Tough love for Islam


We’re conditioned to respect all religions. But what happens when we’re confronted with a religion that looks more like a political ideology? When I criticize Islam, I don’t criticize its spiritual beauty; I criticize the fact that in too many places around the world, the religion has morphed into a violent and totalitarian movement.

It’s not a coincidence that, since 9/11, more than 24,000 terrorists acts have been committed under the name of Islam. After the latest murderous attacks in Paris, even a staunch liberal like Bill Maher had the politically incorrect nerve to say what so many of us are afraid to say: “When there’s this many bad apples, there’s something wrong with this orchard.”

What’s wrong with this orchard? Well, for starters, it harbors an extremist and literalist interpretation of Islam that has morally contaminated large segments of the Muslim world.

While practices and beliefs in Islam are hardly monolithic, it’s disheartening to see such widespread support among Muslims for strict religious law (Sharia) as the official law of their countries. According to polling from the Pew Research Center, this support is most prevalent in places like Afghanistan (99%), Iraq (91%), the Palestinian territories (89%), Pakistan (84%), Morocco (83%), Egypt (74%) and Indonesia (72%).

When you consider that a strict interpretation of Sharia law can often mean cutting off the hands of thieves, lynching gays, stoning adulterous women and the death penalty for apostates, it’s not a pretty picture.

And yet, in much of the West, we act as if Islamic terrorism is simply the result of some “bad apples,” and, well, every religion has its fanatics. This cozy and convenient narrative has run its course. Islamic terrorism is not an isolated phenomenon — it’s a violent outgrowth of a global, triumphalist and totalitarian ideology that is on the march and hiding behind the nobility of religion.

When French President Francois Hollande says, “These terrorists and fanatics have nothing to do with the Islamic religion,” he’s being politically correct, but not accurate. Islamic terrorism has very much to do with the extremist interpretation of classic Islamic texts. Until we acknowledge that inconvenient truth, we have no chance of combating this disease.

Moderate Muslims who “condemn terrorism” and then defend Islam as a “religion of peace” are not taking responsibility for a malignant ideology that must be confronted and rooted out, and not simply denounced.

But how do we do that?

For my money, there’s no better approach than that of Ahmed Vanya, a fellow at the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, an American-Muslim organization that openly confronts the ideologies of political Islam.

Vanya loves Islam, but his is a tough love. He doesn’t get defensive about the religion’s failings. He’s not out to defend Islam as much as to modernize it. In his must-read article “Beautifying Islam,” published on the website of the Gatestone Institute, Vanya confronts the monster head-on:

“A religion that prescribes killing or criminalizing apostates; condones institutionalized slavery, stoning, beheading, flogging, and amputations; which restricts and criminalizes freedom of speech and freedom of religion; commands the stoning of adulterers; develops a theory of constant state of war with non-believers; discriminates and demeans women and people of other religions is not only The Religion of the Bigots but The Religion of the Bullies.” 

He is clear-eyed about his own tradition: “Classical Islamic law, developed over the history of Islam, is definitely not peaceful or benign, and therefore not suited for this age; neither are its violent and grotesque progeny, such as Islamism and jihadism.”

But like any good lover, Vanya gives his beloved the benefit of the doubt: “If Islam is a religion that stands for justice and peaceful coexistence, then this policy of jihad cannot be justified as sanctioned by a just and merciful creator.”

To live up to these noble ideals, Vanya calls for a humanistic “reinterpretation” of classic Islamic texts: “If we Muslims want to stand up and challenge the literalism of the text-bound scholars and the militants who are beheading, enslaving and persecuting people around the world alike, we need to develop an interpretative methodology that balances revelation with reason as in other rational, religious traditions.”

In other words, it’s not enough to marginalize violence; we must also marginalize violent teachings. 

“Religious traditions have changed and evolved over time,” Vanya writes. “Therefore it is the duty of us Muslims, using reason and common sense, to reinterpret the scriptures to bring about an Islam that affirms and promotes universally accepted human rights and values. It is our duty to cleanse the traditional, literalist, classical Islam and purify it to make it an Islam that is worthy to be called a beautiful religion.”

When Muslim leaders and preachers start to spread that tough love message throughout the Muslim world, the modernization of Islam will have begun.


David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

Attention, politicians: Pandering won’t fly


Over the last few weeks of the presidential campaign, the media reported on embarrassing attempts at pandering directed to the Jewish community. While these kinds of efforts are nothing new, and many of the panderers will renege on their pledges once in office — politicians have been promising to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem for a generation — they tell us something important about ourselves.

Why do politicians think that these predictable panders will win our votes? Have they been given bad political advice, or have we, unwittingly, sent the wrong message?

This election cycle the panders were especially blatant, if only because they were so heavy-handed. Usually, there is some restraint in the effort to woo Jewish voters; certain things are just not done, even though they might strike a resonant chord with some Jewish constituencies.

This year, however, many politicians — especially in the Republican camp — threw caution to the wind and said whatever they thought would be effective to garner Jewish voters in the swing states. Notably, the false suggestions that Barack Obama is a Muslim, pals around with terrorists, is hostile to Israel and even that his election might lead to a second Holocaust.

Throughout the campaign a coarse effort was made to push Jews’ nervous buttons on Israel, anti-Semitism, terror and the Holocaust in shameful attempts to exploit fear and, too often, ignorance.

What these efforts should provoke is serious introspection by us. We should ask ourselves why we come to be perceived as susceptible to such inaccurate, superficial and incendiary blandishments by those who run for office. Why is it assumed that the Jewish community will find such wild, unsubstantiated allegations to be worthy of consideration and further dissemination? What have we done to allow the purveyors of the falsehoods and mischaracterizations to think they will find a sympathetic audience?

I have been involved in the organized Jewish community for more than 30 years, both as a professional with the Anti-Defamation League and as a lay leader with several diverse Jewish organizations.

I have hosted and witnessed a boatload of politicians and community leaders who have sought to connect with their Jewish audiences by touching upon issues they thought would resonate. Invariably, the topics of choice were Israel, anti-Semitism and, to a lesser degree, hate crimes and terrorism.

Almost always, the presentations adhered to a predictable arc: accolades for the person who reaffirmed the views that were overwhelmingly held by the audience. Rarely were the elected called upon to propose more than applause-earning platitudes. We settled for facile analyses and the painless intoning of set pieces about a predictable list of priorities, which was all we seemed to demand.

This ritual dance has sent politicians the wrong message. We are widely perceived as virtually single-issue in outlook, lacking nuance on complex matters and easily pleased. “Throw them a few bones, and they’ll be happy,” seems to be the operative assessment among the politicians who do the Jewish circuit.

Exacerbating the problem is the effort — most pronounced in recent years — to enforce a conservative orthodoxy when it comes to the Middle East. The most rigid elements of the Jewish community now tend to define the parameters of legitimate debate. To argue against their positions is to risk being termed naïve, ignorant or even disloyal. For most elected officials, taking the status quo line is much easier than arguing for risk-taking and innovation, even though those same positions may be considered tame in the Israeli Knesset.

Incidentally, having an agenda set by the most fearful in a minority community is strikingly similar to what prevails among other ethnic/racial groups. The most fearful often set the terms of debate in the African American and Latino communities, too. To buck the conventional wisdom is itself an act of courage.

The risk in what we have wrought — settling for pabulum and superficiality instead of honest and serious analysis, while also avoiding spirited internal discussion of those issues — is that the community is perceived as easy and vulnerable to thoughtless appeals to our basest fears.

We must demand more of others and of ourselves.

We shouldn’t settle for platitudinous sermons when we invite political leaders to speak — it does neither them nor us any good. We should tolerate, indeed encourage, vigorous and spirited discussions of tough issues relating to our community here and in Israel; it will do us and our children good.

The results of the 2008 presidential election indicate that the base appeals to our “tribal” instincts didn’t work very well. We can take some comfort in that. But we must, by our actions, demonstrate that intelligent, substantive discussions of issues of concern will be welcome in the future. It’s time to tell the politicians: superficial appeals to simplistic and false notions of our priorities just won’t fly. The world is too complex for that, and we know it.

David A. Lehrer is president of Community Advocates Inc., a Los Angeles-based human relations organization headed by former Los Angeles Mayor Richard J. Riordan.

Israel labor strike called off; U.S. Jews against Iraq war most strongly


Israeli labor strike called off

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert summoned Histadrut labor federation chief Ofer Eini on Tuesday and persuaded him to call off the nationwide protest action, which had been slated to begin Wednesday. Previous strikes have frozen Israeli public services, including work at airports and seaports. The Histadrut has been upset by non-payment of municipal workers’ salaries, something Olmert agreed to tend to.

“Withholding employees’ salaries is an unacceptable norm that must be condemned while taking steps against those employers who do not pay their workers on time,” Olmert’s office quoted him as saying.

Report: Hezbollah redeploying on Litani River

The Times of Britain reported Monday that the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah, which lost most of its strongholds on the southern border to Israel’s military offensive last year, is establishing new positions along the Litani River. According to the newspaper, Hezbollah businessmen have been buying up riverfront land from Christians and Druze with a view toward settling loyal Shi’ites there. Hezbollah had no comment on the report. Under the Aug. 14 truce that ended the war between Israel and Hezbollah, U.N. peacekeepers are empowered to prevent an armed presence by the militia between the Litani and Lebanon’s southern border.

Israeli Cabinet minister under fire for phony resume

A Yediot Achronot expose on Tuesday noted that Esterina Tartman, who took over the tourism portfolio last week as part of a Cabinet reshuffle, falsely claimed on her party’s Web site that she has a master’s degree in business. The online resume was rephrased in recent days. Tartman had no immediate comment, but a colleague of hers in the Yisrael Beiteinu Party, Yoel Hasson, said the allegations would be checked.

“If this is not true, it’s sad, and if it’s true, it’s sad,” Hasson told Israel Radio.

Tartman has already been the subject of controversy after she said a decision to nominate an Israeli Arab to the Cabinet was an “axe-like blow to Zionism.”

Israel media reports country requests more U.S. aid

Israeli media reported Sunday that a Finance Ministry delegation heading to Washington this week will ask the Bush administration for an extra $1 billion in defense aid spread over the next decade.

Israel has received some $2.4 billion in mostly military U.S. aid. Under a restructuring deal signed in 1998, the United States reduced civilian grants to Israel while boosting defense assistance. Israeli officials voiced optimism on the chances of obtaining the extra funds given the mounting strategic threats facing the Jewish state and on Lebanon’s southern border.

Anti-Semitism up in France

Anti-Semitic incidents in France rose by 24 percent in 2006 over the previous year, according to a new study. The Service for the Protection of the Jewish Community’s report cited 371 attacks in 2006, compared to 300 in 2005.

“We’ve seen an elevation of 45 percent in physical aggressions from 2005 to 2006 and a 71 percent elevation in verbal insults,” Elisabeth Cohen-Tannoudji wrote in the report.

However, the last third of 2006 showed a 21 percent decrease in anti-Semitic incidents, “which has continued through January 2007,” said the report, which was carried out under the auspices of CRIF, an umbrella organization of secular French Jewish groups.

Last year also saw the kidnapping and murder of French Jew Ilan Halimi, 23, as well as Israel’s war against Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Farrakhan pushes conspiracy tracts and Carter book in address

The Anti-Defamation League noted that Louis Farrakhan concluded his Saviours’ Day address in Detroit by recommending several books for his listeners. Among them were “The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews,” which claims that the slave trade was dominated by Jews; “The Secrets of the Federal Reserve,” which claims that the world’s banks are controlled by the Jews; and Carter’s “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” which alleges that Israel has set up a de facto apartheid system for Palestinians in the West Bank. Copies of “The Synagogue of Satan,” a book written by a Nation of Islam member that says that the world is being manipulated and corrupted by Satanic powers led by Jewish elites, were available for purchase at the event.

“Farrakhan may have held his anti-Semitic views in check while on the dais, but if this is what he wants people to read, then the leopard hasn’t changed his spots,” ADL National Director Abe Foxman said in a statement Monday.

Obama to address AIPAC meet in Chicago

U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, the Illinois Democrat and presidential candidate, has been negotiating with various Jewish groups in recent weeks for a forum in which to outline his views. Obama, a relative unknown on Mideast policy, will speak to American Israel Public Affairs Committee members Friday in Chicago, the pro-Israel group said.

U.S. Jews most against Iraq war

A review of 13 polls over two years shows more U.S. Jews are opposed to the Iraq war than are members of any other religious minority. The review by Gallup, published Friday in the Hotline political newsletter, showed that 77 percent of Jewish respondents believed “sending troops to Iraq was a mistake,” more than the general average of 52 percent.

Next were those who said they had no religion, 66 percent of whom opposed the war. Among Protestants, 48 percent were opposed, 53 percent of Roman Catholics were opposed and 27 percent of Mormons opposed the war.

Overall, 12,061 people were interviewed with a margin of error of plus or minus one percentage point. Of them, 303 were Jewish, with a margin of error of plus or minus six percentage points.Bill Clinton raises $100 million for Israel Bonds

Former President Clinton reportedly helped raise more than $100 million for Israel Bonds in a single sitting. The Washington Post on Friday reviewed Clinton’s post-presidential career as a public speaker. Most of Clinton’s speaking income goes to his foundation, which fights poverty and AIDS, and he speaks pro-bono for causes he favors, but Clinton has earned nearly $40 million in six years from speeches for which he charges $150,000 apiece.

“The former president in 2005 helped the U.S. arm of Israel’s treasury authority sell $101 million in investment bonds by speaking at a luncheon at the Pierre Hotel in New York that was jammed with real estate executives who wanted to hear his keynote address,” the Post reported.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Faith-based foreign policy faces perils ahead


Ideology is fine for campaigners, bloggers and talk show hosts, but it often wreaks havoc in the real world, where effective policy requires flexibility, not rules dreamed up in think tanks and advocacy groups.

That lesson has defined Israeli policy for decades, but it is being eroded by Jerusalem’s acquiescence to a U.S. administration that has implemented a foreign policy based more on faith than pragmatism.

A stubbornly ideological administration has put the United States in a deep hole in the international arena — and a vulnerable Israel could pay a big price for playing along with the true believers in Washington.

While Israel has always taken a hard line on terrorists and front-line adversaries, it has traditionally remained open to peace feelers, however tenuous.

It wasn’t just U.S. pressure that caused the hard-line Yitzhak Shamir government to start talking to a blood-drenched PLO or to engage in the Madrid peace process in the early 1990s. Yitzhak Rabin, a celebrated general who could hardly be called a peacenik, signed the Oslo agreement and shook Yasser Arafat’s hand in 1993, not because he believed the old terrorist leader had suddenly developed a love of Zion but because of a conviction that Israel’s future was dependent on finding some way to talk to its enemies.

Syria has long been a fomenter and supporter of terrorism and a source of regional instability. But the Jewish state has never shrunk from talking to Damascus whenever its leaders believed there was even a glimmer of hope to advance negotiations and avoid war.

Israel has even maintained backchannel contacts with Iran, despite the fanaticism of its leaders, in the belief that such contacts could someday pay important dividends.

Israeli governments representing both the left and the right understood that you make peace with your enemies, not your friends, and that in the Middle East, every chance for peace is a long shot. That has been the U.S. view of the region as well — until now.

An administration driven by rigid ideology expects Israel to play by the same rules. Current U.S. doctrine says you never talk to terrorists or terror-sponsoring countries; therefore Israel must do the same, regardless of its very different circumstances.

When Syrian president Bashar Assad sent out tentative peace feelers last year, the Bush administration laid down the law to Israel: don’t respond, even though some analysts in the Israeli government believed there might be slight shifts in the Syrian position that were worth exploring.

Last week, those instructions became even more explicit; according to the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, during her recent Mideast visit, demanded that Israel avoid even exploratory contacts with the Assad regime.

The government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is not particularly inclined to start new talks with a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, but there, too, the Bush administration has made its demands clear: don’t give Hamas or anybody connected to it the time of day.

Israel is in a straitjacket of American design, barred from employing its traditional hard-headed pragmatism, prevented from exploring possible new routes to peace. It is treated as a client state, not an ally; its politically weak leaders, afraid of angering a senior partner in Washington that believes talking to enemies is tantamount to endorsing them, meekly complies with U.S demands.

Jerusalem should look more closely at what these policies have done to U.S. interests and influence around the world.

President Bush’s black-and-white, good-versus-evil view of a complex world and his refusal to negotiate with those he deems unworthy have left the United States with almost no allies and little credibility.

That isolation has undercut U.S. efforts to deal with weapons of mass destruction in the hands of extremists and increased, not decreased, the armies of terrorists eager to lash out against enemies real and imagined.

The Iraq war he started on the basis of ideology, not intelligence, has spread instability across the Middle East and strengthened Iran, according to U.S. intelligence estimates.

Washington’s refusal to talk to Iran hasn’t slowed its quest for nuclear weapons, and may have rallied a restive populace behind an increasingly unpopular leadership. It’s refusal to talk to Syria hasn’t changed Syrian behavior for the better, and may have pushed Damascus deeper into the Iranian orbit.

So shouldn’t Israel’s leaders be alarmed that on key matters involving their nation’s security they are being dictated to by a government in Washington whose ideology-driven foreign policy has undercut vital shared priorities and added to the dangers Israel faces in a seething Middle East?

Faith-based foreign policy hasn’t worked for Washington, and now it threatens to compound the problems facing a Jewish state that once based its foreign policy on tough pragmatism, not theories and beliefs. Israel can’t afford to thumb its nose at its only real ally — but there could be a big cost to continuing to follow the dictates of an administration that remains pure in its beliefs but increasingly alone in its policies.

Briefs: L.A. Koreans and Jews protest anti-Semitic cartoons published in South Korea;


L.A. Koreans and Jews protest anti-Semitic cartoons published in South Korea

Leaders of the Korean and Jewish communities in Los Angeles have joined forces to vigorously protest anti-Semitic cartoons in a book published in South Korea and translated into English.

A typical cartoon depicts a newspaper, magazine, radio and TV set with the caption: “In a word, American public debate belongs to the Jews, and it is no exaggeration to say that [U.S. media] are the voice of the Jews.”

The publication in question, which is in comic book format, is one in a series titled, “Distant Countries and Neighboring Countries,” and is designed to teach young Korean students about other nations.

It was written by Lee Won-bok, a popular South Korean university professor and author, and the book’s English translation has reportedly sold more than 10 million copies.

“I don’t have words to describe the outrage I feel,” Yohngsohk Choe, co-chairman of the Korean Patriotic Action Movement in the U.S.A., told the Los Angeles Times.

Choe was among leaders of the large local Korean American community who met last Friday with Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Choe added, “The depictions are explosive. They have the potential to harm good relationships with our Jewish American neighbors in Los Angeles.”

Cooper said he had written the publisher of the book, asking her “to carefully review the slanders in this book that historically have led to anti-Semitic violence and genocide,” and “consider providing facts about the Jewish people, our religion and values to young South Koreans.”

The publisher, Eun-Ju Park, answered by e-mail that she would check into the matter “more closely and correct what needs to be corrected,” a response Cooper considered unsatisfactory.

— Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Jewish liaisons for Bush and Clinton outline work in ‘the real West Wing’

Noam Neusner, who served as Jewish liaison and special assistant to President George W. Bush, said last Thursday that while the president welcomes comments from major Jewish organizations on matters of national policy, “it was kind of crazy” for the Union of Reform Judaism to pass a resolution condemning the Iraq War.

Neusner and Jay K. Footlik, who was President Bill Clinton’s Jewish liaison, spoke at Sinai Temple at the 2007 Rabbi Samuel N. Sherman Memorial Lecture. Titled, “The Real West Wing,” the event was co-sponsored by StandWithUs and moderated by Rabbi David Wolpe.

It is the job of the Jewish liaison to advise the president on a wide range of issues, including such things as lives of Jews in the military, allegations of proselytizing or arranging the annual White House Chanukah party. Footlik said some people believe that the Jewish liaison works for Jewish community, rather than for the president. He pointed out that American Jews are “not shy” about telling the White House their feelings.

In response to a question about anti-Semitism in America, both men said that in spite of the impact of President Jimmy Carter’s recent book, support for Israel remains solid, but they stressed “you can’t take it for granted.”

Each cited examples of their administration’s commitment to Israel and the Jewish people and expressed confidence that regardless who wins the 2008 elections, American support for Israel will remain strong.

— Peter L. Rothholz, Contributing Writer

Milken schools chief announces retirement

Stephen S. Wise Schools went into high gear to find a successor for Dr. Rennie Wrubel, who last week announced her intention to retire from the position of head of school of Milken Community High School and Stephen S. Wise Middle School on June 30, 2008.

Wrubel, 62, has headed the schools for 10 years, during which time she has increased enrollment, made both the academics and Judaic studies more rigorous and built up the Jewish culture of the school, according to Metuka Benjamin, director of education for Stephen S. Wise Schools.

“She has been a great asset to Milken and really helped develop and build Milken,” Benjamin said. “She brought it to the next level.”

On Feb. 22, Wrubel sent a letter to Benjamin, explaining that she and her husband, who is 10 years her senior, longed to spend more time with each other and with family. Her daughter and son-in-law live in Israel with three children — a 4-year-old and twin 10-month-olds.

“Leading Milken for these past 10 years has been the highlight of my 41 years in education. It has been far more than a job to me; it has been an act of love,” Wrubel wrote, saying the decision to retire was one filled with emotion.

Milken is planning an international search for the position in the 16 months before Wrubel retires. With its $30 million campus, challenging academics and robust programming, the school aims to compete with L.A.’s best prep schools.

A search committee is already in formation, and administrators have hired Littleford & Associates, a consulting and executive search firm that has worked with the synagogue and its schools in the past and understands the culture and needs of the school, Benjamin told parents in a letter. John C. Littleford has already visited the school to conduct focus groups to develop a leadership profile for the position.

Once candidates have been identified and narrowed down, small groups of parents, teachers, alumni, students and administrators will have a chance to interview semifinalists and give input to the search committee. The committee aims to make a final recommendation by February 2008.

— Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Education Editor

Police Chief Bratton warns terrorism will be threat for the rest of our lives

“Terrorism, like crime, is going to be with us the rest of our lives” LAPD Chief William Bratton told Rabbi David Woznica at an open forum at Stephen S. Wise Temple Monday night.

“Since we are a likely target, we share intelligence with the FBI and the governments of Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and Israel. We know we must trust one another and learn from each other.”He went on to reassure his audience, however, stating that “we are highly regarded for our capability and creativity, and there’s no place as well prepared as this place.”

Time for Jewish leaders to end their silence on Iraq


“One who is able to protest against a wrong that is being done in his family, his city, his nation or the world and doesn’t do so is held accountable for that wrong being done.” (Talmud Bavli Tractate Shabbat 54b)

There is no longer any doubt that the invasion of Iraq is an utter catastrophe. Former Vice President Al Gore has called it “the worst strategic mistake in the entire history of
the United States.”

The Bush/Cheney war, launched on the basis of false premises, selective intelligence and outright lies against a country that posed no threat to the United States and which (as all government intelligence agencies concur) had no connection to the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, has caused the deaths of more than 3,000 American soldiers and injured 47,000.

At least several hundred thousand Iraqi civilians have died as a direct result of the war (according the most respected medical journal in Great Britain, The Lancet, the figure is more than 600,000), more than 2 million refugees have fled the country and there are 1.5 million displaced people within the country.

All 16 government intelligence agencies recently concluded in a national intelligence estimate that the U.S. invasion of Iraq has strengthened Al Qaeda and increased the threat of terrorism in this country. It has strengthened Iran, inspired hatred of the United States across the globe and has already cost more than $400 billion (the ultimate cost will be more than a trillion dollars).

According to Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), that $400 billion could have provided health care coverage for all of the uninsured children in America for the entire duration of the war, new affordable housing units for 500,000 needy families, all the needed port security requirements to keep America safe or complete funding for No Child Left Behind program.

Many leading generals (whose pensions are protected in retirement) have strongly criticized the war and called for a gradual U.S. withdrawal, and almost 1,000 active-duty soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen, rank-and-file enlistees, noncommissioned officers, along with high-ranking officers, have submitted a petition to Congress (which they call an Appeal for Redress) demanding that the troops be brought home.

According to all available polls, a large majority of Americans want to bring our involvement in Iraq to an end, and an overwhelming majority of Iraqis themselves are opposed to the continued American occupation of their country.

Given these facts, it is difficult to understand the organized Jewish community’s silence. Our country is mired in a catastrophic, immensely unpopular war, a sectarian conflict that has caused untold damage to our country’s security and exacted an extremely high price in blood and treasure, and the great majority of American Jews are opposed to the war (87 percent of the Jewish community voted for Democratic candidates in the last elections) and yet little is heard from prominent rabbis, teachers and important lay leaders.

Prominent Jewish figures played an important role in protesting against the Vietnam War, supporting the struggle for civil rights in the South and in other important causes but have stayed on the sidelines in the face of the current calamity.

This silence is particularly mysterious, given the damage that the war has done to Israel’s interests (as many scholars, military officers and political leaders there have pointed out) by creating the conditions for the emergence of a radical, fundamentalist Shiite state among the ruins of Iraq; eliminating a counterweight to Iran, and increasing the strength and influence of that country, Israel’s most dangerous enemy.

Whether the reticence of Jewish communal leadership can be attributed to anxiety in the face of serious threats from Iran, an unwillingness to enter the public fray on a controversial issue or the uncomfortable fact that important Jewish organizations lent their support to war in Iraq before it began, the time for silence is over. It is time for our community’s rabbis, teachers and lay leaders to acknowledge that we were lied to, our politicians failed us in their oversight responsibilities and we have been timid in voicing our opposition.

The Talmud teaches that silence is akin to assent. We now need to proclaim our opposition to the current administration’s disastrous policies: Bring the troops home. Stop the cycle of killing and being killed. Apologize to the American people and the Iraqis for the invasion. Let the Iraqis heal Iraq. And let us protest a wrong that is being done in our name.

Adam Rubin is assistant professor of Jewish history at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. Aryeh Cohen is associate professor of rabbinic literature at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles

Salman Rushdie Q & A: there’s a fascination with death among suicide bombers


Salman Rushdie, 59, has spent many years thinking and writing about terrorism. In this interview with political author Erich Follath, which appeared last month in Der Spiegel and is reprinted here with permission, Rushdie reflects on why apparently normal young men turn to terror, the dangers of religion and whether the United States has turned into an authoritarian state. Rushdie divides his time between New York, London and Mumbai; he appears in Los Angeles on Sept. 17, as keynote speaker at the American Jewish Congress’ event, “Profiles in Courage: Voices of Muslim Reformers in the Modern World.”

Erich Follath: Mr. Rushdie, as an expert on terrorism you….
Salman Rushdie: What gives me that honor? I don’t see myself as such at all.

EF: Your book, “Fury,” with its description of an America threatened by terrorism and published in spring 2001, was seen by many as prophetic — as more or less anticipating 9/11. Your most recent novel, “Shalimar the Clown,” describes how a circus performer from Kashmir is transformed into a terrorist. And for almost a decade, your life was threatened by Iranian fanatics, with a price of $4 million on your head.

SR: If you think that’s enough to qualify me as an expert on terrorism….

EF: While researching your books — and especially now after the recent near miss in London — you must be asking yourself: What makes apparently normal young men decide to blow themselves up?

SR: There are many reasons, and many different reasons, for the worldwide phenomenon of terrorism. In Kashmir, some people are joining the so-called resistance movements because they give them warm clothes and a meal. In London, last year’s attacks were still carried out by young Muslim men whose integration into society appeared to have failed. But now we are dealing with would-be terrorists from the middle of society. Young Muslims who have even enjoyed many aspects of the freedom that Western society offers them. It seems as though social discrimination no longer plays any role — it’s as though anyone could turn into a terrorist.

EF: Leading British Muslims have written a letter to British Prime Minister Tony Blair claiming that the growing willingness to engage in terrorism is due to [President] Bush’s and Blair’s policies in Iraq and in Lebanon. Are they completely wrong? Don’t the atrocities of Abu Ghraib and the cynicism of Guantanamo contribute to extremism?

SR: I’m no friend of Tony Blair’s, and I consider the Middle East policies of the United States and the U.K. fatal. There are always reasons for criticism, also for outrage. But there’s one thing we must all be clear about: Terrorism is not the pursuit of legitimate goals by some sort of illegitimate means. Whatever the murderers may be trying to achieve, creating a better world certainly isn’t one of their goals. Instead they are out to murder innocent people. If the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, for example, were to be miraculously solved from one day to the next, I believe we wouldn’t see any fewer attacks.

EF: And yet there must be reasons, or at least triggers, for this terrible willingness to wipe out the lives of others — and of oneself.

SR: Lenin once described terrorism as bourgeois adventurism. I think there, for once, he got things right. That’s exactly it. One must not negate the basic tenet of all morality — that individuals are themselves responsible for their actions. And the triggers seem to be individual, too.

Upbringing certainly plays a major role there, imparting a misconceived sense of mission, which pushes people toward “actions.” Added to that there is a herd mentality once you have become integrated in a group, and everyone continues to drive everyone else on and on into a forced situation. There’s the type of person who believes his action will make mankind listen to him and turn him into a historic figure. Then there’s the type who simply feels attracted to violence. And yes, I think glamour plays a role, too.

EF: Do you seriously mean that terrorism is glamorous?

SR: Yes. Terror is glamour — not only, but also. I am firmly convinced that there’s something like a fascination with death among suicide bombers. Many are influenced by the misdirected image of a kind of magic that is inherent in these insane acts. The suicide bomber’s imagination leads him to believe in a brilliant act of heroism, when in fact he is simply blowing himself up pointlessly and taking other peoples’ lives. There’s one thing you mustn’t forget here: The victims terrorized by radical Muslims are mostly other Muslims.

EF: Of course there can be no justification for terrorism. But nevertheless, there are various different starting points. There is the violence of groups who are pursuing nationalist, one might say comprehensible, goals using every means at their disposal….

SR: …. And there are others, like Al Qaeda, which have taken up the cause of destroying the West and our entire way of life. This form of terrorism wraps itself up in the wrongs of this world in order to conceal its true motives — an attack on everything that ought to be sacred to us. It is not possible to discuss things with Osama bin Laden and his successors. You cannot conclude a peace treaty with them. They have to be fought with every available means.

EF: And with the other ones, the “nationalist terrorists,” should we engage in dialogue with them?

SR: That depends on whether they are prepared to renounce their terrorist struggle under a certain set of conditions. That appears to be showing at least initial signs of working with the Basques of ETA. I think we have Bin Laden to thank for that to no small extent — the Basque leaders didn’t want to be like him. And with the IRA, it was the loss of credibility among their own people, who no longer saw any point in fighting violently in the underground.
Remolding former terrorist organizations into political parties in the long term is at least not hopeless. It might work with those groups that are not primarily characterized by religious fanaticism — the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, for example, a group which virtually invented suicide bombings, have no religious background at all. They have clear objectives: an independent state.

EF: Should such a state be granted to a minority just because they are particularly ruthless? What about Shalimar, the hero of your latest novel, who murders for Kashmir? Should he determine the region’s future?

Letters to the Editor


Rabbi Baron

Interesting that Rabbi David Baron said his invitation to Mel Gibson to speak at his temple on Yom Kippur was not a publicity stunt (“Three Groups Respond to Gibson’s Request for Meeting,” Aug. 11). Why then did I receive a form letter within two hours of sending the rabbi an e-mail expressing my aggravation at that very invitation? The form letter is addressed not to me, but “To Those Who Are Concerned About the Mel Gibson Invitation to Apologize.” Baron obviously hoped, and anticipated, that this handout to Gibson would bring a lot of attention; otherwise, why would he have had a form letter at the ready before there had yet been any response at all? And how was the invitation to Gibson made public in the first place? Baron wanted all the attention, which he got, without having to face the music, so he fled.

Jeff Weinstock
Encino

Ed Note: See Rabbi Baron’s op-ed column in this issue.

Star Power

Great article, but you may want to exercise a little more control over your cover art (“Star Power,” Aug. 26).

When did The Jewish Journal decide to “unilaterally” give back the West Bank and the Golan Heights?

It may be a subtle “mistake” in art direction, but the hash marks across the vibrant communities in the West Bank and the omission of the Golan are particularly insensitive as Israel continues its fight for it’s very existence. Recent events should have taught us all that the fight is not about “the territories.”

Hopefully your artist was being “creative” and not putting forth a political opinion that represents the editorial stance of The Jewish Journal.

Barry S. Weiss
Valley Village

RJC’s Israel Ads

I want to compliment the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) for their recent ads in The Jewish Journal (Aug. 18 and Aug. 25). The first correctly thanked President Bush for his stalwart support of Israel which was then under vicious attack by Iranian supplied Hezbollah terrorists.

The second pointed out that the Democratic Party has growing and influential leftist voices who not only rejected pro-Israel leader Sen. Joe Lieberman, but are increasingly hostile to bipartisan consensus in support of the Jewish state.Votes and polls do not lie. The vast majority of dissenters from congressional resolutions in support of Israel are Democrats. The majority of anti-Israel voices today on college campuses, in blogs and in our communities are left/liberal, not right/conservative. I have no doubt that American Jews will increasingly reward the GOP.

David Shacter
Los Angeles

The ad on your inside cover from The Republican Jewish Coalition disgusts me. Joe Lieberman was not defeated because of his support for Israel, but because of his continuing support of the most incompetent and corrupt president in the history of the United States.

Unfortunately, the Democratic Party supported Lieberman. It was the voting public, fed up with the disastrous war in Iraq and Lieberman’s blind support for it, that led to his defeat.

The “radical left” has hardly taken over the Democratic Party, and Cindy Sheehan is not a spokesperson for party policy.

No Democratic president would stand by and allow Hezbollah rockets to rain down on Haifa. Nor would they have started a war with Iraq that has ended up strengthening Iran and weakening both the United States and Israel.

Finally, it is the Republican Party that envisions the United States as a Christian theocracy. I cannot understand how any Jew could proudly align themselves with these people.

Barry Wendell
North Hollywood

Bill Boyarsky

I was at the event where Bill Boyarsky and David Lauter spoke for the Woman’s Alliance for Israel Program (“Needed: Rational Discussion,” Aug. 18). However, Boyarsky is incorrect in his assumptions about us going after Lauter’s scalp.We wanted much more from Lauter. We wanted an explanation on why the Los Angeles Times has difficulty in using the word terrorist, instead of “militant.” Instead of giving us a logical answer, he bored us with his explanation of the “one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist” jive, and that the L.A. Times assumes that its readers can discern the difference.

We booed because we are not the radical “right-wing” DEBKA readers, as Boyarsky implied. This was a slap in the face to any Republicans that were in the audience. We booed because we are not stupid. We expected an intellectual dialogue, but we were hit with criticisms of the Bush regime, a “not my president” attitude, and the moral explanation that because reporters put themselves in the line of fire they do a good job.

Well, my son is in the army in Israel; he puts himself in the line of fire, and he has no problems distinguishing between a terrorist and a freedom fighter. And to top it off, to make comments about FOX — the one channel that does not make excuses for suicide bombers — and assume this as our only source of information was a slap in the face to the many activists who work hard daily, educating, discussing, working and fighting for Israel. I am one of those people who was insulted by the attacks on the right, the convoluted answers and the lack of respect that Boyarsky gave us that night and in his column.

This is the reason why I find the L.A. Times irrelevant in their reporting. They refuse to listen to more than 400 subscribers and former subscribers, and the stats on their readership should be a wake-up call, not an excuse to use their political bias to win arguments.

Allyson Rowen Taylor
Associate Director
American Jewish Congress, Western Region

Israel P.R.

Are there any Jews in advertising? It’s a silly question, but given the pathetic state of Israeli public relations, one might wonder. Israel desperately needs a top-notch public relations campaign immediately, to reinforce the support of sympathetic Americans and win over those who are apathetic or ignorant regarding the Jewish state.

Remember the old ad campaign, “Come to Israel, come stay with friends…”? In those halcyon days, Israel just needed tourism; now, Israel needs renewed American commitment to its survival against the dedicated, dug-in Hezbollah and Hamas armies, who threaten its existence like a growing pack of wolves. America is Israel’s only reliable friend in the world, but it might not always be so.Most American Jews take Israel’s righteousness and survival for granted, but our stoic, fatal silence about Israeli greatness and appeal must end; Israel’s very survival may depend on it.

We know that Israel is the only multicultural nation in the Mideast, where all religions are respected (Muslims are elected to Parliament), where women are treated equally to men, and gays enjoy tolerance, but many Americans, and others, do not. Some great Jew, with the talent, influence and connections of, say, a Steven Spielberg or Rabbi Marvin Hier, or others of equal capability, must take the helm and reverse this public relations defeat.

Why is Hezbollah enjoying the laurels of victory for such a ruinous fiasco? Partially, it’s because they did win. Little Israel never before had to fight an army with such a death-wish commitment. What will happen when other young Arabs, anxious to die for their cause, join their ranks? How many rockets can Israeli cities endure before they become unlivable? The northern third of Israel is already a mess. But Hezbollah’s most important victory was in publicity. Israel has failed to make the case against Hezbollah tactics and for its own existence to America and the world! We must convince our fellow Americans that Hezbollah represents Arab terrorism and Israel is the front line against it. I would love to do it myself, and I’m anxious to be part of the team, but I’m just an anonymous high school teacher; all I can do is convince a person of stature to rise to the task now!

It will be a horrible irony if Israel loses in the court of public opinion, if Jews fail to make their case, the one field in which no one denies them proverbial brilliance. Some great Jew must pick up the phone, call the Israeli embassy, and offer their services to establish the team and organize the public relations effort. It is not hyperbole to suggest that this is a call of biblical proportion. All Jews know in their guts that young Israel is existentially threatened like never before.

The great Persian Empire has risen up and told the world its plan. We must rally our fellow Americans now.

We need a leader.

Rueben Gordon
North Hollywood

Truth in Media

Josef Goebbels, Nazi minister of information, astutely observed that, if you tell a big enough lie, long enough, people will believe it — for no alternative report is provided. American news media daily bombard us with the nonexistent expertise of journalists and consultants — who concur with the media’s editorial position. They state that it is the very existence of Israel and/or U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East that is the source of Islamist animus to the west. Rudimentary knowledge of history readily dispels such tripe.

The first U.S. interaction with Islamists occurred in 1805, when President Thomas Jefferson dispatched troops to Morocco to stop Barbary Pirate attacks on Americans (“The Pirate Coast” by Richard Zacks, 2006).

The Islamic Brotherhood, founded in 1928 in Egypt by Hassa al-Banna, espouses global Muslim conquest, supports violence against civilians and is the philosophical father of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda.

This reality long pre-dates the existence of Israel or modern-day U.S. policy in the Middle East, but you will never learn that from our news media. Certainly the media can be a valuable check against the tyranny of the government, but who will protect us from the tyranny of the press?

Fred Korr
Los Angeles

THE JEWISH JOURNAL welcomes letters from all readers. Letters should be no more than 200 words and must include a valid name, address and phone number. Letters sent via e-mail must not contain attachments. Pseudonyms and initials will not be used, but names will be withheld on request. We reserve the right to edit all letters. Mail: The Jewish Journal, Letters, 3580 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1510, Los Angeles, CA 90010; e-mail: letters@jewishjournal.com; or fax: (213) 368-1684

Jewish Journal September 1, 2006

Why Kerry Lost


How did it happen? How did a respectable candidate like Sen. John F. Kerry lose to President George W. Bush, the fumbling commander-in-chief and avatar of cronyism in government?

Various explanations are possible, from the painfully obvious (Bush was seen as resolute, Kerry as flip-floppy) to the deliciously conspiratorial (the Republicans rigged the electronic voting machines, and prevented blacks from voting). Since, God help us, the 2008 presidential campaign has already begun, Democrats need a clear understanding of what went wrong.

Jewish Democrats in particular must analyze our defeat. A significant percentage of Jewish voters wandered off the reservation, and we want them back.

Fundamentally, foreign policy was the crucial electoral battleground, and Kerry was a casualty of the war against Islamist terror.

There are people who want to destroy America, and kill Americans; who have already killed thousands of Americans. They are a well-funded, transnational army of would-be martyrs seeking nuclear, chemical and biological weapons with which to kills scores of thousands or even millions, and cause billions of dollars in economic damage. After Sept. 11, Bush “got it.” He realized that this is war, and like the war against Nazism, nothing less then total victory is required. To achieve victory, America must no longer tolerate Arab corruption and despotism, but must instead encourage democracy and liberalism. This is why the liberation of Iraq was so important. There’s much to criticize in Bush’s implementation, but he grasps the key point.

But while Bush is unexpectedly a Wilsonian “idealist,” Kerry turns out to be a foreign policy “realist.” Stability is a primary value for him. He doesn’t appreciate the need for a democratic upheaval in the Middle East, including in Iraq.

Even more damaging, Kerry views Islamist terrorism as a law enforcement problem, not a war of national self-preservation. His favored strategies involve building coalitions, drafting United Nations resolutions and the like. His view of the balance between civil liberties and national security is illuminated by his comment that in a Kerry administration “there will be no John Ashcroft trampling on the Bill of Rights.” But many Americans think that not being murdered by Islamo-fascists is itself an important civil right. They don’t agree that Ashcroft is scarier than Osama bin Laden. Kerry’s priorities planted doubts that he would protect America and smash the Islamist threat.

Similarly, while Kerry is undoubtedly a friend of Israel, the nagging question persists: What sort of friend? One wonders if he would have been an enthusiastic “peace processor,” urging Israel to again make “good-faith gestures” to terrorists and “take risks for peace.” There is a fear that Kerry’s desire to repair relations with Europe and the United Nations could have led to undue pressure on Israel.

Bush has been inconsistent in his support of Israel, flip-flopping on everything from the security fence to the Syria Accountability Act to settlements to moving our embassy to Jerusalem. But there is a sense that at heart Bush takes seriously the fact that Israel faces the same malevolent forces we do.

All this was foreseeable. After all, Kerry has a Senate record of voting against new weapons systems, favoring nuclear freezes and so on. This was the Democrats’ great mistake: when we realized that we needed an “electable” candidate, the Howard Dean fever broke. But instead of favoring a genuinely moderate, electable guy like Sen. Joe Lieberman, we turned to Kerry. Why? In the apparent belief that his four months in Vietnam would trump his 19 years in the Senate. In short, we gambled that his brief military career would make him a “war hero,” immunizing him from the charge of being soft on national security and terrorism. In retrospect, that was nutty.

It didn’t help that many Democratic activists seemed to lose their minds, blinded by their hatred of Bush. They saw a dim-bulb frat boy, a hard-drinking draft dodger, an election-stealing cowboy. But, the country as a whole did not share their loathing. Like it or not, Bush rose to the occasion after Sept. 11, and earned a measure of respect. The Democratic Party’s inability to recognize this meant that we “misunderestimated” him again.

Ah, well. We Jewish Democrats can comfort ourselves with the knowledge that the clear majority of American Jews voted “correctly.” On the other hand, we can’t be complacent, as the demographic trends are not favorable. Younger Jews don’t necessarily inherit their parents’ or grandparents’ FDR-molded allegiances. Foreign-born Jews such as the Russians, Persians and Israelis have no automatic distaste for the GOP. The burgeoning Orthodox community has its reasons for leaning Republican. And overshadowing all these considerations, as the Jewish community increasingly intermarries and assimilates, our voting patterns will increasingly mirror those of American society at large.

To prevail in 2008, we must realize that it’s a competitive political environment, and Jewish Democrats will have to hustle. Expanding market share is the key to success. To do this, we must admit and confront the creeping anti-Israel bias on the left. We must take seriously the war on Islamist terrorism. Most of all, we must embody core Democratic values, as stated by Democratic President Andrew Jackson: “Equal opportunity for all, special privilege for none and support for Israel always.” Well, perhaps he didn’t actually say that last bit, but you get the idea.

Paul Kujawsky (kujawsky@pacbell.net) is the president of Democrats for Israel, Los Angeles. The opinions expressed here are his own.

Liberal Academics Blind to Terror Threat


The professor narrowed his eyes, leaned back in his chair and yawned.

“You don’t really believe that do you?”

I stared back perplexed.

“What?”

“That there is really some terrorist conspiracy poised against the United States.”

There was a short silence. I took a deep breath, not sure if he was serious. But when I looked in his eyes, I detected no trace of humor.

“Well, the events of Sept. 11 would certainly seem to point to it.”

He suddenly sat forward, his face growing flushed.

“Come on, Mr. Davis,” he said with an edge now in his voice. “You should know better. You’re a journalist. That neocon crap is just as easily disproved as Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. It’s clear fabrication — used by Bush and his cronies to justify an unjustifiable war. Better to check the terrorism coming out of Washington before looking elsewhere.”

I had to do a double take to remember where I was sitting and to whom I was speaking. Was this Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein or some other fringe American intellectual of the far left? Was I in Northern California or Vermont, where such pabulum passes as standard rhetoric?

No. I was in America’s intellectual heartland, Harvard University. And I was addressing one of the most noted political scientists in the country.

After a year at Harvard University, I have come to understand that the professor’s world view represents far more mainstream opinion in the intellectual community than I had ever imagined. For many of the professors, students and general community leaders in this high-brow enclave, the events of Sept. 11, 2001, are a distant memory — the stuff of nightmare perhaps but something more akin to a natural disaster than a deliberate and unprovoked attack on the United States.

Gone is any outrage against the Muslim extremists who perpetrated the atrocities of that day. Absent is any sense in which America is at war with a pitiless force pledged to the elimination of democracy and its replacement with a totalitarian system based on religious law.

Instead, the wrath of the Cambridge liberal community is taken out against the American president himself. George W. Bush, whose election is universally regarded in these circles as tainted and illegitimate, has emerged as the personification of deceit and the cause of world turmoil.

It is not unusual in such elite society to hear Bush described as Adolf Hitler reincarnate; the United States under the Bush administration as an imperialist, racist, capitalist pariah, or that Bush is needlessly spilling American blood for the sake of Middle East oil. In addition to his bungling of American foreign policy, he is saddled with the responsibility for the melting of the polar ice caps, for the human rights violations of prisoners of war in Cuba and Iraq, the despoliation of the world’s rain forests and the exploitation of child labor in Southeast Asia.

In short, it is Bush and the policies of his imperialistic thugs who revolve the spindle on the axis of evil, not Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein or any of the more nefarious leaders of the Third World.

There was once hope that Harvard would change its orientation under a more open and even-handed administration. But even the installation of the former secretary of the Treasury, Lawrence Summers, as Harvard president, has had little impact on the status quo. While Summers pledged to shake up the university, there has been no significant shift in hiring practices or in the selection of professors for tenure.

In most departments, liberal orthodoxy reigns virtually unchallenged, and in the department of government, only three professors out of 60 could be identified as conservative. When I suggested to one conservative Harvard professor that she must, because of her political views, endure great conflict with her colleagues, she looked at me glumly and could only answer, ” I wish I did have conflict. Unfortunately, nobody talks to me.”

How is it possible that during a military conflict, catalyzed by the most violent attack against America since Pearl Harbor, there could be such unparalleled denigration of a sitting U.S. president among academics?

While all previous wartime presidents had their detractors, none of them — including Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson or Franklin Delano Roosevelt — endured such a level of disparagement amounting to a characterization as fascist. The vilification of Bush among academics surely transcends normal election year politics and adds new understanding to the term “ivory tower detachment.”

Part of the answer is that for many, America’s adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq are not perceived as a response to a real military threat. In this regard, both Iraq and Afghanistan are not real wars but punitive missions, representing failure, much like Gen. John F. Pershing’s fruitless invasion of Mexico in 1916 or America’s involvement in Vietnam in the 1960s and ’70s.

Then, as now, the invasion of another country, albeit on much smaller scales, was derided as folly that threatened the peaceable reputations of sitting presidents — one who campaigned in an election year on the platform that his diplomacy had kept his country out of the World War I, and the other who had built a name as a humanitarian by pioneering legislation in civil rights and social welfare.

More than likely, the academic antipathy to Bush stems from an inability to appreciate that the rules of war have changed. Invisible enemies who operate in small, isolated units; who can plot and execute a major military assault against a superpower from a cave; who rely on highly sophisticated technologies to communicate commands to underlings; who are capable of marshaling vast financial resources to procure nuclear weaponry, and who are driven not as much by ideology as “martyrology” is a form of military conduct still largely unrecognized by academia in this century.

Seen in this light, liberal academics mistake as anomalies the events of Sept. 11 and the dozens of other major terrorist attacks around the world since then. They are unable to connect the dots between these events, because the pattern of attack does not conform to a standard military campaign, nor does it represent a serious injury to a seemingly impregnable political system.

Liberal academics, because of their grounding in the dialectics of the Cold War, are not yet capable of viewing the power of terrorist organizations in the 21st century to threaten democracy, because there is no precedent for either its success in toppling elected governments or of achieving significant military objectives.

But the result of the Spanish general election in April provides an important warning. It should make clear that the terrorist menace is no longer restricted to performances of mere political theater but is also now geared toward acts of direct political intervention. Under these circumstances, the threat to Western Civilization is as real as fascism’s was to the democracies of the 1930s.

We can now ruefully reflect on the tragic ill preparedness of the Free World to Hitler’s designs in the 1930s. Academics and intellectuals in Europe and elsewhere largely stood on the sidelines as the Nazi threat swelled.

No one should pretend that the terrorist menace, if excused and ignored by this country’s intellectuals, could not have the same devastating consequences for the United States and its allies in the future. Portraying the American president or any other American leader as a terrorist may provide cartoonists and columnists with spiteful ammunition to hurl at conservatives. But in the end, it only serves to deflect attention from the real battle and lends support to a source of evil that threatens us all.

Patriot Act: Does Security Trump Rights?


American Jews have long been among the staunchest supporters of civil and immigrant rights. Jews stood at the forefront of the civil rights movement and continue to account for a disproportionate share of American Civil Liberties Union members.

Given their traditional liberalism, Jews could be expected to flee President Bush in droves with the passage of the U.S.A. Patriot Act and other national security laws that have greatly expanded government’s surveillance powers, including the right to demand library records.

In its zeal to prosecute terrorists, the Bush administration has repeatedly employed harsh and legally questionable policies that have undermined America’s tradition as a beacon of civil rights, critics said. It has held “enemy combatants,” including American citizens, without filing charges or giving access to attorneys. Hundreds of mostly Middle Eastern immigrants have been jailed over the past three years and branded threats to national security, only to be later deported for minor visa infractions.

For many Jews, those policies — coupled with the controversial war in Iraq, a ballooning budget deficit, a sluggish economy and Jews’ Democratic leanings — have put them squarely in Sen. John F. Kerry’s camp. Kerry is expected to win the lion’s share of the Jewish vote in November, continuing a historical trend in which no Republican candidate has won a plurality of the Jewish vote since 1920.

Despite the visceral dislike many Jews feel for Bush, a greater percentage of them are expected to vote for him this time around. A new poll by the American Jewish Committee found 24 percent of American Jews planned to vote for the president, up from 19 percent four years ago. Some analysts think Bush could capture up to 30 percent, which could tilt the balance in his favor in such hotly contested swing states as Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Bush’s support among Jews reflects an attitudinal shift among some of them in the post-Sept. 11 world. Simply put, the war on terror, both internally and externally, has trumped civil rights as the most pressing issue, said Sheldon Sloan, a Republican activist. In radical Islam, the United States and Israel face an implacable foe, and Americans will “give up certain rights and civil liberties” to guard against the threat, he said.

With foreign policy the front-burner issue for the first time since the Vietnam War, some Jews plan to stand behind pro-Israel Bush, even though they might disagree with some of his positions, said Republican political consultant Allan Hoffenblum. “It’s the old saw that you buy what you know, rather than what you don’t know in times of crisis,” he said.

The question of balancing civil rights with national security was the focus of an Oct. 4 symposium at Sinai Temple titled, “Pursuing Justice and the War on Terrorism.” The Bet Tzedek-sponsored event, which attracted a crowd of 350, featured Viet Dinh, author of the Patriot Act, 9/11 Commissioner Jamie Gorelick and Rabbi Elliot Dorff of the University of Judaism.

Gorelick said the president had yet to prove the effectiveness of the Patriot Act and other controversial national security legislation. The Bush administration, she said, has also failed to show that there exists proper checks and balances to curb its expanded powers.

Dorff, an expert on Jewish ethics, attacked the administration on several fronts. Viewed through the prism of halacha, or Jewish law, the war in Iraq lacked justification. That’s because preemptive war is permissible only if a country knows it is about to be attacked and its very survival is at stake. In the absence of weapons of mass destruction, Iraq appeared not to present such a clear and present danger to the United States, he said.

A lifelong Democrat, Dorff said Jewish tradition places a high premium on privacy, exemplified by shrouding the Torah in a protective ark. He added that God is only partly revealed and remains mysterious; similarly, we who are created in God’s image, should remain partially unknown to others. The Patriot Act, he said, makes it too easy for government officials to snoop on citizens and violate Judaism’s sacred right of privacy.

In an interview before the symposium, Dorff said he thought Kerry’s positions on the Patriot Act, war in Iraq, the environment and stem-cell research better reflected Jewish values than Bush’s stands.

Dinh, now a Georgetown University law professor, said the Patriot Act might not be perfect but has helped make the country safer. In the three years since Sept. 11, he said, terrorists have failed to successfully strike again in the United States, despite repeated attempts. Luck and the Patriot Act, among other factors, Dinh said, are the reason why.

“I think there’s a lot of misperceptions and misconceptions out there about the Patriot Act that are only heightened in the political season,” Dinh said. “I think with more understanding, there would be more acceptance, if not acquiescence, with what the government’s trying to do to protect us.”

Many Jews reject Dinh’s position, arguing that the administration circumscription of civil rights in the name of fighting terror has weakened the country. Carmen Warschaw, former Southern California chair of the Democratic Party, said she found the Patriot Act and similar legislation “dangerous” and antithetical to American values.

Mitchell Kamin, Bet Tzedek executive director, said Bush had gone too far.

“I think Jewish tradition and American legal tradition places a heavy burden on all of us to ensure our core values and institutions aren’t damaged beyond repair in times like these,” he said.

Daniel Sokatch, executive director of the Progressive Jewish Alliance (PJA), said the Patriot Act and related legislation were “detrimental to the foundation of the country.” He said the Bush administration had cynically manipulated the threat of terror to pass draconian legislation, including the requirement that male immigrants from mostly Muslim countries register with U.S. authorities.

Sokatch said the administration jailed scores of Southland immigrants for minor violations of immigration laws when they registered. The government denied most of those detained access to an attorney and released many of them days later without charges, Sokatch said. To prevent a recurrence of such abuses, Sokatch said PJA and other human rights organizations served as local monitors during the second round of mandatory registrations in January.

“I think anyone concerned about civil rights and civil liberties, as well as the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, is concerned about the road we’re heading down,” Sokatch said. “We haven’t seen anything like this since the McCarthy era.”

Dr. Joel Strom also invoked the McCarthy era but to make an entirely different point. The president of the Republican Jewish Coalition of Los Angeles said there has been “no uptick in government harassment” since the passage of the Patriot Act. To compare it to McCarthyism, Watergate or the illegal internment of Japanese Americans during World War II is way off mark, he said.

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, “more Jews are aware of the real danger of being naive, lax or not taking every precaution possible to avoid more terrorism on our soil,” Strom said. “I think [the Patriot Act] is a minimal invasion of our privacy.”

Still, Strom and other Jewish supporters said they didn’t oppose fine tuning security laws, where needed.

Echoing Strom, Republican political strategist Arnold Steinberg said Jews and other Americans understood the need to give up some rights to better protect national security. Fears about the Patriot Act, which Congress nearly passed unanimously, are overblown, he said.

Los Angeles Councilman Jack Weiss, a Jewish Democrat, said the Patriot Act had much to recommend about it. A former U.S. attorney, Weiss said provisions allowing grand juries and the intelligence community to share information would help in the fight against terrorism and other crimes.

As important as civil liberties are to many Jews, national security and Israel might even rank higher, experts said. Although Bush’s and Kerry’s records on Israel are nearly identical, the president is seen by some Jews as a stronger friend to the Jewish state. Kerry’s talk of relying more on the United Nations — a body that once passed a resolution equating Zionism with racism — has scared some in the community.

Michael Cohen, a Century City attorney, said he had never voted for a Republican presidential candidate. He might now. The president’s emphasis on fighting terror, combined with his pro-Israel policies, have impressed Cohen.

“Israel benefits from the Bush administration, and many Israelis agree with that,” he said.

When Arab Means Never Saying Sorry


In Muslim culture, during the Daheyah (sacrifice) feast, Muslims bring a lamb into the home for a ritual slaughter accompanied by the invocation, “Allahu Akbar,” in the presence of the family and the children.

Now we see the Daheyah of radical Islam to be Jews such as Nick Berg and Daniel Pearl who were beheaded with no mercy, accompanied by the same pious invocation. This is a perversion of Islam, but don’t expect an apology.

To expect Arab and Muslim leadership to apologize for the barbaric murder of Berg is a reflection of the West’s naievity and wrong expectations of Arab culture. In the Arab world to take responsibility and say sorry is taken as an unmanly sign of weakness that may get a person into more trouble.

Those who admit guilt, even if it is accidental, are given no mercy and may end up taking all the blame and being brutally punished. It is the norm for Arabs to deny a fact — however blatant — and blame others, rather than admit to the wrongdoing and apologize. Honesty is not rewarded.

President Bush apologized for the humiliation and abuse of Iraqi prisoners. His apology was taken by the Arab media and the Arab street as an admission of guilt and a sign of weakness. It was not appreciated as taking responsibility to find out the truth behind the events that happened due to the actions of a few Americans.

If 19 Americans had committed a terrorist act comparable to Sept. 11 and belonged to a terrorist American network against any nation on earth, the reactions on all sides would have been very different than what we have seen, due to our cultural differences. Any sitting U.S. president would apologize and take immediate action to stop the terror coming from America. Americans would be outraged.

In our politically correct, liberal culture, the media and academia would urge all of our citizens to a collective self-psychoanalysis to uncover the root causes of how we could have caused such evil behavior. They might find the American terrorists to be victims of the American culture that drove them to become monsters, and would blame themselves and everything American for their behavior.

A cultural war would break out, with each camp blaming the other for the creation of American terrorists. Money to fund studies would start pouring into college campuses and think tanks to get to the bottom of the issue.

This is not the case in the Arab world.

Terrorism is the direct result of the radical Islamist culture that is flourishing all over the Arab world and promoted by Arab media, governments, educational systems and religious leaders. Terrorists are given training camps, money, power and respect for doing God’s work for jihad.

Arabs understand that they cannot win a war against the West, and all they can succeed in doing is to indoctrinate one generation after another for martyrdom. Their secret weapon is the anger and rage of the Arab street. It is a powerful weapon that they treasure, and they will not allow the West to unmask the lies of the daily dose of fear and anger fed to the beast on the Arab street waiting for the next explosion.

How can anyone expect them to apologize for a deep-rooted cultural and religious mission to defeat or kill infidels, especially Jews? Most Arabs still blame Israel for Sept. 11 and even March 11 in Spain. How can we expect these countries to sincerely cooperate with the international community to end terror and its barbaric brutality?

Americans should stop judging other cultures with the American value system and especially stop expecting Arab Muslim culture to respond rationally according to Western standards. Arab power is derived from oil, terror and manipulative public relations campaigns. They know it, and we know it, so let us stop kidding each other with false expectations.

Most Arabs do understand America’s current dilemma in Iraq, and they do not want to sincerely help. They know we want to leave honorably after stabilizing the situation and a new Iraqi democratic government is in business.

We set a date in June to hand over power. You would think that if they sincerely want America to leave, they would be at their best behavior in order for the United States to have no excuse and leave, but the opposite is happening. They have increased their violence and attacks and brutality.

Many say, “We want a Vietnam with America” and can’t wait for an excuse to exhibit rage and violence. Arab media and the power behind it are promoting a bloody scenario. They want to see America leave humiliated, even if Iraqis benefited by the removal of Saddam Hussein, and even if it is at the expense of the Iraqi people and the region.

Above all, they do not want to see America, a non-Muslim superpower, as the cause for Iraq’s well-being, especially when all the Arab countries stood by doing nothing to stop Saddam’s brutal regime. Only Arab leaders should be heroes in the Arab world — not Bush. It is a matter of pride.

Arab media understand that America has no desire to occupy Iraq, but they never miss an opportunity to give the raging masses their daily dose of fear of America. “America Wants to Hand Over the Keys of Iraq to Sharon” was a recent headline in Egyptian newspapers. Arab games are exposed, and our leftist media should not cover up the game.

There are many reasons for Arab and Muslim silence. However, fear of speaking out is no longer a credible excuse. Day in and day out, all we see out of the Arab world is anger, revenge and a culture out of control.

The Arab street is afraid of Arab leaders, and Arab leaders afraid of the Arab street. And both can only get out their frustration on America, Europe, Israel and innocent victims such as Berg and Pearl.

Nonie Darwish is a writer and board member of the Mid East Education Team.
Visit her on the Web at

Iraq Situation: It’s Vietnam Deja Vu


Determination is a virtue. Remember how determined we were in Vietnam?

No bunch of barefoot peasants was going to force the United States of America to cut and run. No sir. Through eight long years and 58,000 dead soldiers we demonstrated our refusal to be cowed.

We were in Vietnam to protect the freedom of the South Vietnamese people against the godless communists who were out to enslave them. Unfortunately, the fact that the enemy was ethnically identical to the citizens we were protecting made it a little hard at times to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys.

Some of the troops got so fed up with the effort that they stopped trying to tell them apart. On their helmets they had a catchy solution: "Kill ’em all. Let God sort ’em out."

Then, as now, we had persuasive reasons for persisting, even after it became apparent that we couldn’t win. There was the infamous "domino effect" of collapsing Asian countries if we left. And of course, the ever-popular "bloodbath" that would follow if the communists took over the South. Naturally, we had to keep fighting so as not to abandon our POW’s, who, it turned out, were repatriated immediately after we left.

Then there was the knotty problem of how to leave. We needed to "save face," to ensure our continued credibility among the nations of the world (most of whom thought we were crazy to be there). We finally left the way we came — on boats and planes.

During our prolonged adventure in Southeast Asia, we heard constantly that we were engaged in a struggle for the "hearts and minds" of the Vietnamese people. Sound familiar?

We tried to win them over with crop assistance and relocation to "strategic hamlets." We built schools and clinics. When that didn’t work, we established "free-fire zones," where we shot anything that moved, including water buffalo.

And we were always making progress. Maps showing steady increases in territory "pacified" were popular backdrops for briefing senior administration officials when they visited. But the people doing the killing and dying had a slightly more cynical view. On a restroom wall in Long Binh I read, "Would the last person out of the tunnel please turn out the light."

In the end, we lost because we didn’t belong. We were foreigners pursuing what we considered our own self-interest at the expense of a people we saw as "underdeveloped."

They sent us packing, because, in the end, they were more willing to die than we were to kill them. It was, after all, their country. Vietnam should have taught us this: Determination in the pursuit of folly is the indulgence of fools.

Now we seek to disengage from Iraq, that ungrateful tar baby of a country, wondering all the while at the absence of the flower petals with which the inhabitants were supposed to greet us, their liberators. Instead it appears that many of them hate us so much that it is not enough to kill us. They want to dismember our burned bodies and hang us from the nearest bridge.

Can’t they see that we only want for them the freedom and democracy that is the natural condition for all people?

All right, we tell ourselves, the resistance to what is best for them is the work of a few "insurgents" or "Saddam loyalists" or "outside terrorists." Surely, most of the Iraqis like us and appreciate what we’re trying to do for them.

Meanwhile, in a related story, our own country is in the hands of the most arrogant, secretive, ill-informed administration in memory. These are people for whom the lesson of Vietnam was that we didn’t try hard enough, didn’t give the military free rein. Sure we dropped more bombs on the place than were used by all parties to World War II, but, by gosh, if Washington hadn’t micromanaged that war, if we had really taken the gloves off, we could have won.

As with Vietnam, we were wrong to go to Iraq, and we are wrong to stay. The action-oriented neoconservatives currently controlling our government are convinced that our proper place in the world is as an imperial power, disdaining the opinions of other nations, attacking preemptively whomever we feel threatened by. Do we imagine that the skewed intelligence and downright deceptions used to justify this war are irrelevant to its outcome?

And now, once again, standing on the ash heap of lies and miscalculations that have characterized this disastrous and unilateral aggression, the gang in charge looks at the rest of us smugly and speaks of a need to "stay the course" in an effort to sell this misbegotten invasion as an example of determined leadership in the war on terrorism.

If we are stupid enough to buy this approach for another four years, we deserve the whirlwind that awaits us.


Gordon Livingston is a West Point graduate who served as an Army doctor in Vietnam. He became an antiwar activist, and is now a psychiatrist in Columbia, Md.

Israel Worried About U.S. Iraq Withdrawl


As Shiite and Sunni resistance to the American presence in Iraq intensifies, Israel’s defense establishment is worried that a U.S. withdrawal under fire could have devastating consequences for the battles against weapons of mass destruction and global terrorism.

And Israel could be one of the big losers: Israeli officials believe a loss of American deterrence would encourage Iran to continue its nuclear weapons program, and its support for terrorism could lead to a hardening of Syrian and Palestinian attitudes against accommodation with Israel and could spark more Palestinian and other terrorism directed against Israeli targets.

Without American deterrence and a pro-Western Iraq, the officials say, Israel might have to rethink its attitude on key issues like the concessions it can afford to make to the Palestinians, its readiness for a land war on its eastern front and the size of its defense budget.

But there is an opposing, minority view in Israeli academic and intelligence circles: The quicker the Americans leave, this view holds, the quicker the Iraqis will have to get their act together. And once they do, they will not necessarily pose a threat to Israel or the West.

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz summoned a meeting in early April of Israeli intelligence services and other branches to discuss the implications for Israel of the unrest in Iraq. Some of the analyses were bleak.

When the United States launched a war on Saddam Hussein’s regime in March 2003, Israeli military planners hoped for several significant gains.

Saddam’s defeat and the destruction of the Iraqi war machine would remove the threat of hundreds of Iraqi and Syrian tanks rumbling across the desert to threaten Israel’s eastern border, officials believed. They also hoped for a domino effect that would lead Syria and the Palestinians to seek accommodation with Israel, countries like Iran and Libya to rethink their nuclear weapons programs and terrorist organizations like Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad to exercise restraint.

In the first year after the war, some of that seemed to be happening. Now some Israeli intelligence analysts fear a reversal of these processes, with all the attendant dangers for Israel.

In the meeting with Mofaz, there was a general consensus that if American deterrence in the region is weakened, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad all will be encouraged to mount or incite even more terrorism against Israel.

Some officers expressed fear of possible Iranian intervention in southern Iraq on the side of the Shiites, if the situation degenerates into war between the Sunni and Shiite populations after a hasty American withdrawal. That could lead to a radical Shiite regime in Iraq, similar to the one in Iran.

If such a radical Iraq were to emerge, some officers suggested, Israel might have to reconsider the huge cuts in the size of its tank forces that it planned after the destruction of Saddam’s army last year. That could impact the key defense budget, which was slashed last year and again this year as part of a general government austerity program.

A loss of American prestige in the region, some officials said, also could impact countries with pro-American regimes like Egypt and Jordan, and might mean that American guarantees to Israel in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would carry less weight.

In general, American attempts to stabilize the Middle East would suffer a huge setback, with potentially harsh consequences for Israel and the West. The two main goals of the U.S.-led war — curbing the proliferation of nuclear weapons in rogue countries such as Iran and striking a blow against global terrorists such as Al Qaeda — could be reversed.

In an interview with the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, Mofaz echoed these concerns, saying, "America’s success in Iraq is essential for world peace. If the Americans manage to stabilize the situation in Iraq — and we in Israel believe they will — that will have a positive impact on the Middle East as a whole, on the world oil market and on the prestige of the international community."

But, he cautioned, "if the Americans are forced to withdraw in the wake of terrorist pressure, a new and dangerous model of Arab regime will be created. The axis of evil will lift its head, and it could threaten world peace."

Some Middle East experts in Israeli academia and the military take a more sanguine view, however. They argue that if the Americans withdraw soon after the handover of power to the Iraqi Provisional Council, scheduled for June 30, Iraq’s Sunnis and Shiites would reach a modus vivendi on shared rule to keep the country from plunging into chaos.

They ask: Would a new Iraqi regime — even if radical Shiites are a dominant part of it — adopt a provocative, anti-Western stance after what happened to Saddam? If they did, who would rearm them? And without sizable quantities of sophisticated weaponry, how could they threaten Israel or the Western world?

Surely, these experts reason, any new Iraqi regime would prefer to tap America’s willingness to reconstruct Iraq and allow oil revenues to create a basis for new prosperity. They argue that an orderly American withdrawal, announced well in advance, would do more for American prestige in the area than an ill-fated attempt to crush the dissident Iraqi militias.

But this is a minority view in Israel, and similar predictions of rational Arab moderation — such as the thinking that led to the creation of the Palestinian Authority — have proven wrong in the past. Most members of the government, the defense establishment and the intelligence community believe America should maintain its military presence in Iraq in an effort to create a Western-leaning regime there and through it, a new and more stable Middle East.

When President Bush says, "America will stay the course," they take heart.

March 11 Attack Hit All Europe


This time it was Spain, one of the principal European allies of the U.S.-led war in Iraq and a strong supporter of Israel’s efforts against Palestinian terrorism.

Following the suicide bombings in Madrid, which left more than 200 people dead and some 1,400 wounded, even countries opposed to the Iraq war feel exposed to the threat of Islamic terrorism.

Within hours of the bombings, which struck trains in the center and suburbs of the Spanish capital on March 11, security was beefed up in cities across the Continent as news of the carnage left Europe as shell-shocked as the United States was on Sept. 11, 2001.

European leaders called for increased security patrols at major sites, and most countries immediately drafted extra troops and police to guard airports and train stations.

Most poignantly, a whole Continent stood at silence for three minutes Monday in memory of those who lost their lives in the worst terror attack on European soil since the end of World War II.

Across the Continent, Jewish communities wondered how the attacks would affect European attitudes toward the Middle East and the war on terrorism.

Some feared that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — and by extension, local Jews — would be blamed for bringing terrorism to a European capital. Others said the attacks would make Europe more vigilant against the Islamic terrorist threat that Israeli leaders have been warning about for years.

Even as the European Union hastily announced that it would push for stricter measures to combat terrorism — including demands that all member states accept Europe-wide arrest warrants — there was substantial political fallout from the Madrid attacks.

The fallout was felt principally in Spain, one of the most vociferous supporters of the war in Iraq. Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar saw his Popular Party upset by the opposition Socialists in Sunday’s general election.

Aznar’s support for the war, and his alignment with a whole range of Bush administration policies in the Middle East — including strong support for Israel — had come despite widespread public opposition.

However, some analysts believed the defeat stemmed more from Aznar’s initial attempts to shift blame for the Madrid attacks onto the Basque terrorist group ETA, despite mounting evidence showing that the more likely perpetrators were Islamist terrorists.

In recent days, links have been established between the attacks in Madrid and bombings last year in Casablanca and Istanbul that targeted Jewish sites.

Plaudits for the Socialist victory — as well as the announcement that the new Spanish government is set to withdraw its troops from Iraq — came from many sources in Western Europe.

As a first stage, though, European leaders are setting about reorganizing how the European Union coordinates the battle against terrorism.

The European Union’s Irish president has called for an extraordinary meeting of European justice ministers for Friday with the aim of agreeing on a joint response to the Madrid attacks. The meeting is expected to result in a package of anti-terrorism measures to be approved by European heads of state at a March 25-26 summit.

Also expected is a proposal for the creation of a European commissioner with a specific anti-terrorism portfolio, when the commission is expanded in November as a result of E.U. enlargement.

More controversial is a joint proposal by Belgium, the Netherlands and Austria to revamp the European Union’s crime-fighting unit, Europol, to split off anti-terror actions from regular policing of organized crime.

European terrorism experts also will gather Friday for an emergency workshop on "the lessons of Madrid" at the American Jewish Committee’s (AJCommittee) new Brussels institute. Experts from Spain, Germany, France and Belgium are expected at the Transatlantic Institute, said Deidre Berger, head of the AJCommittee’s Berlin office.

European Jewish leaders told JTA they are adopting a wait-and-see approach on new anti-terrorism measures, saying Friday’s meeting of E.U. justice ministers was critical.

However, one senior Jewish leader remarked that he was "already concerned at the reaction of the Europeans, as if they have suddenly discovered that terrorism can strike anywhere and they’re completely naked to deal with it."

In Italy, Andrea Jarach, president of the Federation of Italy-Israel Associations, told JTA he was pessimistic about how fallout from the Madrid attacks would impact Israel and Jews.

On the popular level in Europe, "they will say even more than they do now that if the ‘Jewish problem’ did not exist, there would not be terrorist attacks," he said. "It’s terrible, but I fear that the expansion of Al Qaeda activities into Europe will be a further step that cannot but harm the Jews of the world and Israel in particular."

But that same notion — that the festering Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one reason terrorism has come to the heart of Europe — could produce some positive results, Berger said.

"I think this could create a dynamic where there will be more interest in Europe in helping to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because many here in Europe see that as one of the critical incitements to terror," she said. "It is a faulty analysis, but we can perhaps use the emotions of the moment to create a new dynamic toward pressuring Arab countries to create a more peaceful climate, engendering a long-term peaceful solution."

Some commentators, though, doubt that the Madrid attacks will lead to major changes in the European Union’s Middle East policy.

According to Jean-Luc Marret, a leading expert in terrorism at the Paris-based Strategic Research Foundation, "Europe does not have a security strategy for the Middle East" but would rather pursue its political goals through "incentives to the region in aid and development."

The Spanish election results were "the quickest and most concrete results I have ever seen after a terror attack," Marret said, though he added that he didn’t believe that states that opposed the war in Iraq were necessarily exempt from Islamic terrorism.

In Spain, maverick left-wing commentator Pilar Rahola said that the Socialists victors would be wrong to think that an anti-American and anti-Zionist stance would provide insurance against Islamic terrorism.

In Britain, perhaps Washington’s closest ally in the Iraq war, insiders predicted that the Madrid attacks and their political aftermath would not change the government’s course.

Lord Greville Janner, a veteran politician with the governing Labor Party, told JTA that Cabinet ministers already assume that the United Kingdom is a target for Islamist terrorists.

David Mencer, chairman of the Labor Friends of Israel lobbying group, agreed.

"There is no doubt that the U.K. is a target," he said, noting that London police officials say that "it’s not a question of if, but when terrorists strike."

But Prime Minister Tony Blair will not alter the government’s course in hopes of lessening the risk of terrorist attack because of his strong personal commitment on matters from Israel to the war in Iraq, Mencer said.

And London has long been quietly supportive of Israel’s hard line against terrorists, sources say.

In fact, much of the new policy set for the European Union is likely to please supporters of Israel — provided it doesn’t include nuances distancing Europe from Israel in the hope of reducing the terrorist threat.

Jerusalem likely would warmly receive proposals expected to be presented by the Irish E.U. presidency calling for clearer definitions of terrorist organizations.

That could mean that Hezbollah would immediately be included on proscribed lists in every state in the European Union. Unlike the main Palestinian Islamist groups, the Lebanese Shi’ite organization is not on certain countries’ terrorist lists — but now it’s likely that even secondary or charity support groups based in Europe will be banned.

One senior Israeli diplomatic source in Europe said the Jewish state might gain both sympathy and empathy in Europe following the Madrid attacks.

"It’s like after Sept. 11, when Americans started to realize what Israelis face everyday," the source told JTA on condition of anonymity.

Nevertheless, he said it was too early to tell if that would translate into a more pro-Israel policy in Europe.

However, the shock of the attacks in the heart of a major European capital has led some countries to issue the kind of statements more commonly heard from Israeli spokesmen.

Visiting a main rail station in central Paris on Sunday, French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said it was necessary to be "particularly vigilant" but "one should not be overtaken by fear, because that would already give a victory to terrorism."

Similarly, the French press, which almost unanimously opposed military intervention in Iraq, described the attacks in Madrid as an attack on all European democracies rather than direct retribution for Spain’s support for the war or for U.S. policy in the Middle East.

In Germany, which fiercely opposed the Iraq war, editorialists wrote that giving in to terrorism wouldn’t stop the terrorists’ demands.

"The withdrawal from Iraq, as the designated Spanish prime minister now has announced, will have an effect comparable to what was produced by the withdrawal of the Israelis from Lebanon," Die Welt said in one editorial.

That resulted in a "bloody increase in Hezbollah attacks and the belief that the Jews ‘hang on to life in a cowardly way, while we are prepared to fight and die’ — as it was said at the time, and today again," the paper said.

While some Jewish leaders felt the attacks would further strain trans-Atlantic ties, European Muslim leaders were worried about a backlash similar to the one they felt after Sept. 11.

Haj Thai. Braze, head of the Union of French Islamic Organizations, the leading group on France’s recently created Muslim Council and an organization with strong ties to the international Muslim Brotherhood, said European states previously had been careful but now would come closer to U.S. policy.

The United States "is going to say, ‘Watch out — you should support the U.S.A. You’ve had your March 11 like we had our Sept. 11,’" he said. "I fear for a crusade against Islam and Muslims."

Marret dismissed that argument.

"Ultimately, the Madrid attacks will not have a marked effect on the European conscience like Sept. 11," he told JTA. "We have had catastrophic events on our soil. [World War I and II] marked Europe and changed policy, but not Madrid."

JTA Correspondents Ruth Gruber in Rome, Richard Allen Greene in London, Jerome Socolovsky in Madrid and Toby Axelrod in Berlin contributed to this article.

Bush Expands Mideast Agenda


With the death toll mounting in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian "road map" plan in tatters, the Bush administration and Congress want to put out other Middle East fires before they get out of control.

Administration officials and lawmakers recently launched initiatives to sanction Syria and Iran for links to terrorist organizations and plans to develop and obtain weapons of mass destruction. Lawmakers also have focused on Saudi Arabia, accusing it of supporting Hamas and other terrorist groups. Officially, the Bush administration regards the kingdom as an ally in the war on terrorism.

The United States has been keeping an eye on these three countries for years, but attention on them has increased in the wake of U.S. military action against Iraq.

"I think it’s all wrapped up with the Iraq war and concern about the riffraff of the world assembling in Iraq to attack American forces," said Edward Walker, a former assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs. Walker said some Bush administration officials want to take severe actions against Iran and Syria, including new sanctions made possible by the Patriot Act, passed over Sept. 11, 2001. The new actions could include cutting sources of funding for the three countries and their interests in the United States.

Lawmakers are already highlighting their concerns in Congress. A number of congressional hearings last week produced dire predictions about Iranian and Syrian capabilities and what could be the result if the United States fails to act.

Israeli and U.S. legislators said Wednesday during a committee hearing that Iran could be "weeks away" from achieving nuclear-weapon capabilities.

"If not efficiently tackled, in one year from now we may face a new world, a very dangerous Middle East and a very dangerous world," said Yuval Steinitz, chairman of the Knesset’s foreign affairs and defense committee.

Pressure on Syria has been mounting as well. John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, told a House subcommittee Tuesday that Syria is a dual threat because of its support of terrorist groups and the possibility that Syria could arm the groups.

"While there is currently no information indicating that the Syrian Government has transferred [Weapons of Mass Destruction] to terrorist organizations or would permit such groups to acquire them, Syria’s ties to numerous terrorist groups underlie the reasons for our continued anxiety," Bolton said.

Bolton also appeared to soften Bush administration opposition to the Syria Accountability Act — legislation backed by pro-Israel groups that would sanction Syria for harboring terrorists, seeking nuclear weapons and occupying Lebanon.

Bolton said Tuesday that the administration has no position on the legislation. The White House had previously claimed the legislation would tie up the administration’s hands in foreign policy. Sources say the State Department is using support for the sanctions act as leverage in discussions with Syrian officials.

Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) sent a letter to Bush on Tuesday calling for the United States to downgrade relations with Syria.

"Unless Syria changes its policies, no United States ambassador should be sent to Damascus, and the president should refuse to accept the credentials of any proposed Syrian ambassador to the United States," Ackerman wrote.

Walker said unilateral U.S. sanctions on Iran and Syria would have little effect.

"We already have unilateral sanctions against both countries, and it hasn’t really stopped them," said Walker, now president of the Middle East Institute, a Washington think tank. "Sanctions will only hurt American companies."

In Saudi Arabia’s case, the Bush administration and lawmakers remain miles apart. Lawmakers emphasize the link between the Saudis and terrorist organizations, including Al-Qaeda; the Bush administration says Saudis are aiding the fight against terrorism.

The New York Times reported Wednesday that American law enforcement officials estimate that 50 percent of Hamas’ budget comes from people in Saudi Arabia.

The Bush administration dismissed the report.

"The Saudi government has committed to ensuring that no Saudi government funds go to Hamas," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said. "We know that private donations from people in Saudi Arabia to Hamas are very difficult to track and stop, and we continue to work closely with Saudi officials to offer expertise and information that can assist them in that regard."

Your Letters


Marine in Iraq

After reading Rabbi Mordecai Finley’s article about his son in Iraq as a Jewish soldier liberating Arab people (“Jewish Values Guide Marine’s Life in Iraq” Aug. 8), I am reminded of some 20 years ago having the honor of serving in the Israeli Army with Rabbi Finley’s younger brother, Steve, as Israeli soldiers liberating Lebanon of aggressors. Although the names and places are different, we, too, had the same feelings back then in Beirut.

Tal (Stuart) Goss, Jerusalem

What a beautiful, seamless extension from Bible to the work of one’s heart and hands. I was moved to tears at the verbal painting of the essence of Judaism at its best. I wonder, Rabbi Finley, if you feel as I do that this is probably one of the finest sermons that you have ever written.

Betty Brown, Van Nuys

Times’ Shalhevet Article

It certainly was a surprise to see so much space given to an internal Jewish matter, specifically a relatively minor issue (“Times’ Shalhevet Article Is Not News” Aug. 8). However, the more I read the more I came to appreciate that this is an issue of general interest, whether Jewish or Christian.

The reporter certainly made a great effort to speak favorably of the school and did not slam the Orthodox. I cannot understand Rabbi Dov Fischer’s reaction, especially his sarcasm.

I certainly read the article in its entirety and was rather pleased that this Jewish issue was considered so newsworthy. Although there seem to be some left-wing Jews who are pro-Palestinian, it is generally understood that Jews are not nonpartisan on this issue.

Robert Koch, Los Angeles

Whoever is familiar with the Los Angeles Times’ commitment to “balanced” reporting takes it for granted that the Times will soon be coming out with another equally long article investigating what is being taught about Jews in Palestinian and other Arab schools. But don’t hold your breath.

Frieda Korobkin, Los Angeles

Christopher Reeve

Thank you for your Christopher Reeve cover story (“Reeve Superhero to Israeli Terror Victims,” Aug. 1) on the actor/activist’s visit to Israel and meeting with doctors involved in research, like Michal Schwartz, as well as with victims of Palestinian terrorism, like 25-year-old paraplegic Elad Wassa and 19-year-old double amputee Idon Cohen.

As an actor, Reeve may have played the role of Superman, but as a person who has fought tirelessly to improve the lives of people suffering from spinal cord injuries, he has shown himself to be a supermensch.

Reeve’s visit to Israel — a country at the forefront of research on the treatment of spinal cord/paralysis injuries even before the intifada — is an inspiring example of his passion for providing real hope to those in need. As Reeve said, “Hacol efshari — everything is possible.”

Stephen A. Silver, Concord

Recognition

In the July 18 edition of The Journal (“Educator Retiring to Study In Israel”), you placed Rabbi Yochanan Stepen at the inception of Emek, although he did not arrive there until about 10 years after its beginning in 1960. Much pioneering, dedicated and effective work had been done prior to the Stephen period.

For the record, it is important to mention their contribution, without which that school, and others like it, may never have materialized in the Valley. As rabbi of North Hollywood’s Shaarey Zedek Congregation in the early part of 1960, I brought together some members of the shul, as well as parents of prospective students, to incorporate Emek and begin instruction in the fall of that year.

It is good and proper to give recognition and credit for achievement in the community, but it need not be done at the expense of reality.

Rabbi Gilbert L. Shoham, Kansas City, Mo.

Bar/Bat Mitzvah

I couldn’t help but chuckle at the irony of seeing Rabbi Avi Shafran’s article (“Seek the Right Motivation for Fetes” Aug. 8) sharing the same page with one advertiser offering sushi-making instruction and the other for a Hollywood theme park.

While it is possible to straddle that very delicate fence between the spiritual and physical worlds, at some juncture you have to sacrifice at least a bit of one for the other.

Rabbi N. Daniel Korobkin, Kehillat Yavneh Hancock Park

Correction

In “Too Much is Not Enough” (Aug. 8), the cost of the paperback version of “Something Ain’t Kosher Here: The Rise of the ‘Jewish Sitcom” is $22.

Terrorism Link in Davis Recall


I’m a proud conservative Republican from Michigan, but I’m appealing to Californians of all political stripes not to support the recall of Gov. Gray Davis.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) — funder of the recall effort and the only announced candidate to replace Davis — might be the contemporary, real-life version of Frank Sinatra’s "Manchurian Candidate." Instead of communists, Issa’s allies are radical Islamists and supporters of terrorism against Americans, Israelis, Christians and Jews.

In a short political career, Issa’s statements and actions consistently defend terrorists, terrorist groups and terrorist sponsor states.

Saudi Arabia’s longtime lobbyist, James Gallagher, contributed to Issa’s campaign in November 2002, and Issa tried to overturn key classified evidence portions of President Bill Clinton’s 1995 counterterrorism bill. Issa is also credited with "declawing" the Patriot Act.

Then, there’s Issa’s dance with Hezbollah, an organization that is on the State Department’s terrorist list and one of the largest components of Al Qaeda. In the 1980s, Hezbollah — which means "Party of Allah" — murdered more than 260 U.S. Marines while they slept in Beirut and tortured to death Col. Richard Higgins (in 1990) and CIA attache William Buckley.

Hezbollah endorses "the use of hostages," "suicide in jihad operations" and "the duty of all Muslims to engage in Islamic jihad if it ensures the ultimate goal [of] inflicting losses on the enemy."

Less than a month after Sept. 11, Issa visited Syrian President Bashar Assad, praising Hezbollah and lauding Assad’s policies (Syria is on the State Department’s terrorist list).

The Tehran Times and IRNA (Islamic Republic News Agency, the official Iranian news agency) quoted Issa’s statements to Assad in Damascus: "Hezbollah acts legitimately and has never been involved in terrorist activities…. Hezbollah and any other Lebanese group has the right to resist the occupation of its territory…. Hezbollah’s humanitarian and governmental actions were legal…. Such behavior would be customary in any country."

Issa denies the statements, but as a recent Los Angeles Times cover story demonstrates he has a record of stretching the truth — about his military record, his criminal history, his business affairs and his political positions.

In November 2001, for instance, Issa told syndicated columnist Debra Saunders he was vehemently against Arabs suing the airlines and government over profiling. At the same time, he told the rest of the press of his plans to introduce legislation to make it easier for Arabs to collect monetary damages for airline and government profiling.

And Issa’s other statements and actions corroborate their veracity:

  • Less than a month after Sept. 11, in an Oct. 9, 2001, interview with the Beirut Daily Star’s Ibrahim, during a trip to Lebanon, Issa said, "It is Lebanon which will determine whether the party’s [Hezbollah’s] activities constitute terrorism or resistance … If [Hezbollah] wants the world to understand that its activities are legitimate, they should say it…. Resistance is a legitimate right recognized [by the U.N.]…. I have a great deal of sympathy for the work that Hezbollah tries to do." He expressed hope that Hezbollah would "reform" and become a "government" like the P.L.O.

  • Assad’s state-run SANA (official Syrian news agency) covered Issa’s November 2001 meeting with Assad, quoting Issa as saying: "Hezbollah or any other party has the right to resist occupation."

    Occupation? Israel withdrew from Southern Lebanon at least a year before, and the U.S. withdrew over a decade earlier.

    Issa’s January 2003 actions regarding Israelis captured by Hezbollah asserted the terrorist group’s moral equivalence with Israel. According to The Guardian of London, per Hezbollah’s demand, Issa asked Israel to allow the Red Cross to see captured Hezbollah terrorists in exchange for interceding with Hezbollah to allow the Red Cross to see four Israeli prisoners held by the group.

  • On Oct. 31, 2001, the London Arabic newspaper, Al-Hayat, reported, "U.S. Congressman of Lebanese origin Darrell Issa, during his recent visit to Beirut in the mid of October," conveyed a proposal to Hezbollah leadership to remove Hezbollah from the State Department’s terrorist list and "normalize U.S. relations with" the group. Hezbollah refused the offer.

  • On May 31, 2003, Issa publicly made a similar proposal to legitimize Hezbollah by giving Lebanon $500 million of taxpayer money to disarm the group and turn it into a political party.

  • On May 9, 2001, during a House subcommittee discussion of the Iran-Libya Sanctions Extension Act of 2001, Issa praised Hezbollah, "in all candor, for the good things they do, too, the humanitarian, the hospitals, the schools they pay."

  • On April 14, 2002, Issa told Fox News Channel’s Rita Cosby that Hezbollah has done "some good things" (and he also praised Yasser Arafat).

  • In November 2001, Issa told the Financial Times of London, "Hezbollah does in fact have a limited scope. You must differentiate … from other organizations that might have a global reach."

    Global? Hezbollah murdered 86 Jews and wounded hundreds of people in Buenos Aires in July 1994, in addition to murdering Israelis and U.S. Marines and civilians in Lebanon and Iran.

  • In a Sacramento radio interview, Issa said, "They do supply little old ladies with heating oil in the winter and all kinds of other activities," characterizing terrorist Hezbollah as a mere "political party" and "farmers," and adding, "I’d like to see a lot of them just go back to their farms, go back to some honest living."

    Then there’s Issa’s strange respect for Arafat and Palestinian terrorists.

  • Days after Sept. 11, Issa, during his House International Relations Committee’s discussion of fighting terrorism, tried to draw a distinction between "Palestinian groups that are resisting Israeli occupation" and Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

  • During his November 2001 trip to the Middle East, Issa told his hometown newspaper, the North County Times, that he was "particularly impressed with Arafat."

    "He is quite a charismatic individual, despite being a very small man and very old," the congressman said. "He has a wry sense of humor. He gives you food off his plate if you sit next to him."

    Arafat’s personal food taster as your next governor?

  • In April 2003, Issa spoke of Arafat’s "charm" (also in the North County Times).

    Issa’s softness on Syrian-sponsored terrorism is legendary, too. Syria is home to several fugitives, including Nazi war criminal Alois Brunner, Hamas political director Moussa Abu Marzook, Islamic Jihad chief Ramadan Abdullah Shallah and Jamil Al-Gashey, the only surviving perpetrator of the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre — all wanted and/or indicted in the United States. However, Assad refuses their extradition.

  • Issa vehemently opposes the Syrian Accountability Act, which imposes sanctions on Syria until it stops sponsoring Hezbollah and other terrorists. Issa said Syria is "cooperative."

  • The Reform Party of Syria said Issa "helps Syria with [its] propaganda campaign" and "objects to Mr. Issa’s presence in Syria. The Baath Party of Syria is duping Rep. Issa and using him as a propaganda tool."

  • In June 2003, Issa attended the Beirut signing of a major oil deal between Syria and two U.S. firms. The contract states the companies will spend $29 million in Syria and train the state-run Syrian oil company.

  • Issa hosted a pro-Syrian Capitol Hill event with a pro-Syrian Arab business group. The event was organized by former staffers to Reps. David Bonior and John Dingell, who now lobby for a "change" to U.S. Middle East policy.

  • After the Iraq War, during one of several frequent Syrian trips, Issa praised Assad, saying, "His word seems to be good."

Darrell Issa wants to be governor of California and ultimately president. With a record like this, do you want to help him?


Debbie Schlussel, a Detroit-based attorney, radio talk-show host and conservative political commentator, was the 1987 Outstanding Teen Age Republican in the Nation. She can be reached at dschlussel@yahoo.com.

Sharon, Abbas Court White House


As the fragile Israeli-Palestinian peace process inches forward, leaders of both sides are looking to upcoming audiences with President Bush to exert pressure on the other and give the "road map" peace plan some momentum.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his Palestinian Authority counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas, each will seek to persuade the American leader to lean on the other side to move faster — and Bush will be ready to lean on both, Israeli analysts believe.

With domestic criticism growing regarding America’s imbroglio in Iraq, Israeli analysts believe Bush wants progress on the Israeli-Palestinian front to help justify the strike against Saddam Hussein. If toppling the Iraqi dictator is seen to have paved the way for an Israeli-Palestinian accommodation — and, with it, a better chance of pacifying the Middle East as a whole — the administration can argue that the war was worthwhile, the argument goes.

Bush, therefore, will want to resolve as many of the disputed issues on the table as he can. For the Palestinians, most important are releasing prisoners, dismantling settlement outposts, freezing construction of Israeli settlements and Israel’s West Bank security fence and easing restrictions on Palestinian civilians.

Israel will ask Bush to demand that the Palestinians dismantle terrorist groups and decommission their weapons and not make do with the groups’ tenuous cease-fire.

Most analysts agree that little progress will be made without concerted American intervention.

More importantly, in their strategic thinking, both Abbas and Sharon put a premium on ties with America. Even before he took over as prime minister, Abbas advocated the use of American and international pressure on Israel, rather than terrorism, to achieve Palestinian goals.

Sharon, who is to meet with Bush on July 29, sees American support as the key to Israel’s position in the world. He believes that ties with the Bush administration must be carefully nurtured and that Israel should seek prior coordination with Washington whenever appropriate, especially in dealing with the Palestinians. In Sharon’s view, it is absolutely vital that the Palestinian issue not be allowed to erode Israel’s ties with Washington.

Of course, there will be tactical maneuvering by both prime ministers, but their meetings with President Bush should be understood in a wider strategic context.

Abbas reportedly will highlight two key issues in his White House meeting on Friday: getting more Palestinian prisoners released and stopping construction of the security fence. He will argue that if Israel is really serious about turning over a new leaf, it should release all Palestinian prisoners, even those with "blood on their hands," i.e., those involved in terror attacks.

On the security fence, the Palestinians have noted the recent sharp differences between Israel and the United States. Israeli officials believe Abbas hopes to use the issue to drive a wedge between Israel and the United States and get the Bush administration to pressure Israel to stop building it, on the grounds that it takes in large swaths of the West Bank and thus prejudges a final territorial accommodation.

Abbas also reportedly will urge Bush to pressure Sharon to put more West Bank cities under Palestinian security control. He argues that unless he has real achievements to show the Palestinian people, his shaky position as prime minister in P.A. President Yasser Arafat’s shadow will be further weakened. Indeed, Abbas hopes his high-profile meeting with Bush will itself give him more standing and credibility on the Palestinian street.

Abbas also apparently intends to use his American sojourn to win support in Congress, the media and the American Jewish community, and has scheduled meetings with key figures in all three groups.

According to aides, Sharon’s main goal will be to convince Bush that the Palestinians must be held to their commitments in the fight against terror. Sharon, they say, will suggest linking further prisoner releases to Palestinian dismantling of militia groups and the collection of illegal weapons.

Sharon will point out that two months have elapsed since the road map was launched at a summit in Aqaba, Jordan, in early June. During that time the Palestinians have not taken serious action against Hamas or Islamic Jihad, and Israeli intelligence sources say the terrorist groups continue to arm themselves under cover of the cease-fire. It is time for the Palestinians to act, Sharon will insist.

Sharon hopes to deflect American pressure on Israel by releasing a large group of prisoners and dismantling more illegal West Bank settlement outposts before his meeting with Bush.

As for the fence, Sharon will repeat what he told British Prime Minister Tony Blair last week: "I am a simple farmer, and I tell you plainly the fence is only a security obstacle to stop suicide bombers, and not in any way a political border."

Sharon has agreed to Palestinian demands to set up a joint Israeli-Palestinian team to agree on a list of prisoners to be released. Though the terrorist groups have made the prisoner release a condition of their cease-fire, it is not one of Israel’s obligations under the road map. However, Israeli officials believe that releasing prisoners may help Abbas’ public stature.

Out of sensitivity to the pressures on Abbas, Sharon has agreed to release some detainees who are members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. In deference to Israeli public sentiment, however, he is refusing to release prisoners with blood on their hands.

Leslie Susser is the diplomatic correspondent for the Jerusalem Report.

Iraq’s Defeat Raises Fears of Iran Threat


On the face of it, the U.S. military victory in Iraq has significantly enhanced Israel’s national security, removing a threat from weapons of mass destruction and opening new chances for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

However, there is a downside: Israeli leaders are concerned that Iran could emerge strengthened from Iraq’s defeat and continue to promote terror, while developing nuclear weapons that could pose a threat to Israel’s very existence.

One worry is that the defeat of Iraq could lead to a fundamentalist backlash in the region spearheaded by Iran, using its close ties with Syria and the Lebanon-based Hezbollah to wage a campaign of terror. Another is that Shiite Iran could build close ties with a new Shiite-dominated Iraq, projecting fundamentalist influence across the region.

However, of most concern by far is that, according to some Western experts, Iran is barely two years away from producing a nuclear bomb.

Israeli officials maintain that the two prongs of the Iranian threat — nuclear weapons and terrorism — are related. Ra’anan Gissin, a senior aide to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, declared that Iran uses terror to "create deterrence as it builds a nuclear weapons capability that has not yet become operational." In other words, the threat of Iranian-inspired terror is intended to make the United States or other would-be aggressors think twice before taking military action to stop Iran’s nuclear program.

Over the past few months, Sharon has been urging visiting U.S. legislators and administration officials to take action to stop Iran from going nuclear. The message seemed to be getting through: After mid-March meetings in Jerusalem, U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton announced at an Israeli-American strategic forum in Washington that "the U.S. will focus on stopping Iran getting nuclear weapons."

But it could be too late.

Over the past few years, undetected by the world’s most vaunted intelligence agencies or the United Nations’ watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran developed two sites capable of producing the fissile materials from which nuclear bombs are made.

One, near the desert town of Natanz, 200 miles south of Tehran, will be able to produce weapons-grade uranium. The other, farther west at Arak, will be able to make plutonium from heavy water.

The tip-off on the two sites came last August from an Iranian dissident group, the National Council of Resistance. Until then, the Iranians had claimed that the Natanz site was for "desert irrigation."

Satellite photos released in December by the American Institute for Science and International Security proved otherwise. When Mohammed Baradei, an Egyptian who heads the International Atomic Energy Agency, visited the Natanz site in late February, he counted 160 new centrifuges capable of producing weapons-grade uranium, as well as parts for assembling 1,000 more.

Baradei’s Iranian hosts acknowledged that by 2005, they planned to have 5,000 centrifuges fully operational at the desert site. Experts say that would enable Iran to produce enough enriched uranium for at least two nuclear bombs a year from 2005 onward.

Experts believe Iran had some help from Pakistan in developing the Natanz technology, but the centrifuges are unique in shape and clearly were engineered by the Iranians themselves. Moreover, Iran has begun mining its own uranium ore in the Yazd area, 400 miles southeast of Tehran.

Taken together, these two facts mean that Iran has passed the point of no return: Its nuclear program can no longer be stopped by getting third parties to withhold materials or technologies.

The same is true of Iran’s missile technology.

"The Iranians cannot be stopped anymore," said Uzi Rubin, former head of Israel’s Arrow anti-missile defense program. "They have their indigenous capability now, and they will continue their programs, regardless of what the international community thinks."

One of the Iranian-developed missiles, the Shahab-3, has an estimated range of nearly 800 miles, able to reach targets in Israel from western Iran.

What makes the Iranian threat most chilling is that Iran’s fundamentalist leaders remain formally committed to Israel’s destruction. For example, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former Iranian president who retains an influential post, in December 2001 called publicly for the Muslim world to develop nuclear weapons in order to annihilate Israel.

Iran also has shown a marked capacity to act against Israeli interests. According to Israeli intelligence, Iran was behind the 1992 and 1994 terrorist attacks on the Israeli Embassy and a Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires; regularly supplies Hezbollah with weapons, including long-range rockets, through Damascus, and in 2002, tried to sell arms to the Palestinian Authority for use against Israel.

Israeli experts say it was the January 2002 interception by Israel of the Karine A, a vessel loaded with Iranian arms for the Palestinians, that led President Bush to include Iran in the "axis of evil" in his State of the Union address later that month.

So what can be done to contain or assuage the Iranian threat? First, Israeli experts say, Israel must enhance its defensive and deterrent posture.

The Arrow, which could intercept incoming Shahab missiles, does both. Moreover, according to foreign sources, Israel has mounted special launchers on its submarines that are capable of firing nuclear warheads. This would give it a "second-strike" capability, hopefully deterring potential enemies from contemplating a first strike.

To weaken Iran’s terrorist capacity and ability to spread its fundamentalist message, Israeli experts propose putting pressure on Syria, rather than Iran. Syria, they maintain, is more susceptible to Western pressure and also has the power to disarm Hezbollah relatively quickly.

Once Hezbollah is disarmed and Damascus distances itself from Tehran, Iran’s scope for terror and political influence will decline, the argument goes.

No one in the Israeli establishment believes that after the war in Iraq, the United States will be in any mood for a far more difficult military campaign against Iran. Moreover, many are convinced that it is too late to stop Iran from going nuclear; therefore, they argue, the best way to neutralize a nuclear Iran is to promote regime change from within.

David Menashri of Tel Aviv University’s Dayan Center proposes a dialogue with young reformist forces in Iran, while hanging tough with the conservative clerics who run the country today. That way, in case of regime change, at least the weapons would be in more enlightened hands.

Moreover, Menashri adds, if the reformists come to power, the once-flourishing ties between Israel and Iran might even be renewed.

War Goes to School


When the United States declared war on Iraq, Chana Zauderer
made her own declaration: to ensure that her students are informed and to keep
them safe.

On March 21, Yeshiva University Los Angeles Girls High
School (YULA) held a schoolwide assembly to review safety procedures and to
discuss the war.

“At this age, students need to have information, and the way
to reassure them is to give them that information,” said Zauderer, who became
the head of the school last August.

While the media bombards Americans with images and stories
of air strikes, wounded soldiers, POWs and the question of terrorism, teachers
and administrators around the Southland are finding sensitive ways to teach
students about the events without causing unneeded anxiety. Many Los Angeles
day schools and religious schools are initiating discussions, while at the same
time beefing up school security.

At the YULA assembly, Zauderer spoke to students about
on-campus security and emergency procedures, issues she addressed in a memo to
her staff the day the war began. She talked to the girls about the importance
of keeping calm during an emergency, following safety instructions and
reporting suspicious people and objects to school office.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal
Center, spoke to students about the war. “He talked about our perspective [as
Jews] and how we were to relate the events unfolding,” Zauderer said. She added
that Cooper, who spoke at the YULA Boys High School on March 25, also asked the
girls to have faith in God and to include extra requests for world peace in
their daily prayers.

Zauderer plans to bring in additional speakers to discuss
more war-related topics. “[The talks] will be more from a religious
perspective, in terms of how we should be directing our prayers appropriately
and what we can be doing as observant Jews in these times of crises,” the
administrator said.

In addition, the school counselor will speak to classes
about the psychological aspects of the war and will be available to counsel
students on an on-going basis.

War worries and student safety are also at the forefront of
administrators’ minds at Emek Hebrew Academy in Sherman Oaks. The school has
hired an additional security guard and is in frequent contact with the LAPD’s
Van Nuys Division.

In the classroom, teachers have been advised on how to
discuss war-related issues. “We encourage the teachers to spend the time to
listen to questions and respond to them in a direct, but not overly dramatic
fashion,” said Rabbi Eliezer Eidlitz, the school’s development director.

Emek administrators are striving to protect children from
unnecessary fears. Eidlitz remembers students becoming ridden with anxiety
after watching hours of TV news during Sept. 11 and the first Gulf War.

“They became convinced their world was falling apart,” the
rabbi recalled. To alleviate stress, the faculty is advising parents to limit
children’s television exposure.

Like the students at YULA, the Emek children are being asked
to say additional prayers when davening each day.

At Milken Community High School, students know they can
discuss the war in detail in their history classes, because the school has
dedicated itself to keeping students updated and fielding their questions.

“So far, the kids don’t seem to realize the realty of it,”
admitted Fran Lapides, head of the school’s social science department. “It’s
something that’s happening far from home.”

However, students have taken more of an interest since the
faculty staged a school teach-in Feb. 19, at which experts spoke to students
about both sides of the then-imminent war.

With most religious school students spending only four hours
a week in class, Susan Leider, principal of Temple Beth Am’s Pressman Academy
Day School in Los Angeles, believes it is still important to address issues
pertaining to the war. Secondly, she hopes to communicate to the students that
the school is safe.

Challenged with having only a few hours each week to address
war-related concerns, Leider has chosen to focus on the Jewish aspects.

“We acknowledge that most kids have had some forum to
discuss this,” Leider said, “but what we bring to this are the Jewish values.
We want to make sure they get the idea that Jewish life is sacred, and that we
should not rejoice over our enemies loss of life.”

“The loss of life is a sad thing,” Leider added, “and that’s
aside from any personal opinions about the war.”

While educators are approaching the topic of war in a
variety of ways, it is clear that all are attempting to reach out to students
during this uncertain time.

“I think it’s important [that students] know they can come
to school each day and [a teacher will] spend five minutes at the beginning of
class helping them understand what’s happened in the last 24 hours,” Lapides
said. 

Bombing Follows Thwarted Attacks


A suicide bus bombing in Haifa has shattered a relative
period of calm in Israel and served as a stark reminder to a country bracing
for the possible implications of a U.S.-led war against Iraq.

With the United States stepping up military and diplomatic preparations
for a possible strike against Iraq, much of Israel was focused this week on
when a war might break out and whether it would affect Israel. But the focus
changed abruptly Wednesday when at least 15 people were killed and more than 30
wounded in a suicide bombing on a Haifa bus.

Heftziba Shetreet, who was in a building opposite the
bombing site, described the initial moments of confusion after she heard the
explosion.

“In the first few seconds, we thought the war had started,”
she told Israel Radio. “We felt the explosion right above our heads. Within
seconds we realized that there was a terrorist attack. We went outside and saw
the bus, completely scorched, cloaked in smoke and the wounded strewn all over.
Without thinking, we immediately ran to help them.” 

It was the first time terrorists had succeeded in carrying
out a suicide bombing in Israel since Jan. 5, when 23 people were killed, some
of them foreign workers, after two suicide bombers launched an attack near Tel
Aviv’s old Central Bus Station. But Israeli security and political officials
stressed that the feeling of quiet was only an illusion, and that Israel has
thwarted numerous attempted bombings since the Tel Aviv attack.

Ya’acov Borovsky, the police chief of the Northern district,
noted that there were some 50 alerts for possible terrorist attacks across Israel
on Wednesday, but no specific warnings of an impending bombing in Haifa.
Immediately following the bombing, police in other Northern communities went on
alert for a possible attempt by terrorist groups to stage a string of attacks,
Channel 2 television reported. 

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the
attack. But Hamas and Islamic Jihad praised the bombing, saying it came in
response to Israeli military actions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The
attack was the first since the new Israeli government took office, but there
was no immediate indication that the Cabinet would adopt a policy different
from that of the previous government.

As he has done following previous acts of terror, Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon blamed the Palestinian Authority for the bombing, saying
it had done nothing to stop such attacks.

Interior Minister Avraham Poraz of the Shinui Party, a new
member of the Security Cabinet, said Israel should not dramatically alter its
response to terrorist attacks. 

“We must continue to fight terrorism all the time,” he told
Army Radio. “There is no difference between an attempted attack — and there are
many of these — and an attack that succeeds.

“We should not act with an intent for revenge,” he
continued. “We must keep constant pressure on the Palestinians until the
moderates understand that they must put pressure on the extremists.”

Political sources were quoted as saying that the relative
quiet of recent weeks was the direct result of the Israeli army’s ongoing
anti-terrorist activities by in the West Bank and Gaza. The United States and
Britain were among foreign nations condemning the attack.

President Bush “stands strongly with the people of Israel in
fighting terrorism, and his message to terrorists is that their efforts will
not be successful,” White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.

Earlier this week, both the United States and Britain had
criticized Israel for harming Palestinian civilians during anti-terror
operations in the Gaza Strip.

Following the attack, Army Radio quoted Palestinians as
reporting that Israeli tanks entered Jenin. Israel Radio reported that troops
had arrested a senior Hamas militant in Ramallah.

In Wednesday’s attack, the Egged bus was about halfway
through its route from the city’s Central Bus Station to Haifa University, at
the tip of Mt. Carmel, when the explosion took place. The powerful blast blew
off the roof, leaving the frame of the bus as charred, twisted metal. Borovsky
said the terrorist apparently boarded the bus several stops before detonating
the bomb.

The bus driver, who was lightly wounded, said he noticed
nothing suspicious prior to the explosion. 

“I pulled up to the stop and opened the doors and suddenly
there was an explosion,” Marwan Darmouni recalled. “Then I didn’t feel
anything. When I opened my eyes, everything was destroyed, there was blood on
my hands. I tried to get off the bus, and everyone was trying to phone the police
and evacuate the wounded.” 

Darmouni, an Israeli Arab from the town of Shfaram, said
that security guards assigned to public transportation usually get on his bus,
but that he hadn’t seen any on Wednesday.

“It’s sad,” Darmouni’s father told Israel’s Channel 10
television. The terrorists “don’t differentiate between blood and blood.”  

Iraq War Not Just Means to Just End


Two profound teachings of Jewish tradition should be guiding
the actions of Jews today in regard to Iraq.

The first is, “Tzedek, tzedek, tirdof,” or “Justice,
justice, shall you pursue.” The ancient rabbis asked, “Why ‘justice’ twice?

They answered: “Seek just ends by just means; seek justice
for ourselves, justice for all others.”

Certainly it is a just goal to make certain that Iraq has no
weapons of mass destruction and cannot pour death upon Israel or the rest of
the world.

But war against Iraq is not the just means of accomplishing
this just end. Instead, it is likely to endanger many Iraqi, American, Israeli
and other lives. It is also likely to endanger Israel — bring on, as U.S.
intelligence experts have confirmed, the sharpest danger of a last-ditch
chemical-biological attack upon the people of Israel — and endanger the
moderate Arab governments that have made peace with Israel.

A war will also take hundreds of billions of dollars from America’s
own people — from health care for our seniors, schools for our children,
healing for the earth. An attack on Iraq will increase the unaccountable power
of the oil companies and regimes that have provided money to both the Al Qaeda
terrorists and the Bush administration, that have corrupted American politics
and robbed American stockholders, that befoul the seas and scorch the earth.

It will also worsen already deeply wounded human rights and
civil liberties, not only for Arabs and Muslims in America, but even for
Persian Jewish immigrants, who were recently rounded up along with Muslims, and
increase the use of torture of prisoners held overseas by the CIA, as it was
reported recently by The Washington Post.

So in good Jewish fashion, what is the practical alternative
to war? What would “just means” be?

American Jews could:

  • Support the Franco-German plan to intensify and prolong
    the U.N. inspection regime in Iraq, for months or years if necessary, while a
    totally different American and world approach to Iraq, the Middle East and
    Islam takes hold.

  • Encourage a multilateral “Marshall Plan” for massive
    relief and rebuilding in Iraq before war, not waiting until afterward, when
    there will be hundreds of thousands more dead, perhaps millions more refugees
    than are already suffering and dying under the misapplied sanctions.

The world Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities; the
European Union; and many nongovernmental organizations should supply food,
medicines and clothing to desperate Iraqis — and do this actually on the
ground, to make sure both that the effort does not just feed the ruling
dictatorship and that it is not just used as a tool by the United States or
other hostile powers.

  • Urge a worldwide treaty to eliminate weapons of mass
    destruction held by all nations.

  • Urge the United States to insist on all-Arab peace treaties
    with Israel, plus a peace settlement between a secure Israel and a viable
    Palestine.

  • Call a world conference of religious leaders to face and
    end the use of traditional texts and contemporary fears to justify violence
    against other religions, like the effort in some Christian communities during
    the past generation to eliminate anti-Semitic interpretations of Christianity.

  • Urge the United States to join the International Criminal
    Court and broaden its jurisdiction to include international terrorism, as well
    as governmental war crimes.

  • Urge the United States to adhere to the Kyoto treaties and
    begin an all-out effort to conserve energy and bring renewable energy sources
    on line, minimizing use of oil and coal.

These specifics are strands in a larger weave of planetary
community, and we need to be imagining that weave in all its wholeness. Then we
can choose what aspects of this future we can begin to embody in the present.

The second crucial Jewish teaching for this hour comes from
Psalm 34: “Bakeysh shalom radfeyhu,” or “seek peace and pursue it.” Again, the
rabbis asked, “Why both ‘seek’ and ‘pursue?'”

They answered: Most mitzvot can be done by sitting (to eat)
or standing (to pray) or even walking (to converse). But for the sake of peace,
we must not only seek it, but if it is running away, we must chase after it.

Most of the official American Jewish leadership has sat
paralyzed, while peace runs away from us all. They should join those
peace-seekers of the anti-war movement who take Jewish concerns seriously.

To do this, the mainstream Jewish community should learn to
distinguish between anti-Israel and “pro-Israel-pro-peace” strands of the
antiwar movement.

The United for Peace & Justice coalition, which
sponsored the New York rally on Feb. 15, is in the second strand of antiwar
energy. Its first Jewish member was The Shalom Center. Since then, Tikkun, New
York’s Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, and various smaller local groups
have joined.

Mainstream Jewish groups should support the efforts of such
affirmatively Jewish antiwar groups, and should be making sure that their own
staff and leaders get to meet and talk with the Jewish anti-war organizers.

But this is only “seeking” peace. To “pursue” it as well,
the larger liberal and progressive parts of the mainstream Jewish community
should join such natural allies as the National Council of Churches, Sojourners
magazine, the NAACP and the Sierra Club, which have already formed a third
antiwar coalition: Win Without War.

For Jews like the Reform movement and the Jewish Community
Relations Committee/Jewish Council for Public Affairs network to be absent from
this table not only betrays Jewish values and interests but also fails to
represent Jewish concerns, when some of the most important American public
groups are creating a new center of moral and political energy.

It is as if mainstream Jewish organizations had refused to
take part in the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights in the 1950s and 1960s,
because some black groups were anti-Semitic.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, the havurot,
progressive Jewish political groups, Jewish feminists and neo-Chasidic
teachers, like Rabbis Abraham Joshua Heschel, Shlomo Carlebach and Zalman
Schachter-Shalomi seeded change that sprouted in the mainstream Jewish
community during the 1990s.

In much the same way, anti-war Jews today are seeding change
that mainstream Jewry needs to learn from. As we now face the dangers to
humanity and earth from reckless, unaccountable economic greed and reckless,
unaccountable military power, they are drawing on and appealing to Jewish
values.

These values are not just empty rhetoric. They are embodied
in the practical needs of Jews who are suffering from environmentally caused
cancer and asthma, from overwork to the point of emotional and spiritual
exhaustion, from robbery of their pensions by Enronic pirates, from health care
diminished and schooling worsened to pay for war, from bottom-line downsizing —
even of academic, professional and high-tech jobs — from attacks on their
privacy and civil liberties and perhaps even from death as victims of terrorism
in an endless war that could have been averted.

Only at deep peril to itself will mainstream Jewry fail to
hear these prophetic voices.


Rabbi Arthur Waskow is director of The Shalom Center. He is the author of “Godwrestling — Round 2” and co-author of “A Time for Every Purpose Under Heaven.”

The Jews and Iraq


Pollsters didn’t survey American Jews after last week’s
dramatic United Nations speech by Secretary of State Colin Powell, but if they
did the results would probably show that the community is on the same
wavelength as a confused, anxious American public.

Ask any rabbi or community relations professional; in Jewish
communities across the nation, there is support for the Bush administration’s Iraq
policy laced with healthy doses of skepticism and outright opposition — the
whole range of reactions of a worried nation.

That refutes an article of faith of the anti-war Left — that
American Jewish concerns about Israel, and pressure from the right-wing
government in Jerusalem, are critical factors in propelling America to a new
Gulf War.

That theory is wrong on several counts.

Despite the prominence of several Jewish defense hawks in
the administration, no reputable analyst believes Israel’s views, or a U.S.
desire to protect the Jewish State, are significant factors in the Bush administration’s
single-minded focus on Iraq. President Bush’s determination to press ahead with
the military option has nothing to do with his friend in Jerusalem, Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon.

Most Israelis would like to see the Iraqi threat
neutralized, but their enthusiasm for a U.S. attack is tempered by memories of
the Scud attacks in 1991, and the knowledge that this time around, Saddam could
lash out with much deadlier weapons, especially if he is wounded, but not
removed.

And many Israelis doubt the sweeping Mideast vision of the
administration officials who predict a tidal wave of moderation across the Arab
and Islamic worlds if the Iraqi dictator is sent packing. As the U.S.
experience in Afghanistan has shown, a successful military campaign does not
necessarily translate into successful nation and democracy building.

In this country, most Jewish leaders have quietly signaled
support for the administration’s tough stance. But even at the height of last
year’s debate over a congressional resolution authorizing the use of force,
only a small handful actually weighed in on Capitol Hill. Jewish leaders, wary
of a potential backlash and facing a community that is far from unified on the
war issue, have kept a very low profile as war preparations mount.

Out in the communities, the watchword is “ambivalence.”

As usual, there is a wide gap between dedicated pro-Israel
activists, who tend to put Israel first in their list of policy concerns, and
the majority of Jews who care deeply about Israel, but tend to view public
policy through a wider lens.

Among the latter group, there is understanding of the need
to fight terrorism, concern about Iraq’s threat to Israel, but also skepticism
about the administration’s motives.

According to a recent American Jewish Committee survey, 59
percent of American Jews approve of U.S. military action against Iraq — about
the same as the support from the American public at large — with 36 percent
opposed.

More than half of the Jews surveyed — 56 percent — worry
that a war between America and Iraq is “likely to lead to larger war involving
other countries in the Middle East.” 62 percent believe the threat of
terrorism against the U.S. will increase if the United States takes military
action against Iraq.

The survey also showed that while a majority of Jews still
approve of the way President Bush is handling the anti-terror war, the
proportion has dropped steeply from the overwhelming approval ratings in the
days after Sept. 11.

Again, Jews seem right in the uncertain American mainstream.

Jews remain one of the most liberal groups in American life;
not surprisingly, liberal Jews are already a significant presence in the
growing anti-war movement, despite the presence of vehemently anti-Israel and
even anti-Semitic forces in that movement.

Even some Jewish hawks say Bush has not made the case about
why Iraq can only be dealt with by massive military action, while diplomacy is
the preferred approach to North Korea — a nation that already has nuclear
weapons and which has demonstrated an unparalleled recklessness in selling
weapons to Mideast bad guys.

There may be good reasons for the disparity, but to many
Americans — Jews and non-Jews — the president has not made a persuasive case.

Big Jewish organizations generally support the president,
albeit quietly, because of their focus on Israel, but many rank-and-file Jews
see more pressing emergencies at home, where a sinking economy seems to
threaten the middle class way of life.

Last week’s terror alert warning of possible Al Qaeda
attacks against Jewish institutions and businesses may increase that
skepticism; why is the administration so determined to engage Iraq when Al
Qaeda is probably readying new attacks on American citizens?

Anti-war activists who see Jewish and Israeli pro-war
conspiracies are far off the mark.

It is true that some of the loudest and most prominent
advocates of war in the administration are prominent Jews. But the community
itself mirrors all the concerns and doubts that make war with Iraq a high
stakes political, as well as military, gamble for President Bush.

Learning to Live on the Knife-Edge


What’s it like to be a citizen of a country that preempts its enemies — now that this is the official national security doctrine of the United States? Americans might look to the Israeli experience.

Preemption has guided that Middle Eastern state since its founding in 1948. Israeli strategists decided early on that Israel was so vulnerable it couldn’t wait for disaster to fall, but it had to strike first when threatened. Nor could it wait until it accumulated evidence of evil intent that would stand up in a court of law. Rather, Israelis had to rely on the information accumulated by its vaunted intelligence service, the Mossad, and act on the partial evidence, on the hints, whispers and suspicions that so often make up the bulk of raw intelligence.

Twice Israeli preemption resulted in smashing victories: in 1956 and 1967. In the first instance, Israel attacked Egypt in league with Britain and France, but was forced to give up its gains. In the second instance, it attacked the instant Egypt closed the entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba, an action Israel regarded as a casus belli.

However, in October 1973 Israel refrained from preemption when it had information a few hours in advance that Egypt and Syria were going to attack. Not wishing to be seen as an aggressor, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir hesitated — and Israel was nearly destroyed by invading armies.

The United States has never faced life on a similar knife-edge. No matter how heavy the blow, it’s had the territorial expanse and the military power to bounce back. Even when faced with the threat of a massive Soviet nuclear first strike, there was the sense that the United States had the wherewithal to respond.

But now terrorism has placed us on the knife-edge. Weapons of mass destruction make a terrorist act potentially cataclysmic. If a nuclear bomb were to be detonated in an American city, the entire city could be destroyed and the casualties would be in the millions. If an epidemic were loosed to which there was no immediate antidote, humanity could lose one-third of its numbers as it did during the Black Death of the Middle Ages.

Waiting for the first blow to fall is no longer an option, and preemption is an unfortunate necessity.

For Americans this means more war, and Iraq may be only the first. Engaging in war based on an opponent’s perceived intentions is a nerve-wracking enterprise. It can result in seemingly random violence and apparent aggression, because, in these instances, only a few people are in possession of the information that led to the action and that information is rarely made public.

It also results in errors. Again, the Israeli experience is instructive. In 1973, an Israeli hit team out to avenge the murder of Israeli athletes the year before at the Munich Olympic Games, murdered an innocent Moroccan waiter in Lillehammer, Norway, whom they mistook for a wanted terrorist. As Americans pursue shadowy terrorists around the world, we’ll make similar errors.

But by the same token, preemption can be effective. In 1981, Israeli aircraft destroyed Saddam Hussein’s Osirak reactor outside Baghdad, the first effort to thwart Saddam’s quest for weapons of mass destruction. Israel suffered global condemnation — and secret gratitude.

Some lucky few nations are protected by geography and build great civilizations. Great desert barriers protected the ancient Egyptians, while the British could reside in what they called “splendid isolation,” thanks to the English Channel. America has been one of these fortunate ones, blessed and protected by two great oceans. America has now been thrust into that world.

When Osama bin Laden’s terrorists killed 3,000 people on Sept. 11, he robbed Americans of the safety and security and complacency we’d previously enjoyed. He also robbed us of the luxury of suspending judgment before responding. He launched a war that America now has to finish — and finish victoriously. It’s the kind of challenge that comes with nationhood and which the framers of the Constitution fully realized the United States would have to face.

Only one more thing needs to be said: Saddam must be destroyed.

Story reprinted with permission from DavidS@hillnews.com.

The Necessary Fight


With all the discussion, confusion and controversy about the Bush administration’s planned actions against Saddam Hussein, it’s ironic that President Bush, a born-again Bible reader, appears to have rejected the Christian position and adopted instead the Jewish stance on self-defense and responding to evil people.

Jesus, in his Sermon on the Mount, instructs: "If anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other one as well," adding: "Offer the wicked man no resistance."

One shudders to think of the consequences of such behavior in the face of the Hitlers of the world.

Moses, by contrast, in his first act as an adult, kills an Egyptian taskmaster who is beating a Jewish slave. His response to violence is not pacifism but defending the innocent, an approach taught clearly in the Talmud: "If someone comes to kill you, kill him first" (Sanhedrin 72a).

That blunt instruction, in turn, is based on a passage in the Torah noting that if a thief is killed while attempting to rob your house at night, "there is no blood guilt" (Exodus 22:1).

These ancient lessons are all too relevant today. When Islamic fundamentalists struck against America last Sept. 11, killing thousands of innocents, the United States responded by declaring war on the perpetrators and all those who seek to destroy this country through terror. Clearly, the notion of defending one’s self — be it a person or a nation — is accepted most widely, as is the understanding that as tragic as wars can be, they are necessary at times, and even moral.

Jewish law distinguishes between two types of war, one waged to conquer territory and one fought in self-defense. The latter, milchemet mitzvah, is literally considered to be a mitzvah.

The question today is whether the United States-planned invasion of Iraq to oust Hussein is a war of aggression or self-defense. Bush, given to seeing the world in black and white and articulating policy along those lines has come to believe that Hussein represents a clear threat to regional, and perhaps international, stability and must be removed. Bush has argued that Hussein’s race to develop biological, chemical and nuclear warfare — and the fact that he has used chemicals for the mass killing of his own people — are reason enough to act against him before he employs these instruments of mass destruction, as threatened, particularly against Israel.

Opposition to that position is mounting, though, even among the Republicans and close Bush allies. At first it was Egypt, Jordan and other Arab countries that warned against a U.S. invasion, soon joined by the Europeans. They argued against America as Bully, trying to rearrange the world as it would like, not mentioning they do business with Iraq. Here at home, the Democrats have been calling for a debate on the planned war, given its profound importance. Fair enough, but their arguments seem to be more about the need for "a national dialogue" rather than specific reasons why a war would be wrong.

Most attention has gone to the opinion piece written by Brent Scowcroft in the Aug. 15 Wall Street Journal, warning that a war against Iraq would undermine Washington’s war on terror. Scowcroft, national security adviser for the first President Bush and a close family friend of the Bushes, argues that Hussein has not been tied to the Sept. 11 terrorists, poses no real threat to the United States itself, and that attacking him would not only be costly in terms of American dollars and soldiers’ lives but could unleash a more wide-scale war. Saddam, under attack, would strike at Israel, Scowcroft says, perhaps with weapons of mass destruction, prompting Israel to hit back, possibly with its own nuclear arsenal, setting off "an Armageddon in the Middle East."

Scowcroft says the key is for the United States to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or face the wrath of the Arab world.

Certainly, there is reason for Washington to exercise great caution and careful planning before setting out to take on Hussein, as it has said it will. (One wonders what happened to the element of surprise in warfare, but that’s another story.) Going it alone, without the active help of Arab or European countries, would make such an effort all the more difficult. But Scowcroft, who opposed ousting Hussein in the Gulf War a decade ago, errs when he reasons that Hussein and the terrorist network are separate issues or that the United States must quell the Israeli-Palestinian violence before taking on Iraq.

This is all about confronting and defeating terror, not appeasing it or ignoring it, pretending it won’t hurt us. One lesson we should have learned from Hitler is that when a despot shows his willingness to murder civilians and proclaims his intentions to destroy a people, or a nation, take him at his word. Believe him, and the fact that he won’t stop until he is defeated.

The issue for the United States should not be whether to oust Saddam, but how. Turning the other cheek is suicide; what is called for is the moral imperative of destroying evil before it destroys you.


Gary Rosenblatt, editor and publisher of The New York Jewish Week, can be reached by e-mail at Gary@Jewishweek.org.

Jews Quiet on New Iraq War


A recent Internet posting on hundreds of discussion forums accused American Jews of leading the drumbeat for a new war against Iraq.

Beyond its crude anti-Semitism, the message was just plain wrong; Jewish groups have been all but invisible as the Bush administration engages in public handwringing over the next phase in its sputtering war against terrorism.

Behind the scenes, there is general support for the broad goal of toppling Saddam Hussein, but Jewish leaders are not using their influence to press for aggressive American action.

The reasons are varied, starting with the fact that this administration seems to recognize the genuine threat to U.S. interests and Mideast stability posed by the Iraqi strongman — despite continuing uncertainty about how to proceed.

"If the Jewish community has been quiet, it may reflect the fact that there is no particular Jewish angle to a policy matter with national and global implications," said David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee. "But I have very little doubt that if and when the president goes ahead with military action, the vast majority of American Jews will stand behind him and our country."

But the low-profile Jewish response also reflects a strain of skepticism; some Jewish leaders are simply not convinced President George W. Bush is committed to the kind of all-out effort it will take to depose Hussein and end his quest for weapons of mass destruction.

The skeptics point to a mounting blizzard of contradictory leaks and official pronouncements from the administration, pointing to deep internal divisions over how to proceed.

President Bush has ratcheted up his warnings to Hussein in recent days, and some administration officials have leaked the news that an attack could be imminent, but others are just as busy arguing that it might be better to wait Hussein out.

War plans are leaked in rapid succession by competing factions and discussed openly in the media. That may be clever disinformation intended to unsettle the Iraqi leader — but it adds to the impression of policy disarray, and it may undermine the support the president needs to wage a difficult, sustained war.

The president’s own political people are quietly making the case that anything short of a swift, stunning military victory would be a big liability for the president’s party going into critical congressional elections this fall.

Watching that disarray, some Jewish leaders are worried: will the administration be able to settle on a comprehensive, realistic plan to topple Hussein and build a new Iraq without producing a terrible new crisis for Israel? Can the president win the first critical battle — the internal fight over what to do, and when? If he does, will he stay the course, even if the battle against Iraq gets messy?

"There are two poles at work in our community," said Robert O. Freedman, a leading Mideast expert. "There are many who quietly agree with the neo-conservatives in the administration that once you take care of Iraq, it will be a lot easier to solve the Arab-Israeli crisis."

At the same time, he said, many Jewish leaders "fear that if the United States gets bogged down in a war against Iraq, it will inflame Arab rage at both the United States and Israel, and will make things even worse for Israel than they are now."

The result, he said, is that while few Jewish leaders oppose the goal of toppling Hussein, there are strong concerns that the administration may not have a solid plan for carrying it out.

Israeli officials say they’re ready to deal with new Iraqi attacks that are likely to follow the start of any U.S. offensive.

Last week, the government announced it would build a second Arrow missile battery to defend the middle of the country against incoming missiles; this week, there were reports that the Sharon government has notified Washington it will respond forcefully to new Iraqi attacks — unlike 1991, when Israel held back in the face of strong U.S. pressure.

But the short-term risks will be worth taking only if Washington finishes the job, and goes on to build a stable, moderate Iraq.

"I think the administration really is committed to doing that, " said Mideast analyst Daniel Pipes. "If there is a military campaign against Iraq, I believe it will be conclusive; I don’t think there’s a chance it will end as it did 11 years ago."

But he concedes that the effort will "be difficult."

A longtime pro-Israel lobbyist said that "the administration has a solid understanding that the Iraqi threat is nearing critical mass. But, there is a lot of evidence they just can’t settle on a course of action. That increases anxiety that Israel could get left holding the bag."

And the administration has done little to prepare the American people for what could be a much less antiseptic and more protracted war than the one 11 years ago, the lobbyist said.

Thus, the Jewish silence as the clamor over Iraq resonates over Washington. Most Jewish leaders believe the administration is heading in the right direction, but many worry that Israel could suffer the consequences if the administration doesn’t complete the journey.

Strength in Numbers


“A-RA-FAT! TER-ROR-IST!”

The message was loud and clear: Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, with terrorist backing by Iran and Iraq, was considered no less a monster than Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Ladin. That was the message backed by thousands of Southland residents who lined Wilshire Boulevard in Westwood with signs, balloons and Israeli and American flags last Sunday to show their support for the state of Israel and their disgust with the escalation of Arab-backed terrorism that has taken scores of innocent civilian lives since the second Intifada began in the fall of 2000.

The recurring sentiments of those in attendance near the Federal Building at the April 7 rally was that enough is enough with the Palestinian suicide bombings and Arafat’s duplicitous political games.

UCLA student Robin Nourmand, 21, held a sign that read “Honk! We Love Israel! We Love America!” Across Wilshire, his 18-year-old brother, Raymond, also held up a banner.

“This is the least we can do,” Robin Nourmand said. “In Israel, people are making sacrifices on a daily basis by just living there.”

The rally, organized by lead group StandWithUs, in concert with a wide range of co-sponsors, came after a week that saw other Middle East-related outcries, including an April 2 StandWithUs rally in Westwood that drew several hundred people and a separate Palestinian demonstration elsewhere that drew about 700. On the same day as Sunday’s L.A. rally, pro-Israel demonstrations took place in New York, Chicago and other North American metropolises, as well as in Paris.

At the pro-Israel rally in Paris, a melee with anti-Israel demonstrators erupted. A police officer was stabbed in the fighting.

Like its April 2 counterpart at the Federal Building, which drew several hundred people, Sunday’s StandWithUs rally relied largely on an Internet campaign and word of mouth to draw about 2,000 people to the Westwood demonstration.

Among those in attendance were: Pooya Dayanim, of the Council of Iranian American-Jewish Organizations; Darlene Basch, founder of Descendants of the Shoah; Steve Sass, president of the Jewish Historical Society of Southern California; Rabbi Marc Rohatiner, president of Beth Jacob Congregation; Larry Tishkoff, West Coast aliyah emissary for the Jewish Agency for Israel, who runs the Israel Aliyah Center out of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles; and Sinai Temple’s Rabbi David Wolpe and his wife.

The local support comes at a critical time in Israel’s history, as terrorist attacks have claimed more than 130 lives during March alone. At the rally, participants said they felt a lack of international and mainstream media support for Israel.

On Sunday, however, if there was a lack of support, it was not apparent from all the honking, cheering and commotion the rally stirred up in Westwood.

At the rally were a cross section of the city’s Jews, young and old, religious and secular — and some non-Jews who came because they said they were protesting terrorism. Persian Jews came down to join the banner-waving Magbit delegation: “It’s an incredible turnout,” said Magbit President Doran Adhami. “It’s nice that people stand united for peace.” Ariella Adatto, an Orthodox mother of four, came in from the Valley with her husband and their young children. Gary Meisels, 38, said he was willing to go fight for Israel if they need him. “We’re being tested,” he said of the deteriorating situation in the Middle East.

Ori Blumenfeld, 24, stood alongside a ledge at the corner of Westwood Boulevard and Veteran Avenue with a group of his friends, waving flags. Blumenfeld calls relatives in Israel often. He said his cousin is fighting in the Israeli military. “It’s scary!” he exclaimed. “Nobody’s leaving their houses.”

Aside from a skirmish involving a lone pro-Palestinian supporter, who suffered a bloody nose in a physical encounter toward the end of the day, Sunday’s rally ran smoothly.

Middle East demonstrations and discussions will continue into the weeks ahead. Another StandWithUs rally is planned for Friday, April 12, at 2 p.m., in front of the French Embassy, 10990 Wilshire Blvd. Americans For Peace Now held a town meeting with Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller and Dr. David Myers at UCLA Hillel and will hold an April 26 discussion at Leo Baeck Temple with co-founders of Israeli-Palestinian Coalition for Peace. A national rally in solidarity with Israel will take place on Monday, April 15, in Washington D.C. in front of the Capitol. For more information, visit www.israelrally.org

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