Palestinian who planned Tel Aviv bus bombing killed in shootout


A Palestinian terrorist who Israel said was behind a 2012 bus bombing in Tel Aviv was killed in a shootout with Israeli security officials trying to arrest him.

Mohamed Aatzi, 28, was killed Tuesday morning during an exchange of gunfire in the West Bank Palestinian town of Bil’in during a joint operation of the Israel Defense Forces and the Israel Security Agency, or Shabak.

Aatzi was among the planners of the Nov. 21 bus attack during Operation Pillar of Defense that wounded 29 passengers, according to a statement released by the IDF and Shabak.

He had been involved in activities of the Islamic Palestinian Jihad terror organization. Aatzi had been in hiding since the bombing and reportedly was planning another attack against Israeli civilians or army forces.

Two Palestinian men alleged to be Aatzi’s assistants, who have been jailed in the past for their involvement with the Islamic Palestinian Jihad, were arrested by security forces on Monday night and held for questioning.

“The outcome of this operation emphasizes that terror does not pay,” IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said in a statement. “Terrorists must know that there is no eluding the extensive intelligence and operational capabilities of the IDF, we will continue to seek out those that attempt to undermine and defy our way of life.”

The Tea-hadist: 72 virgins for the Tea Party


Al-Qaida-affiliated terror group says it’s resuming holy war against Jews


A terrorist group affiliated with al-Qaida that claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on northern Israel said it has resumed a jihad, or holy war, against the Jews.

The Lebanon-based Azzam Abdullah Brigades said the rocket attack last week was carried out “as part of the resumption of the jihad against the Jews.”

“We’ve frozen the activity for the sake of the blessed Syrian revolution,” read the statement posted Monday on the Twitter account of a radical Salafist cleric.

Azzam Abdullah Brigades, an offshoot of al-Qaida in Iraq, claimed responsibility for firing four long-range missiles into northern Israel, including two that fell in residential areas, causing damage to houses and cars in Nahariya and Acre.

The “green light given by Israel and the Western countries to Hezbollah in the fight against our people in Syria, so that Israel could safeguard its security, will not provide it with security,” the statement said. “Rather, it will bring it closer to the fire of the jihadi fighters and make it much more exposed to them.”

The attack gives the “Jewish conquerors an indication of the quality of rockets in our possession,” it said. “Haifa should be decorated with the most magnificent shrouds to greet our rockets.”

At least one rocket in the attack was intercepted by an Iron Dome anti-missile battery deployed in the area, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

Jewish group says E.U. ‘legitimized terror’


A European Jewish group has accused the European Union of providing “legitimization” for terrorism with its criticism of Israel.

The accusation came in an open letter by the chairmen of the Brussels-based European Jewish Parliament sent on Wednesday to the presidents of the European Council and other E.U. institutions. The letter was in response to the E.U.’s condemnation on Dec. 11 of Israeli policies toward the Palestinian Authority.

“We regret the one-sided statement which does not serve peace initiatives, but only strengthens the ambitions of terrorist organizations,” the letter by Joel Rubinfeld and Vadim Rabinovitch read. The E.U. statement “provides legitimization for terrorist acts” by “condemning the actions of the only real democracy in the Middle East.”

The letter noted Hamas leader Khaled Meshal’s recent calls for Israel’s destruction.

The E.U.’s statement urged Israel not to freeze the Palestinian Authority’s funds and to cancel planned construction in the West Bank. It called on the Palestinians to “use constructively” their newly gained non-member state observer status at the United Nations.

On Dec. 11, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman also harshly criticized some of his European counterparts and accused them of intentionally ignoring calls for Israel's destruction.

“In the eyes of some European foreign ministers, the destruction of Israel is a given,” he said. He then mentioned Europe's failure to address the threat against Jews prior to the Holocaust.

“The Europeans decided to pressure our side alone and ignore the terror organizations on the Palestinian side,” he added.

‘Filthy Jewish Terrorists’ site back on the web


A website in Canada that advocated the mass killing of Jews is back online after being shut down.

“Filthy Jewish Terrorists,” operated by former Toronto college student Salman An-Noor Hossain, reportedly is using a host in Switzerland. Its Canadian web provider had shut down the site in March.

Hossain was suspended from York University; it is believed that he has left Canada.

His site, the subject of a five-month investigation by the Ontario Provincial Police, had called for direct terrorist attacks and said Jews should be “exterminated.” Last summer the Ontario police said Hossain “wilfully promoted hatred and advocated genocide of the Jewish community,” and he was charged with five counts of hate crimes, but he skipped his court date.

Last month, an Ontario court issued a warrant for Hossain’s arrest on Interpol, the international police agency.

Hossain posted a blog Tuesday identifying himself as the operator of the relaunched site. But reports say the new website is registered with generic information, making it impossible to locate him.

Canada’s spy agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, said in a statement that it is “very aware of certain Internet websites which support or incite terrorist violence, and that some of those sites are based in Canada.”

Jewish institutions reassess security following bomb attempt


Jewish institutions throughout the United States are reassessing their security following last Friday’s mail bombing attempt of two Jewish institutions in Chicago.

On Tuesday, some 200 representatives of Jewish community institutions took part in a conference call with FBI experts on security measures.

“The situation with bombs this weekend certainly reminded us that all our institutions can be vulnerable to threats of this type,” said Bonnie Michelman, the community security chairwoman of the Anti-Defamation League, which organized the call.

Michelman, the security director at Massachusetts General Hospital, went on to outline specific signs that people should look for to identify suspicious packages.

The FBI announced Tuesday that no synagogues exist at the addresses on the two bomb packages but urged the need for continued community vigilance.

“Terrorists will continue and diversify their attacks,” a representative from the FBI’s Washington field office said during the conference call.

Senior leadership from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security were set to begin holding teleconferences on the same topic with senior Jewish organizational leaders across the country beginning Wednesday afternoon.

Security experts are still trying to determine the actual targets of the two explosive-packed printer cartridges intercepted last Friday. It was unclear whether they were meant for the planes carrying the packages or the Jewish institutions to which the packages were addressed. U.S. authorities have refused to confirm the identities of the institutions targeted.

One of the packages was intercepted in Dubai and another in London. Al-Qaida is believed to be behind the two bombs.

After the bombs were discovered, a Homeland Security team arrived Sunday in Chicago, according to Paul Goldenberg, national director of the Secure Community Network, the national agency for Jewish communal security. SCN operates under the auspices of the Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

The Homeland Security representatives are contacting Chicago Jewish institutions for security training in conjunction with the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. SCN will notify other communities in advance of the Homeland Security calls, which will extend through the week.

“They’re providing training and resources to ensure the community feels safe and has the tools it needs,” Goldenberg said.

Of particular concern in this case, Goldenberg noted, is that the package bombs were addressed to American Jewish institutions, indicating that terrorists are treating them as proxies for Israel and thus legitimate targets.

“We don’t know when the bombs were intended to go off, but the fact remains they were going after American Jews, not Israeli consulates,” he said. “They targeted American synagogues. That was the message.”

Last Friday, SCN sent out two e-mail notifications to its national network outlining how to handle suspicious packages and alerting people to key addresses and other signs of a potential terrorist mail threat. The Orthodox Union and Union for Reform Judaism, both members of the SCN network, also sent out security alerts to their member congregations.

The SCN notification advised Jewish organizations to watch for large packages, particularly coming from abroad.

“Organizations that believe they have received a suspicious package should not open it, [should] evacuate the area and call 911 immediately,” it said.

Steve Sheinberg, who oversees the ADL’s Jewish community security program, said now that the first wave of emergency information has gone out, it’s time to regroup and engage in a careful, ongoing reassessment of each institution’s security measures.

“Our security messages are very measured,” he said. “Our goal is to inform, not panic. There is no need for panic. This is an occasion to look at security measures in place, make adjustments as necessary and move forward.”

In Chicago, Jews are calm but wary following the bomb threat.

“The schools are all being very vigilant, without getting everyone nervous,” said Rolly Cohen, education director of the Board of Jewish Education of Metropolitan Chicago.  “They’re stepping things up a bit, making sure doors are locked, checking to see who’s there before opening them, putting security measures back in places they might have become more lax about.”

“The need to take security precautions is not new,” said JUF Executive Vice President Michael Kotzin, who praised national and local security agencies for their professionalism and alacrity in responding to this incident. “This was a very traumatic example of that. There’s generally been a sense of calm, not fear and panic but a kind of resignation that we need to be alert—as Americans, and as Jews in particular.”

The Chicago federation and the ADL scheduled a security conference for Thursday in Chicago bringing together heads of local Jewish institutions with representatives of Homeland Security, the U.S. Postal Service and local law enforcement.

Comparing this week’s efforts to those following the shooting of six people at the Seattle Jewish federation three years ago, Goldenberg distinguished between the actions of “a lone wolf” like the Seattle shooter and the current situation.

“Now we are dealing with the potential of one of the most dangerous terrorist organizations in the world targeting Jewish institutions,” he said.

Rabbi Asher Lopatin of Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation, an Orthodox synagogue in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood, said operations at his synagogue “continued as usual” last Shabbat, although security was enhanced and worshipers were instructed to be extra vigilant.

“We had a bar mitzvah and no one was afraid to come to shul. I think it even drummed up business—one man told me his wife said, ‘You have to go to shul,’ ” Lopatin said.

“You think Chicago is under the radar screen, then you realize no one is immune if you are a part of a community,” the rabbi added.

(For detailed information on recommended security precautions, visit http://www.scnus.org or http://www.adl.org/security. The Chicago Jewish News contributed to this report.)

Box-office politics




Trailer for ‘Suicide Killers.’ Click on the big arrow to play.

The first person I met at the Liberty Film Festival preview was a riled up Asian American man with a pompadour, who quickly explained to me what was wrong withHollywood: It is a vast liberal conspiracy.

“But the founders of the studios were conservative,” I said, thinking of the Goldwyns, the Warners and the Mayers.

“Yes,” he said. “But their children are communists.”

The Liberty Film Festival, now in its third year, aims to present and promote the work of conservative filmmakers who, according to the organizers, are ignored, persecuted and otherwise absent from “Hollywood.”

I put Hollywood in quotes because its meaning, as the evening at the Luxe Bel Air Hotel wore on, was elusive.

The Festival, said Mike Finch, executive director of the David Horowitz Freedom Center that sponsored the event, “is a voice for sanity. [Hollywood’s] not just for the far left. All these viewpoints deserve to be heard in Hollywood.”

For him, Hollywood seemed to mean Westsiders who work in the entertainment industry and read the Huffington Post.

“It’s really important that we have films going out with the conservative viewpoint,” said actress Govindini Murty, who organized the festival with her husband Jason Apuzzo. “Because Hollywood is making a major effort on the left to undermine the war on terror.”

For her, Hollywood seemed to mean documentary filmmaker Michael Moore. But Moore himself railed against “Hollywood” when Disney refused to release his controversial documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11.”A bit later, Murty referred to “Hollywood’s” love of documentaries “that undermine the military. They are all extremely radical, very anti-Israeli.”

Here she had me stumped. This clearly wasn’t the Hollywood of “Saving Private Ryan” and “The Marine,” which opened this week. And I couldn’t think of any anti-Israel Hollywood films. Which made me think that for Murty, “Hollywood” means anyone who won’t make movies she likes, or, perhaps, that she’s in.

This is the festival’s third year, and it has grown substantially since its founding, last year attracting some 3,500 viewers. This year’s event will be held Nov. 10-12 at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood.

About 100 people gathered at last week’s preview to meet the organizers and get a taste of the 28 films on offer.

If the trailers are telling, I suspect there will be a lot of documentaries and some uneven features with a kind of look-ma-I-have-an-Apple quality. There will be some violence — I saw terrorist body parts splattered in something resembling POM — but no sex or nudity. At Liberty, “conservative” means Christian, and Christian means Family Research Council.

The most promising documentary appears to be “Suicide Killers,” by the Algerian-born Israeli filmmaker Pierre Rehov. The Arabic-speaking Rehov infiltrated a terrorist cell to provide a firsthand look at the people who perpetrate such inhuman crimes.

But the night’s preview was less about these movies and more about why “Hollywood” would never want to make them.

It took me a beat — as they say in Hollywood — but eventually I realized where I’d heard that same complaint: from liberals in Hollywood, from Asians in Hollywood and Latinos in Hollywood. From screenwriters and actors and union members and women and newcomers and old-timers in Hollywood.Heck, I’d even heard it from Jews in Hollywood.

Because here’s the truth: Hollywood doesn’t make anybody’s film.

Zillions of people dream of making a movie. But the studios only release a couple of dozen each year.

Chances are excellent your film — whether it’s about a Chinese lesbian dockworker who stands up to a right-wing corporate conspiracy, or about a blogger from Duluth who brings down a left-wing Washington conspiracy — isn’t going to be one of them.

The five top-grossing films of 2005 were “Star Wars-Episode III,” “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” “The War of the Worlds” and “King Kong.” There’s not a political plotline in the bunch — unless you count Narnia’s Christian polemic.

Hollywood’s primary, overriding focus is on making movies that do big box office. That explains how this week, Paramount Studios tapped Oliver Stone, the bane of the Michael Medved School of Wholesome Cinema, and Cyrus Nawasteh, whom Clintonites despise for writing “The Path to 9/11” to make a movie version of “Jawbreaker,” about the CIA in Afghanistan. Ideology, shmideology — go make us a hit.

But none of this realmovietik puts conservative tushies in the Liberty Festival seats, so Murty and the other speakers resort to victimhood and conspiracy. Several speakers referred to left-wing Jewish billionaire investor George Soros’ reported interest in buying the 59-film library of Dreamworks. “Soros has taken over the Democratic Party,” said Finch, “and is now making a major play to take over Hollywood. But [Murty and Apuzzo] are gonna beat George Soros.”

Since when is buying the DVD rights to “Gladiator” “taking over Hollywood”?

All these ill-defined, overheated intimations of evil Hollywood are where the Liberty folks lose me. They begin to join thematic forces with the Internet cuckoos, for whom “Hollywood” means only one thing: the Jews. For centuries Jews were kept outside society’s gates. But in the industry they created and in which they are still heavily represented, Jews are often the gatekeepers. And though the Liberty folks stand with Israel and against anti-Semitism, their antagonism toward an amorphous, conspiratorial “Hollywood” has a discomfiting resonance.

The conservatives at Liberty should ease up on the rhetoric. The twin gods of Hollywood are talent and a track record. If you have those, you’re in, no matter how repellent your ideology, or your actions. Just ask Mel Gibson.

Jewish emergency info card a hit with LAPD; Postcard and dog tag campaign seeks release of Israeli


Jewish emergency info card a hit With LAPD

LAPD patrol officers in the San Fernando Valley are now packing a powerful resource small enough to fit into a breast pocket. The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance has teamed up with Deputy Chief Michael Moore and LAPD chaplain Kenneth Crawford to create the Community Social Services Card, a business-card-size resource that lists Jewish agencies best quipped to deal with particular emergency situations.

Police are accustomed to calling in pastors when they encounter a troubled teen or domestic disputes, but Valley Alliance Executive Director Carol Koransky said the officers have been at a loss when it comes to the Jewish community.

“Having the name of a rabbi isn’t going to do it,” she said, adding that one person can’t address all of the issues an officer might encounter.

The card lists which agencies officers should to turn to in the event of family violence intervention (Jewish Family Service), seniors evicted from an apartment (Bet Tzedek) and mental health services for teens (Vista Del Mar), among other problems.

Koransky came up with the card idea during a recent meeting in Mission Hills with LAPD division heads.

The Valley Alliance originally printed 300 cards, which were so well received by the LAPD that its Valley Bureau is now awaiting 1,000 more cards to be distributed among the six divisions. An additional 200 will also be distributed to Fire Department stations in the Valley area.

If the Valley-based pilot program works well, Koransky said the cards are expected to become standard issue to police citywide.— Adam Wills, Associate Editor

Postcard and dog tag campaign seeks release of Israeli soldiers

Remember the names of Ehud Goldwasser, Eldad Regev and Gilad Shalit?

They are the three Israeli soldiers, whose kidnappings by Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists triggered the Israeli campaigns in Gaza and Lebanon.

The fighting ended with the three men still in foreign hands, but a Los Angeles-based drive to obtain their release is picking up steam. More momentum will be added when Jewish leaders from across the United States meet in our city next month.

This week, The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles is distributing another large batch of postcards and dog tags imprinted with the names of the kidnapped soldiers.Each of the cards displays photos of the three men under the heading, “For them, the war is not over.” On the reverse side is a message addressed, respectively, to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and Jacob Kellenberger, International Red Cross president.

“I urge you to do everything in your power to see to the well-being and safe return of these brave young men captured while defending their country,” reads part of the request to the three world leaders.

Approximately 36,000 cards were sent to synagogues for distribution during Yom Kippur services, and an additional 60,000 are being printed. Only a few hundred dog tags could be produced before the High Holidays and went mainly to community leaders. However, an additional 7,000 to 10,000 are being ordered and will go to college and other students through Hillel campus offices.

In the third stage of the campaign, the cards and dog tags will be presented to delegates attending the general assembly of the United Jewish Communities, meeting Nov. 12-15 at the L.A. Convention Center.

“We hope that when the delegates return to their hometowns, they will launch similar efforts in cities across the country,” said John Fishel, Federation president.

The original concept for the campaign evolved gradually.

“In the month before the High Holidays, the fighting in Lebanon was drawing to a close, but the fate of the kidnapped soldiers remained unresolved,” Fishel said.

To draw attention to their plight, Fishel’s first idea was to place large print ads and distribute fliers around the time of Yom Kippur. But about three weeks before the Day of Atonement, marketing executive Roger Fishman and Elliot Brandt, AIPAC regional director, visited Fishel to pitch the idea of putting the prisoners’ names on dog tags.

After some brainstorming, it was decided to also send postcards, and then the pressure was on to produce the items fast enough to meet the Yom Kippur deadline.

“The feedback I’ve received so far has been extremely positive,” Fishel said.

For information on how to obtain the dog tags and/or cards, contact The Jewish Federation at PR at www.jewishla.org or call (323) 761-8070.— Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Jewish Home Taps Caan for Walk

“Las Vegas” star James Caan, a.k.a. “The Jewish Cowboy,” has been named honorary chair for Jewish Home for the Aging’s seventh Wells Fargo Walk of the Ages on Dec. 3. The walk is one of the largest of its kind in the San Fernando Valley and follows the Jewish Home’s scheduled Oct. 29 opening of its $58.5 million Joyce Eisenberg-Keefer Medical Center.

Organizers are hoping to raise $400,000 for the Jewish Home’s residents this year, nearly $100,000 more than last year’s total. The 5K event starts at 8:30 a.m. and will begin and end at the Jewish Home’s Eisenberg Village Campus, 18855 Victory Blvd., Reseda. The walk is open to participants of all ages.

To register or for more information, visit www.walkofages.kintera.org or call (818) 774-3100.— AW

At-risk youth; Much more Mathout; Donkeys vs. Elephants — the beef goes on


Custody Battle
 
Wendy Jaffe’s cover story on divorce focused primarily on the custody battles while neglecting alternative forms of dispute resolution, such as mediation, which can lead to far more peaceful results (“Who Gets the Shul?” Oct. 6).
 
In my role as a divorce mediator, I have worked over the years with scores of Jewish couples who are separating or divorcing to help them negotiate issues concerning their Jewish life and the Jewish life of their children. Couples in mediation are able to reach agreement on synagogue membership, synagogue dues and religious school fees, b’nai mitzvah costs, the wording on b’nai mitzvah or wedding invitations, as well as how they will share time with their children for holy days and festivals.
 
Not only is mediation less expensive than litigation, but the process results in far less acrimony and battle. Divorce, while maintaining shalom bayit, is indeed possible.

Rabbi Jeffrey A. Marx
Sha’arei Am — The Santa Monica Synagogue

 
Maher Hathout
 
It would have been irresponsible to stand by when a man is honored, even though he uses anti-Israel, anti-Jewish propaganda and participates in rallies that support terrorist groups, as he did at the Federal Building on Aug 12, where he was a keynote speaker and participants chanted, “Long Live Hezbollah” (“Controversial Muslim Leader Gets Award,” Sept. 22).
 
Hathout never distanced himself from them, nor, after his nomination, did he try to reach out and allay our understandable concerns. Instead, he lashed out, labeling us “un-American” fringe groups that oppose free speech or dislike Muslims. Hathout is free to say whatever he likes, but this extremist, divisive rhetoric and behavior should not be any city’s model for human relations.
 
We were not alone. Only four out of 14 commissioners voted for Hathout, with five abstaining and four absent. Steven Windmueller, dean of Hebrew Union College and a 1995 Buggs [Award] honoree, returned his award, stating that the [County Human Relations] Commission’s selection of Hathout stained the legacy of the award’s namesake.
 
There has been no “pressure” on us from “Jews in high places,” and we have not backed down. As rhetoric about the Middle East continues to escalate, the endgame of our protests is to send a strong message about desirable standards of discourse for Los Angeles, to educate the public about extremist rhetoric and to raise questions about who is a “moderate Muslim.”
 
We succeeded. We hope that Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders everywhere were paying attention and will strive for balanced, informed discourse as the standard for people singled out for special recognition.
 
Roz Rothstein
Director, StandWithUs

 
At-Risk Youth
 
I would like to applaud The Jewish Journal and Julie Gruenbaum Fax for courageously highlighting Aish Tamid and other programs in Los Angeles that offer “troubled teenage boys a way to curb self-destructive behavior” (“Orthodox Youth Not Immune to High-Risk Lifestyles,” Sept. 29). The topic of troubled teens is one of the most pressing and concerning issues facing our city, and it is important to supplement the article with a few additional facts and comments.
 
Firstly, while the core services and programs provided by Aish Tamid are tailored for troubled teens, we have also witnessed that not only troubled teens regularly attend and participate, but that there is a craving for our services by many different types of students. It is correct that our programs have been designed and appeal to troubled teens and/or students who have tried or are using drugs, but most Aish Tamid students are not druggies, and it is important to clarify this important distinction for the sake of all of our student participants.
 
It is also significant to note that the issue of at-risk youths is not restricted to only the Orthodox community, but that it affects all teens and young adults in our city, irrespective of their religious upbringing.
 
The article began with the mention of an Orthodox boy who overdosed on drugs, but many of us recall reading a little more than a year ago about the unfortunate death of a Los Angeles boy who was raised in the local Conservative schools and synagogues of our city who also died from a drug overdose.
 
In fact, after being mentioned and quoted in your 2005 article, Aish Tamid received a flood of phone calls from parents and school principals within the Conservative and Reform movements who confirmed that their children and/or students where facing the exact same challenges that was attributed to only Orthodox students in your recent article.
 
It would be naive of us to conclude that only Orthodox students are challenged with religious expectations, community and family pressures, academic and educational obstacles, questions on personal relationships, uncertainties on professional career options and, of course, the immense social influences of sex, drugs, alcohol, gambling and other self-destructive habits.
 
These are the challenges of all teens and young adults, not just Orthodox, and the Aish Tamid programs and services, especially the Pardes/Plan B alternative high school program, have been designed to provide resources and support to all Los Angeles teens, young adults and their parents, irrespective of their religious affiliation.
 
Rabbi Avi Leibovic
Founder and Executive Director
Aish Tamid of Los Angeles

 
Politicized Reports
 
Joseph M. Lipner makes several interesting points in his op-ed (“Israel Should Probe Accusations of War Crimes,” Sept. 29), particularly on the subjective nature of terms such as “war crimes.”
 
Unfortunately, his piece is marred by incredible naiveté regarding human rights NGOs. Claims that Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International “appear to be acting with good motives” toward Israel, or that they can be expected aggressively to take the side of civilians in any military conflict are not grounded in reality. They reflect the halo effect these groups cultivate to escape accountability.
 
Research carried out by NGO Monitor shows a different story. Amnesty and HRW released highly politicized reports and statements throughout the war. Amnesty published a scathing 50-page report focusing entirely on Israel’s actions, while hundreds of rockets fell on Israeli civilians daily. HRW even denied Hezbollah used Lebanese civilians as human shields.

Moves to reform Israel’s political system on the rise


Are Israelis constitutionally incapable of agreeing on a constitution to govern their country?
 
Possibly.
 
“Throughout Jewish history, we have always been a disputatious people, and in Israel, everyone thinks he or she is a prime minister. It’s part of our nature,” observed historian Tuvia Friling of Ben-Gurion University, a former state archivist and head of the Ben-Gurion Institute for Humanities and Social Studies.
 

The State of Israel, which has struggled since its inception to balance the often conflicting demands of national security and democratic rights, has some valuable lessons for a United States wrestling with the same problems since Sept. 11.
 
“Israel has been a laboratory on how to fight terrorists while maintaining civil rights and the rule of law,” according to Uri Dromi.
 
Retired Col. Dromi has observed the lab experiment from different perspectives. A 25-year Israeli air force veteran, he served as chief government spokesman under Prime Ministers Itzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres and is now director of international outreach for the Israel Democracy Institute, a liberal-leaning private think tank.
 
“Before 9/11, America, the FBI and the CIA were laid back,” observed Dromi during an interview in his Jerusalem office. “Since 9/11, the pendulum has swung to the other extreme.”
 
He finds it ironic that Israel, long criticized by U.S. journalists for not observing legal “due process” in battling terrorists, may now be more observant of due process than Washington.
 
“In Israel, an enemy prisoner can be held only for a specific time, all executive decisions are subject to judicial review and any Palestinian can appeal his case to the Israeli Supreme Court,” said Dromi.
 
There would be a national wave of protests if the Israeli government forced phone companies to turn over the records of private citizens, he predicted.
 
That is not to say that Israel has a perfect record and hasn’t made any mistakes, which could be fruitfully studied in Washington.
 
“For many years, we demolished houses belonging to the families of terrorists,” Dromi said. “We learned that for the long haul, this didn’t work as a deterrent to terrorism, and the Supreme Court eventually put an end to the practice.”
 
Criticism, even by outside parties, is healthy, Dromi believes, an opinion that may not be shared by many of his countrymen.
 
“We should be grateful to the criticism by Amnesty International, which forced us to examine what we are doing,” he said.
 
Israel, which has nowhere near the resources of the United States, has learned to make a virtue of necessity.
 
“We can’t afford a number of competing intelligence services, so we have only a single unified one,” he said.
 
Most of the Israeli efforts in this field are directed toward human intelligence on the ground. If Dromi had one piece of advice for President Bush, it would be to stop spending billions on high-tech surveillance methods and put the money into old-fashioned agents, spies and infiltrators.
 
Dromi also feels that Washington spends too much money on the Department of Homeland Security, “mainly to impress the public. In Israel, the work is mainly handled by the established police department.”
 
In some areas, the United States does better than Israel.
 
“You have a more efficient chain of command than we have, and our military has too much influence,” he said. “The most influential person in the country is not the prime minister but the chief of staff.”
 
Above all, Dromi said, the chief weapon in any nation’s arsenal is the high morale of the people.
 
“A government has to see to it that the people don’t become paranoid,” he said. “If they panic, you have to calm them down. It is vital to create an ongoing public debate on the proper balance between security and democracy.”
 
— TT

“To produce a constitution also requires a certain process of maturation,” added Friling. “Maybe in 200 years, we’ll be ready.”
 
Friling, one of a number of political analysts and scholars interviewed for this story in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, may sound a mite pessimistic. On the other hand, it’s been 60 years since the United Nations inserted a condition in the Palestine partition vote demanding that the new Jewish state draw up a constitution. Lack of such a fundamental document frustrated founding father David Ben-Gurion’s repeated attempts to change Israel’s dysfunctional electoral system.
 
“Basically, the Israeli political system was designed in the 19th century by a small group of Zionists, who represented 2 percent of the Jewish people,” said professor Gideon Doron of Tel Aviv University, president of the Israeli Association of Political Science.
 
Underlying many of Israel’s problems, argued Doron and others, is the instability inherent in the Jewish state’s system of proportional representation, in which voters cast their ballots for national parties, rather than for individual local candidates. One result has been that no single party has ever won a majority of voters, small parties proliferate and the survival of any government is dependent on unstable coalitions.
 
Thus, in the state’s 58-year history, Israel has had 31 governments and only two prime ministers (Golda Meir and Menachem Begin) out of 12 who have served their full four-year terms of office without having to reconstruct their coalitions.
 
No less a figure than Israel’s President Moshe Katsav complained last February that “the moment a government is elected, there is talk of turmoil, instability, insecure coalitions and apprehension of its dissolution.”
 
In addition to its inherent instability in a country facing constant existential dangers, the system weakens government accountability to its citizens.
 
“Knesset members are not elected in specific districts and therefore are not responsive to constituents. There are no petitions to redress grievances and very little grass-roots democracy or private civic action,” said Doron. “We have no town hall meetings or PTAs.”
 
One explanation for the lack of private civic initiative was given by this writer’s sister-in-law, Shoshanah Gaatone, in Tel Aviv, whose street fronts the entrance to Tel Aviv University, where her husband and many of her neighbors work.
 
A few years ago, the municipality decided, without hearings or announcements, to change the street’s name from University Avenue to Chaim Levanon Street in honor of a Tel Aviv mayor of the 1950s. Gaatone organized a small local group to protest the name change but quickly grew frustrated and gave up. The Tel Aviv City Council is also elected by party slates, rather than by neighborhood districts, she explained, so no one in the municipal government felt responsible for addressing the issue of responding to her letters.
 
Since Israel’s establishment, there have been numerous advocates for electoral reform and the drafting of a constitution, but given the country’s constant military, political and social crises, it has been close to impossible to focus the attention of the citizenry or the government on such long range issues.
 
The encouraging news is that a growing number of think tanks, many supported by American philanthropists, have stepped up their lobbying efforts to reform the system. They have achieved some modest success, although they have not coalesced into a national movement.
 
In September of last year, Katsav established the President of Israel’s Commission for Examination of the Structure of Governance in Israel and appointed 71 commission members, representing most sectors of Israeli society.
 
At the time, Katsav warned that “the mounting elitism of the power structure and power instability can undermine the strength of democracy more than security threats.”
 
Last month, the commission gave its report to Katsav, who will present final recommendations to the Knesset at the end of October. In addition, the president has received this year separate and voluminous analyses from the Citizens’ Empowerment Center in Israel, Israel Democracy Institute, the Institute for Zionist Strategies and the Knesset Constitution Law and Justice Committee.
 
While the experts generally agree on the shortcomings of the present political system, there are considerable disagreements on solutions, not only among different reports but also among the authors of the same report.
 
On the key issue, some argue for adoption or adaptation of the American presidential system, others for the British parliamentary system and still others for variations or combinations of these and other democratic procedures.
 
Among the top priorities of the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) is the inclusion of a bill of rights for individual citizens, as well as clarification of Shabbat and marriage laws, Uri Dromi, an IDI director, said during an interview at his Tel Aviv office.
 
While IDI advocates a “constitution by consensus,” with lots of give and take among conflicting interest groups, the Citizens Empowerment Center in Israel (CECI) urges more drastic intervention.
 
Doron, a leading figure in both CECI and the Katzav presidential commission, believes that political stability is Israel’s foremost need. To achieve it, CECI has embarked on a national educational campaign to familiarize the public with a proposed electoral system that would divide Israel into six regions and 120 districts, each district electing its own representative to the Knesset.
 
Doron also proposes a stricter separation of powers to raise the standing of the legislative branch, now considered by many as too dependent on the executive and judicial branches. He also urges stronger individual property rights.
 
“Today, 96 percent of the land is owned by the state, which means that homeowners can only rent from the government the land their houses stand on,” Doron said.
 
CECI was founded and is largely underwritten by Los Angeles entrepreneur and philanthropist Izak Parvis Nazarian. He is a native of Iran, was wounded as a tank driver in Israel’s War of Independence and has made a fortune in the high-tech industry and as a venture capitalist.Israel’s reformers hope that more Diaspora figures like Nazarian will support their efforts through financial and intellectual contributions.
 
Inscribing a copy of his book for an American reporter, Doron wrote, “Help us to help ourselves.”
 

Muslims and Jews must move on and strengthen ties


Muslim-Jewish relations in Los Angeles have undoubtedly undergone a test the past several weeks, the outcome of which is still unclear. But out of an acrimonious political battle,
many Muslims would like to move on and attempt to re-establish discussion and dialogue with our fellow Jewish Angelenos.

What is being referred to is last week’s decision by the L.A. County Commission on Human Relations to give its John Allen Buggs Humanitarian Award to Muslim leader Dr. Maher Hathout and the vitriolic rhetoric from a segment of the Jewish community in the weeks preceding. It has, amongst other things, been a trial for Muslim-Jewish relations. But interestingly enough, the period has also seen certain bonds between the two groups solidify.

Based on his past criticisms of Israel, a segment of the Jewish community engaged in what can be fairly called a smear campaign against Hathout. In doing so, it took a long-standing moderate and intellectual Muslim leader and painted him as an extremist in an attempt to make him, and the organizations he represents, politically radioactive.

In a Sept. 1 press release, the American Jewish Committee (AJCommittee) called Hathout “a radical Islamic leader masquerading as a moderate and deceiving the American public.” The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) on Sept. 6 accused Hathout of “promoting violence, hatred and divisiveness”; this again because Hathout likened Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to “apartheid,” a term even Israeli news organizations use to characterize Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories.

Led by these two groups, and eventually joined by others such as The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and the FBI-designated terrorist group, the Jewish Defense League, an unsuccessful campaign to rescind the award was orchestrated.

This unfortunate effort, filled with more anger by some of these groups than I care to describe, did nothing but build resentment in Muslims. In their view, this campaign continued a pattern of opposing Muslim political integration purely because of its differing viewpoint on a foreign country.

But to others in the Jewish community, Hathout was none of the above. In fact, Hathout and the organizations of which he is a part, should be embraced and recognized for their struggle to bring moderation to the Muslim community and harmony in interfaith relations.

The Progressive Jewish Alliance, Rabbi Leonard Beerman of Leo Baeck Temple, Rabbi Steve Jacobs of Temple Kol Tikvah and David Wolf, son of the prominent late Rabbi Alfred Wolf of the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, were among the numerous interfaith leaders attesting to Hathout’s genuine and decades-long effort to build harmony and trust amongst Jews and Muslims in Los Angeles. Yes, they acknowledge there are differences on the Middle East, but that should never exclude Muslims like Hathout from the political process or make him ineligible to receive the award.

To these Jewish leaders who had the courage to stand on principle, we express our deep thanks. Their actions should not only make many Jews proud; they have also set an example for us as Muslim Americans. They represent the best of what Muslim-Jewish relations can bring.

To the AJCommittee, ZOA, Jewish Federation and others who have never really engaged us in dialogue, we stand at the ready. We stand ready to meet and engage on our differences, not expecting to come to agreement but expecting to make things more civil.

Brutal tactics such as those used in this campaign risk poisoning overall Muslim-Jewish relations and building resentment. Such a negative outcome could potentially impact not just Muslims and Jews in Los Angeles but, unfortunately, extend into Muslim-Jewish relations around the country.

To those in the Jewish community who know us, it is time to take our efforts to the next level. Rather than predicate our relations on the dynamics of the Middle East (of which we have no control and to which we actually stand opposed to dictatorial Arab regimes), we should work on domestic issues, such as homelessness, health care, education and other issues which our respective faiths have much in common and which effect us equally as members of the same society.

At the end of the day, Muslims and Jews have far more in common than they realize. It is time to start building on those commonalities for the betterment of our communities, our nation, and our world.

Omar Ricci is chairman of the

Bittersweet symphonies: the Pearls struggle to find life after Daniel’s death


Eight days after Yom Kippur, Judea and Ruth Pearl will commemorate what would have been the 43rd birthday of their son, Daniel. As on every Oct. 10 for the last five years, it will be a day of intensely personal reflection and remembrance by the couple and their daughters, Tamara and Michelle, intensifying their emotions of the other 364 days.
 
By contrast, the date also will be marked by public worldwide concerts celebrating the life of Daniel Pearl, an accomplished violinist, equally passionate about the classical, jazz, country and bluegrass musical idioms.
 
As of a week ago, the master calendar showed 166 different performances scheduled in 24 countries — from China to El Salvador and Kenya to Egypt — on and around Oct. 10. It is expected that the numbers will reach last year’s record of 300 concerts in 41 countries.
 
Music was Daniel Pearl’s avocation, but journalism was his profession. In pursuit of a story on Al Qaeda’s financial ties, the then-38-year-old Wall Street Journal reporter was kidnapped in early 2002 in Pakistan and beheaded by Islamic extremists.
 



The life and death of Daniel Pearl on HBO
 
It has a handsome, brilliant, fun-loving reporter, who kisses his beautiful, pregnant wife goodbye as he goes off to track down an Al Qaeda financial network in Pakistan. His nemesis is Omar Sheikh, a man not unlike Pearl in background — intelligent, well educated, but who has become a fanatical terrorist.
 
Sheikh lures Pearl into a trap, where kidnappers abduct The Wall Street Journal reporter and withhold news of him for almost a month, while Pearl’s parents and wife, and much of the rest of the world, hold their breath.
 
The Pakistani police search everywhere for Pearl, while the same country’s intelligence service apparently shields the terrorist. Finally, the kidnappers release a grisly video in which Pearl is decapitated by a sword.
 
No wonder four different film projects on the case have been announced, although only one is actually ready for prime time.
 
On Oct. 10, the day on which Pearl would have celebrated his 43rd birthday, HBO will air “The Journalist and the Jihadi: The Murder of Daniel Pearl,” a 90-minute documentary, which will be hard to beat for drama and intensity by subsequent movies.
 
The film was produced and directed by Ahmed A. Jamal, a Pakistani, and Ramesh Sharma, an Indian, with the full cooperation of Pearl’s wife, Marianne, and his parents, UCLA professor Judea Pearl and Ruth Pearl, both raised in Israel. It is narrated by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
 
What gives the film much of its emotional impact are lovely home videos of Pearl’s childhood in Encino, his passion for music, a makeshift seder conducted on a trans-Siberian railroad train, and the joyous wedding joining him to his Cuban Dutch wife.
 
The life of the secretive Omar Sheikh is, of necessity, less well documented, and at times the directors have to stretch quite a bit to force the two protagonists’ backgrounds into parallel lines.
 
There remain a number of yet unanswered questions, both in the film and in the actual investigations:
  • Did Pearl’s kidnappers sell him to an Arab gang that then murdered him?
  • What was the role of the Pakistani government?
  • Why has the death sentence, imposed on Sheikh by a Pakistani court in July 2002, never been carried out?

Until such questions are answered, the documentary serves as a riveting history of a case that has gripped the world’s attention.
 
“The Journalist and the Jihadi” airs at 8 p.m. on Oct. 10. It will be repeated on various dates in October on HBO and HBO2.

Check www.hbo.com for details.
 
— TT




Yet the wake of this tragedy is an extraordinary story of renewal in itself. Ruth and Judea Pearl are both high-achieving professionals. He is an emeritus professor of computer science at UCLA and internationally recognized for his pioneer research on artificial intelligence. She is an electrical engineer and for years was a highly paid industry consultant. Although quieter than her more exuberant husband, in the immediate days after the tragedy, “she was the captain and ran a tight ship,” her daughter wrote.
 
Both parents cherish their privacy and still shudder each time an inquiring reporter thrusts a mike in their face and asks, “Well, and how did you feel when you first heard that your son had been murdered?”
 
But on the day before Rosh Hashanah this year, sitting in the living room of their pleasant Encino home, they agreed to talk openly about their agonizing experience and how they transformed their lives by transmuting private grief into public good.
 
The story begins on the morning of Jan. 23, 2002, an ordinary day when life seemed especially good for Daniel Pearl. He was a highly respected and popular foreign correspondent for a leading American daily, married to fellow journalist Marianne, and the couple were expecting their first child.
 
That evening, Daniel went to a restaurant in the Pakistani port city of Karachi to meet a supposed source who could provide a break for his investigative story on the financing of the Al Qaeda terrorist network.
 
That was the last time his family saw Daniel, except for videos released by his shadowy captors, one showing the journalist in chains with an unknown hand pointing a gun at his head.
 
It was the beginning of 28 days of hope and despair for the Pearl parents, and their six new houseguests from the FBI.
 
Repeatedly during that period, the Pearls were informed their son was dead and his body had been found, and each time the report turned out to be wrong.
 
Throughout the ordeal, Daniel’s colleagues and editors at The Wall Street Journal were in touch with the parents, lending moral support and advice. One of the editors’ main concerns was that other media might leak the fact that both parents come from an Israeli background, thus increasing the threat to Daniel’s life.
 
Judea was born in suburban Tel Aviv in the fervently Orthodox enclave of B’nai Brak, co-founded by his grandfather, and he had served in the Israeli army.
 
Ruth was born in Baghdad, when one-quarter of the Iraqi capital’s population was Jewish, and emigrated with her parents to Israel in 1951. She and Judea met as college students at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa.
 
In a rare display of professional solidarity in the competitive media, no one raised the Israeli angle until after Daniel’s death.
 
During the torturous waiting period, Barney Calame, a Wall Street Journal editor, phoned the Pearls daily with a situation report. “He was a slow, deliberate speaker and each time our hearts kept sinking until, at the end, he would report that there had been no new developments,” Judea recalled. “We finally taught him to open each conversation with the sentence, ‘I have no news.'”
 
In the last days before Daniel’s death, the Pearls were fairly hopeful.
 
“Danny was a careful professional, not a Don Quixote type, and he had always gotten himself out of any trouble before,” his mother said. “Besides, his goodness shone through, and we couldn’t believe that his kidnappers could live with him for weeks and not be affected by it.”
 
Adding to the hopefulness was the history of other journalists abducted in Parkistan previously, who had always been returned after a few days in exchange for enemy prisoners or ransom.
 
On the morning of Feb. 21, 2002, the last glimmer of hope was extinguished. “We were having breakfast when three FBI agents, two women and a man, walked in,” Ruth remembered. “One woman had tears in her eyes, and she asked me if I had anything cooking on the stove. Then she told us that she had bad news and that Danny had been killed.”
 
After the previous false alarms, the Pearls refused to believe the report. They phoned the American consul in Karachi, who confirmed that he had seen the gruesome video showing the decapitation of their son.
 
Pakistani police did not find Daniel’s mutilated body until May 16, and it took another three months until the remains were returned to the United States. Hours before the funeral, the FBI stopped the proceedings on the grounds that the agents needed four more days to perform an autopsy.
 
Finally, after the burial and the memorial service, the Pearls were left to ponder their loss and their future.
 
“I felt that my life was over,” Ruth said. “We would never again have a normal life. I still cannot comprehend it; I try not to comprehend it; there’s a mental mechanism blocking it.”Added Judea, “As human beings, we don’t have the software, the computational machinery, to comprehend the logical contradiction that such a beautiful person, who tried so hard to explain the Muslim world to the West, would be killed by people who elevated their grievance above all norms of civilization.”
 
But rather than the sad ending that might have happened, this is where the story takes a surprising turn. The Pearls faced three obvious options. One was to retreat into their private grief, another to resume their professional lives as best they could, and a third to do whatever they could to exact revenge on their son’s murderers.
 
They chose a fourth way. “We refused to accept the idea that Danny’s contributions to the world as a journalist, as a musician, as a gentle human being was ended forever,” Judea said.
 
“We decided on a different kind of defiance,” he added. “We would fight hatred with everything in our power, but we wouldn’t seek physical revenge — that’s what his murderers wanted.”
 
The parents found the vehicle to turn thoughts into action a few days later, as a steady stream of condolence cards, flowers and envelopes with $20 bills and other small donations arrived at the house.
 
“We didn’t know how to cope with all that,” said Ruth, so The Wall Street Journal arranged for a team of lawyers to advise the family.
 
The first decision was to set up a trust fund for Marianne and her soon-to-be-born son, Adam. As the discussions continued, all agreed that the most relevant way to honor Daniel’s life and death was to establish a foundation to perpetuate his work and ideals.
 
Exactly one week after the FBI agent reported Danny’s death, the legal papers establishing the Daniel Pearl Foundation were signed by Judea Pearl as president and Ruth Pearl as chief financial officer.

Three Generations of Pearls

Three Generations of Pearls. back row: Tosha Pearl (center) is flanked by her daughter-in-law, Ruth, and son, Judea, during a Tel Aviv family reunion. front row: Tamara Pearl and her brother, Daniel Pearl. Photo courtesy Ruth and Judea Pearl

“We wanted to fight the tsunami of hatred engulfing the world and we had a powerful weapon — the memory of Danny, respected by millions of Muslims, Christians and Jews, and through the three fields in which he excelled, journalism, music and dialogue.”
 
Working with a miniscule staff and a $400,000 annual budget, raised mainly through small contributions (“We don’t get any celebrities,” Judea said), the foundation has transformed Daniel’s legacy and the parents’ vision into reality.
 
In journalism, reporters and editors from Muslim countries annually travel to the United States for six-month working fellowships on American newspapers, including The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles.
 
Through the Web-based World Youth News, students at 20,000 high schools in 109 countries develop professional skills, unbiased reporting and respect for cultural differences.
 
In music, World Music Days will be celebrated this year Oct. 6-15. Among the hundreds of performers and performances will be Sir Elton John, world premiere of Steve Reich’s “Daniel Variations,” symphony orchestras in five different countries, neo-soul artist Nya Jade, Bo Diddley and Friends, Hollywood Interfaith Choir and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass.
 
Judea Pearl and professor Akbar Ahmed, a leading Islamic scholar from Pakistan, have engaged in dialogues before multiethnic audiences throughout the United States and in the British House of Lords.
 
“We have only two rules,” Pearl said. “No topic is taboo and both speakers and audience must maintain civilized tone.”
 
The foundation has promoted publication of books of Daniel’s own writings and about his beliefs. Among a number of projected films, HBO will air “The Journalist and the Jihadi” on Oct. 10.
 
Somewhat to their own surprise, Judea and Ruth have become accomplished and passionate public speakers and are constantly busy promoting and running the Daniel Pearl Foundation.They have also evolved into skillful interviewees, with Judea as the more animated and gesticulating responder, while Ruth is quieter on the surface and occasionally corrects her husband’s recollections.
 
But, Judea said, “I resist the idea that I’m doing all this for therapeutic reasons. If I didn’t believe that our work makes some difference, I would quit tomorrow.”Added Ruth, “Some days we are encouraged and on other days we are down. But we are doers and we don’t quit.”
 

 
Daniel Pearl

Beverly Hills TV Agent Casts Himself in Reality Show: Lebanon War


Most American Jews were upset when the conflict broke out between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon this summer. Many felt frustrated and helpless watching the news from so far away, wondering what they could do about it.
Matt Altman knew what he had to do: He had to get on a plane to Israel to volunteer up north.

The 30-year-old Angeleno was not the only American to volunteer during the war — there were a few emergency missions from synagogues and young professional groups, such as Care for Israel, which organized a weeklong trip of 80 people. But Altman went on his own, and he was also not your typical rabbi or synagogue member on a mission: A television agent at Creative Artists Agency, he just took off, using his vacation time from work, despite protests from family and friends.

“A couple of people said, ‘It’s crazy, don’t do this,’ but I had had enough of people saying they were giving money and not knowing where the money goes, and I thought it was important to go there.”

Go there he did, leaving abruptly on Aug. 6 on an airplane that was practically empty and arriving at an airport that was practically empty — especially of arriving tourists — for a 12-day trip.

“I always told my parents that I would have fought if I were in the Holocaust, I wouldn’t have just stood there,” he said. “For me, this was something that was like the Holocaust of my time, and I had to go.”

Altman is not a child of survivors. He grew up Conservative in Newton, Mass., attended Solomon Schechter Day School, became bar mitzvahed in Israel and, until this trip, had only visited the country two other times with his family.
“I think that any Jew is a survivor,” he said in the impassioned tones he uses when talking about Israel.

“I must write to tell you all what is happening right now in Haifa … it is horrible and Hezbollah MUST BE STOPPED!!!!” Altman said on a blog he wrote from Israel, which originally started as a letter to friends and family and then was posted on The Jewish Journal’s blog site, along with his photos of bombed-out buildings, empty cities and attractions, soldiers and people he met and spoke with in the north.

Looking at Altman in his Beverly Hills regalia — a shimmery silver pinstriped suit and thin azure tie perfectly matched to bring out the subtle stripes, his power hair supergelled and spiky short — it’s hard to believe this is the same scruffy guy that appears in the Israel photos wearing jeans and a T-shirt, which was sometimes filthy from his work.

Altman got down and dirty in the trenches, volunteering at a different place each day of his trip, which was coordinated by Dani Neuman, executive director of the Haifa Foundation.

“He was amazing,” Altman said. “He was able to take me to many different places — I was able to work at hospitals, a food shelter, help make packages for the army and help make packages for children. I was able to see a lot of things that I wouldn’t have been able to see,” Altman said, including a visit to a city hall meeting in Haifa and a meeting with the city’s mayor, Yona Yahav.

Altman rented a studio apartment in Haifa — paying the rent of a student there who couldn’t afford it because of the war’s economic devastation — from where he could hear the sound of war.

“A lot of the missiles were hitting north of where I was staying; you’d hear boom, boom, boom in the distance,” he said.

Like many people on the missions, Altman toured the sites of the devastation — the shelled, caved-in buildings; the cement walls riddled with ball bearings from the rockets. “The whole cement looked like it was torn off. It was a frightening thing.”

But he wasn’t exactly frightened, at first. He visited with soldiers who hadn’t seen their families for weeks, delivered meals to people in shelters who had evacuated their homes and sat with soldiers and civilians hurt in the conflict.
“There was an old Russian woman who went to the post office and her leg got blown up. She was in the hospital and only spoke Russian — no Hebrew or English — and to me that was the most horrible thing, seeing this woman who was already incredibly poor, how her life had changed. She had her leg [amputated], and yet she was still very sweet. I couldn’t imagine being in that situation,” Altman said.

Before he went, Altman also couldn’t imagine being in a situation of war, and many of his postings read like they were from a naive, earnest foreigner.

“Please tell everyone you know that they must get behind Israel now, as Israel is fighting the worst terrorists in the world, and if Israel doesn’t destroy them, we are about to enter World War III. The news media is INSANE, and the fact that they report anything positive about these murders is asinine! [sic] ….Israel NEEDS YOUR SUPPORT NOW MORE THAN EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Altman is not all ideologue, however. Some of his postings are quite funny, such as one from Aug. 11, when he worked at the Koenig Soldiers Center, where the navy puts together boxes for every soldier.

“On this particular day, I happened to be helping when we received a virtual mountain of men’s dress socks with little cartoon characters on them. I joked with the soldiers that if we ran out of bullets, we could always scare them away with the horrible looking socks,” he wrote.

But his humor is mixed with the realities of war.

“One soldier and I went out to take a break, and he told me about his uncle who was driving home from work last week and was killed by a direct hit on his car. It is so maddening to me, as well as him, that nothing was said on TV.”

Most days didn’t turn out as expected. One day he was at B’nai Zion Medical center thinking he was going to visit with the patients but ended up in the kitchen, preparing food because they were short-staffed.

“After meeting the crew of 15 chefs, the crazy Russian chef took a special liking to me. If you’ve seen the movie ‘Armageddon,’ he was exactly like that crazy Russian cosmonaut, except he didn’t speak a lick of English. He was the clown of the group, and he spoke to me the whole time, knowing I didn’t know what the hell he was saying…. I should have listened to my parents when they told me to study at Hebrew school; it would have been very handy in this situation.”

Handy is not really the word for something that could help you in a life-threatening situation.

Altman couldn’t hear anything over the clang of the pots and pans. So when the Russian chef motioned Altman should follow him upstairs, Altman thought they were going to get food.

“The next thing I knew, we were on the roof, overlooking the entire coastline. Sirens were going off, and while everyone in the building was running to the opposite side, we ran up a stairwell.” Alone on the roof, the chef looked at him and said one Russian word Altman did understand: “Katyusha.”

What Altman saw next changed his life forever: “FOURTEEN rockets were flying in the air…. To say it was scary was an understatement. He had wanted to show them to me, and that’s why we were running. I was paralyzed. My heart was in my throat, and I nearly sh — myself. It was unreal; I watched rockets come at me, not being able to even move.”

Altman could not stop shaking for the next two hours. “Try serving soup while shaking; most of it lands on the ground,” he writes jokingly.

But the sight of the Katyushas was not all that shook him to the bone. So did the barrage of rockets on Haifa on Sunday, Aug. 6, killing three and wounding dozens and hitting near his apartment.

“When the missiles hit six doors down, I thought I was going to die,” Altman recalls. “It was the largest, scariest noise I ever heard.”

On his blog he wrote, “The first few hits sounded like normal … but then think what the loudest firework you can ever imagine sounds like … one hit outside where I am staying. Then another! Then another! It is complete and utter chaos right now! Sirens are going off everywhere!”

“It’s very real. You could die,” he explained later. Altman cut his trip short — which was a good thing, he said, considering the terrorist plot thwarted in Britain the following weekend. He decided he’d be more use talking about his trip than packing more food for soldiers and families. “I had been there; I had experienced it; I could be more helpful telling people what happened there from a first-person view,” he said.

Altman left Israel on Aug. 16, and he plans to speak to groups at friends’ homes and synagogues to discuss what he saw and learned there, and to raise money for the Haifa Foundation.

“I think it’s something that no one understands. The bomb sirens go off, and you have to go into a bomb shelter and get into between two buildings, it’s pretty scary. It’s amazing and frightening to me. I don’t know how I could do that every day. I don’t know how they could go outside — to me it’s a very hard way to live. That’s why we need peace. These people should not have to live like this. Nobody should have to live like this.”

On Sept. 13, Altman will be at the Israel in Crisis Fund’s winetasting fundraiser in Santa Monica.

During his time in Israel, Altman saw the remnants of war, such as these ball bearings that killed Israelis and inflicted damage on homes.

On Sept. 13, from 7:30-10:30 p.m., Israel in Crisis Fund will be holding a wine tasting fundraiser with an auction and live music at Hamilton Galleries, 1431 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica. $25 (in advance), $36 (at the door). For more information, contact (310) 963-5674.

Letters to the Editor


The Left

Gary Wexler (“Left-Leaning Jewish Groups Out-of-Touch Now,” Aug. 4) ought not to be surprised by the wrath of his former compatriots in last week’s Letters to the Editor. It is the standard fury against an apostate.

Instead, he is to be commended for doing what too few of us are ready to do: bravely changing his views as a result of new facts. What Wexler’s new critics miss is what is obvious to the vast majority of Israel’s supporters: Those who attack the Jewish state are not doing it for land or to redress some grievance. Rather, they simply wish to destroy Israel and all of its inhabitants.

If the Jewish left in this country chooses to continue to live in a fantasy world, insisting that it knows better than the Israeli public and its elected leaders on how to respond to its foes, it will simply remain of no interest to the rest of us.

Mel Aranoff
Valley Glen

Although I appreciate and value Gary Wexler’s commitment to Israel, I was astounded by his lack of understanding of the situation, especially his comments on the left and the supposed lack of dialogue partners.

I have no fantasies about the horrors of suicide bombers and real terrorists on the Palestinian and Arab side. But I am also harboring no illusions about our part in the scenario.

Again, sadly, and with a few exceptions, there has been a true lack of leadership and vision of the future on all fronts. History has shown that a guerilla war cannot be won.

I can see no good at all coming out of the current situation. Perhaps the problem of the left is not their vision but rather that they have not spoken loud enough for us to hear.

David Greenfield
Los Angeles

Who Is a Jew?

We mourn Michael Levin (“Who Is a Jew?” Aug. 11), an American Jew who understood like thousands of volunteers before him that Jews will no longer go quietly to the gas chambers and the crematoria or the other places of extinction which the terrorists have planned for us.

I was 19 on June 6, 1967. And I instantly understood that if Israel lost that war, there could be another Holocaust. So I volunteered. But not for myself — for the 6 million who could not and for the Jewish children not yet born.And so I consider the sacrifice of Michael Levin. And I contrast it with those Jews who blindly protect every last civil liberty of our enemies (Skokie, Guantanamo, NSA phone eavesdropping, etc.). And it makes me wonder if they have forgotten the 6 million and the suffering.

Michael I. Brooks
West Hills

Take Chance

My son, David Landau, is about to join Nativ 26. He and four other former Far West Region United Synagogue Youth Regional Board members will join the almost 100 USYers nationally for the largest group from Far West in the history of this College Leadership Program in Israel. Thanks to J.J. Jonah who is our USY Israel shaliach this and next year!

I told my children since they were young that as Ms. Frizzle said on the “Magic School Bus”: “take chances and make mistakes.” Going to Israel is always a chance but so is flying on an airplane as we have been reminded last week.

A victory to terrorists is to live in fear. A victory for us who love freedom and Israel is to choose to travel, live and learn in Israel, is to participate on programs. I look forward to the drive to the airport with tears of joy sending my son David off with his friends and exclaiming a n’siah tovah, a wonderful and safe trip and year in Israel. And also maybe l’shana habaa B’Yerushalayim.

Diane Roosth
Venice

Mel Gibson

We all regress. We all have regions inside of us, ugly, sometimes barely repressed aspects of us that contain the worst kinds of thinking, some taught to us from our environment, some we teach ourselves. Those ugly regions, however, do not define who we are. When they come up, they are not our “true self.” (Hush Falls Over Jewish Hollywood Post-‘Mad Mel,” Aug. 4)

We are defined, rather, in how we struggle against those destructive aspects of the self. No person lives without brokenness and the shadow self, but not every person gives in to that abyss and lives according to it.

The good people among us are ashamed of ourselves when it erupts. The true self –religiously speaking, the self most aware of the soul and the Divine within us — works hard to contain those destructive aspects, to neutralize them, to sublimate them.

I know that when people drink, when they are angry, when they are frightened and ashamed, they regress. Spouses, when they argue viciously, do this. Basically good people who learned hateful things, or teach themselves hateful things about others, say things that do not define who they are but rather tell us about destructive parts of the self they are trying to control.

Mel Gibson has apologized for his remarks and says he did not mean them. I take that to mean that the conscious man conducting his life does not operate according to those prejudices that erupted from a deep and disturbing region of his being. They are buried deep within, and in an atavistic, regressive, drunken and frightened moment, they burst out.

He should introspect and apologize, as he has done, but he should not be reviled or banned. Jewish ethics teach us that he should be helped to repent and repair.As a great Jew once taught, the one who has never sinned, let him throw the first stone. Another great Jew said what you don’t want done to you don’t do other others.

Imagine your worst, most regressive moment caught on tape, posted on the Internet. Would you want that moment to define who you are? I would think not. You would want the help of others in finding a way to repentance and repair. Mel Gibson deserves the same.

Rabbi Mordecai Finley
Los Angeles

Bush and Israel

Bravo to Rabbi Steven Z. Leder for his superb and courageous letter of thanks to President Bush (“Mr. President, Thank You for Standing by Israel,” Aug. 11). Superb, because Rabbi Leder acknowledges the president’s supportive stance toward Israel and places it knowingly within the context of Jewish history, and courageous because he commended the president eloquently in a public forum, despite the fact that the majority of Jews identify as liberal Democrats, and many of them bear tremendous animosity toward Bush.

Rising above partisan politics, Rabbi Leder has the clarity of vision to recognize support for Israel where it exists and the good will, despite disagreements with the president on other issues, to render thanks where they are critically due. My thanks, in turn, go to Rabbi Leder for his shining example of righteous gratitude and moral strength.

Susan Ehrlich
Beverly Hills

Carvel Ice Cream

Your article about kosher Carvel ice cream (“Carvel Ice Cream Sprinkling More Outlets in Southland,” Aug. 11) is certainly welcome during these hot summer days. Thanks for the information and keeping it accurate is very important.The photo caption states that the new Carvel store is “certified glatt kosher.”

This statement is, in and of itself, ludicrous, since the term glatt is a reference to the smoothness (i.e., free of lesions) of a cow’s lung, not applicable to anything other than beef products.

Even if the term was meant in is colloquial and erroneous usage, as meeting the highest standards of kosher, it is still wrong, since, as stated in the article, the ice cream is not chalav Yisrael. It may be kosher, even acceptably kosher by many, but it is not strictly kosher.

And by the way, chalav Yisrael does not mean coming from kosher cows, as all cows are kosher. It does mean, as stated further in the article, as having a mashgiach (supervisor) at the milking process.

Nitpicking? Perhaps. But for those who take their words and their kashrut seriously, the angel is in the details.

Gershon Schusterman
via e-mail

‘Borrowing’

Beth Levine offers some sound tips on throwing an affordable bar mitzvah party, while teaching good values like tikkun olam (heal the world) and tzedakah (charitable giving. (“Personal Touch Can Tame Parties, Trim Expenses,” Aug. 11).I’m not familiar with the study preparation software she borrowed from a friend, but it might be worth checking its license. Most software is limited to a single user, so “borrowing” it might actually be computer piracy. Tikkun olam is a lofty goal but not at the expense of the Eighth Commandment.Jay Falk
Playa del Rey

Tisha B’Av Dilemma

I’m writing to express my disappointment with Jane Ulman’s article about Tisha B’Av observance (“Tisha B’Av Dilemma: Day of Solemnity or Celebration?” July 20).

Ulman suggests that Reform Jews don’t celebrate Tisha B’Av, relating an anecdote about a synagogue in Cincinnati, that held a rummage sale last year on the fast day. Her only source for the story is an unnamed “spokesperson” for the temple’s sisterhood.

The story serves little purpose to the article. Who cares if she can find some congregation somewhere (in this case, suburban Cincinnati) which doesn’t celebrate TishaB’Av? It is inappropriate that she infers generalizations about Reform Jews from this one example.

Furthermore, I challenge the factual accuracy of her assertion that Tisha B’Av is “a nonevent in some, usually Reform, congregations.”

What evidence does the author have to support such a claim? Has Ulman done a statistical survey of holiday practice at synagogues in America?

Since she failed to cite such research, I gather that her statement was based on her own assumption, a reflection of popular stereotypes about Reform Jews. What is the value of a newspaper article in which the author simply shares her own assumptions, reinforcing stereotypes?

It is particularly strange that Ulman reported on last year’s activities in Cincinnati, instead of reporting on Tisha B’Av observances at local Reform congregations. For example, Temple Judea in Tarzana planned an event titled, “Lunch Without Lunch — Does Tisha B’Av Have Meaning for Us Today?”

I wonder why Ulman chose to discuss a congregation thousands of miles away that didn’t commemorate the holiday, when a congregation right on her doorstep did indeed mark the occasion.

Later in the article, Ulman writes, “Some Reform Jews, as did 19th century Rabbi David Einhorn, actually see the holiday as celebratory.” While the author’s understanding of Jewish history is not incorrect, her inference that modern Reform Jews celebrate on Tisha B’Av is ridiculous.

She mentions “some Reform Jews” who “actually see” (present tense), but then fails to cite any examples or quote anyone born after 1809. As an active Reform Jew, I can say that I’ve never met anyone who celebrated on Tisha B’Av, and I would challenge Ulman to find a normative Reform Jew who does.

Einhorn, it should be noted, believed a lot of things that today’s Reform Jews would find ridiculous. Citing Einhorn in a discussion of modern practice is like a political writer reporting that “some members of the Democratic Party, as did 18th century President Thomas Jefferson, actually believe in owning slaves.” Like Ulman’s mention of Einhorn, such a statement is an oversimplification of Jefferson’s complex views and, more importantly, has nothing to do with today’s Democratic Party.

Unlike Einhorn, today’s Reform movement is outwardly Zionist, chants “Kol Nidrei” on Yom Kippur and believes that the Jewish textual tradition is important. And many of us commemorate Tisha B’Av. Ulman’s attempt to discuss Reform practice in historical context is sloppy at best and inflammatory at worst.

Ulman’s reporting was irresponsible, inflammatory and contrary to norms of journalistic standards. In the future, I urge you to give her writing the much closer editorial supervision it deserves.

Joshua Barkin
Los Angeles

Israel’s Iraq?

I am passionately angry over your cover headline, “Israel May Come to Regret ‘A Quagmire of Its Qwn Making'” (Aug. 4). I didn’t need to look further. For some reason, The Jewish Journal seems to feel that Hezbollah should be free to continue to come into Israel and kidnap and murder as they wish. If that’s not what the article says, I’m sorry that you felt the headline on the front page should join the world in berating Israel.

Lora Colaffi
via e-mail

I’m truly sorry that Jack Miles holds the views he does regarding Israel’s incursion into Lebanon, and I’m truly thrilled that you are not part of Israel’s current leadership (“Is Lebanon Israel’s Iraq?” Aug. 4).

Israel pulled out of Lebanon six years ago. The U.N. passed a resolution two years ago, asking the Lebanese army to take over the southern part of the country. By its inaction over these many years, whether because of weakness or collusion with Hezbollah, the Lebanese government has forfeited it’s right to complain about the results.

As you can readily see, Hezbollah has dug itself in very well in south Lebanon, created bunkers and supply depots, accumulated thousands of missiles supplied by Iran and Syria and has created it’s own ministate. It has become the forward phalanx of an Iranian and Syrian initiative to attack Israel’s northern areas with the aim of eventually attacking Israel as a whole.

Hezbollah’s killing of the soldiers and the kidnapping of two of them needed an incredibly strong response, not a weak “let’s negotiate” answer. This is exactly the time for Israel to do it’s best to weaken Hezbollah and by extension, Syria and Iran.

Bill Bender
Granada Hills

Lebanese Casualties

In this era, unlike World War II, with GPS, laser, high-speed data transmission, unmanned aerial vehicles and high-resolution aircraft photo reconnaissance, in addition to radio, communications are better than ever, and the tragic incidents of civilian dead in Lebanon are not due to inaccurate Israeli weapons, carelessness or malice but to the genocidal Hezbollah freely engaging in the war crimes of firing and concealing their weapons among civilians.

It is quite clear in international law that Israel is entitled to attack the rocket-firing and storage areas, even if in civilian locations. Some of your correspondents show no recognition of these considerations.

If the Israelis really wanted to cause civilian deaths, with more than 1,000 artillery and 14 fighter squadrons, they have the capability to do so on a massive scale comparable to World War II, where Hamburg saw 45,000 dead in one week from July 22 1943. Israel clearly does not do so.

In addition to this issue of discriminate force, the issue of proportionality has been mentioned by many people. Even if you use the much higher recent Lebanese government claim of 925 dead in Lebanon, quoted on Sky News, which gives no breakdown whatever for the Hezbollah element, which must be a significant part of any such total, that still equals: one dead for every 9.3 Israeli air force sorties, one dead for every five targets hit and one dead for every 14 Hezbollah-held Iranian-Syrian rockets.

Is that either in discriminate or disproportionate?

Tom Carew
Dublin, Ireland

I find it astounding, yet unfortunately predictable, that tiny Israel is for not the first time in a battle that bigger, more powerful nations should be fighting right along with her.

How can we not judge the European countries (with the exception of England) in this current conflict as an international performance rated right around dismal?How can the citizens of these European countries, who stand to gain so much if and when Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic extremists are crushed, not feel belittled and shamed seeing their countries stand by, watching the small army of Israel fight and die in what’s supposed to be the global war on terror.

What makes matters worse is the French and several other European nations take every opportunity to want Israel to cease fighting Hezbollah, forgetting, apparently, that this is a terrorist organization and destroying them is exactly the idea of a war on terror.

The French military should be launching attacks against Hezbollah right alongside the Israelis, as well as the Italians, the Spanish and, for that matter, the former East Bloc countries, as well – they’re supposed to be against terrorists groups and supposed to be allies of America and Israel.

You would be very hard pressed to actually believe the European countries truly are allies and with us in this war on terror, when it seems if they aren’t outright siding with terrorists groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, then they are standing by letting tiny Israel fight their battles for them.

Peter Shulman
Playa del Rey

Best Friend

I strongly doubt you will post this suggestion, but if we Jews were intellectually honest, we would support Israel by supporting George W. Bush, the best friend Israel has ever had. Beyond that, vote for Republicans who far and away more strongly support Israel than do the Democrats.

Bobbi Leigh Zito

‘Greenberg’s View’

Steve Greenberg’s political cartoon from the Aug. 4 Journal portrays a woman asking, “So why can’t Israel and Hezbollah just have an immediate cease-fire and go back to how things were before all this fighting?” and shows how things were before all this fighting to be clandestine warriors climbing over a border wall with a barrage of missiles overhead flying in the same direction.

We know that the fighters are coming from Lebanon and into Israel because we see the flags of the two countries on opposing sides of the border.

I only wish that “Greenberg’s View” had been the real one, but unfortunately there were no Lebanese flags visible on the border with Israel when I visited — only yellow Hezbollah flags flying boldly and brazenly.

Jacob A. Hall
Beverly Hills

Red Crescent Ad

I was shocked to see the ad inviting Jews to donate to Palestine Red Crescent Society (Aug. 11).

Just to remind you that their ambulances carried terrorists and arms with the intention of killing Israelis.

As for the Lebanese Red Cross, let Hezbollah, who is responsible for their suffering, take care of them.

Israel is in dire need for money. Donate to your family (the Jews in Israel), to Magen David Adom or other nonprofit organizations whose volunteers are risking their lives to help the people in the shelters.

Lilly Gottlieb
via e-mail

With all the destruction of lives and property in Israel and all the money needed to rebuild Israeli lives and cities, there are still soft-headed Jews who spend money on an ad in The Jewish Journal urging its readers to donate to the people who have vowed to destroy us.

I’m ready to send a check to the Palestinian Red Crescent as soon as one of the ad signers can show me an ad in an Arab/Muslim newspaper urging its readers to donate to an Israeli relief organization.

William Azerrad
Los Angeles

Aliyah

It seems to be that every time Diaspora Jewry wants to comprise a list of ways to help Israel, they manage to skirt the one thing which would be the most impacting and the most helpful: making aliyah.

This is something that I did 11 years ago, and countless Israelis, especially the soldiers that I served with, were very grateful and felt supported to a great degree. Perhaps it isn’t mentioned, because you may feel that it is unrealistic to ask that of comfy and cozy L.A. Jewry, but it is not a dream if you would but will it, and Judaism at its core asks always to overextend in your service of God and man.

Who knows, maybe if we say it enough as an ideal, then people will take it more seriously. But if we don’t mention it at all, then surely, Diaspora Jewry will never actualize this great and ancient Jewish dream.

Ariel Shalem
Bat Ayin, Israel

Liberal Jewish Left

I applaud Gary Wexler’s ability to see the reality of today’s liberal left and to have the courage to admit that he was wrong (Left-Leaning Jewish Groups Out of Touch Now,” Aug. 4). It is time for American Jews to look at today’s liberal movement and today’s Democratic Party and to be clear about what their vote supports.

A recent Los Angeles Times Poll on Israel found not surprising but very troubling partisan differences, considering most Jews vote Democrat. The poll results suggested a growing partisan divide over Israel and its relationship with the United States.

Republicans generally expressed stronger support for Israel, while Democrats tended to believe the United States should play a more neutral role in the region.

“Overall, 50 percent of the survey’s respondents said the United States should continue to align with Israel, compared with 44 percent who backed a more neutral posture. But the partisan gap was clear: Democrats supported neutrality over alignment, 54 percent to 39 percent, while Republicans supported alignment with the Jewish state 64 percent to 29 percent.”

Jews need to open their eyes and stop this irrational blind faith in a party that long ago left them and our Jewish values.

We live in an age of stupidity, where moral relativism has rendered so many incapable of making moral judgments of good vs. evil (just take a look at our colleges, and that includes the professors). This is even true when it is as clear as Hezbollah initiating the attack on Israel and openly pledged to Israel’s destruction vs. Israel fighting in self-defense for its existence.

This is not a cycle of violence and never has been. If Hezbollah and the Arabs stopped their aggression against Israel tomorrow, there would be peace. If Israel stopped defending itself, the Arab attacks would continue, and Israel would cease to exist.

President Bush has had the strength of character, integrity and courage to stand firmly on Israel’s side. Thank God that President Bush does not have a broken moral compass as so many of our politicians, in particular Democrats, do.

Dr. Sabi Israel
West Hills

Mel Gibson Fiasco

I’m not a Jewish Hollywood mogul, a political writer, religious leader, etc. I’m a disgusted human being who happens to be Jewish, and I have what I feel is a very simple solution when it comes to Mel Gibson: Forget about him. He doesn’t like us, so be it.

Let’s just rip our lapels, and then he will no longer exist in our world. We don’t talk about him, write about him, acknowledge him like in the old days. He’s dead to us, and those who run after him for interviews, repentance, speaking engagements, etc., should be dead to us also.

We owe him nothing, especially acknowledgement of his existence.

Batiya Anna Kugler
Palm Desert

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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.”

Nation and World Briefs


Israel Exits Gaza Strip

A blazing orange sun set over the Mediterranean as Israeli soldiers lowered the country’s flag at the army’s Gaza headquarters, signifying the end of an era in this sandy strip of land.

Sunday’s brief ceremony, attended by top military officials and the parents of soldiers killed defending Israeli settlements in Gaza, marked the end of 38 years of Israeli presence in the Gaza Strip, a period that saw the creation — and most recently the destruction — of Jewish settlements and some of the bloodiest fighting between Israel and the Palestinians.

The three highest-ranking army commanders overseeing Gaza — the army’s chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz; the head of the Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Dan Harel; and the head of the Gaza Command, Brig. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, faced an honor guard of soldiers and saluted them.

Together they sang Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikvah,” and spoke of their hopes for a better future.

“Thirty-eight years are coming to a close. The army is leaving the Gaza Strip,” Kochavi said. “We leave with our heads held high. The gate that is closing after us is also a gate that is opening. We hope it will be a gate of peace and quiet, a gate of hope and goodwill.”

But there were reminders of the difficulties ahead.

A ceremony scheduled for earlier Sunday was canceled after the Palestinian Authority boycotted the event. That came after the Israeli Cabinet reversed a decision and voted 14-2 not to raze 25 abandoned synagogues in Gaza. Palestinian officials reportedly were upset that the decision put them in the position of having to destroy the synagogues or protect them.

On Monday, Palestinian rioters torched several of the synagogues. The Palestinian Authority said it was powerless to stop the desecration by mobs that rushed into the settlements after Israeli forces left.

P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas tried to play down the sight, televised internationally, by noting that Israel had removed all ritual items from the synagogues before withdrawing. But Israeli officials suggest the violence and vandalism do not bode well for future relations.

Settlement Building to Continue

Ariel Sharon said Israel will continue to build in West Bank settlement blocs despite any U.S. objections.

“The major blocs will stay as part of Israel,” the Israeli prime minister told The Washington Post in an interview published Sunday. “Yes, we have small-scale construction within the lines.”

While President Bush has said Israel can expect to keep West Bank settlement blocs under a final peace accord with the Palestinians, the U.S.-led peace “road map” calls for their expansion to be halted.

Asked about potential American reaction to the construction, Sharon said: “I don’t think they will be too happy, but they are the major blocs, and we must build. We don’t have an agreement with the United States about this, but these areas are going to be part of Israel.”

Egypt Takes Over Gaza Border

Egyptian troops began deploying along the Gaza Strip’s southern border. Around 200 border police fanned out along the Egyptian side of the frontier last Friday, with another 550 expected to be posted there this week. Israel is handing over security control of the Gaza-Egypt border to Cairo as part of its pullout from the Gaza Strip. Egypt has pledged to fight arms smuggling from the Sinai to Palestinian terrorists in Gaza.

New Orleans Synagogue OK

A historic synagogue in New Orleans suffered internal damage due to Hurricane Katrina, but its exterior is unscathed. Rabbi Andrew Busch of the Touro Synagogue said that a local police officer with ties to congregants was able to verify the building’s condition. Synagogue leaders hope to return soon to the shul to safeguard Torahs and other items; much of the staff is using temporary space in Congregation Beth Israel in Houston. The synagogue may be the oldest Jewish house of worship in America outside of the 13 original colonies.

Rabbi and Storm Shelter Nixed

A synagogue in Louisiana is shutting down its shelter for victims of Hurricane Katrina and has put its rabbi on administrative leave, JTA has learned. Rabbi Barry Weinstein was asked to take paid leave from Congregation B’nai Israel in Baton Rouge for an unspecified period. He had led the effort to house dozens of evacuees who fled their Gulf Coast homes in the wake of Katrina.

Synagogue officials say the decision about the rabbi was related to a private matter, not directly to the shelter issue. They said even though the shelter would close, the synagogue would continue to house medical personnel helping with rescue efforts.

Some of the rabbi’s supporters charged that a few influential members of the community who are opposed to using the synagogue as a shelter had pressured the temple’s officers to act. The supporters expressed outrage that the shelter was closing down and that the rabbi has been barred from the synagogue.

Russian City Gets New JCC

Jews in St. Petersburg, Russia, marked the dedication of a new Jewish community center. Yesod, a modern stone-and-glass building situated in downtown St. Petersburg, is a project of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. The center, dedicated last Friday, will house Jewish organizations that until now have rented office space in various parts of the city. The center will house the offices of the Hesed Avraham welfare center, the Adain Lo educational network, Hillel and the Petersburg Institute of Jewish Studies. It also will contain a large auditorium for conferences and cultural performances, a Jewish library, a winter garden and a fitness center. The entire space will be wheelchair accessible.

General in the Sights

A retired Israeli army general narrowly avoided facing war-crimes charges in Britain. Doron Almog, a former commander of Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip, flew to London to vacation with his wife Sunday but, after receiving a warning from the Israel Embassy, decided not to leave the El Al plane and flew back home within hours.

According to Israeli officials, British authorities let it be known that a pro-Palestinian lobby in Birmingham planned to seek Almog’s detention and trial on charges of war crimes in Gaza. “This is reason for concern, as the Palestinian community can put out arrest warrants for any Israeli officer who served in the fight against terror,” Almog told Israel Army Radio on Monday. In 2002, Shaul Mofaz, then Israel’s military chief of staff, cut short a trip to Britain after being threatened with similar charges.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Jewish Terrorist Suspect Dies

An alleged Jewish terrorist died after hanging himself in Israeli police custody. Eliran Golan, who was facing charges of trying to bomb Israeli Arab targets in the northern city of Haifa, hanged himself in his jail cell last month and succumbed to his injuries in a hospital late last week. A former Israeli soldier who prosecutors said supplied Golan with explosives for a series of racist attacks in Haifa has been jailed for four years.

Brits May Change Holocaust Day

Britain may reportedly change its Holocaust remembrance day to a broader event commemorating other genocides. The Sunday Times of London reported that advisers to Prime Minister Tony Blair were recommending that the Jan. 27 annual remembrance be replaced by a day that would include recognition of Muslim deaths in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Chechnya and Bosnia, so that Muslim extremists couldn’t exploit an impression that Jewish lives are considered more valuable than Muslim lives.

“The message of the Holocaust was ‘Never again,’ and for that message to have practical effect on the world community it has to be inclusive. We can never have double standards in terms of human life,” said Sir Iqbal Sacranie, the secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain.

Jewish leaders are opposing the proposal.

Arafat Death Mystery

The cause of Yasser Arafat’s death is still unclear, despite the release of his hospital reports. Having obtained records from the French hospital where the Palestinian leader died last November, Ha’aretz quoted Israeli experts on Thursday as saying Arafat’s symptoms were consistent with advanced AIDS or the effects of a poison such as ricin. French and Palestinian Authority officials have said there was no evidence of either cause in Arafat’s death. The New York Times, which also had access to the hospital records, quoted its own independent experts as saying Arafat died of internal bleeding caused by an unknown ailment, and called AIDS or poison highly unlikely.

Google to Open in Israel

Google is planning to open up an office in Israel. The Internet search engine will open the office in Tel Aviv as part of its global expansion program, the Jerusalem Post reported. It is not known when the office will open, but presumably the curious will soon be able to find out by Googling.

 

A Rude Awakening in Spain


We are trekking through Toledo, Spain, happily reverting for a moment to a band of carefree tourists when we are halted in our tracks by a sight we had not expected. A series of stickers appended to street signs depicts a Jewish star with a slash through it — the international sign of prohibition — and states in Spanish and English, simply and repeatedly: “Against the Jewish Power.”

It is startling for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that there are only 12,000 Jews left in Spain, a country of more than 40 million and, as far as we know, none is in “power.”

We are a group of board chairs and professional staff from 10 of the 30 Anti-Defamation League (ADL) regional offices officially representing the ADL on its historic first mission to Spain. Most of our days are spent meeting with government officials and community leaders in Madrid. Toledo is a “tourist” break to visit a city that, 600 years ago, boasted a multicultural population of nearly equal parts Christians, Muslims and Jews.

We reflect on the meeting we had the night before with leading members of Madrid’s Jewish community. We want them to hold their government leaders accountable for denouncing anti-Semitism and, yet, we cannot truly understand what it is like for them here. Parents want nothing more than to provide a Jewish education to their children, yet openly admit they would not allow them to walk outside wearing yarmulkes.

The ADL’s 2002 Surveys of Anti-Semitic Sentiment in 10 Countries in Europe reveals that Spain tops the charts. Unlike France, home to 600,000 Jews where anti-Semitic acts of violence and vandalism are well-publicized in the United States, not much is heard about Spain. “There are no anti-Semitic acts in Spain; there are no Jews,” says Ana Jimenez, ADL’s diversity trainer in Spain.

Yet of those surveyed, Spain has the highest percentages of people who ascribe to anti-Semitic notions: the Jews have too much power in the business world (63 percent); they don’t care what happens to anyone but their own kind (34 percent); they are more loyal to Israel than their home countries (72 percent); they are more willing than others to use shady practices to get what they want (33 percent).

In our meetings with government officials, we repeatedly realize that the problem stems from ignorance and sheer lack of exposure to Jewish culture, and not from hatred.

“What is wrong with thinking the Jews are too successful?” Minister of Education and Culture Pilar Del Castillo Vera asks with a straight face. We do not miss the opportunity to educate her that these views were the basis for the rise of the Nazi party in Germany.

When we meet with Jesus Posada, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and other members of parliament, ADL National Director Abraham Foxman presents our three-part agenda:

1. We ask the Spanish government to join others in the European Union and the United Nations in designating Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organizations (rather than legitimate political parties).

2. We implore Spain to apply her historically good relations with Arab countries in her newfound leadership role in Europe to build a centrist, objective position regarding Israel.

3. We prod the officials to speak out against anti-Semitism, especially in the press.

While the responses range from curt (“We have a different point of view”) to dismissive (“We elected officials are also the subject of caricature in the press”), there is also genuine interest and respect.

We have made an impression, confirmed and validated by a most productive meeting with Foreign Minister Ana Palacio Vallelersundi.

Madrid is a thriving capital city with the energy of London, Paris or Vienna. I feel as comfortable surrounded by the Spanish language as I do in Los Angeles. The culture, the art, even the food are familiar. The people are friendly and open. Spain is a peaceful place. If I did not work for the ADL and knew of our recent survey, I would have had no idea of the presence of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment.

The rise in global anti-Semitism in the last three years, and in Europe in particular, can seem hopeless and overwhelming. To those of us in the trenches, the trip to Spain affirms that every effort counts. The ADL’s first foray into Spain has opened channels and we leave convinced that repeat efforts will be productive.


Amanda Susskind is the regional director of the Pacific Southwest Region of the Anti-Defamation League.

Jewish Groups Help Sept. 11 Victims


The stench in New York after Sept. 11 reminded Julia Millman of Europe.

"I have seen it. I know what it’s all about," said the 76-year-old survivor of Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Bergen-Belsen.

In addition to losing her 40-year-old son, Ben, in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center — he was a construction worker on the 101st floor of Tower One — Millman said the death and devastation revived gut-wrenching memories of her family’s murder in the Holocaust. As a young girl, Millman was forced to tie a rope around her dead mother’s neck and drag her gassed body to a pile of other victims. Now those old feelings of motherlessness and abandonment have returned.

"If it wasn’t for my social worker that tried to console me, that tried to help me in my sorrow, I don’t know if I would be here today," Millman said.

Millman is one of thousands who have received assistance from Jewish social service agencies for traumas associated with Sept. 11. For the most part, they praise the aid they received.

The Jewish community launched a massive, coordinated effort to help both Jewish and non-Jewish victims of the attacks. The UJA-Federation of New York raised funds in New York, where two of the planes hit, and the United Jewish Communities (UJC), the umbrella group of North American federations, raised funds throughout North America.

In areas affected by the attack, Jewish federations and their affiliated social service agencies also received government grants or private funding from foundations and/or individual donors. The funds have been used to provide support groups for victims and those re-traumatized by the incident, including Holocaust survivors or new immigrants. The funds also were used to provide cash assistance and job counseling and to help victims navigate the bureaucracy to obtain financial aid from government and private agencies.

The UJA-Federation of New York, one of 13 major charities comprising the 9/11 United Services Group, a resource for victims in New York City, has been at the center of the Jewish communal response. As of mid-August, the federation had raised $7.6 million in special funding for its agencies to expand services for Sept. 11 victims.

Of that sum, $2.1 million came from the UJC, which plans to add another $166,000 in the coming weeks, and $3.5 million came from The New York Times 9/11 Neediest Fund. The UJA-Federation raised the other $2 million.

On a smaller scale, the American Jewish World Service, an international development organization, distributed more than $650,000 to community-based organizations providing assistance to undocumented and low-income workers unable to obtain relief from mainstream sources. The organizations that received assistance included the Arab-American Family Support Center, Chinese Staff and Workers Association and American Pan-African Relief Agencies.

For its part, the UJC has raised $5.28 million, dispersing $3.9 million of it for immediate needs. It plans to disperse the rest by the end of the year for long-term services, such as tuition assistance and additional trauma counseling.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington — in the city where the third plane hit the Pentagon — received $100,500 from the UJC. The UJC also allocated funds to hard-hit New Jersey commuter areas like Monmouth County, which received $210,600, and Bergen County, which received $133,121.

Barry Swartz, vice president of UJC consulting, said the federation system did a "remarkable" job of quickly coordinating a response to the crisis. "We told federations right away, if families need money, they’re to disburse the funds, and we would reimburse" them, he said.

Several direct service providers said they were pleased with the response from the organized Jewish community. There wasn’t "one second that we felt that we were out there alone," said Jeff Lampl, executive director of Jewish Family Services of Bergen County. That was mainly due to the federation system and the local federation, "which immediately supplied us with a small amount of money to get going," he said.

The agency’s client pool "doubled almost overnight" after Sept. 11, Lampl said. "Almost to this day, taking care of these families has become the central concern of this agency," he added.

Many of those who received services praised the response. Robin Wiener, who lost her brother, Jeff, 33, in the attack on the World Trade Center, said the sibling support group she attended — sponsored by the Jewish Social Service Agency of Greater Washington, the primary Jewish organization responding to local victims there — was "amazing." The sibling support group, sponsored by the agency, was formed following a February gathering of friends and family members of Sept. 11 victims.

The "emotions you go through and the loss that you feel is a loss that is unique to the relationship you had," said Wiener, 38. "My brother and I were very close and very similar in many ways, and I just always assumed he’d be there."

Weiner’s brother, a senior financial executive, had been about to leave on a vacation in Spain with his wife and had been planning a family, she said. It "breaks my heart for him, what we lost together.

"I never realized how small our family was until now," she said. To know there are other people out there going through the exact same thing" is "kind of eerie, but it’s also extremely helpful."

Robert Alonso praised the Jewish Child Care Association, which helped his family. When the planes hit, Alonso’s wife, Janet, 41, managed to make a quick phone call from the 97th floor of Tower One to tell her husband that she loved him. The call was their last conversation. The sudden death of his wife, the family’s primary breadwinner, left Alonso and his two young children — one of whom has Down’s syndrome — reeling.

The Jewish Child Care Association has provided weekly meetings with a psychologist for Alonso’s children Robbie, 2, and Victoria, 3. It also has helped him obtain the maximum government funds for his family.

Gregory Hoffman, 37, said he "would not have survived" without the Twinless Twins of Sept. 11 program, which he and his wife, Aileen, created. Since his identical twin, Stephen, a bond broker at Cantor Fitzgerald, was killed in the World Trade Center, Hoffman says he feels like Tower One before it fell — still standing but "out of balance," separated from its twin and with a gaping hole inside it.

To date, the Hoffmans have identified and contacted 38 twins who lost siblings in the attack. Six of them participate in the weekly support group meetings led by a twinless twin, and 22 have participated in social outings. Many of the participants have become close friends.

For Marjorie Judge, caseworker Joan Kincaid, director of the Jewish Association for Services for the Aged’s Pets Project, has been "exceptional." Judge, 82, who lived four blocks from the World Trade Center, was evacuated from the building and prevented from taking her cat. Police later rounded up the pets in many buildings, but not in Judge’s.

One week later, aided by police and Judge’s building superintendent, Kincaid entered the evacuated building — dark from failed electricity and reeking of rotten food — and climbed eight floors to rescue Sheba, who was waiting, parched, at the door. All that for a cat Kincaid "hardly knew," Judge said.

While many victims praised the Jewish communal response, some had complaints. Several family members of victims in Washington said there was no outreach from the organized Jewish community, except for their synagogues, according to the Washington Jewish Week. The federation defended its work, saying it was the first agency in Washington to hold a memorial service for victims, and that the Jewish Chaplaincy immediately called the families of Jewish victims to offer help.

The federation has dispersed the nearly $500,000 dollars it raised in its Sept. 11 fund to Jewish and non-Jewish agencies, according to a federation official. UJC funds were earmarked for Jewish needs, the official said, adding, "We really did everything we could."

Wiener, of the sibling support group, saw it differently. There was "plenty of comfort, but not a lot of information," she said.

And while Millman raved about her nurse, Rebecca Bigio, she also complained that "she’s not enough." Bigio said she and a social worker visit Millman at least twice a month and call frequently. But Millman, an ailing widow, said she needs more attention so that she won’t "feel so alone and so lost."

Louise Greilsheimer, vice president of agency and external relations of the UJA-Federation of New York, who coordinated its response to Sept. 11, said complaints are inevitable. "You are always, with this quantity of people, going to find issues," she said. But, she added, "I haven’t heard one horror story in the Jewish community."

"I truly believe the agencies came together and put together not only a coordinated approach," but one that was thoughtful, caring and ongoing, Greilsheimer said. "We’re staying here to follow up and to be able to work with communities that need the support."

What a Year it Was


Two years ago, American Jewry buzzed with talk of Jewish continuity and renaissance, and fretted over intermarriage and assimilation.

Last year — already a year into the Palestinian intifada — the community wondered whether solidarity visits, street rallies or good old-fashioned fundraising was the best way to support Israel. It all seems so long ago.

"Off the top of my head, I would say the main story today is terrorism, terrorism and, oh yeah, terrorism," said Stephen Hoffman, president and CEO of United Jewish Communities, the umbrella organization of North American Jewish federations. "We’d been watching its poison spreading throughout the Middle East; then when it came to our shores, it was hard to lift your eyes from it."

Following the most lethal terrorist attack ever on U.S. soil last Sept. 11, a broad Jewish communal agenda — spanning the political and religious spectrums — was shoved to the back burner.

The attention of lay members and leadership turned almost exclusively to international affairs: the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, America’s war on terrorism, the upsurge in global anti-Semitism, even Argentine Jewry’s plight amid the country’s economic meltdown.

First and foremost, the events of Sept. 11 produced greater American appreciation for Israel’s predicament — many Israelis said, "Now you know what it feels like."

"There is a level of anxiety about the very survival of Israel as a viable, modern society, as the wave of suicide murders literally undermines civil society," said Mortimer Zuckerman, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. "You can’t live with that kind of insecurity, and people here now understand it even more."

Added Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the umbrella of the Reform movement: "We began to see Israel not as a local conflict but in more global terms, as a struggle between democratic countries everywhere and fanatic Islam and religious fundamentalism throughout the world."

The empathy for Israel seemed to infuse and re-energize the Jewish community’s advocacy on its behalf. This would help Israel garner stronger support from somewhat surprising sources: the Bush administration, conservative Republicans and evangelical Christians.

Yet Jews were immediately thrown on the defensive by the outlandish charge that the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, was behind the attacks. The charge gained credence among Internet conspiracy theorists and throughout the Arab world.

A more serious image problem for pro-Israel advocates was the question many Americans asked after Sept. 11: "Why do they hate us?"

The media dutifully put the question to local Arab-American leaders, who responded — often unchallenged — that the Arab world’s hatred of America was derived, in large part, from perceived U.S. support for Israel at the expense of the Palestinians.

Some American analysts and pundits, desperate to assign blame for the catastrophe, went along with this. Trying to pin it on Israel, though, was not enough to stave off a frenzy of attacks, both verbal and physical, against Arab American and Muslim American individuals, shops and mosques nationwide. One Sikh man, mistaken for an Arab, was murdered.

A dragnet by U.S. immigration and police officers ensnared some 1,200 residents who looked like Arabs. In the process, it also scooped up some 60 Israelis on visa violations, many of whom subsequently were deported.

The roundup triggered a debate that would continue all year in the Jewish community and the society at large on how to strike a balance between enhanced security and protection of civil liberties.

"The war on terrorism is confronting some pretty important civil rights and liberties issues the Jewish community has championed for decades," said Hannah Rosenthal, executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. "You have to constantly remember that we can’t protect or defend our values as Americans, and as Jews, by subverting those very values," she said.

Many American Jews felt insecure. American security was one thing, Jewish security, quite another.

In late September, Al-Qaida reportedly faxed a statement to Pakistani news organizations in which it warned, "Wherever there are Americans and Jews, they will be targeted." Then came the anthrax scares. The poisonous letters generally targeted the media, but Jewish institutions were on alert. In October, anthrax spores were found in the Manhattan offices of New York Gov. George Pataki, prompting a check for contamination in the numerous Jewish organizations that share his building.

Then there was the dramatic rise in attacks on European Jews and their institutions, as Israeli-Palestinian violence intensified. This followed a wave of anti-Semitic attacks in Europe after the Palestinian intifada erupted in September 2000.

Most attacks reportedly were carried out by young Arab immigrants, but Jews were startled and distressed by the failure of governments, such as France’s, to respond.

"I’ll tell you point-blank: I have two grown daughters, and I didn’t think that my kids were going to have to deal with some of the same anti-Semitism that I did, as the daughter of Holocaust survivors," Rosenthal said. "It’s a scary time, with people losing the ability to differentiate between a Jew, any Jew, and what’s going on in Israel."

Some European pundits on the left and right brushed off charges of latent anti-Semitism. They seemed to excuse the violence by blaming it on Diaspora Jews’ presumed support for Israeli actions against the Palestinians. To some observers, however, that smacked of an age-old canard: that Jews themselves are the cause of anti-Semitism.

Closer to home, American Jews went back on alert in late June when the FBI warned Jewish organizations that Al Qaida might be planning to attack Jewish institutions with gasoline tankers. The warning wasn’t taken lightly, since Al Qaida had claimed responsibility for an April 11 attack on the Tunisian island of Djerba in which a fuel truck rammed a centuries-old synagogue, killing 21 people. Jewish facilities reinforced their security.

American Jews would be rattled once more during the year: On July 4, an Egyptian man and longtime U.S. resident walked up to the El Al ticket counter at Los Angeles International Airport and shot and killed a clerk and passenger. The FBI declined to brand it terrorism, but Israel said it had no doubt it was. Many American Jews nodded in agreement; they now felt they, too, recognized the face of terrorism.

Indeed, the events of Sept. 11 gave rise to a new rallying cry for pro-Israel supporters: "Israel and America share the same enemy." Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon used that notion to justify his ever-stronger steps against Palestinian terrorism. But many in Washington — especially at the less-hawkish State Department — denied any parallel.

The media also was divided on the issue.

American news reporting out of Israel often was perceived as anti-Israel, but groups like the Anti-Defamation League insisted that Israel was prevailing on the opinion pages and among commentators.

Undaunted, Jewish activists lobbied elected representatives, took to the airwaves and did battle on college campuses — often against Arab and Muslim students, sometimes against left-wing Jewish students and faculty. Israel supporters also put their money where their mouths were: The UJC announced it raised $303 million specifically for Israel during the year, including $213 million since the launch of an emergency campaign on April 8, Hoffman said. In addition, some 30 percent of the $860 million raised during UJC’s annual fundraising campaign went toward Israel.

But the crowning achievement of Jewish activism was the April 15 rally in Washington. It drew some 100,000 Jews from around the country to deliver a message of solidarity with Israel to both Jerusalem and Washington. Organized in less than a week, it was the largest Jewish demonstration since 1987.

Jewish activism and events on the ground seemed to make an impression: the Bush administration came to align itself more and more with Sharon’s policies, despite Bush’s call for a two-state solution and his explicit reference to "Palestine," a first for a U.S. president. The White House also issued occasional criticism of Israeli actions, such as the April battle in the Jenin refugee camp — a nest of Palestinian terrorists — in which some 50 Palestinians died, and the July bombing of Hamas terrorist leader Salah Shehada, which also killed 14 civilians.

Jewish leaders were relieved and delighted when Bush on June 24 took the historic step of calling for the replacement of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat and democratization of the Palestinian Authority.

"To me, the single most important event of the year is the unbelievable friendliness and affinity of President Bush and the major part of his administration toward Israel and the Jewish State," said Dr. Mandell Ganchrow, executive vice president of the Religious Zionists of America and former president of the Orthodox Union. "He looks at the issue of suicide bombers with a vision of what’s moral and immoral, and acts on it. He has done what’s right for Israel."

Zuckerman was more surprised. "That an American president, whether you agree with him or not politically, had the political will to be as clear and outspoken, both on moral and political grounds, is unprecedented," he said.

While mainstream Jewry reveled in Washington’s support for Israel, Jews more critical of Israel’s policies felt their voices were being muzzled. By summer’s end, however, the Jewish left appeared to be gaining strength.

Their dissent was felt primarily through newspaper ads and petitions circulated via e-mail, demanding Israel "end its occupation." The movement hoped to crack the veneer of Jewish unanimity successfully projected onto Washington, which some say was done out of concern that disunity might jeopardize U.S. support and further endanger Israel.

Among U.S. Jews and their leadership, "You see signs of despair and panic all over the place, some of it with good reason," said Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, vice president of CLAL — The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership. "But there’s also a rhetoric of demise, a lot of us-versus-them language, and people running around saying it’s just like Germany in 1939. It’s not Germany in 1939. I think they’re sincere, but scared to death.

"As the year wore on, there was less attention paid to Jewish unity and more attention paid to Jewish uniformity," Hirschfield continued. "Very few people are out there looking for new ideas, and that’s never a recipe for community vitality."

In the end, despite the extraordinary focus on terrorism and Israel, communal life — and its lingering concerns — went on almost as normal. Few issues were shelved altogether; they only received less attention.

Rabbi Baruch Lanner, a former professional in the Orthodox Union’s youth group, was convicted of sexual abuse in a case that critics said exposed the Orthodox communal leadership’s insensitivity to the victims.

Meanwhile, the Orthodox community applauded the U.S. Supreme Court verdict that school vouchers — which the community had lobbied for — did not breach the constitutional barrier between church and state.

"We are not a unidimensional community," Ganchrow said. "Despite the fact that our community grieves unbelievably for Israel, this has in no way lessened our efforts and dedication to all the things we believed in and worked for before."

Similarly, Yoffie said, "Building and strengthening our synagogues, educating our children, adult education — those concerns are still there." But, he added, "Matters of life or death, war or peace, they take priority."

Added Hoffman: "We have a chronic problem in the Middle East, not an acute problem. Just as the Israelis have gotten adjusted to living with it, so too we’re finding that we’re going to have to live with it. That doesn’t mean we ignore it — we’ll maintain our support and activism but you don’t just put Jewish life on hold everywhere else."

Principled Stand


Israel’s exclusion from the global Red Cross organization appears to have been the pivotal factor in the resignation of the head of the American Red Cross.

Dr. Bernadine Healy said last Friday that she had been forced out of her job over policy differences with her board. In particular, she noted her unpopular decision to withhold American Red Cross dues from the International Committee of the Red Cross to protest the group’s refusal to give full membership to Magen David Adom, the Israeli relief group.

Contrary to reports, Healy’s ouster had very little to do with the issue of how to use funds collected for the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to an official at the American Red Cross.

"It’s just not the case," the official said.

Healy had taken the lead on what she termed a "controversial but principled stand" supporting Israel’s demand for membership in the international organization. Healy advocated withholding American Red Cross dues to the international group until the Israeli branch was included. Magen David Adom currently has only observer status.

The American Red Cross has so far withheld two years of dues — approximately $10 million to $12 million — as well as voluntary contributions to the international group.

Israel’s humanitarian relief movement has been barred from the Red Cross movement, which allows only the red cross and, in Muslim countries, the red crescent. Israel insists on keeping its red Star of David.

The issue of the emblem has blocked Magen David Adom’s admission to the International Red Cross since 1949. According to Magen David Adom, it has met all of the other criteria required to join the international organization.

The exclusion generally is attributed to intense lobbying against Israel from Arab and Muslim members of the International Red Cross. Officially, the reason given is that allowing the Star of David might encourage other groups to press for inclusion of their emblems as well.

Alluding to her difficulties on this issue with the board of governors, Healy said "reasonable people have differed with me on this and certain other matters, but this is an area of deep principle for me not easily compromised."

Earlier this month, the board tried to reverse course and pay its back dues to the international body, even passing a resolution to do so, the American Red Cross official said. Healy refused to back down, however.

In her resignation speech, she said, "the policy is now up for grabs."

The following day, however, the American Red Cross voted to keep current policy, passing a resolution affirming its commitment to Magen David Adom’s struggle.

"It is one of our top international policy priorities," said Leslie VanSant, a spokesperson with the American Red Cross.

It remains to be seen how aggressively the American Red Cross will pursue the issue.

Healy’s resignation may help solidify American Red Cross support for Magen David Adom, the official said, but she remains doubtful about the Israeli group’s ultimate prospects of joining the world body.

"I’m not terribly optimistic," the official said.

When she began her tenure, Healy said the Star of David emblem should be recognized by the International Red Cross. The exclusion of the Israelis is "a betrayal of the sacred principles of this movement" and "cannot be tolerated any longer," she said.

Lawrence Eagleburger, a former U.S. secretary of state, said Healy had asked his advice in forcing the International Federation of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent to change policy toward Israel.

In an op-ed for The Washington Post on Oct. 30, Eagleburger wrote that Healy was forced out of office not because of anything related to the events of Sept. 11, but because "she dared to try to right a wrong — the wrong of denying a sovereign nation equality because of its ethnicity."

The Israeli relief agency’s general director, Avi Zohar, credited Healy with "opening the door" on the issue and generating much support in the last two years. American Red Cross chapters have been strengthening their connections with Magen David Adom, Zohar said, and the American Red Cross will continue its support.

"Because it is just, I think they will put pressure in the same way," he said.

Zohar believes his group will be granted full membership in the next year or two.

Magen David Adom’s inclusion has support from all major Jewish organizations, and U.S. congressional support reached a high point this year. Fifty-three U.S. senators signed letters in August to Secretary of State Colin Powell and Red Cross officials, urging the International Red Cross to grant full and immediate acceptance to Magen David Adom.

Gary Kenzer, the executive director of the U.S. branch of Magen David Adom, said that Healy’s resignation is of concern but does not signal the end of American Red Cross support.

"The issue is not dead in the water," he said.

Trying to Talk


Relations between Southern California’s 600,000 Jews and 500,000 Muslims, which have been marked by roller coaster-like ups and downs over a 50-year history, have hit near bottom in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

With more than 200 hate crimes against Arab Americans reported nationally since then, some here are trying to decrease tensions between the Muslim and Jews communities.

The most recent attempts at building bridges between leaders of the two communities — named the Jewish-Muslim Dialogue — was already on hold before Sept. 11, in the wake of the bitterness engendered by the intifada.

But the dialogue returned to the news last week after a prominent Muslim participant suggested that Israel be considered a suspect in the Sept. 11 terror attacks, and Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca convened his own version of Oslo to help address fears and prejudices.

Baca enlisted the support of Rabbi Stephen Jacobs of Kol Tikvah and Dr. Nazir Khaja of the Islamic Information Group to bring members of the Jewish and Islamic communities together and open the dialogue between faiths.

“It ultimately has to come from the hearts and minds of the people,” Baca said.

In 1999, Khaja, a Palestinian American, negotiated alongside Jesse Jackson for the release of four Americans being held hostage by Slobodan Milosevic.

“Out of 1.2 billion Muslims, 80 percent are non-Arab,” Khaja told The Journal. “They live in Southern Asia and the Far East. They don’t speak Arabic; have very little knowledge of it. Yet the authentic source of Islam is in Arabic. They are left to rely solely on second-hand teaching from leaders who have gained the knowledge of Arabic and teach these masses their own version of Islam with their own agendas attached.”

Since his move to the United States in 1972, Khaja trained at Harvard University-affiliated hospitals in Boston and then moved to Los Angeles, where he has been a clinical assistant professor at UCLA School of Medicine. Realizing there was very little information about Islam in Los Angeles, Khaja founded the Islamic Information Service. On the way to Belgrade, Khaja met Rabbi Stephen Jacobs.

“If there is a positive to this huge tragedy, it is the relationships that can be built and mended, as well as a recognition of the Arab Americans in this country,” Khaja said.

On the eve of Rosh Hashana, in front of some 2,500 congregants, Jacobs shared a letter written by Usman Farman, a young Pakistani man from New York. A Chassidic Jew rescued Farman as he lay in front of the World Trade Center. “Help came from the least expected place, and goes only to show, that we are all in this together … regardless of race, religion, or ethnicity. Those are principles that this country was founded on,” Jacobs said.

But that coming together was jolted less than a week after the initiation of interfaith meetings when Arab American leader Salam Al-Marayati told KCRW radio host Warren Olney that Israel is a state which might ultimately benefit from the terrorism in New York.

According to the show’s transcript, Al-Marayati said at one point, “If we’re going to look at suspects, we should look to the groups that benefit the most from these kinds of incidents, and I think we should put the State of Israel on the suspect list because I think this diverts attention from what’s happening in the Palestinian territories so that they can go on with their aggression and occupation and apartheid policies.”

Al-Marayati subsequently told the Los Angeles Times that the quotation was accurate but taken out of context, and he sent a “clarification” to Jewish leaders.

These actions did not mollify David Lehrer, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, who told the Times, “I’ve had a long relationship with Salam, and I am so disillusioned with what he has done in the past week as to not be interested in engaging in a dialogue with him.”

Rabbi John Rosove of Temple Israel of Hollywood, a veteran dialogue participant, labeled Al-Marayati’s statement “so offensive and provocative that I am in crisis as to whether I am going to stay in the dialogue.”

Further raising Jewish ire were several anti-Zionist articles in the local Muslim magazine, Minaret. The publication went to press before Sept. 11, but angered Jewish leaders, who noted that the editor, Aslam Abdullah, was a longtime dialogue partner and so-called moderate.

Muslims, in turn, protested when the Simon Wiesenthal Center posted a photo on its Web site showing cheering Palestinians as they celebrated the suicide attacks on New York and Washington.

Charging that the photo fanned “the flames of ethnic and religious hatred,” a handful of Muslims held a brief press conference in front of the Wiesenthal Center.

The photo was removed from the Web site after the Associated Press, which had sent out the picture, removed it from circulation, said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the center’s associate dean.

Into this heated arena, a somewhat unexpected peacemaker has come to the front: Lee Baca, sheriff of Los Angeles County.

Baca, a Latino elected public official, brought together spiritual leaders from five synagogues and five mosques shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks.

A second interfaith meeting, convened by Baca on Thursday, Sept. 20, drew elected officials and some 70 participants, representing the spectrum of the county’s religions. The Journal was the only media present.

In contrast to past Jewish-Muslim dialogues, in which the Jewish representation heavily outnumbered the Muslim one, the situation was reversed at the Baca meeting.

Gov. Gray Davis, Supervisor Zev Yaroslovsky and County Mayor Mike Antonovich sat beside Baca at the meeting.

Addressing religious leaders from Muslim, Jewish and Christian groups, Davis asked them to “make your views known in a strong way.” Urging leaders to “prove to ourselves and the state, if we live here, we are Americans and all one people. We must condemn violence against any group.”

Many leaders pleaded with officials to stop media outlets and other groups from making the situation worse. “The message resonates more fully when it comes from the clerics and community members to which it was directed. My words are not as useful or as powerful as yours,” Davis responded.

Yaroslovsky discussed the “nervousness in the Jewish community,” asking leaders to “protect civil liberties and not scapegoat issues.”

Baca asked the leaders to “come in with a kinder heart. Don’t think privately and speak out publicly to unveil your prejudices to the public. What we say here can’t be minimized by other actions in other forms in other places. If I did that as sheriff, it would be a breach of my responsibility to protect. I ask you to reach that level of agreement with yourself.”

Rabbi Leonard Beerman, a longtime participant in Jewish-Muslim dialogue, said: “We can’t expect to agree on some of the critical issues. It doesn’t mean we cannot see the humanity of the other people.

“The discussion should focus on the fact that Jews and Muslims have a right to be who they are. If we could try to keep our eye on the ball and the central issue, we would see that Israelis and Palestinians have a right to their own identities,” Beerman added.

Rabbi Marc Dworkin of Leo Baeck Temple said one way to keep dialogue going is to keep discussion local. “The task at hand is to heal our community. People are traumatized,” he said. “Pakistani Muslims are afraid to send their kids to school. Human civil rights are for everyone. Once there is a relationship between people and trust, we can take on the difficult issues.”

Is It Safe?


In light of Tuesday’s terrorist attacks, synagogues and other Jewish organizations scrambled to evaluate security precautions.

A week before Rosh Hashana, and with ongoing violence in Israel, the timing of the attacks raised serious concerns for many about the safety of high-profile Jewish events. Yet, though many organizations were reluctant to publicly discuss security measures, most Jewish representatives insisted that their congregations were adequately prepared.

“For the High Holy Days, we probably won’t do anything more than usual,” said Rabbi Eli Hecht of Chabad of South Bay and vice president of the Rabbinical Council of America. “Chabad of South Bay feels that the American population is as safe as they can be, and the Jewish population should feel equally safe,” Hecht said.

Rabbi Steven Carr-Reuben of Kehillat Israel echoed this confidence. “We’ve checked with local police, and we don’t feel personally threatened,” he said.

Should Jews feel safe to attend High Holy Day services? “Definitely so,” said Rabbi Baruch Shlomo Cunin of Chabad Lubavitch West Coast. “What, are we going to become hostage to fear?” he asked. Like most organizations, Cunin said he couldn’t make public any specifics about security measures, but, “we’ve always been conscious of the welfare of those who come to pray with us. I’m confident that we shall overcome this — light always overcomes darkness,” he told The Journal.

At Kol Tikva in Woodland Hills — as at other synagogues across the nation — Rabbi Steven Jacobs organized a healing service Tuesday night for congregants “to come and to grieve,” Jacobs said. Dr. Nazir Khaja, head of the Islamic Information Center, spoke at the Kol Tikva service to denounce the attacks and emphasize that they were perpetrated by a small number of lunatics who do not represent America’s Arab or Islamic population. “While we’ve brought on some extra security … you can’t throw up your hands. Jews can’t become neurotic that they’re after us,” Jacobs said.

The Jewish Federation’s Goldsmith Center shut down Tuesday after leadership consulted with police and firefighters. Federation executives and leaders of its various agencies met and conferred throughout the day, “putting a crisis plan in place,” said The Federation’s PR Director, Michelle Kleinert. For concerned synagogues, The Federation will “serve as an information resource on security,” she said.

A meeting of The Jewish Federation’s agency leaders and Jewish educators was hastily assembled to address new concerns raised by the terrorist attacks. Sheriff Lee Baca, Police Chief Bernard Parks, Fifth District city councilmember Jack Weiss, Federation president John Fishel and a panel of police officers and sheriff’s deputies spoke to the group Wednesday afternoon. After describing law enforcement officials’ coordinated response to Tuesday’s fears in Los Angeles, Parks assured the audience that the LAPD is “very sensitive to the holiday season,” with security plans in place for synagogues throughout the city.

Los Angeles police have their own concerns for the Jewish community. “Basically, we have no information about specific threats,” said LAPD Deputy Chief David Kalish, “but we’ve reviewed and expanded our list of potential political and religious targets.”

Kalish added that while the terrorist attacks have created a heightened sense of danger, the LAPD reviews its protection plans for Jewish organizations every year before the High Holy Days. One such review session took place Wed. afternoon at the Federation building.

Without giving any specific information on LAPD operations, Kalish said that additional police protection would take the forms of extra patrols, assignment of police personnel to Jewish-affiliated organizations, and collaboration with private security forces.

At Chabad of Agoura, Rabbi Moshe Bryski told The Journal that the Sheriff’s department had already contacted the institution, letting him know that it will be affording heightened security for the High Holy Days.

The security concerns affected not only synagogues, but Jewish schools and community centers as well. At Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, a recorded message told concerned community members: “Due to the current crisis, the school is now closed.”

North Valley JCC, the site of a white Supremicist attack two years ago where five people, including three children, were injured, was closed Tuesday and officials were not available for comment.

The University of Judaism, where many students live on campus, remained open, with students helping to address safety concerns. In particular, U.J. President Dr. Robert Wexler referred to “a significant number of Israeli students who’ve had specialized military training.” But like other Jewish community leaders, Wexler emphasized that no specific threats had been directed at the school. “Primarily we’re doing this for the emotional well-being of the students and the community,” he said.

The terrorist attacks will affect Jewish concerns both at home and abroad. Ian Lesser, an advisor on international security to the Clinton administration, believes the attacks on America would probably translate into greater sympathy in Washington for Israel’s tactics in targeting Palestinian terrorist leaders.

Lesser, now a senior analyst with the RAND Corp., until recently in Santa Monica and now in Washington D.C., also commented on American Jews’ perceptions of their own safety.

“There might be a concern by some whether to congregate in synagogues during the High Holy Days, and, of course, everyone is entitled to his or her personal choice.

“However, we should remember that when we alter our daily behavior, we give in to the aims of terrorism,” Lesser said. “Some caution may be required, but the illusion that we’re safe in America is now gone. No one is really safe anywhere.”

Tom Tugend and Sheldon Teitelbaum contributed to this report.

War or Pieces


Israelis voted Ehud Barak into office as prime minister because he promised to bring them peace. He failed, in large part because his negotiating partner Yasser Arafat was unwilling to make the difficult choices peace demands. Israelis then voted Ariel Sharon into the prime minister’s office hoping that, if Barak couldn’t bring peace, at least Sharon could bring security. He failed, too. In a Gallup poll published in Ma’ariv newspaper this month, only 21 percent of the Israelis said they believed Sharon could end the violence. A month earlier, the number of believers was twice as high.

Most observers believe Sharon has done a good job of managing the violence on a day-to-day basis. Targeting terrorist leaders for assassination, though it has earned international condemnation, has saved innocent Israeli and Palestinian lives. The incursions into Palestinian-controlled territory have sent a clear message with a minimum of bloodshed. Those who believed that Sharon’s rule would unleash a fury of blood and war were mistaken. They were confusing him with Arafat.

But despite Sharon’s short-term strategic success, he has not achieved the promised security. In fact, as journalist and author Yossi Klein Halevi told an audience here last week, Arafat has succeeded in moving the front lines of this conflict to the front yards of most Israelis. Routine trips require life-and-death calculations. Malls and main streets have become potential deathtraps.

Speaking to the Jewish Community Relations Committee, Halevi recounted a particularly telling — and chilling — story widely reported in Israel: A father, worried that his daughter not take a public bus back from the movie theater, told her he would come pick her up. On their way home, Palestinian terrorists ambushed their car, and both were shot dead. "Nowhere is safe anymore," Halevi said.

One of the points Foreign Minister Shimon Peres used to make during the Oslo negotiations was that as life improved for the average Palestinian, he or she would have more vested in peace with Israel than in conflict. Unfortunately, the Palestinian’s own leader saw to it that Peres’ theory has gone untested.

But the opposite theory is indisputable: the worse the Palestinians’ daily life becomes, the more unending the intifada. There’s no question the average Palestinian is suffering — imagine trying to carve out a life amid road blocks, security checks, curfews, retaliatory strikes and an economy that makes Israel’s presently sluggish one look like the ’99 NASDAQ. Add to this the fact that Palestinian leaders, sheikhs and educators are feeding their people a stream of vicious anti-Semitic propaganda. (For a sample, click on www.jewishjournal.com/memri.) No wonder Sharon’s justifiable show of force hasn’t convinced the Palestinians to call off the violence.

So what to do when neither the carrot nor the stick suffices? That is the question Israel now faces, and the options aren’t great. It can invade and occupy the Palestinian territories, but only the fantasists of Greater Israel see that as a long-term solution. It can separate itself unilaterally from the Palestinians, but the diplomatc, military and moral implications of that are staggering enough to suggest that if Israel could have done so, it already would have. It can head back to the negotiating table, as Peres is set to do — talk about bad summer reruns. And then there’s war.

Israeli sources say a war on "one-and-a-half fronts," meaning with Lebanon/Syria/Iraq and the Palestinians, is inevitable. It should have broken out last week, they say, but the prospect of talks delayed it.

And what happens after the war, I asked one of those Israelis. He shrugged. "We’re back where we started."

World Brifs


Beit Jalla Action Postponed

Israeli military sources were quoted as saying the army had postponed a planned action in Beit Jalla by a day. The media reports said the operation, aimed at stopping Palestinian gunfire in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo, was delayed in part because of American criticism of Tuesday’s military incursion into the Palestinian-ruled city of Jenin.

Palestinian Militants Arrested

Israel arrested several Palestinian militants that planned to carry out a terrorist attack near Haifa. The militants, arrested last week, were members of a suspected Islamic Jihad cell, according to details allowed for publication. Several Israeli Arabs also were arrested in connection with the incident.

Israeli undercover security forces also killed a member of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat’s Fatah faction Wednesday in Hebron. Imad Abu Sneineh was suspected of involvement in shooting attacks. Israel defends its policy of “targeted killings” of suspected Palestinian terrorists, but the international community condemns what it calls “assassinations.”

Israeli Astronaut Set for 2002

Israel’s first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, will blast into orbit on May 23, 2002, the prime minister’s office announced Monday. The announcement followed a meeting between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and NASA administrator Daniel Goldin. The two also agreed to continue cooperation between Israel and NASA.

Stem Cell Reaction Mixed

Jewish groups offered mixed reactions to President Bush’s decision to allow limited federal funding for research on existing embryonic stem cells.

Groups praised the government’s first step but expressed hope that the scope of funding could be expanded in the future.

The National Council of Jewish Women, however, said it is “deeply disappointed” by the president’s Aug. 9 announcement, calling it too narrow and restricting

U.N. Alters Zionism Resolution

A purported compromise on a resolution denigrating Zionism as racism at the upcoming U.N. conference in South Africa is “subterfuge,” according to a Jewish official. In the current draft, the term “occupying power” simply replaces specific references to Zionism and Israel, said Jason Isaacson, director of government and international affairs for the American Jewish Committee. Still, the document “is written for no other purpose than to single out Israel,” Isaacson said, contradicting comments Tuesday from a South African official who said that the Zionism-racism issue had been removed from the conference agenda.

Israel’s Nude Offensive

The Israel Defense Force is using female soldiers to lure Palestinian rock-throwers to their doom, according to the Gazan weekly Al-Hayat al-Jadida. The female soldier performs a strip show, luring the Palestinians away from their piles of stones. She then produces a gun and fires on the hapless crowd, according to the paper, which did not explain where the nude soldiers hide their guns. The IDF called the story “totally ridiculous.”

Jews Teach for America

Several North American Jewish organizations, including the federation system and Birthright Israel, hope to have a Jewish version of Teach for America in place by next summer, according to Ron Wolfson, vice president of the Los Angeles-based University of Judaism. The project, which Wolfson describes in the latest issue of the Jewish Life Network’s magazine and which the university is spearheading, would recruit hundreds of college students and alumni of Israel trips to teach in Jewish schools and would train them in a Jewish teachers’ “boot camp.”

Five Jews Killed in Crash

Five Orthodox Jews from Brooklyn were killed in a helicopter crash near the Grand Canyon.

The five tourists killed last Friday were part of a group of about 20 friends and family on a four-day vacation at the Bellagio hotel-casino in Las Vegas. “They are all active in the communities, they’re all friends,” New York City Councilman Noach Dear said of the victims. “They were a lot of fun to be with.” The sole survivor, Chana Daskai, suffered burns over 80 percent of her body.

Two N.Y. Rabbis Sentenced

Two New York City rabbis were sentenced to nearly three years in prison for embezzling $2.5 million meant for training counselors for elderly Holocaust survivors. Efroim Stein and Jacob Bronner pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy charges.

Prosecutors said Stein slipped funds to his synagogue and to subcontractors in exchange for kickbacks and falsely put his relatives on the payroll as trainers.

Shoah Denier Offers Deal

Holocaust denier David Irving offered to pay Penguin Books $210,000 if the publisher as well as historian Deborah Lipstadt drop all further claims against him. Last year, a British court ordered Irving to pay Penguin’s and Lipstadt’s legal costs, estimated at $3 million, when he lost a libel suit against them over Lipstadt’s book “Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory.”

Russian Leader Slammed

A Russian Jewish leader is being attacked in the media for seeking charges against a diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church for publishing and distributing an anti-Semitic tract, according to the Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union.

Church leaders in Yekaterinburg are defending the diocese’s distribution of the book and accusing Mikhail Oshtrakh of “inciting antagonism toward Jews.” The prosecutor’s office said it is investigating the issue.

British Group Warns of Attacks

A group that monitors anti-Semitic incidents in Britain is warning that Palestinian terrorists may expand their activities to target Jews around the world.

The Community Security Trust points out that Hamas’ Web site asks rhetorically, “Aren’t all Jews and Zionists fighting your own brethren and targeting you all?”

A Hezbollah-controlled television station, meanwhile, reported that a group allied with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement issued a threat to attack “Zionists and their U.S. allies anywhere, inside and outside occupied Palestine.”

Terror, Again


Nothing much happened in Los Angeles last week to mark it as a special week in Jewish history. Ditto for Chicago and Sacramento, Calif.

No, it was pretty much a normal week in all three cities. Kids read their bar and bat mitzvah portions. A few couples got married. Folks gathered, as they do this time every year, to observe Holocaust Remembrance Day with the usual speeches, chanting of El malei rachamim (“God of compassion”) and vows of “Never again.”

Nothing much happened to remind you that an exclusive little club of three – Sacramento, Los Angeles and Chicago – had just gained a fourth member. Pittsburgh had become the fourth American community inside a year to experience an armed anti-Semitic assault by a right-wing terrorist. Yes, again. On Friday afternoon, April 28, Richard Scott Baumhammers, a suburban Pittsburgh attorney with far-right views and a history of mental illness, allegedly shot his Jewish next door neighbor to death and set her house afire. The victim, Anita “Nicki” Gordon, 63, was found near her front door, shot six times, hands outstretched in a vain effort to protect herself.

He then set out by car on a two-county orgy of racist violence, shooting up two synagogues, a Chinese restaurant, an Indian grocery and a karate club, killing four more people: an African American and three immigrants, from India, China and Vietnam. Another Indian immigrant was critically injured. Baumhammers, 34, is a child of Latvian immigrants. He received his law degree in 1992 at a Baptist college in Alabama, after spending a semester abroad at the University of Heidelberg in Germany. He briefly practiced immigration law in Georgia, but was hospitalized for mental illness and eventually returned to Pittsburgh. Increasingly preoccupied with his Latvian roots, he repeatedly visited Europe, where he was said to be in touch with far-right militants.

Last winter he launched his own “political party,” the Free Market Party, which favored ending “Third World immigration” and restoring “European American” supremacy. It had no known adherents, though its Web site was impressive enough that the Council of Conservative Citizens, a Southern group with ties to Republican congressional leaders, agreed to a link.

Pittsburgh, Jewish and non-Jewish, reacted to the shootings with a now-familiar outpouring of grief, condemnation and intergroup solidarity. Victims’ funerals became public demonstrations of sympathy. The Anti-Defamation League and NAACP joined in a downtown Pittsburgh rally against “hate violence.” The desecrated synagogues were packed Friday evening with Jews and non-Jews from across Pittsburgh, come to show unity.

Jewish community leaders declared that the shootings proved the need for stricter gun-control laws and vowed a stepped-up campaign in the coming weeks. “What was in play here was [the suspect’s] ability to gain access to high-power weapons,” said Edie Naveh, director of the Pittsburgh Jewish Community Relations Council.

What’s not planned is an examination of Baumhammers’ political motives. “We have to be very careful about reading too much into it about hate groups and anti-Semitism,” said Rabbi Neal Scheindlin of Beth El Congregation, one of the desecrated synagogues. “While he clearly had read some of that stuff, he also had some mental illness. I don’t know that it represents much beyond himself.”

But this wasn’t some isolated breakdown. It was part of a growing nationwide pattern – indeed, a virtual replay of assaults elsewhere.

The first came last June in Sacramento, when three synagogues were firebombed in a coordinated attack. The men eventually charged, Benjamin Matthew and James Tyler Williams, are also suspected in the separate shooting death of a gay couple in northern California.

In July in Chicago, six Jews were shot – none fatally – while walking home from synagogue on a Friday night. Over the next two days the shooter, 21-year-old Benjamin Smith, an activist in the far-right World Church of the Creator, drove through two states, shooting at blacks and Asians. When it was over there were two dead – one black, one Korean-American – and seven wounded, including the six Jews. Smith shot himself after police cornered him in southern Illinois.

Then came the armed assault on the North Valley Jewish Community Center in suburban Los Angeles in August. After wounding five Jews – a center worker, a teen counselor and three children – the suspected shooter, Buford Furrow, allegedly drove off to shoot and kill an Asian-American postal worker. And now Pittsburgh.

Three of the four incidents – in Chicago, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh – follow a precise pattern: extended shooting sprees, each by an individual with far-right views and a history of mental illness. And, says Chicago Jewish Community Relations Council director Jay Tcath, “in all three cases anti-Semitism was the trigger. All three started their attacks with Jews and then went on to attack others.” It’s not exactly an anti-Semitic terror wave, but it’s close.

Oddly, the Pittsburgh attack “seems to have barely made a blip on the radar screen,” Tcath said. The nation’s major newspapers buried it deep inside. No editorials or op-eds denounced it. In Jewish communities around the country there was barely a yawn – no rallies, no solidarity funds, nothing. Why not? “Maybe it’s outrage exhaustion, a sense that we’ve seen it all before,” Tcath said. Maybe we missed it “because it wasn’t in a major media market, like Chicago or Los Angeles. And because there wasn’t an extended chase to hold the public’s attention.”

Still, Tcath said, “it’s a little befuddling. The incident in Pittsburgh had a much higher death toll than the others.” It was also the first incident in which a Jew was killed. Why haven’t Jews responded? The apathy puts community leaders in a ticklish position. Those who do see the larger picture are hesitant to speak out too firmly. “Starting a panic won’t help anyone,” says regional ADL director Joel Ratner. But silence is dangerous, too. It leaves Jews under the misapprehension that attacks like Baumhammers’ merely represent isolated violence by deranged individuals. That’s wrong.

There’s a subculture of extremism out there, driven by cynics and fanatics and accelerated by the Internet, waiting for a lost soul to come along and pull the trigger. And wishing won’t make it go away.

J.J. Goldberg writes a weekly column for The Jewish Journal