Stray dogs roam the Babi Yar monument on March 14, 2016 in Kiev, where Nazis and local collaborators murdered 30,000 Jews in 1941. Photo by Cnaan Liphshiz.

Researchers find Jewish headstones at the Nazi killing site of Babi Yar


Nazi troops dumped dozens of stolen Jewish headstones at the same site near Kiev where they murdered tens of thousands of Jews, researchers in Ukraine discovered.

The Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Center last month extracted  50 headstones from the Babi Yar ravine, where Nazis and local collaborators murdered more than 150,00 people, including 50,000 Jews, starting in September 1941.

“The tombstones were removed from a local Jewish cemetery during the Holocaust and thrown into the same ravines where over 150,000 Jews, Roma people and Ukrainians were murdered during the Holocaust,” Marek Siwiec, a former Polish politician and current head of the memorial center, said in a statement earlier this week about the discovery.

With a mandate from the Ukrainian government, Siwiec’s organization, which was set up last year, is heading international efforts to commemorate the Babi Yar tragedy in a manner befitting its scale. Jewish victims arememorialized at the site only by an unfenced six-foot menorah, which is situated near a dumping ground for industrial waste and is vandalized regularly.

“The significance of Babi Yar is of upmost importance, at this horrendously difficult site, the largest single act mass murder of Jews took place during the Holocaust, with 37,771 brutally murdered during a two-day period, it is our duty not just to remember this site but also proactively learn from the darkest days of human history to build a better future,” Siwiec said in the statement about the discovery.

Additional headstones from Jewish graves are scattered in the ravine but they require careful excavations to be extracted intact, according to Jonny Daniels, founder of the From the Depths organization, which promotes the commemoration of the Holocaust in Poland. Daniels visited the site earlier this week to see how From the Depths, which has focused on restoring pillaged headstones in Poland, could assist the Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Center, he said.

Nasrallah warns Israel that Hezbollah will avenge commander’s killing


Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Friday vowed to avenge Israel for the killing of a senior Hezbollah commander in Beirut earlier this month.

Hassan Laqqis, who fought in Syria's civil war for the Lebanese Shi'ite militia, was shot dead outside his home on December 4.

A previously unknown group, Ahrar al-Sunna Baalbek brigade, claimed responsibility at the time of the attack, but Hezbollah quickly blamed Israel, with which it fought a 34-day war in 2006.

“All the indicators and clues points to the Israeli enemy,” Nasrallah said, in his first public comments since the attack.

“Our killer is known, our enemy is known, our adversary is known … When the facts point to Israel, we accuse it,” he said in televised remarks to supporters in southern Beirut.

Israel has denied any role in the shooting and hinted that the motive may have been Hezbollah's military support for Syrian President Bashar Assad in his war with mainly Sunni Muslim rebels.

The 2-1/2 year-old civil war in Syria has polarized the Middle East between Sunni Muslim powers, such as Turkey and the Gulf Arab states who support the rebels, and Shi'ite Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah, who back Assad.

The president's Alawite faith is an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.

Hezbollah has sent several thousand fighters to Syria, helping to turn the tide in Assad's favor this year. But Nasrallah said on Friday that would not prevent it from avenging the killing of Laqqis.

“If the Israelis think … that Hezbollah is busy and that Israel will not pay the price, I say to them today, 'You are wrong',” he said.

“The killers will be punished sooner or later and the blood of our martyrs – whether large or small – will not be wasted. Those who killed will not be safe anywhere in the world. Vengeance is coming.”

The open role of Hezbollah fighters in the Syrian civil war and the steady flow of Lebanese Sunnis joining the anti-Assad rebels have fuelled sectarian strife in Lebanon.

Car bombs killed dozens of people in Beirut in August and a twin suicide attack on the Iranian embassy in the Lebanese capital killed at least 25 people last month.

But Nasrallah mocked critics who he said blamed Lebanon's woes – from sectarian tension to the flooding of a road during winter storms – on Hezbollah's intervention in Syria.

“Why isn't there a government? Because Hezbollah entered Syria. Why haven't we held elections? Hezbollah is in Syria. Why is the economic situation like this? Hezbollah is in Syria. Why did the tunnel on the airport road become a lake? Because Hezbollah is in Syria. This of course isn't logical.”

Reporting by Laila Basasm and Stephen Kalin; Editing by Mike Collett-White

Ten car bombs kill 39 in Iraqi capital


Ten car bombs exploded across the Iraqi capital on Monday, killing nearly 40 people in markets and garages on the evening of a Shi'ite Muslim celebration, police and medical sources said.

Some of the attacks targeted districts where Shi'ites were commemorating the anniversary of the birth of a revered Imam, but there also were explosions in mixed neighborhoods and districts with a high population of Sunnis.

The violence reinforced a growing trend since the start of the year, with more than 1,000 people killed in militant attacks in May alone, making it the deadliest month since the sectarian bloodletting of 2006-07.

Waleed, who witnessed one of Monday's explosions in which five people were killed in the Shi'ite stronghold of Sadr City, described a scene of chaos: “When the explosion happened, people ran in all directions.”

“Many cars were burned, pools of blood covered the ground, and glass from car windows and vegetables were scattered everywhere.”

Eight people were killed in two car bomb explosions in the central district of Karada, one of them in a car garage. Two car bombs exploded simultaneously near a market in the western district of Jihad, killing eight.

Separately, a bomb placed in a cafe in the northern city of Mosul killed five people, pushing Monday's death toll over 40.

Insurgents, including al Qaeda's Iraqi affiliate, have been recruiting from the country's Sunni minority, which feels sidelined following the U.S.-led invasion that toppled former dictator Saddam Hussein and empowered majority Shi'ites.

Since the withdrawal of U.S. troops in December 2011, critics say Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has consolidated his power over the security forces and judiciary, and has targeted several high-level Sunni leaders for arrest.

Sunnis took to the streets last December in protest against Maliki, but the demonstrations have thinned and are now being eclipsed by intensifying militant activity.

Sectarian tensions have been inflamed by the civil war in Syria, which is fast spreading into a region-wide proxy war, drawing in Shi'ite and Sunni fighters from Iraq and beyond to fight on opposite sides of the conflict.

Political deadlock in Baghdad has strained relations with Iraq's ethnic Kurds who run their own administration in the north of the country, and are at odds with the central government over land and oil.

Reporting Kareem Raheem; Writing by Isabel Coles; Editing by Michael Roddy

Loughner’s parents acted on signs of danger before Giffords attack


The parents of Jared Loughner, concerned by his erratic behavior, confiscated a gun and disabled his car in the months before the killing spree that critically wounded congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Documents released Wednesday by the Pima County Sheriff's office in Arizona and reported in the media detail measures taken by Randy and Amy Loughner in the months after their son was asked to leave a community college because of his behavior.

They confiscated Jared Loughner's shotgun, counseled him to receive psychological treatment and had him tested for drugs. Randy Loughner would surreptitiously disable his son's Chevy Nova each evening to keep him from going out.

The morning of the Jan. 8, 2011 attack in a Tucson strip mall, Loughner came home after purchasing ammunition for another gun.

When Randy Loughner asked his son what was in his backpack, Jared Loughner ran into the woods. Within hours he had killed six people and wounded 13 at a constituent meeting in the mall parking lot held by Giffords, then a freshly reelected Democratic congresswoman from the area.

Loughner, 24, a diagnosed schizophrenic, confessed to the shootings and is serving life without the possibility of parole.

Giffords, the first Jewish woman elected to federal office from Arizona, retired a year later and remains in recovery while she leads a gun control initiative with her husband, the former astronaut Mark Kelly.

Sandy Hook: The cultural phenomenon behind mass shootings


It has been 13 years since the murders at Columbine High School, when two teenagers killed 13 people and wounded 21 others.  Since that time, ABC reports, there have been 31 school shootings.   In the wake of the Columbine calamity, law enforcement doctrine changed dramatically: Formerly, first responders would stop to give aid and comfort to the wounded; now they bypass the wounded, heading straight towards the perpetrator(s).

“Senseless” seems to be the most frequently used word to describe the awful events at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School, and senseless it surely was.  Still, we hunger for explanation.  What can it be that possesses a man to gun down little children, each child shot multiple times?  What can we do to protect against such insanity?

Guns, we hear repeatedly, don’t kill people; people kill people.  But the weapon of choice for people bent on killing people is a gun.  Guns are used in more than two-thirds of the murders in this country.  A simple thought exercise: Absent guns, would the number of murders go up or go down?  Knives, hands and blunt instruments are inherently less lethal, more intimate and, perhaps most important, more time-consuming.

Some statistics: US homicide rates are 6.9 times higher than rates in the other high-income countries, driven by firearm homicide rates that are 19.5 times higher. For 15-year olds to 24-year olds, firearm homicide rates in the United States are 42.7 times higher than in the other countries. For US males, firearm homicide rates are 22.0 times higher, and for US females, firearm homicide rates are 11.4 times higher. The US firearm suicide rates are 5.8 times higher than in the other countries, though overall suicide rates are 30 percent lower.  US unintentional firearm deaths are 5.2 times higher than in the other countries. Among the 23 countries of the OECD, 80 percent of all firearm deaths occur in the United States, 86 percent of women killed by firearms are US women, and 87 percent of all children aged 0 to 14 killed by firearms are US children.

Yet the easy availability of guns in America is not the whole story. True, the rate of people killed by guns in the US is 19.5 times higher than in similar high-income countries in the world, and true also that 45 percent of Americans say they have a gun in their homes, also a rate not approached in comparable countries.  But these figures reflect a cultural difference at least as much as they signify inadequate gun control legislation and enforcement.  Consider, for example, that in Israel, where young men and women – soldiers – move about openly with semi-automatic weapons, there has never been a mass murder.  In fact, picking up an armed hitch-hiker there is perfectly routine.  Hence it is reasonable to suppose that we are dealing here with a cultural phenomenon and not merely with lax gun controls.  As New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in the aftermath, this “only happens in America.”

But identifying that cultural phenomenon is a challenge we have not yet met.  Is violence promoted by what we see on television and in movies and video games?  The same video games are available in Israel.  Is it that our sense of social solidarity is wanting?  But explain how a more pervasive sense of social solidarity might have inhibited the deranged Adam Lanza, the slaughterer of Newtown (who used his mother’s legally purchased guns, and shot his mother in the face multiple times).  Or James Holmes, who killed 12 people and wounded 58 in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.  Or Jared Loughner, who murdered six people and gravely wounded then-Representative Gaby Giffords in Tucson and twelve others.  Or Seung-Hui Choi, who murdered 32 people and wounded 24 more at Virginia Tech.  And so on, and so on, and so on.

What rivets our attention and magnifies our sadness in the case of Newtown is, obviously, the tender age of the victim children.  It is that which renders the event utterly inexplicable.  We may more or less understand the aggrieved employee who opens fire in his place of work or even the perpetrator of lethal domestic violence.  But here, no such understanding is available.  No comprehensible end justifies such evil means.  Nor can we readily suppose that a less porous mental health system might earlier have identified Adam Lanza as a prospective killer.

Is there, then, nothing we can do?  Unfortunately, many of the things we can do are either trivial or distasteful.  We can amplify security systems, rendering access to schools more difficult.  But Lanza, so far as we know, shot his way into Sandy Hook.  We can, and should, ban assault weapons, bearing in mind that there is already a vast supply of them.  Perhaps we can somehow forbid the NRA from contributing to political campaigns, freedom of speech requirements notwithstanding.

There is no panacea.   At the same time, there is no 2nd Amendment right to bear any kind of arms or use any kind of ammunition.  It is time and then some for all three branches of government to reflect that in their policies and their judgments.  It is already too late for the 20 children of Newtown; it is not too late for what will otherwise be the next grotesque tragedy.

Egypt says it has identified suspects in Sinai killings


Egypt has identified seven suspects, including one Egyptian, in the killing of 16 border guards last month that triggered the biggest security sweep along its frontier with Israel in decades, the interior minister said.

The attack on August 5, the worst since Egypt's 1973 war with its Jewish neighbor, underlined how lax policing in the region has emboldened Islamist militants to step up attacks on Egyptian security forces and the Israeli border.

Lawlessness in Sinai deepened after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak last year and his successor as president, Mohamed Mursi, has vowed to restore order.

“The security apparatus succeeded in identifying the perpetrators of the incident that killed Egyptian soldiers in Rafah,” Interior Minister Ahmed Gamal El-Din told state-owned al-Akhbar.

He told the daily newspaper that the Egyptian suspect belonged to a dormant local jihadi cell but did not mention the nationalities of the other suspects or say if any of the seven had been detained.

Gamal said security forces were still trying to root out members of “disparate” militant groups, some of whom espoused the “takfiri” doctrine, which sees modern society as godless and therefore to be avoided, or attacked.

A complex relationship between the hardline Islamist groups, security forces and local Bedouin tribes hostile to the Cairo government complicates efforts to pacify the region.

It also makes it harder to verify reports of the security mission in the isolated region and the local response.

Joint army-police raids on suspected militant hideouts began a few days after the attack, employing attack helicopters, armored vehicles and hundreds of troops.

The army says 11 militants have been killed and 23 arrested, 11 vehicles impounded and weapons seized including five boxes of Israeli-made ammunition.

The crackdown has the cautious approval of Israel which is alarmed by the increasing audacity of the Sinai militants. Analysts say some of them may have links to al Qaeda.

Reporting By Tamim Elyan, editing by Tim Pearce

Iranian suspects reportedly confess to killing scientists, training in Israel


More than a dozen Iranian citizens arrested in connection with the assassination of several Iranian nuclear scientists have confessed, Iranian state television reported.

The Iranians were shown in a television report describing how they were trained at an Israeli military camp near Tel Aviv. One of the suspects said the operation was being sponsored by the United States and Israel, according to The Associated Press.

“The assassination control room was in Tel Aviv, but it was receiving the orders from Washington and London,” according to the TV report.

The alleged spies, who were arrested in June, include eight men and six women, the AP reported.

At least five nuclear scientists have been assassinated in the last two years. Iranian officials have said they believe that Israel and its Mossad intelligence agency were behind the killings.

In May, Iran executed a man convicted of spying for Israel and assassinating an Iranian nuclear scientist. Majid Jamali Fashi, 24, was sentenced to death in August 2010 for the murder of Ali Mohammadi, a particle physics professor at Tehran University killed by a remote-controlled bomb in a January 2010 attack.

In April, more than 15 Iranian and foreign nationals reportedly were arrested for carrying out alleged terrorist missions for Israel in Iran, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency, Iran’s official news service. The group was accused of spying for Israel, the attempted assassination of an Iranian expert and sabotage.

Israeli teen to serve 8 years in prison for killing Arab


Israeli teen was sentenced to prison for killing an Arab man in Jerusalem.

The killer, 17, was sentenced Thursday to eight years by the Jerusalem District Court as part of a plea bargain.

In all, three teens were accused of attacking two Arab men in the city center in February 2011. The youths reportedly had been drinking.

Hussam Hasan, 24, was killed after being stabbed multiple times with a razor blade; the Jewish youths shouted “Death to Arabs” during the attack. A friend of Rawidi’s escaped from the attackers and called police.

The killer turned himself in to police three days later at a West Bank checkpoint. His friends had been arrested at the scene.

This past month in the Muslim world


Some news items from the Islamic world in the past month:

Nigeria:

June 18 (CNN): “A militant Islamist group [Boko Haram, which means “Western culture is forbidden”] claimed responsibility Monday for bombings the day before that the Nigerian Red Cross said left 50 people dead at three Christian churches in Nigeria.

“A suicide bomber drove at high speed through a barricade at the EWCA Goodnews Wusasa Zaria church. … Within minutes, another explosion occurred at the Christ the King Catholic Church in Zaria. … At least 10 people died and more than 50 were injured in that attack. … Later, at least 10 people died in a bombing at a church in the city of Kaduna. …

“The bombings are the latest in a string of violence directed at Nigerian churches.”


Pakistan:

July 4 (BBC): “A Pakistani mob has taken a man accused of blasphemy from a police station and burnt him to death.

“Witnesses said hundreds of people looked on as he screamed for help. Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law imposes the death penalty for insulting Islam. … The man was reportedly beaten and dragged to the spot where he is said to have desecrated the Koran. The mob then poured petrol on him and set him on fire, according to witnesses.”


Mali:

Much of Mali’s history is targeted for destruction by Islamists.

The Sunni Islamist movement, Ansar Dine, which means “Defenders of the Faith,” destroyed the graves of ancient Sufi saints, unearthed the saints’ bodies and threw them into a garbage heap. Ansar Dine did this for the same reason that the Taliban, when they ruled Afghanistan, used anti-aircraft and tank fire to destroy some of mankind’s greatest sculptures, the 1,700-year-old sandstone statues of Buddha. They believe that Islam demands the destruction of anything Muslims deem non-monotheistic.

July 1 (BBC): “Islamist rebels occupying the ancient city of Timbuktu in Mali have vowed to smash every mausoleum, in the face of international protests.”


Egypt:

In his first public speech after being elected president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi vowed that he would press the United States to release Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, the “blind sheik” who is serving a life sentence for planning the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. The bombing — intended to bring down the building and kill thousands of Americans — killed six Americans and injured more than a thousand.

Morsi is often referred to as a “moderate Islamist.”


Afghanistan:

Kabul, July 4 (Reuters): “A 30-year-old woman and two of her children were beheaded overnight in Afghanistan’s east, police said, in what appeared to be the latest in a rapidly growing trend of so-called honor killings.”

Kabul, July 7 (Reuters): “A man Afghan officials say is a member of the Taliban shot dead a woman accused of adultery in front of a crowd near Kabul. … The austere Islamist group dictates law even near the Afghan capital. In the three-minute video, a turban-clad man approaches a woman kneeling in the dirt and shoots her five times at close range with an automatic rifle, to cheers of jubilation from the 150 or so men watching. … ‘Allah warns us not to get close to adultery because it’s the wrong way,’ another man says as the shooter gets closer to the woman. ‘It is the order of Allah that she be executed.’ ”

This was a typical month.


Why do I note all this?

Certainly not to indict all Muslims. It goes without saying that many millions of Muslims are moral and decent people, and that the great majority of Muslim-Americans are just like other Americans. But among the American media and intellectual elites there is a denial of the evil that permeates the Islamist world. (“Islamist” refers to those Muslims — unfortunately, more than a few — who seek to have Sharia govern societies.) In August 2010, listeners to NPR and viewers of PBS, for example, were told that Islamist violence is no greater than Christian violence.

PBS host Tavis Smiley interviewed Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the ex-Muslim Somali writer and activist for human rights and for women’s rights in Islamic countries. After mentioning American-Muslim terrorist Maj. Nidal Hasan, who murdered 13 soldiers and injured another 30 at Fort Hood, Texas, and Faisal Shahzad, who attempted to murder hundreds in New York’s Times Square, this dialogue ensued:

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Somehow, the idea got into their [Hasan’s and Shahzad’s] minds that to kill other people is a great thing to do and that they would be rewarded in the hereafter.

Tavis Smiley: But Christians do that every single day in this country.

Ali: Do they blow people up?

Smiley: Yes. Oh, Christians, every day, people walk into post offices, they walk into schools, that’s what Columbine is — I could do this all day long. … There are so many more examples, Ayaan, of Christians who do that than you could ever give me examples of Muslims who have done that inside this country, where you live and work.

Michel Martin of NPR, in discussing whether the Islamic mosque planned for near Ground Zero should be moved, compared the Muslim identity of the 9/11 terrorists to the “Christian identity” of American terrorist Timothy McVeigh: “Did anybody move a Christian church after Timothy McVeigh” bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995?

And ABC News “20/20” anchor Chris Cuomo tweeted this to his nearly 1 million followers: “To all my christian brothers and sisters, especially catholics — before u condemn muslims for violence, remember the crusades.”

Between the ongoing evil in many parts of the Islamic world and the Westerners who diminish that evil by arguing that Christians do the same thing, we are in trouble.


Dennis Prager’s nationally syndicated radio talk show is heard in Los Angeles on KRLA (AM 870) 9 a.m. to noon. His latest project is the Internet-based Prager University (prageru.com).

Opinion: When killers target kids


On July 22, 2011, 33-year-old Anders Behring Breivik killed 69 people, most of them teenagers, on the island of Utøya in Norway. On March 19, 2012, 23-year-old Mohammed Merah shot and killed a teacher and three young children at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France.

Both killers targeted children, which makes the crimes especially shocking. Breivik arrived at a summer camp on Utøya dressed as a policeman so that the children would approach him before he opened fire. Merah shot 30-year-old Rabbi Jonathan Sandler while Sandler was trying to shield his children, 4-year-old Gabriel and 5-year-old Arieh. As the father and one son lay dying, the other son crawled away but was shot trying to escape. Inside the school, Merah grabbed 7-year-old Myriam Monsonego, the daughter of the head teacher, and shot her in the head point-blank. Days earlier, Merah had killed three French Muslim soldiers, just as Breivik had bombed and killed innocent civilians hours before the Utøya massacre. Breivik was arrested and is currently on trial. Merah, after a 30-hour siege of his barricaded apartment, was killed by French police.

The crimes left people in France and Norway in a state of extreme fear and unimaginable grief. For most people there was one fundamental question: How could anyone commit such acts? French President Nicolas Sarkozy and French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe used the word “monster” to describe Merah, and this word has also been used to describe Breivik. It implies that Breivik and Merah are alien, or not human. But this label is unhelpful and out of place in an age of science and rationalism. We need a proper explanation, and it centers on psychological and neuroscientific research into empathy.

We all know what empathy is. Seeing an old man stumble across the street, we not only read the situation but also feel impelled to rush over and help him. Lacking empathy would mean we could just walk by. Empathy is normative: Most of us have enough empathy to know which of our words or deeds would upset others, so we can bite our lip, or sit on our hands, when we sense it is prudent or kind to do so. Empathy provides the brakes on our behavior.

Those brakes were nonexistent in Breivik and Merah. The two killers were able to stop seeing their victims as people with thoughts, feelings, rights — people with families and friends who loved them and with dreams and hopes for a future. They instead came to see them as objects that could be discarded. How?

Looking at these two awful cases, we can see some common factors that give us a clue as to what happened.

First, both young men had extreme ideological beliefs. We don’t yet know if extremist ideology is a risk factor for cruelty, but it seems plausible that ideology can lead people to “switch off” their empathy. Breivik says the reason he murdered children and adolescents was to draw attention to his manifesto aimed at preventing Europe from being multicultural and from “Islamification.” Merah said he wanted to avenge the deaths of Palestinians and take revenge on French Muslim soldiers fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. Both men were convinced by the rightness of their political beliefs, and both were willing to sacrifice and dehumanize people to achieve their ends.

Second, these two murderers shared something else: Breivik’s parents divorced when he was a year old, and Breivik had had no contact with his father since 1995. Merah, too, was raised by his mother after his parents divorced when he was young. Psychological research from psychiatrist John Bowlby tells us that one route to low empathy is an absence of important parental affection in early childhood. So is growing up with a sense of distrust and feeling uncared for.

Third, research by personality psychologist Avshalom Caspi shows that certain genes, if present in a person who has experienced emotional neglect, can determine how much empathy a person ends up with. In other words, childhood neglect is one risk factor, but in combination with the “wrong” genes, the risk increases still further. Identifying if murderers like Breivik and Merah share these genes will be important for future research to establish.

Finally, both Breivik and Merah have been given a psychiatric diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder. MRI scanning shows that a fully functioning “empathy circuit” involves at least 10 different brain regions. Some of these are in the cortex, while others are deep in the limbic system of the brain. Most of us have an empathy circuit that develops and functions naturally, but some people have an empathy circuit that malfunctions. In individuals with narcissistic or psychopathic personality disorder, parts of the empathy circuit are less well-developed or less active.

So at least four factors can cause the empathy circuit to malfunction: extremist beliefs, adverse social experience, genetic makeup and personality disorder. These can in combination tip a person to act in cruel ways. How this neural circuit functions determines whether we act with cruelty or kindness.

Given the biological dimension to many of these factors, however, we face the uncomfortable question of whether those who suffer from low levels of empathy long-term can be considered to have a neurological disability. Clearly, we need to impose sanctions on those who hurt others or commit murder, and we need to protect our communities from their dangerousness. But the view that some murderers may have an “empathy disorder” could make the line between the prison system and the health system increasingly hard to draw.

We are also left to wonder whether it is possible to intervene in order to remedy severe malfunctions of the empathy circuit. This requires more research. We know that some aspects of empathy (such as emotion-recognition skills) can be taught, and some therapies aimed at fostering empathy (such as mentalization-based therapy) are being explored for people with personality disorders. But these are fledgling efforts. Whether any interventions would be effective in preventing murder is completely unknown.

Nothing can undo the awful, terrible loss of the families of the victims, to whom we send our deepest sympathy. But if we are to prevent tragedies such as those in Utøya and Toulouse, we must learn how to diagnose the absence of empathy — and intervene before it becomes fatal.

This article was originally published at Zócalo Public Square (zocalopublicsquare.org).

Simon Baron-Cohen is professor of developmental psychopathology at the University of Cambridge and author of “The Science of Evil” (Basic Books), published in the UK as “Zero Degrees of Empathy” (Penguin).

Shootings upend French election, Sarkozy gains


The shootings of French soldiers and Jewish schoolchildren by a home-grown Islamist gunman killed by police have upended France’s election campaign and resurrected conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy’s prospects.

The first opinion poll to be taken since Mohamed Merah, 23, committed his third and deadliest attack at a Jewish school in Toulouse on Monday showed Sarkozy surging past Socialist challenger Francois Hollande in the April 22 first round.

Hollande leads by eight points in voting intentions for the May 6 runoff, but the gap has narrowed and the Toulouse killings have thrust the issues of security and integration of immigrants to the top of the political agenda.

That plays to Sarkozy’s strengths, political scientists and campaign advisers say.

Jerome Sainte-Marie, director of political studies at the CSA polling institute which took the survey, said Sarkozy’s two-point gain, largely at the expense of far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, showed that people naturally rallied behind the head of state in times of crisis.

The bounce could prove short-lived, he told Reuters Television in an interview, and the campaign may soon return to the underlying issues of unemployment, social welfare, living standards and pensions on which the left had been leading.

Sainte-Marie cited the example of former President Francois Mitterrand, whose popularity hit a peak during the 1991 Gulf War in which France participated, only to plunge to record lows after the last shot was fired.

“However it is also possible, since this shift had already begun, that Nicolas Sarkozy manages to turn the whole campaign around to his own agenda, which is about order, values, immigration, integration, security and national identity.”

Police commandos stormed Merah’s apartment on Thursday after a 30-hour siege and shot him dead in an exchange of fire in which two policemen were injured.

Within two hours, the president had announced new measures to combat Islamist indoctrination and recruitment via the Internet, through foreign travel and in prisons.

RIGHT TURN

Before the shootings, Sarkozy had courted controversy by turning sharply to the right in a March 11 speech declaring there were too many foreigners in France and vowing to rewrite or walk out of the European Union’s Schengen open-border system.

“Of course what has happened in the past week has changed the course of events,” a senior Sarkozy campaign adviser said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“There wasn’t much talk about security and terrorism before. But this is going to raise questions about our system of integration, our approach to fundamentalism and our tolerance of certain practices here. You’re going to hear a lot about that in the weeks to come,” he said.

The Toulouse siege revived memories of an episode early in Sarkozy’s career, when in 1993 he entered a nursery school where a gunman with explosives calling himself the “Human Bomb” had taken a class of children and their teacher hostage and negotiated for their release. Sarkozy emerged carrying a child.

Police later shot the gunman dead and freed the remaining children unharmed, and Sarkozy, who was mayor of the Paris suburb of Neuilly, became a national hero.

DEFAULT WIN

Both Sarkozy and Hollande suspended campaigning after Monday’s shooting and called for national unity.

But while the incumbent was shown on television supervising the manhunt, comforting mourners, bringing together religious leaders and delivering a moving eulogy, his rival was confined to playing shadow president, following in Sarkozy’s footsteps but without his powers.

For months, it seemed Hollande only needed to avoid a serious blunder to win by default against a president whose brash style, disappointing economic record and unpopular austerity policies seemed to doom him to defeat.

Now the left’s plodding standard-bearer needs to find a way to wrest the campaign initiative back.

Although Hollande has avoided criticizing the government, Sarkozy’s supporters have resumed attacks on the Socialist contender, accusing him of being “in denial” about the threat from Islamist militancy.

“Francois Hollande never made security a priority in his program,” Jean-Francois Cope, leader of Sarkozy’s UMP party, told the daily Le Figaro. “In the face of this tragedy, I call on Francois Hollande and his Green allies to maintain the appropriate dignity.”

As if on cue, the same conservative newspaper launched a front-page editorial broadside against the Socialists on Tuesday, linking the Toulouse attacks and Islamist militancy to the left’s alleged embrace of multiculturalism.

“Hasn’t (Socialist Party leader) Martine Aubry taken her fascination with communitarianism as far as to set special hours aside for women in the swimming pools of Lille?” Le Figaro said.

STATESMANLIKE

Hollande’s campaign advisers say his best hope is to remain statesmanlike in the face of such attacks and try to refocus the campaign patiently on bread-and-butter issues about jobs, schools and reviving economic growth.

Meanwhile, Sarkozy faces a fight-back from the far right, with Le Pen questioning possible security lapses in the handling of Merah, and charging that the government has been soft on Islamism and lost control of many tough urban neighborhoods.

“The government is scared,” she said on Thursday. “I’ve been saying this for 10 years. Entire districts are in the hands of Islamic fundamentalists and I say it again today, the danger is underestimated.”

She demanded to know why the security services, which had been tipped off to Merah’s two visits to Afghanistan and Pakistan, had not kept him under tighter surveillance since his return last year, suggesting they had been diverted to snoop on journalists and political opponents.

Centrist candidate Francois Bayrou, who refused to suspend his campaign, implicitly blamed Sarkozy for creating a climate of “stigmatization” of immigrants and said the role of the president should be to unite society, not divide it.

The president needs to pick up votes from supporters of both these candidates to beat Hollande in the runoff, and the Toulouse shootings may help him score points with both camps.

His firm handling of the manhunt and immediate announcement of new measures to combat militancy may please right-wing and nationalist voters, while his emphasis on national unity and interfaith dialogue may appeal to centrists.

Additional reporting by Emmanuel Jarry and Pauline Mevel; Writing by Paul Taylor; Editing by Giles Elgood

Toulouse shooting suspect’s standoff continues [VIDEO]


The standoff in France between police and Mohammed Merah, the suspect in the shooting at a Jewish school in Toulouse, stretched into its 13th hour Wednesday.

The standoff began at 3 a.m. Wednesday outside the Toulouse home of Merah, a 24-year-old French national of Algerian descent who claims ties to al-Qaida was continuing, French authorities said.

Merah reportedly has been known to French intelligence for many years.

On Wednesday morning, thousands attended the funeral in Jerusalem of the attack’s four victims two days earlier.

French police surrounded Merah’s home in the morning. Merah, in contact with the police, reportedly had agreed to turn himself later in the day before abruptly cutting off communication with police. The suspect’s brother, and possibly other siblings, reportedly had been arrested, and two police officers were injured in a shootout outside the home, according to reports.

Story continues after the jump

Video from MarkStoneSkyNews

The Ozar Hatorah school reopened Wednesday for the first time since the attack, in which a man riding a motorbike opened fire Monday outside the school where students were waiting to enter the building at the start of the school day.

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

Thousands attended the funeral of the victims on Wednesday morning at Jerusalem’s Givat Shaul cemetery.

“Your grief, your pain is ours too,” French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said at the funeral. “All of France is in shock.”

On Tuesday, three former French soldiers accused of having neo-Nazi ties who had been suspected of possible involvement in the shooting attack were questioned and released by French police.

Forensic tests found that the weapon used in the attack at the school was the same one used in a pair of fatal shooting attacks last week targeting off-duty French soldiers in and near Toulouse. The shootings, which also were committed by a gunman on a motorbike, left three soldiers dead and another seriously wounded. The soldiers who were shot were of North African or Caribbean background.

Road to radicalization from Toulouse to Kandahar


For Mohamed Merah, the Frenchman suspected of killing four Jews and three Muslim soldiers in southwestern France, the road to radicalization ran from Toulouse to Kandahar in Afghanistan.

Merah, 24, who was holed up in a suburban Toulouse apartment on Wednesday, besieged by police commandos from the elite RAID unit, claimed affiliation with al Qaeda and said he wanted to avenge Palestinian children, French Interior Minister Claude Gueant said.

The suspect, a French citizen of Algerian origin, had been under surveillance by France’s domestic intelligence service for several years after being identified in Afghanistan. But he led a normal life of soccer and night clubbing, according to friends and neighbors who had no idea that he had been in Afghanistan.

Merah had a police record for several minor offenses, some involving violence, Gueant told reporters, “but there was no evidence that he was planning such criminal actions.”

As police psychologists tried to talk him into surrendering peacefully, Merah gave the same impression of calm determination and self-control as the gunman on a scooter recorded by security cameras at the Ozer Hatorah Jewish school in Toulouse on Monday.

“With the RAID negotiators, he explained a lot about his itinerary,” Gueant said.

“His radicalization took place in a Salafist ideological group and seems to have been firmed up by two journeys he made to Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

During one of those trips, Merah was arrested in Kandahar and sentenced to three years in prison for planting bombs in the province but escaped in a mass Taliban jail break in 2008, the director of Kandahar prison told Reuters.

Ghulam Faruq said Merah was detained by Afghan security services on December 19, 2007. Afghan intelligence officials passed on his identity to their French counterparts, a security source said.

TRAINED WITH TALIBAN?

The daily Le Monde said Merah had trained with Pakistani Taliban fighters in a border tribal zone before being sent into southwestern Afghanistan to fight against NATO forces supporting the Kabul government.

French troops are part of that NATO operation, which may explain why the first victims of the gunman’s killing spree were serving paratroopers killed in Toulouse on March 11 and Montauban on March 15.

French intelligence sources said about 30 French fighters trained by the Taliban were believed to have taken part in attacks on Western forces in Afghanistan.

Gueant said the Salafist group to which Merah belonged had no official name and had never given any indication of turning to criminal activity. Police were still trying to determine whether the gunman acted alone or as part of a group.

Merah’s mother, elder brother and two sisters were detained by police on Tuesday and negotiators sought their help in trying to persuade him to turn himself in to the authorities.

“His mother said she did not wish to speak to him because she did not believe she could convince him and he would be deaf to her appeals,” Gueant said.

Merah’s profile is typical of hundreds of second- or third-generation French immigrants from North Africa who have traveled to Afghanistan or Pakistan over the last two decades attracted by militant Islamist groups, security officials say.

Many were radicalized by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which triggered a wave of attacks on Jewish targets in France in the early 2000s, including arson attacks on synagogues. The number of anti-Semitic attacks declined last year, figures published by the Jewish community showed.

“LOST THE PLOT”

On his return to Toulouse, Merah led a normal life.

Cedric Lambert, 46, father of an upstairs neighbor, said Merah was friendly and had helped them about 10 months ago to carry a heavy sofa upstairs.

“He was extremely normal,” Lambert said.

A group of four 24-year-old men of similar ethnic background who said they were friends of Merah tried to go to his apartment block on Wednesday to persuade him to surrender but were stopped at a police roadblock.

All told a Reuters reporter he had never talked to them about religion and they had no idea he had been to Afghanistan.

One friend who gave his name as Kamal, a financial adviser at La Banque Postale, said he had known Merah at school and they had done soccer training together after meeting again two years ago.

“He is someone who is very discreet. He is not someone who would brag and go around and say ‘Oh look at my new girlfriend, look how great I am.’ He is very polite and always well-behaved,” Kamal said.

“He never spoke about Islam but he did pray. But we all pray five times a day. There’s nothing strange about that.”

Another friend of Moroccan origin, who gave the pseudonym Danny Dem, said Merah had tried to enlist in the French army but had been rejected. He said he had seen Merah in a city centre nightclub just last week.

Merah did not drink “but I don’t think he is any more religious than I am. I think he has just lost the plot,” Danny Dem said.

A third contemporary, who declined to give his name, said he went to primary school with Merah and they had remained friends.

“He likes football and motor-bikes like any other guy his age,” said the man, dressed in a blue French national soccer shirt. “I didn’t even know he prayed.”

French police say they have arrested 914 suspected Islamist militants since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States and imprisoned 224, averting several planned attacks.

Additional reporting by Ahmad Nadem in Kandahar and Gerard Bon in Paris; writing by Paul Taylor; editing by Geert De Clercq and Peter Millership

Related

Israel, Gaza militants agree to halt fire


Israel and Islamic Jihad militants agreed to halt fire on Friday after days of deadly cross border violence, a Palestinian official said.

Eight Palestinians, including a local commander of the Islamic Jihad in Gaza, were killed since a truce was called on Monday, raising to 26 the number of Palestinians killed in Israeli air strikes in the past week.

An Israeli man has also been killed in rocket attacks launched by Gaza militants since the weekend.

The Palestinian official who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Israel and the Islamic Jihad group both told Cairo they would abide by the Egyptian and United Nations mediated truce announced on Monday.

A statement issued overnight by Taher al-Nono, spokesman of the Hamas government in Gaza, said his administration held talks with Egypt and the United Nations to press Israel to stop attacks and urged factions to stop rocket fire into Israel.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said no rockets had been fired from Gaza since Thursday.

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

Seven of the attackers were killed by Israeli forces and Egypt said five of its men died in the crossfire.

Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Jon Hemming

After attack near Eilat kills 8 Israelis, worries over the Egypt border


After a deadly string of terrorist attacks in southern Israel, officials in Jerusalem are on the alert for how instability in neighboring Egypt may be opening up more avenues for terrorists intent on attacking Israel.

Thursday’s coordinated attacks left eight Israelis dead—six civilians and one soldier—and seven terrorists were killed in subsequent firefights with Israeli soldiers.

Palestinian gunmen attacked two buses and two cars traveling near the southern resort city of Eilat just after noon Thursday, according to the Israel Defense Forces. When Israeli troops arrived, roadside bombs planted by the terrorists detonated. More than 40 people were reported injured in the attacks.

At the same time that the vehicles near Eilat came under fire, Palestinians in Gaza fired rounds of mortar fire at Israeli soldiers working near the security fence where Gaza, Egypt and Israel meet.

The attacks “demonstrate the weakening of Egypt’s control over the Sinai Peninsula and the expansion of terrorist activity there,” Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said. He added that Israel’s military will retaliate against the attacks, which he said “originate in Gaza.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a statement also spoke of harsh retaliation.

“If the terrorist organizations believe that they can attack our citizens and get away with it, they will soon learn how wrong they are,” he said. “We will exact a price, a very heavy price.”

Israeli officials believe that Palestinian terrorists crossed from the Gaza Strip into Egypt in order to infiltrate Israel’s border near Eilat, some 150 miles away. Since the fall of the Mubarak regime in Egypt last winter, the Sinai—the part of Egypt that abuts southern Israel—has become an increasingly lawless place. Militants have attacked and disabled the gas pipeline that runs from Egypt to Israel multiple times, and Bedouin smugglers run a brisk trade under the border between Egypt and Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas.

On Thursday, Israeli media reported that some of the attackers had fled across the border into Egypt, and that Egyptian border troops opened fire on the terrorists. Egypt said it was not involved in the attack.

The attack began with the ambush of Egged bus 392, which runs between Beersheba and Eilat. Gunmen also attacked a car whose passengers included two young children on their first-ever trip to Eilat.

One of the Egged buses shown on Israeli television had several of its windows shot out and bullet holes on its side. The driver managed to keep the bus on the road during the attack and drove to the nearest Israeli army checkpoint while soldiers riding the bus exchanged fire with the attackers, according to reports.

After the attacks near Eilat, Israeli jets reportedly carried out an airstrike on a site in Rafah, in the Gaza Strip, that killed the head of the Palestinian Popular Resistance Committees and five other members of the group, the Palestinians said. The group reportedly was responsible for the attacks. The IDF did not confirm the strike.

Meanwhile, Ynet reported that the Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted a rocket fired at Ashkelon from Gaza.

The Prime Minister’s Office urged Israeli citizens to heed travel warnings against visiting the Sinai.

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni called for retaliation and said her Kadima Party “will support the government when it comes to anti-terrorism operations and closing the border.”

The White House in a statement said, “We condemn the brutal terrorist attacks in southern Israel today in the strongest terms.” It also said that “The U.S. and Israel stand united against terror, and we hope that those behind this attack will be brought to justice swiftly.”

Egypt vice president Omar Suleiman survives assassination attempt, reports say


Fox News reported on Saturday that recently appointed Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman has survived an attempted assassination.

According to the report, armed assassins targeted the convoy in which Suleiman was travelling, killing two of his bodyguards.

Fox News reported that the U.S. confirmed the reports of the failed assassination attempt, however White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs declined to address the reports.

Read more at HAARETZ.com.

The Way of Madness


The idea of one Jew killing another is shocking. Most of us think it never happens — but the truth is that it does. It happens this week in the Torah with Pinchas. After seeing a Jew apparently enticed by a Midianite prostitute, Pinchas runs them both through with his spear.

It happened when the Macabbees saw a Jew publicly bowing down to a statue of Zeus in the town of Modin. It happened during the American Civil War, World War I and when the State of Israel was founded. Most recently, as most of us painfully recall, it happened when a young, deranged Orthodox Jew named Yigal Amir assassinated then Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin. Ironically, it was this week’s Torah portion and the character of Pinchas that some of the most extreme Jews used as a justification for the assassination.

After all, doesn’t God reward Pinchas for his zealotry in this week’s parsha? Isn’t Pinchas granted God’s brit shalom (covenant of peace)? Yes, he is. But to my mind, the Torah is telling us not that God rewarded Pinchas, but that God cured him. God tempered Pinchas’ fanaticism so that he would never kill again.

If you ask me, the best response to fanatics who would kill another innocent human being for their cause was the one spoken by Shimon Peres after Rabin’s assassination. He addressed Amir directly and he said to him: “The Jewish people spits you out.”

That’s the Jewish answer to fanaticism.

Any day now, as the pullout from Gaza and some of the West Bank will begin, we all wait and wonder whether or not the main character of this week’s Torah portion will live again. Will the toxic mix of religion and politics bring forth modern day martyrs and assassins?

I know liberals will dislike what I am about to say, but there is a legitimate Jewish claim to the territories. Hebron is as much a part of the land of Israel as Tel Aviv — even more so. There is ample proof of our right to settle the West Bank and Gaza from Torah to modern Zionist theory. Liberals ought to admit that, from the standpoint of Torah, this land is our land.

But conservatives, hawks and the religious extremists ought to recognize something even more important than our biblical right to the land. Privileging land theology above all else is a distortion of Jewish tradition. As my friend Rabbi Ami Hirsch put it, “Since when did this obligation to settle the land come to define the highest calling of being a Jew?”

In the scope of Jewish tradition, settlement is not the highest Jewish value we are commanded to uphold. Life itself is of higher value. The well being of Israeli society is of higher value. Do the lives of a few hundred Israeli children living in Gaza surrounded by hundreds of thousands of resentful Palestinians count for less in the eyes of God than the ancient precept of settling the land? Do the lives of the soldiers defending them, 18-year-old boys, count for nothing compared to settling the land?

Shame on those parents in Gaza for putting their children’s lives in danger for the sake of land. Shame on them for endangering the lives of other peoples’ children — who have been called up to defend them.

Settling all of biblical Israel is not the highest of all Jewish values. Life and peace are the highest of all Jewish values. If we are to be fanatical about anything, let us be fanatical about life and peace. The way of Pinchas is the way of madness. The Jewish people ought to spit it out.

Rabbi Steven Z. Leder is a rabbi at Wilshire Boulevard Temple and the author of “The Extraordinary Nature of Ordinary Things” (Behrman House, 1999) and “More Money Than God: Living a Rich Life Without Losing Your Soul” (Bonus Books, 2004).

 

Quebec Leader Tours Firebombed School


Entering the room that once housed a children’s library, the premier of Quebec couldn’t help but scrunch up his nose against the burnt, toxic smell.

"It will actually leave a very strong impression," Jean Charest told reporters, following his April 8 visit to Montreal’s United Talmud Torah. "This sight and smell leaves a lasting impression of how violent a gesture this was."

Firebombed early on the morning of April 5, the school reeked of burned children’s books and plastic, making it nearly impossible to stay inside for more than a few minutes. A note left at the arson scene reportedly said the attack was in retribution for Israel’s recent killing of Hamas leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin and was just a taste of things to come.

Police have tightened security at local synagogues and mosques following the attack. The heightened security came as some parents of students at the school said the attack was reminiscent of book burnings in Nazi Germany.

"My sons are in shock, and so am I," said Joel Greenberg, a parent of one of the students. "I am very worried about their safety from here on in."

Politicians, community leaders and letters to the editor all condemned the attack.

The city’s Sun Youth community organization has offered a $15,000 reward for information leading to the arrests of the perpetrators. Police reportedly had leads on the arsonists’ identities but said they don’t know the group that claimed responsibility in the note left at the school.

B’nai Brith Canada issued a statement on calling on the government to do more to protect Jewish sites.

"We acknowledge and appreciate the condemnation by politicians of all backgrounds," but "words are meaningless if not accompanied by action," said Frank Dimant, the group’s executive vice president.

The arson occurred a few weeks after a rash of anti-Semitic incidents, including graffiti spray-painted on homes in a Jewish neighborhood in Toronto and after a report showed a rise in anti-Semitic incidents across Canada.

Prime Minister Paul Martin met in Ottawa several weeks ago with members of major Jewish organizations, who expressed their concern about a growing tide of anti-Semitism in Canada. The groups included the Canadian Jewish Congress, B’nai Brith Canada, United Israel Appeal, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the leadership of several of Canada’s Jewish federations.

The government is finishing a plan to establish a hate crimes police force across the country and to establish initiatives to combat racist attitudes, Justice Minister Irwin Cotler said. He described the plan as "an effective and comprehensive approach" that will help to "mobilize a constituency of conscience" in the country."

The heads of two leading Islamic organizations, Salam Elmenyawi of the Muslim Council of Montreal and Mohamed Elmasry of the Canadian Islamic Congress, condemned the attack. Elmasry called it a hate crime, adding that "the agony will be double if it was committed by a Muslim."

Charest’s visit to the school, which lasted slightly more than an hour, was intended primarily to reassure students, parents and faculty that his Liberal government was doing everything possible to ensure that such an attack would not happen again.

After seeing the ruined library, Charest spent about 20 minutes with a class of sixth-graders who had been gathered specially to meet him, although the school was closed at the time because of Passover. He answered questions from students and reassured them that they would receive "as much help as necessary" to get the library reopened.

School officials estimated that it will cost about $225,000 just to replace the damaged books. The provincial government will pick up part of the cost, Charest said.

He added, "We’re going to work with those who have the job of policing to be very vigilant in trying to prevent these events from happening again."

It was clear that the students had spent a lot of time pondering the broader ramifications of the attack.

"I feel like this will not become another Holocaust, because this time people understand what’s going on," a student named Jillian told Charest.

Charest praised the educational role of the Montreal Holocaust Museum, adding that during the Holocaust era, "people who were in a leadership position should have been less tolerant of what went on."

During a brief meeting with parents, Charest reiterated his pledge of tighter policing. In the meantime, while police are continuing the investigation, he said, "we will continue to be very vigilant. We will examine, in light of these incidents, what action will be taken to prevent them."

The Drawbacks of the Proposed Pullback


The targeted killing of Hamas founder Ahmad Yassin and the
“open season” that Israel has declared against Hamas leaders and those of other
Palestinian terrorist organizations must be viewed as part
of a larger Israeli policy designed to achieve a number of objectives.

One of the major objectives is to create more favorable
conditions for Israel’s planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the
dismantling of the settlements there. The assassination of Yassin was designed
to weaken Hamas over the long-term and was also designed to prevent
Palestinians from coming to the conclusion that Israel was withdrawing under
fire from the Gaza Strip (thanks to the efforts of Hamas and other terrorist
organizations) and thus make it possible to avoid the kind of blow to Israeli
deterrence that occurred in the wake of Israel’s withdrawal from southern
Lebanon in May 2000.

It is highly doubtful, however, that Israel will be able to
enjoy the longer-term benefits of this and future key assassinations should it
implement Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s separation plan. This is because this
anticipated pullback, far from decreasing the number of future terrorist
attacks, will actually increase it.

Sharon’s separation plan is designed to minimize the
financial and human costs involved in maintaining direct Israeli control over
enclaves within heavily populated Palestinian areas in the Gaza Strip (and in
some of the West Bank), as well as to provide more easily defensible lines that
can be held by fewer troops.

One of the increasingly serious problems that Israel has
faced over the nearly four years of open conflict with the Palestinians has
been how to maintain troop levels high enough to cope with security threats on
the part of Palestinian terrorists, while, at the same time, not undermining
the system of military reserves from which much of the additional troop
strength is taken.

The fence network already in place in Gaza and being built
in the West Bank includes a sophisticated system of cameras and other high-tech
devices designed to detect movement — thus enabling the Israel Defense Forces
to station fewer troops at fewer points along the fence in order to achieve
what would previously have required far larger deployments.

While the idea of pulling back the Israeli army and
dismantling Israeli settlements located in the heart of Palestinian-populated
areas in the Gaza Strip is, in and of itself, a necessary step in the context
of a future peace settlement, it becomes a catastrophic mistake in the absence
of such a peace settlement. And this, for three primary reasons.

Firstly, any pullback of the Israeli army and dismantling of
Israeli settlements in the context of an ongoing Palestinian campaign of
terrorism against Israel offers the Palestinians both a moral and a practical
victory. Yasser Arafat’s strategy of encouraging terrorism against Israel as a
means to “force Israel’s hand” will be vindicated, because he will be achieving
a long-standing and major goal — the “ending of the occupation” over part of
land claimed by the Palestinians, as well as the dismantling of some of the
hated Israeli settlements.

Handing Arafat such a victory will only encourage him — and
those who share his view that terrorism is a legitimate tool to be used to
achieve national goals — to continue to believe that negotiations with Israel
and concessions to it, in the context of a peace process, are not necessary.
Why should Palestinians negotiate and make compromises when sticking to a
policy of promoting terrorist violence eventually produces Israeli concessions
without any comparable Palestinian concessions?

The prime minister of Israel is thus sending the
Palestinians a clear message that violence and terrorism pay and that Israel
does not have the resolve, in the long run, to defend its interests and to
stand firm against terrorism. In practice, the main benefactor of this in the
Gaza Strip will be Hamas, and thus Israel will be inadvertently handing these
intractable enemies of Israel a victory.

Secondly, this anticipated pullback, far from decreasing the
number of future terrorist attacks will actually increase it. This is because
Israel’s policy of surrounding Palestinian cities with army roadblocks and
entering the heart of Palestinian cities from time to time on search and arrest
missions of Palestinian terrorists and attacks on Palestinian bomb-making
factories forces the terrorists further underground and significantly restricts
their freedom of action to plan and execute terrorist attacks against Israel.

A withdrawal from the Gaza Strip will provide Palestinian
terrorists with complete freedom of action, and the result will be larger
numbers of attacks, as well as increasingly deadlier ones. No network of fences
can guarantee complete success in preventing terrorist attacks if they are not
coupled with an active military policy of searching out the terrorists where
they live and plan their attacks.

Moreover, the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have already
acted to attempt to surmount Israel’s barriers there by building increasingly
sophisticated Kassam rockets, which they fire from time to time into Israeli
towns near the borders of the Gaza Strip. If a future planned withdrawal from
much of the West Bank is also carried out, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Israel’s international
airport will be within range of such rockets.

This will create a situation similar to the one that Israel
faces on its northern border, where Hezbollah rockets aimed at Israel have
successfully limited Israel’s freedom of action in responding to Hezbollah
attacks on the border and active support for Palestinian terrorism.

Thirdly, the inevitable wave of terrorism that Israel will
experience in the weeks and months following the planned unilateral withdrawal
will necessitate Israel going back in and reentering Palestinian cities in
Gaza, as it had done with respect to the West Bank in April 2002, during
Operation Defensive Shield.

And, as was the case during Operation Defensive Shield, the
crowded Palestinian cities will take their toll on human lives –Â Israeli and
Palestinian — as Palestinian gunmen set traps for the Israeli army and
Palestinian civilians find themselves caught in the crossfire.

Moreover, international criticism of Israel, which has, all
in all, been increasingly muted over time, will flare up once again as the
world is treated to images of Israeli tanks inside Palestinian refugee camps.
From the point of view of public relations, a continued Israeli presence, which
the world is used to seeing and has grown tired of commenting on, is preferable
to a renewed and broad-based Israeli military assault on Palestinian cities.

As long as a credible Palestinian leadership that is
committed to negotiation, which means also a commitment to making painful
compromises, does not exist, unilateral withdrawal cannot produce tangible
benefits for Israel. Moreover, such a withdrawal will not require any
commitment whatsoever on the part of the Palestinians to maintaining a
semblance of quiet in the areas vacated by Israel.

The vacuum created by the withdrawal of the Israeli army
will quickly be filled by terrorist organizations and, in the Gaza Strip, this
means primarily Hamas. This is hardly a more desirable situation than the
present one. Â


Dr. Nadav Morag is director of the Center for Israel Studies at the University of Judaism.

Building Bridges in Brooklyn


Two year ago, when Jeremy Kagan met Yudi Simon, a Chasid, and T.J. Moses, an African American, the young men lived just four blocks from each other in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

"But it may as well have been 50 miles," he said.

Their tenuous relationship is the focus of Kagan’s new Showtime movie, "Crown Heights," set around the riots that rocked that mixed neighborhood in August 1991. The fictionalized film will be accompanied by a short documentary, "Increase the Peace," Kagan made about the events and the real life Moses and Simon.

The youths, then around 15, didn’t know each other that hot Monday night when a station wagon in the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s motorcade struck and killed an African American child, Gavin Cato. But both were traumatized as black gangs subsequently went on a four-day rampage, throwing rocks and bottles, shouting anti-Semitic slogans and killing an Australian yeshiva student, Yankel Rosenbaum.

In the painful aftermath, Moses and Simon met in a black-Chasidic youth forum, Project CURE; when they discovered their mutual obsession for hip-hop, they formed a Project CURE band with community activists (played by Howie Mandel and Mario Van Peebles in the movie).

But their relationship — in life and in the film — wasn’t always smooth sailing, according to Kagan.

"It allowed me to show the potential for conflict resolution and to make the point that such relationships are hard work," he said.

It’s what one might expect of the 58-year-old director, who views his films as an extension of the Jewish value of tikkun olam (repairing the world). He learned the mandate from his father, a Reform rabbi descended from the Vilna Gaon, who knew Martin Luther King Jr. and was among the first clergy to register black voters in the South in the 1960s.

In person, Kagan is also reminiscent of a rabbi, with his long beard, spectacles and his manner of quoting Jewish sources with his brows furrowed and eyes closed. He said he approached "Crown Heights" with the philosophy, espoused in the biblical Exodus, about "knowing the heart of the stranger.

"I wanted to explore how one can get past the biases and fears that keep one suspicious of others," he said.

To do so, Kagan packed up his digital video camera and flew to Crown Heights in 2001. It was his first trip back since researching his 1981 film, "The Chosen," based on Chaim Potok’s novel about the relationship between two Jewish boys who also lived blocks away and worlds apart.

In a hotel room he interviewed Norman Rosenbaum, who had flown in from Australia when a federal appeals court ordered new trials for the men who had stabbed his brother. At a community center, he spoke with Cato’s father, Carmel, who haltingly told him that when you lose a child, "It’s like your whole life is over."

As Kagan’s camera rolled, Simon stood in front of his family’s ramshackle, three-story home and pointed out the spot where his father had been stabbed — albeit not fatally — during the riots. In the ensuing weeks, he said, he carried a screwdriver in his pocket for protection.

Moses, meanwhile, described being humiliated by the police and by media coverage that made it look like "blacks were [always] in the wrong, and Jews were in the right." Nevertheless, he regarded Lubavitchers not as his enemies but as "ghosts, spirits… like they weren’t human."

That changed when he met Simon: "I was surprised that white boy could dance," Moses said. "He could dance better than me."

The film offers a more straightforward depiction of the 1991 events than a controversial play now in New York, also titled "Crown Heights," by Dan Friedman and Fred Newman; the production portrays Rosenbaum’s murder as a "tragic accident in a fight in which Jews threw the first punch" and is connected to an activist who has been accused of anti-Semitism, The Forward said.

Kagan’s version offers a model for community bridge-building, according to Mandel.

"The key is to get the youth talking, because they’re flexible," Mandel, a Conservative Jew, said. "The elders are more set in their ways."

For Kagan, the on-again, off-again friendship between Moses and Simon also provides a caveat for bridge builders: "Peace is a long-term investment," he said.

"Crown Heights" airs on Showtime Feb. 16.

The War at Home


Four Angelenos were killed on the last day of the battle for Baghdad. Three were young men, each one of them killed with a bullet to the head on the streets of South Central Los Angeles. The fourth to die was an 8-year-old girl, hit by a bullet meant for a gang member.

Before the war with Iraq was hailed as a war of liberation, our leaders described it as a war that would make America safe. And while our victory in Baghdad might indeed make us more secure in the long term, for now, our streets are killing fields.

From March 20-April 6, as war in Iraq raged, at least 14 people died as a result of homicides here in Los Angeles, including five in one weekend in South Central Los Angeles. Needless to say, the murderers weren’t Islamic terrorists or Iraqi Republican Guards.

“Today, on a beautiful 85-degree day, we had three assassinations,” said Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton of April 9. “Three black men walked up and assassinated three other black men. The fourth man missed, and his bullet hit a girl in a schoolyard.”

Bratton was speaking at the Latino Jewish Roundtable organized by the Anti-Defamation League and held at the Los Angeles Police Academy. It was strangely like a war briefing on Iraq. Bratton, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo and Jewish and Latino leaders all gathered to address the daily casualties, the state of the battle, the need for more troops and resources.

But there was almost no media at this briefing, and the four murders Bratton spoke of didn’t make the Los Angeles Times the next day, or the day after. Gang problem? What gang problem?

The homicide rate in Los Angeles has doubled in each of the last five years. Last year, there were 350 gang-related homicides and countless more shooting victims (the department hasn’t begun keeping statistics on the wounded, the maimed and the terrified). The gang members are largely poor and black or Latino. The neighborhoods they victimize are South Central, East Los Angeles and the fringes of the San Fernando Valley. But to think that we can ignore a battlefield because it’s a freeway overpass away from us is not only cruel and immoral, but shortsighted. When those shootings spill over into our neighborhoods, as happened in Westwood in 1988, the effects on our own sense of safety and local economies are devastating.

Why are there no Jewish gangs? Of course, there used to be. In New York City at the turn of the century, murderous crews controlled immigrant neighborhoods through violence and the threat of violence. Then as now, it is a minority of a minority that creates gang culture. And it is a combination of law enforcement, education, social intervention and economic opportunity that obliterates it.

“It is no coincidence that the majority of gang violence happens in the poorest part of the city,” said Santa Monica School Board member Oscar de la Torre.

And it is no mystery how to reduce the killing.

In the early 1990s, the City of New York’s Safe Street Fund, raised by a surcharge on the sales tax, financed a gang initiative that included after-school programs, criminal justice system improvements and increased law enforcement. The result? In Bratton’s 27-month term as police commissioner in New York City, violent felonies fell by a third and homicides were cut in half. “What do we do to get the paying public to set up a special taxing fund to deal with gang problems in L.A. County?” Bratton said.

For Bratton and Baca, the real tragedy is not that there are no life-saving solutions, just that we, the taxpayers, don’t want to pay for them.

“We can do this,” Bratton said. “It’s been done. We have the cure but we can’t use it.”

I asked Baca how much, bottom line, he’s looking for. The answer, he said, is $250 million-$300 million. That’s a lot of money, but according to the National Priorities Project, City of Los Angeles taxpayers will end up shelling out $834.8 million to pay for the war in Iraq. Baca’s price tag for rescuing hundreds of young men from certain death, for keeping neighborhoods free from domestic terror, for turning thousands of lives around — for ensuring the safety and productivity of our entire city — seems like a bargain.

“Look,” Baca said, “I’m a Republican. I don’t want to raise taxes. But if this is what it’s going to take, we need to do it.”

L.A. Jews are stewards of enough power and money to make a difference in this effort, and it would be inhumane for our community not to rally behind these two men. At great political cost, Mayor James Hahn has brought on a police chief who has a plan and a track record.

Baca has also proven he has ability to take bold steps, to approach gang suppression not solely as an issue of incarceration, but as a social cancer. In the past, we could finger-point at our leadership. Now we need to look in the mirror.

Last year, 436 Israelis were brutally murdered in terror attacks. The tragedy has devastated a country of 6 million, and the Jewish community here has responded with an outpouring of money and activism. Last year, 350 of our neighbors were brutally murdered in Los Angeles, a city of 3.7 million. We must muster a response at least as passionate and generous for our neighbors as we have for our brethren.

“This problem is not going to get cleaned up if those of us who live in good neighborhoods don’t stop saying, ‘It’s not my problem,'” Baca said. And he’s right.

To offer your support, e-mail Sheriff Lee Baca at ldbaca@lasd.org .

Death Camp Uprising


In the history of the Holocaust, the Sobibor death camp in Eastern Poland has remained something of a footnote, a place where 260,000 Jews were murdered, as opposed to at least 1.1 million in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Having operated for just 18 months and closed long before the Allied victory in May 1945, Sobibor, like its victims, disappeared almost without a trace.

But Sobibor was also where Jews organized the only successful uprising in any Nazi death camp, a revolt that enabled some 365 prisoners to escape. It is this heroism that has inspired the French director Claude Lanzmann to make "Sobibor, October 14, 1943, 4 p.m.," a 95-minute documentary built around a firsthand account of the uprising by Yehuda Lerner, one of the prisoners who killed Gestapo guards.

"We knew if we didn’t act, we’d be taken, like all the Jews before us, and killed," Lerner, who was born in Warsaw and now lives in Israel, noted quietly. "So it was simple reality that forced us to act like this. For me, it was a great honor to be chosen as one of the men who would kill the Germans."

"Sobibor," opening Sept. 21 at Laemmle Theatres, is, in a sense, a footnote to "Shoah," Lanzmann’s masterful 1985 documentary consisting of interviews with Holocaust survivors. The Lerner interview was even shot in 1979 during the filming of "Shoah," but the director decided not to use it in the first film, which was nine and a half hours long.

"Rebellion was not the theme of ‘Shoah,’" Lanzmann, 75, who himself joined the French Resistance as a teenager, explained in an interview at his home in Montparnasse. "I also saw that Yehuda Lerner was a story unto himself and could not be reduced to a passing moment. I regretted leaving him out. I had no choice."

In 2000, Lanzmann finally worked out how to use the Lerner material. To film additional scenes, he also traveled to what is now Belarus, where Lerner was first deported, and again to Sobibor, which he had visited while making "Shoah."

With Lerner speaking in Hebrew and an interpreter translating into French (the film will have English subtitles in the United States), "Sobibor" starts with Lerner recounting how in July 1942, when he was just 16, he was rounded up in the Warsaw ghetto and deported to a labor camp beside an airport in Belarus.

After escaping eight times from a variety of Nazi work camps over six months, Lerner wound up in the Jewish ghetto of Minsk, the Belarus capital.

In early September 1943, 1,200 prisoners, as well as many more from the ghetto, were placed on a train heading west to Sobibor.

Lerner’s good fortune was that many fellow members of his work force were experienced Red Army soldiers who, led by one Alexander Petchersky, soon decided to organize a rebellion.

The operation was to begin on Oct. 14, 1943, at 4 p.m., with Germans scheduled to enter the huts at five-minute intervals. "We knew the Germans were punctual," Lerner said. "We only succeeded because Germans are punctual. If they hadn’t been punctual that day, everything would have failed."

Lerner and another prisoner were assigned to the tailors’ hut. When the first German entered, they cracked his skull with an ax smuggled in from the carpenter’s hut, then hid his body. Five minutes later, a second German officer arrived and he, too, was killed. Twelve Germans were slain. After seizing weapons, the rebellion escalated.

Lerner described escaping through the camp’s fence and hearing shots fired by Ukrainian guards and mines exploding in the surrounding fields.

"It starts to rain," he recalled. "Not heavy rain, just drops. It was winter in Poland. In October at 5 p.m., it is already dark. I ran into the forest and at that point, I think, maybe the emotion of everything that had happened, the exhaustion, the night, my legs could no longer carry me, and I collapsed. I fell, and I fell asleep."

At that point, Lanzmann ended the interview. “The rest is an adventure of freedom,” he commented.

15 and Counting


Washington’s official response to the killings of five Americans at Hebrew University can be summed up largely in a word: words.

True, the attacks came as Congress is in recess and President George W. Bush is between vacations. After a meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah, a day after the bombing, Bush said he was "just as angry as Israel is right now" and said the United States would work to track down the Americans’ killers. He also sent a handwritten condolence message that was read aloud Wednesday at a memorial ceremony in Jerusalem for the bomb victims.

In his public statements following the bombing, Bush pointedly did not warn Israel to refrain from escalating tensions. To some, Bush’s words meant Israel was free to launch a reprisal unchecked by American criticism. "That was a strong signal," Warren Bass, a terrorism expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, told me.

Bush also directed the FBI to send officials to Jerusalem to help Israelis investigate the bombing, the second time America has done so since the Palestinian intifada began in September 2000. The FBI team arrived in Israel on Monday.

But that, folks, is all.

Many experts, Bass included, see these steps as significant. Military action would be all but preposterous, he said. What could the United States do on the ground that Israel isn’t doing already (often with United States-made hardware)? We have troops in Afghanistan and Pakistan, we’re gearing up for something with Iraq. We can’t be everywhere Americans are killed. Sending American troops to root out Hamas terrorists? "I just don’t see it," said Bass.

But short of stronger action, the American response has left many Americans who happen to be Jewish wondering if the president’s war on terror extends to them. Last week’s Hebrew University bombing brings to 15 the number of U.S. citizens killed by Palestinian attacks over the last two years, according to the U.S. Embassy. Some 26 have been wounded or maimed. In response, Bush has listed Hamas as a terrorist organization and closed down United States-based charities funneling monies to the group. Is it enough?

"Our feeling is that there have been numerous American deaths, and holding Palestinian killers of Americans to different standards than other killers of Americans doesn’t help bring peace to the region and help the United States fight terror," Rebecca Needler, a spokeswoman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

More than a few Jews are wondering if the American response would have been different if the the five Americans killed had been non-Jews studying in Europe or, say, Grenada. In 1983, then-President Ronald Reagan ordered a U.S. invasion of that tiny Caribbean country, claiming that a coup there threatened the lives of American students studying at St. George University medical school. The fighting that ensued left 64 dead, including 19 U.S. soldiers.

Many historians claim the threat to the American students in Grenada was just a pretext for invasion.

Now, administration officials are debating whether Hamas is targeting Americans, a claim Hamas has denied. But waiting for a declaration of policy from a terror organization seems superfluous when not five Americans are threatened, but 15 are killed and 26 wounded. That’s not pretext, that’s proof.

The fear in Washington, of course, is that taking a more active role in combating Palestinian terror will threaten America’s role in any peace process. But it is unclear how any peace process would involve Hamas. Its spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, was quoted in the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera on why students at Hebrew University are ripe targets. "They are considered by us to be enemy soldiers," he said. When a reporter asked Yassin whether Hamas would accept an Israel in its pre-June 1967 borders, Yassin said, "Israel was born in violence and it will die in violence. The Jews have no right to the land of Palestine."

Hamas is a group that, unlike the Palestinian Authority, has never recognized Israel’s right to exist. This is a group bent on the destruction of Israel and its allies. Perhaps Hamas’ destruction was Israel’s problem — now, according to the Bush Doctrine, it should be America’s problem, too. "The military must be ready to strike at a moment’s notice in any dark corner of the world," Bush told cadets at West Point last year. "All nations that decide for aggression and terror will pay a price."

When Washington returns from vacation, Jewish groups will rightly keep an eye on what further concrete steps the administration and Congress take in response to the slaughter of Americans abroad. Will they push for the extradition of Palestinians accused of terrorist acts against Americans to the United States? Will they crack down on Saudi Arabia, which according to Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) has provided "very ample funding" to Hamas? Will they make a strong statement by sending a handful of American forces in to engage Hamas terrorists?

I don’t know the answer to these questions. The truth is, I haven’t thought through all the ramifications of this whole Bush Doctrine.

But I wonder, has Bush?

Use Law to Respond to Hebrew University Attack


We’ve seen it before — more than 20 dead and hundreds injured as a result of Palestinian Arab terror attacks in Israel within a week of each other. The death of five Americans at Hebrew University on Jerusalem’s Mount Scopus brought the pain home to America once again. President Bush remarked, "We are responding to a murder of Americans. We’re responding all across the globe to murders of Americans….The war on terror is fought on many fronts. And I just — I cannot speak strongly enough about how we must collectively get after those who kill…."

And following a wreath-laying on the Hebrew University campus, Daniel C. Kurtzer, U.S. ambassador to Israel, said, "We are very committed in the war against terrorism and, in addition to the support that we give to the State of Israel as a partner in this war against terrorism, we will do all that we can to fight against terrorists wherever they are."

As the parent of an American killed in a 1995 bombing, I knew there would be an Israeli response to the Hebrew University attack, but I wondered about the response that would come from America. Words are one thing, actions are another. Would anything be done differently by this president from what I witnessed seven years ago when my 20-year-old daughter, Alisa, was murdered by a suicide bomber?

When an American is murdered overseas, U.S. law gives the government the authority to investigate the crime, and to extradite to the United States and prosecute those responsible for it. Indeed, we have seen this law at work in the case of the conspiracy to bomb American airliners, the 1993 World Trade Center attack, and the war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

When Palestinian Islamic Jihad killed Alisa in 1995, then-President Clinton immediately announced the dispatch of an FBI team to Israel and Gaza for the purpose of investigating the attack and bringing her killers to justice. When you are mourning your child, you don’t pay attention to such details until they are called to your attention through news reports and a telephone call from the FBI. But when you get the word that the United States is standing up for one of its citizens, you think things are going in the right direction.

Back in 1995, when relations between the Palestinian Authority and the Clinton administration were at their best, one would have expected the Palestinians to show their willingness to work with their American partners at the FBI. That was not to be the case, however, as the Palestinian security service refused to cooperate with the FBI and provide any information on those who killed Alisa. And I do mean "those" because suicide bombers and those who plant bombs and walk away never work alone. In Alisa’s case, the Israelis were able to identify at least 10 men who were responsible for planning and coordinating the attack and a foreign country, the Islamic Republic of Iran, as the financial and moral sponsor of Islamic Jihad.

That lack of cooperation by the Palestinian Authority continues today. And two of Alisa’s killers are still roaming the streets of Gaza despite Israel’s requests for their transfer from the Palestinian Authority to Israel in accordance with provisions of the Oslo accords. Two had a military trial in Israel and are sitting in prison. Regarding the others, let us just say that they will not be able to kill again. As for U.S. action, the United States has never made a request for extradition or transfer.

The U.S. response to the growing number of victims of terrorism in 1995 and 1996 — three more American victims in Palestinian attacks in Israel, the attack in Oklahoma City and the shooting down of four unarmed airplanes being flown by the Brothers to Rescue as they searched the Florida straits for people attempting escape from Cuba — led Congress to pass and President Clinton to sign a far-reaching bill known as the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. This bold law created penalties for those who conduct terror against Americans. In addition, it gave us ordinary citizens the ability to bring civil actions against foreign countries designated by the U.S. State Department as state sponsors of terrorism. The purpose of the law is to put state sponsors out of the terrorism business by attaching a financial penalty to their actions. Using that law, I successfully sued the Islamic Republic of Iran as the sponsor of the attack that killed Alisa. Other Americans have followed in my footsteps.

But I am sorry to say that all did not work out as planned, as recent attacks by Islamic Jihad and Hamas demonstrate. The law has not had its intended effect because the U.S. government has blocked me and others from seizing Iranian assets in this country in full satisfaction of our claims. The result of this policy is Iran’s continued support of Palestinian Arab terrorists and the deaths of more innocent civilians.

If President Bush wants to reduce the chance of more deaths in the Middle East and bring some hope to Israelis and Palestinians, he should do what his predecessor was afraid to do — give us access to Iran’s commercial assets in the United States for the purpose of reducing Iran’s ability to sponsor terrorism. He must use the courage that I believe he has to disregard the entrenched policy wonks at the State Department, who tread lightly when it comes to Iran’s financial support of terror, and strike a blow on behalf of those Americans murdered in cold blood by its proxies in the field. If he does that, he will take Islamic Jihad, Hamas and others out of the terrorism game and the world will be a safer place.

Food for Thought


The motive driving suicide volunteers is revenge. They have stopped fighting to liberate Palestine. They have suspended

the dream of a state. They now dream of killing as many Jews as possible, of revenge, of making life in Israel impossible — and they truly believe they can do it.

Let me, as accurately as I can, describe a conversation I had with a Palestinian peace activist over dinner in a European capital one Friday night in mid-June. We have known each other for quite a few years, and I have always had deep respect for his views, hence the importance I attach to what he said that night, despite the three glasses of wine that went down with his meal.

The Zionist experiment, he told me, is over. The Palestinians have discovered a strategic weapon: suicide bombers. Once anathema, they are now considered heroes. The shahids (martyrs), once seen as religious fanatics, are now nationalist freedom fighters. Moreover, he continued, they are growing in legitimacy all the time. The Arab world understands them and even some Europeans seem to. The Israelis have F-16s; the Palestinians, suicide bombers. The equivalency is obvious to all.

Now, he continued, there are thousands out there waiting in line to kill as many Israelis as they can, to make your lives hell on earth. They belong to no organization, but want revenge and are prepared to die for it. You think you are going to stop them by punishing their parents. You are wrong. You won’t even know who they are or where they came from.

We are going to hit you everywhere we can: gas stations, theaters, parks, wedding halls. It will be one funeral after the next.

And then, while you are reeling, the 1.5 million Palestinian allies, the Israeli Palestinians, our brothers and your enemy, will rise up as well. They are just waiting for a sign from us. They know you better than you know yourselves. They speak your language and know every street in every one of your cities. And they will join at the right time. Make no mistake about it.

And then what does Israel do? Transfer? Can you imagine CNN and the BBC reporting live as the Jews transfer truckload after truckload of Palestinians over the border? Your country will lose all legitimacy. The Arab world will go to war against it. You will be a pariah, worse than South Africa under apartheid. Your generals will be tried for war crimes. The world will impose sanctions. Your F-16s will run dry of fuel.

Your people will leave in droves, especially professionals. The Zionist experiment is over.

That, in essence, was what was said. Was he entirely serious? Who knows? Was he trying to ruin my meal? Perhaps. But there are several harsh truths there and, in tune with the old adage that when wine goes in, secrets come out, I took note of the following: Advertisements in the Palestinian press against suicide bombings signed by several hundred Palestinian intellectuals notwithstanding, suicide bombings have the full support of the Palestinian people, including some intellectuals. It has become almost politically correct. Soldiers die in battle. The suicide bombers are soldiers, their deaths are legitimate and the killing of civilians is legitimate, they say. Israelis do it with tanks all the time.

The strategy is to push Israel into responding in a way that would turn it into another South Africa, a pariah state. The goal is no longer to draw international intervention, which the Palestinians have been trying to do since the outbreak of the current conflict, but to achieve Israel’s international isolation — to strangle the country diplomatically, economically and morally while managing, with great dexterity and skill, to maintain the image of the Palestinians as victims.

If this thinking has indeed penetrated serious Palestinian circles, we are in for a long and hard period. But it will not follow the outlined scenario. Israel will build a fence, increase its vigilance, take security measures, exile the families of suicide bombers, maintain a constant presence in Palestinian-controlled territories if suspected terrorists are there, maintain the stranglehold it has over the cities and the roadblocks that makes it impossible to move from point to point. There are a million steps between suicide bombers and transfer and yes, there will be casualties. But Palestinian suicide bombers are not going to defeat the state of Israel. And, incidentally, there are gas stations on both sides.


Hirsh Goodman is a columnist for The Jerusalem Report. Reprinted with permission,

2002 terror attacks


Jan. 15 Palestinian gunmen kill an elderly Israeli American who drives into the Bethlehem area.

Jan. 17 Six Israelis are killed and 33 injured when a Palestinian terrorist with an assault rifle attacks guests at a bat mitzvah celebration in Hadera.

Jan. 22 A Palestinian terrorist opens fire in downtown Jerusalem, killing two women and wounding dozens of others, before being shot and killed by police.

Jan. 25 A Palestinian suicide bomber detonates explosives in a crowded pedestrian shopping mall in Tel Aviv killing 24 bystanders.

Jan. 27 A female suicide bomber strikes in Jerusalem, killing one man and wounding more than 100 people.

Feb. 6 A mother and her 11-year-old daughter are murdered in their Jordan Valley home by a terrorist disguised in an IDF uniform.

Feb. 16 A suicide bomber kills three teenagers and wounds 27 people in an attack on a shopping mall in a West Bank settlement of Karnei Shomron.

Feb. 18 A Palestinian kills an Israeli policeman and himself when he detonates a car bomb. That same day, three Israelis are killed and four injured during a Palestinian ambush in the Gaza Strip.

Feb. 22 A Palestinian tries to set off a bomb in an Efrat supermarket, but he is killed by civilians.

Feb. 25 Two Palestinian terrorists wound at least 10 Israelis when they open fire in northern Jerusalem. Palestinian terrorists shoot dead two Israelis and wound two others in an attack on motorists near Bethlehem.

Feb. 27 Three Israeli police officers are wounded when a female Palestinian suicide bomber blows up her car at a West Bank checkpoint near the border with Israel.

March 2 A suicide bomber kills 10 Israelis, among them six children in the fervently Orthodox neighborhood of Beis Yisroel, near Mea Shearim.

March 5 A Palestinian terrorist opens fire on two Tel Aviv restaurants, killing three Israelis and wounding dozens. In Afula, a suicide bomber blows himself up on a bus at the central bus station, killing one person and wounding 10. Near Bethlehem, an Israeli woman is killed and her husband moderately wounded when shots are fired at their car.

March 7 Five Israeli teenagers are killed and 23 others wounded by a Palestinian terrorist in a Gaza settlement.

March 9 Two Palestinian terrorists shoot dead two people and injure about 50 others in Netanya’s hotel district. Eleven Israelis are killed and at least 54 injured in a suicide bombing at Cafe Moment in Jerusalem.

Now It’s Jewish Terrorists


The settler movement is in serious denial over last week’s killings of three Palestinians, including 3-month-old Dia Tmeizi. While all settlers publicly condemn the killings, even the most "mainstream" don’t see any connection between the nighttime ambush near Hebron and the incessant cries for "revenge" by settlers at funerals, demonstrations and elsewhere.

"I also shouted ‘revenge’ at demonstrations," says Yehoshua Mor-Yosef, spokesman of the YESHA Council, the lead political action committee of the settler movement. "There’s nothing forbidden about revenge, it’s perfectly legitimate as long as it’s carried out by the state, not by individuals taking the law into their own hands."

The gunman or gunmen, who opened fire on the car driven by the Tmeizi family, fled in the direction of "Israel proper," not towards a Jewish settlement or Palestinian Authority territory inside. It’s possible the gunmen were not settlers. But the more radical settlers insist that Arabs might well have been the killers.

This was the argument Adir Zik, a tremendously popular commentator on the settler radio station Arutz 7, made on his program the morning after the killings. "It’s being taken for granted that this was done by Jews, but it’s very doubtful," Zik said in an interview, recalling a 1995 murder of Halhoul Arabs at first thought to have been committed by settler extremists, when it turned out to have been done by Palestinians.

Reminded that there have been instances of settlers killing innocent Palestinians, the most grievous case being the massacre of 29 Palestinians by Baruch Goldstein in Hebron, Zik replied, "I have many doubts whether he killed the people there. He might have been pulled into [Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs, where the Arab victims were shot during prayer]. It might have really been a feud between Arab clans."

That Goldstein was seen going into the tomb with his Army rifle; his dead body was found in the tomb afterward; his rifle and his spent bullets were recovered from the tomb; and scores of Palestinian survivors testified that it was Goldstein who opened fire, evidently hasn’t made an impression on Zik. Soon after the killings, Women in Green sent out an e-mail headlined, "Don’t Blame the Jews!" "The fact that Arab survivors testified that the attackers looked Jewish doesn’t mean anything," said Women in Green, noting that Efrat settler Sarah Blaustein was shot to death by Palestinians wearing a kippah. There is no known case of Arabs disguising themselves as religious Jews and killing Arabs for the purpose of discrediting settlers, but this doesn’t deter the Women in Green. With Arab pressure mounting to bring international observers to the territories, there is a "clear Arab interest in portraying themselves as victims," went the statement.

A few days before the assault on the Tmeizi family — all told, three of them were killed and four wounded, including Dia’s mother — Shin Bet head Avi Dichter told a Knesset committee that at least one Jewish terror cell was operating in the West Bank. In June, a Palestinian was killed in a drive-by shooting by unknown gunmen calling themselves the Shalhevet-Zar Brigade, named for two Jewish settler victims of the intifada, the infant girl Shalhevet Pass and security officer Gilad Zar. At the time of Dichter’s warning, explosives were found in the car of the wife of Noam Federman, a Kach leader and Hebron settler arrested and convicted numerous times for hate crimes.

Yet while even moderate settlers say the guilt for the Tmeizi killings are confined to the gunmen who carried them out, the Israeli human rights organization B’tselem says that all told during the current intifada, eight Palestinians have been killed by Israeli civilians in what could be called murders. In some cases the killers were never found, in other cases the police arrested settlers but freed them for lack of evidence — over the testimony of Palestinian who said they witnessed the killings. Beyond these killings, B’tselem points out, settler vigilantism is a continuous phenomenon, and has been especially grievous during this intifada.

"In recent months, settlers have shot at Palestinians, stoned their cars, damaged property, uprooted trees, burned a mosque, harmed Palestinian medical teams, attacked journalists, prevented farmers from going to their fields and blocked Palestinian cars from traveling on roads. Although some of the shooting was in self-defense, the vast majority of violence was premeditated," B’tselem stated.

Asked to respond to this statement, Mor-Yosef interrupted the reading of it and said, "I believe a B’tselem as much as I believe a Hamas report. I don’t believe a word they say."

Palestinians have killed scores of West Bank and Gaza settlers in this intifada, and hundreds have been wounded. The roads the Palestinians drive to and from home have become killing zones. But settlers have not only been victims during the current fighting, they have also been victimizers. Their claims of innocence in the killing of the Tmeizis are hollow when their cry of "Revenge!" has become so common.

Right at the Start


It’s not only that children are killing children. There’s also the fact, chronicled in such publications as U.S. News & World Report, that cheating is up in classrooms across the nation. No wonder educators of all stripes are pondering what it takes to teach ethics to their students.

Because children’s behavior is molded at an early age, it was fitting that the Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE), in planning its 20th annual Early Childhood Spring Institute, chose as its theme “Educating An Ethical Child in the 21st Century.” On March 6, nearly 1,100 Jewish preschool teachers joined 80 parents of young children to explore the Jewish side of moral education.

Suspect Indicted in Murder of JDL’s Krugel


Almost nine months after the brutal prison-yard slaying of Earl Krugel, the longtime No. 2 man in the Jewish Defense League (JDL), federal authorities have indicted an inmate with no apparent ties to Krugel.

The suspect, David Frank Jennings, 30, allegedly attacked Krugel from behind with a piece of concrete hidden in a bag while Krugel was using an exercise machine at a federal prison in Phoenix.



The indictment, issued by a federal grand jury on July 19, offers neither details nor motive, asserting that Jennings “with premeditation and malice aforethought willfully kill and murder Earl Leslie Krugel.”



Jennings is the only person charged in the killing that took place in plain view. Authorities contend that Jennings acted alone.



“He was the only one charged. There was no conspiracy,” said Ann Harwood, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Phoenix, Authorities would say little else, including anything about the motive of the alleged killer, a small-time repeat offender with nothing in his rap sheet to suggest either this level of violence or any particular animosity toward the 62-year-old Krugel.



Krugel had been transferred to the Federal Corrections Institute (FCI) Phoenix, a medium security prison, just three days before the assault. To date, there is no indication that Krugel and Jennings knew each other. “My husband was brutally murdered just a few days after he was sent to that prison,” Lola Krugel said. “He wasn’t there long enough to make any deadly enemies.”



At the time of Krugel’s attack, Jennings was serving a 70-month sentence at FCI Phoenix for a 2003 bank robbery in Las Vegas, which netted him $1,040. Because Jennings had threatened the teller during the robbery, authorities eventually extended his plea bargain sentence from 63 months to 70 months.



Jennings, who lived in Oregon before moving to Nevada, has multiple convictions, but court records reviewed by The Journal did not indicate any association with racist or anti-Semitic groups in or out of prison.

In 1993,Jennings was convicted in Oregon on an Assault III charge; a “class C” state felony, which resulted in an 18-month state prison sentence. In 1994 he was arrested and convicted for unauthorized use of a vehicle and sentenced to six months in jail. In 1995, a probation violation cost him another six months.



He had apparently moved to Nevada by 1996. That same year he was arrested and pleaded guilty to state charges of grand larceny and unlawful possession of a credit card, for which he received a sentence of 16 to 72 months in state prison.



Krugel was transferred to the Phoenix facility to serve out the balance of a 20-year sentence, following his negotiated guilty plea to conspiracy, weapons and explosives charges. The high-profile case against Krugel and the JDL involved an abortive bombing plot against possible targets that included a Culver City mosque and the field office of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), an Arab-American of Lebanese descent.



A fitness fanatic, Krugel was using exercise equipment when he was blind-sided between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Nov. 4, 2005. Details of the assault did not emerge in previous reports; a review of the autopsy depicts a vicious attack.



His main injury was the initial blow to the back of his head, which crushed the left side of his skull and severely damaged his brain and brain stem. But his attacker also delivered multiple blows to Krugel’s skull, face and neck, according to the autopsy, which was performed by the Maricopa County medical examiner and obtained by The Journal. Krugel suffered multiple skull fractures, internal bleeding and multiple lacerations to his head, face and brain. The beating knocked out teeth and also fractured one of his eye sockets. Krugel was pronounced dead at the scene.



His death marked the violent end, in prison, for both local leaders of an organization that advocated the use of violence, as necessary, in defending the interests of Jews. JDL head Irv Rubin died in 2002, at 57, from injuries he suffered after jumping or falling from a railing inside the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles. Authorities ruled Rubin’s death a suicide, though family members contested that finding. Krugel, a dental technician by trade, was Rubin’s longtime close friend and second-in-command.



Krugel and Rubin were arrested in late 2001. They were accused, in the months following the Sept. 11 terrorist strikes, of plotting violent revenge against Muslims and Arabs. No attack was carried out. Krugel spent four years in federal lock-up in Los Angeles. It was the resolution of his case, with the guilty plea to reduced charges, that landed him in Phoenix.



Lola Krugel said she’s relieved that someone has finally been charged in her husband’s murder. But she and Krugel’s sister, Linda, both expressed frustration and anger over the time it took to make an arrest, as well as the FBI’s unwillingness to share information with the family.



“He did it right there in the open,” said Lola Krugel, referring to the attacker. “There had to be witnesses and cameras. So why did it take so long for them to charge this man?”



The delay was not foot-dragging but a desire to get it right, said Patrick Snyder, assistant U.S. Attorney in charge of the criminal division in the Phoenix office: “Since the murder occurred in prison, we know the assailant is already in custody. So we’re not under the same kind of time pressure to make an arrest that we are when a killer is still at large.”



Lola Krugel filed a wrongful-death claim against the federal government in February, which has since been denied. The family says it’s now preparing to file a civil lawsuit. The rejected claim had asked for $10 million for personal injury and $10 million for Krugel’s wrongful death.



“It’s an ‘outrage figure,'” said family attorney Benjamin Schonbrun, a partner in the Venice-area firm of Schonbrun, DeSimone, Seplow, Harris and Hoffman. “A figure to illustrate the outrage Lola Krugel feels over the murder of her husband, plus the anger she felt over her inability to get any information from the government.”

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