine its values, its commitment to truth, and its understanding of what God really wants us to be and how he wants us to act. We are here in this world to sanctify the name of God and not to denigrate it.”

He stressed that the accused are individuals, not representatives of the Orthodox or Hasidic community. “Ninety nine percent do pay taxes correctly, do abide by the law, do take their positions as citizens of the United States seriously and ethically.”

This is not the first time a Hasidic sect has been using their institution to funnel money. In January 2001, outgoing president Bill Clinton controversially pardoned four Sqverer Hasidim who were serving prison sentences of up to 6 1/2 years for bilking $40 million worth of student Pell grants and loans from government sources for a phony school in the Hasidic community of New Square, N.Y.

Feds Indict Suspect in Murder of JDL’s Krugel


Almost nine months after the brutal prison-yard slaying of Earl Krugel, the longtime No. 2 man in the Jewish Defense League (JDL), federal authorities have indicted an inmate with no apparent ties to Krugel.

The suspect, David Frank Jennings, 30, allegedly attacked Krugel from behind with a piece of concrete hidden in a bag while Krugel was using an exercise machine at a federal prison in Phoenix.

The indictment, issued by a federal grand jury on July 19, offers neither details nor motive, asserting that Jennings “with premeditation and malice aforethought willfully kill and murder Earl Leslie Krugel.”

Jennings is the only person charged in the killing that took place in plain view. Authorities contend that Jennings acted alone.

“He was the only one charged. There was no conspiracy,” said Ann Harwood, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Phoenix,
Authorities would say little else, including anything about the motive of the alleged killer, a small-time repeat offender with nothing in his rap sheet to suggest either this level of violence or any particular animosity toward the 62-year-old Krugel.

Krugel had been transferred to the Federal Corrections Institute (FCI) Phoenix, a medium security prison, just three days before the assault. To date, there is no indication that Krugel and Jennings knew each other.
“My husband was brutally murdered just a few days after he was sent to that prison,” Lola Krugel said. “He wasn’t there long enough to make any deadly enemies.”

At the time of Krugel’s attack, Jennings was serving a 70-month sentence at FCI Phoenix for a 2003 bank robbery in Las Vegas, which netted him $1,040. Because Jennings had threatened the teller during the robbery, authorities eventually extended his plea bargain sentence from 63 months to 70 months.

Jennings, who lived in Oregon before moving to Nevada, has multiple convictions, but court records reviewed by The Journal did not indicate any association with racist or anti-Semitic groups in or out of prison.

In 1993,Jennings was convicted in Oregon on an Assault III charge; a “class C” state felony, which resulted in an 18-month state prison sentence. In 1994 he was arrested and convicted for unauthorized use of a vehicle and sentenced to six months in jail. In 1995, a probation violation cost him another six months.

He had apparently moved to Nevada by 1996. That same year he was arrested and pleaded guilty to state charges of grand larceny and unlawful possession of a credit card, for which he received a sentence of 16 to 72 months in state prison.

Krugel was transferred to the Phoenix facility to serve out the balance of a 20-year sentence, following his negotiated guilty plea to conspiracy, weapons and explosives charges. The high-profile case against Krugel and the JDL involved an abortive bombing plot against possible targets that included a Culver City mosque and the field office of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), an Arab-American of Lebanese descent.

A fitness fanatic, Krugel was using exercise equipment when he was blind-sided between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Nov. 4, 2005. Details of the assault did not emerge in previous reports; a review of the autopsy depicts a vicious attack.

His main injury was the initial blow to the back of his head, which crushed the left side of his skull and severely damaged his brain and brain stem. But his attacker also delivered multiple blows to Krugel’s skull, face and neck, according to the autopsy, which was performed by the Maricopa County medical examiner and obtained by The Journal. Krugel suffered multiple skull fractures, internal bleeding and multiple lacerations to his head, face and brain. The beating knocked out teeth and also fractured one of his eye sockets.
Krugel was pronounced dead at the scene.

His death marked the violent end, in prison, for both local leaders of an organization that advocated the use of violence, as necessary, in defending the interests of Jews. JDL head Irv Rubin died in 2002, at 57, from injuries he suffered after jumping or falling from a railing inside the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles. Authorities ruled Rubin’s death a suicide, though family members contested that finding. Krugel, a dental technician by trade, was Rubin’s longtime close friend and second-in-command.

Krugel and Rubin were arrested in late 2001. They were accused, in the months following the Sept. 11 terrorist strikes, of plotting violent revenge against Muslims and Arabs. No attack was carried out. Krugel spent four years in federal lock-up in Los Angeles. It was the resolution of his case, with the guilty plea to reduced charges, that landed him in Phoenix.

Lola Krugel said she’s relieved that someone has finally been charged in her husband’s murder. But she and Krugel’s sister, Linda, both expressed frustration and anger over the time it took to make an arrest, as well as the FBI’s unwillingness to share information with the family.

“He did it right there in the open,” said Lola Krugel, referring to the attacker. “There had to be witnesses and cameras. So why did it take so long for them to charge this man?”

The delay was not foot-dragging but a desire to get it right, said Patrick Snyder, assistant U.S. Attorney in charge of the criminal division in the Phoenix office: “Since the murder occurred in prison, we know the assailant is already in custody. So we’re not under the same kind of time pressure to make an arrest that we are when a killer is still at large.”

Lola Krugel filed a wrongful-death claim against the federal government in February, which has since been denied. The family says it’s now preparing to file a civil lawsuit. The rejected claim had asked for $10 million for personal injury and $10 million for Krugel’s wrongful death.

“It’s an ‘outrage figure,'” said family attorney Benjamin Schonbrun, a partner in the Venice-area firm of Schonbrun, DeSimone, Seplow, Harris and Hoffman. “A figure to illustrate the outrage Lola Krugel feels over the murder of her husband, plus the anger she felt over her inability to get any information from the government.”

Nation & World Briefs


Former AIPAC Officials Indicted

The indictment of two former officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) suggests that the U.S. government wants to prove an extensive pattern of trading classified information.

Paul McNulty, the U.S. attorney for eastern Virginia who handed down the indictment in Alexandria, Va., Aug. 4, decisively counted out the pro-Israel lobby itself as a target in the inquiry.

Still, the broad scope of the charges — stretching back more years and covering a broader array of U.S. and Israeli officials than was previously known — is sure to send a chill through Washington’s lobbying community.

The indictment charges Steve Rosen, AIPAC’s former policy director, and Keith Weissman, its former Iran analyst, with “conspiracy to communicate national defense information to people not entitled to receive it,” which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Rosen is also charged with actual communication of national defense information, also punishable by 10 years in prison.

The charges against the former AIPAC staffers do not rise to the level of espionage, which the defendants and their supporters had feared.

Weissman and Rosen are expected to appear in court on Aug. 16. They have denied any wrongdoing.

Evangelical Won’t Apologize

An evangelical political leader defended his comments comparing stem cell research to Nazi medical experiments. James Dobson, who founded the group Focus on the Family, said his “recent comments are being spun like a top by the ultraliberals who don’t care about unborn life.”

Officials from the Anti-Defamation League and the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center have issued statements calling on Dobson to repudiate his comments. Dobson told a radio show Aug. 3 that embryonic stem cell research may have the potential to produce positive findings, but it should be condemned the way Nazi “experiments” on concentration camp inmates during the Holocaust were condemned.

Pakistanis Detain Jewish Filmmakers

Pakistani authorities who detained two Swedish filmmakers of Jewish descent for 16 days probed them about their “religious preferences.” Leon Flamholc and his son David, together with Tahir Shaw, a British writer of Afghan origin, were making a film about the Mogul empire when authorities arrested them July 18 in Peshawar, a large city near Afghanistan. Authorities said their 16-day detention and their deportation Aug. 3 were “lenient” because the men had entered on tourist visas and didn’t have permits to film. David Flamholc said the men were “blindfolded, held in shackles at gunpoint” and held in cells “stained with blood and excrement,” according to The Associated Press. Some of their interrogators’ questions focused on their religion, he said, apparently because of their Jewish background. British and Swedish diplomatic officials said they were denied access to the men.

Shabbat Comp Time

The U.S. government has changed regulations to allow part-time federal employees to use comp time to take off for Sabbath and other Jewish observances. Observant employees had been allowed to bank comp time instead of earning overtime wages in order to take off time for holidays, but the Office of Personnel Management recently changed the policy for part-time employees.

Jews Take the Field

Three Jewish baseball players took the field at the same time for the Boston Red Sox. Gabe Kapler, Kevin Youkilis and Adam Stern all played the ninth inning for the Red Sox in their 11-6 victory Monday night over the Texas Rangers. The event will be recorded on a card in the second edition of a Jewish baseball card set, slated to be ready for Chanukah 2005. The 1946 New York Giants had five Jewish players on their roster, though it’s not known whether all played together on the field at the same time.

More information about the Jewish card set will be available at Jewishmajorleaguers.org.

Briefs Courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

 

Bribe Charges Cloud


The state prosecutor’s recommendation to indict Ariel Sharon
on bribery charges came just as the Israeli prime minister was putting the
finishing touches on his plan for Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and
parts of the West Bank.

If Attorney General Menachem Mazuz decides to press charges,
it could mean the end not only of Sharon’s political career but of the policy
he hoped would alter radically the contours of the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict. If indicted, Sharon almost certainly would suspend himself or resign,
and his successor would be free to drop the plan to disengage from the
Palestinians.

In the meantime, until Mazuz makes up his mind — which could
take up to two months — Sharon will find it difficult to garner U.S. and
domestic backing for his far-reaching plan while under suspicion of criminal
wrongdoing.

Though it carries enormous weight, the prosecution’s
recommendation is not binding, and it is far from certain that Mazuz will
accept it. Justice Ministry insiders said Mazuz has described the case against Sharon
as “problematic” and “borderline.”

Sharon confidants said they are convinced that, when it
comes to the crunch — with tenuous evidence able to determine a prime
minister’s political future — Mazuz will not indict.

Sharon is suspected of receiving hundreds of thousands of
dollars through his son, Gilad, from Likud activist and millionaire contractor
David Appel for helping to promote Appel’s real estate interests in Greece and
the central Israeli city of Lod. Appel already has been charged with giving a
bribe. Now Mazuz must decide whether Sharon was aware that he was receiving one
and whether there is enough evidence to make a charge stick against the prime
minister.

In the meantime, Sharon is a prime minister under a cloud
and something of a lame duck.

Before the indictment recommendation, Sharon was working
hard to move his disengagement plan forward. He was close to tying up a deal
with the Bush administration for U.S. support; he had just made bold moves
against Hamas to facilitate Palestinian Authority control of Gaza after an
Israeli withdrawal, and he was hoping to use those two factors to win support
in his own Likud Party, where right-wingers, including some prominent Cabinet
ministers, have been highly critical of the plan.

Sharon also was covering his coalition bases. He was close to
cutting a deal with the opposition Labor Party for its 19 Knesset members to
join the coalition if the 13 legislators from the right-wing National Union
bloc and National Religious Party bolted over the disengagement plan.

Now, it will be hard for Sharon to tie up all the loose
ends. He might not even be able to get Cabinet approval for the plan: 11 of 23
Cabinet ministers expressed their opposition before the indictment
recommendation, and others may now come out against the weakened prime minister
and tip the balance against him.

Labor will stay out of the coalition as long as Sharon
remains under a cloud, and party leaders like Avraham Burg, who oppose any
alliance with Sharon, will have a stronger case. In addition, when Sharon flies
to Washington for a key April 14 meeting with President Bush, U.S. officials
are less likely to make formal commitments to a man who could be out of office
within weeks.

The fiercest challenge to Sharon, though, will come from the
right. Leaders of the National Union, the National Religious Party and the
Yesha settlers’ council are hoping to utilize Sharon’s plight to scuttle the
disengagement idea. They hope that if the prime minister is replaced, his
successor will shelve a plan that entails the dismantling of nearly all the
Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip and at least six in the West Bank.

If Sharon is forced to resign, Likud insiders said he
probably would be succeeded by Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has
shown little enthusiasm for the disengagement plan.

By Israeli law, the resignation of a prime minister does not
necessarily trigger a general election. Sixty-one Knesset members can propose
an alternative candidate, and the president can confer on him the task of
forming a new government.

Though Industry and Trade Minister Ehud Olmert, who backs
the disengagement plan, and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, who does not, might
mount leadership challenges, most Likud insiders believe Netanyahu would win
the party nomination easily.

But what Netanyahu does about disengagement is not a
foregone conclusion, and the right-wingers may be disappointed.

Despite his criticism of the plan, Netanyahu is leaving his
options open. Rather than rejecting it outright, he has laid down three
conditions for supporting the plan:

\n

• That Israel control border crossing points to prevent arms
from flowing into Palestinian areas.

\n

• That the United States recognize a route for the West Bank
security fence that puts more Jewish settlements on the Israeli side.

\n

• That the United States publicly back Israel’s position
that no Palestinian refugees be allowed to return to Israel proper.

Insiders said this stance gives Netanyahu maximum
flexibility: If he becomes prime minister, he will be able to keep a right-wing
coalition together while negotiating with the United States on his conditions
for disengagement. If Sharon survives, Netanyahu will be able to claim the
credit if his conditions are met or choose his moment to confront Sharon if
they are not.

In both his disengagement plan and in targeting Hamas,
Sharon has been playing for high stakes. Some critics even imply a connection
between his bold moves and the burgeoning legal case against him. Indeed,
Sharon’s critics on both the right and the left accused the prime minister of
playing with fire.

In contrast, his supporters said that his twin policy of
cracking down on terrorism and disengaging from the Palestinians could
transform the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To make those policies work,
however, Sharon needs more time.

And as Mazuz assesses the evidence, Sharon’s time could be
running out. Â


Leslie Susser is the diplomatic correspondent for the Jerusalem Report.

JDL’s Rubin, Krugel Indicted


Lawyers for Jewish Defense League (JDL) National Chairman Irv Rubin, 56, and Earl Krugel, 59, say that an FBI informant provoked the charges against the men, which led to a nine-count federal indictment last week. The two are accused of allegedly plotting to blow up a Culver City mosque and the field office of an Arab American congressman in Orange County.

Their lawyers said the charges were a “hysterical reaction to the Sept. 11 attacks.”

If convicted of the most serious charges in the indictment, returned on Jan. 10, the two men could be sentenced to life in prison.

The 24-page indictment charges that Rubin and Krugel recruited a person, described as someone who joined the JDL in his teens, to bomb the King Fahd Mosque and the field office, presumably in San Clemente, of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista).

A third potential target was the Muslim Public Affairs Council, which is headquartered in a high-rise building in the Mid-Wilshire area, but Rubin allegedly struck this target from the list.

During the course of a dozen meetings of the three alleged plotters between October and December, the unidentified informant contacted the FBI and agreed to wear a concealed tape recorder during future sessions.

Rubin and Krugel were separately arrested on Dec. 11, after the informant had delivered five pounds of explosive powder to Krugel’s garage, according to the indictment.

In separate phone interviews, defense lawyers attacked the government’s charges.

“This is a classic example of an overcharged case,” said Peter Morris, who represents Rubin.

The second count, which accuses Rubin of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction against a U.S. government office, is “outrageous…. They’re trying to raise this to the level of the Sept. 11 attacks,” Morris said.

Rubin, who like Krugel, is being held in solitary confinement at a downtown detention center, is “very upset but ready to fight,” Morris said.

Mark Werksman, Krugel’s lawyer, said that “this case was initiated by, prodded along and overseen at every stage by an FBI informant. The informant provoked discussion about things that Krugel and Rubin would never have done on their own, if not propelled by the FBI.”

Steve Goldberg, a friend and one-time lawyer for Rubin, criticized mainstream Jewish organizations, which in public statements to the press have already “tried and convicted [the JDL leaders] without a fair hearing. These are very serious charges and demand a high burden of proof.”

The two defendants are to be arraigned Jan. 22 in a U.S. District Court. Defense lawyers said they would request bail for their clients after a judge is assigned to the case.

Rubin was named national chairman of the militant JDL in 1985 by its founder, Rabbi Meir Kahane. Since then, by his own count, Rubin has been arrested 40 times and has been investigated for murder and attempted murder. He has never been convicted of a felony.

How to account for the different stories


I read Gary Rosenblatt’s indictment of Los Angeles’ rabbinate with some unease. It did not square with my understanding of what had occurred in the aftermath of the shootings at the North Valley Jewish Community Center in Granada Hills. Accounts from our reporter, Julie Gruenbaum Fax, suggested that the community as a whole, the rabbis included, had come forward to lend support, both moral and practical. However, it was his view that the 100,000-plus readers of The Jewish Week of New York took away from the events of that tragic day.

How to account for the different stories, almost diametrically opposed to one another? From the two articles (Rosenblatt’s, which appeared in the Sept. 3 Jewish Week, and Fax’s, which ran in the Aug. 20 Jewish Journal), you might think these were two different incidents of violence and terror in two separate cities.

It is particularly disturbing because I know Gary Rosenblatt to be an experienced and extremely responsible editor and writer. Editor-in-chief of The Jewish Week, he is one of the leading Jewish journalists in America. Moreover, Rosenblatt is learned about Judaism and astute when it comes to Jewish organizations and the politics that enfold them. Since it was he who had written that Los Angeles’ rabbinate had fumbled badly, I, for one, could not easily dismiss his account by falling back on that cliché, “Oh, you know journalists and their passion for conflict, for the negative spin.”

I telephoned him in New York.

He had received a call, as he relates, from someone on the JCC staff who was angry at the rabbis for their non-appearance, and angrier still that a few rabbis had flocked to the scene only to gravitate toward the journalists and the TV cameras. Rosenblatt had followed up with telephone calls to four or five rabbis he knew in Los Angeles. As he reports, one had been away on vacation; another did not think to drive out to the Valley or telephone to inquire if his help was needed. In all, not one of the rabbis had pitched in to help. His editorial in Jewish Week, and reprinted here, followed. As a community, we do not come across as looking good. Or at least our rabbis do not.

The Jewish Journal received a similar telephone call from a JCC staffer complaining about grandstanding and absentee rabbis. But when our reporter Julie Gruenbaum Fax checked, a different story emerged.

At Temple Ahavat Shalom in Northridge, Rabbi Jerald Brown “dispatched his associate, Rabbi Debbie Till, to the JCC and then to the hospital, where one of his members was injured. Rabbi Barry Lutz stayed at the synagogue to deal with clearing out their own preschool and to field phone calls from distraught members, many of them JCC parents.”

There were others as well. Rabbi Steven Tucker of Temple Ramat Zion, about 1.5 miles from the JCC, visited area hospitals the day after the shooting and the JCC later in the week.

“A number of rabbis,” according to Fax, “deliberately stayed away from the site as the crisis was occurring” on the assumption that “the last thing emergency personnel needed was more people to handle.”

Meanwhile, Rabbi Lawrence Goldmark, interim executive vice president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, who served as the representative for all the city’s rabbis, was also on hand. “He gave comfort to many parents and campers on site,” wrote Fax, “[and] also attended the funeral of the slain postal worker, Joseph Ileto.”

It occurred to me as I read the two stories back to back that another factor was present as well — namely, that most of the rabbis turned to their own congregants in an effort to offer comfort.

I can tell you with some authority that journalism is not a science or a branch of the arts. Nor is it an immediate form of history. It is, rather, a way of obtaining information either from eyewitness accounts or knowledgeable sources, some of whom often have their own political agenda. The reporter’s job is to gather the information as quickly as possible, avoid being used by one or another of the interested parties (e.g. the irate JCC staff member), organize the important details and make sure that the story is accurate, reliable and readable.

All this in time to make the day’s deadline. That means there is a cap on the number of calls that can be made, details that can be checked out, and background that can be researched.

The truth of the situation, or of the quote attributed to the authority, you may have noticed, is not at issue. Accuracy is prized. Did he say it? Was it observed? Can the “fact” be corroborated by two separate, independent sources?

Often, journalists know the limitations that bind their coverage, and so adopt a humorous, somewhat cynical take on the public figures they cover. Not true, I should add, for Gary Rosenblatt. And invariably they react to the event, are imprinted by it, and become the informed observer — which accounts for the (often unconscious) point of view or (the conscious) spin given to a news story or a column.

I cannot tell you which story is “true” — Gary Rosenblatt’s or Julie Gruenbaum Fax’s. If fault can be found, I would cite Rosenblatt’s failure to call us or Fax or to refer to her story.

Though both accounts came from interviews, each is accurate; each tells the story that emerged from the conversations with sources. In Fax’s case, there was the advantage of being on hand, of talking to more people, of seeing close up the impact and the response(s).

We are reprinting the version that New Yorkers were offered. It’s always helpful to know how others perceive you. Perhaps The Jewish Week should run Julie Gruenbaum Fax’s story.

Note to our readers: You can find Fax’s news account on our online archive at http://www.jewishjournal.com/jccrabbis.8.20.9.htm.

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