Israel offers intelligence to help war against Islamic State


This article originally appeared on The Media Line.

Following massed, coordinated attacks against civilians in the heart of Paris, governments around the world are reflecting on what can be done to protect their citizens and to tackle an ascendant Islamic State (ISIS). The ultra-extremist Sunni Muslim group which controls territory in Syria and Iraq claimed responsibility for the attacks which killed at least 129 people and injured hundreds more.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin both expressed their condolences and sympathy with the people of France.

“Israel stands shoulder-to-shoulder with France in this common battle against militant Islamic terrorism,” the Prime Minister said. He added, “I've instructed Israel's security and intelligence forces to assist their French counterparts and their counterparts from other European countries in any way possible.”

Israel is just a few dozen miles from Islamic State territory in Syria and the Sinai Peninsula, and has been watching the group closely. Unlike Western aircraft, Israeli jets are within easy striking distance of ISIS targets. In its campaign against ISIS, United States air force planes generally fly from Germany, as they have not been given sufficient access to use Turkish air bases, Nitzan Nuriel, a research associate at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Inter Disciplinary Center in Herzliya, told The Media Line. If Israeli airbases were to be used to launch US raids, greater force could be brought to bear on the Islamic State. This would be increased even more if the Israeli Air Force was to join the sorties.

Yet analysts say, that is highly unlikely to happen due to the convoluted politics of the powers in the region. Instead, Israel will offer its Western allies intelligence, as well as its considerable experience in protecting civilian locations from terrorist threat, Nuriel, who is a former director of the Counter-Terrorism Bureau, said.

The Jewish state will not join the coalition against ISIS due to the sensitivities of Gulf Arab states who are members of the coalition, Meir Elran, a senior research fellow and head of the program on Homeland Security at the Institute for National Security Studies, told The Media Line. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), have all taken part in attacks against ISIS, and all are countries which are uncomfortable with any visible alliance with Israel.

“There is a resentment on their part to Israeli participation. Israel could have done a lot more if that kind of limitation would be taken off the table,” Elran suggested.

Israel could still conduct strikes if it were to do so without advertising the fact, Moshe Ma'oz, a professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, told The Media Line. “Israel could be part of it. Maybe not (overtly) sticking out because it could be a weapon in the hands of ISIS who would say ‘you are fighting alongside the Zionists,’” Ma’oz suggested.

Additionally, he argued that if Israel were to resume negotiations with the Palestinians, cooperation between Israel and the Gulf states could become more palatable, facilitating greater cooperation against ISIS.

For the time being ISIS does not appear to demonstrate a serious threat to Israel. “(ISIS) doesn’t have access to the state of Israel, not from the Golan Heights and not from Lebanon. The only place they do have access is the Sinai Peninsula,” Nitzan Nuriel said. The southern city of Eilat, located near the border with Egypt was a particularly tempting target for ISIS affiliates in the Sinai Peninsula, Nuriel added.

The Egyptian military is struggling to contain an insurgency in the Sinai. Although the Islamic State affiliate there has not recently targeted Israel, they are considered a credible threat due to the damage they have inflicted on the Egyptian military, and the likelihood that the group planted a bomb on a Russian airliner last month, killing all 224 people on board.

At least right now, Israel appears to be a low priority target for the Islamic State, although this assessment could change. Western intelligence analysts suggestions that the recent attacks on the Russian airline and in Paris show that the group may have pivoted towards conducting attacks outside of its own territory.

Israel denies mystery 2010 detainee spied for Australia


Israel denied on Tuesday that an Australian immigrant who committed suicide in 2010 while jailed for security offenses had spied for his native country.

The statement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office, which oversees Israel's intelligence services, was the first to confirm the affair concerned Ben Zygier, who was named in an Australian TV expose last week.

One of Zygier's lawyers has since linked him to Mossad, fanning speculation the 34-year-old Jewish man from Melbourne had been arrested and held in isolation on suspicion of betraying the Israeli spy agency's secrets – perhaps to Australia.

“Following many reports, the prime minister's office emphasises that Mr. Zygier had no connection to the Australian security services and organizations,” the statement said.

It said that Israel and Australia shared “excellent cooperation, full coordination and full transparency in dealing with the issues on the agenda”.

Zygier was held under alias to stem serious harm to national interests, Israel says, but has not given any other details.

In a separate measure to douse speculation of foul play, an Israeli court allowed the publication of a judge's inquiry, completed two months ago, that said Zygier hanged himself in his cell.

The investigation showed the prisoner looped a wet sheet around his neck, tied it to the bars of a bathroom window in his cell and hanged himself, choking to death.

Israeli media reported the bathroom area was not covered, for privacy reasons, by closed-circuit television cameras that transmitted images from other parts of the isolation cell.

Ruling out foul play on the basis of medical and physical evidence, Judge Dafna Blatman-Kardai said entry to the cell was monitored by cameras and examination of their footage showed no one “intervened in causing the death of the deceased.”

She said his family – which has not commented publicly on the case – agreed with the findings.

“A small amount of sedative was found in his blood. There was no alcohol or drugs. This does not change my determination … about the cause of death,” a forensic medical expert was quoted as saying in the judge's report.

Civil liberties groups and some lawmakers in Israel, protesting at the state censorship restricting local reporting on the case, have demanded to know whether Zygier's rights were violated by his months of incarceration, isolated from other inmates, and whether his death could have been prevented.

Those calls were echoed in Australia, where media suggested Zygier had been suspected of betraying Mossad missions to Canberra's spy services. Australia was angered in 2010 by the fraudulent use of its passports in the assassination of a Hamas arms procurer in Dubai, which the Gulf emirate blamed on Israel.

NEGLIGENCE IN QUESTION

In her report, the judge said there was prima facie evidence that the Prisons Authority had been negligent, noting that it had received special instructions on supervising the prisoner to prevent a possible suicide.

A Justice Ministry spokesman said state prosecutors would decide whether charges would be brought.

A source briefed on the affair told Reuters that Israel has since installed biometric detectors in the toilet stalls of high-risk prisoners, designed to summon guards within seconds should they stop breathing or display other signs of distress.

Responding to the media reports about Zygier, Israeli Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch told parliament on Monday that the detainee had received frequent family visits and been “supervised by mental-health support and treatment systems, both external and those of the Prisons Service”.

Zygier also consulted with Israeli lawyers, one of whom, Avigdor Feldman, said he saw the married father of two shortly before his death to discuss “grave charges” on which he had been indicted, and the possibility of a plea bargain.

“I met with a balanced person … who was rationally weighing his legal options,” Feldman told Israeli television last week, adding Zygier had denied the charges against him.

“His interrogators told him he could expect lengthy jail time and be ostracised from his family and the Jewish community. There was no heart string they did not pull, and I suppose that ultimately brought about the tragic end.”

Feldman declined to comment on an Israeli newspaper report that Zygier faced between 10-and-20 years in prison.

Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor on Saturday called Zygier's death a “tragedy” but said his treatment was justified.

Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell; Writing by Dan Williams and Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Michael Roddy

Ex-Israeli intelligence chief Yadlin urges restraint on Iran


Another former Israeli spymaster, Amos Yadlin, urged caution in tackling Iran’s nuclear program.

Yadlin, who has largely avoided public engagements since stepping down as chief of Israel’s military intelligence last year, convened reporters this week upon being appointed director of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies.

“Iran today has enough [fissile[ material to produce four or five bombs, and the moment it wishes, it will be able, within 1 to 1 1/2 years, to have a nuclear bomb,” Yadlin said in remarks that received broad media play Wednesday.

But Yadlin, who was among the eight Israeli fighter pilots who bombed Iraq’s atomic reactor in 1981, was circumspect on whether Israel should take such action against Iran, whose facilities are more numerous, distant and well-defended.

Noting that the Iranians are unlikely to be surprised by any Israel strike, Yadlin counseled “opening channels of dialogue with those who have superior operational abilities than we do”—an apparent allusion to the United States.

Yadlin said that should Iran come under attack, it most likely woiuld retaliate directly against Israel and indirectly using Hezbollah and Hamas, its proxies in Lebanon and Gaza.

“However, there are international mechanisms that will curtail the war between Iran and Israel,” he said.

Asked about media reports indicating the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak were hatching an attack on Iran over the objections of their security chiefs, Yadlin called for such decisions to be made “in the appropriate forums—not in a forum of two people but in a broader forum.”

Yadlin’s counterpart in Mossad, Meir Dagan, has frequently hinted since his own retirement a year ago that the Netanyahu government is liable to make rash decisions on Iran.

Briefs: CIA lifts lid on Israeli raid on Syrian reactor; Iranians raze Tehran shuls


CIA: Syria Could Have Made Two Nukes

Israel destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor that was nearly ready to produce two bombs, the CIA chief said.

Michael Hayden said Monday that the secret, unfinished reactor that the United States believes Israel bombed Sept. 6 in northeastern Syria eventually would have made fissile material for bombs.

“In the course of a year after they got full up, they would have produced enough plutonium for one or two weapons,” he told reporters.

Israel has refused to provide details on the target of the air strike, leaving the CIA to deliver an extensive briefing last week on indications that Syria was pursuing nuclear weapons with North Korean help. In an apparent reference to help from Israeli intelligence, Hayden said that CIA’s disclosures were “the result of a team effort.”

Some Israeli experts have questioned the wisdom of the CIA giving such an expansive account on the reactor because it could compromise intelligence assets in Syria. But Hayden indicated there was no breach of trust with Israel.

“One has to respect the origin of the information in terms of how it is used,” he said.

GOP Lawmakers Target Carter

Two Republican congressmen introduced legislation that would deny the Carter Center federal dollars.

U.S. Reps. Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.) and Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) introduced the Coordinated American Response to Extreme Radicals Act , or CARTER Act, last week in the wake of former President Jimmy Carter’s recent outreach to Hamas.

“America must speak with one voice against our terrorist enemies,” Knollenberg said in a statement. “It sends a fundamentally troubling message when an American dignitary is engaged in dialogue with terrorists. My legislation will make sure that taxpayer dollars are not being used to support discussions or negotiations with terrorist groups.”

The Zionist Organization of American praised the legislation.

Carter’s Atlanta-based center focuses mostly on international development. The former president met with Hamas officials against the advice of the Bush administration. He defended his meetings as his attempt to help bring an end to the violence on the Israel-Gaza Strip border.

Pollard: I Don’t Know Kadish

Jonathan Pollard says he does not know alleged spy Ben-Ami Kadish.

Kadish, 84, allegedly passed American military secrets to Israel during the same period as the former Navy intelligence analyst.

Esther Pollard, the wife of the convicted and jailed spy, said in an interview that the first her husband had heard of Kadish was when his arrest was announced last week.

Kadish, a former U.S. Army engineer, is accused of spying for Israel between 1979 and 1985, a period coinciding with Pollard’s activities. Kadish is also believed to have been run by the same Israeli agent.

“He said he did not know Kadish and asked me if this would embarrass Israel, even though this was an affair that had been known for years,” Esther Pollard told Ma’ariv.

She further downplayed speculation that the new affair could hurt Israel’s efforts to win clemency for Pollard, who is eligible for parole in 2015.

Observers believe the U.S. government will likely deny the request.

“It won’t take long for this to drop from the headlines,” she said. “There will always be people who want to interfere, but this must not obscure Israel’s goal, which is to rescue its agent from jail in a foreign country.”

Iranians Raze Seven Synagogues in Tehran

Seven synagogues in Tehran have been razed by local authorities to make way for residential skyscrapers and urban renovation, L.A. Iranian Jewish leaders report. The synagogues were located in the Oudlajan neighborhood of Iran’s capital, a former ghetto with a dwindling Jewish population.

“It is a Muslim-owned area that in the eyes of a neutral observer would justifiably require a major renovation,” said Sam Kermanian, secretary general of the Los Angeles-based Iranian American Jewish Federation.

Oudlajan was the poverty-stricken site of Tehran’s Jewish ghetto nearly 100 years ago. After Iran’s Pahlavi monarchs gave Jews new freedoms more than 60 years ago, Tehran’s Jewish community gradually attained prosperity and left the area.

Kermanian downplayed the value of synagogues, saying that they were all but deserted.

“The synagogues there were mostly store fronts,” he said. “They were not the type of structures that would be considered significant historical monuments.”

While he believes the destruction of the synagogues was insensitive, Kermanian says he doubts anti-Semitism played a role.

Calls made to the Central Jewish Committee in Tehran for comment were not returned.

Tehran currently has 11 functioning synagogues, several Jewish schools and a Jewish library.

— Karmel Melamed, Contributing Writer

Young Jews to Pledge Genocide Fight

Young Jews will pledge to fight all genocide during a Yom HaShoah gathering at Auschwitz. Some 10,000 participants in the annual March of the Living had planned to sign the pledge Thursday — Holocaust Remembrance Day — at the Nazi concentration camp in Poland.

The March of the Living Pledge commits each individual, the majority of whom are aged 16 to 22, “to fight every form of discrimination manifested against any religion, nationality or ethnic group.” It goes on to say, “After the Shoah the promise of ‘Never Again’ was proclaimed. We pledge to create a world where Never Again will become a reality for the Jewish People and, indeed, for all people. This is our solemn pledge to the Jewish People, to those who came before us, to those of our generation, and to those who will follow in future generations.”

The ceremony will be led by Brig. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, the chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, in recognition of Israel’s 60th anniversary. Following Thursday’s event, a global effort will attempt to enlist the support of the 150,000 March of the Living alumni to publicly state their condemnation of genocide past and present.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

‘The Good Shepherd’: I was a young man for the CIA


Eric Roth’s impressive resume as a Hollywood screenwriter includes an Oscar (for adapting “Forrest Gump”) and a string of reality-based screenplays about the difficulties important people face choosing between realpolitik and personal morality.

These include shared credits on 1999’s “The Insider,” about a tobacco-company whistleblower and the problems CBS “60 Minutes” had broadcasting his story; 2001’s “Ali,” a biopic about Muhammad Ali; and 2005’s “Munich,” Steven Spielberg’s film about an Israeli hit squad charged with punishing the Arab terrorists who killed 11 athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. (Both “The Insider” and “Ali” were Michael Mann films.)

And the theme is continued in the new drama “The Good Shepherd,” for which Roth has sole writing credit and on which he has worked for more than a decade. The Robert DeNiro-directed film follows Edward Wilson (Matt Damon) as he moves from college into the shadowy, treacherous world of American espionage during World War II and afterward, at the expense of good relations with his wife (Angelina Jolie).

It also tells the story of the Central Intelligence Agency’s formative years and is loosely based on the career of James Angleton, the late CIA counter-intelligence chief. Roth recalls one early influence was reading Norman Mailer’s “Harlot’s Ghost,” a 1,000-plus-page novel about the CIA published in 1992.

“I was interested in the notion of an organization devoted to secrecy and how that affects people’s lives, particularly their personal lives,” said Roth, via telephone. “And what the burden of carrying around those things is.”

The film includes references to actual Cold War confrontations, such as the overthrow of Guatemala’s leftist president, Jacobo Arbenz, in 1954, intrigue in the Belgian Congo, an effort to enlist the Mafia in overthrowing Cuba’s Fidel Castro and the thwarted 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.

One intriguing reference in the movie is to a proposed trade between American intelligence agents and the Soviets in occupied post-World War II Berlin. The Russians propose trading Jewish scientists found in Nazi concentration camps for Nazi rocket scientists captured by U.S. troops. Roth said such trading was confirmed to him by the CIA sources he consulted in preparing his screenplay.

Roth, 61, credits his Jewishness with his screenwriting interests. “I think it comes down to my heritage and sense of values as to what is the sense of purpose on this earth,” he said. “I think it’s nice to have some kind of legacy and to do things that are worthwhile. There’s a value to doing something good and to have people thinking about things. I think it comes from the Jewish tradition within me and what my parents handed down to me.”

Born in Brooklyn, his father was a film publicist for United Artists and then, after moving to Los Angeles in Roth’s senior year of high school, taught film at University of Southern California. His mother wrote for radio quiz shows in New York and, in California, was a reader and head of the story department at UA. (Roth also grew up with a brother and sister; he and his wife today have six children and four grandchildren.)

After high school, Roth headed back east to Columbia University to study English. But he returned to study film and folklore at UCLA, where he won the Samuel Goldwyn Screenwriting Award. That led to his first feature film — in Israel.

“The movie was being financed by a group that took Christians to Holy Land tours, and they knew the director, a nice man named Jim Collier, who went on to make a film [“The Hiding Place”] about a Dutch family who hid Jews during World War II, Corrie ten Boom,” Roth said.

“It had two or three titles — one was ‘Catch a Pebble,’ I think. It was released here for like two seconds. The man who made it was a very religious Christian who made documentaries for Billy Graham, and this was a lay project, just a love story.

“It was his story,” Roth explained. “A stewardess was escaping a bad relationship and working for an airline that goes to Israel. She was barely pregnant at the time and decides not to come back to the States. She decides to hide out and get her life together in Israel. She meets an Israeli who takes her to his kibbutz, and they fall in love.”

Roth vividly remembers when the playwright Lanford Wilson, who already had the successful “Balm in Giliad” and was soon to write “The Hot L Baltimore,” was visiting an actor friend during that film’s shoot. “He came over and I remember him helping me write a scene I was having trouble with,” Roth said. “That was a lovely moment.”

From there on, Roth’s career has only gotten better — he wrote screenplays for such movies as “Suspect,” “Memories of Me,” “The Horse Whisperer” and “The Nickel Ride,” besides those previously mentioned. He also shares a screenplay credit (with Brian Helgeland) for one of Hollywood’s great recent stinkers, Kevin Costner’s three-hour-long “The Postman,” from 1997.

“I had written that as a satire for Tom Hanks many years before the movie got made — well before ‘Forrest Gump,'” Roth recalled. “That’s how I met Tom, through ‘The Postman.’ It was not meant to be taken seriously.

“Later, Kevin Costner developed it, and he made a more earnest version,” he continued. “And the guy who rewrote me went on to win an Oscar, Brian Helgeland [‘L.A. Confidential’]. So it goes to show that sometimes things just don’t work.”

“The Good Shepherd” opens Dec. 22.

Needed: Rational Discussion


When David Lauter, the deputy foreign editor of the Los Angeles Times, began speaking to a crowd of about 400 at a Women’s Alliance for Israel program last
week, it was clear that most of the audience was out for his scalp, and not even the yarmulke he was wearing could save him.

Lauter was on a panel discussing news coverage of Israel’s battle against Hezbollah. I was also on the panel, seated next to Lauter, who is a friend and was a longtime colleague when I worked at the Times.

He is a highly intelligent, soft-spoken, logical man who thinks before he speaks. He is also an observant Jew.

That meant nothing to this crowd. Neither did his intelligence and logic. They booed when he tried to explain his paper’s coverage. When they weren’t booing, they talked among themselves, paying no attention to Lauter. To this bunch, the world outside their own community was a vast and hostile conspiracy against them and against Israel.

I’ve spoken to many groups all over Los Angeles during extremely volatile times. I’ve never seen such rudeness, narrow mindedness and just plain boorishness.

Nothing Lauter said warranted such a response. He told how the coverage began, with him and the foreign editor, Marjorie Miller, organizing the Times foreign correspondents the day the conflict began.

The regulars needed help. A couple of the correspondents were already arranging their transportation to Israel. Miller and Lauter dispatched more to deal with the unexpected story.

This crowd wasn’t interested in these details. Nor did they want to know of the courage of these correspondents, who willingly head into danger — and stay there. This crowd probably had no idea of how many correspondents have been killed in Iraq. These deaths are a clear warning that the same thing could happen to some of the reporters in Lebanon or Israel.

The questions were unrelentingly hostile. They weren’t questions, in fact. They were attacks. And when Lauter tried to answer them, there were more boos.
When he sat down, I told him that this bunch was out for blood. Later, he said felt there was a hard core of haters, “but I don’t think they were the majority.”

I don’t know about that. Hostility seemed to extend through the room, back to the far edges where my wife and cousin were seated.

And at the end of the program, Lauter announced to the crowd that he would stick around and answer more questions.

“Several people came up to me and said they appreciated my being there, but they said so quietly, not exposing themselves to the crowd,” Lauter told me later.
Not blessed with Lauter’s patience, I left angry and stayed mad all the next day.

In the first place, the Times’ coverage is excellent. It’s fair. The reporters and editors strive for balance in the writing and editing of stories and the placement of the stories and the powerful pictures.

This does not mean it is perfect. Putting out a daily paper is an imperfect business. Think about putting that thing together every day with deadlines. I did it for years, the last three as city editor of the Times. When I went home at night, I wondered how we did it. In the process, mistakes are made. Reporters get things wrong. Editors make bad choices. Journalists live — or should live — in constant awareness of their fallibility.

But the Women’s Alliance for Israel event illustrates a bigger issue that extends far beyond the reliability and honesty of the Times coverage: Why can’t we have a rational discussion of Israel and the war in Lebanon?

In my modest presentation — I thought it best to bore these people rather than anger them — I noted that never before in history was so much information available in so many forms of media.

In the morning, I read three papers called the Times — the Los Angeles, New York and Financial. When writing, I take breaks to read Haaretz, the Jerusalem Post and the DEBKA Report, all from Israel, plus take a look at the Guardian to check out the anti-Israel thoughts of the British left wing. All that, plus my lifelong support of Israel, shapes my opinions.

With this information overload, sometimes it is hard for me to make up my mind. Sometimes, I actually have to think.

I would have enjoyed a rational discussion of the media, in general, and the Times, specifically. I have talked to many anti-Times audiences. People hear me out, argue and exchange ideas. They concede a point. I concede a point. We all leave the room better informed.

This group did not want to be better informed. They preferred to get their information from e-mails circulated by like-minded friends, interest groups and, of course, by watching Fox. Any mention of this network, by the way, got a lot of applause.

But as this war continues, we’ve got to reach out and talk to people who don’t agree with us. If we won’t listen to fellow Jews, particularly those as well informed as Lauter, how can we convince anyone of the rightness of our cause?

Bill Boyarsky’s monthly column on Jews and civic life returns this week. Until leaving the Los Angeles Times in 2001, Boyarsky worked as a political correspondent, a metro columnist for nine years and as city editor for three years. You can reach him at bw.boyarsky@verizon.net.

A Different War


I went to bed on June 25 believing that Islamo-facism was our country’s most immediate threat. I woke up on June 26 to find out that no, it was The New York Times. That’s the day President Bush publicly criticized newspapers that exposed a secret U.S. government program that monitors international banking transactions. He called the disclosures a “disgraceful” act that could only help terrorists.

But it is his comments that strike me as not just a shame, but somewhat of a sham.

The president singled out The New York Times, though the Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal published similar reports. Bush’s comments amplified attacks on The Times from Vice President Dick Cheney and administration supporters in the media.

Republicans in Congress joined the charge last Thursday, when the House voted along party lines to condemn news organizations for revealing the tracking program.

The Internet devoured the controversy. One blogger said it was time to take seriously the idea that the Sept. 11 attackers should have aimed for The Times headquarters in New York.

A cynic would say the administration picked a fight with The Times because, well, there’s a war it knew it could win, a diversion from the fact that we’re losing a bigger war.

The administration could charge The Times with endangering lives and America’s security, without ever having to prove that, as a result of The Times’ report, lives are in danger or America is at greater risk.

Prior to publication, The Times weighed this speculative risk against the public interest in government transparency and oversight. It can’t have been an easy choice. Newspapers are perfectly capable of being overzealous in their rush to reveal. “The difference between a stripper and a newspaper is that the former never pretends to be performing a public service by exposure,” the jouralist I.F. Stone once said.

But in this case the burden of proof was on the administration. Engaging in warrantless wire-tapping and establishing military tribunals that a conservative Supreme Court found unconstitutional last month does not engender trust.

The Times’ editors no doubt also took into account the fact that reports on financial tracking had appeared numerous times before, beginning with the president’s 2001 announcement that his administration would do everything in its power to disrupt the source of terrorist funding.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind details these steps in his recent book on the war on terror, “The One Percent Doctrine.”

In fact, Suskind writes, the initial success of the money-tracking led terrorist networks to abandon international money transfer by late 2003. “The al-Qaeda playbook,” he writes, “employed by what was left of the network, started to stress the necessity of using couriers to carry cash.” The Bush administration’s use of financial intelligence was “the most successful, coordinated area in the entire government in the ‘war on terror,'” in the words of a former CIA official Suskind quotes. But Al Qaeda — and Suskind — had it figured out long before The New York Times.

It seems a debate on press freedom and responsibility would, at the very least, be a welcome break from the weeks of speechifying over gay marriage and flag burning. But my fear is that this debate too is not part of the real war, but of the culture wars. Call me paranoid, but when the conservative base goes after The New York Times, I sense the attack is wrapped up with notions of “Jewish” and “liberalism.”

And some of my best friends are Jewish and liberal. (First they came for Howard Stern, then The New York Times, then –quick, call Jon Stewart).

I’m not alone in this thinking. “Many members of the president’s base consider ‘New York’ to be a nifty code word for ‘Jewish,'” Jon Carroll wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle.

George Bush has demonstrated over and over his concern for and appreciation of the Jewish community, but — when it’s time to rally the base — he knows which buttons to push.

And that’s too bad. Because even if we American Jews put aside our self-interest as a minority in protecting the civil liberties enshrined in the Bill of Rights, we have an existential interest in the war on terrorists who have pledged to target us, in particular. And I’m afraid this brouhaha shows that the White House’s eye is drifting from the ball.

How badly?

Foreign Policy magazine and the Center for American Progress convened a panel of 100 of America’s top foreign policy experts. They were Republican and Democrat, liberal and conservative and neoconservative. Nearly 80 percent worked in the U.S. government, a third in the military and 17 percent in the intelligence services. The magazine polled them on where America stood in its war on terror, and 86 percent said the world is becoming more dangerous for Americans.

Asked whether they agreed with the president that the United States is winning the war on terror, 84 percent said no, and 13 said yes. Of conservative respondents, 71 percent said no. (The results of the entire poll are in the magazine’s July/August issue and at www.foreignpolicy.com.)

The experts were also asked what America’s priorities should be in the war on terror.

They listed seven top items.

Guess what No. 1 was? Guess what 82 percent of conservative and liberal foreign policy experts agreed was the best way to win the war on terror? That’s right: “Reduce America’s use of foreign oil.”

Funny, shutting down The New York Times didn’t even make the list.

 

Staff Loyalties Stir Concern Over Work


There may be no greater test of the United Nations’ vaunted neutrality than to be a Palestinian staffer of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in the Gaza Strip or West Bank.

UNRWA has 12,000-plus employees in those areas — where it’s the second-largest employer after the Palestinian Authority — and similar numbers in camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. In all, more than 99 percent of its staff members are Palestinian. No other U.N. agency boasts such an overwhelming ratio of local to foreign field staff. Nine of 10 UNRWA employees are themselves refugees, according to the agency’s definition of a refugee.

UNRWA employees and their families in the Palestinian territories go through everything that society at large endures, which during the intifada meant the self-described “daily humiliations” of restricted movement, material deprivation and Israeli anti-terrorist raids. Nevertheless, UNRWA employees must sign a code of conduct that compels them to avoid actions that “may adversely affect on their status, or on the integrity, independence and impartiality which are required by that status.”

Realistically, though, some observers ask: Would it be surprising if UNRWA employees were to loathe Israel and embrace the Palestinian cause — and have it influence their work?

Some of UNRWA’s harsher critics speak as if the agency were actively complicit in terrorism, but others say the situation isn’t black and white. With lawlessness, intimidation and violence now widespread — UNRWA itself has relocated some international staff from Gaza to Jerusalem — Palestinian staff members may simply find it prudent to avert their eyes from the militancy around them.

UNRWA officials note that the U.N. General Assembly never gave the agency policing or intelligence-gathering responsibilities in its camps. Moreover, UNRWA officials say, it could be dangerous to ask too many questions about what’s going on around them.

Yet staff certainly can make a difference, said Astrid Van Genderen Stort, a spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), which takes care of the world’s 19 million non-Palestinian refugees.

In some cases, Van Genderen Stort said, UNHCR teams with local military, police or foreign peacekeepers to look out for armed elements stirring up trouble. In other cases, camp residents have established something of a “nightwatch.”

“It’s not that we have intelligence on the ground or that they’re spying on their neighbors, but they know who’s in their community and they keep an eye out,” said Van Genderen Stort, who recently worked in Liberia’s refugee camps. “We, of course, want to help only those who are refugees and in need of help. We don’t want to be an agency that helps rebels who go out at night and fight.”

When it comes to UNRWA, at least some staffers seem to share their clients’ more extreme views. The UNRWA teachers union, for example, reportedly is dominated by members affiliated with Hamas, listed as a terrorist organization in much of the West. Observers have cited numerous instances where suicide bombers and other terrorists were glorified in UNRWA schools, whether through graffiti on school walls or posters in the classrooms. In one incident, Hamas convened a July 2001 conference in an UNRWA junior high school in Gaza’s Jabalya refugee camp.

“The road to Palestine passes through the blood of the fallen, and these fallen have written history with parts of their flesh and their bodies,” UNRWA teacher, Saheil Alhinadi, said in praise of “martyrdom,” a euphemism for suicide terrorism.

Former UNRWA chief Peter Hansen got into hot water in October 2004, when he told Canadian television, “I’m sure there are Hamas members on the UNRWA payroll, and I don’t see that as a crime. Hamas as a political organization does not mean that every member is a militant, and we do not do political vetting and exclude people from one persuasion as against another.”

Hansen later explained in an interview that he meant Hamas sympathizers, not members.

“Don’t judge people by what you think they may or may not believe,” he said. “Judge them by what they do, in their actions and in their behavior. And there we get back to the very strict behavior code we have in the agency for what staff members are to do and not to do in their behavior.”

Israel, however, says the question isn’t just staff members’ political allegiances but, sometimes, their actions. In recent years, Israel has arrested dozens of UNRWA staffers — 31 from mid-2004 to mid-2005 alone, according to UNRWA — for alleged involvement in terrorism and other activities. Most are released within days or weeks without charges — but not all.

Nahed Attalah, an UNRWA official arrested by Israeli forces in 2002, reportedly confessed to using his U.N. travel permit and his UNRWA car to transport terrorists to attack sites and to entering Syria and Lebanon to arrange weapons purchases for terrorist groups.

In August 2002, Israel arrested UNRWA ambulance driver Nidal Abd Al Fatah Abdallah Nazal, whom officials later said confessed to being a Hamas member and using his ambulance to transport arms and messages to Hamas activists.

In 2003, Israel convicted three staffers: A Hamas member got 32 months for having a machine gun and delivering chemicals to a bombmaker, an Islamic Jihad member received two and a half years for possessing materials for possible use in explosives and a third person was sentenced to seven and a half years for shooting a gun and firebombing an Israeli bus.

In May 2004, Israeli television showed gunmen piling into an UNRWA ambulance.

UNRWA officials said it’s unfair to tarnish an organization of thousands for the actions of a few. They also claimed the Israeli judicial system is biased, with UNRWA denied access to both detainees and the evidence against them — so they’re skeptical about staff arrests and convictions.

Even a former Israeli diplomat chastised his government’s policy of claiming it has a smoking gun that proves UNRWA’s terrorist links, then withholding the evidence on grounds of “national security.” That fuels speculation that Israel doesn’t have the goods, the diplomat said.

“When the U.N. asks for proof and Israel says it’s classified, to me that’s like not having any evidence at all,” the official, who requested anonymity, said in an interview.

The most notorious instance occurred in early October 2004, when Israel announced it had footage of a Kassam rocket being loaded into an UNRWA ambulance. UNRWA asserted that the object in question was a rolled-up stretcher. After further scrutiny, Israel conceded it had blundered — It was indeed a stretcher. But the incident reflected how, after years of tension with UNRWA, Israel was inclined to believe the worst about the agency.

Even UNRWA leaders, however, admit their camps are heavily militarized.

“Of course I don’t condone it, but it’s a fact of life,” Hansen said of the presence of heavily armed militants at an agency function, according to the Associated Press. “Look around the camp. We can’t stop it. We don’t have guns.”

As Hansen later confided to the Danish paper, Politiken, “Who in this camp dares to speak up against an armed man?”

Though U.N. resolutions require armed elements to steer clear of refugee camps, Karen Koning AbuZayd, an UNRWA official, conceded in an August 2002 Jerusalem Report that expelling gunmen from the camps would be “difficult in this region.”

In Gaza and the West Bank, everything is “upside down. The refugees are the armed elements,” said AbuZayd, who at the time of the interview was Hansen’s deputy and who has now succeeded him.

Then there are instances of Palestinian violence that target UNRWA itself.

Last August, three UNRWA staffers — two Europeans and a Palestinian — were kidnapped in the Khan Younis camp in Gaza by what UNRWA described as a “militant group.” UNRWA protested, and the staffers were released unharmed later in the day.

Last New Year’s Day, Palestinians firebombed the U.N. club in Gaza City, which flies the UNRWA flag and is said to be the only establishment in town that serves alcohol, drawing the ire of Islamic fundamentalists. The club’s guard was tied up and beaten.

UNRWA staffers who venture into the fray may risk repercussions.

In April 2004, Israel’s assassination of Hamas leaders Sheik Ahmed Yassin and Abdel-Aziz Rantissi sparked an outpouring of emotion among Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.

According to The Daily Star of Beirut, the UNRWA chief in Lebanon, Richard Cook, ordered his staff to go into agency schools and tear down posters glorifying “martyrdom.” Refugee leaders declared Cook persona non grata and reportedly barred him briefly from the camps.

“We have to take the safety of our staff into account,” AbuZayd explained to the Jerusalem Report in her 2002 interview. “If we were to ask our staff to do certain things, we realize that would get them into big trouble.”

At the very least, the United States expects UNRWA to speak up. Washington is UNRWA’s largest donor, providing about 30 percent of the agency’s roughly $400 million budget in both 2004 and 2005. Section 301(c) of the 1961 U.S. Foreign Assistance Act compels UNRWA to “take all possible measures to assure that no part of the U.S. contribution shall be used to furnish assistance to any refugee who is receiving military training as a member of the so-called Palestine Liberation Army or any other guerrilla type organization or who has engaged in any act of terrorism.”

That pressure to vet seems to make the UNRWA hierarchy squirm.

In a November 2003 report, the U.S. General Accounting Office noted that UNRWA balked at the obligation to report what staff members see and hear, “owing to concerns for its staff’s safety” and the “inability to verify beneficiary responses.”

UNRWA’s lawyers countered with a proposal that staffers not “knowingly” provide assistance to those involved with terrorist activities — a standard that critics say sets the bar too high, allowing for plausible deniability. But UNRWA’s request that Congress clarify the meaning of “all possible measures” is a cop out, said Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), who chairs the House Committee on International Relations’ Middle East and South Asia Subcommittee.

“The representatives of this U.N. agency will argue that they cannot account for their employees’ activities, given the large number of Palestinians on their payrolls,” Ros-Lehtinen said in an interview. “If they are not exerting oversight over what is taking place in the institutions run by their agency, then the U.S. must exert strict oversight over its contributions to this agency.”

UNRWA camps also have seen a slew of “workplace accidents,” a euphemism for bombs that explode prematurely as terrorists prepare them.

“We talked to UNRWA about it, that if it happens that’s prima facie evidence the person was a terrorist,” a State Department official said in an interview. “But UNRWA’s lawyer says, ‘Well, not really. It’s not a terrorist act simply to make a bomb.’ We say that’s really getting into the weeds legally. We don’t know what other purposes they would be constructing a bomb for, and they fall into our definition for what ought to be excluded. UNRWA agreed in the end, and one reason they did, frankly, is we’re the biggest donors, and they don’t want to get into a spat with us.”

Letters


Real Intelligence?

I was very disturbed that you chose to publish the letter by Sabi Israel stating that “to believe in evolution takes just as much blind faith as believing in intelligent design” (“Letters,” Aug. 19). This is simply not true. There is no dispute among scientists that there is overwhelming evidence for evolution. Evolution is the fundamental process underlying biology.

There is a difference between publishing opinion and publishing falsehood. If I write how I think traffic flow could be improved, that is an opinion. If I write that there is a four-way stop at Wilshire and Westwood boulevards, that is a falsehood. If you are going to publish falsehoods, you might as well publish letters stating that the earth is flat and the Holocaust did not happen. Given our history, The Journal should be particularly sensitive to the dangers of publishing falsehoods.

Michael Lubic
Pasadena

To the extent President Bush associates the concept [of intelligent design (ID)] with the “origins of life,” one may suppose it has something to do with science or religion (“Junk Science,” Aug. 12). My understanding is that science is based on empirical evidence in support of a postulated theory. It seems the proponents of ID wish to call it science in advance of the empirical evidence substantiating the theory. As well, the National Academy of Science and the Center for Scientific Education have stated that ID is not science.

As a religious concept, ID is also suspect. It is pejorative and anthropocentric to call the origins of life “intelligent design.” These are words associated with the work of man. To the extent one would wish to associate these terms with God, it is an attempt to explain our existence in human terms, at best, or an attempt to make God like man, at worst. Further, it is not altogether irreligious to consider that we are here simply due to a fortunate mistake.

Daniel Hurwitz
Los Angeles

Tisha B’Av’s Future

Thank you for your insightful article on some of the attitudes that Jews hold toward observance of Tisha B’Av (“Marking Tisha B’Av Takes Many Forms,” Aug. 12). A number of synagogues, I suspect, used the opportunity to discuss the current “tragedy” taking place with Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza.

I find curious, however, your observation that some communities have moved away from Tisha B’Av observances because “they don’t want to imply a desire to return to Temple practices, such as animal sacrifice or a priestly caste system.” I believe that a more basic problem with the observance is with the reading of the book of Lamentations. The book recounts, with depressing repetition, how the sins of Jewish people caused God to turn away from “His People,” and leave them to their fate.

It is a mystery to me as to why we continue to read anything that expounds such an untenable belief. I seriously doubt that any modern Jew agrees with the idea that our “sins” are responsible for major disasters like the destructions of the holy Temples; I cannot believe that anyone would seriously use Lamentations to explain “other tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people…”

What then is the point of Tisha B’Av? Is it to blame the victim (in this case, ourselves) for tragedy?

Les Amer
North Hollywood

Pullout’s Wake

Rabbi Harvey Field and David Pine are absolutely correct when they call for Jewish unity and support for Israel in this difficult time of the Gaza Disengagement (“We Must Show Unified Pullout Support,” Aug. 12). But they don’t go far enough.

Jewish Americans should not only support Israel, but we must pressure Israel to make the Gaza pullout a success. A success will mean that both Israelis and Palestinians are ready to renew negotiations. The Gaza pullout will be a failure if it is so difficult for the Israelis, and/or if the Gaza Palestinians find themselves in a region that has no economic opportunity, so that either side is soured to renewed negotiations.

If the Gaza disengagement is a failure then the opponents of disengagement will be correct — that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon gave away land and the Israelis got nothing in return. As Jewish Americans we must work to assure that that does not happen, and that means pressuring the Israel government to follow the Golden Rule by treating the Gaza Palestinians as Jews wish they had been treated in anti-Semitic Europe.

If Gaza is a success, then Israeli and American Jews can look forward to peace.

Jeff Warner
La Habra Heights

Parent Punchline

I read Annie Korzen’s article and found one punchline not particularly funny:

“The day after the show airs, I hear my son talking to one of his friends on the phone: “No way, that wasn’t my mother. I mean, not my real mother. Duh, you didn’t know I was adopted?” (“Death by Oprah” Aug. 19).

I hope there will be a time when some people in the community, including Korzen, realize that adoptive parents are “real” parents. The birthparents or biological parents are a part of our world as well, but we adoptive parents have the joys and responsibilities in celebrating everyday the lives of our precious children. We raise our kids, just like everyone else who has biological children, and love them and stand by them. Duh, we are the real parents….

Delaine W. Shane
Sherman Oaks

Rewriting History

The mock Palestinian academic in “History Happens,” is not the inoffensive character that Tom Teicholz describes (“History Happens,” July 8). She spews venom at the audience in her diatribe against Israel. I was galvanized by her volcanic hatred and rose to my feet to exit the theatre. There in the hall stood two actors ready for their entrance. I commented to them that the Palestinian was as real as the weapons of mass destruction. With anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism rampant around the world, I do not see supporting a play or a theater promoting that hatred and the lies on which it is built.

Fana Spielberg
Santa Monica

Hope in HOUSE

As the Director of Adult Programs for OUR HOUSE, I would like to clarify an inaccurate statement made in last week’s article in Lifecycles featuring the H.O.P.E. Foundation (“H.O.P.E. For Los Angeles’ Bereaved, Aug. 5). Please note that OUR HOUSE groups are led by highly qualified, trained and supervised para-professionals, not by peer counselors as mentioned in the article.

Since 1993, OUR HOUSE has offered grief support groups for thousands of children, adolescents and adults when someone close to them has died. Our groups in West Los Angeles and Woodland Hills are age and loss specific after the death of a parent, sibling, child or spouse/partner. We additionally provide professional and community education, school-based grief support groups, and post-crisis grief interventions.

Fredda Wasserman
Los Angeles

A Scary Ghost Story

I read the David Samuels article (in the September issue of The Atlantic) and even though I knew about Arafat’s incredible corruption and strangeness (who didn’t), it was still pretty horrible to realize the extent of it. As suggested by Rob Eshamn (“Arafat’s Ghost,” Aug. 19), the money that actually could have built Palestine was wasted on favors and bribes and terror or stashed away! What came as no surprise was Arafat’s disinterest in a state while all he really wanted was to destroy the sate of Israel. Since he sabotaged every opportunity to make peace with Israel it became clear that peace is not what he wanted. The question now is — is Abbas any different? He did not give us any sign whatsoever that he is interested in a Palestinian state more then in the destruction of Israel. When he says “today Gaza, tomorrow Jerusalem and the West Bank,” the immediate thinking is: And Tel Aviv after that? He is not talking about a million shaheeds marching to Jerusalem, but rather about slowly but surely, slice after slice. He is expecting the U.S. president and the European Union to help and he has a reason to be optimistic — they are working on his behalf as if he never was a terrorist, a confidant of Arafat and his disciple. He already invited terrorists from Damascus to settle in Gaza. We have every reason to be afraid of the man who speaks softly and does not wear a kafia but says what his mentor used to say.

Batya Dagan
Los Angeles

Settler Uncertainty

Many Israeli police are also in tears as they compassionately evacuate the settlers and the protestors from their homes of up to 20 years in Gaza (“Evacuees Face Life of Uncertainties,” Aug. 19). The resistance is almost passive as it is done with muted prayers to god. It is a very different scene, absent of the violence that one expects in the Middle East.

The lack of a Palestinian homeland has not been the fault of the western democracies nor the fault of Israel. Their grievance should be with Jordan and Egypt who could have alleviated the Palestinian squalor while these territories were under their domination before 1967. When Israel entered Gaza in 1967, financial aid was pumped into the building of homes, schools and hospitals for Gaza residents, as never done by their previous landlords.

In June ’67, Israel was attacked by its neighbors: Jordan, Egypt and Syria. In its counterattack, Israel occupied Western Jordan, the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza as a protective buffer zone. Israel fought the armies of her neighbors and not a Palestinian army.

When Israel withdraws from Gaza this week, neither the Egyptians nor the Ottomans will rule over the Gazans. When these lands were under Egyptian and Jordanian control, the Palestinians were not given independence. Now that they have attained this independence after hundreds of years, can they rule themselves without a one-sided symbiotic relationship or will they still need a foreign body to leech on to or will the terrorist machine of Hamas take control?

The State of Israel has been instrumental in the creation of this new nation, Palestine. Will it remain so, or will the multinational Islamic panacea rule Gaza?

Harry Grunstein
Hampstead, Quebec, Canada

 

Entrapment, Surrender and Silence


If recent press reports regarding the government case against two former American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) employees are to be believed, then I am increasingly outraged at the government’s case, AIPAC’s response and the silence of the American Jewish community.

A word of caution is in order: Because grand jury testimony is secret — or at least should be — we do not know the full nature of the government’s case against these individuals, and will not know it unless an indictment is delivered and they are charged with a specific crime or crimes. But press reports, if they are accurate, point to an outrageous setup of the two and a muteness on the part of our community.

According to recent reports in the Washington Post and Ha’aretz, Keith Weissman, an AIPAC staff member, was told by Lawrence Franklin, a midlevel Pentagon official working in the office of Assistant Secretary of Defense Doug Feith, secret information that the Iranian government had targeted Israeli agents working with the Kurds for death in Iraq. According to the newspapers, he then took that information to his superior in AIPAC, Steven Rosen, who made three calls: two to check out the story and a third to warn the Israelis of risks to their agents in the field.

Given what Weissman was told — the information turns out to have been false, deliberately so because Franklin had set him up — Rosen could assume that Israel, an ally of the United States in the region, was working with the full knowledge and consent — active or tacit — of the United States. One may presume that the Israeli government or Israeli intelligence would not operate in such a sensitive area of American activity during wartime without finding a way of informing their ally.

Secondly, an American government official working in an office so friendly to Israel would not casually leak such sensitive information. There was a purpose; the information was to be conveyed elsewhere. In short, the Israelis were to be warned.

This is not the Jonathan Pollard case.

Neither Rosen nor Weissman were American government officials who had broken the laws of secrecy, the commitments that come with any level of security clearance, let alone top-secret clearance. They were not agents of a foreign government (although it seems that this is the goal of the U.S. government investigators and prosecutors — to require Americans Jews working in the U.S.-Israel foreign policy arena to declare themselves foreign agents of Israel). The Israeli government did not pay them for their services. They did not transmit documents.

If press reports are correct, they had acted as conduits for information leaked to them that was designed to save the lives of Israelis working with the consent and knowledge of the United States — at purposes agreed upon by the United States — to support American policy and the interests of both the United States and Israel.

Little did they know and less could they imagine that the information given to them was a sting operation by government investigators who already knew Franklin, the American government official, would be charged with criminal misconduct for allegedly mishandling classified documents by removing them from his office and taking them to his home.

Rosen and Weissman were attempting to save lives, not compromise lives or engage in a political vendetta. They had every reason to believe that they were operating with the active consent of the Pentagon, which had given them the information in the first place. According to press reports, they did not solicit the information; they merely listened to what was told them.

AIPAC initially gave these two officials administrative leave, continued them on salary and agreed to pay for their defense. They were working for AIPAC and trying to save Israeli lives, trying to further the alliance of the United States and Israel.

It seems that over the past month — in advance of its much-heralded and highly successful conference that featured U.S. government officials from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on down — AIPAC caved and fired these officials. It has told its key supporters that it will continue to fund their defense, but it has left them to fend for themselves economically at a time when both men will be preoccupied with their own defense and virtually unemployable.

Both of these men have made important contributions to the U.S.-Israel relationship — Weissman, an expert on Iran, and Rosen, a principal architect of the U.S.-Israel strategic cooperative relationship for more than 20 years.

And why the silence of the American Jewish leadership, which should be outraged by government entrapment on civil liberties grounds, and which should be furious that the bait the government chose to use was Israeli lives?

I lived in Washington when Pollard was arrested, and was the editor of a Jewish newspaper who joined the chorus of condemnation of both Pollard and the Israeli government for their ineptitude and stupidity in using an American Jew as an agent. It sent a chill throughout Washington officialdom, especially among a new generation of committed Jews, supporters of Israel, who were working throughout the government in every level of government service and in every agency.

This is different.

Weissman did what any person in his position is supposed to do. He went to his superior with important, albeit secret, information that purported to tell him that Israeli lives were at risk — immediate, tangible risk, information given to him in a quasi-official fashion, but what he presumed to be a most reliable source. And Rosen acted on such information to save the lives of agents working in direct alliance and with the presumed consent of the United States.

This was not a question of dual loyalty or conflicting loyalty, but of saving lives. From the perspective of Jewish tradition, if press reports are to be believed, they acted honorably in a manner prescribed by tradition, and Jews should not be adverse to defending those traditions, affirming those values and to supporting these men.

Michael Berenbaum is director of the Sigi Ziering Institute: Exploring the Ethical and Religious Implications of the Holocaust and an adjunct professor of theology at the University of Judaism.

 

Are Jews Smarter?


A reported link between Ashkenazi intelligence genes and susceptibility to genetic disorders is clearly mixed news for the descendants of Eastern European Jews.

It may come as little surprise, then, that reactions to a new study linking the two are a mixed bag as well.

After all, if what the University of Utah researchers say is true, some Jewish mothers may just have had their dreams for brilliant children turned to nightmares. Beyond that, it may also mean that Ashkenazim have, albeit unwillingly, “been part of an accidental experiment in eugenics,” as The Economist magazine put it in a recent article (see below).

“It has brought them some advantages. But, like the deliberate eugenics experiments of the 20th century, it also has exacted a terrible price,” the article says (see bottom bar).

The mere mention of eugenics, which refers to a movement to improve humankind by controlling genetic factors through mating, is enough to ring bells that many Jews would rather not hear 60 years after the Allied defeat of the Nazis.

According to the study, scheduled to appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Biosocial Science, Ashkenazim do better than average on IQ tests, scoring some 12-15 points above the test’s mean value. But they also are more likely than any other ethnic group to suffer from diseases such as Tay-Sachs, Gaucher’s disease and Niemann-Pick — related conditions that can be debilitating and deadly. The new study hypothesizes that the genetic disorders could be the unfortunate side effects of genes that facilitate intelligence.

But for some people, ascribing collective traits to entire ethnic groups — especially to European Jews — reminds them that the Nazis heaped a pile of supposed genetic characteristics on that continent’s Jews and used the characteristics as a basis to exterminate them. Indeed, the researchers said, they had difficulty finding a journal that would publish their findings.

For other people, criticizing such research on this basis reeks of political correctness. This is real science, the researchers said, with real potential to help save Jewish — and other — lives.

“When you study genetics in order to cure diseases, that’s great,” said James Young, a Jewish studies professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the author of “Writing and Rewriting the Holocaust: Narrative and the Consequences of Interpretation.” “But when genetics are studied as a way to characterize or essentialize a whole ethnic group or nation of people, then I think it’s very problematic.”

Still, Young said, “I was kind of intrigued by this connection, and the dark irony of what it means to have your intelligence gene linked to a so-called genetic disease gene. It’s kind of striking.”

For Dr. Guinter Kahn, a Miami physician who lectures internationally on German doctors during the Holocaust, studies like this have real scientific merit.

“This stuff is being done with genes, and they’re actually finding true results,” he said. “The stuff they did in World War II was pure baloney, motivated by the greatest geneticists of that time in Germany — but they all fell into the Hitler trap.”

Although no one is questioning the researchers’ motivations, some observers worry that their findings may be misused.

“Will bigots use this? Bigots will use anything,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation league.

However, he said, their abuses should not block research that could benefit the Jewish community.

Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt agrees. When it became clear that fewer Jews were killed at Auschwitz-Birkenau than had originally been thought, some Jews worried that this information would be manipulated by Holocaust deniers to back their claims, said Lipstadt, a professor of modern Jewish and Holocaust studies at Emory University.

“I had people say to me, ‘We shouldn’t talk about these things,'” Lipstadt recalled, “I said, ‘No, no, no. It’s always good to talk about the truth.’ We should never be afraid of the truth.”

As to concerns about what it means to say that one group of people is genetically smarter than others, Henry Harpending, a professor of anthropology at the University of Utah and one of the study’s three authors, said that such complaints boil down to political correctness.

“It’s no secret,” he said of the Ashkenazi IQ numbers. “Your grandmother told you this.”

The study notes that although Ashkenazi Jews made up just 3 percent of the U.S. population during the last century, they won 27 percent of the country’s Nobel Prizes in science, and account for more than half of the world’s chess champions.

However, Harpending added, this is “the kind of thing that you’re not supposed to say these days.”

“We regard this as an interesting hypothesis and are a little surprised at the attention,” he said. “On the other hand, geneticists kind of know that variation between populations is almost certainly in the DNA, and they kind of don’t talk about that” for fear of losing federal funding for their research.

“What we’ve done is started out with an idea and followed it, so what we have is a pretty interesting and pretty good-looking hypothesis — and it ought to be tested,” Harpending said.

Could this research actually end up helping anybody?

Gregory Cochran, one of the study’s authors, hopes so.

“I don’t have the cure to any disease in my pocket. I wish I did,” he said. But “if this all pans out, you learn something about how the brain works. Who knows? Maybe you can do something to help some people one day.”

The study says that because European Jews in medieval times were restricted to jobs in finance, money-lending and long-distance trade — occupations that required greater mental gymnastics than fields such as farming, dominated by non-Jews — their genetic codes over the course of some generations selected genes for enhanced intellectual ability.

According to the study, this process allowed these Jews to thrive in the limited scope of professions they were allowed to pursue. Further, in contrast to today, those who attained financial success in that period often tended to have more children than those who were less financially stable, and those children tended to live longer.

It is for this reason, the researchers said, that many Ashkenazi Jews today have high IQs — and it may also be the reason they suffer from the slew of genetic diseases. According to the researchers, many individuals carrying the gene for one of these diseases also receive an “IQ boost.”

Rabbi Moses Tendler, who holds a doctorate in biology and teaches biology at Yeshiva University, said there is “no doubt that genetic makeup determines intelligence and, indeed, predisposes as well as offers resistance to genetic diseases.”

However, Tendler took issue with the study’s findings. The fact that Jews did not intermarry until relatively recently, Tendler said, led to a concentration of various genes among their numbers, some good and some bad.

“Wherever they were, Jews lived on an island,” he said.

In scientific terms, arguments similar to Tendler’s are known as a founder’s effect.

Rabbi Arthur Green, dean of the Rabbinical School at Boston’s Hebrew College, wondered whether the findings took into account all relevant factors in the development of Jewish intelligence. He noted that during the period in which the researchers believe the Jewish intelligence gene began to be selected, the majority Christian world was, in a sense, selecting against such a gene.

“In that same period of 1600 to 1800 years, Christian Europe was systematically destroying its best genetic stock through celibacy” of priests and monks, he said. “The Christian devotion to celibacy, particularly for the most learned and highest intellectual achievers, diminished the quality of genetic output and created a greater contrast with the Jewish minority.”

The Jewish devotion to study and learning, meanwhile, also probably worked in tandem with economic factors in the development of intelligence, Green surmised.

In some of the Ashkenazi disorders, individuals experience extra growth and branching of connectors linking their nerve cells. Too much of this growth may lead to disease; increased but limited growth, though, could breed heightened intelligence.

In an effort to determine the effect of Gaucher’s on IQ, for example, the researchers contacted the Gaucher’s Clinic at Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem. Although the center did not have specific IQ numbers on patients at the clinic, the jobs they held were high-IQ professions: physicists, engineers, lawyers, physicians and scientists.

“It’s obviously a population with enriched IQs — big time,” Harpending said.

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Is There a Smart Gene in Ashkenazis?


The idea that some ethnic groups may, on average, be more intelligent than others is one of those hypotheses that dare not speak its name. But Gregory Cochran, a noted scientific iconoclast, is prepared to say it anyway. He is that rare bird, a scientist who works independently of any institution.

He helped popularize the idea that some diseases not previously thought to have a bacterial cause were actually infections, which ruffled many scientific feathers when it was first suggested. And more controversially still, he has suggested that homosexuality is caused by an infection.

Even he, however, might tremble at the thought of what he is about to do. Together with Jason Hardy and Henry Harpending of the University of Utah, he is publishing in a forthcoming edition of the Journal of Biosocial Science a paper that not only suggests that one group of humanity is more intelligent than the others, but explains the process that has brought this about.

The group in question is Ashkenazi Jews. The process is natural selection.

History before science.

Ashkenazim generally do well in IQ tests, scoring 12-15 points above the mean value of 100, and have contributed disproportionately to the intellectual and cultural life of the West, as the careers of Freud, Einstein and Mahler affirm. They also suffer more often than most people from a number of nasty genetic diseases, such as Tay-Sachs and breast cancer.

These facts, however, have previously been thought unrelated. The former has been put down to social effects, such as a strong tradition of valuing education. The latter was seen as a consequence of genetic isolation. Even now, Ashkenazim tend to marry among themselves. In the past they did so almost exclusively.

Cochran, however, suspects that the intelligence and the diseases are intimately linked. His argument is that the unusual history of the Ashkenazim has subjected them to unique evolutionary pressures that have resulted in this paradoxical state of affairs.

Ashkenazi history begins with the Jewish rebellion against Roman rule in the first century CE. When this was crushed, Jewish refugees fled in all directions. The descendants of those who fled to Europe became known as Ashkenazim.

In the Middle Ages, European Jews were subjected to legal discrimination, one effect of which was to drive them into money-related professions, such as banking and tax farming, which were often disdained by, or forbidden to, Christians. This, along with the low level of intermarriage with their non-Jewish neighbors (which modern genetic analysis confirms was the case), is Cochran’s starting point.

He argues that the professions occupied by European Jews were all ones that put a premium on intelligence. Of course, it is hard to prove that this intelligence premium existed in the Middle Ages, but it is certainly true that it exists in the modern versions of those occupations. Several studies have shown that intelligence, as measured by IQ tests, is highly correlated with income in jobs such as banking.

What can, however, be shown from the historical records is that European Jews at the top of their professions in the Middle Ages raised more children to adulthood than those at the bottom. Of course, that was true of successful non-Jews, as well. But in the Middle Ages, success in Christian society tended to be violently aristocratic (warfare and land), rather than peacefully meritocratic (banking and trade).

Put these two things together — a correlation of intelligence and success and a correlation of success and fecundity — and you have circumstances that favor the spread of genes that enhance intelligence. The questions are, do such genes exist and what are they if they do? Cochran thinks they do exist, and that they are exactly the genes that cause the inherited diseases that afflict Ashkenazi society.

That small, reproductively isolated groups of people are susceptible to genetic disease is well known. Constant mating with even distant relatives reduces genetic diversity, and some disease genes will thus randomly become more common. But the very randomness of this process means there should be no discernible pattern about which disease genes increase in frequency.

In the case of Ashkenazim, Cochran argues, this is not the case. Most of the dozen or so disease genes that are common in them belong to one of two types: They are involved either in the storage in nerve cells of special fats called sphingolipids, which form part of the insulating outer sheaths that allow nerve cells to transmit electrical signals, or in DNA repair. The former genes cause neurological diseases, such as Tay-Sachs, Gaucher’s and Niemann-Pick. The latter cause cancer.

That does not look random. And what is even less random is that in several cases the genes for particular diseases come in different varieties, each the result of an independent original mutation. This really does suggest the mutated genes are being preserved by natural selection. But it does not answer the question of how evolution can favor genetic diseases. However, in certain circumstances, evolution can.

West Africans and people of West African descent are susceptible to a disease called sickle-cell anemia that is virtually unknown elsewhere. The anemia develops in those whose red blood cells contain a particular type of hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen.

But the disease occurs only in those who have two copies of the gene for the disease-causing hemoglobin (one copy from each parent). Those who have only one copy have no symptoms. They are, however, protected against malaria, one of the biggest killers in that part of the world.

Thus, the theory goes, the pressure to keep the sickle-cell gene in the population because of its malaria-protective effects balances the pressure to drive it out because of its anemia-causing effects. It therefore persists without becoming ubiquitous.

Cochran argues that something similar happened to the Ashkenazim. Genes that promote intelligence in an individual when present as a single copy create disease when present as a double copy. His thesis is not as strong as the sickle-cell/malaria theory, because he has not proved that any of his disease genes do actually affect intelligence. But the area of operation of some of them suggests that they might.

The sphingolipid-storage diseases, Tay-Sachs, Gaucher’s and Niemann-Pick, all involve extra growth and branching of the protuberances that connect nerve cells together. Too much of this (as caused in those with double copies) is clearly pathological. But it may be that those with single copies experience a more limited, but still enhanced, protuberance growth. That would yield better linkage between brain cells, and might thus lead to increased intelligence.

Indeed, in the case of Gaucher’s disease, the only one of the three in which people routinely live to adulthood, there is evidence that those with full symptoms are more intelligent than the average. An Israeli clinic devoted to treating people with Gaucher’s has vastly more engineers, scientists, accountants and lawyers on its books than would be expected by chance.

Why a failure of the DNA-repair system should boost intelligence is unclear, and is, perhaps, the weakest part of the thesis, although evidence is emerging that one of the genes in question is involved in regulating the early growth of the brain. But the thesis also has a strong point: It makes a clear and testable prediction. This is that people with a single copy of the gene for Tay-Sachs, or that for Gaucher’s, or that for Niemann-Pick should be more intelligent than average.

Cochran and his colleagues predict they will be so by about five IQ points. If that turns out to be the case, it will strengthen the idea that, albeit unwillingly, Ashkenazi Jews have been part of an accidental experiment in eugenics.

It has brought them some advantages. But, like the deliberate eugenics experiments of the 20th century, it has also exacted a terrible price.

This article is reprinted with permission from The Economist magazine.

 

The Lessons We Learned in 1973


"The Yom Kippur War: The Epic Encounter that Transformed the Middle East" by Abraham Rabinovich. (Schocken, $27.50).

In a reflective moment toward the end of the Yom Kippur War, then-Defense Minister Moshe Dayan told a confounded and confused Israeli Cabinet: "We generally understand these things a generation later."

Throughout his career, Dayan certainly made his share of mistakes, but as his remark reveals, he was usually among the most farsighted leaders Israel ever had.

Books about the devastating 1973 surprise attack against Israel began to appear almost as soon as the smoke had cleared. But it is only now, a generation after the war, that we have anything like full-scale, analytical and interpretive accounts. In recent months, at least three Yom Kippur War books have appeared in English, but Abraham Rabinovich’s is surely the best. The veteran reporter, born in New York but living most of his life in Jerusalem, based his book on official Israel Defense Forces (IDF) archives, the recently declassified 2,000-page Agranat Commission inquiry into the war, numerous other documentary sources and more than 130 personal interviews.

[Personal disclosure: Bumie Rabinovich and your reviewer for many years were colleagues and friends at The Jerusalem Post. Further disclosure: As a new Israeli who, in 1973, had just finished his basic training in the IDF, your reviewer was mobilized on the first day of the Yom Kippur War and was even more shocked and disoriented by the surprise attack than his native-born comrades in arms; after all these years I’m grateful to Bumie for finally making sense of those traumatic days.]

Still, in a world of dizzying change, the Yom Kippur War today seems ancient history, as distant and half-remembered as those figures who like Dayan played such major roles in the event: Golda Meir, Anwar Sadat, David Elazar, Haim Bar-Lev, Henry Kissinger, Leonid Brezhnev. This was the era of Watergate and of the Cold War and of the still raging conflict in Vietnam. Since the Yom Kippur War, Israel has signed peace treaties (Egypt and Jordan), engaged in new wars (Lebanon) and faced different assaults (Iraqi Scuds, Palestinian terrorists). Why should Americans care about bygone battles?

Three reasons immediately come to mind.

The first is that the surprise attack on Oct. 6, 1973, succeeded largely because of a massive Israeli intelligence failure. Massive American intelligence failure, it is becoming increasingly clear, is precisely what allowed the Sept. 11 attacks, and the public response, official inquiries and the political fallout that followed the Yom Kippur War in this regard are instructive. A second reason is the light it shines on the sole principal player who is still very much on the scene. As Rabinovich documents it, Ariel Sharon was deservedly a hero of the war, but far from the only one, and his superiors considered Sharon so dangerous he was almost relieved of his command.

But the third, and most compelling, reason for reading "The Yom Kippur War" is that it is, at the same time, a heart-breaking and enthralling narrative. The story is wrenching of course because of the fate of those poorly prepared and shabbily equipped soldiers who had to bear the brunt of the attack behind ill-conceived and criminally neglected defense lines. The story is enthralling because the endless instances of Israeli courage and tenacity almost beggar belief. On that fateful Day of Atonement, the Israelis were outnumbered and outgunned by staggering margins. In Sinai, for example, exactly 450 Israeli troops faced an invading force of 100,000 Egyptians, who enjoyed a superiority in artillery of 40-1 and a force of 1,350 tanks against Israel’s 91. On the Golan, the Syrians had eight tanks for every Israeli tank, and even higher ratios of troops, guns and planes; later the Syrians would be bolstered by contingents of Iraqis, Jordanians, Palestinians, Saudi Arabians, Kuwaitis and Moroccans. In addition, the Arabs were equipped with the latest in Soviet rocketry, against which Israel had virtually no defense.

How the IDF roused itself; how Israel’s armored corps improvised to cope with a forest of Sagger missiles; how Israel’s air force, momentarily rendered useless by the SAM-6 umbrella, learned, on the job as it were, new formulas for aerial warfare, and, above all, how Israel’s young sons held their ground and then went on the attack with the ferocity of mother lions — all of it seems the stuff of Hollywood.

Yet even the most imaginative of scriptwriters would be hard pressed to top, say, Zvika Greengold, the young son of Holocaust survivors who day after day and night after night virtually single-handedly destroyed scores of Syrian tanks. Or Lt. Col. Eliashiv Shimshi, who grimly accepted orders to lead a suicidal armored counterattack in Sinai that rivaled the Charge of the Light Brigade. Or the "retired" air force pilot who leaped into the cockpit of a jet fighter, roared off to the Golan, downed four enemy aircraft and returned to base — all in 20 minutes, while the regular pilot was away from the tarmac answering a call of nature.

These are just a few hints of what a spectacular story this is. And Rabinovich has told it spectacularly well.

Is FBI Watching Other Groups?


New twists and turns in the case of alleged wrongdoing by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) have left many in the Jewish community baffled.

A week after allegations first broke suggesting that AIPAC was involved in the exchange of classified information from the Pentagon to Israeli officials, new reports suggest FBI investigators have been monitoring the pro-Israel lobby for more than two years.

The first question many in the Jewish community are asking is, "Why?"

"We’re pitching in the dark," said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. "We haven’t seen a shred of evidence."

Much remains unknown about the origins of the investigation, hurting Jewish groups’ ability to respond and defend one of the most prominent organizations in the community.

While they work to exonerate AIPAC in the public eye, Jewish leaders say they also must make sure the issue won’t affect the way they do business. Groups worry that they, too, could be targeted for investigation or left to deal with potentially changed perceptions of the organized American Jewish community.

Jewish leaders said talks are ongoing as to new ways to defend AIPAC and the Jewish community in both public and private contexts.

Quietly, there is deep concern in Jewish circles about the effect the investigation will have, no matter how it plays out, on Jewish groups’ ability to function. With the summer ending and many people in Washington returning to work, the next few weeks will be an important test for how the organized Jewish community is perceived in the capital.

"It really has done a considerable amount of harm, no matter what the outcome is," said Barry Jacobs, director of strategic studies at the American Jewish Committee.

Chief among the concerns is whether other Jewish entities might be under investigation without their knowledge, or are being monitored in relation to this case.

"If they are watching AIPAC, how many other Jewish organizations are they watching as well?" asked Tom Neumann, executive director of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA).

Confident they have nothing to hide, Jewish leaders say they won’t change the way they do business. But the case could serve as a guide to reinforce to Jewish officials the need to play by the rules on security matters.

Beyond security concerns, Jewish leaders worry that now they may be seen differently when they walk into a room with governmental officials or people unfamiliar with different groups in the community.

"They don’t necessarily know the difference between AIPAC and JCPA and the federations," said Hannah Rosenthal, executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

Congressional officials say they’ll take a wait-and-see approach toward AIPAC, but are skeptical about the investigation. One Democratic congressional aide said if the issue under scrutiny was a policy discussion about Iran, as has been reported, the line between legal and illegal dialogue is pretty thin.

Publicly, Jewish leaders remain solidly behind AIPAC. Several Jewish organizations have released statements supporting the work AIPAC has done over the years, and most others have expressed similar thoughts when asked by reporters.

AIPAC is one of the best-known Jewish organizations in the country, respected for its strong ties to government officials, especially members of Congress. While some Jewish groups resent AIPAC’s ability to set the Jewish community’s agenda on Middle East matters, or don’t always agree with its tactics, there is strong sentiment that any negative attention for AIPAC will hurt all Jewish groups’ efforts.

Some Jewish leaders say the initial feeling in the community was that it was better not to speak out — not because of a lack of support for AIPAC but in hopes of minimizing media coverage of the story. But now that more than 300 articles already have been written on the issue in American newspapers, that thinking has changed.

Jewish leaders now are minimizing the investigation, suggesting it can’t be of real merit because it has been going on for two years without arrests. They also note that if there were merit to the case it’s unlikely that President Bush and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice would have addressed the group after the investigation was launched. Rice reportedly was aware of the investigation.

If the FBI is pursuing an intelligence investigation, as is believed, and not a criminal investigation, it’s hard to know what launched it. The guidelines for that type of investigation are classified, a former senior FBI official said.

He said it would be normal for the investigation to go on for a long time without arrests, though it would have be to reviewed and adjudicated internally at the FBI or Justice Department.

"AIPAC is not a soft target," the official said. "To launch an investigation against AIPAC, you are going to have to have some credible information to go with it."

Once an investigation is launched, its direction can be tailored by people who might be out to prove — because of bias or in the interest of catching a big fish — that AIPAC acted illegally, Jewish leaders said.

There also is concern that the saga may not have a succinct end.

It may be difficult to learn when the investigation into AIPAC is completed, if no charges are filed, and its exact origins — information Jewish leaders say would be useful in clearing the name of AIPAC and the community in general.

"I don’t think there is a great deal of trust in an investigation in this political climate," said Rosenthal of the JCPA. "I hope we find out the facts and find out why someone would start this story."

For now, theories abound. Some suggest anti-Semitic or anti-Israel entities within the government are propelling the investigation forward or leaking it to the media. Others suggest that opponents of the war in Iraq are trying to tie some of its key architects — so-called "neoconservatives" in the Pentagon — to Israel and to possible dual loyalties.

AIPAC is hoping to weather the storm by proving its strength as an organization. In an appeal to contributors Tuesday, AIPAC leaders said decisionmakers in Washington will look at AIPAC’s financial strength to gauge its overall viability.

"We cannot abide any suggestion that American citizens should be perceived as being involved in illegal activities simply for seeking to participate in the decisions of their elected leaders, or the officials who work for them," read the letter, signed by AIPAC’s president, Bernice Manocherian, and executive director, Howard Kohr. "That is our right as citizens of the greatest democracy in the history of mankind. That is a right we will proudly exercise. That is a right we will staunchly defend."

Did Feith Cross the Pro-Israel Line?


However the sordid facts play out in the current FBI investigation of a senior Pentagon analyst’s alleged spying on Israel’s behalf, they raise a raft of nettlesome questions — and memories.

Recall, for example, that the heart of Jonathan Pollard’s self-justification was that he passed on to Israel information regarding Iraq’s evolving capabilities for hurting Israel; information to which Pollard claims Israel was entitled, but to his knowledge was not being shared with Israel.

Intelligence sharing between America and Israel goes on at the highest levels and is remarkably intimate — but it is not, nor can it be supposed it ever will or even should be, complete. Each nation, sometimes for good reason, sometimes for bad, shares what it knows — or thinks it knows — selectively. In the case at hand, the classified information that was allegedly passed on to Israel was less about Iranian capabilities, more about America’s assessments and intentions. Providing Israel with that kind of secret information is an invitation to the Israelis to focus their diplomatic efforts on persuading America to alter its course — whether by force of argument or by adding new "intelligence," actual or manufactured, to the shared mix.

Over the years, my own inquiries into the Pollard case have included conversations with people intimately familiar with the entire body of evidence. I am persuaded that what is publicly known regarding Pollard’s betrayal is only a part of its extent. But Pollard himself, miserable though he might be, languishes in his cell not only because of his crimes but also because of Israel’s inadequate response to those crimes. In the aftermath of Pollard, Israel solemnly undertook to make available to the Americans the full dossier regarding what Pollard had stolen and transmitted to his Israeli handler. This undertaking was not honored, and the consequent resentment lingers — and may account for the FBI’s sudden leak of the latest allegations (for more on this story, see p. 14).

In the days ahead, we will perhaps learn whether the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was, as is alleged by the FBI tattlers, involved. One hopes it was not, lest AIPAC be found to have damaged itself beyond repair, and the Jewish community therefore be required to invent and laboriously build a new lobbying capability to replace it. As a general rule, it would be a mistake to count AIPAC out this early, not only because the allegations are, for the time being, merely allegations, but also because AIPAC is remarkably resilient. Still, there are not a few people in Washington who would delight in an AIPAC rendered at last more modest, if not downright ruined.

The far more serious threat presented by the unfolding scandal goes to the question of involvement by the pro-Israel community in shaping American Middle East policy. One can be "pro-Israel," however defined, as part of a general theory of American Middle East interests. If one honestly believes, for example, that Iraq can be transformed into a democracy, or even just a law-abiding state, and that such a transformation would create a domino effect throughout the region — rather fantastical beliefs, but just this side of utterly preposterous — then the fact that such a development would be "good for Israel" is an incidental benefit. If, however, one begins with a pro-Israel commitment and from that backs into a policy that calls for an American "war of liberation" in Iraq, that’s another matter entirely. The distinction between the two approaches is sometimes difficult to make — but it is a distinction with a very considerable difference.

There has been a steady undercurrent of concern in the current war on Iraq regarding the central role in the rationale and run-up to the war played by so-called Jewish intellectuals in and near the Bush administration — principally, in Dick Cheney’s office and in Donald Rumsfeld’s. In the current case, Larry Franklin, the alleged wrongdoer, is a colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve who served in the past as an attaché at the U.S. embassy in Israel; he works for Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy and a leading proponent of America’s war on Iraq. Feith, who together with Richard Perle, David Wurmser and Meyrav Wurmser, were the key authors of a 1996 briefing paper for then Prime Minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu, "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm," was critical of Israel’s 1978 peace with Egypt and opposed Oslo, Wye and every other agreement remotely based on "land for peace" or a "two-state solution." The 1996 paper fully reflects that opposition; it calls for a far more aggressive American policy toward both Saddam Hussein and Syria. Feith himself (whose name has repeatedly surfaced in connection with the scandals at Abu Ghreib prison) is one of those connected insiders who seem to outlast scandal (Elliot Abrams being the current poster boy for that talent) and, largely hidden from public view, exercise outsized influence on affairs of state.

As the United States now stumbles its way toward a coherent policy regarding Iran, with the awesome dangers that an ill-chosen policy would involve, it becomes critically important that we know for a fact that government policy has been developed exclusively on the basis of America’s perceived interests. That cannot, however, come to mean that American Jews, presumptively pro-Israel, are inherently ineligible to participate in such policy formulation or even that they be subjected to more stringent controls. Yet if, in their right-wing, pro-Israel zealotry, Feith or any of the others have in any way suggested to their aides that the sharing of classified information with Israel is acceptable, that is a plausible outcome of this mess. Pro-Israel? Hardly.


Leonard Fein is the author of “Against the Dying of the Light: A Parent’s Story of Love, Loss, and Hope” (Jewish Lights).

A Love Like Mime


In my San Francisco days, I once had a brief romantic affair with a mime. I was living in a house with lots of bedrooms, which were rented out to many different people. One of them was her, Angie, a young woman who each day would leave the house, go down to the park and do her mime thing, collecting dollars in a hat. I would tease her and we would flirt.

One day, coming out of the bathroom after a shower, I couldn’t help notice Angie approaching me, taking hold of my bathrobe, pulling me into her bedroom, and having her way with me. A perceptive guy like myself notices these things. No words were exchanged, and I didn’t feel awkward about the silent seduction, since she was, after all, a mime. We did everything that afternoon — walking against the wind, pulling a rope, being trapped in an imaginary box. I’d never enjoyed mime so much before or since.

If this sounds like a fantasy, I agree. It does sound like one, but I swear it’s true. Not that there aren’t female Jewish mimes who seduce guys coming out of the shower, but I’m guessing it’s not a large percentage of the female Judaic populace. Angie was Italian, and since that day I’ve dated both Jewish and non-Jewish women. None of the Jewish women came anywhere near being a mime. But they did offer qualities I’ve come to love and look for in my PRPs (potential romantic partners). Which is not to say that non-Jewish women wouldn’t or couldn’t have those qualities — but in my experience, these qualities are most likely to be found in Members of the Tribe.

Obviously, there’s that unique connection to our shared culture, history, religion, traditions and — my personal favorite — cuisine. Oh, sure, I could have taken Angie to temple with me, and she could have explained to everyone that just because she’s Italian doesn’t mean she knows cast members of “The Sopranos” personally, and then entertained everyone with her impression of being trapped in an imaginary sukkah — but it’s just not the same.

I remember standing at the school bus stop in the 11th grade, talking to Joan Reid, a Protestant, on whom I had a huge crush. She told me that her mother recommended that she date and marry Jewish guys because “they’re more dependable, they treat you better, they don’t beat you and they’re more professional.” So it’s not just Jewish women who have this appeal. A few months later, while making out on the beach on prom night with Joan, surrounded by our empty bottles of Southern Comfort and apricot brandy, I just knew she appreciated how dependable and professional Jewish guys are. But I digress.

Jewish women, to me, always seem to have this inner glow, a warmth, a kindness, a sensitivity, an intelligence that I just don’t find in their non-Jewish counterparts. And my Jewish radar, my Jadar, plugs right in to it. I think Jewish women are prettier than others, and I love the fact that they’re mostly brunettes. Blondes seem so, so … goyish. Finally, just try asking an Episcopalian for a plate of matzah brei. She’ll look at you like you’re from another planet.

“That’s some sort of Jewish food, isn’t it?”

Yes, darling, but you don’t have to be a rabbi to eat it.

My mother got remarried to an Irish Catholic man, whom I really like. She is very happy with him and even urged me not to limit myself to dating only Jewish women. How’s that for turning the stereotypical Jewish mother on her head? Truth be told, I don’t limit myself to dating Jewish women. Because, after all, variety is the spice of life, true love is rare, and you never do know where you’ll find it. And while I’m not a betting man, if I had to place a bet on this, I’d say the odds are that I’ll end up with a Jewish woman. And if she has an appreciation for mime, so much the better.

Mark Miller will be speaking with three other Journal singles columnists on Oct. 10 at Friday Night Live at Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood.


Mark Miller is a comedy writer
who has written for TV, movies and many celebrities, been a humor columnist for
the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, contributed to numerous national publications
and produced a weekly comedic relationships feature for America Online. He can
be reached at markmiller2000@attbi.com

.

Walk Your Dog


The two suicide bombings in Jerusalem and Rishon LeZion occurred Tuesday, the day I was booking my flight to Israel for later this fall.

I fear what I’ll find when I get there is a country caught up once again in a crescendo of violence. The brief calm that offered the barest of reasons for hope is no more. "We have to learn to see the lulls as the exception to the rule," an American diplomat told me last month. At the time, I could only hope he was wrong.

Then again, this is September, a month that optimists measure in dog years: the Sept. 5, 1972 massacre of 11 Israeli Olympic athletes; Sept. 28, 2000, the beginning of the intifada, which has cost hundreds of innocent human lives; Sept. 11, 2001; and Sept. 13, the 10th anniversary of the Oslo accords, the failure of which is as much a result of terror as it is a cause of future terror.

On Tuesday morning, I attended a meeting with John Miller, commanding officer of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau, and it became clear to me that American Jews are in the midst of completing a double major in terrorism. America’s war on terror is far from over, and we watch in horror as Israelis suffer its consequences abroad. Being ahead of the curve on this test is no comfort.

Miller is the former ABC News reporter and anchor who landed the only interview any American journalist has ever conducted with Osama bin Laden.

On May 24, 1994, bin Laden’s fellow sociopaths took Miller and his camera crew on a tortuous journey into the Afghani highlands. Someone at the American Jewish Committee briefing asked Miller why, if he could find bin Laden with $70,000 and an SUV, our military cannot. Simple, said Miller, "He wanted me to find him."

Bin Laden used his prime-time appearance to declare war on the "Jews and the Crusaders," meaning Israel and America. His organization, which Miller said is less of a terrorist band and more of a sponsor and facilitator — "the Ford Foundation of terror" — has been active ever since. We’ve bagged some of its chieftains, but many others, including all the bombers of the U.S.S. Cole, are at large, and stocks of the deadly nerve agent ricin, which we know they’ve been working on, are unaccounted for.

So our war on terror is not over, and according to Miller, the war in Iraq (which evidently isn’t over either) has, if anything, distracted us from making our own city safer. Two years after President Bush and the Department of Homeland Security swore to help cities finance anti-terror measures, the money is finally beginning to trickle in from Washington, Miller said, and even then it is not enough.

Los Angeles is a "target-rich environment," Miller said, from our amusement parks to our government buildings, our infrastructure and our film studios. The sharp eye of a single U.S. Customs agent averted what would have been a calamitous explosion at LAX planned for Jan. 1, 2000, but Al Qaeda isn’t done with us. More than a dozen of their operatives are known to have passed through Southern California (three of the Sept. 11 hijackers lived in San Diego), and training tapes captured in Afghanistan show operatives practicing English 101 on pretend hostages. "Why are they training in English," asked Miller, "if they don’t intend to use it?"

Several immediate fears bubbled up at the briefing. Will suicide bombers strike our malls and cafes? Miller suggested instead that Al Qaeda’s MO is large-scale, well-planned and well-spaced attacks, about every two years. Are our synagogues safe during the High Holidays? Miller said that religious institutions, some of which his bureau identifies as "high-quality targets," receive extra attention at sensitive times of year. But, he added, Al Qaeda plans and executes operations when they’re ready, not according to any holidays or anniversaries.

The question is not if we are we safe, but what can each of us do to be safer? The idea is to find the balance between alert and alarmed, between giving in to our fears (and to fear mongers) and giving up.

The best intelligence the task force has received recently, said Miller, came not from CIA signal intelligence in the mountains of Afghanistan, but from a woman in Los Angeles out walking her dog.

"She saw something that just didn’t feel right and called us, and the information is panning out," he said.

Miller refused to go into more detail, but there was a strange comfort in the anecdote. To make our city safer we should call our City Council representatives and tell them to fund counterterrorism in Los Angeles. But we should also keep living our lives, walking our dogs and buying tickets to Israel.

When Intelligence Falls Short


Intelligence errors usually are associated with military disasters like Pearl Harbor or the 1973 Yom Kippur War, not with diplomacy.

Yet the last decade of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process may involve such an error of assessment. Looking back now, 10 years after the signing of the 1993 Oslo accords, it’s clear that the failure to reach an Israeli-Palestinian agreement cannot be attributed to a lack of political will on the Israeli side or the failure of the United States to deal more forcibly with noncompliance.

Rather, it has to do with the more fundamental question of whether the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) really was prepared for reconciliation and peace with Israel.

The overwhelming evidence from statements by the PLO leadership was that it viewed the Oslo process as a tactical necessity to realize its ultimate strategic goal of recovering the entire territory of British Mandatory Palestine — including the area of Israel.

It would be a mistake to assign this intention to PLO leader Yasser Arafat alone. After all, it was the PLO’s top official for Jerusalem, Faisal Husseini, who on two separate occasions in 2001 described Oslo as a “Trojan Horse” that served the realization of “the strategic goal — namely, Palestine from the river to the sea.”

Similarly, the leader of the Fatah movement in the West Bank, Marwan Barghouti, told The New Yorker that even if Israel withdrew from 100 percent of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would not end. What was needed, he said, was “one state for all the peoples.”

Arafat, who after Oslo became head of the Palestinian Authority, usually was more careful about concealing his true intentions, but they nonetheless could be discerned. Right from 1994, he disclosed his view of Oslo as a temporary Islamic truce. But he generally would speak so forthrightly only in closed-door meetings in places like South Africa or Sweden. More recently, he frequently sent messengers to Palestinian cities to speak on his behalf.

Thus, the official Palestinian daily, Al-Hayat al-Jadida, on Jan. 30, 2001, carried an address in Arafat’s name by an ideologue affiliated with Arafat’s Fatah movement, Sakher Habash, that asserted: “Experience proves that without the establishment of the democratic state on all the land, peace will not be realized…. The Jews must get rid of Zionism…. They must be citizens in the state of the future, the state of democratic Palestine.”

The big question raised by these recent quotations is: Why did the Israeli and U.S. governments invest so much in the Oslo process if it was so clear that the PLO had no intention of making peace? Didn’t they consult with their intelligence establishments before investing presidential time at the failed Camp David summit of 2000? Where was the Central Intelligence Agency?

To its credit, Israeli military intelligence flatly warned about the security problems emanating from Oslo. The then-intelligence chief, Maj. Gen. Moshe Ya’alon, told the Israeli daily, Ma’ariv, in 1998, “I cannot say at any point since it entered the territory in May 1994 that the Palestinian Authority acted decisively against the terrorist operational capability of Hamas, as well as the Islamic Jihad.”

But there were no public warnings about the PLO’s political intentions in the Oslo peace process. Henry Kissinger warned in his seminal work, “Diplomacy”: “What political leaders decide, intelligence services tend to seek to justify.”

Perhaps the U.S. and Israeli intelligence establishments were intimidated by their political echelons.

If there is a lesson from all this, it is that governments must allow their intelligence communities the freedom to express themselves and promote intellectual pluralism, if disasters in the Middle East are to be avoided. For diplomatic errors can be even more costly than military blunders — even if they were originally undertaken with the best of intentions.


Dore Gold is president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. From 1997 to 1999, he served as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations. He is the author of “Hatred’s Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism.”

No Decision From Pollard Day in Court


It didn’t result in any decision, but just getting another day in court was a victory of sorts for Jonathan Pollard.

Sentenced to life imprisonment in 1987 for spying for Israel, Pollard for years had tried to get a new hearing, arguing that his former counsel was inept and that the government broke a plea bargain agreement when it convinced the judge at his trial to give him a life sentence.

On Tuesday, Sept. 2, Pollard appeared in U.S. District Court in Washington, the first time he has been seen in public since his sentencing 16 years ago.

A packed courtroom heard Pollard’s pro bono defense attorneys demand what they said was justice for the former Navy analyst, who confessed to passing military secrets to Israel.

Over and over again, attorney Jacques Semmelman argued that Pollard’s original attorney, Richard Hibey, had been guilty of ineffective assistance of counsel, thereby denying Pollard his right to a fair trial. Pollard already has served longer than any other spy similarly convicted. Semmelman repeatedly reminded Judge Thomas Hogan that Hibey, without explanation, never objected to the government’s breach of its written plea agreement not to ask for a life sentence; failed to ask for an evidentiary hearing regarding a last-minute, secret declaration by then-Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger outlining Pollard’s allegedly extensive damage to U.S. interests; and failed to file the routine notice of appeal required within 10 days of the court proceedings.

Hibey has declined to discuss the case. Weinberger has admitted that his sworn declaration, in many ways the basis for Pollard’s life sentence, "was made far bigger than its actual importance."

Hogan did not rule on the request for a reduction of Pollard’s sentence or on his attorneys’ request to be able to see the secret documents.

Wearing green leisure clothes and a beige knit yarmulke, Pollard was brought to the courtroom Tuesday without shackles and took a seat between Semmelman and his lead attorney, Eliot Lauer. His lawyers were backed up by two hired public relations managers, a contingent of rabbis led by former Israeli Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu; Pollard’s wife, Esther; and Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.).

Lauer appealed to the judge to allow Pollard’s attorneys access to the secret documents behind the Weinberger declaration, which the government maintains are too secret for defense counsel to examine.

Hogan asked prosecutors several times whether the information from more than a decade and a half ago is "stale" or "no longer has its status" as top secret.

In a conversation with JTA, Weiner said he was the only member of Congress actually to examine the secret documents that have been denied to Pollard’s current attorneys. He said he examined them in 1999 in the presence of security officers in the office of the House of Representatives’ Intelligence Committee. Weiner declined to characterize the documents or divulge their contents. But based on what he read, he said, he disagrees with both the public and secret portions of the Weinberger declaration.

"No case in American history has been treated so harshly," Weiner said. "[Pollard] should have never been sentenced to life."

That view was seconded by Jewish leaders.

"It’s time for the president to release Pollard on humanitarian grounds," said Seymour Reich, a former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations who was in the courtroom representing the conference’s Pollard committee. "Eighteen years is enough time."

Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, hailed the hearing as "a major achievement" for Pollard’s attorneys.

He added that he saw "great significance in the fact that the judge summoned Pollard up from Butner" — the North Carolina prison where he is being held — "to attend his hearing."

Eliyahu came from Israel for the hearing.

"I came here all the way from Tel Aviv to see justice done for Jonathan Pollard and bring Jonathan back to Jerusalem," he said in an interview.

Eliyahu led a prayer session in the pouring rain outside the courthouse after the hearing.

Asked if he thought Pollard would be released, Eliyahu looked at the sky and said, "Anything can happen."

A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Ra’anan Gissin, declined to comment on the hearing, but he told The Associated Press that Israel was still working for Pollard’s release.

"We are using all our efforts to get him released,” Gissin said.

Government lawyers said they were under strict orders from the U.S. Attorney’s Office not to comment on Tuesday’s proceedings.

Pollard Lawyers Get Day in Federal Court


Sept. 2 is going to be a big day for Jonathan Pollard: The American Jewish spy is going to get another day in court.

Pollard’s lawyers will have 40 minutes in a federal courtroom to explain why they should be permitted to continue efforts to rescind the life sentence he received 18 years ago for committing espionage for Israel.

Years of tenacious motions by attorneys Jacques Semmelman and Eliot Lauer either have been vigorously opposed by government attorneys or allowed to languish in the court.

Now U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Hogan has granted a hearing to Pollard and his attorneys — who are working on the case pro bono. Semmelman and Lauer will get 30 minutes to argue why they should be permitted to appeal, the government can take a half hour to respond and then Pollard’s attorneys will be granted 10 minutes for the last word.

So pivotal is the hearing that the judge has ordered federal prison officials in Butner, N.C., to shuttle Pollard to the U.S. District Court in Washington for the event. Prison officials said they are uncertain whether U.S. marshals would fly Pollard to the nation’s capital or drive.

"Normally, we drive them for a mere six-hour trip," a prison representative said, "but a high-profile prisoner like Pollard might be flown."

He added that arrangements would be made for Pollard’s kosher meals.

Despite mounds of legal briefs and well-researched citations, Pollard’s hearing boils down to two issues:

  • Was the ex-naval intelligence officer convicted in March 1987 on the basis of a misleading secret 46-page affidavit?

  • Was he denied due process by a defense attorney who declined to file a routine appeal after Judge Aubrey Robinson stunned Pollard and threw a crowded courtroom into pandemonium with an unexpected life sentence? The life sentence violated the prosecutor’s plea agreement to not ask for life in exchange for Pollard’s cooperation.

Then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger submitted the secret affidavit at virtually the last minute at Robinson’s personal request. In the affidavit, Weinberger wrote: "It is difficult for me, in the so-called ‘year of the spy’ to conceive of a greater harm to national security."

The message, backed up with some 20 classified documents, was clear: Give Pollard a life sentence — regardless of the written plea agreement.

Fifteen years later, Weinberger conceded that "the Pollard matter was comparatively minor. It was made far bigger than its actual importance." Pressed on why this was so, Weinberger replied, "I don’t know why — it just was."

Attorneys Semmelman and Lauer have been filing motion after motion to see the supposedly secret documents so they can adequately appeal. But their efforts have been denied on the grounds of national security, even though they have been granted the necessary security clearances. Semmelman is a former U.S. attorney. The documents concern sources and methods used two decades ago, before the proliferation of personal computers.

The second question asks whether Pollard was denied due process on account of "ineffective assistance of counsel," according to the motion.

Pollard’s attorney at the time, Richard Hibey, has been widely criticized for inaction. He failed to object when prosecutors violated the plea agreement and asked for life, failed to call for an evidentiary hearing on Weinberger’s secret affidavit and then — to the surprise of most observers — declined to file the routine notice of appeal in the 10 days allotted.

For years, Hibey has dodged all questions on his representation of Pollard.

Despite the hearing, there are few prospects for a Pollard release in the immediate future.

Even if Semmelman and Lauer were granted the opportunity to appeal — consistently denied because Hibey failed to file the 10-day notice — it might take another year or two for any decision.

Pollard already has served far longer than the average for people convicting of spying either for enemies of the United States or it allies.

World Briefs


Israel: P.A. Didn’t Help Rescue

The Palestinian Authority had no part in the rescue of a kidnapped Israeli taxi driver, Israeli officials said. P.A. Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas personally pledged cooperation in the efforts to locate and release Eliyahu Gurel, but a senior Israeli army officer said Wednesday that the rescue operation was conducted solely by Israeli forces. Israeli officials differ over whether the motive for the kidnapping was criminal or terrorist. Gurel, who unbeknownst to his captors understands Arabic, said they talked of using him as a bargaining chip for the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said Wednesday that the Palestinian Authority’s failure to prevent the kidnapping could have damaged peace efforts.

“We hope that next time they will do everything to prevent such kidnapping of Israelis,” Shalom said.

Israel Deports Irish Journalist

Israel deported an Irish journalist who was mistaken for an IRA bomb expert allegedly helping Palestinian terrorists. The French news agency quoted an Israeli official as saying John Morgan had cooperated fully with the investigation. The official was quoted as saying that Morgan, a pro-Palestinian activist, had been conducting political activities after entering Israel on a tourist visa, Israel Radio reported.

N.J. Supporting Terror?

The state of New Jersey is allowing taxpayer dollars to fund Palestinian terrorism, a Jewish group says. Amcha-The Coalition for Jewish Concerns planned a rally at the New Jersey state house in Trenton, on Thursday, June 17, to demand that Gov. James McGreevey stop Rutgers University, which is state-funded, from hosting an Oct. 10 summit of the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement. In a recent e-mail, an organizer of the conference said that she supports Palestinian violence against Israel.

“Would the governor allow the KKK the use of publicly funded institutions?” asked Joshua Chadajo, Amcha’s executive director. Rutgers officials told The Associated Press they have received 230 letters from Jewish activists nationwide and from the regional Anti-Defamation League protesting the conference, but the event will be held in the name of free speech.

Califorina Hate Crimes Down

The number of hate crimes reported in California last year declined. But hate crimes against Jews in 2002 remained constant — there were 175 in 2002, as compared with 176 in 2001.

“We are heartened that hate crimes across the state of California are down,” said a regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Bernstein. “However, we are deeply troubled that hate crimes against Jewish people have not declined substantially.”

Israeli, Egyptian Security Chiefs Meet

The head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency met with his Egyptian counterpart. The talks between Meir Dagan and Omar Suleiman followed the Egyptian official’s discussions Tuesday with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat and P.A. Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.

Group: French Far-Right, Jews Linked

There are links between the French far-right and Jewish extremists, a leading French anti-racism organization says. The Movement Against Racism and for Friendship Between People published a 170-page report Wednesday that details widespread Internet links between “the classic extreme-right and extremists who claim to be Jewish.” The report says that more than 450,000 messages were exchanged via the sites over a two-year period, including “racial insults, death threats and calls to attack Muslim places of worship.”

‘Sex and the City’ Star Israel-Bound

‘Sex and the City’ star Sarah Jessica Parker may visit Israel this fall to promote a local edition of Cosmopolitan magazine. A representative from the company that will publish the Israeli version of the magazine said Parker’s September visit is nearly certain, the daily Yediot Achronot reported.

Several years ago, Parker, whose mother is Jewish, hosted an episode of “Sesame Street”-like program, “Shalom Sesame.”

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency

IDF at Odds With Militant Activists


The bad blood between the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and a group of international pro-Palestinian activists continues to grow as more members of the group are injured in Israeli anti-terror operations.

A British activist was shot in the head last Friday as a group of foreign and Palestinian protesters approached a unit of Israeli tanks posted near the Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. The incident ignited a crossfire of words and accusations between the IDF and the International Solidarity Movement (ISM).

Thomas Hurndall, 21, from England, suffered a head injury that left him brain dead. He was the third casualty from the ISM in a month.

The ISM is a movement of international activists working for "Palestinian freedom and an end to Israeli occupation," according to its mission statement, sometimes through illegal protests and rallies.

Though members of the group call themselves peace activists, they work only to protect Palestinians from Israeli anti-terror actions, making no attempt to protect Israelis from Palestinian violence.

Hurndall was shot when a sniper on an IDF tank allegedly fired on a group of protesters marching toward them in an effort to thwart an IDF incursion into Rafah. This Palestinian city, which straddles the Gaza-Egyptian border, is one of the main zones for arms smuggling into Palestinian areas. The IDF said a tank fired only one round in the area that day. It had targeted and killed a Palestinian sniper who was hiding in the upper stories of a nearby apartment building, firing at a column of armored vehicles, military sources said.

Still, Hurndall’s shooting is a disturbing addition to a string of recent bloody confrontations between the IDF and the ISM.

Only a few hundred yards from where Friday’s incident took place, American activist Rachel Corrie, 23, was killed several weeks ago when she tried to prevent a bulldozer from demolishing a terrorist’s home. Witnesses said the bulldozer crushed Corrie, a student from Olympia, Wash., and immediately backed up. The army, which characterized the death as an accident, said the driver didn’t see Corrie.

Last week, Bryan Avery, 24, of Albuquerque, was shot in the face while walking with a fellow activist in the West Bank city of Jenin. The IDF said it was not aware that Israeli soldiers had shot Avery, but said soldiers had been targeting Palestinian gunmen in the area.

"This goes beyond the pale," ISM leader Tom Wallace said. "It was a sniper [that shot Hurndall], and we know from experience they don’t miss. The photograph clearly shows that he was wearing a bright orange vest, that he was clearly not a combatant. This man was going to pick up a child."

Wallace said he considers the shooting a criminal act.

According to ISM activists and an Associated Press photographer, Hurndall ran to scoop up a child out of harm’s way when he was shot in the back of the head.

While the IDF has expressed sorrow at the chain of injuries, it says ISM activists increasingly cross the line of neutrality. One example occurred on March 27, when IDF forces launched a manhunt for a top Islamic Jihad terrorist in Jenin.

Intelligence information led the IDF to believe that Shadi Sukia was being hidden in a Jenin compound that holds a bank, a Red Cross office and the ISM office. After combing the entire building and finding nothing, the soldiers asked two ISM activists if they could search their offices. ISM coordinator Susan Barcley refused. The soldiers insisted, forcing their way in. The intelligence information proved correct: Sukia had taken shelter with the ISM. Both he and Barcley were arrested.

"Many of the ISM activists are nothing short of provocateurs," an IDF source said. "They try to incite the Palestinians. They’re almost spoiling for a fight."

An infamous photograph of Corrie, for example, shows her with her head covered like a religious Muslim woman, burning a mock American flag in the Gaza Strip. The IDF source intimated that Corrie’s death, though regrettable, was preventable.

"That day they were running amok around the soldiers, not letting them do anything. Even when the armored units pulled back, they chased them," the source said.

Some of ISM’s tactics are daring, Wallace admitted. Others might call them downright foolish.

"ISM’ers often break curfew, just to show how ridiculous it is and because curfews are illegal according to international law," Wallace told JTA.

The IDF source said the army maintains close relations with many humanitarian organizations, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, but has yet to find a modus vivendi with the ISM.

"If the ISM’ers in Jenin had nothing to hide, why prevent the soldiers from coming in [when they were looking for Sukia]?" the IDF source asked.

Alternatives to Drugs


“The world exists only because of the innocent breath of
schoolchildren,” attributed to Jewish sages, first century Talmud.

Recent reports of children as early as 2 years old receiving
psychotropic drugs has me worried. How safe are Ritalin and Prozac — the
stimulants and anti-depressants for kids?

Somehow the unresolved question of their effects on a
developing brain has not been answered, and yet, doctors are prescribing them
to young schoolchildren. Daily school problems are now being addressed with drugs
and more drugs.

Too many teachers are frustrated by being told to label
children as Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity
Disorder, or even to suggest Ritalin for problem students. They know that they
have a “problem student” but they do not have the tools, as of yet, to deal
with or recognize what kind of student they are working with.

Educators are being forced to make decisions regarding
placement of their students.

Every once in a while teachers are faced with a student who
won’t fit into the class. It might be he or she lacks emotional or intellectual
growth, or both. At times, the child is simply immature. Since teachers are not
qualified to do the testing, since they are not trained in these fields, what
can they do?

Teachers must ask themselves the following questions:

Why is the student having a hard time in class?

What role does maturity play with this student?

Is it plain boredom or is it a social, emotional or
intelligence problem?

Most teachers are aware of these three kinds of students who
may be doing poorly in class.

We perceive immaturity when children don’t respond in a
correct way. They do not have the tools to express themselves. They simply lack
the social skills. They may, at times, be too smart and need smarter children
to relate to, or they are average but need more time for child’s play. In both
scenarios, the child doesn’t fit in well with the class environment. The child
always acts out and frustrates the entire class.

The slow learner can’t keep up with the class. The student
might have many positive character traits but simply is lost in a class
setting. No matter how many times the teacher addresses the student, the work
is not done. The student cannot understand the instructions and simply cannot
integrate the ongoing instructions and lessons being taught in the class.

The late bloomer, too, suffers from a lack of understanding
of the schoolwork. This child might have good social skills; listens, but still
cannot perform the needed class work. He or she never seems to get things
right. You wonder what’s wrong and what can you do for him or her.

Both the slow learner and the late bloomer will not get the
work done, but have friends in class, while the immature student will get the
work done, but not possess the normal social skills for friends.

Being smart and being sociable are two different markers for
dealing with students.

Here are some suggestions that may help teachers deal with
the three kinds of students

Being smart and mature are two unrelated markers, writes
Dr. Louise Bates Ames and Dr. Joan Ames Chase, in “Don’t Push Your Preschooler”
(HarperCollins, 1981). It is possible that an exceptionally bright child may
have more problems than a slower and not-so-bright child, they say.

“It is important for parents to appreciate that maturity and
intelligence tend to be two separate measures or qualities,” the authors note.
“A child may be obviously very bright, that is, very intelligent, and at the
same time be immature or young for his age.”

If a child is immature, it does not mean that he or she is
not intelligent. The term “superior immature” is often used for that child who
is bright but young for his age. The superior immature child is one who
especially needs protection from the parent or educator who would push him too
early into formal schooling just because he is bright.”

What we need is to be super sensitive to the superior
immature students. The teacher needs to go the extra mile in providing guidelines
for this child. If not, we could have disastrous results. The bright child gets
into all kinds of trouble and shows inappropriate behavior.  This is because
the student is immature and that is the cause of the problem. This answers the
old question of ‘if they are so smart then shouldn’t they know better?’ The
answer is that they are not emotionally ready for a regular classroom
environment.

In dealing with the slow learner we must be cognizant that
the slow learner remains a slow learner all his/her life. They never catch up,
repeating the same class for one or two years will destroy the student. As
being bigger, older and placed with younger and smaller children destroys the
self-esteem of this student. So what do we do?

What the teacher may need to do is address the student’s
needs now while remaining in the appropriate class. The school must provide a
one-to-one instructor where the slow learner will learn, however, at his own
pace. We must keep the child with his peer group-class at any cost. A teacher’s
aide or volunteer will be needed. The teacher will need to set different goals
and tasks for this slow learner.

Is the slow learner getting the survival skills like reading
and basic arithmetic? No amount of in-class or homework will take care of the
above-mentioned concern. The teacher and supervisor will need to make the
appropriate accommodation now while the child is in the proper age group and
keeping his self-esteem. Survival skills must be the goal for the student.

“The New Dare to Discipline” by Dr. James Dobson (Tyndale
House, 1996) states: “The slow learner is unlike the later bloomer in one major
respect: Time will not resolve his deficiency. He will not do better next year.
In fact, he tends to get further behind as he grows older.”

The late bloomer is the easiest student to work with. There
is an expression “what time does the mind doesn’t.” The late bloomer will bloom
a bit later and catch up with his peers. He just needs some extra time. A late
bloomer will unquestionably catch up and do well with his age and peer group.

However, it is the responsibility of the school and teachers
to protect the student from being mislabeled as a “slow learner” that never
catches up.

When teachers are aware of the different kinds of students,
we become better teachers. By knowing the needs of the different students, we
can help them stay in school and become a true asset to society and a joy to
their parents. Teachers have the power to empower the student with self-esteem
thus giving them the much-needed ingredient for success. Yes, each child has
different gifts and it’s our job to teach to the child’s capabilities.

By realizing that a classroom has all kinds of students,
realistic expectations are met. The teacher feels a real sense of accomplishment
and when that happens, it becomes a win-win situation. Drugging them into
compliance will only create a defiance of unprecedented proportions. America
has witnessed so-called phenomena of violent students. Drugging our children
has done little to alleviate violence in the schools.

In a book called “Reclaiming Our Children” (Perseus, 2001)
by Dr. Peter R. Breggin, author of “Your Drug May Be Your Problem” (Perseus,
1999) and “Talking Back to Ritalin” (Common Courage, 1998), we are told that
the violent youngsters involved in school shootings are usually under
psychiatric care and prescribed medicine. Breggin writes that, “The most
despairing and violent of our children reflect the underlying disorder of the
society: the alienation and abandonment of our children. We must utterly reject
the idea that the problem lies in our children’s brains or bodies, or that we
need to focus on diagnosing individual children. Instead, we need to identify
the breakdown of relationship with our children in our homes, schools and
community, and then to come together as adults dedicated to making ourselves
and our institutions more able to serve the needs of our children.”

It may be true that many children need medication, as do
adults. But, I believe it is far more important to educate our educators to be
sensitive to the students than to mass medicate.  We should have a whole-child
approach in understanding the student before we prescribe drugs and label them.

I run a day care center and private elementary school. I
have learned that children march to different drums. One of the ways we deal
with problematic children is with a mentoring system. We solicit seniors and
grandparents who are talented, but have graduated from the work field. These
volunteers come into the school once or twice a week to spend a few hours
mentoring children. They do this in a supervised area under the guidance of our
school principal and teachers. Our methods of having the child overcome his/her
so-called problem is by receiving extra attention and one-to-one instruction.

You can’t imagine the joy we have observing the success rate
between the student and their mentor. The retired mentor has a purpose and the
children receive a great boost, enabling them to continue within the school
system. This may be an alternative to medicating youngsters.

Let’s keep the innocence of children alive by providing them
with the rich opportunities of sensitive teachers and safe schools.   

Exploding American Complacency


Terrorism, a part of everyday life in Israel for decades, exploded in the face of a complacent America with the twin terror attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center in New York on Sept. 11 and left a gaping, charred hole in the Pentagon in Washington.

The bombings could have huge implications for Jewish groups and for a U.S.-Israel relationship that some may blame for provoking the terrorists.

Jewish groups, which have often unsuccessfully tried to warn policymakers that this nation could face the kinds of horrors that Israeli citizens live with on a daily basis, will play a major role in what is certain to be a fierce debate over terror preparedness and over the correct balance between basic civil liberties and measures to protect Americans from violence.

"This was a huge intelligence failure," said Shoshana Bryen, special projects director for the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA). "After past incidents, we’ve retreated into a ‘fortress America’ mentality. We won’t be able to do that any more."

At press time, U.S. officials had still not identified likely perpetrators (several people were detained), but there was widespread speculation that the attack was related to the Middle East conflict, possibly through the notorious super-terrorist Osama bin Laden.

If that speculation becomes fact, it could have varied repercussions for U.S. relations with Israel and involvement in that part of the world, Jewish leaders say.

"There is a danger of people saying, ‘if we didn’t support Israel, those people would have no reason to dislike us,’" Bryen said. "We have to make the case that that’s not true; they don’t like us because of who we are. One thing Americans need to know is that the same people who hate Israel hate us and hate all democracies. If there was no Israel, they would still hate us."

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said that while some Americans will blame the strong U.S.-Israel relationship for the disaster, history suggests that the nation will reject that argument.

"The last time it happened was during the oil embargo in the 1970s," he said. "There were those who tried to blame America’s friends and allies; it was a very anxious moment for Israel when the Arabs made it clear they were boycotting America because of its support for Israel."

But the nation’s leaders held firm, he said. "The American government stood by its friend and ally, and said: nobody can tell us who our friends should be, nobody can blackmail us."

Making sure that message penetrates the anger and anxiety most Americans feel in the wake of the terror onslaught will be a top challenge for Jewish leaders in the difficult days ahead, Foxman and others say.

David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, said an even bigger challenge will be preparing the American people for "certain changes in our way of life in order to mount a sustained and credible defense against terrorism."

Harris, whose group has focused heavily on the fight against terror in recent years, said Israel has a lot to offer traumatized Americans about how to live under the terrorist threat — "a debate our community has a huge stake in."

The first lesson from Israel, he said, "is that there is no substitute for solid intelligence — human and other. And we have to understand this is a permanent war; it ebbs and flows, but it goes on, and it’s dirty."

That is a lesson Israelis have learned the hard way over the decades — as they have learned the need for an "unbreakable national will," Harris said. "One purpose of the terrorist is to break that will."

And the Israel experience teaches that the fight against terrorism demands changes to everyday life changes that will certainly be inconvenient and may run afoul of current civil rights protections.

"It means that checks at airports are serious, not cursory," Harris said. "It means that citizens must become aware of potential security threats and dangers. It requires a whole different level of awareness, which Israelis have and Americans need to copy. "

If the terror is revealed as Mideast related, it could have a number of implications for the current Israeli-Palestinian crisis.

Short-term, Jewish leaders say it will bring Israel and the United States closer together.

"It will bring home to people the reality of what Israel has been living with on a day to day basis at a very high price," Foxman said.

Other analysts say the attack could add to the options available to Israeli leader Ariel Sharon as he tries to subdue the yearlong surge of Palestinian terrorism.

"Let’s just say that for a few days, at least, he has a lot more latitude to go after Palestinian terrorists," said a leading pro-Israel activist. "It’s hard to imagine the State Department calling any Israeli action against terrorists ‘provocative,’ at least not while the taste of these bombings is in their mouths."

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, perhaps fearing just that response, was quick to condemn the bombings. "We completely condemn this serious operation," he told reporters in Gaza. "We were completely shocked. It’s unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable."

But Jewish leaders say a much more indelible statement was made by the Palestinians who celebrated the carnage with spontaneous street demonstrations in Nablus, East Jerusalem and in Lebanon.

Arab-American and Muslim groups also condemned the bombings, and urged Americans not to jump to conclusions about the perpetrators.

Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, agreed.

"We urge all Americans not to form opinions until all facts are known, and to avoid blaming any group for the actions of individuals," he said.

But Jewish and Arab-American groups will quickly find themselves locked in bitter disagreements as lawmakers seek to toughen U.S. anti-terror laws — which Muslim and Arab-American groups say are already damaging to fundamental civil rights.

The dramatic, rapid-fire developments produced a tidal wave of rumors and speculation in the capital. Media outlets broadcast reports of additional bombings that were later revealed untrue. There were persistent and incorrect reports of other hijacked airliners waiting to be directed at new targets — one reason the congressional leadership was evacuated from the city.

The airliner that slammed into the Pentagon just as many workers were arriving produced an immense fireball, and an explosion that was heard at a reporter’s office 12 miles from the huge building.

The Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C., and consulates around the country sent all but essential personnel home immediately after the news of the World Trade Center catastrophe broke. Then, after reports that additional attacks could be forthcoming and that the embassy might be a target, the Washington facility closed entirely.

By Tuesday afternoon — with the Pentagon still burning — the embassy was back in operation with what a spokesman described as a "skeleton" crew.

Israeli ambassador David Ivry expressed Israel’s condolences to administration officials and offered the use of a team of Israeli specialists to help hunt for victims.

"Unfortunately, we have a lot of experience with buildings being destroyed," said an embassy spokesman.

Dershowitz Blacklisted


Celebrity Harvard law professor Alan M. Dershowitz, the prolific author and veteran battler for human rights, is a much-sought-after speaker, but Temple Adath Yeshurun in Syracuse, N.Y., may have scored a first by withdrawing an invitation to him.

Dershowitz was to have delivered the keynote address and accepted a Citizen of the Year award at the temple’s festive dinner Sept. 6, but that was before dinner chairman Alan Burstein received some unsettling news.

The Harvard professor had agreed to serve as counsel to a British law firm that is appealing the conviction of Abdel Basset al-Megrahi. The Libyan intelligence officer has been found guilty by a panel of Scottish judges of murdering 270 people in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, on Dec. 21, 1988.

The terrorist act hit the city of Syracuse particularly hard, because aboard the doomed plane were 35 students from Syracuse University. Slated as honorees and participants at the temple dinner were the chancellor of Syracuse University, his wife, and faculty members who still bear the emotional scars of the tragedy.

Under the circumstances, it would have been the height of insensitivity to ask the university leaders to share the dais with a man perceived to be an ally of the convicted terrorist, Burstein said.

Dershowitz responded with characteristic vigor, telling The Jewish Journal, “This is a 21st century version of legal McCarthyism.”

He noted that there was widespread doubt among Western intelligence agencies and even some of the families of the British victims that al-Megrahi was the actual perpetrator.

“It is at least as likely that the bombing was carried out not by a Libyan agent, but by someone connected with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command,” Dershowitz said. He said his own role was limited to objectively evaluating the validity of the eyewitness testimony that helped convict al-Megrahi.

“It is preposterous to criticize any lawyer for seeking the truth,” Dershowitz said. “I have been doing that all my life and will continue to do so as long as God gives me the strength.”

During a number of phone interviews, the two principals agreed that if Dershowitz had been aware of the special loss by the Syracuse community, and Burstein of the very limited role of Dershowitz in the appeal, the unhappy incident might have been avoided.

Dershowitz is to appear at the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance on Sept. 20 to discuss his new book, “Supreme Injustice: How the High Court Hijacked Election 2000,” with a panel of legal experts.

“I invite anyone with doubts about my role in the Lockerbie case to come and ask questions,” Dershowitz said.

Opinon


Imagine that it is 1940, and Great Britain is fighting Hitler’s Nazi Germany almost alone. Imagine, further, that an American who loves both America and England and hates the Nazis works in American intelligence and has access to secret files concerning Germany that, for whatever reason, the United States has not shared with Great Britain. This American gives the secrets to England and is caught.

This spy has, of course, violated both American law and the trust that its intelligence agencies had placed in him. Now, the question is what should be done to him? Specifically, should we regard him morally or legally as the same as an American who spied for Germany?

The answer is so obvious that only in a morally confused age such as ours would the question even be entertained. Yet this is precisely the question to be asked with regard to Jonathan Pollard, the American who spied for Israel.

Let us review the parallels to the imaginary situation outlined earlier. Israel has been at perpetual war for its survival (a threat England never faced against Germany, which wanted to vanquish, not end, its existence). An American who loved both America and Israel used his access to American intelligence on those Arab regimes and passed it on to Israel. He spied on behalf of America’s most loyal allies, not on behalf of any of America’s enemies, and he gave away secrets about Arab regimes devoted to Israel’s destruction not, to the best of our knowledge, about America. And, unlike spies whose espionage cost the lives of American and pro-American foreign agents, we know of no American and pro-American foreigner who lost his life because of Pollard.

Yet Jonathan Pollard was given a life sentence in prison — more punishment than some Americans who have spied on behalf of America’s enemies, and certainly more punishment than nearly all the murderers in America; and he has now languished in prison, often in solitary confinement, for 12 years.

The argument that Pollard was a spy, and that is all that matters, may be legally valid, but it is not morally valid. The argument that “spying is spying” is no more moral than “killing is killing.” Circumstances always determine the morality of an act. Just as most of us distinguish morally between terrorists killing innocents and anti-terrorists killing terrorists, most of us morally distinguish between spying on a democratic ally, especially one fighting for its existence, and spying for an anti-democratic enemy such as the Soviet Union. Furthermore, the United States spies on Israel and probably on most of its other allies. Last year, for example, Germany expelled an American for spying on Germany.

None of this is meant to defend what Jonathan Pollard did. Unless he actually saved Israel from something as awful as an Iraqi biological or nuclear attack, what he did is unjustifiable. As Rabbi Irving Greenberg recently wrote, “Pollard’s good intentions paved the way to political hell.” I am writing only to morally evaluate what he did in light of the suffering he has endured, and to compare his punishments with those given to other American spies and to violent criminals.

He is largely a broken man who suffers alone and who, for reasons that are not our business but that compel our compassion, has also suffered family crises. His continued suffering serves no good purpose. Again, as Rabbi Greenberg, one of the most credible voices in American Jewry and someone who, in his own words, “was not one of those who expressed sympathy for him when the case first broke,” wrote: “I have come to the conclusion that enough is enough…. It is time to extend mercy to Jonathan Pollard…. [There has been a] relentless parade of parallel cases in which far more damaging and dangerous spies received milder sentences.”

We quickly learn of the damage done to America by those who have spied on behalf of America’s enemies, and no damage has been revealed in Jonathan Pollard’s case. It makes one wonder why former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger so vociferously sought to keep Pollard in prison. Two reasons suggest themselves. One is that, for whatever reason, Weinberger has a particular loathing for Pollard; the other is that he may fear that if Pollard is released, Pollard will reveal how much sensitive data about Israel’s enemies the Weinberger Defense Department kept from Israel. I have no proof for either claim — I hope they are untrue. But neither Weinberger nor anyone else, including the entire American media, has offered any data that argue for the treatment Pollard has received.

Enough is enough. As I watch America release thousands of murderers and child molesters after a few years in prison, and give a spy for Saudi Arabia no prison term at all, I get progressively more disturbed as to why Jonathan Pollard is still in prison.

To contact Justice for Jonathan Pollard, call (416) 781-3571; fax (416) 781-3166; or e-mail pollard@cpol.com. The web site is http://www.interlog.com/