Obama does nothing while Middle East and Europe in chaos


Under President Barack Obama, the world is becoming unglued. Iraq is being overrun by Islamist terrorists, and the United States is now evacuating its Baghdad embassy. The Arab Spring has led to either civil war and mass slaughter, as in Syria, or new Arab dictators, as in Egypt. Libya is degenerating into a den of terrorists who have already murdered the American ambassador. Vladimir Putin is sending tanks into Ukraine and the thuggish Russian strongman bestrides the world like a colossus, unchecked by American will.

These facts are undeniable. The only question is whether President Obama is responsible.

Obama’s argument, as laid out in his 2014 West Point commencement, is that his first rule of foreign policy is, “Don’t do anything stupid.” Military action should be reserved only for the most extreme circumstances. Americans are war-weary after Iraq and Afghanistan. Our president believes in a minimalist approach.

The shallowness of this argument, however, lies in this simple fact. Yes, Americans are weary of entering foreign conflicts. The president is correct that we don’t want our boys dying to fight on behalf of Iraqi cowards who shed their uniforms at the first sound of gunfire. But we are even more wary of another 9/11 attack. And by allowing Iraq and Syria to degenerate into Afghanistan, we are all but guaranteeing another hit on the United States. A lawless world cannot possibly keep America safe.

I have contempt for Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Increasingly autocratic, he is even more guilty of gross ingratitude. Rather than show America any kind of thanks for all that we sacrificed to give his nation its freedom, he treats America with disdain. Who wants to help a man who is becoming a despot, hates democratic Israel and reaches out to America only when he fears being strung up by jihadists?

But, this isn’t about al-Maliki; it’s about America. If Iraq goes under, the chaos that will ensue will directly impact the security of the United States. An evacuation of Baghdad would be much worse than the shame of Saigon, because at least the North Vietnamese communists did not deploy a global army of terrorists who fly planes into buildings.
Al-Qaida does.

I visited West Point this week with my family, for the summer concert series. It was the 239th birthday of the Army, and the West Point Band put on a stirring and patriotic performance. President Obama had spoken at the cadets’ commencement just two weeks earlier. Ask yourself: How did these cadets feel when President Obama got up at their graduation and told them there is increasingly no substantive role for them to play in the world? Here were young warriors, trained to fight and protect the United States, being told that the use of force has little to no application. No wonder there was such tepid applause and a cold response. These bright young men and women must have been wondering why they don’t just land jobs in the State Department instead.

No one wants to see American troops die in foreign wars. Of course, our soldiers should never be sent needlessly into harm’s way. But the threat of American force must always be present, even if it’s not deployed. People must fear the United States. What President Obama is doing by not doing and by giving so many unnecessary speeches defending his belief in doing nothing is removing the deterrent of a credible threat. The world believes that the United States under President Obama has no stomach for a fight. And we’re watching the effects all around us. The inmates are running the asylum.

The Islamic world, especially, is in a deteriorating spiral that’s positively tragic to watch. Turkey, once a proud democracy, now boasts a prime minister in Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose own political aides violently attack peaceful protesters. Erdogan doesn’t even shy from harassing and shoving CNN reporters while they are live on the air. He no longer shows even the pretense of freedom. When I was in Istanbul, I was amazed to experience firsthand how YouTube is permanently blocked and Twitter was restored just two days before I arrived. The Turks were once a free people. How are they allowing this?

Syria is a giant killing zone, with President Obama’s red line against the use of chemical weapons being repeatedly violated without consequence. Iran sports the second-most brutal and vile government on Earth, after North Korea, and thinks nothing of stoning women, hanging gays from cranes and assassinating peaceful protesters in cold blood. Worse, they fund the bloodiest terrorists around the world. But that does not stop our president from negotiating with them and leaving them within a few months of nuclear weapons. Egypt is back to presidents who win elections with 95 percent of the vote. Nigeria’s Boko Haram is the filthiest terror group in the entire world, murdering children in large numbers and bragging about selling young girls into sexual slavery.

And who pays the biggest price for this lawlessness? Why Israel, of course, with three teenagers now kidnapped by what appears to be Hamas, an organization that the United States officially labels as terrorists, but whose joint government with Mahmoud Abbas we now recognize.

Through all this, Barack Obama drifts along, meditating on his mantra of,“Don’t do anything stupid.” But I have long believed that the true sins we are guilty of in life are not the sins of commission, the mistakes we make, but rather the sins of omission, the good things we fail to do.

Sometimes the dumbest thing is to fail to act because of the fear of doing dumb things.

Barack Obama is fiddling while the world is burning. Israel is already smoldering under its heat, and it won’t be long before America, too, is cindered.

Timeline of Iraq war


President Barack Obama said on Friday the United States will remove the remainder of its troops from Iraq by the end of the year and that “after nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over.”

Here is a timeline of major events related to the war.

Oct. 11, 2002: The U.S. Congress votes overwhelmingly to authorize President George W. Bush to use force against Iraq, giving him a broad mandate to act against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The Bush administration had argued that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction posed an immediate threat to U.S. and global security. Bush said that “the gathering threat of Iraq must be confronted fully and finally.”

Feb. 6, 2003: U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell sought international backing for military action against Iraq in a presentation before the U.N. Security Council, using satellite photos and communications intercepts to try to show Iraq’s deceptions over weapons of mass destruction.

March 20, 2003: U.S.-led forces invade Iraq from Kuwait to oust Saddam Hussein. The U.S.-led effort crushes the Iraqi military and chases Saddam from power in a span of weeks.

April 9, 2003: U.S. troops seize Baghdad. Saddam goes into hiding. Lawlessness quickly emerges in Iraq’s capital and elsewhere, with U.S. troops failing to bring order.

May 1, 2003: President George W. Bush declares that “major combat operations in Iraq have ended” and that “in the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.” As he spoke aboard the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, a banner behind him stated, “Mission Accomplished.”

Summer 2003: An insurgency arises to fight U.S.-led forces. U.S. forces fail to find weapons of mass destruction.

Dec. 13, 2003: U.S. troops capture Saddam, bearded and bedraggled, hiding in a hole near Tikrit.

Jan. 28, 2004: Top U.S. weapons inspector David Kay acknowledges to the U.S. Congress that “we were almost all wrong” about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.

Spring 2004: Insurgency intensifies with violence in Falluja and elsewhere in the mainly Sunni Muslim Anbar province as well as violence by followers of Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in major Shi’ite cities in the south. The United States also faces international condemnation after photographs emerge showing abuse of detainees at the Abu Ghraib jail.

Feb. 22, 2006: Bombing of a Shi’ite shrine in Samarra sparks widespread sectarian slaughter, raising fears of civil war between Iraq’s majority Shi’ite and minority Sunni Muslims.

June 7, 2006: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al Qaeda’s leader in Iraq, is killed by U.S. forces.

Dec. 30, 2006: Saddam Hussein hanged by masked executioners after receiving a death sentence from an Iraqi court for the killings of 148 men and boys in a northern Iraqi town in 1982.

January 2007: Bush formulates and announces a new war strategy including a “surge” of U.S. troops into Iraq to combat the insurgency and pull Iraq back from the brink of civil war.

June 15, 2007: U.S. military completes its troop build-up to around 170,000 soldiers.

Aug. 29, 2007: Moqtada al-Sadr orders his Mehdi Army militia to cease fire.

Nov. 17, 2008: Iraq and the United States sign an accord requiring Washington to withdraw its forces by the end of 2011. The pact gives the government authority over the U.S. mission for the first time, replacing a U.N. Security Council mandate. Parliament approves pact after negotiations 10 days later.

Feb. 27, 2009: New U.S. President Barack Obama announces a plan to end U.S. combat operations in Iraq by Aug. 31, 2010.

June 30, 2009: All U.S. combat units withdraw from Iraq’s urban centers and redeploy to bases outside.

Oct. 4, 2011: Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki wins support from political blocs on keeping U.S. troops as trainers, but they reject any deal that would grant U.S. troops immunity as Washington had requested.

Oct. 21, 2011: Obama says the United States will complete a withdrawal of all its remaining troops in Iraq by the end of 2011 after the two countries failed to reach a deal to leave several thousand U.S. troops behind. The Pentagon said there have been more than 4,400 U.S. military deaths in Iraq since the 2003 invasion.

Compiled by Will Dunham; Editing by Jackie Frank

Iraqis fret about security after US withdrawal


Iraqis fretted about the ability of their armed forces to protect them from violence after U.S. President Barack Obama said on Friday all U.S. troops would withdraw by the end of the year.

Washington and Baghdad failed to agree on the issue of immunity for U.S. forces after months of talks over whether American soldiers would stay on as trainers more than eight years after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Obama’s announcement prompted worries among Iraqis over the stability of their country and a possible slide back into sectarian violence.

“I would be very happy with this withdrawal if our military and security forces are ready to fill the gap of the American forces. But I don’t believe they are. We can’t deceive ourselves,” said Baghdad shoe shop owner Ziyad Jabari.

“Our forces are still not capable of facing our security challenges. I’m afraid this withdrawal will allow al Qaeda and the militias to return.”

A stubborn Sunni insurgency tied to al Qaeda and Shi’ite militia still carry out lethal attacks in Iraq, where bombings and killings happen daily even though violence has dropped from the height of sectarian fighting in 2006-2007.

At least 70 people were killed last week as a series of attacks rocked the capital Baghdad.

In September, 42 Iraqi police and 33 soldiers were killed, according to government figures.

Iraqi security forces have been the prime target of attacks this year as insurgents seek to undermine security in the country ahead of the scheduled U.S. withdrawal by year-end.

“As an Iraqi citizen, I say to Mr. Obama, you will leave Iraq without accomplishing your mission,” said Munaf Hameed, a 47-year-old account manager at a private bank.

“No security, an unstable political regime, sectarian tensions and weak security forces, that’s what America will leave behind,” he said.

POLITICAL STABILITY

Some Iraqi leaders say in private they would like a U.S. troop presence as a guarantee to ward off sectarian troubles and keep the peace between Iraqi Arabs and Kurds in a dispute over who controls oil-rich areas in the north.

Iraqi and U.S. forces have said Iraq needs trainers beyond 2011 to develop its military capabilities, particularly its air and naval defences.

The country’s power-sharing coalition made up of Sunni, Shi’ite and Kurdish blocs is also caught in a political stalemate many Iraqis fear could worsen without a U.S. buffer.

“I think the fighting between the political blocs will increase because the U.S. presence was a safety valve for security and political issues,” said Muntadhir Abdel Wahab, 44, a Baghdad merchant.

But some Iraqis applauded the decision by Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and said the withdrawal of U.S. troops would help stabilise the country’s fragile political situation and quell sectarian tensions.

Many Iraqis still have memories of abuses committed by U.S. troops and contractors during the more violent years of Iraq’s conflict. That made securing immunity tricky for Maliki.

Iraqi lawmakers backing anti-American Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose political bloc is a key part of Maliki’s coalition government, said they would disrupt the power-sharing government if he agreed to keep U.S. forces.

“Iraq’s people will realise the necessity of living together in one country despite differences in religion, sect and nationality,” said engineer Mahdi Salim, who was visiting family in Kirkuk. “America tried to drag us into civil war.”

Additional reporting by Muhanad Mohammed and Ahmed Rasheed in Baghdad and Mustafa Mahmoud in Kirkuk; Writing by Serena Chaudhry

U.S. to pull out of Iraq nearly nine years after war began


President Barack Obama said on Friday he would pull U.S. troops from Iraq this year, almost nine years after the U.S. invasion, after he failed to convince Iraq that several thousand troops should remain in part as a balance against neighboring Iran.

After months of negotiations with officials in Baghdad failed to reach an agreement to keep perhaps thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq as trainers, Obama announced he would stick to plans pull out entirely by year’s end.

“As promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year. After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over,” Obama told reporters.

The full withdrawal of American troops, with the exception of around 160 soldiers who will remain behind under State Department authority to train Iraqi forces and a small contingent of soldiers guarding the U.S. embassy, marks a major milestone in the war that started in 2003 and resulted in the removal of Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.

An estimated 4,479 U.S. troops were killed in the Iraq war.

View a timeline of the Iraq war

Obama spoke after a video conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and said the two were in full agreement about how to move forward.

Both Obama and Maliki said the removal of the approximately 40,000 remaining troops would allow the two nations to move to a new phase in their closely intertwined yet complicated relationship.

“The two sides’ points of view were identical in terms of starting new phase of our strategic relations … after achieving withdrawal at the end of the year,” Maliki’s office said in a statement.

But the announcement underscores the gaps that remain between U.S. and Iraqi priorities and political realities.

Earlier this week, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said American and Iraqi officials were continuing discussions that might permit U.S. soldiers to stay beyond a Dec. 31 deadline.

In the end, the two countries were apparently unable to reach agreement over legal protections for any remaining U.S. soldiers.

For months, Iraq’s fractured political elite was at odds over whether American soldiers should stay as trainers. Baghdad rejected any legal immunity for U.S. soldiers, and Washington said that meant no deal.

The U.S. military role in Iraq has been mostly reduced to advising the security forces in a country where levels of violence had declined sharply from a peak of sectarian strife in 2006-2007, but attacks remain a daily occurrence.

Senior Iraqis say in private they would like a U.S. troop presence to keep the peace between Iraqi Arabs and Kurds in a dispute over who controls oil-rich areas in the north of Iraq.

Yet as the Obama administration frets about the influence of Baghdad’s neighbor Tehran, the U.S. presence will remain substantial. U.S. officials say the embassy in Baghdad, an imposing, fortified complex by the Tigris River in Baghdad’s Green Zone, will be the largest in the world.

Reporting by Tabassum Zakaria, Deborah Charles, Alister Bull and Matt Spetalnick in Washington and Patrick Markey in Baghdad; Writing by Missy Ryan; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Jackie Frank

Books: Former CIA analyst details failures in agency actions


“Failure of Intelligence, The Decline and Fall of the CIA” by Melvin A. Goodman (Rowman & Littlefield, 2008).

In the fall of 1973, Melvin Goodman and some other analysts at the CIA noticed something strange: Intercepted secret communications indicated that the Soviets were removing families and other nonessential personnel from Egypt and Syria.

This kind of evacuation, Goodman said, “is a classic indicator of war.”

Goodman and other analysts in the Soviet department brought this up to their supervisors at the CIA, but no one followed up. Goodman — a CIA analyst from 1966 to 1991 — said that it was a classic intelligence failure, letting assumptions, rather than facts, drive conclusions, since the intelligence clearly showed something was afoot.

What followed was the Yom Kippur War. Goodman said both U.S. and Israeli leaders “assumed that Egypt and Syria wouldn’t attack a stronger power, couldn’t work together, couldn’t unite…. Sometimes the facts are there, but the assumptions are so strong, so viscerally adhered to, that you can’t change anyone’s opinion.”

A different type of failure also rankles Goodman in his new book, “Failure of Intelligence, The Decline and Fall of the CIA.”

This other type occurs, Goodman writes, when the CIA loses sight of its proper function: to gather and analyze intelligence, then provide information and analysis to those in power. During the run-up to the Iraq War, Goodman writes, the CIA acted instead as “the handmaiden to power,” telling the Bush administration what it knew they wanted to hear.

“The CIA is not intended to be the personal weapon for the political use of the White House,” Goodman writes. “The CIA director has no business taking part in a White House effort to make the public case for war.”

Since leaving the CIA in 1991, Goodman — who’s Jewish — has worked for the Department of Defense and Department of State, been a fellow at think tanks and taught at universities. In an interview, he discussed his book and his experiences as a foreign policy analyst for more than 40 years.

Goodman said that every time he gives a lecture, especially in front of Jewish audiences, he’s asked about Jonathan Pollard.

“It always comes up,” Goodman said, “and I make people very nervous when I tell them that Pollard is where he belongs because he was stealing documents wholesale…. He was not only giving away intelligence, he was giving away sources and methods for money to Israel. I don’t think that … Zionism had anything to do with what Pollard did. He was buying necklaces and bracelets for his wife.”

In the wake of the Pollard case, was there a backlash against Jews working at the CIA?

“No, never,” Goodman said. “In fact, I never saw anything like that in my career…. I don’t think the Pollard affair created a problem for the Jews working at the CIA; I doubt if it meant anything to recruitment.”

Asked about the large number of Jewish neocons pushing for policies that may have prompted the war in Iraq and the unrest in the Middle East, Goodman said, “It’s had a personal effect on me. It’s something that comes up whenever I speak, because there are a significant number of people in this country who believe that we went to war for Israel. That we went to war to protect Israeli national security, which I don’t agree with at all.”

“But the fact that you can’t run from is that when you look at the list of the leading neoconservatives, there’s a huge number of Jews,” he said. “I know some of them, and I’ve debated David Wormser and know where he’s coming from. You really feel that [they think] they’re advancing Israeli security by using military power in the Middle East.”

“I think that what Bush has done is to weaken Israeli national security,” Goodman said. “The introduction of that kind of force in the Middle East has made it harder to get Iran back into the community of nations; it’s made [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad a very popular figure in Iran. There had been great opposition building against him, but U.S. actions have extended his tenure as leader in Iran.”

“It’s weakened Iraq, because it’s permitted terrorist organizations to operate,” he continued. “Before, Iraq never had any ties to Al Qaeda, and this self-fulfilling prophecy that Iraq is the center of the war on terror, it never was until Bush deployed force there.”

Goodman believes the Bush administration’s attempts to bring democracy to the Middle East have been disastrous. That policy, Goodman said, has “undermined countries like Jordan, where we need a stable monarchy. I think that the emphasis on democracy is totally misplaced. To the extent that places in the Middle East become democratic, they become anti-American, almost by definition.

“Democracy won’t lead to stability,” he said. “What the U.S. should be concerned about is the stability of these places and predictability of the actions of these places. And we had that to some extent, but once you use military force, you have to start over again, and Israel makes its own unwise decisions about the use of force. To paraphrase Mark Twain, if the only tool in your toolbox is a hammer, then all your problems become nails.

“It’s ironic to me,” Goodman continued, “that if you look at two of the most powerful nations on earth — Israel in a regional context, the United States in an international context — it’s all about power…. [But] all of their military power and all their arsenal have not given them peace of mind.”

Segway inventor Dean Kamen brings his high-tech vision to Israel


Dean Kamen, the multimillionaire inventor renowned for the Segway personal transporter, traveled to Israel with a message for teenagers: Careers in science will help make them the rock stars of their generation.

Taking a break from his current innovations, which include developing a robotic arm for U.S. war veterans injured in Iraq, Kamen brought his acclaimed international robotics competitions for high school students to Israel at the invitation of Israeli President Shimon Peres.

At the recent finals in a Tel Aviv stadium, rock music pounded through giant loudspeakers, while an announcer on roller skates introduced the competing teams. The teams’ homemade robots zoomed across the floor, competing with one another for the number of times they could lift a huge foam ball over a bridge.

“Whether it’s curing diseases or building engines or purifying water, there’s just no limit to the number of huge opportunities there are out there for kids to do good while they are creating careers and making the world a more sane, livable place,” said Kamen, 57.

“But it requires at a younger and younger age that kids develop skills and a passion to be able to create solutions to problems,” he said. “They need mentors besides Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Shaquille O’Neal.”

He hopes to hook teenagers on the power of science through robotics competitions run by an organization he founded called FIRST — For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.

Kamen said a quarter of a million students in the United States, Canada, Brazil and Israel have taken part in the competitions, which they prepare for over the course of six weeks, together with a mentor who is an engineer.

For Kamen, who is Jewish, bringing his work to Israel has special meaning. He grew up hearing about Israel mostly from his grandmother, a dedicated Zionist.

“She was an Israel fanatic,” Kamen said, laughing.

Kamen may have created the Segway, but most of his innovations are biomedical devices. In college, he created the first portable infusion pump for administering drugs, giving patients the freedom to be medicated without indefinite hospital stays.

With his engineering company, DEKA Research and Development Corp., Kamen has gone on to create dozens of other inventions, including a portable dialysis machine and a vascular stent.

Inventing has proved lucrative: Kamen lives in an estate with its own softball field and pilots his private jet to business meetings.

Currently, he’s working on developing off-grid electricity and a water purification device for developing countries.

During his Israel visit last month, Kamen encouraged the tiny, resource-barren country to aggressively harness its intellectual resources.

“Israel’s got to become a place that creates value based on intellectual achievement, not physical resources,” he said. “The fact is that through technology, it has turned it into a garden. But now I think Israel has to stay ahead of the world of technology because it’s the only shot you’ve got. You have to create wealth by creating among the children intellectual giants.”

The robotics team of Coral Sofer, 16, from the northern Israeli town of Misgav, gathered around its robot during a break in the competitions, tightening screws and checking its mechanical limbs.

“This has been about using a different kind of thinking and really stretching our minds,” she said.

Coral’s team was one of six that scored well enough in the competition to advance to the international finals in Atlanta.

Kamen said he was inspired as a boy by the story of David and Goliath — not for the traditional moral of the little guy taking on the giant, but because David found success through technology.

“He was this little guy David, and he had this really big problem, Goliath, and he took him out because he had a little piece of technology,” he said. “And I thought, ‘Wow, technology is cool.'”

Vets for Freedom shed light on war


As Shabbat ended on March 15, 150 teenagers, parents and senior citizens came to hear members of Vets for Freedom speak at YULA High School. As a 15-year-old freshman in high school, I wanted to attend to hear these soldiers’ stories because I care about our country. I also wanted to hear their side of the war, and after the soldiers spoke, I saw the war in a new light.

Vets for Freedom is a nonpartisan organization informing the American public about the importance of succeeding in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The first vet who spoke was one of the leaders of the organization, Pete Hegseth, an infantry platoon leader who served in Guantanamo Bay. He spoke about how the Iraq War should be won and his recent visit to Baghdad. According to Hegseth, the neighborhoods are completely reformed compared to those of 2005, because Al Qaeda was expelled by the American troops who lived among the population.

Hegseth also got a standing ovation for what he said regarding Guantanamo Bay: “[The prisoners] would come here tomorrow and kill Americans or our allies, and it is important we would keep them out of that fight. We have to have a place to hold them.”

Next was Jeremiah Workman, a Marine squad leader in Fallujah, who talked about the two to three weeks of “house-to-house” combat to kill insurgents. Workman compared the battles there with the city’s recent situation. He commented how the gunfire has subsided and how soldiers are invited to some Iraqi weddings.

Workman passed on the microphone to Steve Russell, a colonel who was involved in the capture of Saddam Hussein. Russell took the event to more of a meditative and philosophical mood. He used historical examples to show the negativity of people, just as today many people are negative about this war. For example, he explained how people put down the Wright Brothers, the Spirit of St. Louis and Apollo 13.

“Our nation will prevail as long as even a few Americans take a stand and still believe in this country and honor her welfare above self-promotion, political advancement, and promoting unhappiness,” Russell said.

After hearing his speech, I felt that I should do more for my country and listen to what George Washington said about placing one’s nation over one’s individual self. His reflective speech instilled a feeling of patriotism in me and really made me start thinking about, as John F. Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

After this I realized that the whole event wasn’t just about success in Iraq, but was also about reviving our pride in American heritage and culture.

The final speaker was David Bellavia, a staff sergeant in an infantry unit in Iraq. Bellavia wrote “House to House,” a book about the hand-to-hand infantry combat in Fallujah. He founded Vets for Freedom.

“We took five guys, all Afghanistan and Iraqi veterans,” he explained. “We got together and said that we are going to stand accounted for.”

Bellavia lightened the mood when he took the stage, with jokes about math and what it’s like to be a target. However, he also presented a more serious note, stating how he could not understand why the radical Muslims are attacking Israel.

“Why is it that there’s so much hatred toward Israel? What are the foreign policy issues in Israel that cause militant Islam to murder? The domestic policy is self-preservation. It’s to hold on to what they’ve had for thousands and thousands of years, and still they acquire the wrath of militant Islam,” Bellavia said.

He also pointed out, “There might be a time down the road when you’re called. When you hear the calling of your nation with a rifle or a flag. It might be with your community or the people you worship with, but understand there are people right now that want to destroy you strictly based on the fact that you worship the God you worship and because you were born to the parents you were born to. You will eventually have to confront it, and hoping and wishing they go away empowers them. No more.”

After this, I realized I needed to defend both my religion and my American heritage and to question issues presented to investigate all aspects.

Afterward, there was a book signing and all 55 “House to House” books were sold. When I got home I started reading “House to House.” I reflected about how the soldiers and marines are heroes for risking their lives to defend us.

This summer I’m visiting Washington D.C., and I will now look at our achievements with a sense of pride. I’m glad that our soldiers see Israel as an ally, and I believe militant Islam has to be defeated. It was riveting to hear actual soldiers talk about their experiences first-hand, and these four veterans are truly heroes.

Phil Cooper is a freshman at Beverly Hills High School.

Speak Up!

Tribe, a page by and for teens, appears the first issue of every month in The Jewish Journal. Ninth- to 12th-graders are invited to submit first-person columns, feature articles or news stories of up to 800 words. Deadline for the April issue is March 15; deadline for the May issue is April 15. Send submissions to julief@jewishjournal.com.

Progressives should join Jews on Iran strategy


Iran’s nuclear ambitions have emerged not only as a foreign policy issue but recently have become an American political issue, as well.

In response to the news offensive
by the neoconservative movement and the Bush administration threatening military action against Iran and without backing any real new diplomatic initiatives, the new progressives have made opposing pre-emptive military action against Iran by the United States a major issue.

There is a perception among progressives and liberals that these neoconservatives are marching us toward another war.

According to Newsweek, Iran has eclipsed Iraq as the primary issue of concern of MoveOn.org membership. Democratic presidential candidate, former Sen. John Edwards, accused Sen. Hillary Clinton of supporting the neoconservative line because of her vote for the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment, which supported making Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a “terrorist organization.”

Much of this angst comes from a distrust of neoconservatives, who recklessly pushed for attacking Iraq because of its elusive “weapons of mass destruction,” many of whom are now beating the drums for military action against Iran. (I could argue that Iran would not be as powerful as it is today were it not for our policies in Iraq, but that is a discussion for another time). Noted neocons such as Norman Podhertz and Daniel Pipes, each of whom led the charge into Iraq, have openly advocated military action against Iran without mentioning where the resources would come from (the U.S. military is already stretched perilously thin fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan).

To support their calls for military action, these neocons have cited the threat of Iran getting a nuclear weapon, as well as their support of destabilizing Shiite militias in Iran, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. Some also have noted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejads’ threats to “wipe Israel off the map” as another example of how Iran has sought to destabilize the region and increase its hegemony in the Middle East.

While their concerns about Iran may be well founded, bipartisan and public support of the neocons’ proposed solutions is not there. Democratic pro-Israel hawks, such as Rep. Howard Berman (D-Van Nuys), have called military action against Iran “unadvisable and untenable,” stating that military action without genuine diplomacy or congressional authorization would dissolve what little good will the United States has left after the debacle in Iraq.

House Foreign Relations Committee chairman Rep. Tom Lantos (D-San Mateo) has suggested a combination of sanctions and diplomatic solutions, authoring legislation to expand sanctions against the Iranian military, while proposing an international nuclear fuel consortium to control the use of nuclear fuels by Third World nations and to prevent nuclear proliferation. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee also supports sanctions over military action, and there is a general perception that Iraq has stretched our military readiness to its limit.

This confluence of opinion between the pro-Israel community and progressives should be an opportunity for both sides. However, instead of supporting sanctions or diplomacy, many of these progressives have instead decided to turn the argument into a wholesale opposition to any action against Iran without acknowledging the real threats, making their opposition look as irrational as the neocons’ Rambo approach.

Yet despite the overwhelming opposition to military action, are the progressives doing themselves any favors by opposing any military action without at least acknowledging the threat of Iran?

Many Jewish progressives wrestle with this dichotomy and have struggled to reconcile their opposition to war with the threats that exist. Eli Pariser, executive director of MoveOn.org, is Jewish, as is progressive financier George Soros. As of late, MoveOn.org has been notably responsible in dealing with the Iran issue, tempering its message so as to avoid a drumbeat of irresponsible pacifism. Soros has been vocal in opposing the spread of nuclear technology to Iran but has also sought to increase dialogue with Iran through his Soros Open Institute (the Iranian government arrested two staff members, Haleh Esfandiari and Kian Tajbakhsh, on charges of spreading Western ideas in Iran). Both Pariser and Soros seem to be searching for a way to oppose the neoconservative message, while acknowledging that Iran must be dealt with.

In order to be effective, progressives need to do more than just shout “no pre-emptive war.” The Jewish community is overwhelmingly supportive of progressive values, is concerned about Iran but also overwhelmingly disagrees with the rest of the neoconservative foreign policy agenda. According to a Pew Research Poll in 2006, 77 percent of U.S. Jews oppose the Iraq War, up from 75 percent in 2005.

Iran is clearly a threat to the region and should it actually develop a nuclear weapon, it would be a threat to the world. Iran’s refusal to let the International Atomic Energy Agency have full access to the country raises the question of its true intent. Further, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard acts as a government within a government, running its own businesses to fund international covert operations in Lebanon and Iraq, with almost no oversight by the government or its implied consent.

Progressives need to reach out to their natural allies in the Jewish community by acknowledging that the threats of nuclear proliferation and international terrorism exist and support the same reasoned, international approach of sanctions and international pressure that has helped bring the North Korean nuclear program under control.

From 1956-1968, progressives and Jews were a powerful alliance in supporting the advancement of civil rights and ending racial discrimination. This combination also was the core of the opposition to the Vietnam War from 1967 to 1973.

This alliance also worked in California to pass AB 221, for which Progressives and Jews bridged the gap to support targeted sanctions against Iran’s oil industry as a means of putting economic pressure on Iran to open up to the world and be responsible. The liberal-leaning Anti-Defamation League and conservative-evangelical Israel-Christian Nexus came together to support the bill.

Progressives should learn a lesson from this approach and step in where the neoconservatives have failed by supporting a responsible opposition to both military action and Iran at the same time. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has followed a similar strategy as he has gone on a world tour, meeting with world leaders to educate them on what is happening in Iran and build a consensus approach. Israel needs to defend itself against Iran, but it knows the price of war, and its leadership has chosen to pursue a consensus approach. After Iraq, Americans now know the price of war, too.

Andrew Lachman is the president of Democrats for Israel Los Angeles and a member of the executive committee of the California Democratic Party.

Iran, Israel and the 2008 election


When presidential candidates compete in an election with an open seat in the White House, they are prisoners of events. The White House controls the agenda, and the candidates must adapt.

Vice President Richard Nixon was badly hurt by President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s refusal to stimulate the economy in 1960 and lost the election to Sen. John F. Kennedy, who had promised to “get the country moving again.” Vice President Hubert Humphrey nearly beat Nixon in 1968, but only after a stubborn President Lyndon B. Johnson finally signaled a change in Vietnam policy near the end of the campaign. President Ronald Reagan’s recovery from Iran-Contra and numerous agreements with a Democratic Congress and with the Soviet Union immeasurably helped Vice President George Bush win the presidency in 1988.

And so it will be. The Republican Party has a two-sided albatross around its neck, an unpopular president who is trying desperately to keep an unpopular war going past Election Day so that its disastrous ending can be on the next president’s watch. The chemistry of this election is toxic for Republicans. To hold the Republican base, the candidates have to be upbeat about both the war and Bush, as the country increasingly turns against both.

Bush is unlikely to change policy in Iraq unless forced to, and he is most likely to only hint at troop pullbacks before the election. But will Bush temporarily change the chemistry by launching an attack on Iran?

The Bush world tends to follow its own quirky calendar. August is the month for gathering themselves together, the famous Bush vacations. Unfortunately for us, one of those vacations fell in August 2001, and therefore the warnings of an imminent attack were ignored. By Sept. 12, though, Bush was a national hero.

The Iraq War push started in September 2003, and as Bush adviser Andrew Card noted, “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.” Right now, September is looking very bad for the administration, with negative reports from Iraq and festering anger at the war on Capitol Hill, even among Republicans.

Vice President Dick Cheney seems to be mobilizing his forces in a skeleton administration depleted by resignations toward confrontation with Iran. The neoconservatives, so hell-bent in their rush to war with Iraq, are now on the Iran warpath. So now we have a new Hitler-for-a-day. (Remember when Saddam Hussein was Hitler, or was it Kim Il Sung?)

What will be the reaction of congressional Democrats, especially Jewish Democrats who are deeply concerned about Iran’s threat to Israel? Does one support an administration that has managed to at least identify a serious enemy but can’t be trusted to do anything sensible about it?

The Bush administration is counting on these Democrats to be at least ambivalent about an attack on Iran. Tired of being called Defeatocrats, top Democrats would be tempted by a confrontation they could wholeheartedly endorse, at least in theory, especially one that is sold as bolstering Israel’s security. Unlike with the administration’s invention of the prewar Iraq threat, there is bipartisan agreement that a nuclear-armed Iran would be a major strategic danger.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) demand for a congressional vote on war over Iran is unlikely to impede Bush. In fact, if the White House calls that bluff as it did on the Iraq War, the vote might pass, and those Democrats who voted against it would be vulnerable. The party will once again split between its anti-war base and its leadership.

Leading Democratic presidential candidates will have a difficult time flat-out opposing an attack on Iran. They have been placing themselves to the right of the administration on Iran for some time and now may find it hard to backtrack. The two top candidates, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, have been criticizing Bush for not being firm enough with Iran.

They would instead raise tactical questions or call for diplomacy, arguments that were easily dismissed in the run-up to the Iraq War. The most compelling and credible case against war with Iran will likely be made by military leaders disturbed by the state of American forces as a result of the Iraq War.

For the Republican presidential candidates, an attack on Iran may help in the near term, but they should be careful about what they wish for. Right now, the Iraq War is long past the rosy beginning stage and into full fiasco mode.

Anything that changes the chemistry will seem better than where they are now. The start of war is generally popular and causes a rallying effect around the incumbent and his or her party. But having another war to defend in November 2008 cannot be good for Republicans. War and fear of terrorism got them through in 2004, but voter fatigue is palpable. What won in 2004 may destroy their 2008 prospects.

From Israel’s standpoint, there must be a sense of vertigo. All along, Israel has seen Iran on the horizon. Israelis are now putting out the word publicly that they warned Bush not to attack Iraq and urged him to instead keep his focus on Iran.

Israel has the same dilemma as Jewish Democrats in the United States. Now that Bush and Cheney are focused on the right challenge, can they be trusted not to make the same hash of this that they have of everything else? Like the Democrats, having so long said that Iran was a greater threat than Iraq, what leverage do they have to influence how Bush deals with it?

Israel is also very concerned about the United States being seen as fighting a war for Israel, given how quickly American domestic opinion changes. That concern may underlie the release of its earlier warnings about Iraq. While Israel wants Iran weakened, it does not want to be blamed by American voters for another failed military adventure. Bush and Cheney, meanwhile, have an interest in using the protection of Israel as a way to de-fang potential Democratic opposition.

The Bush administration may or may not attack Iran. It foolishly invaded Iraq but after years of saber-rattling, made a deal with North Korea. In the long run, it would be better for the Republican ticket if the administration found a way to block Iran’s nuclear ambitions without war. It would be even better if Bush wound down the Iraq War before next November. Voters have short memories and can be forgiving when the main irritant is removed. Those two steps would make today’s one-sided Democratic edge a thing of the past.

Aye, there’s the barb!


Many guests at AIPAC event, but one is unwanted — Iraq


AIPAC’s annual policy conference in Washington, D.C., is truly a come-one, come-all event, with a “roll call” at the gala dinner announcing the hundreds of VIPs in attendance. But this year, one uninvited guest kept turning up — the Iraq war.

No matter how hard the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) tried to keep the 6,000 activists at its conference focused on the consensus issue of Iran’s nuclear threat, Republicans and Israeli officials kept bringing up what is likely the most divisive issue of the day.

The equation promoted by those who support continuing the war is simple: Israel’s security requires a continued U.S. presence in Iraq, and questioning President Bush’s policy is tantamount to undermining Israel and the United States.

“When America succeeds in Iraq, Israel is safer,” Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said late Monday in a live satellite address from his Jerusalem home that capped the gala dinner. “The friends of Israel know it, the friends who care about Israel know it. They will keep the Americans strong, powerful and convincing.”

Vice President Dick Cheney was even more blunt.

“Friends owe it to friends to be as candid as possible,” he said. “My friends, it is simply not consistent for anyone to demand aggressive action against the menace that is posed by the Iranian regime while at the same time acquiescing in a retreat from Iraq that would leave Israel’s best friend, the United States, dangerously weakened.”

The equation infuriated Democrats.

The sniping on Iraq — at one point it devolved into scattered boos for Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives — ran counter to AIPAC billing that the event would be an unmatched show of bipartisan support for Israel.

But a spokesman for the pro-Israel lobby powerhouse said the Iraq issue did not detract from the conference’s focus.

“Our focus is on the things we’re lobbying on,” Josh Block said.

The March 12 gala dinner drew half the U.S. Senate and more than half the House. It featured addresses by Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the Senate majority leader, and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), its minority leader.

The next morning, Pelosi and Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), the House minority leader, headlined the traditional Tuesday-morning sendoff to the Capitol for a day of lobbying.

McConnell and Boehner also attempted to build support for the administration’s recent deployment of more than 20,000 additional troops to Iraq. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) made it the centerpiece of his speech.

“There is something profoundly wrong when, in the face of attacks by radical Islam, we think we can find safety and stability by pulling back, by talking to and accommodating our enemies, and abandoning our friends and allies,” Lieberman said to a group that he likes to call “family.”

“Some of this wrong-headed thinking about the world is happening because we’re in a political climate where, for many people, when George Bush says yes, their reflex reaction is to say no,” he said. “That is unacceptable.”

Democrats, speaking on background, said they were unsettled by how Iraq kept intruding into an event dedicated to securing Israel.

Some top AIPAC officials also appeared appalled by the advocacy for Bush’s plan to increase troop levels in Iraq.

Amy Friedkin, a past AIPAC president who is close to Pelosi, stared stonily at Cheney’s back as he delivered his warning.

The reception to Cheney’s speech was lukewarm at best; he earned no more than three standing ovations, and applause was mostly polite.

The attempt to force the Iraq issue into the AIPAC conference appeared coordinated in part by the White House. AIPAC closed Lieberman’s session Monday to the press, though it had been touted as being open. That kept his message of support for the troop surge out of the headlines — for 24 hours.

Lieberman’s office distributed the remarks Tuesday, and within minutes they were forwarded to Jewish leaders by the White House liaison to the Jewish community with a note labeling them as “important.”

It did not help AIPAC’s case for bipartisanship that the lobby this week successfully pressed for the removal of a provision in an Iraq war funding bill that would have required the president to get congressional approval for war against Iran.

Many Democrats favored the provision because it reasserted Congress’ constitutional role in declaring war, which some charge Bush has eroded in Iraq. AIPAC and some other Democrats close to Israel feared the clause would restrain Bush as he pushes Iran to come clean about its nuclear program.

“I don’t know that you need to put in a supplemental budget bill that you believe in the U.S. Constitution,” said Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), a Jewish congressman who supported leaving out the Iran provision. “That should be obvious.

“If you’re trying to get a terrorist rogue regime to give up its weapons,” he said, “you should get them to think maybe we’re as crazy as they think we are.”
California Democratic Reps. Howard Berman, Henry Waxman, Brad Sherman and Jane Harman echoed similar sentiments during a session with state AIPAC delegates.

In total, 1,200 Californians attended the AIPAC conference. The Los Angeles delegation drew 750 attendees, up 50 percent from 2006, said AIPAC Western States Director Elliot Brandt, who added that it was the largest single-city delegation in the country.

On Monday night, Olmert appeared to be making a pitch for removing the Iran provision.

“President George W. Bush is the only leader and the United States is the only country that can be of enormous influence on what the Iranians will do,” he said. “They are the only ones that can confront effectively the aggressiveness of the Iranians in their plans to build up nuclear capacity.

“I know that all of you, friends of the State of Israel, well-wishers of the State of Israel, all of you who are concerned about the security and the future of the State of Israel, understand the importance of strong American leadership addressing the Iranian threat, and I am sure you will not hamper or restrain that strong leadership unnecessarily.”

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.”

Sheket, b’vakasha!


Shutting Jewish Mouths

We were surprised to read the mischaracterization of the American Jewish Committee (AJCommitee) in Rob Eshman’s column (“Shutting Jewish Mouths,” Feb. 16).

As our 175,000 constituents know, we welcome a wide range of viewpoints in the AJCommitee “tent” and our members count themselves as liberals, conservatives and everything in between. AJCommitee is a strictly nonpartisan organization, long viewed as centrist in its orientation and we pride ourselves on a deliberative style of discussion and debate on policy matters. Contrary to Eshman’s view, there is no “party line” at AJCommitee.

Legitimate and informed discussion of Israeli policies is welcome, and, as ardent defenders of the Jewish state, we have been long-time participants in that debate. Indeed, AJCommitee is a leading advocate for a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But we must take umbrage with anyone, even fellow Jews, who call for Israel’s demise.

The essay by professor Alvin Rosenfeld of Indiana University addresses a very real threat that a Jewish imprimatur gives to the campaign to challenge Israel’s very legitimacy. As the American Jewish community’s leading think tank, the AJCommitee chose to publish the essay because it is important to illuminate views held by those on the political fringes asserting that Israel has no right to exist and should either be destroyed or morphed into a so-called bi-national state, which means the end of Israel as a Jewish state.

Their language needs to be read to understand why professor Rosenfeld, a highly regarded scholar, felt compelled to write his essay and why AJCommitee chose to publish it. It can be found at www.ajc.org.

Meanwhile, those who claim that an effort is underway to stifle debate are just wrong. Discussion online and offline has been vibrant, and we hope interest in the Rosenfeld essay will spark serious conversation on the important issues he raises.

Sherry A. Weinman
President
Los Angeles Chapter
American Jewish Committee

Bravo, well said … and it needed to be said. I admire your courage in speaking out against an increasingly stultifying establishment… which, of course, was itself the point.

No matter how much heat you catch — and I’m sure it will be plentiful — know that you have many readers who respect your resolve to deliver real journalism. Kol hakavod l’cha.

Rabbi Ken Chasen
Leo Baeck Temple

Your statement about being the former head of Americans for Peace now [in Los Angeles] made everything clear about how you have used The Jewish Journal to put down the religious Jews who really care about their G-d-given birthright, the land of Israel and the nominally Jewish traitors who would sell their soul for a fake peace with the Islamic terrorists who want nothing more than to eradicate Jews from the face of the earth.

If ever there were a case for removing a traitor from a “Jewish” publication, it is you. You are a pogrom all by yourself.

Bunnie Meyer
via e-mail

In “Shutting Jewish Mouths” (Feb. 16), Jewish Journal Editor in Chief Rob Eshman makes an almost comical argument: the American Jewish Committee can stop Peace Now’s abusive criticism of Israel.

But pacifists, whether in England in the 1930s, West Germany in the 1970s or in the West today, always blame the victim first.

Thus, while friends of Israel seek to improve Israel’s public image, Peace Now supplies the raw materials for anti-Israel coverage. While Israel seeks new markets for its products, Peace Now assists in economic boycotts. While the IDF maps Iranian nuclear sites, Peace Now maps settlements. While Hamas prepares to introduce sharia, or Islamic law, into the formerly “occupied” Gaza strip, Peace Now advocates splitting Jerusalem. While Hezbollah and Syria plan another round of missile strikes, Peace Now demands that Israel surrender the Golan.

It’s true that we all love Israel. But love from pacifists tends to hurt — a lot.

Nathan D. Wirtschafter
Rehovot, Israel

Justice Takes a Beating

Joe R. Hicks’ otherwise excellent article about the sentence of freedom given to the gang that nearly beat to death three innocent young girls on the street while screaming anti-white racial epithets against them left out the most important information: the judge’s name (“Justice Takes a Beating in Racial Hatred Case,” Feb. 16).

It is Superior Court Judge Gibson Lee, not only the object of worldwide scorn via the Internet and talk radio, but thankfully the subject of a recall petition. Lee is a disgrace to the bench and to America, and should resign immediately.

Caroline Miranda
North Hollywood

Dennis Prager

In the course of his lukewarm, non-defense of Dennis Prager, David Klinghoffer adds insult to injury by claiming that the “Muslim scriptures do not deserve” the same recognition as the Bible because “what has made America so special” can be traced to “a unique blending of Christian and Jewish beliefs,” in which the “Quran played no role whatsoever” (“Prager Shouldn’t Lose His Museum Post,” Feb. 16).

Klinghoffer needs to go back and study his U.S. history. What made America so special is not some Christian/Jewish exclusion of other religions, but the inclusive principle of religious tolerance.

Campaigning for religious freedom in Virginia, Thomas Jefferson demanded recognition of the religious rights of the “Mahamdan,” the Jew and the “pagan.” Richard Henry Lee asserted: “True freedom embraces the Mahomitan and the Gentoo [Hindu] as well as the Christian religion.”

Jefferson recounted that in the struggle to pass his landmark Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom (1786), the Virginia legislature “rejected by a great majority” an effort to limit the bill’s scope, “in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan.”

Officials in Massachusetts were equally insistent that their influential Constitution of 1780 afforded “the most ample liberty of conscience … to Deists, Mahometans, Jews and Christians.”

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

Analysis: Jewish silence on Iraq continues


Congressional Democrats and President Bush are on a collision course over plans to increase the number of U.S. troops in the conflict, an issue that will dominate the 110th Congress and the early days of the 2008 presidential race.

But don’t look for much of a response from the organized Jewish community.

The reasons normally talkative Jewish groups have been struck dumb are varied. But one potential consequence is becoming clearer by the day: Israel, smack in the middle of a destabilized Middle East, could pay a big price for U.S. failures in the war — and for the failure of Jewish leaders here to speak out against those policies.

There’s never been doubt about where the Jewish grass-roots has stood on the war. Even before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, polls showed majority opposition to military action in Iraq, and that opposition has only grown since Saddam Hussein was toppled and Iraq began its sickening descent into civil war and sectarian mayhem.

But no major Jewish group spoke out against Bush administration policy until November 2005, when the Union for Reform Judaism passed a cautiously worded resolution calling for troop pullouts to begin a month later and for a clear exit strategy by an administration that didn’t seem to think it needed one.

Even in the Reform movement, though, activism lagged, reflecting the nation as a whole; despite widespread doubts about administration policy, the antiwar movement failed to gain traction in Middle America.

In part, that was a function of the inability of war opponents to offer plausible policy alternatives. And the antiwar movement seemed dominated by radical forces with other agendas, including the neo-Stalinist, anti-Israel International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism).
Among Jewish leaders, there was also uncertainty about where Israel’s leaders stood on the war.

In 2003, some Israeli officials privately expressed qualms that a U.S. invasion could create new fault lines in the region. But others insisted the removal of Saddam would only help Israel, and last November Prime Minister Ehud Olmert came to Washington and said that U.S. policy is bringing “stability” to the region — despite U.S. intelligence estimates saying just the opposite.

The administration boxed Jewish leaders in by repeatedly saying the war was being fought, in part, to protect Israel. Jewish leaders here never bought that argument — but it made it harder for them to publicly challenge the policies of an administration that said it wanted to help Israel.

Some Jewish leaders also feared that criticizing an embattled Bush could cool his pro-Israel ardor and lead to retaliation against the Jewish state.

For all those reasons and more, Jewish groups, with the exception of the Reform movement, have remained mute. But with the debate over the war moving into a new phase as the new Democratic Congress looks for ways to force a change in administration Iraq policy, that silence has created problems on two levels.

At home, it has strained relations between Jewish groups and their traditional liberal coalition partners, which see Iraq as the seminal issue of our era.

The fact that a large majority of Jews opposes the war but their communal representatives refuse to speak out may accelerate the estrangement of so many from organized Jewish life, especially among younger Jews.

And that reticence can only reinforce the false charge that Israel and the Jewish community actively lobbied for the war, a conspiratorial perspective that is gaining traction in the political mainstream as the Iraq death toll mounts.

The refusal of even liberal groups to speak out may also be setting the Jewish community up for a worse backlash if President Bush decides to pursue military action against Iran.

On the broader world stage, the eerie silence, viewed by some as a way to protect Israel, may actually have the opposite effect by encouraging policies that threaten the Jewish state.

As last year’s National Intelligence Estimate revealed, U.S. policy in the war is increasing Mideast stability, breeding new terrorism and strengthening Iran, Israel’s most dangerous adversary.

“We’ve already gravely damaged Israel’s security; the war has done that,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), one of the strongest House opponents of administration policy and a leading pro-Israel voice in Congress. “We took away the balance of power in the region, liberated Iran to be an even greater menace.”

Privately, some top Jewish leaders concede that even if going to war with Iraq was a good idea, the way it has been conducted has resulted in a more dangerous Middle East. But these leaders refuse to speak out, even though their silence is, in effect, a de facto endorsement of administration policies that may be hurting the Jewish state.

That silence may also be read by a besieged administration as support for U.S. military action against Iran — action that could be even more damaging to Israel if it turns out as badly as the war in Iraq.

Iraq war conspiracy — you can’t blame the Jews


Did the Jews do it?

I mean, after killing Jesus, did the Elders of Zion manipulate the government of the United States into invading Babylon as part of a scheme to abet the expansion of greater Israel?

The question was first posed to me in 2004, when I was speaking at a meeting of Mobilization for Peace in San Jose. A member of the audience asked, “Put it together — who’s behind this war? Paul Wolfowitz and Elliott Abrams and the Project for a ‘Jew’ American Century and, and, why don’t you talk about that, huh? And ….”

But the questioner never had the full opportunity to complete his query because, flushed and red, he began to charge the stage. The peace activists attempted to detain the gentleman — whose confederates then grabbed some chairs to swing. As the Peace Center was taking on a somewhat warlike character, I chose to call in the authorities and slip out the back.

Still, his question intrigued me. As an investigative reporter, “Who’s behind this war?” seemed like a reasonable challenge — and if it were a plot of Christ killers and Illuminati, so be it. I just report the facts, ma’am.

And frankly, at first, it seemed like the gent had a point, twisted though his spin might be. There was Paul Wolfowitz, before Congress in March 2003, offering Americans the bargain of the century: a free Iraq — not “free” as in “freedom and democracy” but free in the sense of this won’t cost us a penny. Wolfowitz testified: “There’s a lot of money to pay for this that doesn’t have to be U.S. taxpayer money.”

A “Free” Iraq

And where would these billions come from? Wolfowitz told us: “It starts with the assets of the Iraqi people…. The oil revenues of that country could bring between $50 billion and $100 billion over the next two or three years.”

This was no small matter. The vulpine deputy defense secretary knew that the number one question on the minds of Americans was not, “Does Saddam really have the bomb?” but, “What’s this little war going to cost us?”

However, Wolfowitz left something out of his testimony: the truth. I hunted for weeks for the source of the Pentagon’s oil revenue projections and found them. They were wildly different from the Wolfowitz testimony. But this was not perjury.

Ever since the conviction of Elliott Abrams for perjury before Congress during the Iran-Contra hearings, neither Wolfowitz nor the other Bush factotums swear an oath before testifying. If you don’t raise your hand and promise to tell the truth, “so help me, God,” you’re off the hook with federal prosecutors.

How the Lord will judge that little ploy, we cannot say.

But Wolfowitz’s little numbers game can hardly count as a great Zionist conspiracy. That seemed to come, at first glance, in the form of a confidential 101-page document slipped to our team at BBC’s “Newsnight.” It detailed the economic “recovery” of Iraq’s post-conquest economy. This blueprint for occupation, we learned, was first devised in secret in late 2001.

Notably, this program for Iraq’s recovery wasn’t written by Iraqis. Rather, it was promoted by the neoconservatives of the Defense Department, home of Abrams, Wolfowitz, Harold Rhode and other desktop Napoleons unafraid of moving toy tanks around the Pentagon war room.

Nose-Twist’s Hidden Hand

The neocons’ 101-page confidential document, which came to me in a brown envelope in February 2001, just before the tanks rolled, goes boldly where no U.S. invasion plan had gone before: the complete rewrite of the conquered state’s “policies, law and regulations.” A cap on the income taxes of Iraq’s wealthiest was included as a matter of course. And this was undoubtedly history’s first military assault plan appended to a program for toughening the target nation’s copyright laws. Once the 82nd Airborne liberated Iraq, never again would the Ba’athist dictatorship threaten America with bootleg dubs of Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time.”

It was more like a corporate takeover, except with Abrams tanks instead of junk bonds. It didn’t strike me as the work of a kosher cabal for an imperial Israel. In fact, it smelled of pork — pig heaven for corporate America looking for a slice of Iraq, and I suspected its porcine source. I gave it a big sniff and, sure enough, I smelled Grover Norquist.

Norquist is the capo di capi of right-wing, big-money influence peddlers in Washington. Those jealous of his inside track to the White House call him “Gopher Nose-Twist.”

A devout Christian, Norquist channeled $1 million to the Christian Coalition to fight the devil’s tool, legalized gambling. He didn’t tell the coalition that the loot came from an Indian tribe represented by Norquist’s associate, Jack Abramoff. (The tribe didn’t want competition for its own casino operations.)

I took a chance and dropped in on Norquist’s L Street office, and under a poster of his idol (“NIXON — NOW MORE THAN EVER”), Norquist took a look at the “recovery” plan for Iraq and practically jumped over my desk to sign it, filled with pride at seeing his baby. Yes, he promoted the privatizations, the tax limit for the rich and the change in copyright law, all concerns close to the hearts and wallets of his clients.

“The Oil” on Page 73

The very un-Jewish Norquist may have framed much of the U.S. occupation grabfest, but there was, without doubt, one notable item in the 101-page plan for Iraq which clearly had the mark of Zion on it. On page 73, the plan called for the “privatization…[of] the oil and supporting industries,” the sell-off of every ounce of Iraq’s oil fields and reserves. Its mastermind, I learned, was Ariel Cohen of the Heritage Foundation.
For the neocons, this was the big one. Behind it, no less a goal than to bring down the lynchpin of Arab power, Saudi Arabia.

It would work like this: The Saudi’s power rests on control of OPEC, the oil cartel which, as any good monopoly, withholds oil from the market, kicking up prices.

New approaches in Iraq could <I>help</I> Israel


For Israel and its American supporters, the Iraq War has scrambled the Middle East in ways that are difficult to navigate.

Once people hoped that the Iraq
War would make Israel safer. The neocons, who cooked up the invasion and sold it to a president desperate for historic glory that would surpass his father’s, considered Israel’s security to be an excellent side benefit of their splendid little war.

For those who missed the first part of this seemingly endless movie, the immensely popular invasion of Iraq would spark a democratic and moderate upsurge in the Middle East. Regimes would be toppled by popular revolts, whose leaders would have Bush’s name on their lips as they called simultaneously for democracy and accommodation with Israel.

Soon the rulers of Iran and Syria would fall and would be replaced by pliant, pro-Israel regimes. Even moderate Arab governments would be rejuvenated by democratic reform from within. Peace would surely follow, for which American military intervention would receive history’s credit.

We can put aside for now the question of how people who believed this nonsense ever came to lead the greatest nation on earth — and, in fact, still run it — are apparently going to blow off both their recent electoral defeat and the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group and “double down” their bet by increasing U.S. military forces in Iraq.

But because of their strong rhetorical support for Israel, the damage done to Israel’s regional interests by the Iraq War was masked. Israel is still America’s most ardent admirer and loyalist. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert recently extolled Bush’s leadership, and Israel may be one of the few places left on earth where Bush is popular. But has the war made Israel safer?

Several outcomes have emerged from the Iraq War. One is that as long as Bush is president, the United States is politically radioactive in the Middle East. The other is that Iran, Israel’s most formidable foe in the region, has been strengthened. No longer facing a hostile Iraq and profiting from America’s unpopularity, Iran has greater freedom of action than before.

America’s allies in the region are confused and alarmed. Saudi Arabia fears that Americans may withdraw quickly from Iraq, leaving their fellow Sunnis to annihilation by the Shiites allied with Iran. The Saudis recently summoned Vice President Dick Cheney to Riyadh to hear their concerns and have suggested that they would use military means if necessary to protect the Sunnis in Iraq.

Meanwhile, someone in the Bush administration implied that the United States is considering picking the Shiites in the civil war in Iraq in order to crush the Sunni insurgency. That plan could place the United States on a collision course with all of its Arab allies in the Mideast, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt.

One casualty of even speculating about picking sides is the loss of trust in the steadiness of American foreign policy. Of course, that very steadiness is what the Bush inner circle has long detested, seeing themselves as visionaries eliminating a “false stability” in the Middle East. As George Will acidly noted, at least that goal has now been achieved.

The antics of the Bush administration have motivated all sorts of experts and advisers with plans to help him gracefully exit from his Iraq fiasco. James Baker, an unpopular figure among many friends of Israel from his days as the first President Bush’s secretary of state, took charge of the salvage effort called, the Iraq Study Group. Among its recommendations were that the United States talk with Iran and Syria.

But the report also suggested that a deal on the Golan Heights between Israel and Syria could help build a better framework for peace. Pressure on Israel to make deals with Syria in order to help the United States exit Iraq may be asking a little too much.

Israel is now stuck between Iraq and a hard place; those in the administration who most uncritically support Israel don’t know what they’re doing, and those who have better ideas are more critical of Israel.

And so, we are left with what to do about Iran. The Bushies long felt that they could defeat Iran in the same rosy scenario they used with regard to Iraq. In their heady early days, they saw the Iraq War as a precursor to regime change in Iran and Syria (along with their other nemesis, North Korea).

They are dealing with Iranian exiles who tell them that we would be greeted as liberators. At the least, they are certain that an air strike on Iranian nuclear facilities would be a great and easy success.

Given the failure of this group to execute even the most basic elements of any of their policies, it is hard to have a lot of faith in that confidence. Finally, they presumably believe that Israel will deal with Iran if America can’t.

Every one of these scenarios with Iran is based on the absolute certainty of military success. No political or diplomatic concerns are raised or respected.

Yet Carl von Clausewitz provides several useful cautions. He once wrote, “No one starts a war — or rather, no one in his senses ought to do so — without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it.” And, “War is not a mere act of policy but a true political instrument, a continuation of political activity by other means.”

The argument for engaging our toughest enemies in the Middle East is plain to just about everybody except the Bush inner circle. They have long seen diplomacy with opponents in parent-child terms, a carrot given for good behavior and a stick for being bad. Why get dessert if you haven’t eaten your vegetables?

Political engagement and diplomacy, however, do not preclude military action as a last resort. They do assure that war will indeed be a last resort. And they offer possibilities for long-term change, such as strengthening the hand of domestic reformers.

U.S., Israeli officials see conflicting Iraq study ideas


American and Israeli government officials agree on two things: Iraq has nothing at all to do with Israeli-Arab issues.

Except when it does.

From President Bush and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on down, the leadership of the Israeli and U.S. governments are simultaneously embracing and rebuffing last week’s conclusions of the congressionally mandated Iraq Study Group, which makes Israeli-Arab peace progress a linchpin of a successful outcome in Iraq. The crux of their argument is that while it is wrong to blame the Israeli-Arab impasse for any part of the crisis in Iraq, actors in that crisis — chief among them Iran and its allies — are successfully using Israel as a justification for raising the stakes in Iraq.

“We do this not because we are persuaded by some linkage or another, but because it is in the U.S. national interest,” David Welch, the top U.S. State Department envoy to the Middle East, said Friday of U.S. involvement in Arab-Israeli peace when he addressed the Saban Forum, an annual colloquy of U.S. and Israeli leaders.

Another Bush administration official put it more bluntly: “Palestine is not a relevant issue to Iraq, but it is an issue exploited by Iran and extremists throughout the region,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Arab-Israeli peace talks would have a “positive, emboldening effect,” the official said. “If progress among Israel and the Palestinians is manifested, then moderates throughout the region win and extremists lose.”

Conversely, the official said, “We believe that a success in Iraq, a success for moderates against forces of extremism, whether secular or religious, will have a very significant impact in the region, in Syria, in Lebanon, as well as in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The Bush administration has welcomed Olmert’s recent overture to the Palestinians, in which he promised a release of prisoners and increased mobility, should a cease-fire hold and the Palestinians prove themselves able to present a negotiating team that renounces terrorism and recognizes Israel’s existence.

Mahmoud Abbas, the relatively moderate Palestinian Authority president, has all but given up on such concessions from the Cabinet, led by the terrorist Hamas group, and has proposed new elections.
Tzipi Livni, Israel’s foreign minister, said at the Saban Forum that Israel and the West should encourage alternatives to the Hamas government, although she did not elaborate.

Bush launched a weeklong review of the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations on Monday, starting with meetings with top State Department officials. Later in the week he was to have met with outside experts, top U.S. diplomats in the region and top military brass.

His primary concern about the report is its deadline for a withdrawal of U.S. combat troops by the first quarter of 2008. Bush has steadfastly resisted timetables until now. However, after meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is scheduled to tour the region, Bush suggested that he embraces the report’s Iraq-Israeli-Palestinian linkage, counting it as one of three ways to move the Iraq process forward.

“The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is important to be solved,” the president said.

That’s music to the ears of Blair and other Europeans. They enthusiastically welcomed the recommendations of the commission headed by James Baker, secretary of state for Bush’s father, and Lee Hamilton, a former Indiana Democratic congressman.

“The German government shares many of the political observations in the report,” a statement from the German Embassy in Washington said last week on the eve of a U.S. visit by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. “The entire Middle East region must move into the international community’s scope. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is of central importance.”

Such views were hardly welcome at the Saban Forum, where the Iraq Study Group’s report lent an anxious irritability to the weekend proceedings. The Saban Center, a Brookings Institution subsidiary funded by American-Israeli entertainment mogul Haim Saban, attracts top names to its annual colloquies. Last year’s was in Jerusalem.

“The Iraqi conflict has very little to do with the Israeli-Palestinian crisis,” Yuli Tamir, Israel’s education minister, said during a break from the conference’s closed sessions. “I don’t think it’s relevant — it’s a good justification but not a reason.”

On Sunday, Olmert, who had earlier suggested that he disagrees with the report’s conclusions, ordered his Cabinet not to comment on it, saying it was an internal American affair.

Livni did not mention the Baker-Hamilton report by name, but its conclusions were clearly the focus of her keynote address at a gala State Department dinner last Friday.

“There is a commonly mistaken assumption that I sometimes hear that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the core of the trouble of the Middle East; that somehow if this conflict could be resolved, so the situation could be different, and we can face a totally different region,” Livni said. “So, this is wrong. This view confuses symptom and cause. The truth is that the conflicts in the Middle East are a consequence, not a cause, of radicalism and terrorism.”

Nevertheless, in the same speech Livni was preoccupied by how Iran would fare in the Iraq crisis — and what a success by its Shiite Muslim protégés in Iraq would bode for Israel and the region.

“The idea of spreading Shiism all over the region is a threat not only to Israel but the region itself,” she said, citing efforts by the Hezbollah terrorist group to topple Lebanon’s Western-leaning government.

Bush expressed wariness about the commission’s recommendations to engage Iran and Syria. He was adamant that those countries are out of bounds until they stop backing terrorists. If Syria and Iran are “not committed to that concept, then they shouldn’t bother to show up” to a regional conference on Iraq, he said after meeting with Blair.

Iran’s ambitions dominated much of the Saban Forum. Israeli Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres spoke darkly of the possibility of war in a Saturday panel with former President Bill Clinton.

“Iran’s strength derives from the weakness of the international community,” Peres said. “If there was an international coalition, there would be no need to go to war against Iran, and Iran would return to its natural dimensions.”

Israel backs U.S. and European efforts to sanction Iran until it gives up enriching uranium, a step toward manufacturing a nuclear weapon. Peres described a range of options to prevent Iran’s nuclearization: monitoring its missiles with nuclear warhead capability, economic sanctions, limiting its oil production and assisting regime change.

Jimmy Carter Mideast book shows his anti-Israel bias


I like Jimmy Carter. I have known him since he began his run for president in early 1976. I worked hard for his election, and I have admired the work of the Carter Center throughout the
world. That’s why it troubles me so much that this decent man has written such an indecent book about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

His bias against Israel shows by his selection of the book’s title: “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.” The suggestion that without peace Israel is an apartheid state analogous to South Africa is simply wrong. The basic evil of South African apartheid, against which I and so many other Jews fought, was the absolute control over a majority of blacks by a small minority of whites. It was the opposite of democracy.

In Israel majority rules; it is a vibrant, secular democracy, which has just recognized gay marriages performed abroad. Arabs serve in the Knesset, on the Supreme Court and get to vote for their representatives, many of whom strongly oppose Israeli policies.

Israel has repeatedly offered to end its occupation of areas it captured in a defensive war in exchange for peace and full recognition. The reality is that other Arab and Muslim nations do, in fact, practice apartheid.

In Jordan, no Jew can be a citizen or own land. The same is true in Saudi Arabia, which has separate roads for Muslims and non-Muslims. Even in the Palestinian Authority, the increasing influence of Hamas threatens to create Islamic hegemony over non-Muslims. Arab Christians are leaving in droves.

Why then would Jimmy Carter invoke the concept of apartheid in his attack on Israel? Even he acknowledges — though he buries this toward the end of his book — that what is going on in Israel today “is unlike that in South Africa — not racism but the acquisition of land.”

But Israel’s motive for holding on to this land is the prevention of terrorism. It has repeatedly offered to exchange land for peace and did so in Gaza and southern Lebanon, only to have the returned land used for terrorism, kidnappings and rocket launchings.

I don’t know why Carter, who is generally a careful man, allowed so many errors and omissions to blemish his book. Here are simply a few of the most egregious.

Carter emphasizes that “Christian and Muslim Arabs had continued to live in this same land since Roman times,” but he ignores the fact that Jews have lived in Hebron, Tsfat, Jerusalem and other cities for even longer. Nor does he discuss the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Jews from Arab countries since 1948.

Carter repeatedly claims that the Palestinians have long supported a two-state solution, and the Israelis have always opposed it. Yet he makes no mention of the fact that in 1938, the Peel Commission proposed a two-state solution with Israel receiving a mere sliver of its ancient homeland and the Palestinians receiving the bulk of the land. The Jews accepted, and the Palestinians rejected this proposal, because Arab leaders cared more about there being no Jewish state on Muslim holy land than about having a Palestinian state of their own.

He barely mentions Israel’s acceptance and the Palestinian rejection of the United Nation’s division of the mandate in 1948.

He claims that in 1967, Israel launched a preemptive attack against Jordan. The fact is that Jordan attacked Israel first, Israel tried desperately to persuade Jordan to remain out of the war and Israel counterattacked after the Jordanian army surrounded Jerusalem, firing missiles into the center of the city. Only then did Israel capture the West Bank, which it was willing to return in exchange for peace and recognition from Jordan.

Carter repeatedly mentions U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, which called for return of captured territories in exchange for peace, recognition and secure boundaries, but he ignores the fact that Israel accepted, and all the Arab nations and the Palestinians rejected this resolution. The Arabs met in Khartoum and issued their three famous “no’s”: “No peace, no recognition, no negotiation,” but you wouldn’t know that from reading the history according to Carter.

Carter faults Israel for its “air strike that destroyed an Iraqi nuclear reactor” without mentioning that Iraq had threatened to attack Israel with nuclear weapons if it succeeded in building a bomb.

Carter faults Israel for its administration of Christian and Muslim religious sites, when, in fact, Israel is scrupulous about ensuring every religion the right to worship as they please — consistent, of course, with security needs. He fails to mention that between 1948 and 1967, when Jordan occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the Hashemites destroyed and desecrated Jewish religious sites and prevented Jews from praying at the Western Wall. He also never mentions Egypt’s brutal occupation of Gaza between 1949 and 1967.

Carter blames Israel and exonerates Yasser Arafat for the Palestinian refusal to accept statehood on 95 percent of the West Bank and all of Gaza, pursuant to the Clinton-Barak offers of Camp David and Taba in 2000-2001. He accepts the Palestinian revisionist history, rejects the eye-witness accounts of President Bill Clinton and Dennis Ross and ignores Saudi Prince Bandar’s accusation that Arafat’s rejection of the proposal was “a crime” and that Arafat’s account “was not truthful” — except, apparently, to Carter. The fact that Carter chooses to believe Arafat over Clinton speaks volumes.

Carter’s description of the recent Lebanon War is misleading. He begins by asserting that Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers. “Captured” suggest a military apprehension subject to the usual prisoner of war status. The soldiers were kidnapped, and have not been heard from — not even a sign of life. The rocket attacks that preceded Israel’s invasion are largely ignored, as is the fact that Hezbollah fired its rockets from civilian population centers.

Carter gives virtually no credit to Israel’s superb legal system, falsely asserting (without any citation) that “confessions extracted through torture are admissible in Israeli courts,” that prisoners are “executed” and that the “accusers” act “as judges.” Even Israel’s most severe critics acknowledge the fairness of the Israeli Supreme Court, but not Carter.

Dems hit back at GOP Israel ads


Top Democrats are mounting a furious counterattack against claims by Jewish Republicans that the GOP is likelier to favor Israel.

“Say ‘no’ to this effort to somehow target Democrats as being opposed to Israel,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who is Jewish, said Sept.28 in a hastily arranged conference call with the Jewish media.

The conference call, also addressed by Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a likely contender for the presidency in 2008, was the latest response to a series of hard-hitting advertisements placed by the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC).

The effect of the ad campaign on Jewish voting patterns, which have favored Democrats by wide margins for decades, is likely only to be incremental. However, it could influence how major Jewish and pro-Israel donors spend their money, an area where Democrats acknowledge Republicans have made inroads in recent years.

The money question is especially critical weeks ahead of a midterm congressional campaign that could see Republicans lose one or both houses of Congress.

The most recent RJC ad appearing in papers this week states bluntly, “There is a difference. Republicans are more likely to support Israel.”

It cites two recent polls showing that Republicans are much likelier to say their sympathies are with Israel, while Democrats are likelier to divide their responses between support for Israel and neutrality. In both cases, the percentage of those likely to favor the Arabs is minimal.

An earlier ad quoted former President Jimmy Carter questioning the moral underpinnings of Israel’s war this summer against Hezbollah in Lebanon — and saying, in the same interview, “I represent the vast majority of Democrats,” though the latter statement referred to Carter’s views against the Iraq war.

U.S. Rep. Howard Berman (D-Van Nuys), who is Jewish, slammed the ads in an opinion piece published as a letter in The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles and in The Forward. Other Jewish legislators also plan to attack the campaign.
The latest ad led senior Jewish Democrats to press the Israeli Embassy in Washington and pro-Israel groups to weigh in. Bipartisan support for Israel has always been considered critical to making Israel’s case, and the Jewish Democrats told embassy and pro-Israel officials that the RJC campaign undermined that unity.

By the end of Thursday there were results, though spokesmen refrained from directly criticizing the RJC ads.

“Support for the U.S.-Israel relationship has always been bipartisan, with the strong support of both Democrats and Republicans, and that’s not changing,” said Josh Block, spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

The Israeli embassy also was careful to keep above the partisan fray.

“There is a longstanding tradition of bipartisan support by both Democrats and Republicans for Israel, which we cherish and for which we are grateful,” said David Siegel, the embassy spokesman. “The special relationship between Israel and the United States is deep and profound, based on shared values which transcend party lines in both countries.”

Keeping out of local politics is a typical posture for any foreign nation, but one that Democrats, speaking off-the-record, said they found frustrating.
In the call with the Jewish media, Wyden worried that Republican sniping about a divide between Republicans and Democrats on Israel could be self-fulfilling.

“I think it really could hurt the traditional bulwark of bipartisan support in the Congress,” he said.

Matt Brooks, the RJC’s executive director, said Democrats would do better to examine whether something was going wrong within their party instead of blaming Republicans for pointing out the problem.

“Their attention is misplaced. We’re doing nothing other than illuminating a very sad and disturbing trend taking place,” he said. “What the senators should be focusing on is why the grassroots are moving away from the Democratic Party.”
Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), who is Jewish, echoed Brooks. Coleman said that his message to Democratic colleagues was “don’t shoot the messenger.”

“I would hope that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle would be looking inward and doing what they can to restore that strong bipartisan unanimity,” he said.

Reed said the poll questions were overly general, and that Jewish voters should pay attention to the solid pro-Israel record of congressional Democrats, who have pressed President Bush to cut off the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority and isolate Iran.

“You have to look at what’s happening in Congress],” Reed said. He also repeated what has become a theme in the Democratic campaign for Jewish votes — that President Bush, while well-intentioned, has endangered Israel because the Iraq war has emboldened Iran.

“When it comes to what this administration is doing, that’s where the concern should be,” he said. “That is much more central to the security concerns of Israel.”

Biden, who at times has criticized Israel — particularly when it expanded settlements — said Democrats’ differences with Israel over tactics did not indicate an erosion in support.

“There’s nothing to break Democratic support for Israel, nothing, even if every Jew in the country votes Republican,” he said.

Biden said that his differences often were with some in the pro-Israel community, rather than with Israel itself.

He said former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon urged him to bolster P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas, a relative moderate, with assistance, but that colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives who opposed such
initiatives stymied his efforts.

Legislation backed by some pro-Israel groups “may be totally divorced from what I’m speaking to the foreign minister about, or my discussions with Sharon before he had his stroke,” Biden said.

And who shall die


I’d like to suggest a small addition to your synagogue’s High Holiday services this year, as if they’re not long enough.
 
Sometime before the recitationof the mourner’s kaddish, or perhaps just before the Torah is returned to the ark, pull out any Sunday Los Angeles Times, and turn to the obituary section.
 
Then have your rabbi read the names listed under Military Deaths. If you can spare another minute or two, select one of the extended obituaries the L.A. Times compiles on Californians who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.
 
Each Sunday, the Times runs the Department of Defense’s list of that week’s American military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. The paper accompanies those with fully reported stories on any Californian killed. For the past few months, I’ve been reading these articles religiously.
 
For example:
 
Army Sgt. Andres J. Contreras, of Bell, killed in his HumVee by a roadside bomb. By age 11, Contreras was taking care of his five younger brothers. At 23, he leaves behind a 4-year-old daughter, Grace.
 
Army Sgt. Thomas B. Turner Jr., 31, of Cottonwood, on his second stint in Iraq, killed when his Bradley fighting vehicle ran over a roadside bomb in Muqdadiya, north of Baghdad. Turner loved ranching and motorcycles. He and his wife, Jennifer, had a 21-month-old son, Ethan, and her 8-year-old daughter, Sarah Cantrell.
 
“My sister had to explain to my niece that Daddy is sleeping and he won’t wake up,” Jennifer’s sister, Meredith Coghlan, told the Times.
 
“Does this mean he won’t e-mail me back?” Sarah asked.
 
Sgt. Jeffrey S. Brown, 25, of Trinity Center, was a 6-foot-1, 220-pound high school fullback known for his easy laugh and ready smile. He was on his third tour of duty when his helicopter crashed into a lake in Al Anbar province. Brown’s last words, according to his father, were “Fifteen feet to water!”
 
Brown’s father, a Vietnam veteran, was angry that the Army extended his son’s service through the stop-loss program, the so-called “backdoor draft.”
 
“My kid should not be dead,” Ed Brown told the Times, “because he did live up to his contract, and the Army did not live up to theirs.”
 
I spend every Sunday morning with these names and faces, over coffee, in the comfort of my home. They haunt me, in no small part because of the numbers of dead they represent. On the same page the Times also publishes the Defense Department’s ongoing tally of the American war dead. As of last week:In and around Iraq: 2,676.
 
In and around Afghanistan: 277.
 
Other locations: 56.
 
That’s a lot of heart-wrenching stories that I’ll never read, that no one will ever read.
 
Our words lead to actions, our actions have consequences — we are accountable for what we say and do to one another, and to God. That is the enduring message of the High Holidays; it’s the ethical foundation of our faith. And it’s why the Jewish default emotion is, of course, guilt.
 
In the days when the Temple stood, the High Priest made a confession on behalf of himself and his household. Today, the Hineni prayer and the Avodah service recreate the gravity of the priestly confession.
 
“Please do not hold [the congregation] to blame for my sins,” the cantor chants, “and do not find them guilty of my iniquities, for I am a careless and willful sinner.”
 
These litanies provide moments of grave public accountability, when our leaders accept the moral weight of their own transgressions.
 
I’m no rabbi or leader; I’m a guy who writes a column. My own early endorsement of the war was lukewarm and conditional, very Tom Friedman-, David Remnick-esque, but it was approval.
 
“The soldiers who are fighting this war have our absolute support,” I wrote just as the shooting started. “Our support for the war they are engaged in is, however, conditional — not on the actions of our soldiers, but on the decisions of their commander-in-chief.”
 
I believed in the danger of Saddam Hussein; I believed his demise would help turn the tide against Mideast despotism; I believed — in retrospect, how could I? — that the intelligence community that got Sept. 11 so wrong had Iraq right.So instead of writing, “No!” in as many persuasive ways as I humanly could, I offered a weak, lawyerly, “Well, OK.”
 
I don’t fantasize for an instant that my half-of-one-thumb-up was all President George W. Bush needed to launch the second Iraq War. But if my conviction convinced one reader, I’m sorry. I apologize.
 
And I apologize to the families of the dead. To the sons and daughters of the fallen. To the extent that those of us who should have known better didn’t try to stop this war before it started, to the extent we trusted men and women who were undeserving of our trust, we bear the guilt of these untimely deaths.
 
True, the final chapter is not written on this war. Wait, some will say, od tireh, you shall see how good it will yet be.
 
No. What will be good will be for our leaders to stop adding to the obituaries; to confess their wrongdoings, their hubris, their misjudgments; to atone for wasting good lives in a bad war.
 
Atonement, the prophet Ezekiel said, brings, “a new heart and a new spirit.”This administration has two years left to redeem itself for the lives it has squandered in fault and in folly. May all of us join with a new heart and a new spirit to help it, or force it, to do so.
 
Shana Tova.
 

Jews in the Military: High Holidays Under Fire


Who shall live and who shall die.
Who shall reach the end of his days and who shall not.

Ralph Goodman recited those words in a hillside tent in southeastern Belgium. Warren Zundell’s “shul” was a patch of no-man’s-land somewhere in North Korea. For Robert Cirkus, it was a jungle clearing in the bug-infested Central Highlands of Viet Nam. And for Lee Mish, it was Saddam Hussein’s former palace.

The four men have never met, but they share an uncommon bond. They represent four generations of Jewish servicemen for whom the High Holidays — and their signature Unetanah Tokef prayer — took on new meaning.

For all Jews, the words of the emotionally charged Unetanah Tokef are a powerful reminder of mortality. All the more so for Jews serving their country in wartime — such as Goodman, Zundell, Cirkus and Mish — where every day is Judgment Day and where prayer, righteousness and repentance can’t always avert a decree of death.

Here are the stories of these American servicemen who observed the High Holidays not in conventional synagogues, but on far-flung battlefields. The worship services they participated in were often improvised and incomplete. But the jarring juxtaposition of war and prayer, faith and fear, continues to resonate with these men.

A Tent on the Side of a Hill
A Tent on the Side of a Hill
Fays, Belgium
September 1944

“Colonel, the Jewish community wants to observe Yom Kippur. What can you do to help us?”

Ralph Goodman, attached to the 1st U.S. Army’s Headquarters Commandant in Belgium, was unable to celebrate Rosh Hashanah because his unit was traveling.

But Yom Kippur was fast approaching, and the 24-year-old enlistee from Pittsfield, Mass., was determined that the Jewish servicemen, now encamped at a temporary base near Verviers, Belgium, be given a place to pray.

He had already approached the 1st Army’s chief chaplain, who offered nothing except a few prayer books. But Goodman’s commanding officer, Lt. Col. Harry F. Goslee, was more accommodating. He ordered a large blackout hospital tent set up on a hillside, with chairs and a portable electric generator.

On Yom Kippur, Sept. 27, 1944, about 25 soldiers and airmen congregated in that tent. Two Orthodox laymen acted as cantor and rabbi.

Goodman sat by the tent flap opening, his gun on his lap. He was juggling several different prayer books, trying to find the correct pages for Unetanah Tokef. He finally located the prayer and recited the words. But what he really was saying that day was, “Please, God, bring my buddies and me home.”

Suddenly he felt a tap on his shoulder. He looked up to see a chaplain he didn’t recognize, a fresh-faced, sandy-haired man about 30, who asked permission to address the troops.

“How lovely are your tents, Oh Jacob,” he began, intoning the words to a prayer Jews say each morning.

He talked about five minutes, thanking the men for allowing him to speak and commending them for assembling a service.

Goodman, who still lives in Pittsfield, thinks about that service often, proud that he and his buddies were able to make it happen. He wishes he could share another Yom Kippur with them.

But 62 years later, he still regrets that he never asked the name of that fresh-faced Christian chaplain who reached out to a group of Jews on the holiest day of their year.

“God bless that man,” he said.

Above the 38th Parallel, North KoreaAn All-Jewish Convoy
Above the 38th Parallel, North Korea
October 1951

Warren Zundell, an orthopedic surgeon with the 11th Evacuation Hospital in Wonju, South Korea, wasn’t eager to attend Rosh Hashanah services. It meant traveling 40 miles on an unpaved, mountainous road to 10th Army Corps headquarters, over the border into North Korea. Zundell, 27, had a baby daughter back in Fall River, Mass., whom he had never seen, and he didn’t want to risk encountering snipers or land mines.

But Zundell was the unit’s only Jewish officer, and the Catholic chaplain on his base was insistent that Zundell escort the convoy.

“There are about 30 Jewish boys around here who want to go,” said the priest, who planned to remain in Wonju at the hospital.

On Erev Rosh Hashanah, Sept. 30, 1951, in the priest’s jeep with a white cross painted on the hood, Zundell led the way. A few truckloads of Jewish soldiers, all heavily armed, followed. Perhaps the only all-Jewish convoy ever to travel into North Korea, they arrived safely several hours later at the camp, a war-scarred patch of ground that sported some tents and housed perhaps a few hundred soldiers.

The next morning, a rabbi conducted services in a large tent, with about 300 soldiers, many who had traveled there from other units, sitting on the ground or on boxes. There was no ark, no Torah and no prayer books, except for the rabbi’s.

“I just sat there and listened,” Zundell recalled. “I didn’t think about where I was.”

After services, he traveled back to Wonju with the same soldiers.

Even less enthusiastic about observing Yom Kippur, Zundell was again induced to return to the prayer site. On Yom Kippur day, the convoy again traveled above the 38th Parallel, the dividing line between North and South Korea. The scene was identical to what Zundell remembered from Rosh Hashanah, except, instead of 300 soldiers in the tent, there were now 150.

“Where are the other boys?” Zundell asked the servicemen sitting near him.
“Heavy casualties during the week,” one of them replied.

Zundell doesn’t remember his exact reaction; he imagines the service was pretty sad. Afterward they loaded up the trucks and headed home.

Since then, every Rosh Hashanah, the Coral Gables, Fla., resident sits in temple and remembers Korea.

“It never leaves my mind,” he said. “I think about those boys who didn’t make it back for Yom Kippur.”

Central Highlands, Vietnam

A Jungle Clearing
Central Highlands, Vietnam
September 1966

While stationed in Vietnam with the 25th Infantry, Army Spc. 4 Robert Cirkus often didn’t know what day it was. But somehow the 21-year-old draftee from Passaic, N.J., knew the High Holidays were coming. And he knew he wanted to attend services.

A rabbi was dispatched to the forward base camp in the Central Highlands where Cirkus was working as a weapons repairman. Around noon on Rosh Hashanah day, Sept. 15, 1966, Cirkus, three infantrymen and a medic, all strangers to one another, gathered together in a cleared-out jungle area.

The rabbi set up a small ark on a bench in the back of his open Jeep. Inside was a traveling Torah. Cirkus and the others sat on the ground in the hot sun, the air muggy and bug-infested. He wore a tallit over his uniform, holding his submachine gun and his prayer book on his lap.

Cirkus, who now lives in Clifton, N.J., remembers that the service was truncated and that he and the others were not really at ease. They were praying, but they were also alert to every sound, especially gunshots off in the jungle. He knows he wasn’t thinking about life and death. Or about Judgment Day. He didn’t want to think about what was really going on.

Afterward, the rabbi handed out cans of tuna fish, bread, wine and kosher C rations.

“We sat, we chitchatted and we went our separate ways,” he said. “But we knew we were all Jews.”

Until 10 years ago, Cirkus was too traumatized to discuss his Vietnam experience at all. Even now, he can’t talk about all of it. But he’s able to look back on that Rosh Hashanah in the Central Highlands, where, for a short time, five Jews who didn’t know each other sat around together with a rabbi praying.

“I don’t want to say it like it’s jerky, but you felt like you were being watched by God,” he said.

Saddam's Palace

Saddam’s Palace
Tikrit, Iraq
September 2004

September 2004 was a tense time in Tikrit, Iraq, where Special Agent Lee Mish was stationed. Roads were impassable, bridges were blown up and food and water were rationed. Plus, with flights grounded, the rabbi assigned to Tikrit couldn’t leave Baghdad.

Despite these obstacles, erev Rosh Hashanah services were held on Sept. 15. And Mish, 27, a Conservative Jew from Sharon, Mass., who enlisted in the Army nine years ago, walked to Saddam Hussein’s former palace, now under control of the U.S. military.

There, in a large room with marble floors and ceilings and a gold chandelier, a room once used by Saddam’s servants, Mish encountered three other Jews. They included a captain who served as the Jewish lay leader, a sergeant and a civilian contractor.

Wearing kippot, the uniformed men sat around a card table on folding chairs, their guns by their sides. For about 20 minutes, they read from prayer books sent by Hebrew school students in Wisconsin. Mish doesn’t remember the specifics, but he recalls saying prayers for all the soldiers and being aware of Rosh Hashanah’s message of mortality.

“When you’re in a situation where your friends are dying, where people all around you are dying, any time you pray, it hits home more,” he said.

Afterward they shared a bottle of wine and ate some “normal food,” including bagels with jelly. They also read Rosh Hashanah cards that the students had decorated with honey pots and apples and inscribed with messages such as “Be safe” and “Hope you come back soon.” Inside the holiday cards, the students had placed prepaid phone cards.

Despite its informality, that service resonated with Mish, now stationed in Wurzburg, Germany. Rosh Hashanah had always been important to him, a way of confirming his Jewishness. But being in Iraq had given him more time to reflect on death and destruction, and he was feeling more religious while stationed there. Also, he had recently learned from his Iraqi translator, who was born and raised in Mosul, Iraq, that during Saddam’s reign, the Jews in that area were barred from observing holidays in public and were forced to celebrate secretly in their homes. That day, however, Jewish soldiers were praying openly in Saddam’s palace.

“I felt honored,” Mish said.

Freelance writer Jane Ulman lives in Encino.

To learn more about today’s Jews in uniform, visit Jews In Green, the”ultimate resource for Jewish service members.”

Saddam Hussein’s palaces have also been the site of Sukkot, Simchat Torah, Pesach and other Jewish celebrations, as this Jewish Journal story from 2004 relates.

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

Drive Sends Love, ‘Gratitude’ to Troops


As Carolyn Blashek knows only too well, good things come in small packages. The founder and motivating force behind Operation Gratitude, a nonprofit organization that sends care packages to American troops overseas, Blashek serves as an inspiring testimony to one woman’s dedication to provide faith and hope to lonely soldiers.

Blashek is a Jewish mother in Encino who, like most Americans, was horrified by the events of Sept. 11, 2001. However, her reaction was slightly different than that of the average Jewish mother — she tried to enlist in the military. She soon discovered that, at 46, she exceeded the age limit of 35, and “as a civilian there were very few opportunities to show your support to the military.” She began volunteering at a dilapidated military lounge at LAX, until one day in March 2003 (the outset of the war with Iraq), a heart-wrenching talk with a despondent soldier inspired her to create a system to show soldiers that she cared.

“I’m going back to a war zone,” she recalls him saying. “I just buried my mother, my wife left me and my child died as an infant. I have no one in my life. For the first time I don’t think I’ll make it back, but it really wouldn’t matter because no one would even care.”

Blashek was devastated as she realized that many of the soldiers are fighting in foreign countries without support systems.

“What gives someone the strength to survive when bullets are flying?” she wondered. “The belief that someone cares about you.”

She decided to express her compassion by sending food, entertainment, and personal letters in packages.

“The Jewish mother in me had this need to communicate concern and love and appreciation,” she said with a little laugh. “It’s that sense of nurturing… the Jewish mother element.”

Primarily through word of mouth, the project snowballed. What began three years ago as a humble living room project financed and organized by her alone exploded into an organization that coordinates donation drives for packages across the country.

“Now I’ve sent over 111,000 packages in three years,” she said.

After Operation Gratitude’s third annual Patriotic Drive, which is to take place at the end of this month, she hopes to reach 150,000.

Blashek vividly recalls an emotional encounter she had with Kayitz Finley — the son of her local rabbi, Mordecai Finley of Congregation Ohr HaTorah — to whom she sent packages while he served in Afghanistan and Iraq. Both a soldier serving in a distant land and a member of her local community, he became her inspiration. “The first most emotional experience I had through all this was when he came home and he and I got to meet in person for the first time,” she said. “It was at a Saturday morning service. We saw each other, threw our arms around each other and couldn’t stop hugging. Neither of us could get any words out. We both just kept saying ‘thank you’ to each other. It was very powerful.”

Operation Gratitude’s Third Annual Patriotic Drive continues at the California Army National Guard Armory, 17330 Victory Blvd, Van Nuys on June 17-18. Items requested for donation can be found on the website

Critics Pound Paper Panning Israel Lobby


Two weeks after two prominent political science professors published a paper that they promised would expose the pro-Israel lobby in the United States, the collective reaction so far suggests they get a “D” for impact.

“The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” by John Mearsheimer, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago, and Stephen Walt, a professor of international affairs at Harvard’s John. F. Kennedy School of Government, has been the subject of numerous Op-Eds — which generally have discredited it — but has been all but ignored in the halls of Congress, its purported target.

Among other assertions, the paper suggests that the pro-Israel lobby (especially the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) has helped make the United States more vulnerable to terrorist attacks, steered the country into the Iraq war, silenced debate on campuses and in the media, cost the United States friends throughout the world and corrupted U.S. moral standing.

Walt and Mearsheimer portray as interchangeable the pro-Israel lobby and the neo-conservatives who have developed Bush’s foreign policy. Not surprisingly, this report got negative reviews from pro-Israel groups. The paper’s “disagreement is not with America’s pro-Israel lobby, but with the American people, who overwhelmingly support our relationship with Israel,” said an official with a pro-Israel lobbying organization in Washington.

The Anti-Defamation League called the paper “an amateurish and biased critique of Israel, American Jews and American policy.”

Especially outrageous, some said, are the paper’s insinuations that Jewish officials in government are somehow suspect.

“Not only are these charges wildly at variance with what I have personally witnessed in the Oval Office, but they also impugn the unstinting service to America’s national security by public figures like Dennis Ross, Martin Indyk and many others,” David Gergen, Walt’s fellow academic at the Kennedy School and a veteran of four administrations, wrote in an opinion piece in the New York Daily News.

One of the few positive reviews came from white supremacist David Duke, who said the authors reiterate points he has been making for years.

The controversy passed almost unnoticed on Capitol Hill. A statement from Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) was typical of the few who bothered to pay attention to the paper, which Nadler called “little more than a repackaging of old conspiracy theories, historical revisionism and a distorted understanding of U.S. strategic interest.”

U.S. support of Israel was no mystery, Nadler said: “Israel is our only democratic and reliable ally in an extremely volatile and strategically important region. It is in our nation’s best interests to maintain that alliance.”

The authors said that they anticipated silence, arguing that the Israel lobby is “manipulating the media [because] an open debate might cause Americans to question the level of support that they currently provide.”

The problem with that theory is that some of the harshest criticism of the paper has come from individuals and groups who have long called for changes in how the United States deals with Israel.

“It was a lot of warmed-over arguments that have been tossed about for years, brought together in a rather unscholarly fashion and presented as a Harvard document, clearly not deserving of the title,” said Lewis Roth, assistant executive director of Americans for Peace Now, a group that has argued for increased U.S. pressure on Israel to achieve a peace agreement.

In fact, Mearsheimer and Walt have quietly removed the imprimatur of the Harvard and Kennedy schools that originally appeared on the paper. Walt holds the Robert and Renee Belfer professorship at the Kennedy School, and the paper appalled Robert Belfer, a major donor to Jewish causes, according to a report in the New York Sun. The chair is the equivalent of an academic dean at the Kennedy School, one of the most influential foreign policy centers in the United States.

“It read more like an opinion piece than serious research, and even as opinion it was so overreaching in some of its claims,” Roth said. “It didn’t have a lot of utility.”

One of the harshest critics of the paper was Noam Chomsky, the political theorist who routinely excoriates the U.S.-Israel relationship. He ridiculed the paper’s central “wag the dog” thesis, that the United States has “been willing to set aside its own security in order to advance the interests of another state.”

Walt and Mearsheimer “have a highly selective use of evidence (and much of the evidence is assertion),” Chomsky wrote in an e-mail to followers.

One example, he says, is how the paper cites Israel’s arms sales to China as evidence that the Jewish state detracts from U.S. security interests.

“But they fail to mention that when the U.S. objected, Israel was compelled to back down: under Clinton in 2000, and again in 2005, in this case with the Washington neo-con regime going out of its way to humiliate Israel,” Chomsky noted.

One of the paper’s more curious conclusions is that “what sets the Israel Lobby apart is its extraordinary effectiveness. But there is nothing improper about American Jews and their Christian allies attempting to sway U.S. policy toward Israel.”

If so, it begs the question of why Walt and Mearsheimer set out to write the paper. Mearsheimer did not return a call for comment.

In other areas, the paper gets facts wrong, for example when it says Israel wanted to sell its Lavie fighter aircraft to the United States, when it was strictly a domestic project.

According to the writers, “pressure from Israel and the Lobby was not the only factor behind the U.S. decision to attack Iraq in March 2003, but it was a critical element.”

Off the record, Jewish officials here reverse that equation, saying their support for the Iraq war was necessary in order to curry favor with a White House that was hell-bent on war. In fact, the adventure unsettled many Israeli and Jewish officials because of concerns that the principal beneficiary would be Iran.

“That really jumped out at me,” Roth said. “Among nasty neighbors, Iran was clearly the greater threat.”

Jewish groups and individuals at first were reluctant to react to a paper they saw as impugning their patriotism, but in time they could not resist. Detailed debunkings of Walt and Mearsheimer have proliferated.

Some of these, notably by fellow Harvard professors Ruth Wisse and Alan Dershowitz, have likened the writers to Duke — a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan — and other anti-Semites.

For some Jews, however, the criticism proved that despite the paper’s flaws, it correctly identified a symptom afflicting discussion of Israel: a tendency to dismiss all criticism as anti-Semitism.

“Even if the paper is as bad as its critics say, that does not obviate the need to respond to the points it makes,” said Eric Alterman, a media critic for The Nation. “So far, most of what I am seeing is mere character assassination of exactly the kind I, also, experience whenever I take up the issue. This leads me to conclude the point of most — but not all — of the criticism is to shut down debate because AIPAC partisans are wary of seeing their arguments and tactics subjected to scrutiny of any kind.”

Lieberman War View Triggers Backlash


Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) has earned the appreciation of a Republican administration he has resolutely defended on the issue of the Iraq War. One prominent Jewish activist described Lieberman’s “powerful sense of mission” in supporting the war.

But that steadfastness also has triggered a political backlash for Lieberman. He got a dose of it in Los Angeles last month and could have a fight on his hands this year to win a third term, a race that was initially expected to be a cakewalk.

At a fundraiser last month in Bel Air that included some top Jewish givers, Lieberman faced a decidedly mixed reception. Some participants applauded his staunch defense of the war as public opposition continues to grow — but many others expressed concern.

At the Bel Air meeting, “some were overwhelmingly supportive of his stance, and some deeply unconvinced and skeptical,” said one participant. “Most interestingly, he was so consumed by his sense of mission that he could not distinguish between the two.”

Lieberman’s defense of the war stands in sharp contrast to the Jewish majority. A recent American Jewish Committee poll indicated that 70 percent of Jews now oppose the administration’s Iraq policies, although that number was considerably lower in Lieberman’s Orthodox community.

Lieberman’s defend-the-war mission has also sent up some storm clouds at home.

Former Sen. Lowell Weicker (R-Conn.), the man Lieberman unseated in 1988, has told Connecticut newspapers he may run against Lieberman on an anti-war platform if no other strong candidates emerge. Weicker — who later served as Connecticut governor — said he could run as an independent.

Lieberman could also face a Democratic Party challenger running on an anti-war platform.

Some Democrats have been further angered by persistent rumors that Lieberman may be tapped to replace Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

University of Virginia political scientist Larry J. Sabato said, “It’s hard to believe Lieberman has to worry about holding his seat,” but added that Weicker could be “a perfect protest vehicle” if anti-war sentiment continues to rise.

“And a truly contentious (Democratic) primary could open the way for a GOP challenge in the fall, especially since GOP Gov. Jodi Rell will sweep to victory,” he said.

Sabato said while he would “put solid money on Lieberman’s reelection, whatever the obstacles,” Lieberman’s national ambitions are a thing of the past.

“He crashed and burned in 2004, and now he’s on the ‘wrong’ side of Iraq in the Democratic Party,” he said. “It’s over for him. Ironic, isn’t it? He was almost elected vice president in 2000, which would have made him the logical presidential nominee for the Dems in 2008. But close only counts in horseshoes.”

 

Libby, Judaism and the Leak Probe


When Joshua Muravchik, perhaps the pre-eminent expert on the interventionist foreign policy that has become known as neo-conservatism, was looking for non-Jewish neo-cons to prove that the movement isn’t pervasively Jewish, he naturally included Lewis Libby.

“Non-Jews figuring prominently in current foreign-policy debates and today called neo-cons include Libby, [John] Bolton, American Enterprise Institute President Christopher DeMuth and Gary Schmitt of the Project for the New American Century,” Muravchik wrote in Commentary magazine two years ago.

“Go easy on me,” Muravchik laughingly told a reporter last week, after it emerged that the man at the center of the White House leak scandal indeed is Jewish.

Libby resigned last Friday as Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff just hours after his indictment on perjury charges related to the leaking of the name of a CIA operative married to a prominent Bush administration critic.

Across the blogosphere, anti-Semitic and anti-Israel conspiracy theorists were quick to tie Libby’s Jewishness to his role in selling the Iraq war, imagining once again a neo-con cabal that has a singular agenda: promoting Israel at all costs.

“One more Jewish Neocon Traitor,” headlined the White Civil Rights Web site, which features the writings of David Duke.

Yet the fact that many people in Washington — including neo-conservatives — had no idea that Libby was Jewish underscores how tenuous the Jewish-neo-con link actually is, said Muravchik, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and Jewish himself.

“One key measure of the falsity of the argument is that the non-Jewish neo-cons are equally pro-Israel as Jewish neo-cons,” he said.

In addition to DeMuth, Schmitt and Bolton — who now is U.S. ambassador to the United Nations — prominent non-Jewish neo-cons include Bolton’s predecessors Jeanne Kirkpatrick and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, former CIA chief James Woolsey and former Education Secretary William Bennett.

Conversely, polls have found that a majority of American Jews embrace liberal and centrist views. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, last year’s Democratic presidential candidate, won up to 77 percent of the Jewish vote.

Muravchik’s mistake was one a lot of people have made. Two other prominent Jewish neo-conservatives insisted to JTA two weeks ago that Libby was not Jewish.

Libby’s Jewish profile at the White House was low, according to Jews who have worked with the administration. Other Jewish staffers knew he was Jewish, but he was not one of the highly identified Jews, such as Tevi Troy, the deputy assistant policy adviser to the president, or Joshua Bolten, director of the Office of Management and Budget.

The low profile was attributable in part to Libby’s general reserve and to his closeness to power. After Karl Rove, Bush’s top adviser, he was considered the most powerful unelected official in the White House.

Not every Jew who works in the White House likes to wear his identity on his sleeve, said Jay Footlik, the Clinton White House’s liaison to the Jewish community.

“If they didn’t choose to self-identify as a member of the community, if they didn’t express a concern on a particular issue or ask to be a part of a meeting when a Jewish organization came into the White House, then we might have known they were Jewish, or we might not,” Footlik said.

Some of the misapprehension apparently has to do with Libby’s persona. His Andover prep school education; his nickname, “Scooter”; and the Jr. tacked onto the end of his full name as it appears in the federal directory — I. Lewis Libby, Jr. — seem to indicate a non-Jewish background.

In fact, Libby, 55, for years has been a member of Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church, Va., a five-minute drive from his home in McLean, a wealthy suburb known for multimillion homes housing top lobbyists, lawyers and Bush administration officials.

Officials of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) and the synagogue were reluctant to discuss Libby’s involvement. Acquaintances don’t remember seeing him at shul, aside from High Holiday services.

Libby’s membership in the Rodef Shalom guide lists his wife, Harriet Grant, a former staffer for congressional Democrats, and two school-age kids.

“His name never even came up when talking about Jews in the administration, not even as part of the so-called ‘neo-con cabal,'” said one URJ official who asked not to be identified.

The Jewish Virtual Library, a Web site, listed Libby as Jewish, although its sourcing was unclear.

Libby’s only other ostensible Jewish involvement was with the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), and only since he joined the Bush administration. He made an appearance at the RJC’s 20th anniversary celebration last month.

Libby is known as a workaholic but he has a busy private life, which could have kept him from spending much time on extracurricular Jewish activities. He’s an avid skier, plays touch football on weekends and has written and published an erotically charged novel set in Japan.

A number of Jewish leaders told JTA they didn’t think Libby’s Jewishness would become a factor in the leak scandal that has obsessed Washington, but his name already appeared on numerous anti-Semitic Web sites long before JTA published an item over the weekend reporting his synagogue membership.

Muravchik said it’s an old ploy to ascribe ulterior motives to neo-conservatives having to do with the Jewish origins of some movement leaders.

“It’s certainly a slur that has been repeated by people who are enemies of neo-conservatives or who are enemies of Jews,” he said.

The underlying argument is that the movement led the Bush administration into war with Iraq in hopes of protecting Israel. That argument ignores the low Jewish profile of many other Jewish neo-cons.

It also ignores the essentially American origins of a movement that seeks to spread democracy overseas.

The sympathy for Israel is simple, Muravchik said.

“It’s a lone democracy in the Middle East, and it was a chief target of the Soviet bloc,” opposition to which helped shape neo-conservatism, he said. “It was also the chief inspiration of dissent in the Soviet bloc at the time when there was very little in the 1970s.”

Referring to a 1996 paper by three prominent Jewish neo-conservatives that pressed Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister at the time, to engage against Iraq, Muravchik wrote in Commentary that it would “make more sense to say that, in preparing a paper for Netanyahu, they were trying to influence Israeli policy on behalf of American interests than the other way around. Indeed, most Israeli officials at that time viewed Iran, the sponsor of Hezbollah and Hamas, as a more pressing threat to their country than Iraq, and (then as later) would have preferred that it be given priority in any campaign against terrorism.”

In an interview last week, Muravchik noted an emerging split between American neo-cons and members of Israel’s ruling Likud Party over the movement’s enthusiastic backing for President Bush’s Middle East policies, particularly his support for Palestinian statehood.

“I’ve had numerous private and public exchanges on this topic with Likudniks and non-Likudniks who say, ‘You Americans are nuts, you don’t know these Arabs. We know them; the idea that they can resolve differences peacefully is hopelessly farfetched,'” Muravchik said. “I’ve been in rooms where Americans were talking about democracy for the Arabs, and Israelis were ridiculing it.”

 

Democrats’ Plans Must Factor in Israel


As public support for the war in Iraq continues to deteriorate and as the Bush administration’s political situation trembles on the precipice, Democrats are beginning to stir. Pushed by a party base that has long detested what it sees as timorous accommodation to Bush, national Democrats are trying out themes and approaches that they hope will bring them back to a share of national power.

The most comfortable territory for newly emboldened Democrats will be domestic policy, and that is why the Hurricane Katrina disaster has been such a political turning point. But Jewish voters will certainly hope that a thoughtful, effective foreign policy that helps preserve Israel’s security will be a prominent part of that turnaround.

Democrats thrive on domestic policy. But for Jewish voters, foreign policy, or at least Middle East policy, is literally a form of domestic policy. For most voters, foreign policy extends only as far as locations where American troops are suffering casualties, which means Iraq and Afghanistan today. American Jews are well aware of the Iraq and Afghanistan situations, but are also watching Israel’s back with great care.

In this sense, Jewish voters are not the simple party-line Democrats that they seem to be. Because of their great commitment to Israel, Jews attentively observe the two parties not only on the usual issues that divide them, but on Israel’s security as well. For Jewish voters, therefore, the best Democratic foreign policy is not to be just anti-Bush. It is to restore the grand tradition of a strong, respected and admired America, while maintaining this nation’s special relationship with Israel.

When the Iraq War was first launched, it was greeted positively by Israel’s political leadership, which saw the defeat of one of its enemies. It is hard to imagine today, though, that the likely creation of a pro-Iranian state in Iraq is good news for Israel.

But while the war has turned out to be an even bigger catastrophe than its critics had predicted, Jewish voters are rightfully wary of linking together sentiment against the Iraq War with anti-Israel feelings. Outside the United States, criticism of the Iraq War goes hand in hand with criticism of Israel.

For decades many in the Middle East have resented America’s close and domestically bipartisan ties to Israel, and for that there need be no apology here or in Europe or in the Middle East. The gross misjudgments and lies that paved the way to Baghdad are the work of one single administration, not a bipartisan consensus of presidents from Harry S. Truman to Bill Clinton. But the Bush administration’s single-minded pursuit of war and its boneheaded inattentiveness to postwar reconstruction have done little to redeem the promise to make Israel safer.

Few Americans have been watching the internal machinations of Israeli politics in the wake of the Gaza withdrawal, but we can be certain that Jewish voters are watching. The twists and turns of Israeli politics have forced progressive American Jews to take a long second look at one of the left’s political demons: Ariel Sharon.

Vilified by the Likud right wing, Sharon is hanging onto party leadership and his coalition government by a thread, and by his viable threat to form a new party with centrist and leftist parties. To sophisticated observers of Israel’s evolving politics, the peace community in Israel has a major and surprising interest in the political survival of Sharon, who is vilified by progressives outside Israel.

What does this all mean for a Democratic foreign policy that can provide an alternative to the Bush program?

From the standpoint of Jewish voters, it would be best not to revisit all post-World War II American foreign policy, but only the dangerous side road that has been Bush’s policy since Sept. 11, 2001, of pre-emptive war, unilateralism and the Iraq War. The bipartisan idea of a strong America that does not seek war, but is not afraid to fight one, is a far better position than simply being anti-war. And it is crucial to those who support Israel that Israel’s safety not become entangled in the effort to disengage America from the excesses of the ideological Bush foreign policy.

The Democrats need to develop a bench of foreign policy specialists who could advise a presidential candidate and could staff a Democratic White House. Such a group would help reassure Jewish (and other) voters that Democrats are serious about world leadership, which is essential to Israel’s security.

It helped Republicans immensely that in the early 1970s, a number of Jewish defense intellectuals (once known as Henry “Scoop” Jackson Cold War Democrats) moved from the Democrats to the Republicans, providing intellectual heft to the Republican foreign policy program. These were the years when the smallest proportion of Jews voted for the Democratic presidential candidate. Such specialists might have warned John Kerry in 2004 not to propose that Jimmy Carter and James Baker be his Middle East envoys, because they would have foreseen how Jewish voters would react negatively to both names.

When it comes to Israel, it may be painful for Democrats to admit, but in one area Bush may have been right, and the generally thoughtful Clinton wrong, and that is in the last-ditch pursuit of a peace agreement for its own sake.

Near the end of his presidency, Clinton was pushing extremely hard for a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. But many Israelis, even on the left, had already come to believe after the collapse of the Oslo accords that Yasser Arafat was a fraud who would never deliver peace. The Bush group, dedicated in all things to doing the opposite of Clinton, even when Clinton was right, in this case avoided the peace process and backed the Israeli government position against Arafat. And then when Arafat died, the process opened up through Israel’s own political process.

Therefore, Democrats ought to consider continuing that in which Bush was right about Israel, while undoing the catastrophic damage he has done to the world, to the United States and Israel in Iraq. And in so doing, Democrats will prove that they are more than the anti-Bush, and that it is Bush who is the anomaly in American foreign policy.

Raphael J. Sonenshein, a political scientist at Cal State Fullerton, is spending the fall as a visiting scholar at the USC department of political science.