Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives to the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem July 23, 2017. REUTERS/Abir Sultan/Pool

Netanyahu, a dead man walking (aren’t we all?)


When there is no news, there is speculation. And in recent days there has been very little news about the criminal investigations into allegations against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Investigations are slow and, besides, there is a gag order that’s preventing the news media from reporting about any developments. So there is a vacuum, and the vacuum is filled by speculation, and by ever-chatting politicians and pundits. Some of them try to convince us that the prime minister is a dead man walking. Some are trying to convince us that “there will be nothing, because there is nothing,” which is Netanyahu’s usual response to questions about the investigations.

He is not dead yet. But the potential of a sudden political death no longer can be denied. Netanyahu suffered a blow last week when his close aid, Ari Harow, signed a state-witness agreement. One assumes that such an agreement only is signed with a witness who has something incriminating to say. One assumes that Harow was in a position that provided him unique access to Netanyahu. What did he tell the investigators? We don’t know. What does he tell his acquaintances? “I did not rat out Netanyahu” is what he says.

Is that possible? Is it possible that the police signed an agreement with a state witness when the witness believes that he said nothing incriminating about his former boss? In fact, it is. It’s possible if what Harow has to tell is open to interpretation. Harow told the investigators stories that he considers legal and they might consider illegal. Harow told them stories that he believes are not incriminating enough to put Netanyahu on trial and they might believe are incriminating indeed and strong enough to indict Netanyahu.

He is not dead yet. But the potential of a sudden political death no longer can be denied.

Harow might be naïve. He might not understand the severity of his actions. The investigators might be overeager. They might not see that in their zeal to search for an elusive truth, they criminalize trivial actions. As I remarked four years ago, prosecutors have sniffed around every prime minister for nearly two decades, with mixed results. Netanyahu, first term: investigated, not charged. Ehud Barak: investigated, not charged. Ariel Sharon: investigated, not charged. Ehud Olmert: investigated, charged, found guilty (mostly for his actions as the mayor of Jerusalem). Netanyahu, second term: under investigation again.

Olmert was forced out as prime minister because of the investigation and indictment. Netanyahu has vowed not to repeat Olmert’s actions, that he will not leave his position even if an indictment is put before the court. There is no clear indication in the law that a prime minister must resign if he is indicted.

For now, his coalition partners support his position. But political grounds can shift. Today’s support is essential but hardly guarantees tomorrow’s support. The legal situation might be navigable. But Olmert was pushed out by the political system: The Labor party’s Barak forced the Kadima party to get rid of Olmert or else (the coalition would crumble). And, of course, Barak said at the time that his motivation was pure and that his ambition was for Israel not to be corrupt.

Still, more cynical observers and members of the political cast believed at the time, and still believe, that Barak wanted Olmert ousted because of personal ambitions and his belief that a vacuum created an opportunity for him to become more powerful.

So, Netanyahu’s political fate is hanging in the air and a decision to cut short his time in office could only begin with the political system. And that comes with a lot of ifs: if the prime minister is indicted, if the public (not just his rivals but also voters of coalition parties) wants him out, if his fellow politicians master the courage to stand up to him, if coalition partners believe they can benefit from a new election or get more from another prime minister.

Last week, it appeared that some of Netanyahu’s colleagues were beginning to entertain such thoughts. This week, the tide turned, and Netanyahu proved, once again, that he is quite good at disciplining his party members. Likud ministers who were somewhat reluctant to defend him are back on the airwaves, declaring his innocence. They do it not because they like Netanyahu, not because they want him to stay as their leader, not because they are truly convinced that he is innocent; they do it because that’s the smart thing for them to do politically. It is the smart thing to do as long as Likud voters want Netanyahu to stay.

There are four scenarios under which Netanyahu could be forced out. One: If the politicians decide it is time. Two: If Netanyahu believes he needs to step aside and take care of his legal troubles. Three: If he is indicted and found guilty. Four: If the court interprets the law in a way that forces out the prime minister as soon as he is indicted.

What is the timetable for these scenarios to materialize? With politicians, one never knows, but for now, there is not one important member of the ruling coalition who wants Netanyahu to step aside. There also is no sign that Netanyahu is considering leaving. In fact, he has vowed time and again to fight and remain in office. Indictments take time. A lot of time. In any of these scenarios, Netanyahu is not leaving anytime soon.

Of course, there still is the option of a court decision that forces him out. This will not be an easy decision, because unlike throwing out a minister in Israel — a decision that is problematic personally for the minister but hardly impacts the public — throwing out a prime minister would be perceived as a political revolution by the court.

The bottom line is simple: Either we see a change of political hearts or we are destined to slog through a very long process. That Netanyahu might have to leave at some point is true. But that was true even before the investigations began (it is true with every prime minister). That the end is much closer today than it was before also is true.

But that was true even before the investigations began — it is true for all of us with every passing day.

UCLA investigating activist David Horowitz over #JewHaters posters


A UCLA spokesman said campus police are investigating conservative activist David Horowitz after ” target=”_blank”>variations on infamous photos of Hamas executioners with accused informants, and of Hamas militants posing with armed Palestinian children. Each poster had the words “Students for Justice in Palestine” and the hash tag #JewHaters.

On March 5, a UCLA spokesman told the Journal that campus police were evaluating whether the posters constituted vandalism, but citing university policy regarding ongoing investigations, did not identify Horowitz or anyone else as a suspect in their investigation.

On March 3, though, the David Horowitz Freedom Center sent a fundraising email blast, signed by Horowitz, that said he had been accused by UCLA of defacing university property and that a legal battle might ensue. He also wrote that he wouldn’t cooperate with any investigation until UCLA enforces its “Principles of Community” — rules that prohibit religious and ethnic discrimination — against SJP.

The posters were the first major public action for a new Freedom Center initiative called Jew Hatred on Campus.

On March 5, Horowitz repeated his previous statement that he wants UCLA to revoke SJP’s status as an approved campus group. He also elaborated on the goal of his poster campaign:

“This campaign is designed to change the conversation about whether the Palestinians are engaged in a genocidal war against Israel, and whether Students for Justice in Palestine is a hate group,” Horowitz said.

As of March 9, Horowitz said he had not heard from UCLA investigators in several days.  

Argentine president, others face investigation in Nisman death


Argentine Federal Prosecutor Gerardo Pollitica is requesting permission to investigate President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman and others members of the Argentine government in the cover-up of Iran’s involvement in the AMIA bombing.

Pollicita asked Federal Judge Daniel Rafecas on Friday to open an investigation to determine if Fernández de Kirchner ordered the Foreign Ministry to sign a pact with Iran to ignore the Iranian responsibilities in AMIA 1994 attack in exchange for commercial benefits.

Pollicita based the request on the 290-page complaint drafted by AMIA special prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who was found dead on Jan. 16, shortly before he was to present allegations to Congress, Pollitica Rafecas to collect evidence in order to move forward with the probe.

In a related development, Nisman’s ex-wife on Thursday called for an international investigation of his mysterious death.

Sandra Arroyo Salgado, herself a judge, made the plea at a meeting organized by opposition parties in Congress, where she stated that she had asked the Public Defender’s Office to have Nisman’s Jan. 18 death investigated by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

“The Argentine state acknowledged its responsibility before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for not investigating [its] worst-ever terrorist attack that killed 85 people and now also the prosecutor investigating the case,” she said in a statement that was widely interpreted as implying that Argentine justice authorities have not demonstrated the competence necessary to investigate the death of Nisman. Nisman, who was Jewish, was in 2004 appointed chief prosecutor of the bombing at the AMIA Jewish community center.

Nisman accused President Cristina Fernandez of brokering a secret deal with Iran to help shield Iranian officials charged in the attack. Fernandez has denied that.

Nisman’s ex-wife also complained of leaks in the probe into his death, which is headed by investigator Viviana Fein.

“One does not need to be a lawyer to understand that leaking information of an ongoing criminal investigation can make it collapse,” Arroyo Salgado said.

Fein initially said Nisman’s death was a suicide but later changed that hypothesis, suggesting he was murdered.

Nisman’s death, which shocked many Argentineans, will be commemorated in rallies around the world on Feb. 18 – exactly one month after he died.

In the United States, rallies are scheduled in Miami, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington, Minneapolis, Las Vegas, Houston and San Francisco, in addition to rallies planned in Europe, in Berlin, Athens and Paris.

Israeli Foreign Ministry investigating consulate in L.A.


The Inspector General of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs is investigating an employee matter at the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles, although officials will not confirm the nature of the inquiry. 

Emmanuel Nahshon, spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, would not comment on the validity of specific accusations reported in a Jan. 9 article on the Israeli website Ynet, which cites allegations of sexual harassment between two consulate employees.

“I will not confirm for you what is the subject of the investigation,” Nahshon said in a phone interview with the Jewish Journal on Jan. 12. “The Israeli article actually covered a wide range of issues. Some of them have to do with reality and others are being investigated, but I’m not in a position to tell you what are serious issues and what are just inventions or imagination.

“The only thing that I can confirm is that the Inspector General of the Foreign Ministry [Jacob Keidar] has been looking into certain allegations regarding the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles, but nothing more than that,” he added. 

Officials from the local consulate general, including a spokesperson for Israel’s Consul General in Los Angeles David Siegel, have declined to comment on the Ynet article, which reported that the investigation has been going on for the past two months. Nahshon, for his part, said that Siegel was not the focus of the investigation. 

“Those examinations or inquiries had nothing to do with David Siegel, as a person or as a consul general. [They had to do] with other employees, with frictions, difficulties with other employees — with regard to other employees — but not with regard to David Siegel,” Nahshon said. “His professional and his personal behavior was not under such an examination, and he is certainly not suspected of anything, and there is absolutely no shadow cast on his behavior. … He is an excellent diplomat and an excellent consul general.”

The office, located in West Los Angeles on Wilshire Boulevard, is staffed by several Israeli diplomats and many nondiplomatic locals. 

The Ynet article, without disclosing identities, describes the person accused of sexual harassment as an HIV-positive male, a “local [non-Israeli] worker, an American citizen, who holds a central position at the consulate as a foreign domestic worker … who has worked at the consulate for several years.” It reported that the accuser is a female worker who eventually withdrew her complaint after the Foreign Ministry began its investigation. Ynet also reported the Foreign Ministry was ready to fire the accused but that he has claimed it would be unlawful because of his medical condition. 

While the Ynet article reported that the Foreign Ministry intended to hold severance negotiations with the accused worker, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nahshon said, “I am not aware of conclusions and actions following this [overall] inquiry.”

Florida State U. prof Dan Markel slain in home shooting


Dan Markel, a law professor at Florida State University, died after being shot in his home.

Markel died Saturday morning, a day after being discovered shot in the back in his home and taken to the hospital, the Tallahassee Democrat reported. He was 41.

No suspects have been identified, the Democrat reported.

“I am deeply saddened to report that our colleague Dan Markel passed away early this morning,” FSU law school dean Donald Weidner said in a statement issued Saturday, adding that the case was still under active investigation by local authorities.

A memorial service was held Sunday at Congregation Shomrei Torah in Tallahassee. A memorial service will be held at the university in the fall when students return to campus.

Markel was a graduate of Harvard Law School and primarily taught criminal law at Florida State.

Markel’s writings have been featured in The New York Times, Slate and The Atlantic. He is the author of the 2009 book “Privilege or Punish: Criminal Justice and the Challenge of Family Ties.” He also wrote a law blog called “Prawfsblawg.”

Palestinian investigators: Israel only suspect in Arafat ‘killing’


Palestinian investigators named Israel the “only suspect” in the death of Yasser Arafat after laboratory tests suggested the Palestinian leader died of poisoning.

“We say that Israel is the prime and only suspect in the case of Yasser Arafat’s assassination, and we will continue to carry out a thorough investigation to find out and confirm all the details and all elements of the case,” Tawfiq Tirawi told a news conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah, the French news agency AFP reported Friday.

Tirawi, who is leading the Palestinian inquiry, said the investigation had studied the findings of Swiss scientists, released on Wednesday, which “moderately” supported the notion that Arafat had been poisoned with polonium, a radioactive substance.

Palestinian officials on Thursday demanded an international inquiry into Arafat’s “killing.”

Wasel Abu Yusef, a senior Palestine Liberation Organization official, said polonium ”is owned by states, not people, meaning that the crime was committed by a state.”

Speaking to reporters in Lausanne Thursday, the Swiss team said the test results neither confirmed nor counted out that polonium was the actual cause of death, although they provided “moderate” backing for the idea Arafat was poisoned.

The team said the quantity of the deadly substance found on Arafat’s remains pointed to the involvement of a third party.

“We can’t say that polonium was the source of his death … nor can we rule it out,” said Professor Francois Bochud of the Lausanne Institute of Applied Radiophysics.

Arafat died in France on Nov. 11, 2004 at the age of 75 after falling sick a month earlier. Doctors were unable to specify the cause of death. His remains were exhumed last year.

Kenya widens mall attack probe, alert for UK ‘White Widow’


Interpol issued a wanted persons alert at Kenya's request on Thursday for a British woman who has been cited by British police as a possible suspect in the attack on a Nairobi shopping mall that killed at least 72 people.

The alert was issued as Kenyan police broadened the investigation into the weekend raid by the al Qaeda-aligned Somali al Shabaab group, the worst such assault since the U.S. Embassy was bombed in the capital by al Qaeda in 1998.

Interpol – which has joined agencies from Britain, the United States, Israel and others in the Kenyan investigation of the wrecked mall – did not say when Nairobi requested a so-called “red alert” notice for Samantha Lewthwaite, 29.

The widow of one of the suicide bombers who attacked London's transport system in 2005 is believed to have evaded arrest two years ago in the port city of Mombasa, where she is wanted in connection with a plot to bomb hotels and restaurants.

Interpol's “red alert” cites the previous 2011 plot.

Police in Mombasa, a tourist hub, said they were also tracking four suspected militants, following the siege of the swanky Westgate mall in Nairobi which militants stormed on Saturday armed with assault rifles and grenades.

The mall attack has demonstrated the reach of al Shabaab beyond Somalia, where Kenyan troops have joined other African forces, driving the group out of major urban areas, although it still controls swathes of the countryside.

Al Shabaab stormed the mall to demand Kenya pull its troops out, which President Uhuru Kenyatta has ruled out.

Many details of the assault are unclear, including the identity of the attackers who officials said numbered about a dozen. Speculation that Lewthwaite, dubbed the “White Widow” in the British press, was triggered by witness accounts that one of raiders was a white woman.

FORENSIC WORK

But Kenya's government and Western officials have cautioned that they cannot confirm the reports she was involved, or even that there were any women participants in the raid.

The government said five of the attackers were killed, along with at least 61 civilians and six security personnel.

Eleven suspects have been arrested in relation to the attack, but it is not clear if any took part.

Although the Red Cross lists 71 missing people, the government said it does not expect a big rise in the death toll.

Part of the Westgate mall collapsed in the siege, burying some bodies and hindering investigations, although forensic experts have started work while soldiers search for explosives. Officials said some blasts on Thursday were controlled ones.

“The army are still in there with the forensic teams,” said one senior police officer near the mall.

Mombasa police said they were tracking a network of suspects linked to al Shabaab in the coastal region, home to many of Kenya's Muslims, who make up about 10 percent of the nation's 40 million people. Most Kenyans are Christians.

“We have four suspects within Mombasa who we are closely watching. They came back to the country after training in Somalia,” country police commander Robert Kitur told Reuters.

Another counter-terrorism officer, who asked not to be named, also said four suspects were being tracked and added that two well-armed suspected militants killed in an August operation could have been planning a similar attack in Mombasa.

“I will be surprised if they don't link the Nairobi attackers to those terrorists we killed in Mombasa,” he added.

DENTED IMAGE

The mall attack has dented Kenya's image as a tourist destination, damaging a vital source of revenues. But rating agency Moody's said that although the attack was “credit negative” it would not affect foreign direct investment or a planned Kenyan Eurobond later this year.

In 1998, al Qaeda bombed the U.S. Embassy, an attack that killed more than 200 people. Since then, Kenya has faced other smaller attacks, many claimed by al Shabaab, particularly along the border region next to Somalia.

On Thursday, al Shabaab claimed responsibility for killing two policemen in an assault on a administrative post in Mandera county next to Somalia. The border has been closed.

Experts say the insecure border has allowed Kenyan sympathizers of al Shabaab to cross into Somalia for training.

“They are coming back because our armed forces destroyed their training ground there,” said Kitur.

The coastal region also has been the target of attacks by a separatist movement, the Mombasa Republican Council, although that group has long denied it has connections with al Shabaab.

Additional reporting by James Macharia, Duncan Miriri, Richard Lough, Kevin Mwanza and Edmund Blair in Nairobi, Joseph Akwiri in Mombasa and Carolyn Cohn in London and Alexandria Sage in Paris; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Angus MacSwan

FBI identifies two suspects in Boston Marathon bombing [PHOTOS]


Investigators released pictures of two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing on Thursday, seeking the public's help in identifying two backpack-toting men photographed on the crowded sidewalk on Monday before bombs exploded near the finish line.

The blasts that killed three people and wounded 176 began a week of security scares that rattled the United States and evoked memories of the Sept. 11, 2001 hijacked plane attacks.

“Somebody out there knows these individuals as friends, neighbors, co-workers or family members of the suspects,” Richard DesLauriers, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation's special agent in charge in Boston, told a news conference.

“Though it may be difficult, the nation is counting on those with information to come forward and provide it to us,” he said.

DesLauriers warned the public that the men were considered armed and dangerous.

Both men carried backpacks that were believed to contain the bombs. The FBI identified suspect No. 1 as a man wearing a dark baseball cap and sunglasses. Suspect No. 2 wore a white cap baseball cap backwards and was seen setting down his backpack on the ground, DesLauriers said.

The FBI released a 30-second video of the two men, one walking behind the other, that edited together three different angles. The video appeared to have been taken from security cameras.

A picture of both men in the same frame was taken at 2:37 p.m., about 13 minutes before the two explosions tore through the crowd that had been cheering on finishers of the race.

Investigators believe the bombs were made of pressure cookers packed with shrapnel. Some of the wounded suffered gruesome injuries and at least 10 people lost limbs as a result of the blasts.

Investigators hoped the men would be identifiable within hours of the release of the pictures and video, a national security official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Investigators were looking at the men for some period of time before deciding to make the videos public, and they had extensive video and still pictures to justify the FBI decision to label the two men as suspects, the official said.

At least one other person of interest who featured in crime scene pictures had been ruled out as a suspect. Also ruled out earlier in the week was a Saudi student who was injured in the attacks, the official said.

OBAMA IN BOSTON

President Barack Obama sought to bring solace to Boston and the nation in an interfaith service at a cathedral about a mile (1.6 km) from the bomb site, declaring “You will run again” and vowing to catch whoever was responsible.

He promised resilience in a message directed toward Boston but also to a country that was on edge.

A man was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of mailing the deadly poison ricin to Obama and a massive explosion at a fertilizer factory devastated a small Texas community, sending shockwaves at least 50 miles (80 km) away.

Obama said the country stood in solidarity with the victims of the Boston bombs on their road to recovery.

“As you begin this long journey of recovery, your city is with you, your commonwealth is with you, your country is with you,” Obama said. “We will all be with you as you learn to stand and walk and, yes, run again. Of that, I have no doubt. You will run again.”

After his speech, Obama met with volunteers and Boston Marathon organizers, many of whom cared for the injured, and with victims at Massachusetts General Hospital.

The bombs in Boston killed an 8-year-old boy, Martin Richard; a 29-year-old woman, Krystle Campbell; and a Boston University graduate student and Chinese citizen, Lu Lingzi.

Before his visit, Obama declared a state of emergency in Massachusetts, making federal funding available to the state as it copes with the aftermath of the bombing. 

Suspects wanted for questioning in relation to the Boston Marathon bombing April 15 are revealed in this handout photo during an FBI news conference in Boston, April 18, 2013. REUTERS/FBI/Handout

Suspect wanted for questioning in relation to the Boston Marathon bombing April 15 is revealed in this handout photo during an FBI news conference in Boston, April 18, 2013. REUTERS/FBI/Handout

Suspect wanted for questioning in relation to the Boston Marathon bombing April 15 is revealed in this handout photo during an FBI news conference in Boston, April 18, 2013. REUTERS/FBI/Handout

Suspect wanted for questioning in relation to the Boston Marathon bombing April 15 is revealed in this handout photo during an FBI news conference in Boston, April 18, 2013. REUTERS/FBI/Handout

Photos of a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings are seen during a news conference in Boston, Massachusetts April 18, 2013. The FBI said on Thursday that it has identified two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing and is asking the public for help in identifying the two men. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Suspect wanted for questioning in relation to the Boston Marathon bombing April 15 is revealed in this handout photo during an FBI news conference in Boston, April 18, 2013. REUTERS/FBI/Handout

Reporting By Svea Herbst-Bayliss

Israel army closes probe into deadly 2009 shelling


Israel’s military on Tuesday closed an investigation into a 2009 shelling of a house in Gaza that killed 21 members of a Palestinian family, saying it did not constitute a war crime and that the civilians had not been targeted purposefully.

The incident occurred during a three-week war in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

Witnesses at the time said that on January 4, 2009 Israeli troops had ordered about 100 civilians in the Zeitun district to enter the house and stay there, out of their way.

But the following day the house was hit by Israeli shells and collapsed, killing the members of the extended Samouni family.

Reporting on Tuesday on the decision not to take legal action, Israel’s Channel 10 television described the shelling as “the most serious operational mishap” of the Gaza war.

After an investigation into the shelling and allegations of war crimes, the Military Advocate General “found the accusations groundless,” the military said in a statement.

“The Military Advocate General also found that none of the involved soldiers or officers acted in a negligent manner,” the military said, but added it was making changes to “ensure that such events will not happen again.”

Israel launched the offensive in late 2008 with the declared aim of ending cross-border rocket fire that continuously struck southern Israeli towns. Much of the fighting took place in densely populated areas of the small coastal territory. More than 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.

A report released separately in 2009 by jurist Richard Goldstone under a mandate of the U.N. Human Rights Council said both Israel and the Islamist group Hamas were guilty of war crimes.

Israel refused to cooperate with the inquiry and strongly criticized Goldstone’s conclusions as biased.

The Israeli group B’Tselem, one of the human rights groups that had submitted the complaint, said the response it received from the military did not detail the findings of the shelling investigation or provide reasons behind the decision to close the file.

“It is unacceptable that no one is found responsible for an action of the army that led to the killing of 21 uninvolved civilians, inside the building they entered under soldiers’ orders, even if this was not done deliberately,” Yael Stein, B’Tselem’s head of research, said in a statement.

Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch Editing by Maria Golovnina

Israeli officer who hit activist suspended pending investigation


A senior Israeli military officer caught on tape hitting an activist in the face with the butt of his rifle has been suspended pending the results of an investigation.

The International Solidarity Movement posted on YouTube a video of the incident, which took place Saturday during a protest bike ride in the Jordan Valley.

Approximately 200 activists, including Palestinians from the West Bank and foreign activists, rode their bikes along Route 90, the Jordan Valley’s main north-south route, to protest what the ISM calls on its website “regular harassment and attacks from Israeli settlers and soldiers.”

Israel Defense Forces soldiers halted the activists, who were blocking the main thoroughfare to traffic and began taking away their bicycles. The video shows Lt.-Col. Shalom Eisner hitting an activist in the face with his M-16 rifle. Four activists were wounded in the incident, according to Haaretz.

Central Command Chief Ma.-Gen. Nitzan Alon late on Sunday ordered an immediate investigation into the incident. In addition, Military Judge Advocate General Brig.-Gen. Avi Mandelblit ordered a criminal investigation against Eisner.

“This event does not reflect the IDF’s values and will be thoroughly investigated and handled with the necessary severity,” IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz said in a statement.

Eisner reportedly said he regrets the incident, but said the video represents one minute out of a two-hour event in which the protesters attacked the soldiers, breaking one of Eisner’s fingers and injured his wrist. He is seen later in the video with his wrist and finger in a white bandage.

According to Ynet, Eisner said he did not use a water cannon that he had at the scene in order to disperse the protesters because there was an ongoing dialogue and he wanted to end the event peacefully.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the incident, saying: “Such behavior does not characterize IDF soldiers and officers and has no place in the Israel Defense Forces and in the State of Israel.”

Police investigate hazing at Boston Jewish frat


Boston police launched a criminal investigation after finding five men bound together nearly naked in the basement of a Jewish fraternity house.

Police responding to a noise complaint early Monday morning discovered the Boston University students in the basement of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity house.

The men were found bound together by duct tape around their wrists, clothed only in their underwear and covered in flour, honey, hot sauce and other food products, according to a police report. They also had welts on their body.

“All five were shivering and had horrified and fearful looks on their faces,” the police report said.

Police are seeking criminal complaints against 14 people in connection with the hazing incident.

Alpha Epsilon Pi is an international Jewish fraternity. The Allston fraternity house was its Boston University branch, though the chapter is not officially sanctioned by the school or its Interfraternity Council.

The fraternity house was known for hosting wild parties.

B.U. officials said that those responsible for the hazing could face suspension or expulsion.

AEPi’s national headquarters condemned the hazing at the 30-member house.

“Alpha Epsilon Pi does not—in any way—condone hazing of any type,” the fraternity said. “We have been a leader for many years on this subject and expend considerable effort each year to educate our chapter leaders and members as to the proper new member education programs.”

The fraternity said that it has now closed its B.U. chapter.

“Any members found responsible for participating in any actions contrary to our risk management guidelines will be expelled,” the statement said. “We also intend to fully cooperate with all authorities and investigations.”

Toulouse killer visited Israel, other countries in the region


The passport of Toulouse killer Mohammed Merah showed that he visited Israel, Syria, Iraq and Jordan, a French newspaper reported.

Police found Merah’s passport in his apartment following the raid Thursday that led to his death, LeMonde reported. It is believed that he tried to visit the West Bank.

Merah jumped to his death from his apartment window during a police raid on his Toulouse home. He was also shot in his head by police as he jumped firing at the officers.

A man riding a motorbike opened fire Monday outside the Ozar Hatorah school where students were waiting to enter the building at the start of the school day. During the more than 30-hour standoff in his apartment with police, Merah said he was the attacker, according to French officials.

Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, 30, and his two young sons, as well as the 7-year-old daughter of the school’s principal, were killed in the attack. They were buried Wednesday in Jerusalem.

Merah told French police he killed the Jewish students at the Ozar Hatorah school Monday in revenge for Palestinian children killed in Gaza, and had killed three French soldiers for serving in Afghanistan. Police found videos he took of the killings with a camera hung around his neck, according to reports.

Merah, a French national of Algerian origin, had claimed ties to al-Qaida in France and reportedly had been known to French intelligence for many years.

Also Thursday, an extremist group known as the Soldiers of Caliphate claimed responsibility for the shootings in France, calling it a response to Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians, according to Haaretz.

“The jihadists everywhere are keen to avenge every drop of blood unfairly shed in Palestine, Afghanistan and elsewhere in Muslim countries,” said the group in a statement posted on an extremist website, according to the newspaper.

Israel moves to ease strains with Egypt


Israel offered on Thursday to investigate jointly with Egypt the killing of five Egyptian security personnel during an Israeli operation against cross-border raiders a week ago, violence that has strained relations with Cairo’s new rulers.

“Israel is ready to hold a joint investigation with the Egyptians into the difficult event,” a statement issued by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office quoted his national security adviser, Yaakov Amidror, as saying.

Amidror said the terms of such a probe “would be set by the armies of both sides”, going a step beyond Defence Minister Ehud Barak’s earlier pledge to hold an investigation and share its findings with Egypt, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979.

While Israel moved to ease tensions with Egypt, it mounted further attacks against Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, where more than 20 rockets have been launched at southern Israel since Wednesday despite a truce announced on Monday.

Five Palestinians, including a local commander of the Islamic Jihad group in the Gaza Strip, have been killed in the latest bloodshed.

The surge of violence began on Aug. 18 when gunmen who Israel said had infiltrated from the Gaza Strip via Egypt’s neighbouring Sinai desert killed eight Israelis on a desert border road.

Seven of the attackers were killed by Israeli forces and Egypt said five of its men died in the crossfire. The incident triggered the most serious diplomatic row with Egypt since a popular revolt overthrew Hosni Mubarak in February.

The violence between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip threatens to unravel the shaky truce mediated by Egypt and the United Nations.

U.N. Middle East envoy Robert Serry, in a written statement, expressed his “deep concern” and called on all sides “to immediately take steps to prevent any further escalation”.

Taher al-Nono, a Hamas spokesman, said any “understanding for calm must be mutual and we will not accept that Israel continues its killing of our people”.

Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan, Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza, Editing by Jeffrey Heller

Outpost evacuation handled appropriately, Israeli probe finds


Israeli police forces acted appropriately and proportionately in evacuating a West Bank outpost, a police investigation found.

The investigation released Sunday found that last week’s demolition of three illegal structures at the Gilad Farm outpost in the northern West Bank, which led to settler protests throughout the West Bank and Jerusalem, was carried out in a “proportional, restrained and professional” manner, according to reports.

Settlers said that police used unnecessary force, including rubber bullets and tear gas, in the evacuation; eight settlers were arrested and 15 wounded as the result of clashes with police.

Israeli Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch acknowledged later that police, fearing for their safety, had used plastic bullets—the first time they had been used against Israelis.

The investigation said the police used paintball guns.

Questions linger about SF death of pro-Israel activist


SAN FRANCISCO (JTA)—Police said this week that the mysterious death of an outspoken pro-Israel activist appeared to be accidental, but friends and family of Dr. Daniel Kliman insist he was the victim of foul play.

“We almost expected something would happen to him at some point, given his activism and trips to Israel,” said Kliman’s brother, Jonathan. “We didn’t expect what seemed to have happened to him. It seems really odd, and I’m glad the investigations are continuing.”

Kliman’s body was discovered Dec. 1 at the bottom of an elevator shaft in the historic Sharon Building at 55 New Montgomery St. Apparently it had been there for six days.

Kliman, a 38-year-old internist who lived alone in Oakland, was supposed to leave for Israel on Thanksgiving, giving friends and family no reason to question his whereabouts.

As of Dec. 3, a San Francisco Police Department spokesman was saying that Kliman’s death appeared to have been an accident, citing police Inspector Matt Krimsky’s suggestion that Kliman died Nov. 25 after climbing out of an elevator stuck between the sixth and seventh floors.

That day, a surveillance camera recorded Kliman waiting for an elevator in the lobby. Authorities continue to analyze that footage, plus other evidence they obtained from the scene. An autopsy report is pending.

Kliman was taking classes at Pacific Arabic Resources on the seventh floor of the Sharon Building. It is unclear why he was in the building, as classes during the week of Thanksgiving had been canceled.

“A number of us find the circumstances of his death rather suspicious,” said Michael Harris, a longtime friend who helped found the advocacy group San Francisco Voice for Israel with Kliman. “Given that he was a relatively well-known public figure for Israel advocacy in the Bay Area, he would have people who strongly disagreed with the causes he stood up for.

“Two days before he’s going to Israel and [on] a day when there were no classes, why would he have been in the building?”

Jonathan Bernstein, the director of the Central Pacific Region of the Anti-Defamation League, said Dec. 3 that he had had several conversations with the San Francisco Police Department concerning the possible cause of Kliman’s death.

“[The police] clearly understood Dan’s background and how he was a recognizable figure in the Jewish community and was often out there demonstrating against anti-Israel demonstrations,” Bernstein said. “They understand why they need to look at this a little differently.”

Word of Kliman’s death spread quickly throughout the Zionist community in the Bay Area and beyond.

Harris said he was stunned to hear the news about Kliman, whom he met in 2003 when the San Francisco-based Jewish Community Relations Council rallied pro-Israel individuals to combat local anti-Zionist and anti-Israel protests.

A year later Harris, Kliman and a number of local activists formed San Francisco Voice for Israel. The group, an affiliate of the StandWithUs national Israel advocacy organization, was dedicated to publicly denouncing anti-Israel sentiment.

The passionate and take-charge Kliman designed and disseminated pro-Israel fliers and documented protests with a series of clips on YouTube.

“Dan had a much larger-than-life personality,” Harris said. “He was passionately committed to Israel. Without any question, he was the real driving force of San Francisco Voice for Israel.”

He added, “We would joke that Dan seemed to be somewhat incident-prone. He wouldn’t start a confrontation, but he wouldn’t back down from one either.”

Adamant about never owning a car, and very much against even riding in one—his father was killed in an automobile accident four years ago—Kliman would arrive at rallies throughout the Bay Area on his bicycle.

Harris called him a “bicycle activist” who was reluctant to take car rides from anyone. Before moving to the Bay Area, Kliman founded St. Louis Critical Mass, a monthly protest ride that aimed to draw attention to how unfriendly the city was to bicyclists.

During Bike Summer 1999, a huge celebration of bicycle culture, Kliman organized a post-ride Shabbat service in Duboce Park with prayer books and candles.

“Jews and non-Jews stood in a circle and sang L’cha Dodi,” recalled Katherine Roberts, who met Kliman when he traveled from Chicago to San Francisco for the bike event. “It was this wonderfully inclusive event, and incredibly unique and brilliant. It was the only Shabbat service I can remember.”

Roberts, a fellow bicycle activist, said she didn’t always agree with her good friend Kliman or his feelings toward Israel, but their differences never interfered with the friendship.

“If you have radical or philosophical differences, it usually causes a friction,” Roberts said. “I never had that with Dr. Dan. He was a wonderful person—the only Orthodox gay vegetarian bicycling doctor I knew. I was so impressed with his uniqueness.”

An active member of Beth Jacob Congregation, an Orthodox synagogue near his home, Kliman attended Havdalah services regularly and always was involved when the temple had any pro-Israel programming.

A shaken Rabbi Judah Dardick said this week he still feels as if Kliman is going to walk through his synagogue’s doors.

“Dan was a very lively, alive and vibrant person,” Dardick said. “You really knew when he was in the room. To know he’s not going to be in the room anymore is a big shocker.”

On more than one occasion, Dardick asked Kliman to his home for Shabbat dinner. Dardick recalled that although Kliman found the meat on the table revolting, he still accepted the invitation.

“Dan said he never ate anything that ever had a mother,” Dardick said with a laugh. “He had a few causes that he fought for and cared about. He’s someone I learned a lot from.”

Funeral services will be held in Schenectady, N.Y., pending the arrival of Kliman’s body, according to Jonathan Kliman, who lives in Springfield, Mass.

Along with his brother, Kliman is survived by his mother, Edith, of Schenectady. Kliman was predeceased by his father, Gerald.

Rubashkin son arrested, Agriprocessors fined $10 million in kosher slaughterhouse probe


POSTVILLE, IOWA (JTA) — The former manager of Agriprocessors was arrested today on charges related to the hiring of illegal workers.

Sholom Rubashkin, 49, was arrested by immigration officials and was due to appear in federal court later today.

Documents filed with the court allege that Rubashkin conspired to harbor illegal immigrants at the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa. They further charge that he aided and abetted in the use of fake identification documents and identity theft.

Rubashkin is the highest-ranking Agriprocessors official to face criminal charges stemming from the May 12 federal immigration raid at the company’s Postville meatpacking plant. More than one-third of the company’s workforce was arrested.

According to the criminal complaint filed Thursday, Rubashkin provided funds that were used to purchase new identification for workers at Agriprocessors who were found to have bad papers. The complaint further alleges that Rubashkin asked a human resources officer to come in on a Sunday to process the new employment applications of several such workers.

Company representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But Nathan Lewin, an attorney who represents Rubashkin’s father and the company owner Aaron Rubashkin, dismissed the arrest as unnecessary and motivated by federal law enforcement’s desire for good publicity.

“The arrest of Mr. Sholom Rubashkin today was a wholly unnecessary and gratuitous act by federal prosecutors apparently engaged in an unseemly competition with State of Iowa officials to capture headlines in a vendetta against Agriprocessors,” Lewin said.

Rubashkin’s arrest comes a day after Iowa Workforce Development announced it would levy nearly $10 million in fines against the company for alleged labor infractions.

In response to the action by the state labor agency, Agriprocessors CEO Bernard Feldman told The New York Times that he had “grave doubts as to the appropriateness of the claimed violations, and we also take issue with the intended sanction imposed per claim.”

Iowa Workforce Development, the state’s labor regulation agency, levied $9,988,200 in civil penalties against the kosher meat producer in Postville for four categories of infraction. The largest is for charging employees for frocks — the regulation agency claims the company is guilty of more than 90,000 such incidents, assessed at $100 per infraction.

“Once again, Agriprocessors has demonstrated a complete disregard for Iowa law,” said Dave Neil, the state’s labor commissioner. “This continued course of violations is a black mark on Iowa’s business community.”

According to Iowa Workforce Development, the company has 30 days to contest the penalties in writing before they become finalized. The department has an additional wage investigation under way that could lead to further penalties.
The fines are the latest challenge to Agriprocessors, once the nation’s largest producer of kosher meat before a massive federal immigration raid on May 12 resulted in the arrest of more than one-third of its workforce.

With its reputation taking a drubbing and concerns mounting that the company could lose its kosher certification, Agriprocessors hired a compliance officer and installed a new chief executive.

Company representatives did not immediately respond to JTA’s request for comment.

Debate rages over attack on Jewish soldier at Ft. Benning


NEW YORK (JTA)—All sides agree that a beating last month left a Jewish U.S. Army trainee, Pvt. Michael Handman, with facial wounds, severe oral injuries and a concussion. What’s in dispute is whether the assault—at the base in Fort Benning, Ga.—was carried out by multiple attackers, and if it was the product of an anti-Semitic campaign waged by Handman’s superiors.

The military has charged just one person, a fellow trainee, and insists that he was not motivated by anti-Semitism. Handman’s supporters, on the other hand, believe multiple attackers were involved and feel the incident was connected to anti-Jewish slurs dished out to Handman by two company drill sergeants.

Military officials declined to make Handman available for comment, and separate efforts to reach him were unsuccessful. His mother, Randi Handman, told JTA that her son only remembers being called into the laundry room to retrieve clothing, was struck and spun on his back while sorting through a pile, then covering his head to shield it from blows before drifting into the blackness of a concussion. He says several recruits were in the room before the beating commenced, his mother added.

Just days before the Sept. 24 assault, the two drill sergeants were issued letters of reprimand, in which they were accused by the military of addressing Handman with anti-Jewish slurs, including “Juden.” In the base’s mess hall, one of the drill sergeants also demanded that he remove his yarmulke, which he had begun to wear in the few weeks following his induction.

Though army regulation allows for individuals to wear a yarmulke, praying while on guard duty—which Handman was rebuked for—is against regulation, because soldiers must limit their focus to guarding weapons. According to his mother, Handman says that he was not praying, but merely reading Jewish canon—three feet from where another guard had been reading the New Testament undisturbed.

She also said that prior to the assault, she received a foreboding letter from her son, warning her that he would be attacked.

“I have just never been so discriminated against/humiliated about my religion,” he wrote, adding: “I just feel like I’m always looking over my shoulder. Like my battle buddy heard some of the guys in my platoon talking about how they wanted to beat the shit out of me tonight when I’m sleeping. It just sucks. And the only justification they have is [because] I’m Jewish. Maybe your dad was right…The Army is not the place for a Jew.”

The case has attracted the attention of Mikey Weinstein, leader of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an outfit that fights alleged religious bias in the U.S. military. Weinstein, whose foundation has launched its own investigation of the beating, says that the drill sergeants referred to Handman as “fucking Jew” and kike. According to Weinstein, platoon members attempted to dispirit Handman by ejaculating in his pillow.

Handman’s father, Jonathan, contacted U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) in the hopes that he would take an interest in the investigation, and urge the military to switch his son to a less hostile company. In response to the senator’s inquiries, Fort Benning’s Deputy Chief of Staff Samuel Selby Rollinson wrote that he does not condone the actions of the non-commissioned officers in slurring Handman, and denying him the right to wear a yarmulke or attend Jewish prayer services. But, Rollinson added, their actions were “not meant to be malicious, and were done out of ignorance for regulations and cultural awareness.”

Military police have concluded that Handman was attacked by a lone assailant, a fellow trainee that they refuse to identify, citing army regulations. The suspect has been charged by military police with assault, and is subject to yet-to-be determined penalties, including 45 days of restricted movement, extra duty, reduction in grade and forfeiture of pay. Military officials denied JTA requests to speak with the private who was charged in the assault.

Handman has been moved out of his original platoon to a rehabilitation platoon to recuperate from his injuries, and is now in a different battalion.

When asked through what method of investigation it was determined that the non-commissioned officers “inadvertently” violated the private’s religious rights, a spokeswoman for Rollinson, Monica Manganaro, said that they acted “out of character,” are experienced drill sergeants and had a superb record of performance up until this incident.

Weinstein said that the military frequently attempts to portray such incidents as one-time occurrences. He criticized the army’s choice of Lt. Dan Kim to lead the investigation of the motives behind the assault, saying that he would ultimately be the one accountable for prevalent misconduct.

According to army officials, Kim spent days gathering 100 sworn testimonies from every member of Handman’s company, all of whom denied that religious prejudice was pervasive, or that it provoked the beating.

Fort Benning’s spokeswoman was unaware of the “battle buddy” who Handman said had warned him of a pending assault fueled by anti-Semitism. According to the spokeswoman, Kim and military police officials say they have uncovered another motive during the investigation, but military privacy regulations prohibit her from sharing that information.

Weinstein argued that the sworn testimony of the privates is unreliable, since it was solicited by a lieutenant who ranks above them.

Claims that a conflict of interest exists were dismissed by an army spokeswoman, who pointed out that Kim answers to his superior, the battalion commander, and is obligated to render a truthful investigation.

Weinstein criticized the penalty, saying it was an outrage that the assailant was not even given the lowest form of a court martial. Handman’s father called the punishment “cute” and merely a slap on the wrist.

q 4 u re metrolink


Ehud Olmert should be indicted, Israeli police tell prosecutors


JERUSALEM (JTA)—Ehud Olmert should be indicted on corruption charges, Israeli police recommended Sunday.

Bribery is the most serious of the charges that police recommended against the prime minister to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz. Others include fraud, breach of trust and money laundering.

The corruption charges stem from two investigations of Olmert. In the Rishon Tours double billing affair, he allegedly used money from charitable organizations to fund family trips. In the Talansky affair, Olmert is alleged to have received illegal contributions from American businessman Morris Talansky over the course of 15 years.

Police are still reviewing evidence in a third case; Olmert is under investigation in six cases.

The recommendations, along with investigative material, will be passed on to the state prosecutor’s office. Once the material is passed on and a hearing held for Olmert, the prosecutor’s office will make a decision on filing an indictment in about two weeks.

Police also recommended charging Olmert’s former bureau chief Shula Zaken.

A statement from the Prime Ministers Office called the recommendations “meaningless.”

All signs point to Olmert’s ouster


JERUSALEM (JTA)—The media and the political establishment in Israel already have decided: Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is through.

The cover on Ma’ariv’s weekend political magazine shows a framed portrait of a sad-looking Olmert on the wall of a government office with the caption “Ehud Olmert—Prime Minister 2006-2008.”

Now his Kadima Party is preparing for a new leadership contest and the country could be heading toward new elections.

The political fallout comes in the wake of the latest corruption scandal involving the prime minister, this one alleging that Olmert took improper funds from an American fund-raiser.

There is wide consensus that Olmert’s legal team made a major strategic blunder in not cross- examining the American fund-raiser, Morris Talansky, immediately after his damning pre-trial testimony May 27 against the prime minister.

Talansky painted a picture of envelopes stuffed with dollars for Olmert’s personal use. The prime minister’s lawyers claim they can explain or disprove each and every item, that Olmert did not commit any crime and that he only did what all Israeli politicians legitimately do to finance election campaigns or speaking engagements abroad.

But the fact that the lawyers decided to defer their cross-examination of Talansky until July 17 left a pall of unchallenged allegations in the air. This led to scathing press against Olmert and demands in the political echelon for his resignation or, at least, temporary leave of absence.

Tainted by unrefuted allegations of corruption, Olmert no longer has the moral authority to make major decisions on peace or war, the critics charged.

Labor leader Ehud Barak fired the first shot in the political arena. The day after Talansky’s testimony, the defense minister issued an ultimatum: Kadima must change its leader if the party wanted to continue its coalition partnership with Labor.

“I don’t believe the prime minister can simultaneously run the government and deal with his personal issues,” Barak said.

Although Barak did not place a deadline on his ultimatum, his move was enough to trigger a process that almost certainly will lead to Olmert’s ouster. With the defection of Labor or some other disaffected coalition partner a distinct possibility, Kadima has been left with no alternative but to gear up for a new leadership primary.

Given the huge wave of public sentiment against him, it is obvious that Olmert cannot run. That has cleared the way for a four-way race with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter and Housing Minister Meir Shetreet.

Kadima’s 65,000-plus members will choose a new leader probably some time in September. Olmert has asked only that the moves be delayed sufficiently to give him a chance to clear his name, enabling him to leave office and a political career spanning more than 40 years with some dignity.

Two possibilities emerge for a government without Olmert: The new leader of Kadima could form a coalition based on the parties in the current Knesset, or there could be new elections.

The Likud Party, which is leading in the polls, wants new elections immediately. Labor and Kadima prefer building a new coalition and putting off elections for as long as possible.

Shas is the problem for Labor and Kadima. The fervently Orthodox party has indicated it would not be happy to serve under Livni, the front-runner to take over for Olmert. Shas also is demanding increased child allowances as a condition for joining any new coalition, which without Shas is not possible.

So the smart money is on elections within the next six months. Former Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, among the Likud’s most astute politicians, already has put forth a bill for the dissolution of the Knesset, with Nov. 11 as the favored election day.

Although there are several candidates to succeed Olmert, the front-runners are Livni, Barak and the Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu.

Livni, who would become Israel’s second female prime minister after Golda Meir, is perceived as squeaky clean and thus would have a head start at the polls after the public revulsion over the Olmert-Talansky scandal.

Although her opponents denigrate her experience, she has a long record of public service. Livni served in the Mossad intelligence agency in the early 1980s, and later as the director of the Government Companies Authority.

She entered politics in 1999 and has been the minister of immigrant absorption, of justice and of foreign affairs. Livni is committed to peace with the Palestinians and is conducting negotiations with the former Palestinian prime minister, Ahmad Qureia.

Livni comes from a revisionist background. Her father, Eitan, was an Irgun fighter and a Herut Knesset member from 1973 to 1984.

She is Olmert’s official deputy, but lost points with the prime minister when she said the prime minister should resign after the first interim Winograd report on the 2006 Lebanon War was published in April 2007. Olmert has never forgiven her; he and Mofaz have been coordinating a “stop Livni” campaign inside Kadima.

Mofaz is a former chief of staff and defense minister who led Operation Defensive Shield, which broke the brunt of the second Palestinian intifada in the West Bank in April 2002. He is one of the more hawkish members of Kadima, sees peacemaking as a process that will take generations and holds that for now, the conflict must simply be managed.

Dichter also has a security background, having served as the Shin Bet chief and now as minister of internal security. He is the new kid on the block, and pundits believe Dicher eventually will throw his weight behind Livni.

Shetreet, a whiz kid from a poor Sephardi family, served as the mayor of Yavne while still in his 20s and became a Knesset member at 33. He headed the Jewish Agency for Israel and served in various governments as minister of finance, of justice and of housing.

In 1999, Shetreet made an unsuccessful bid for the Likud leadership against Ariel Sharon and Olmert.

The latest published poll on the projected Kadima primary shows Livni well ahead of her rivals in all the key categories: integrity, foreign policy, security and the economy.

In polls for the national leadership, she finishes second to Netanyahu and ahead of Barak. A poll by the Dialog group published May 30 in Ha’aretz shows the Likud under Netanyahu winning 29 seats in the Knesset, Kadima under Livni 23 and Labor under Barak 15.

Significantly, the polls show Likud being able to assemble a coalition of right-wing and religious parties without Kadima or Labor. But the polls also show that Likud could build a powerful alternative coalition with Kadima and Labor without any of the other hawkish or religious parties.

It’s still early to know what will happen; between now and November in Israeli politics is a very long time.

But one factor seems certain—Ehud Olmert’s political career is over.

C.S.I.: Dating


Some people say you can learn everything you need to know about a person on the first date.

That’s when people reveal themselves, because it’s before they
feel something is at stake. Will she like me? What will he think of me? I hope I make a good impression.

The beginning — the preliminary phone call, the casual party conversation, the unwitting meeting of total strangers on a plane, an elevator, a funeral (don’t ask) — is the best time to glean all the information you can from a person.

Most of the time you don’t understand the significance of what the other person is telling you, but it will prove to be invaluable later on, should there be a later on.

It’s kind of like being a police investigator at a crime scene. Police need to interview suspects immediately following the crime — to catch them off guard, before they have time to construct a story, an alibi, an alternate narrative where the details are changed.

In the case of dating, the suspect is your potential partner, but he doesn’t know it yet and so he reveals all sorts of clues about himself in order to seem open and emotionally in touch. You, the investigator, have this one rare opportunity to probe delicately this first time without seeming invasive, needy or psycho, because, hey, you’re just talking, casually, you know, as friends.

Ironically, the more you like the person the less you’ll reveal about your true self because you’ll want to impress, and it will take months for the other person to find out who you are, unless the other person is paying attention in the very, very beginning, before you try to pull the mask over his heart.

For example: In our first conversation, Mike tells me he’s divorced.

“What happened?” I ask.

Because isn’t that a natural question?

“She cheated on me,” he admits.

“Your wife cheated on you?” I say, barely holding in my incredulity. Now that’s a new one. And it’s too unusual to be untrue. Not to say that women don’t cheat, but it’s a man-bites-dog story, and it leaves me speechless, like if you ask someone how many siblings he has, and he responds that his twin died.

“I’m so sorry,” I say. “That is so terrible.”

It is.

“Oh, it was a long time ago,” he says, explaining his cavalier attitude.

I guess that’s why I can get away with asking so many pointed questions. Questions I won’t be able to broach two months from now because he’ll know that I’m onto him. The suspect will realize I’m on his tail, using all my investigations and exculpatory examinations for evidence in the case I’m building against him — i.e., The People vs. Mike Schwartzstein. (The people being me, and all the friends I bring evidence to of why he may not be good enough.)

But for now I can ask him things like “How long was she cheating on you?” “How did you find out?” “Who was the guy?” “What did you do?”

It is too sad.

“How could she do that to you?” I lament.

“No, it wasn’t all her fault,” he backtracks.

What a guy. Trying to take the blame.

“We’re still friends,” he says.

Something seems wrong with this.

“You’re still friends?” I ask. “How can you be friends with the woman who cheated on you?” Could a person be so forgiving? So cavalier?

“Well, she had her reasons,” he says. “I understand her reasons.”

Mike says he wasn’t always available to her; he was working really hard; he wasn’t home a lot; he felt insecure about his income so he was working two jobs, and so he understood why she did it. By the way, she’s still married to the guy she had the affair with.

It didn’t add up. She wasn’t a lying, unfaithful person if she was still married to her lover. And yet, Mike didn’t seem bitter, hurt or vindictive. Is he such a magnanimous man?

I decide to let it go, because it is only our first conversation. I don’t know that it would be one of our last conversations on that subject. That’s right — we started to really like each other; hence we were more circumspect. Every discussion began to have larger, personal implications. Why did he date that woman for only two months? Will he do the same thing to me? Why does he hate his mother? Does he hate all women? Why did his wife cheat on him? Will he be able to trust someone else again?

But he wouldn’t talk about it anymore. He wouldn’t talk about any of them. He thought I was hounding him. The truth is, he was onto me. The suspect pleaded the Fifth. And so, I had to go open my initial file: I found strange similarities between the two cases. Mine and hers.

He wasn’t available to his wife = he wasn’t available to me.

He didn’t suspect anything was wrong = he didn’t like to hear me complain.

He never went to counseling with her = he didn’t want to talk things over with me.

She cheated on him = ???

In the end it wasn’t a simple algebraic equation. My emotions were already involved; I was too close to the suspect to be impartial. But in reviewing the evidence, my only conclusion was that the suspect had a rap sheet with a long record for unavailability. He left the clues in the very beginning, and all I had to do was find them.

I didn’t cheat on him; I don’t do that. But I did leave him. Otherwise I’d be his next victim.

Another Tendler Steps Down


The longtime principal of one of Los Angeles’ largest Jewish high schools is leaving to start a new school. Rabbi Sholom Tendler resigned last week as Hebrew principal of Yeshiva of Los Angeles (YULA) and as rabbi of Young Israel of North Beverly Hills. He said he plans to open a new yeshiva boys’ high school elsewhere in Los Angeles.

Tendler’s resignation comes shortly after his nephew, Rabbi Aron Tendler, resigned under pressure as rabbi of Shaarey Zedek Congregation in Valley Village. Meanwhile, Tendler’s other nephew, Rabbi Mordechai Tendler was suspended this year by the board of his New York City-area synagogue as a result of longstanding allegations about alleged sexual misconduct.

Sholom Tendler, 61, says his departure is a matter only of his desire to start a new high school.

Sholom Tendler has been YULA’s rosh yeshiva, Hebrew for principal, for the last 26 years, including in 1987, when the school hired attorneys secretly to investigate allegations of inappropriate behavior against Aron Tendler. The internal probe yielded inconclusive results, but Aron Tendler was moved from the girls school to the separate boys school.

“I was aware of that investigation,” Sholom Tendler told The Journal, adding that he recused himself from the situation because his relative was involved.

After news of the investigation came to light in recent months, YULA alums and parents expressed outrage that the school dealt with the matter privately. Some clamored for “accountability.” Sholom Tendler’s resignation, so soon after the disclosures, has inevitably invited speculation that his departure is, in effect, the school’s response to community pressure.

Not so, Sholom Tendler said.

“There is absolutely no connection whatsoever between [what happened with his nephews] and my decision to build this new school,” he said. “It’s unfortunate how unfounded rumors can blacken even the most beautiful of endeavors.”

Sholom Tendler also expressed sympathy for his nephews’ ordeals: “It’s very painful, and I’m supportive of them and their families in this terrible time of agony that they’re going through.”

Aron Tendler has declined interview requests; Mordechai Tendler has been more vocal, denying any wrongdoing.

YULA officials also emphasized that Sholom Tendler’s exit is voluntary.

“He helped create YULA,” said Rabbi Meyer May, the executive director of YULA’s boys division. “He could have stayed at YULA for his entire career.”

So why is Sholom Tendler leaving?

He replied that there is a shortage of yeshiva high schools in Los Angeles.

“Anybody will tell you there are not enough high school desks in Los Angeles. It’s a healthy sign, but a serious problem,” Sholom Tendler said.

His added that his new school will fill a niche for the more “ultra” side of the Orthodox community, while also stressing a serious academic curriculum.

Sholom Tendler is calling his new high school Mesivta Birkas Yitzchok — named for his father, Rabbi Yitzchok Tendler, a rebbe who inspired “a joy of learning,” as Tendler put it. He plans to open in September for about 10 to 15 ninth-graders. He said he is currently scouting for a location in the Pico-Robertson or La Brea area.

The school will provide both serious Torah study and strong secular academics.

“People who are observing the demographics in the Jewish community see that there are a growing number of people who are very serious about religious observance and at the same time want to live in the professional or business world, rather than the rabbinate. We want parents to have the opportunity to prepare their sons for either way of life,” he said.

Because of the labor involved in starting a school, Sholom Tendler also is stepping down from heading Young Israel of North Beverly Hills, where he has served as rabbi almost since its inception 13 years ago. He will stay on until the search committee finds a new rabbi. He said he expects to remain involved in the community, possibly as rabbi emeritus.

 

A Guilty Plea in AIPAC Case


A Pentagon analyst at the center of an investigation that has rocked the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) will plead guilty.

Edward Adams, a spokesman for the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., announced last week that Lawrence Franklin had scheduled a guilty plea for this week. Edwards said he did not know what charge Franklin would plead to, or if the plea is part of a larger deal.

Lawyers for Franklin in the past have suggested that he would plead guilty to charges that he moved classified documents out of a designated area to his home in West Virginia, the least of the charges against Franklin. He also is charged with leaking classified information to Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, two AIPAC staffers who have since been fired, and to Israeli diplomats. Franklin’s lawyers said in August that they would seek to try Franklin separately from Rosen and Weissman, who also have been indicted.

 

AIPAC — Let the Sun Shine In


By most measures, last week’s policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was a success.

The sessions were substantive and well-led; the speakers top-rank. The large number of under-40 delegates suggested the organization’s future is strong.

Despite the continuing federal investigation into the activities of two recently fired AIPAC officials, a record number of top politicians showed up to pay homage and to connect with the big givers in the corridors of the Washington Convention Center. Rumors about AIPAC’s diminished clout appear premature.

But on one issue, AIPAC keeps repeating past mistakes. The organization remains more closed to outsiders than any other in Jewish life, feeding suspicions that it is up to no good. And that perception could come home to roost if, as Israeli newspapers have reported, the two ex-employees are soon charged under the Espionage Act.

There’s a history here.

Years ago, one of the recently fired employees etched AIPAC’s reputation in stone when he said “a lobby is like a night flower; it thrives in the dark and dies in the sun.”

A schizophrenic AIPAC seems to cherish that image even as it seeks public acknowledgement of its many accomplishments.

AIPAC’s top professionals are less available to the press than those of any other Jewish group; its members are warned that the press is an adversary to be avoided.

The policy is carried to ridiculous extremes. Asked for impressions of last week’s conference, one delegate said “we have a policy, you have to talk to our press person.”

This person was not being asked if AIPAC trafficked in classified documents; the question was more about whether she and her colleagues were having a good time and learning a lot. But even that was apparently too much openness for AIPAC.

AIPAC’s closed-door policy creates a mood of hostility and suspicion that provides endless ammunition for critics and inevitably finds its way into news stories. If you detect a slight note of glee in some of the reporting on AIPAC’s recent woes, it’s not unrelated to the frustration so many reporters experience in dealing with AIPAC.

It also means AIPAC often doesn’t get credit for its accomplishments — something that clearly irks the group’s leaders, but apparently not enough to open the doors a crack.

Other Jewish organizations have become skilled at working closely with reporters — providing access to their top staffers, issue specialists and lay leaders, giving regular “background” briefings on issues and encouraging a give-and-take relationship with journalists.

Sometimes that means exposing their warts, but on balance these organizations enjoy far better press coverage — not because happy reporters want to reward their policies, but simply because those policies let reporters do their jobs.

This isn’t a slam on AIPAC’s press people, who are just following policies laid down by those at the top of the organizational food chain, where anti-media hostility is most intense.

But in 2005, AIPAC’s carefully cultivated night-flower image could blossom into real damage to the group’s political standing if the federal investigation and any resulting court cases take a few wrong turns.

AIPAC leaders claim, and there’s no reason to doubt them, that the group is not a target of the federal investigators who are looking into leaked classified documents.

But if its former officials are charged under the Espionage Act, the cloud over AIPAC is likely to darken as troubling questions of management and accountability are raised. The group will face a new level of scrutiny as current and former officials testify under oath.

And then, its distrustful relations with the press and its secretive image may compound any damage — not legally, but in terms of image.

AIPAC leaders understand the power of image, which is why they work so hard to get a massive turnout of top-rank politicians at the annual policy conference. Nothing says “power” as emphatically as a hall packed with members of Congress.

AIPAC may not have done anything illegal, but the image of a lobby group with employees involved in something that will inevitably be reported as spying can’t help but damage its reputation and its standing with the politicians who are its bread and butter. The group’s troubled relations with the press and its longstanding secretiveness will make it harder to limit the damage.

That would be a disaster for the Jewish community and for Israel. For all its faults — and every organization has them — AIPAC remains the indispensable engine behind the pro-Israel movement in this country. Its lobbying is the most important factor in the almost wall-to-wall support for Israel in Congress; no other group can pick up the slack if AIPAC’s standing is harmed.

The current crisis suggests the need for some hard-headed self-examination by AIPAC leaders. And one item on their agenda should be the group’s relations with the outside world.

 

Maybe it’s time to pluck the night flower and let the sun shine in.

Washington Watch


Air Force Fight Moves to the Hill

The issue of religious coercion at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs is starting to reverberate on Capitol Hill — with what one Jewish legislator said are ugly overtones.

And a chaplain who was fired for raising the issue of proselytization at the service academy said this week that a “disappointing” internal investigation by the Air Force demands strong congressional action.

In an interview, an angry Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) said some of his congressional colleagues “just don’t get it. What I have learned is that the problems may not be confined to the Air Force Academy; the problem is here, in the halls of Congress.”

Last week, Israel introduced an amendment to a defense authorization bill expressing support for personal religious expression at the Air Force Academy, and demanded “corrective action reports” on “coercive proselytizing, intolerance and intimidation” at the school, he said.

Israel accused fellow lawmakers of “a jarring insensitivity to our concerns.”

Rep. John Hostettler (R-Ind.) denied the existence of a problem at the Air Force Academy and warned that Rep. Israel’s amendment “would bring the ACLU into the United States military, it would bring the silly thinking of several of our judicial systems.”

Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) said the only problem at the controversy-plagued school is one of “political correctness.”

“Their response, essentially, was that the problem wasn’t those doing the coercing, but the victims who are complaining,” Israel said. “My colleagues seem to feel that the officers at the Air Force Academy who are pressuring subordinate cadets to adopt one religious view over another are simply pursuing their own personal religious freedom.”

Israel’s amendment, stripped of language that included “coercion” and “proselytization,” was rejected by the Rules Committee.

Israel accused the Republican leadership of “continuing to cater to right-wing extremists; any attempt to insist on moderation and pluralism and tolerance is struck down.”

Capt. Melinda Morton, the assistant chaplain at the school who was fired for raising the issues of religious intolerance and anti-Semitism, cast the problem in nonpartisan terms.

“Congressional oversight is very important,” she said. “The Air Force Academy is a direct reporting unit; we report to Congress, and the men and women who come here are appointed directly by congressmen and senators. So there’s a direct responsibility.”

She charged that an Air Force investigation into claims of religious intolerance has been superficial, at best. Despite her central role in the controversy “they didn’t even speak to me until noon on the last day they were to complete their report.”

Israel said that Jewish groups are not doing enough on the issue of religious coercion at the service academies.

“Any Jewish group that sat in on the Armed Services Committee last week would have realized that the problem is much more serious than they originally thought,” the lawmaker said. “I’m hoping the Jewish community — and the Catholic and Protestant communities — rise to this challenge.” — James D. Besser, Washington Correspondent

Big Church-State Battle Looming

Jewish groups are gearing up for what one activist called “the single-biggest faith-based vote by Congress ever” as Congress gets set to reauthorize the popular Head Start program.

The issue: Congressional Republicans, with strong White House backing, have announced plans to introduce an amendment that would explicitly allow faith-based groups that get federal Head Start money to discriminate in hiring employees.

Those provisions are necessary, supporters say, to allow churches and synagogues that participate in the program to maintain their religious character.

Orthodox Jewish groups agree.

“We call it religious freedom,” said Nathan Diament, Washington director for the Orthodox Union, which will support the expected amendment.

But church-state groups insist that it would open the door to widespread job discrimination using taxpayer dollars.

“We are arguing that Head Start is unique because of its pervasive nature, with Head Start programs in almost every congressional district,” said Michael Lieberman, Washington counsel for the Anti-Defamation League. “And it’s a core civil rights and anti-poverty program; the idea of allowing discrimination in such a program is odious.”

Lieberman said it will be “the first time the House will vote to actually repeal an existing civil rights law in a floor vote,” a precedent that alarms civil rights groups.

It will also turn the Head Start reauthorization, one of few genuinely bipartisan bills in congress, into a partisan hot potato.

The amendment will be introduced on the floor by Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), chair of the Education and Workforce Committee, which recently approved the Head Start reauthorization by a 48-0 vote.

Even opponents predict relatively easy passage in the House, but the measure could get slowed in the Senate, where the administration’s faith-based agenda has faced tougher going. — JB

 

Rabbi Expelled Over Sex Abuse Claims


 

The decision of a leading association of centrist Orthodox rabbis to expel one of its members has highlighted for some in the community the difficulties of addressing sexual abuse in the Orthodox world.

Following an investigation into allegations from several women of sexual harassment, the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) announced last week that it had expelled Rabbi Mordecai Tendler.

Tendler had “engaged in conduct inappropriate for an Orthodox rabbi” and refused to cooperate with the committee investigating the claims, the RCA said in a statement.

Tendler referred JTA to his spokesman for comment on the case, though he did say that members of his synagogue, Kehillat New Hempstead, located near Monsey, N.Y., have been “very supportive.”

Asked if he plans to remain in his pulpit, he replied, “Of course.”

Hank Sheinkopf, Tendler’s spokesman, said the RCA procedure leading to Tendler’s expulsion was “reminiscent of the Salem witch trials,” referring to fraudulent trials in colonial America.

“A decent man has been smeared, his family damaged irreparably and a community injured after a prolonged witch hunt,” Sheinkopf told JTA.

He complained that Tendler was not permitted to confront his accusers and that information on the case was leaked to the media.

The charges against Tendler include claims that over the last few years, he engaged in sexual affairs with several women, among them women who had come to him for rabbinic counseling.

Brian Leggiere, a clinical psychologist in Manhattan whose clientele is comprised largely of Orthodox abuse victims and offenders, said the case highlights the fact that the Orthodox community is beginning to “wake up” to issues of abuse among its leaders, but still has “a ways to go.”

“We imbue our leaders with a great sense of kavod, respect, and usually it’s deserved,” he said. “It’s a wonderful value, but when you have a community that over-idealizes [its leaders at times,] that’s a recipe that allows abuse to occur.”

In the Orthodox world, where marital matches, or shidduchs, are highly valued commodities, even the victims of abuse often remain silent for fear they will damage their chances to find a husband or wife.

Tendler’s expulsion reportedly went into effect immediately, though expulsion from the RCA does not necessarily entail removal from the pulpit. Some 1,000 ordained rabbis in 128 countries have membership in the RCA.

“Synagogues and institutions are entirely independent entities,” Rabbi Basil Herring, the RCA’s executive vice president, told JTA. “Therefore, it’s up to every synagogue to decide how it will wish to deal with its rabbi or its clergy or employees.”

Herring declined to comment directly on the case, as did several other RCA members complying with official RCA policy.

One Orthodox rabbi who requested anonymity said it was the first time the RCA had expelled a member following sexual abuse allegations.

The expulsion was based on protocols, instituted in April 2004 for addressing accusations of sexual impropriety against RCA members. The new protocols followed the highly publicized conviction of Rabbi Baruch Lanner, an Orthodox Union official who is serving seven years in prison for sexually abusing a student when he was principal of Hillel Yeshiva High School in New Jersey.

The Lanner case, in which allegations emerged that victims’ complaints had gone unheeded, has been seen as a watershed in the way the Orthodox community addresses sexual abuse.

Tendler’s expulsion is a particularly sensitive issue for the RCA, Orthodox insiders said, because he comes from an important family of respected rabbis. His father is the well-known bioethicist and Yeshiva University teacher Rabbi Moses Tendler. His grandfather, the late Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, was among the Orthodox world’s leading experts in Jewish religious law.

Orthodox movement insiders said Tendler gained respect for his work on women’s issues within Judaism, particularly his approach to helping agunot, women unable to secure divorces from their husbands.

“As painful as it has been” for the community to start coming to terms with abuse issues, “I think it’s helpful when it comes to the fore because it helps people respond,” Leggiere said. “Generally, people aren’t going to respond to a situation until you get past a level of denial.”

 

Investigation of AIPAC Crosses Line


 

There have been hundreds, even thousands, of articles in the American press regarding an FBI investigation involving the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

While the reports imply or assert various charges, none, in fact, has been lodged, despite an investigation that has lasted more than a year. While information has dribbled out, it’s still hard to discern exactly what wrong has been allegedly committed that would justify such a highly publicized case.

Leaders and members of the Jewish community are confident that there is no substance to the allegations, yet their level of concern is increasing. Why?

To fully understand the reaction and emotions evoked we would need to engage in a lengthy sociological, historical and even psychological analysis of the American Jewish community.

I think it’s safe to say that American Jews are among the most patriotic and loyal of American citizens. Certainly this is true of those who are the targets of this investigation. As a community, we respect the authority of government and support the rule of law. But historical realities have loaded on us a lot of baggage, so that when a Jew is charged, particularly in such sensitive areas, it is seen as a communal, not just a personal, matter.

When there are doubts about the motivation behind such actions, it raises other specters that have dark roots in our past. In recent months, there have been repeated stories about the “neocons” — often a code word for Jews — or widespread canards placing the onus on Jews for everything from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to the war in Iraq.

The implicit references to “dual loyalty” cannot be overlooked, especially when reliable studies show that a significant percentage of Americans still believe this baseless and bigoted idea. American Jews care about Israel and advocate proudly in support of the special U.S.-Israel relationship. So do many other Americans with historical or ethnic ties to other homelands overseas.

The effectiveness of that Jewish advocacy has raised resentment, jealousy and wild mythologies. These are among the factors that set the context for the reaction to the AIPAC investigation.

There are many questions as to why, after such a long period, there have only been selected leaks, and why — after AIPAC cooperated fully — it was necessary for seven FBI agents to stage a raid for information that was voluntarily offered, with CNN waiting at the door as they departed.

In fact, the root of the concern harks back to Leslie Stahl’s original, breathless report on CBS’ nationwide broadcast on Aug. 27, 2004, a Friday night.

That initial account asserted that espionage was involved and that a Pentagon “mole” was working with AIPAC. The CBS Web site carried a headline, “The FBI Believes It Has ‘Solid’ Evidence That the Suspected Mole Supplied Israel With Classified Materials That Included Secret White House Policies and Deliberations on Iran.”

In the following days, the story kept changing — to the alleged transfer of secret documents, to the mishandling of classified information, to ever-lesser charges. Some immediately likened it to the Pollard affair, while others saw it as part of the administration’s internal turf battles.

There were many questions regarding CBS’ behavior, the timing of the release — three days before the Republican Convention — and the lead investigator’s earlier dealings with Jewish employees at the CIA.

There were no official statements from administration sources. Some members of Congress shied away from comment, while many called for investigations of the probe.

Jewish organizations, confident of AIPAC’s assurances that there was no substance to the charges, rallied to its support. So did members of AIPAC, in public and private ways.

They were bolstered by the appearances of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice at a major AIPAC event in October, as well as the revelation that President Bush chose to address AIPAC’s annual conference a few months earlier, despite the investigation that was already under way.

But damage was done, and the Pat Buchanans of the world rushed to take advantage of it. Buchanan said on a national television show, “We need to investigate whether there is a nest of Pollardites in the Pentagon who have been transmitting American secrets through AIPAC, the Israel lobby, over to the Israel Embassy, to be transferred to [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon].”

He went on to refer to reports about people in the office of Douglas Feith, an undersecretary of defense.

These comments were repudiated by one of Buchanan’s fellow panelists, former U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich. But another panelist, Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), chose not to respond even when asked by the program’s host.

While speculation continues about the true motivations behind the investigation — whether it’s an attempt to take advantage of a sting operation to bring AIPAC down, or force it to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or merely is the result of bungled effort — it clearly has crossed the line of the acceptable.

The latest revelations by investigative journalist Edwin Black (see page 22) and others suggest that agents took advantage of a scared, lower-level, non-Jewish Defense Department employee to set up AIPAC and others, including former Pentagon official Richard Perle and CBS News producer Adam Ciralsky.

The case already has taken a toll. Jews working in government have told of the pressure they feel and of unpleasant experiences. Those who seek to spread venomous anti-Israel and anti-Semitic views have found temporary camouflage. AIPAC has been forced to divert resources and time from its ongoing work — and all before a single charge has been brought.

We do not want to cover up; if there was wrongdoing, let it be exposed. We are confident that there was none, and that the allegations will prove false.

We want to see a conclusion to this case and not see it “hang out there” as did “Agent X,” the “mole,” and other past charges against Israel, which were without foundation but were never repudiated. Periodically they re-emerge from the mouths and pens of the haters.

Neither AIPAC nor the Jewish community will be cowed into silence or in any way lessen our commitment to working on behalf of the interests of the United States and its democratic ally, Israel.

The American people identify with Israel based on common values and world views, and no fabricated charges or allegations can undermine these fundamental bonds or commitments.

I hope that the vindication — and perhaps the apology — will be as visible as the charges. But past experience shows that’s unlikely.

Malcolm Hoenlein is executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

 

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."

Jewish Arsonist Worked for Paris Center


French Jewish leaders fear they may have cried wolf once too often after a Jew was arrested in connection with the well-publicized arson of a Jewish community center in central Paris.

Paris police say a 52-year-old Jewish man arrested Monday morning in connection with the Aug. 22 torching of the Judaeo-Spanish social center in the capital’s 11th district is the principal suspect in the arson.

Police said the man, identified only as "Raphael B." and described as unstable, is a former caretaker at the institution who had received free meals in return for his volunteer activities.

It is believed that the center wanted to part company with the man, provoking what police think was an act of vengeance.

Investigators found keys to the center at the man’s former rented apartment. This discovery tied in with earlier evidence, including the fact that the burned building’s front door was damaged from the inside during the arson, rather than being forced from the exterior.

The arrest shocked community leaders who had successfully mobilized the French political establishment to condemn what appeared to be an anti-Semitic attack.

Moise Cohen, president of the Paris Consistoire — the country’s principal Jewish religious group and the organization that owns the burned building — was sharply critical of community leaders he said had reacted "without taking the necessary precautions."

"From the beginning we thought this wasn’t normal," Cohen said. "The building is in a very quiet neighborhood and there was no indication on the outside that it was a former synagogue. From the start of the investigation, the police thought it was someone connected to the institution."

Cohen was equally scathing about politicians "who fear they’re going to be accused of not doing enough" to tackle anti-Semitism — though in part they have become zealous in their condemnations following stinging criticism that they weren’t taking anti-Semitism seriously enough.

In the aftermath of the attack, Jewish leaders sought to link the incident to recent cases in which judges had been lenient with anti-Semitic offenders.

The Jewish community could have been excused had its cries of anti-Semitism been isolated to one attack that turned out to have different motives. But the recent arson is only the latest example of politicians and community leaders reacting to an event with horror, only to have to ask questions later.

In July, an incident in which a young woman claimed she and her baby were attacked on a suburban train drew fierce condemnations from politicians and religious leaders — until it was discovered that the woman had made up the story.

Similarly, the recent knifing of a yeshiva student in the Paris suburbs also apparently was not motivated by anti-Semitism. And police still are investigating claims by a rabbi that he was stabbed outside his synagogue in January 2003, as reports allege that the rabbi may have stabbed himself.

Less in the media spotlight is the burning last November of an unoccupied annex of a Jewish school in the Parisian suburb of Gagny. It looks less and less likely that the incident was motivated by anti-Semitism.

Nevertheless, for Jewish organizations and for the government, these cases are merely isolated incidents in a tide of nearly 300 reported acts of anti-Semitism in France since the beginning of 2004.

Roger Benarroch, vice president of the CRIF umbrella organization of French Jewry, said that last week’s arson and the reaction to it should "not cause us to lose sight of the essential, that the climate of anti-Semitism makes these things credible."

But he admitted that such events "give our detractors, and the anti-Semites, an excuse to doubt us."

Similar comments came from France’s Union of Jewish Students, a group in the vanguard of the fight against anti-Semitism.

However, certain groups were critical of what they regard as Israel’s exploitation of the arson incident, which came just weeks after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called on French Jews to leave the country "immediately" because of rising anti-Semitism.

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom flew hastily to Paris to hold talks with government officials and Jewish leaders following the arson, and to visit the destroyed center.

Benarroch sharply criticized the visit, saying that "the Israelis should be more careful" and "shouldn’t meddle in the internal affairs of the community."

However, Shalom last week was considerably more nuanced about the arson attack than many community leaders.

Visiting the burned-out building, Shalom told reporters "we should leave the French authorities to conduct their investigation." He added that it was "of little importance what happened here when we know that during the last six months there have been more than 170 anti-Semitic incidents [in France].

The Consistoire’s Cohen, though, issued a warning to the Jewish community.

"Sixty years after the Shoah, every anti-Semitic incident rightly goes to the community’s head," he said. "When you cry wolf, you need to be very careful and ever vigilant. We are becoming less and less credible."

Burbank Police Kill Israeli Man


Stunned friends and family members are trying to make sense of the death of Assaf Deri, a 25-year-old Israeli who was shot and killed by Burbank police officers on June 25.

Friends say the sparse details in the police report do not fit the picture of the man they knew.

"He never had anything negative to say, he only knew to give and to help and to do and to love," said Nati Goldman, a close family friend. "He was smiling all the time, joking all the time. He was an amazing person. This is a very big loss and very hard to believe."

According to a police report, Deri was driving a car around 10:30 p.m. in a North Hollywood alley, when two Burbank police detectives stopped him in connection with a felony narcotics investigation.

The detectives say that they walked toward Deri’s car, who then stepped on the gas and sideswiped one of the officers. Both detectives opened fire, wounding Deri, who was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.

The shooting comes within weeks of a public outcry over excessive use of force by police, following the release of a videotape in which an LAPD officer is shown beating a handcuffed suspect with a flashlight. On June 20, a panel found that a November 2003 shootout in which a Burbank police officer and a suspect were killed did not violate department policy.

A similar panel will investigate the Deri shooting. The Burbank Police Department has opened an administrative investigation, examining whether officers followed proper procedures.

The Los Angeles Police Department Robbery-Homicide Division and the county district attorney’s office are conducting parallel criminal investigations into Deri’s shooting to determine the circumstances of the incident and whether officers were justified in their use of force.

Once all three reports have been concluded, the district attorney will decide whether to file charges against the officers.

These investigations are standard in any officer involved shooting. Police and district attorney spokespeople said no more information would be released until the conclusion of the investigations.

But friends and family members want more information now about the violent death of a man they say was warm, giving and happy, and could not have been involved in drugs or anything criminal.

"Assaf has never been in trouble and I can’t believe the police story," Goldman said. "I can only assume that Assaf didn’t realize what was happening when the police stopped him and that he got confused."

Goldman has hired a lawyer to investigate the case.

Deri’s father, Pinchas Deri, an electrical contractor in Bet Shemesh, was two weeks into a six-week visit with his son when he was informed of his death Saturday morning.

The elder Deri was "in total shock, he doesn’t believe it really happened," Goldman said.

The father and son had traveled to Las Vegas together, and had gone to Magic Mountain and Universal Studios, spending every minute they could together over the last two weeks. The elder Deri did not leave with his son after Shabbat dinner at the Goldman’s house because Pinchas won’t drive on Shabbat during the year he is mourning the death of his father, a pious Moroccan Jew.

Goldman’s wife flew with Pinchas Deri back to Israel on Monday, when police finally released Assaf’s body. He was buried in Israel on Tuesday.

Goldman said Assaf was a sensitive man with a girlfriend and many friends. In Israel he had served in an elite undercover unit with the border police working to thwart terrorists.

Goldman, who was best friends with Assaf’s uncle in Israel, said that he met Deri three and a half years ago when Assaf joined his family for seder, soon after he arrived in the United States to work as a diamond salesman. He worked in New York for a few years, sending money to his parents and four siblings in Bet Shemesh. Deri was the oldest of five siblings — three brothers aged 22, 18 and 14, and a 5-year-old sister.

He came to Los Angeles nine months ago, and was like a family member to the Goldmans and their three children, ages 12, 13 and 5. When Goldman suffered a heart attack while in Miami four months ago, it was Assaf who stepped up to take care of the family, driving carpools and making sure all their needs were met.

"He was an extraordinary person, taking care of everybody and loving everyone. He helped everyone. My kids looked at him like a big brother," Goldman said.

Goldman said that since Assaf’s death hundreds of people have come over or called to offer sympathy, and friends prepared a memorial book to send home with Pinchas Deri.

Israeli Consul Yehoshua Avigdor, who helped arrange the Deris’ return flight to Israel, said the consulate would pressure the police to provide more information.

"Nobody understands what happened, so we are just waiting for more details," Avigdor said.

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