Will Russia pay dearly for the invasion of Ukraine?

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intention is to spark a civil war in Ukraine, even though he acts under the guise of Russia’s right to protect ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainian citizens.  The Upper House of Russian Parliament gave Putin authority to move the armed forces of the Russian Federation into Ukraine “until the situation there is stabilized.” On the other hand, Duma (the Russian Parliament) is working on a new law that would allow incorporation of foreign regions and territories in to the Russian Federation. The current law required agreement on both sides — that is an agreement between a foreign country and Russia, before a new territory is incorporated. The idea of legitimizing the annexation of Crimea is solely based on the premise of alleged good will of Russian-speaking Crimeans. The majority of the Crimean population is ethnic Russians, although Tatars and Ukrainians also live in the peninsula. 

Russian imperial plans, however, go much further. In short, they include destabilization of Southeastern Ukraine, military intervention in the wake of the staged high-scale civil unrest and ultimately the restoration of the government of deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, or another pro-Russian government. Official Russian rhetoric has advanced from calling Ukrainian protesters radicals and nationalists to branding them Nazis, while the new government is regarded as illegitimate and anti-Russian. Appeals to a Russian-Ukrainian age-old kinship have been replaced by military orders to reinstate a subjugated status of Ukraine. 

Putin does not consider Russia bound by bilateral and international agreements with regard to Ukraine. He likes to justify Russia’s right to national security by comparing American and European military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. Putin learned well the lesson of Mikhail Gorbachev’s piety to the West, which resulted in the geostrategic debilitation of Russia. He also knows that the European Union and the United States are good with words but slow and indecisive with actions. In other words, his concept is simple: What is good for the might of Russia has to be done, and the victor gets all. International obligations are ambiguous and shall not be taken in earnest. Such a strategy has proven to work well for Putin’s Russia, at least so far. 

[How you can help the Jews of Ukraine
(The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles)

Whether it will work on Ukrainian soil is a function of multiple variables. Among the latter are a willingness within the international community to step forward and halt the Russian aggression against Ukraine; the degree of social mobilization of Ukrainian people; the competence of the new Ukrainian government; and, last but not least, the capability of Ukrainian armed forces to withstand the foreign invasion. Geopolitical priorities of the new Ukrainian government still remain to be seen, whether it is statehood, willingness to forsake territorial losses or territorial integrity owing to political compromises. 

There are some historical parallels between the new Ukrainian government and the government of the French Republic in the wake of the great French Revolution. Of course, I do not mean to refer to the French revolutionary terror, but rather, I draw parallels in relation to the geopolitical situations. Both governments enacted radical reforms that altered the balance of power. Then the powerful neighboring empires retaliated. In both instances, the military was either nonexistent (France) or not adequately prepared and lacking continuous buildup (Ukraine). It is also typical for a post-revolutionary government to be incoherent and to face critical decision-making under multi-vector pressure. For example, to the satisfaction of the radical parties, the parliament (Verkhovna Rada) denounced the former language law and enacted a new one. 

There is nothing wrong with making the only official language Ukrainian; this is one of the necessary preconditions of creating a viable national state. However, the timing of this move was not favorable, given that the ethno-national consensus in Ukraine is particularly thin. The Russian-speaking Southeast of Ukraine associates the mandatory Ukraine-ization with the ideology of Ukrainian nationalists, with fears, since the Soviet time, of Western Ukraine (Galicia). The new Ukrainian government also faces fundamental challenges in nation-building versus state-building, territorial integrity versus statehood, and a transformation of ethnic nationalism into civil nationalism. All these paradigms constitute the cornerstones of Ukrainian independence. 

Ukraine has been formally an independent state for 23 years, which came as a result of the disintegration of the Soviet Union. During this time, ethno-national and cultural differences remain a significant obstacle in its nation building. The influence of the Russian Federation has always been a dominating factor in Ukrainian politics. Another issue is a façade-like concept of everlasting, undivided Ukraine (Sobornost), for it is taboo to suggest its modification or reversal. An option of federalization has been always dismissed. Admittedly, West Ukraine (Galicia) is a Ukrainian Piedmont, even as now a Russian Piedmont — Crimea — has gained momentum. Federalization by the modern German model should not be disregarded outright, as long as it is Ukraine’s own choice and not imposed from outside forces.

For Ukrainians, war is the last resort. The people of Ukraine believe in the mission of international institutions, but they are also aware of the possibility of repeating an Ossetian scenario of 2008, when the Republic of Georgia endured five days against the Russian military might. Ukraine’s government is doing everything possible to avoid a military conflict. The world’s leaders are on Ukraine’s side in the common effort to prevent a war. Total military mobilization in Ukraine may be declared soon, and the nation struggling for its independence for 23 years may become finally free.

Vladimir Melamed is director of Archive, Library and Historical Curatorship at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust.

With cease-fire talks proceeding, Israel reportedly holding off on ground invasion

Israel reportedly has held off on a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip in order to give cease-fire talks a chance to work.

News reports on Tuesday cited an unnamed Israeli official as saying that the ground invasion was delayed as Egypt attempts to negotiate a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

Meanwhile, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi said Tuesday following his sister's funeral that a truce deal could be concluded in the coming hours, Reuters reported, citing an Egyptian news agency. Egypt reportedly has been passing the draft of a cease-fire agreement between negotiators from Hamas and Israel in Cairo since Monday night.

Hamas reportedly has demanded that Israel stop surgical strikes on Gaza and lift the blockade of the coastal territory. Israel reportedly has called for a halt to rocket fire from Gaza on Israel as well as an end to weapons smuggling from Egypt, according to Reuters.

“I prefer a diplomatic solution,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said before a meeting with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle in Jerusalem. “I hope we can get one, but if not, we have every right to defend ourselves with other means, and we shall use them.”

Foreign leaders have pressed Israel to agree to a cease-fire. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived Tuesday in Israel to encourage a cease-fire, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is scheduled to arrive Tuesday evening.

Israel is calling up 75,000 reserve troops in preparation for a ground operation. The tank and infantry units have been massed on the Israel-Gaza border.

Israel hits Hamas government buildings, reservists mobilized

Israeli aircraft bombed Hamas government buildings in Gaza on Saturday, including the prime minister's office, after Israel's cabinet authorized the mobilization of up to 75,000 reservists in preparation for a possible ground invasion.

Palestinian militants in Gaza kept up cross-border salvoes, firing a rocket at Israel's biggest city Tel Aviv for the third straight day. Police said it was destroyed in mid-air by an Iron Dome anti-missile battery deployed hours earlier, and no one was injured.

Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that runs the Gaza Strip, said Israeli missiles wrecked the office building of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh – where he had met on Friday with the Egyptian prime minister – and struck a police headquarters.

In the Israeli Mediterranean port of Ashdod, a rocket ripped into several balconies. Police said five people were hurt.

With Israeli tanks and artillery positioned along the Gaza border and no end in sight to hostilities now in their fourth day, Tunisia's foreign minister travelled to the enclave in a show of Arab solidarity.

Officials in Gaza said 41 Palestinians, nearly half of them civilians including eight children and a pregnant woman, had been killed since Israel began its air strikes. Three Israeli civilians were killed by a rocket on Thursday.

In Cairo, a presidential source said Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi would hold four-way talks with the Qatari emir, the prime minister of Turkey and Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal in the Egyptian capital on Saturday to discuss the Gaza crisis.

Egypt has been working to reinstate calm between Israel and Hamas after an informal ceasefire brokered by Cairo unraveled over the past few weeks. Meshaal, who lives in exile, has already held a round of talks with Egyptian security officials.

Israel uncorked its massive air campaign on Wednesday with the declared goal of deterring Hamas from launching rockets that have plagued its southern communities for years. The salvoes recently intensified, and are now displaying greater range.

The operation has drawn Western support for what U.S. and European leaders have called Israel's right to self-defense, along with appeals to both sides to avoid civilian casualties.

Hamas, shunned by the West over its refusal to recognize Israel, says its cross-border attacks have come in response to Israeli strikes against Palestinian fighters in Gaza.

“We have not limited ourselves in means or in time,” Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Israel's Channel One television. “We hope that it will end as soon as possible, but that will be only after all the objectives have been achieved.”

Hamas says it is committed to continued confrontation with Israel and is eager not to seem any less resolute than smaller, more radical groups that have emerged in Gaza in recent years.

The Islamist movement has ruled Gaza since 2007. Israel pulled settlers out of Gaza in 2005 but maintains a blockade of the tiny, densely populated coastal territory.


At a late night session on Friday, Israel's cabinet decided to more than double the current reserve troop quota set for the Gaza offensive to 75,000, political sources said.

The move did not necessarily mean all would be called up or that an invasion would follow. Tanks and self-propelled guns were seen near the sandy border zone on Saturday, and around 16,000 reservists have already been summoned to active duty.

The Gaza conflagration has stirred the pot of a Middle East already boiling from two years of Arab revolution and a civil war in Syria that threatens to spread beyond its borders.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is expected to visit Israel and Egypt next week to push for an end to the fighting in Gaza, U.N. diplomats said on Friday.

Hamas's armed wing claimed responsibility for Saturday's rocket attack on Tel Aviv, saying it had fired a longer-range, Iranian-designed Fajr-5 at the coastal metropolis, some 70 km (43 miles) north of the Gaza Strip.

After air raid sirens sounded, witnesses saw two white plumes rise into the sky over the southern outskirts of Tel Aviv and heard an explosion when the incoming rocket was hit.

The anti-missile battery had been due to take delivery of its fifth Iron Dome battery early next year but it was rushed into service near Tel Aviv after rockets were launched toward the city on Thursday and Friday. Those attacks caused no damage or casualties.

In Jerusalem, targeted by a Palestinian rocket on Friday for the first time in 42 years, there was little outward sign on the Jewish Sabbath that the attack had any impact on the usually placid pace of life in the holy city.

In Gaza, some families abandoned their homes – some of them damaged and others situated near potential Israeli targets – and packed into the houses of friends and relatives.


The Israeli army said it had zeroed in on a number of government buildings during the night, including Haniyeh's office, the Hamas Interior Ministry and a police compound.

Taher al-Nono, a spokesman for the Hamas government, held a news conference near the rubble of the prime minister's office and pledged: “We will declare victory from here.”

A three-storey house belonging to Hamas official Abu Hassan Salah was also hit and totally destroyed early on Saturday. Rescuers said at least 30 people were pulled from the rubble.

In Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama commended Egypt's efforts to help defuse the Gaza violence in a call to Morsi on Friday, the White House said in a statement, and underscored his hope of restoring stability there.

On Friday, Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil paid a high-profile visit to Gaza, denouncing what he called Israeli aggression and saying Cairo was prepared to mediate a truce.

Egypt's Islamist government, freely elected after U.S.-backed autocrat Hosni Mubarak fell to a popular uprising last year, is allied with Hamas but Cairo is also party to a 1979 peace treaty with Israel.

In a call to Netanyahu, Obama discussed options for “de-escalating” the situation, the White House said, adding that the president “reiterated U.S. support for Israel's right to defend itself, and expressed regret over the loss of Israeli and Palestinian civilian lives”.

Hamas fighters are no match for the Israeli military. The last Gaza war, involving a three-week long Israeli air blitz and ground invasion over the New Year period of 2008-09, killed over 1,400 Palestinians. Thirteen Israelis died.

But few believe Israeli military action can snuff out militant rocket fire entirely without a reoccupation of Gaza, an option all but ruled out because it would risk major casualties and an international outcry.

While Hamas rejects the Jewish state's existence, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who rules in areas of the nearby West Bank, does recognize Israel but peace talks between the two sides have been frozen since 2010.

Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell, Jeffrey Heller and Ori Lewis in Jerusalem and Louis Charbonneau at the United Nations; Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Mark Heinrich

Israeli soldier jailed for stealing from Marmara

An Israeli soldier who stole electronic equipment from an intercepted ship bound for Gaza was sentenced to jail.

The soldier was sentenced under a plea bargain Monday by an Israeli military court to five months in jail. He also was fined and demoted for removing the items from the Mavi Marmara ship, which Israeli commandos boarded on May 31. Violent resistance on the Turkish ship led to the deaths of nine Turkish nationals, including a dual Turkish-American citizen.

The soldier, who also was removed from an officers training course, reportedly stole the items—a laptop computer, camera lenses and a compass—while the ship was docked in the Israeli port at Ashdod.

In court, the soldier expressed remorse for his actions and apologized.

Three other soldiers are to be brought to trial for the looting incident, according to Ynet.

Day at the beach – Omaha Beach

June 6, 1944, may have been the most important day of the 20th century. The Allied invasion of France breached Hitler's Atlantic Wall and decisively turned the war against the Nazi regime.

The invasion itself was a combination of great leadership, detailed planning and a brilliant campaign of deception to convince the Germans that the attack would come at Calais instead of the Normandy beaches. But the final ingredient was the courage of the invasion forces, of which 75 percent were American soldiers. To the Americans fell the nightmare beach to attack: Omaha. It was the most heavily defended and dangerous beach, and it cost by far the most lives.

Had D-Day failed, what would have happened? Would the war effort in the West have become exhausted? Would the concentration camps have been liberated by 1945? Fortunately, these questions will never have to be answered.

Last month, my wife, my daughter and I went to Omaha Beach. We have been in France since September, and this is a trip that I had longed to take. Each semester I spend a full class session on D-Day, because I think it reveals so much — not only about world history but also about the American character.

The Omaha Beach memorial has three important pieces: a creatively designed museum with audiovisual displays, the American cemetery and a path that winds down to the beach itself. The whole D-Day story unfolded at beaches to the north and south, as well, because the attacks took place for miles up and down the coast at other beaches named Juno, Utah, Gold, Sword.

British and Canadian troops joined Americans on those beaches. Attacks on German installations inland were already under way in coordination with the invasion by the French resistance, alerted by coded radio messages from the Allied command.

The museum traces all the intricacies of the invasion planning and execution. The intense secrecy of the invasion plan was dictated by the need to divert the strongest German forces away from the landing site.

Massive deception fooled the German high command right up until the attack and even in the first few days after. The planning was not perfect; in a training exercise for the full invasion force on the English coast, German submarines sneaked in and attacked, costing the lives of more than 700 Allied soldiers.

Even with these snafus, the depth of the planning and training process comes through. This was a well-led project. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower's recorded talk to the troops before the invasion is simple and moving, as are accounts of his visit to paratroopers on the way to Normandy.

The decision to attack (moved from June 5) during a break in the stormy weather on June 6 was critical and was, after all, based on something as tricky as a weather forecast. Bad weather would have doomed the invasion.

From the museum you go down to the beach on a winding path. There you can see some remnants of abandoned equipment left as a visual display.

But the real shock is to see how open the beach is, with no real cover or protection for the incoming soldiers. Looming behind you are the hills where the Germans had their guns, with months to set up their lines of fire.

Despite horrific losses in the first wave, the soldiers just kept on coming and somehow made it up the hills and cliffs to silence the German positions. Bold parachute drops behind enemy lines helped turn the tide, but ultimately young American soldiers led by junior officers (taking over for higher-ranking officers who had been killed) had to get their men off the beaches and up the hills.

The cemetery is extremely simple and quiet, as it should be. In neat rows are crosses and Jewish stars with very simple descriptions, all of Americans buried far from home on the soil they had died to liberate. Some are dated June 6, but others are as late as July, a reminder that it took well more than a month to break out of the region and begin in August the push toward Berlin.

Still to come after D-Day were the awful battles of the French hedgerows and the German counterattack in the Battle of the Bulge. Paris was only liberated in late August.

The French have carefully maintained a network of museums and displays all up and down the Normandy coast. Memories of the American GIs who fought and died to liberate Europe and who marched through the Arc de Triomphe in Paris are still strong.

I thought of all those still with us or who have passed on who served in uniform in that war — including my father, my father-in-law, my uncles (two of whom fought in France and helped liberate concentration camps) — and of my mother, my aunts and the many women who served overseas but mostly on the home front.

Much has happened in the U.S.A. and in the world since that day in June 1944. Our relations with Europe have gone up and down, although our alliance remains strong.

Things may never be quite as crystal clear as they were then, when the fate of the world hung in the balance. I listened again this week to the sober address that President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered to announce the invasion — in the form of a prayer:

“Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity. Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.”

No one knew what the outcome would be.

In facing tough times, Americans have historical resources to fall back upon. Those soldiers who fought their way onto French soil had already lived through the worst of the Great Depression. With great leadership, careful planning and a worthy goal to aim for, Americans have a way of getting there.

It is worth remembering.

Raphael J. Sonenshein, a political scientist at Cal State Fullerton, is the 2008 Fulbright Tocqueville Distinguished Chair in American Studies at the Institut Français de Geopolitique at the University of Paris VIII.

Part of the memorial at Omaha Beach

Sir, It’s the Wrong War!

After the invasion of the Balata refugee camp by a regular brigade of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), the brigade commander appeared on television and said that he had expected the Palestinians to fight like tigers, but that they behaved like pussycats.

This is a frightening sentence, because it discloses a startling fact: The brigade commander does not understand in what kind of campaign he is engaged. He has to be told, with all due respect: "Sir, you are fighting the wrong war!"

Clearly, he believes that he is engaged in a conventional war between armies. The enemy is supposed to stand up and fight like men, assault rifles against tanks and fighter planes.

The commander and all his colleagues, including Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz and his deputy, would be well-advised to read a good book about guerrilla warfare, such as Mao Tse-Tung’s treatise, which tells the guerrilla fighter: Never confront the regular army. When the army attacks, you disappear. When the army is not ready, you attack.

For example: The army surrounds Arafat in Ramallah; destroy a Merkava tank in Gush Katif. A whole brigade invades Balata; get out and send a single fighter to kill the team at a checkpoint near Ofrah. A brigade attacks Jenin; get out of their sight and infiltrate Atzmona settlement.

The statement by the brigade commander indicates that the IDF is fighting on a front that does not exist and is not prepared for fighting on the front that is there. It’s like a general setting out to conquer Syria and holding a map of the Sudan in his hands.

Since Mofaz and his senior officers don’t even understand the nature of this struggle, they are failing. Out of frustration and anger, they shoot in all directions and commit a small massacre every day, without any purpose or chance of success. Since they were not trained for this kind of struggle and do not understand it, they are condemned to commit every possible mistake. One after another, they use all the methods that have already failed in Algeria, Kenya, South Africa, Vietnam and a dozen other countries.

They try to starve the inhabitants into submission ("closure") and inadvertently turn them into potential suicide bombers with nothing to lose. They assassinate the chiefs of the fighting groups ("targeted prevention") and clear the way for younger, more efficient and more energetic commanders. The kill massively ("you have to strike them") and turn the relatives of the victims into avengers.

If this is the way of the generals, the "political echelon," composed of pensioned generals, is worse. They imprison Arafat in Ramallah in order to prove that he is "irrelevant" and turn him into the most relevant person in the entire Middle East. As a result, all internal criticism of Arafat has ceased. Practically all Palestinians admire their president, who is taking part in their lot, suffers like them and is risking his life like them.

And beyond that, tens of millions of Arabs, who see rousing reports from beleaguered Palestine every hour on Al-Jazeera television, compare the courageous Palestinian leader to their own rulers, who are now very worried indeed. In response, they sounded the alarm in Washington and have compelled President Bush to do something.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer declare that if the Palestinians are made to suffer more and more, they will eventually surrender and agree to live in several ghettos, as proposed by Sharon. In practice, the opposite is happening. The more the pressure on them mounts, the more their unity grows, their methods of resistance improve and their readiness to suffer and not to surrender increases.

Thousands of Palestinians are ready to undertake actions leading to certain death, and their number is growing. How many Israelis are ready to go into action if there is no chance at all of coming out alive? Palestinians know full well that they are fighting for their very existence; Israelis know that they are fighting for the settlements and bankrupt politicians.

The Israeli government cannot win this struggle. After paying a terrible price — slaughter and destruction — this will become clear to the public, the government will fall and we shall make peace according to the Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah’s excellent proposal.

Courage Under Fire

Mort Wolk hadn’t slept a wink in two days. The invasion had been called off the day before due to bad weather, but Wolk had been on edge and too busy to rest. It was 4 a.m., and his plane was over Nazi-held Normandy. The only Jew and the only enlisted man on board, Wolk was part of Task Force A, a group of 40 paratroopers that had four hours to establish and secure a command post for the D-Day invasion.

“I thought to myself, ‘Well, God, this is it. I’m not asking any favors. I’ve lived an honest life. Whatever I have coming, I have coming,'” says Wolk, who was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division.

Wolk landed in the water just off the bank of the Douve River. Wet and cold, he made his way along the hedgerows. Armed with a rifle and a clicker that made a cricket sound, Wolk shot at anyone who didn’t respond to his cricket call in kind.

After the command post was established, Wolk found a vantage point and watched the invasion.During World War II, Jewish participation in the military was greater than that of the general population. Yet Jewish veterans, who, like Wolk, served courageously, continue to fight an uphill battle against the unfounded anti-Semitic stereotype that Jews haven’t served their country.

In reality, Jewish involvement in the American military dates back to 1654, when Asser Levy, one of the original 23 Jewish settlers, demanded the right to stand guard at the stockade in New Amsterdam. Jews have served in every American war, from the American Revolution to the Persian Gulf War, and thousands have received combat medals.

At the dawn of the 21st century, thankfully, conditions for Jews in the military have improved. With a zero-tolerance stance for religious or racial discrimination, Jewish military personnel can finally focus on the task of being all that they can be without fear of being targets of hate.

“There’s a lot of rules and regulations,” says Paul Kahn, commander of Jewish War Veterans Post 603. “Anti-Semitism is not as bad as it was in World War II and the Korean War.”

Still, the memories of anti-Semitism during wartime run deep, especially for those who served on the front.Wolk says that his commander, a West Point man called away from a successful law practice, was anti-Semitic and specifically picked him for the Normandy invasion.

“I said, ‘Look, lieutenant, no stripes. Get a guy with stripes,'” says Wolk, who was still a private first class despite participation in three previous invasions: North Africa, Sicily and Italy. “He said, ‘You’re the best man for the job. Plus, if we get back we’ll both get stripes.’ Sure: he became a captain, and I became a corporal.”

During the Korean War, Martin Zelcer, now 73, also had an anti-Semitic experience while serving on the front.

A Czechoslovakian Holocaust survivor who had lost his parents and three brothers, Zelcer had been in the United States barely a year when he was drafted.

“I was disappointed that they didn’t give me a chance to get to know the country,” he says.

Zelcer had the right to refuse induction, but his citizenship would have been jeopardized. Attached to the Army’s 24th Division, 5th Regimental Combat Team, Zelcer says that going to war on the heels of surviving the Holocaust “was not pleasant. It was out of the frying pan and into the fire.”

“I was used to hardships and suffering,” he says. “So I rolled with the punches. The American kids had a harder time than I had. They were spoon-fed, and I had gone through so much.”

While serving on the front, a Hawaiian staff sergeant took a strong dislike to Zelcer. “If he could have drowned me in a teaspoon of water, he would have,” says Zelcer. “He knew I was Jewish.”

Zelcer mentioned the situation to the company commander, who had taken an interest in his survivor past, and from then on the sergeant steered clear of him.

Vidal Cohen, 31, says that racial and religious discrimination aren’t tolerated in today’s Marine Corps. “We had one racial incident in my unit, and there was some pretty stiff punishment for the people involved.”

Cohen, an L.A. native who joined the Marine Corps out of high school, was one of many in the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines who didn’t think they were actually being shipped off to fight in the Persian Gulf War.

“Nobody really believed it until we got on the airplane,” says Cohen. “When they popped the hatch and there was Saudi Arabia, it was like, ‘Uh-oh.'”

Cohen, whose unit was responsible for retaking Kuwait City and occupying the Kuwait International Airport, thought his being Jewish in an Arab country might be a problem. The military did too. But the locals turned out to be more offended by servicewomen in T-shirts than by Members of the Tribe.

Cohen, who now works in the entertainment industry, says he became more observant as a result of participating in the Persian Gulf War. “Going to war makes you reflect,” he says.

While veterans are pleased that anti-Semitism in the military is increasingly becoming a nonissue, they would like to see a return to a time when veterans were honored for their sacrifices, especially within the Jewish community.

Kahn says that outside of Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel’s annual dinner, he knows of no other synagogues that go out of their way on Veterans Day to honor those who served.

“Ever since the Vietnam War, veterans are no longer deemed as important to America’s past,” says Kahn. “It would be nice if the various synagogues would be more appreciative of the Jewish war veterans.”