The CNN-NPR-NY Times Middle East Conspiracy


Have you noticed that when people complain about bias in the media, it’s always bias against their own point of view and never bias in favor of their side?

When press accounts confirm your interpretation of events, they’re fair, accurate and objective. When the upshot of a news story is that your team is the bad guys and the other team is the good guys, it’s obvious that the reporter or paper or network or corporation is in the tank for the other side. And when articles and broadcasts balance ammo for your side with ammo for the other side, they’re guilty of the fallacy of false equivalence, which turns righteous battles between right and wrong into vapid he-said/she-said standoffs.

Nowhere is this more true than in coverage of the Middle East.

Supporters of Israel are furious that when pictures of Palestinian casualties are shown, the causes and context of the war are left out—Hamas’ rocket attacks on southern Israel, which precipitated the attack on Gaza; its cynical use of civilians as human shields, which is a war crime; its intention to destroy Israel and Jewry, which amounts to genocide—all get scandalously short shrift from the press.

Supporters of Hamas are just as enraged about the inhumane living conditions in Gaza, which Israel has blockaded; the Israeli refusal to allow the international press into the battle zone; what they believe is the original sin of Zionism, the displacement of Arabs, and that when Israel is portrayed as a victim, the suffering of the Palestinian people is conveniently omitted.

And what if you’re not a partisan of either side, but think of yourself instead as an independent advocate for human rights and peace? Then not only will you bring down on yourself the opprobrium of both sides for failing to take a stand at a moment that demands a choice, you will also find in the prevailing media narrative no hook to hang your conciliatory analysis on, no peg for your empyrean perspective, no patience for your it’s-all-so-complicated heartsickness.

Any news story can be successfully picked apart from any vantage point. Why does the Los Angeles Times disparage the Israeli point of view as ““>anonymous mitigating hearsay about a Hamas sniper? Why aren’t the networks airing the “>Israeli scholar’s assertion that Palestinian casualties aren’t excessive because “so far well over three-quarters have been armed gunmen, and that is a percentage which is very rarely attained in urban warfare”?

In fact, two reasons make it really hard to conclude (but not to claim) that a mainstream media outlet is biased—on the Middle East or on anything else. And a third reason makes the whole enterprise of watchdogging the press somewhat quixotic.

One is the sheer quantity of content. The stories and pictures you saw may be plenty to convince you, say, that the Associated Press is unfair to Israel, but the plural of “anecdote” is not “data.” The only way to determine anything defensible about bias in reporting is to analyze a scientific sample—to examine a slice of stories that’s large enough to be representative of all stories and to choose that slice randomly, without knowing what’s going to be in it.

Some people may feel that they watch CNN so much or read The New York Times so regularly that they have plenty of data to base conclusions on. Not so. That’s why pollsters are paid big bucks: The methods they use to construct the universe of people they survey are even more important than the questions they ask them.

Second is the difficulty of coming up with an objective measure of bias. One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter. If you can show me a journalistic scoring system that Alan Dershowitz and Noam Chomsky can agree on, then I’d like to show you how to earn 12 percent a year in a very special investment fund.

But even if you had a scientific sample; even if you devised a neutral litmus test for bias, the strange truth is that media spin probably matters a lot less than we assume.

Yes, public opinion is an important element of public policy. Nations care what people think about them. But the audience for cable news is astonishingly small, maybe 2 million people on a good day; the daily readership of a prestige newspaper is hardly more than that, and the only way that public radio can claim north of 20 million listeners is to count all the people who listened to any of its programs during a week.

Sure, the Internet has surged as a source of news, but its audience is fragmented into niches. If you want to get really depressed, chew on this: For decades, Americans have said that their number one source for news is local television news. Not only is that audience scattered among a thousand stations in a couple of hundred media markets, the amount of attention those stations give to international news is a tiny fraction of the airtime they give to celebrities, freak accidents and crime.

There’s no question that some elite media set the agenda for much of the rest of the press. And some nonnews programming, like talk radio hotheads, get demonstrably big listenerships. But it’s next to impossible to prove a cause-and-effect relation between these bloviators and public opinion, and the same is true of the impact of the mainstream press on public attitudes and beliefs. In the end, why Americans think what they do about Israel and Hamas is as much a mystery as how they decide who to vote for or what toothpaste to buy.

I get just as steamed as anyone else when I see a Middle East news story that I think is wildly unfair. I’m just unwilling to ascribe it to a conspiracy or to think it matters as much as the frustration and fury I feel.

Marty Kaplan is the Norman Lear Professor of Entertainment, Media and Society at the USC Annenberg School. His column appears here weekly. He can be reached at martyk@jewishjournal.com.

New Israeli Cabinet member urges ‘ethnic partitioning;’ Gay pride parade OK’d and Jerusalem protests


Israeli Official Urges Ethnic Partitioning

An Israeli Cabinet minister called for the Jewish state and the West Bank to be partitioned according to ethnicity. Avigdor Lieberman of the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu Party said in an interview that rather than evacuating Jewish settlements in the West Bank, Israel should keep them, while ceding Israeli Arab communities to a future Palestinian state.

“I think separation between two nations is the best solution,” Lieberman told Britain’s Sunday Times. “I want to provide an Israel that is a Jewish, Zionist country.” He invoked as a model the forcible 1974 separation of ethnic Turks and Greeks in Cyprus.

Lieberman recently joined Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s Cabinet as minister for strategic threats. A Lieberman aide told the Sunday Telegraph that under the partition vision, Israeli Arabs would have the option of remaining in the Jewish state on condition that they pledged allegiance to it.

Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade Gets OK

Israel’s attorney general turned down a request by Jerusalem police to call off this week’s gay pride parade. Attorney General Menachem Mazuz ruled Sunday that the parade, which has drawn threats of violence from ultra-Orthodox protesters, could go ahead Friday Nov. 10, but he ordered organizers to confer with police on changing the route in order to reduce friction with Jerusalem’s religious communities.

Dozens of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Mea She’arim rioted at the news that the parade was to proceed, blocking the city’s Shabbat Square with burning trash cans and blocking road access Monday to Mount Herzl. Police said Monday that 12,000 police and border police would be called in to protect the marchers.

Sephardic Chief Rabbi Cancels Agunah Meeting

Jewish women’s rights leaders are reeling after Israel’s Sephardic chief rabbi canceled a conference of prominent rabbis that was to deal with the issue of women who become agunah, or “chained” women, when their husbands refuse to give them a get.

The closed-door conference, which was set for Nov. 7-8 in Jerusalem would have been the first such forum for a large number of heads of beit dins. On Thursday, 27 of 56 invited rabbis were notified of its cancellation via fax from Rabbi Eliahu Ben-Dahan, director of Israel’s rabbinical courts, that said Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar had decided to cancel the conference “due to petitions that came to him both from Israel and outside of Israel requesting its cancellation.”

Blu Greenberg, a founding president of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, said a few random meetings in lieu of a conference with the chief rabbi would “not be satisfactory,” but added that the cancellation could prove to be a blessing in disguise.

Although much of the community was not even aware of the conference, “they’ll be aware now,” she said.

Hospital Moves Sharon Out of Intensive Care

Ariel Sharon was moved out of intensive care and back to an Israeli coma ward. Sheba Medical Center announced Monday that the former prime minister, who was taken for emergency surveillance over the weekend after developing an infection, had been returned to his bed.

“His heart function has improved after being treated for an infection, and his overall condition has stabilized,” a hospital statement said.

Sharon, 78, has been in a coma since suffering a stroke in January.

Pope Deplores Gaza Violence

Pope Benedict XVI deplored the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian fighting in the Gaza Strip.”It is with deep worry that I am following the news about the grave deterioration of the situation in Gaza, and I want to express my closeness to the civilian populations who are suffering the consequences of acts of violence,” the pope said Sunday in his weekly sermon at the Vatican.

The pope called for the “enlightenment” of Israeli and Palestinian leaders, as well as for other Middle Eastern nations which might have a role in brokering peace.

Israel Readies for Possible New War in ’07

Israel reportedly is preparing for the possibility of another war with Hezbollah, this time joined by Syria. Citing assessments among top military brass, Ha’aretz reported Monday that Israeli forces are on alert for a fresh fight initiated by the Lebanese terrorists and its Syrian patrons in the summer of 2007. According to the report, Hezbollah is believed to have come out of its recent war with Israel with more than 5,000 ground-to-ground missiles intact. In case of such a conflict next year, Iran would likely provide Hezbollah and Syria with backing but not get directly involved, Ha’aretz reported. Military officials declined comment on the report.

Technion Receives $30 Million Gift

A $30 million grant from the founder of QUALCOMM will allow the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology to expand its graduate programs. Irwin and Joan Jacobs of San Diego announced recently at the American Technion Society’s annual meeting that they would make the donation to the Haifa school. The philanthropists previously had established a research center at the Technion for communication and information technologies. QUALCOMM established operations near the Technion campus in 1993 and has hired many Technion graduates.

Italian Jews Co-Sponsor Islamic Art Show

An exhibition of Islamic art is under way in an Italian synagogue. Called “SalamAleikum,” the show opened Oct. 29 in the historic synagogue in Casale Monferrato in northern Italy’s Piedmont region. Organized by the Casale Monferrato Jewish community and the Ibn Sina Center for European Studies, the show includes works by 14 artists from Algeria, Iran, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Tunisia, Morocco, Italy and elsewhere. The exhibition runs until Nov. 23.

Geller Claims Psychic Aided Saddam Capture

Israeli psychic Uri Geller said a clairvoyant helped U.S. forces capture Saddam Hussein in 2003. Geller, who is in Israel to tape a reality television show for aspiring psychics, made the claim in an interview Monday. “You remember when they found Saddam Hussein in Iraq? A soldier walked over to a rock, lifted it and then found a trapdoor and found him in there,” he told Reuters. “Well, I know that that soldier walked over to that rock because he got information from a ‘ remote viewer’ from the United States.” Geller said he got the information from a high-level American source. The U.S. military had no immediate comment.

Briefs courtesy of Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Letters to the Editor


Rabbi Baron

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

Jeff Weinstock
Encino

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

Star Power

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

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

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

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

Barry S. Weiss
Valley Village

RJC’s Israel Ads

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

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

David Shacter
Los Angeles

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

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

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

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

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

Barry Wendell
North Hollywood

Bill Boyarsky

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

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

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

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

Allyson Rowen Taylor
Associate Director
American Jewish Congress, Western Region

Israel P.R.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We need a leader.

Rueben Gordon
North Hollywood

Truth in Media

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

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

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

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

Fred Korr
Los Angeles

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

Jewish Journal September 1, 2006

American-Born Spokeswoman Big Asset to Israel


Needed: Rational Discussion


When David Lauter, the deputy foreign editor of the Los Angeles Times, began speaking to a crowd of about 400 at a Women’s Alliance for Israel program last
week, it was clear that most of the audience was out for his scalp, and not even the yarmulke he was wearing could save him.

Lauter was on a panel discussing news coverage of Israel’s battle against Hezbollah. I was also on the panel, seated next to Lauter, who is a friend and was a longtime colleague when I worked at the Times.

He is a highly intelligent, soft-spoken, logical man who thinks before he speaks. He is also an observant Jew.

That meant nothing to this crowd. Neither did his intelligence and logic. They booed when he tried to explain his paper’s coverage. When they weren’t booing, they talked among themselves, paying no attention to Lauter. To this bunch, the world outside their own community was a vast and hostile conspiracy against them and against Israel.

I’ve spoken to many groups all over Los Angeles during extremely volatile times. I’ve never seen such rudeness, narrow mindedness and just plain boorishness.

Nothing Lauter said warranted such a response. He told how the coverage began, with him and the foreign editor, Marjorie Miller, organizing the Times foreign correspondents the day the conflict began.

The regulars needed help. A couple of the correspondents were already arranging their transportation to Israel. Miller and Lauter dispatched more to deal with the unexpected story.

This crowd wasn’t interested in these details. Nor did they want to know of the courage of these correspondents, who willingly head into danger — and stay there. This crowd probably had no idea of how many correspondents have been killed in Iraq. These deaths are a clear warning that the same thing could happen to some of the reporters in Lebanon or Israel.

The questions were unrelentingly hostile. They weren’t questions, in fact. They were attacks. And when Lauter tried to answer them, there were more boos.
When he sat down, I told him that this bunch was out for blood. Later, he said felt there was a hard core of haters, “but I don’t think they were the majority.”

I don’t know about that. Hostility seemed to extend through the room, back to the far edges where my wife and cousin were seated.

And at the end of the program, Lauter announced to the crowd that he would stick around and answer more questions.

“Several people came up to me and said they appreciated my being there, but they said so quietly, not exposing themselves to the crowd,” Lauter told me later.
Not blessed with Lauter’s patience, I left angry and stayed mad all the next day.

In the first place, the Times’ coverage is excellent. It’s fair. The reporters and editors strive for balance in the writing and editing of stories and the placement of the stories and the powerful pictures.

This does not mean it is perfect. Putting out a daily paper is an imperfect business. Think about putting that thing together every day with deadlines. I did it for years, the last three as city editor of the Times. When I went home at night, I wondered how we did it. In the process, mistakes are made. Reporters get things wrong. Editors make bad choices. Journalists live — or should live — in constant awareness of their fallibility.

But the Women’s Alliance for Israel event illustrates a bigger issue that extends far beyond the reliability and honesty of the Times coverage: Why can’t we have a rational discussion of Israel and the war in Lebanon?

In my modest presentation — I thought it best to bore these people rather than anger them — I noted that never before in history was so much information available in so many forms of media.

In the morning, I read three papers called the Times — the Los Angeles, New York and Financial. When writing, I take breaks to read Haaretz, the Jerusalem Post and the DEBKA Report, all from Israel, plus take a look at the Guardian to check out the anti-Israel thoughts of the British left wing. All that, plus my lifelong support of Israel, shapes my opinions.

With this information overload, sometimes it is hard for me to make up my mind. Sometimes, I actually have to think.

I would have enjoyed a rational discussion of the media, in general, and the Times, specifically. I have talked to many anti-Times audiences. People hear me out, argue and exchange ideas. They concede a point. I concede a point. We all leave the room better informed.

This group did not want to be better informed. They preferred to get their information from e-mails circulated by like-minded friends, interest groups and, of course, by watching Fox. Any mention of this network, by the way, got a lot of applause.

But as this war continues, we’ve got to reach out and talk to people who don’t agree with us. If we won’t listen to fellow Jews, particularly those as well informed as Lauter, how can we convince anyone of the rightness of our cause?

Bill Boyarsky’s monthly column on Jews and civic life returns this week. Until leaving the Los Angeles Times in 2001, Boyarsky worked as a political correspondent, a metro columnist for nine years and as city editor for three years. You can reach him at bw.boyarsky@verizon.net.

Q & A With Ehud Danoch


Ehud Danoch, who has served as consul general of Israel in Los Angeles since October 2004, has been working round the clock since fighting first broke out between Israel and its neighbors in late June. The situation was prompted first by the capture of one soldier, which led to an outbreak of fighting in Gaza, followed by the capture of two additional soldiers by Hezbollah in Lebanon, where Israel’s greatest conflict in decades has ensued.

Ehud Danoch
Danoch’s consulate position covers California, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming, and he has been working with communities throughout the region. This week, he spoke with The Journal about what the consulate is doing in response to the ongoing crisis, what the American Jewish community can do and how the actions here affect Israel.

Jewish Journal: You spoke at Sunday’s rally, which saw thousands of people gather in front of the Israeli consulate in support of Israel. What purpose do you think the rally served?

Ehud Danoch: It was a great rally; the presence of [Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger] and the leaders of the different Jewish communities in Los Angeles shows great support to the State of Israel and to the people of Israel. It is something that the State of Israel needs to hear, that the significant communities in the United States support Israel. It was all over the media in Israel. To see the Jewish community and the different organizations coming together warms the heart during this time.

JJ: What can the Jews do that goes beyond just rallying?

ED: The different Jewish communities in the United States are taking action. Not only rallying – San Diego’s rally had 2,500 people and Orange County had 1,500 – but communities are also having briefings, rabbis are briefing their congregations in synagogues, some people are writing op-eds in the newspapers. Federations all over are being interviewed by the media. Everything that has to do with public relations is important, because unfortunately, terrorists and Hamas are getting [media] support from radical Muslim organizations in the United States.

It’s not an easy situation in Israel. People are not going to work in the north; they are abandoning their homes, their jobs – it’s traumatic. The federations are donating money to take kids from the north to the center of the country.
People should do what they feel. We are here to help facilitate everything.

JJ: What else can people do? Are there opportunities to volunteer?

ED: We received a few phone calls from Israelis here who want to go back and do their 30 days of reserve duty in Israel. We will check with Israel on their need for volunteers. Many delegations from different synagogues and organizations are going to Israel, donating money to specific causes.

JJ: What do you tell people who are planning to travel to Israel or to send their kids to Israel?

ED: To come to Israel. Not to cancel their trip. Yes, they are launching missiles in the north, but whoever comes can go to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and the rest of Israel. Everyone in Israel is very excited when there are delegations coming to Israel, especially from the U.S. Israelis really love and appreciate Americans.

JJ: Right now, public opinion has been unusually favorable toward Israel’s actions, but do you fear that it might shift as the conflict continues?

ED: What is the choice but to support Israel? To support Hezbollah? Hamas? We’re working very hard now on the public relations front. You are beginning to hear criticism, and it isn’t something we want. After all, Israel, a free country, a democracy, is fighting for its existence.

The media should take Israel as a role model of a country that fights terrorism, because unfortunately, terrorism is not only in the Middle East, it’s a global phenomenon. The media is showing personal stories of people coming from Lebanon, but it’s important to know that in Israel, there are 250,000 people in shelters, 3 million under the threat of rockets. There are soldiers dead and wounded, and all the media should report these stories.

JJ: What do you say to people who feel Israel is overreacting to the crisis?

ED: I don’t accept it. When it comes to fighting terrorist organizations, there’s a need for tough action. And it’s important to understand that Hezbollah is not an organization, it’s an army of terrorists. We have specific objectives: to bring our soldiers home and disarm Hezbollah, and that’s good for the region and the world. When it comes to global terrorism, it sends a message to terrorist organizations worldwide that they do not have any immunity. If the free world will not win in this war, chaos will take place.

JJ: As the consul general, as an Israeli, what have you learned about American Jews, especially in this time of crisis?

ED: I’m an Israeli; I’ve lived abroad over eight years, but what I saw recently, what I watched unfold is that when the American Jewish community feels that Israel is in difficult times, crucial times, then everyone comes together. The different organizations work together, people are calling in and asking, every day, “What do you need from us? What can we do?” That is beautiful to see.

In the end, the State of Israel is something that belongs to the Jewish people; the Jewish community is a sacred community that we have to hold close to our hearts.

Letters to the Editor


AMIT

Uriel Heilman’s recent article, “Sderot’s Kids Living in Fear” (June 30), accurately portrays the situation in this Israeli city and the role AMIT is playing in helping the children of Sderot to continue their education under these difficult circumstances.

AMIT recently launched a special campaign for Sderot. Readers wishing to learn more about AMIT, can call our Los Angeles office at (310) 859-4885 or visit www.amitchildren.org.

Barbara Goldberg
AMIT Director of Communications
New York, N.Y.

Right Call

While visiting from Israel, I was interested to read Rob Eshman’s “The Right Call” in the July 14 issue, in which he described his conversation with a friend who thinks Israel is doing “terrible” things.

I would add the following: The great challenge for Eshman’s friend is to decide whether she can support Israel, when Israel must choose the best of bad options. By and large, Israelis do not want their soldiers in Lebanon and Gaza inflicting civilian casualties and destroying infrastructure, while searching for 10,000 missiles hidden amongst several million people.

However, it’s not serious to think that turning the other cheek is a policy that will stop the shelling. In fact, the alternative to the bad choices is something far worse: surrendering to the likes of Hamas and Hezbollah.

Israel will defend itself and its citizens from attack. Israelis will be able to walk outside their homes without rockets slamming into the ground. And, I sincerely hope that Eshman’s friend will change her mind and support us in our hour of need.

Nathan Wirtschafter
Rehovot, Israel

Chinese-American Jews

Your cover story in the July 14 issue on “A Generation of Chinese-American Jews Comes of Age” moved me to tears. Especially poignant to me were the writings of Susan Freudenheim (Journal managing editor) and her daughter, Rachel Core.Rachel speaks of her friend, Willow, also born in China and adopted by her mother. Willow is one of my granddaughter Esther’s best friends. She, too, is a lovely child.

And Esther, my fantastic, charismatic, beautiful granddaughter who is named after my mother, also was adopted. Esther, too, will be bat mitzvahed in about two years at Temple Israel of Hollywood. And her sister, Dani, named after our son, David, who was also adopted, was bat mitzvahed at Temple Emmanuel in Beverly Hills and now will be a sophomore at the Marlborough School. Both Esther and Dani also went through the mikvah ceremony at theUniversity of Judaism.

Thank you for the cover story. It was beautiful.

George Epstein
Los Angeles

Rabbi Pressman

It’s one thing to disagree on the administration of kashrut in this state and city; it’s another to besmirch the reputation of one the great pioneering rabbis of Los Angeles.

When referring to the dearth of kosher establishments in the 1960s (“Kosher,” Letters, July 7), Howard Weiss forgets the demographics of the Jewish community of the 1950s and 1960s, a preponderance of World War II GIs and their brides new to Los Angeles, with few ties to the Jewish community or observance. It was in this context, that Rabbi Jacob Pressman’s accomplishments were extraordinary.As president of the Board of Rabbis, he was instrumental in installing the first kosher kitchen of the Jewish Community Council (the precursor to The Federation), creating a kosher kitchen at Mt. Sinai Hospital (the Sinai of Cedars-Sinai) and collaborating to create the first Va-ad HaKashrut under full Community Council auspices.

As a rabbi and educator, he inspired and still inspires generations to make kashrut and the observance of mitzvot a part of their lives.

Fran Grossman
Los Angeles

Silence on Gaza

Did I understand Ron Kampeas (“Is U.S. Silence on Gaza Sign of Friendship or Weakness?” July 14) correctly, that he wants our government to show neutrality by currying favor with the Arab governments and criticizing Israel’s self-defense?

The former would return us to a failed policy of the traditional State Department Arabists: It benefited undeserving autocratic, anti-Semitic regimes. The latter would be a dagger in the back of our most loyal ally, the only democracy in the Middle East and the first line of defense against the Islamo-fascists. There is no justification for neutrality between good and evil, friend and foe.

Councilman Dennis Zine and Rep. Darrell Issa, have risked the support of their natural political base by declaring that Israel has the right of self-defense and Lebanon is responsible for the conflict; a far more just position than Kampeas’. I applaud their honesty and political courage.

Louis Richter
Encino

Correction

A photo accompanying the July 14 cover story, “Dual Identity, Double the Questions,” incorrectly identified the woman examining the Torah with Lily Ling Goldstein. She is Deborah Kreingel, Lily’s Hebrew tutor.

The Right Call

In his July 14 column (“The Right Call”), Rob Eshman describes recent Israeli actions in Gaza as a “harsh and bloody incursion” and as “unnecessarily cruel and destructive.” By doing so, according to Eshman, Israel has “squandered the vast sums of moral capital Israel has accrued in dealing with Hamas.”

Eshman evidently believes that a war against an enemy — Hamas and Hezbollah and other religion of peace organizations and their sponsors in Iran and Syria — that wishes to destroy your country and slaughter or expel its Jewish citizens can be fought as gently as a badminton match.

As for the “vast sums of moral capital” Israel accrued, the withdrawal from Gaza got Israel about five minutes of favorable press coverage in countries that wish it would just disappear.

Chaim Sisman
Los Angeles

Your editorial (“The Right Call”) counseling Israel to show restraint is misguided for following reasons:

  1. Israel is that inevitable exception to the sound rule that nations should always try to avoid and restrain their military (even defensive) actions, because both Hezbollah and Hamas are Hitler wannabes as to Israel and its Jews, and like all their ilk, they will deem and spin any restraints by Israel as great “inspirational victories” for their evil means and goals (e.g. Israel’s leaving southern Lebanon inspired the second intifada, and leaving Gaza led to the daily rocket attacks and the invasion/kidnapping of Gilad Shalit);
  2. The fundamental goal in the propaganda war (supporting their military and terrorist wars), Hezbollah, Hamas, their allies, patrons, leaders, supporters and followers have been successfully waging for more than 60 years has been to depict Israel either as the true fomenter or the overaggressive defender in all Israel’s wars for survival.

    Advising Israel to show restraint when it has been attacked by Hamas, Hezbollah and their supporting nations unwittingly reinforces that 60-year libel campaign against Israel.

  3. Despite Israel having faced a war for survival through its entire history, its excellent humanitarian record of military restraints in its 60-year war for survival is unmatched by any other modern nation. Obviously, your editorial writer chose to ignore that noble record.

Ben Kagan
Hollywood

Rob Eshman’s casual assertion that Israel’s response to last week’s kidnappings and rocket attacks was unnecessarily cruel and destructive, squandering the vast sums of moral capital [it] has accrued in dealing with Hamas, misses the point. Consider what apparently prompted the attacks — acts of concession. Israel’s withdrawing from Gaza and its planned withdrawal from most of the West Bank.The sad reality is that good will gestures by Israel are a practical impossibility. Abandoning settlements, granting territory, releasing prisoners or easing security restrictions have never enhanced our image in the eyes of our enemies, including the Palestinians. Rather, such actions are taken as proof that the repulsive Jews are weakening.

As former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon put it, concessions by Israel are viewed by its neighbors as a sign that it is a wounded animal, ripe for the kill. And history, both past and present, seems to affirm this.

As difficult as this may be for many of us to accept, we have seen it before. No good will gesture would have been appreciated, let alone spared the Jews of Nazi Germany. If Israel is to survive, it has no choice but to demonstrate its readiness to strike disproportionately, a nightmare burden it cannot avoid.

Mark Ellman
Los Angeles

Dangerous Moves

To all those Neville Chamberlains who have supported giving our Arab enemies land for peace, have you noticed something? Since Israel gave her enemies the Gaza, she has been attacked by the Muslim terrorists more fiercely than ever.Sharon shouldn’t have even considered giving land to Israel’s enemies any more than Begin should have given Egypt the Sinai. Both moves were misguided, naive and dangerous. Last time I looked at a map, the Arabs have so much land they don’t know what to do with it. Yet the Neville Chamberlains (Jews and non-Jews) want Israel to keep chopping away at its borders.

Anonymous
North Hollywood

Middle-Class Squeeze

Leonard Solomon’s discussion of the “Middle-Class Squeeze,” regarding supplementary schools (Letters, June 23), brings many issues to light. Yes, more middle-class families could opt for the supplementary school if it were in any way possible for the part-time schools to deliver a semblance of the intensity and comprehensive study of our rich heritage that day schools do provide. In part, this is the underlying reason for the day school success.

The culprit is not the Bureau of Jewish Education’s standards as suggested by Mr. Solomon. The bureau offers much to enrich the supplementary programs and assists with school tuitions. However, on the contrary, the greatest challenge to the supplementary schools is the lack of professional personnel ready and able to make a part-time commitment to the institution and the program.

During the glory days of supplementary education, a very different dynamic was operative. Professional teachers in the public schools sought additional income to supplement their low salaries. They invested their energy and expertise in the part-time endeavor.

We knew it was incumbent upon us to educate our children. We brought excitement, innovation, knowledge and professionalism to classrooms overflowing with children eager to be challenged, and we were professionally trained to do just that.

Today, those professionals interested in Jewish education can find satisfying careers in the full-time day schools. It is rare to find professionals serving in both types of schools, but there are some. It is clear that the supplementary schools are bereft of adequate leadership and pedagogically well-trained professionals. Therefore, the question remains: Where and how to find well trained, certified teachers for a part-time program?

Those at the helm do all that is possible with the limited time allotment and untrained staff of willing, warm bodies manning the classrooms.

Could you envision surgery being performed by lay people? Why then do we accept less than well-trained, adequate professionals in our schools attempting to educate our children?

All who desire a meaningful, intensive Jewish education coming from committed homes should be able to find education assistance for whatever their choice.This must become our community’s No. 1 responsibility and priority. How else to ensure the continuity of our people?

Sandra Radoff-Bernstein
Board Member
Bureau of Jewish Education
Los Angeles

The New York Times

Rob Eshman’s defense of The New York Times (“A Different War,” July 7) and stereotypical attack on the Bush administration is uncalled for. The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times published classified information, even though the administration asked them not to (The Wall Street Journal – a very pro-Israel publication heard that The New York Times was coming out with the story and unfortunately followed suit).

It is not a defense to say The Times weighed a “speculative risk against the public interest.” The Times should not be speculating on what risks are worthy of taking when it comes to the lives of Americans.

Contrary to what Eshman states, the “burden of proof” in showing the danger of revealing government secrets cannot be dismissed by simply claiming The Times disagrees. The administration thought there was a danger and the editor of The Times took it upon himself to conclude otherwise.

While the administration talked in general terms about the tracking of terrorist money, it gave no details how this would be done and our enemies did not know the specifics until provided by The Times.

It is simply reprehensible for Eshman to say that “when the conservative base” goes after The New York Times, he senses the attack is wrapped up with notions of “Jewish” and “liberals.” Many Democrats, including former Clinton advisers, say that great harm was done to a program that was effective in fighting terrorism.

This administration’s conservative base is in fact very pro-Israel and not in the slightest anti-Jewish. No other president in history has surrounded himself with as many Jewish advisers and Israel supporters as has President Bush.Overwhelming public opinion condemns The New York Times for its disclosure and supports all legal methods for punishment of those that leak classified material and those who publish it.

By condemning The Times, it is not the administration that takes its “eye off the ball,” as Eshman claims. The president is vigorously pursuing the policies that he believes best protect America, regardless of what the liberal media believes.

It is too bad that the editor of The Jewish Journal echoes The New York Times, one of the most liberal and anti-administration publications in the country.

Mitchell W. Egers
Los Angeles

Rob Eshman’s near miracle of defending the indefensible, i.e., The New York Times’ disclosure of the tracking details by the U.S. of Al Qaeda’s complex international transactions, is explainable only as one editor blindly defending another in the name of the religion of journalism.

The Wall Street Journal, unlike the New York Times, broke the story without disclosing secret details that Al Qaeda would literally have killed to learn. To suggest, as does The Jewish Journal article, that the Bush administration’s feigned outrage at the conduct of The New York Times is a political ploy calculated to whip up hatred against Jews and liberals is as insidious as the odious conspiracy story that Jews and liberals are responsible for 9/11.

Older Chicagoans will, of course, recognize that the old Chicago Tribune sickness of administration hatred (Roosevelt, Bush) has now infected The New York Times.

The Foreign Policy Magazine article cited in Mr. Eshman’s article showing that 86 percent of experts believe the world is now more dangerous for Americans has more to do with Islamo-fascism than anything else. A poll of European experts would probably show that they believe that the world has become more dangerous for Brits, Danes, etc. Surprise?

Seymour W. Croft
Los Angeles

Bill O’Reilly

I have been Jewish for 83 years. I have watched and listened to Bill O’Reilly for at least eight years. He is not the bigot that Dr. Sol Taylor calls him. Taylor makes a giant unsubstantiated leap from right-wing bloggers to the use of New York as anti-Semitic (Letters, July 7). Taylor should stop watching those hysterical left-wing bloggers.

Ed ShevickWoodland Hills

Converts

In response to Laura Birnbaum’s article (“Converts’ Hardships Expose Truth,” July 7), I would like to share an experience that I have had on another college campus that shows a very different attitude.

I am not a student at UCLA but have made myself a member of its Jewish community. Also in this community are two students who are in the process of converting to Judaism and have been accepted with open arms.

They are socially active at Hillel; one of them even shared an apartment with a few other members of the community.

Our rabbi gives them rides to daily minyanim, of which they are regular attendees. Various members of the community have driven them to and from the Beit Din for conversion meetings and classes. I even recall that on Shavuot, one of these young men gave a short shiur about a Gemara that he had learned.

It is unfortunate that Birnbaum’s friends have had to experience discrimination from a people whose religion they have fallen in love with. It is, however, somewhat comforting to know that this is not an attitude that is common across the board and that there are people who are ready to embrace newcomers to our religion with love and encouragement.

Josh Cohen
Los Angeles

Judaism Outdoors

I applaud your article on Judaism and the outdoors (“Judaism Finds Its Niche in Great Outdoors,” July 7). All the organizations you mentioned are doing wonderful work, however, besides Rabbi Shifren, not one of them is in the Los Angeles area or California for that matter.

My organization, Outdoor Jewish Adventures (OJA) is based in Santa Monica and has been servicing the greater Los Angeles Jewish community for a number of years with camping expeditions, hikes and other outdoor Jewish adventures.

Josh Lake and myself, the founders of OJA, have been part of the growing movement of outdoor Jewish educators that fuse the wonders of nature with Jewish teachings.

We encourage your readers to explore nature in a Jewish context and want them to know that they can find these experiences locally through Outdoor Jewish Adventures.

Stuart Treitel
President/Co-Founder
Outdoor Jewish Adventures
Santa Monica

Never Forget

I have admired the Jewish people since 1967, when as a student at Pasadena City College, I met and had a female friend who left to go to war and defend her country when the war broke out in Israel.

I really liked the “$61.8 Billion” story by Rob Eshman (May 19). It shows the greatness of an ethnic and religious group of folks that strive for greatness and do everything possible to succeed.

I would like to see the American Jewish people support Israel more and demand that the American quislings never ever forget their main friend in the Middle East – Israel!

John Sanchez
Madera, Calif.

A Different War


I went to bed on June 25 believing that Islamo-facism was our country’s most immediate threat. I woke up on June 26 to find out that no, it was The New York Times. That’s the day President Bush publicly criticized newspapers that exposed a secret U.S. government program that monitors international banking transactions. He called the disclosures a “disgraceful” act that could only help terrorists.

But it is his comments that strike me as not just a shame, but somewhat of a sham.

The president singled out The New York Times, though the Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal published similar reports. Bush’s comments amplified attacks on The Times from Vice President Dick Cheney and administration supporters in the media.

Republicans in Congress joined the charge last Thursday, when the House voted along party lines to condemn news organizations for revealing the tracking program.

The Internet devoured the controversy. One blogger said it was time to take seriously the idea that the Sept. 11 attackers should have aimed for The Times headquarters in New York.

A cynic would say the administration picked a fight with The Times because, well, there’s a war it knew it could win, a diversion from the fact that we’re losing a bigger war.

The administration could charge The Times with endangering lives and America’s security, without ever having to prove that, as a result of The Times’ report, lives are in danger or America is at greater risk.

Prior to publication, The Times weighed this speculative risk against the public interest in government transparency and oversight. It can’t have been an easy choice. Newspapers are perfectly capable of being overzealous in their rush to reveal. “The difference between a stripper and a newspaper is that the former never pretends to be performing a public service by exposure,” the jouralist I.F. Stone once said.

But in this case the burden of proof was on the administration. Engaging in warrantless wire-tapping and establishing military tribunals that a conservative Supreme Court found unconstitutional last month does not engender trust.

The Times’ editors no doubt also took into account the fact that reports on financial tracking had appeared numerous times before, beginning with the president’s 2001 announcement that his administration would do everything in its power to disrupt the source of terrorist funding.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind details these steps in his recent book on the war on terror, “The One Percent Doctrine.”

In fact, Suskind writes, the initial success of the money-tracking led terrorist networks to abandon international money transfer by late 2003. “The al-Qaeda playbook,” he writes, “employed by what was left of the network, started to stress the necessity of using couriers to carry cash.” The Bush administration’s use of financial intelligence was “the most successful, coordinated area in the entire government in the ‘war on terror,'” in the words of a former CIA official Suskind quotes. But Al Qaeda — and Suskind — had it figured out long before The New York Times.

It seems a debate on press freedom and responsibility would, at the very least, be a welcome break from the weeks of speechifying over gay marriage and flag burning. But my fear is that this debate too is not part of the real war, but of the culture wars. Call me paranoid, but when the conservative base goes after The New York Times, I sense the attack is wrapped up with notions of “Jewish” and “liberalism.”

And some of my best friends are Jewish and liberal. (First they came for Howard Stern, then The New York Times, then –quick, call Jon Stewart).

I’m not alone in this thinking. “Many members of the president’s base consider ‘New York’ to be a nifty code word for ‘Jewish,'” Jon Carroll wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle.

George Bush has demonstrated over and over his concern for and appreciation of the Jewish community, but — when it’s time to rally the base — he knows which buttons to push.

And that’s too bad. Because even if we American Jews put aside our self-interest as a minority in protecting the civil liberties enshrined in the Bill of Rights, we have an existential interest in the war on terrorists who have pledged to target us, in particular. And I’m afraid this brouhaha shows that the White House’s eye is drifting from the ball.

How badly?

Foreign Policy magazine and the Center for American Progress convened a panel of 100 of America’s top foreign policy experts. They were Republican and Democrat, liberal and conservative and neoconservative. Nearly 80 percent worked in the U.S. government, a third in the military and 17 percent in the intelligence services. The magazine polled them on where America stood in its war on terror, and 86 percent said the world is becoming more dangerous for Americans.

Asked whether they agreed with the president that the United States is winning the war on terror, 84 percent said no, and 13 said yes. Of conservative respondents, 71 percent said no. (The results of the entire poll are in the magazine’s July/August issue and at www.foreignpolicy.com.)

The experts were also asked what America’s priorities should be in the war on terror.

They listed seven top items.

Guess what No. 1 was? Guess what 82 percent of conservative and liberal foreign policy experts agreed was the best way to win the war on terror? That’s right: “Reduce America’s use of foreign oil.”

Funny, shutting down The New York Times didn’t even make the list.

 

Critics Pound Paper Panning Israel Lobby


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Franklin Sentencing Seen As Ominous


It was surprising enough that the judge quadrupled the prosecution’s recommended sentence for Lawrence Franklin, from three years to more than 12.

But the true bombshell at the sentencing on Jan. 20 of the former Pentagon analyst, who is at the center of the case involving pro-Israel lobbyists and classified information, came as lawyers were shutting their briefcases.

That’s when U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III told the courtroom in Alexandria, Va., that he believed civilians are just as liable as government employees under laws governing the dissemination of classified information.

“Persons who have unauthorized possession, who come into unauthorized possession of classified information, must abide by the law,” Ellis said. “That applies to academics, lawyers, journalists, professors, whatever.”

It was difficult to assess whether Ellis was thinking out loud or was pronouncing his judicial philosophy. The judge earned a reputation as a voluble off-the-cuff philosopher when he adjudicated the case of John Walker Lindh, the “American Taliban.”

But if those are Ellis’ jury instructions in April, when two former staffers of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) go on trial, the implications could have major consequences — not just for Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, but for how Americans consider national security questions.

Franklin, a mid-level Iran analyst at the Pentagon, admitted to leaking information to Rosen and Weissman in 2003 because he wanted his concerns about the Iranian threat to reach the White House.

His Pentagon colleagues were focused on Iraq, and Franklin believed AIPAC could get his theories a hearing at the White House’s National Security Council. He also leaked information to Naor Gilon, the former chief political officer at the Israeli Embassy.

By the summer of 2004, government agents co-opted Franklin into setting up Rosen and Weissman. He allegedly leaked classified information to Weissman about purported Iranian plans to kill Israeli and American agents in northern Iraq.

Weissman and Rosen allegedly relayed that information to AIPAC colleagues, the media and Gilon. AIPAC fired the two men in March 2005.

Defense lawyers for Rosen and Weissman have joined a free speech watchdog in casting the case as a major First Amendment battle.

“The implications of this prosecution to news gatherers and others who work in First Amendment cases cannot be overstated,” lawyers for the former AIPAC staffers wrote in a brief earlier this month supporting an application from the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press to file an amicus brief.

The case is believed to be the first in U.S. history to apply a World War I-era statute that criminalizes the dissemination of classified information by U.S. civilians.

Franklin pleaded guilty to a similar statute barring government employees from leaking classified information. That statute rarely has been prosecuted; before Franklin, the last successful prosecution experts can recall was in the 1980s.

 

A Defiant, Guilty Plea in AIPAC Case


Lawrence Franklin’s plea-bargain pledge to cooperate with the U.S. government in its case against two former American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) officials was put to the test as soon as it was made.

“It was unclassified and it is unclassified,” Franklin, a former Pentagon analyst, insisted in court last week, describing a document that the government maintains is classified. The document is central to one of the conspiracy charges against Steve Rosen, the former foreign policy chief of AIPAC.

Guilty pleas usually are remorseful, sedate affairs. But Franklin appeared defiant and agitated in an Alexandria, Va., courthouse on Oct. 5 when he pleaded guilty as part of a deal that may leave him with a reduced sentence and part of his government pension.

Franklin’s prickliness could prove another setback for the U.S. government in a case that the presiding judge already has suggested could be dismissed because of questions about access to evidence.

Franklin’s performance unsettled prosecutors, who will attempt to prove that Rosen and Keith Weissman, AIPAC’s former Iran analyst, conspired with Franklin to communicate secret information. The case goes to trial Jan. 2.

The argument over the faxed document furnished the most dramatic encounter Wednesday.

“It was a list of murders,” Franklin began to explain to U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis when Thomas Reilly, a youthful, red-headed lawyer from the Justice Department, leapt from his seat, shouting, “Your Honor, that’s classified!”

Ellis agreed to seal that portion of the hearing. JTA has learned that the fax was a list of terrorist incidents believed to have been backed by Iran.

There were other elements of Franklin’s plea that suggest he is not ready to cooperate to the fullest extent. The government says Franklin leaked information to the AIPAC employees because he thought it could advance his career, but Franklin says his motivation was “frustration with policy” on Iran at the Pentagon.

Franklin said he believed Rosen and Weissman were better connected than he and would be able to relay his concerns to officials at the White House’s National Security Council.

He did not explicitly mention in court that Iran was his concern. But JTA has learned that Franklin thought his superiors at the Pentagon were overly distracted by the Iraq war in 2003 — when he established contact with Rosen and Weissman — and weren’t paying enough attention to Iran.

The penal code criminalizes relaying information that “could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation.” Franklin’s testimony would not be much use to the prosecution if he believed Rosen and Weissman simply were relaying information from the Pentagon to the White House, sources close to the defense of Rosen and Weissman said.

“I was convinced they would relay this information back-channel to friends on the NSC,” he said.

In any case, the section of the penal code that deals with civilians who obtain and relay classified information rarely, if ever, has been used in a prosecution, partly because it runs up against First Amendment protections for journalists and lobbyists, who frequently deal with secrets.

A spokesman for Abbe Lowell, Rosen’s lawyer, said Franklin’s guilty plea “has no impact on our case because a government employee’s actions in dealing with classified information is simply not the same as a private person, whether that person is a reporter or a lobbyist.”

The essence of Franklin’s guilty plea seemed to be only that he knew the recipients were unauthorized to receive the information. Beyond that, he insisted, he had no criminal intent.

Admitting guilt to another charge, relaying information to Naor Gilon, the chief political officer at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, Franklin said that he wasn’t giving away anything that the Israeli didn’t already know.

“I knew in my heart that his government had this information,” Franklin said. “He gave me far more information than I gave him.”

Franklin turned prosecutors’ heads when he named Gilon, the first public confirmation that the foreign country hinted at in indictments is Israel. Indictments refer to a “foreign official.”

The suggestion that Franklin was mining Gilon for information, and not the other way around, turns on its head the description of the case when it first was revealed in late August 2004, after the FBI raided AIPAC’s offices. At the time, CBS described Franklin as an “Israeli spy.”

Asked about his client’s outburst, Franklin’s lawyer, Plato Cacheris, said only that it was “gratuitous.”

But Franklin’s claim reinforced an argument put forward by Israel — that Gilon was not soliciting anything untoward in the eight or nine meetings he had with Franklin beginning in 2002.

“We have full confidence in our diplomats, who are dedicated professionals and conduct themselves in accordance with established diplomatic practice,” said David Siegel, an embassy spokesman. “Israel is a close ally of the United States, and we exchange information on a formalized basis on these issues. There would be no reason for any wrongdoing on the part of our diplomats.”

Franklin also pleaded guilty to removing classified documents from the authorized area, which encompasses Maryland, Virginia and Washington, when he brought material to his home in West Virginia.

He sounded another defensive note in explaining the circumstances: He brought the material home on June 30, 2004, he said, to bone up for the sort of tough questions he often faced from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Rumsfeld’s then-deputy, Paul Wolfowitz.

Franklin, who has five children and an ill wife, said he is in dire circumstances, parking cars at a horse-race track, waiting tables and tending bar to make ends meet. Keeping part of his government pension for his wife was key to Franklin’s agreement to plead guilty, Cacheris told JTA.

Franklin pleaded guilty to three different charges, one having to do with his alleged dealings with the former AIPAC officials; one having to do with Gilon; and one for taking classified documents home.

The language of the plea agreement suggests that the government will argue for a soft sentence, agreeing to Franklin’s preferred minimum-security facility and allowing for concurrent sentencing. But it conditions its recommendations on Franklin being “reasonably available for debriefing and pre-trial conferences.”

The prosecution asked for sentencing to be postponed until Jan. 20, more than two weeks after the trial against Rosen and Weissman begins, suggesting that government leniency will be proportional to Franklin’s performance.

Franklin is a star witness, but he’s not the entire case. The charges against Rosen and Weissman, apparently also based on wiretapped conversations, allege that the two former AIPAC staffers shared classified information with fellow AIPAC staffers, the media and foreign government officials.

Two other U.S. government officials who allegedly supplied Rosen and Weissman with information have not been charged: David Satterfield, then deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs and now the No. 2 man at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, and Kenneth Pollack, a Clinton-era National Security Council staffer who is now an analyst at the Brookings Institution.

The problem with the wiretap evidence lies in the government’s refusal to share much of it or even to say exactly how much it has. In a recent filing, the government said that even the quantity of the material should remain classified.

In a Sept. 19 hearing, Ellis suggested to prosecutor Kevin DiGregori that his failure to share the defendants’ wiretapped conversations with the defense team could lead to the case being dismissed.

“I am having a hard time, Mr. DiGregori, getting over the fact that the defendants can’t hear their own statements, and whether that is so fundamental that if it doesn’t happen, this case will have to be dismissed,” Ellis said.

DiGregori said the government might indeed prefer to see the case dismissed rather than turn over the material.

AIPAC fired Rosen and Weissman in April but is paying for their defense because of provisions in its bylaws. AIPAC had no comment, nor did lawyers for Weissman.

 

Letters to the Editor


Election 2004

Jewish supporters of President Bush urged that he was more realistically and personally committed to Israel’s security than Sen. Kerry (“Four More Years,” Nov. 5; “Judgment Day,” Oct. 29). This message was set forth in The Jewish Journal by the likes of Ed Koch, Sen. Norm Coleman and Howard Winkler, among others. I suggest that the opportunity presented by Arafat’s demise will be the true test of this thesis.

If the Bush administration pursues a role in supporting the development of a responsible Palestinian leadership, and providing security and other incentives for Israel to relinquish the West Bank in preparation for Palestinian statehood, then Bush supporters will be vindicated. If, on the other hand, the administration continues its four-year-old policy of idle disengagement and squanders this opportunity, then Bush supporters will have been proven wrong.

So far, the silence is deafening.

Mark D. Licker
Alhambra

As you have heard by now, the exit polls on Tuesday proved to be wrong.

This is why I am convinced that many Jewish voters who traditionally vote Democrat voted Republican last week but did not want to admit it at the exit polls.

I know that around me, many people who are Democrats voted for Bush because they thought he was the best man to fight terrorism and not Kerry, who did not even vote for the first Gulf War. With Kerry, they thought we might have another Munich, which cost us 6 million Jewish people – including all of my father’s family. We survived because we were lucky enough to be smuggled into Switzerland in 1943 – because of the weakness of the “leaders.”

Jacques Kukurudz
Los Angeles

Gay marriage doesn’t matter if you are dead. Islamists kill gays. Bush doesn’t.

Bush wins and Arafat is all but dead. What a great week!

Nathan D. Wirtschafter
Encino

Many Jews who voted for Bush knew – or were in denial – that this is a failed presidency in every aspect of governance (“Four More Years,” Nov. 5).

They cannot cite one concrete step toward peace in the Middle East by this administration. Nevertheless, with their votes they placed Israel above the interests of America; four more years that will be worse than the first four for Americans and American interests.

One might call these deniers hypocrites. I call them traitors.

Bert Eifer
Woodland Hills

Three points in response to Rob Eshman’s editorial (“Continental Divide,” Oct. 29) about the Jewish vote forums, several of which I attended.

First, Eshman is correct that the community is politically divided. Exit polls will vary, but it’s clearly a new day for American Jewry.

Not just Russian, Iranian, and Israeli immigrants are migrating to the Republicans; many pro-Israel activists, moderate business people, “security” moms and traditionally centrist foreign policy Democrats now see the GOP as their home.

Second, the debates served a good purpose. At their best, they provided much more than talking points. The speakers gave expression to our instincts by informed and detailed evidence. The spirited discussions were far more entertaining and enlightening than another evening watching sitcoms, or even reading/watching self-admittedly biased news media.

Third, I must compliment the Republican Jewish Coalitions Larry Greenfield, in particular. I attended several of the debates in which he thoroughly outclassed his opponents. He calmly presented facts and thoughtful conversation that educated far more than some seasoned liberal politicians, who were not his match in debating about Israel, foreign policy or domestic affairs.

I appreciate that the Jewish community will remain politically involved – in both parties. Greenfield gave me hope that there is another generation of top-notch American Jews who can lead us with care and sophistication.

Dulce Hoffman
Los Angeles

I read the article “Why Kerry Lost” (Nov. 5) and had an immediate response. Kerry lost because the Democratic Party is lost. They lost their focus, their values, their ideals, their principles and they lost me, a lifelong Democrat. They lost me while bashing every Republican as a moron at dinner parties, they lost me at fundraisers for my kids’ school and having a principal get up and make rude remarks about Bush. They lost me when they ripped my Bush/Cheney sign off my lawn, and when they tore the sticker off my car. They lost me when they used Michael Moore, Ben Affleck and Susan Sarandon to promote their agenda. They lost me when Bruce Springsteen, Cher and Eminem told my children how to vote, without really telling the truth. They lost me with campaigns like Moveon.org, and Vote or Die and pushed an agenda – not the beauty of a true democratic election. They lost me when I saw they lost all the values, decency, manners and simple things like being civil to the opposition and open to other ideas.

When they find their way back to the type of Democrats I voted for, campaigned for and respected, only then, will they gain my vote back. Until then, I am a Republican.

Allyson Rowen Taylor
Valley Glen

In response to Bill Boyarsky, I am gay and Jewish (“Patriot Paranoia,” Nov. 5). I voted for President Bush. Gay marriage doesn’t matter if you are dead. Islamists kill gays. Bush doesn’t. In fact, Bush has not been anywhere near the homophobe he is accused of being. After the Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence vs. Texas, eloquently ruling that the outlawing by any state of gay sex between consenting adults unconstitutional, the press chased Bush through the Rose Garden for a “suitable” inflammatory quote – trying to bait him with comments such as the ruling upsetting the president’s right-wing religious base. To the disappointment of the left, the president replied with a paraphrase of Jesus from the Christian Bible that “one shouldn’t complain about the splinter in the other person’s eye when you have a log in your own….” He doesn’t get credit for that, does he?

They do not want a solution. They want “revenge.”

As for Muslims supposedly having any reason to worry in this country, I think the fact that half of those in Great Britain, when polled, said they would fight for bin Laden against Great Britain, is cause for concern here, including the fact that they have been raising money hand over fist for Hamas and Islamic Jihad, etc. Islam is a global threat. Period. Your whining on behalf of Muslims is nonsense. I have met too many of them in this country that wish Israel’s destruction and whose motives otherwise are too inscrutable for comfort.

If you should be “concerned” about anything, it is the growing anti-Jewish/anti-Israel violence on the campuses; that this violence is not being condemned or countered by the campus administrations; or the growing anti-Israelism within the Democratic Party (and why I am no longer a Democrat); and the galloping “pacifism” (except for Arabs killing Jews), socialism and lawyerism of the Democrats.

Mr. Boyarsky, I do not know what America you perceive and I feel no threat from the Patriot Act but I do from the left and its alliance with “radical” Islam. If you follow true-to-form, I will be accused of “racism,” I suppose. Before you do, I would inform you that during my first visit to Israel in 1992, my driver and I were attacked and nearly killed as they tried to put our car over a cliff. Racism or experience?

Jarrow L. Rogovin
Los Angeles

The series of articles appearing in the latest issues of The Jewish Journal left the uneasy impression that our community has become permanently divided, and perhaps even filled with outright hostility, over the issue of the elections.

A few months ago, for the first time in my 25 years as a community activist, I stepped down from my nonpartisan positions in the Iranian American Jewish Federation to take up a partisan position by joining the Bush campaign. I did that out of the conviction that the single most important challenge facing us as free people, in the next few decades, is the threat posed by Islamic fundamentalism, and the deep belief that the policies followed by the president are the right ones.

Many of my community colleagues on the Democratic side undertook to do the same in the Kerry campaign, a fact for which they will always have my personal respect. Standing up for what you believe in is not just the essence of democracy it is indeed a requisite of community activism.

I believe that come now most of us will hang our partisan hats and go back to wearing the hat most dear to us, namely the one of community activist. We’ll go back to our Jewish community and work shoulder to shoulder, with the utmost in respect and sincerity, regardless of whom we’ve been supporting in the election, or what the outcome was, and do our best to build an even better community.

Once the campaigns are over they are over. What will remain is our Jewish community with its many challenges. This is a fact that I believe is well understood by all community activists. This is why they do what they do to begin with, and this is what will bring the whole community back around the same table like the shevet achim that we truly are.

Sam Kermanian
Former Secretary General
Iranian American Jewish Federation
Co-Vice Chair
Bush-Cheney ’04 California.

Dear Editor,

This is in response to recent coverage of the lawsuit concerning a portion of a quotation from a speech by Theodore Roosevelt to the Young Mens’ Christian Association that is inscribed on the wall of a courtroom of the Riverside County Courthouse. (“Lawyer Battling ADL on Christian Quote at Courthouse,” Jewish Journal, October 15) The lawsuit was brought against the Presiding Judge of the Riverside County Court, theCounty of Riverside and Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to prevent the removal of the courtroom inscription. The quote is: “The true Christian is the true citizen.” It is carved into the lintel on the courtroom wall facing the judge, witness stand and jury box.

Although there was no basis for including ADL as a defendant in the lawsuit, we felt that while it was pending it was inappropriate to respond to questions on this issue. The lawsuit has now been dismissed and we believe the community should be aware of ADL’s involvement on this matter.

In July, we received a complaint from a member of the community about the quote. We wrote to Riverside County Superior Court officials requesting a meeting to discuss the issue. On September 1, ADL representatives met with Court officials. We discussed a number of ways to protect our nation’s tradition of separation of church and state without marring the beauty of the historic courthouse, including creating a removable cover or having an educational placard in or near the courtroom.

In our letter and at the meeting, we made it clear that ADL has a deep and lasting respect for the Christian faith – as we do for all faiths – and that we value the longstanding friendship between the Jewish and Christian communities. We do not view the separation of church and state as hostile to any one religion. To the contrary, it is a necessary pre-condition to freedom of religion. To that end, we were and remain troubled by the quotation and its location in a public courthouse. The quote, taken out of the context of the speech in which it was given, could be seen as an express endorsement of Christianity by the government. Non-Christian members of the community coming to the court might feel diminished in the eyes of the law. Indeed, the complaint we received expressed those very concerns.

At no time did ADL threaten litigation or file a lawsuit. Our approach toRiverside County officials was to find a mutually agreeable solution to protect our nation’s tradition of separation of church and state while maintaining the integrity of the historic building.

We remain resolute in our belief that only by maintaining the wall separating church and state can we guarantee the continued vitality of religion in American life and remain committed to pursuing the work necessary to accomplish our goals.

Amanda Susskind
Regional Director
Pacific Southwest Region
Anti-Defamation League

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

Your Letters


In ‘Control’

While [Hassan] Ibrahim and [Jahane] Noujaim may be nice fellows to chat with, they are only willing to see the trees but ignore the whole forest (“In ‘Control,'” June 18). By showing the suffering of Arabs caused as a result of United States or Israeli war on terrorism, along with the suffering by the victims of terrorism, “Control Room” and the entire Al Jazeera operation are trying to draw a moral equivalence between terrorism and war on terrorism. Rob Eshman fell into that trap too quickly.

To win this war, we must have the conviction that we occupy the high moral ground, and that we are forced to fight vicious enemies that would literally destroy us unless we put an end to their ability to cause harm. While we try to minimize unnecessary casualties of noncombatants, this is not always possible in a war — these casualties should be “credited” to the enemy, even if we fired the bullet that caused them.

The only “important discussion” that “Control Room” should cause in our world, is reaffirmation that there is no moral equivalency, and that we should be smart enough to recognize superficial propaganda. Ibrahim and Noujaim know the truth, they are just smart enough to use psychology attempting to raise a vicious Islamic agenda to a level on par with our freedoms, lifestyles and future.

Nahum Gat, Manhattan Beach

It was with great disbelief that I read your editorial “In ‘Control,'” wherein you cited that although you do not speak Arabic, you find it “difficult to write off Al Jazeera as a broadcaster of propaganda.”

Does not basic journalism require that one undertake to learn exactly what is said by the subject of your discussion — Al Jazeera? (The Middle East Media Research Institute offers good English translations of many Arabic news sources!)

Since you have zero information about the subject, how can you reach any conclusion — yet alone that Al Jazeera does indeed provide good, objective reporting?

Had you written your article in 1942, would you note that you do not speak German, but find it “difficult to write off Der Stürmer or Information Minister Josef Goebbels’ writings as propaganda”?

Had you written your article in 1968, would you note that you do not speak Russian, but find it “difficult to write off Soviet newspapers Izvestia or Pravda as media sources of propaganda”?

Journalistic integrity requires definitive research and facts, unless you wish The Journal to be equally as “objective” as the Nazi or communist propaganda sources cited.

Fred Korr, Los Angeles

Rabbi Mayersohn

I am painfully outraged and disappointed that The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles chose to publish such a hurtful article about my former rabbi, Rabbi Michael Mayersohn (“Are Sex Abuse Guidelines Working?” June 18).

It was filled with unfounded insinuations and assumptions. In fact, it was based on a hearing that had not yet even taken place. We are talking about a rabbi’s life, a rabbi’s career, a rabbi’s reputation, a rabbi’s legacy. My husband and I have been members of Temple Beth David for 23 years and proud to say that Mayersohn was our rabbi and teacher for 13 of those years. Rabbi Mayersohn is a compassionate, caring and sensitive individual — he should not be penalized for another congregant’s misinterpretations of his actions. Jeopardize his sacred title that he worked so hard to obtain, jeopardize the holiness of Temple Beth David and its members — no way. There is no way that Mayersohn would have sacrificed the things that he cherishes so much. On the contrary, I applaud Mayersohn for standing up for his rights — for appealing the reprimand that was injudiciously extended to him by the Central Conference of American Rabbis — and I pray that my faith in Mayersohn’s integrity will prevail.

Lastly, if you are looking for an interesting and appealing subject matter to write about, perhaps you wish to write about the innovative Jewish Academy of Growth and Learning that Mayersohn is establishing in Orange County — now there’s something sensational and definitely worth getting your readers excited about.

Melanie Alkov, Westminster

Ronald Reagan

Thank you for your cover story on the legacy of Ronald Reagan and his administration (“How He Changed Us,” June 11).

Generations of Israelis will be able to thank him for strengthening ties with the United States as Israel was surrounded and infiltrated by an increasingly violent Islamic militant movement, and generations of Eastern European and formerly Soviet Jews can be grateful for Reagan’s challenge to the evil empire — and for bringing it down.

Here in the United States, Reagan proved himself to be a different kind of Republican. Not harsh, not scolding, not the aloof conservative that hadn’t polled well with Jews, but rather, he was a genuine, honest, forthright man, one who shared critical goals with the Jewish community in United States. That above all can be pointed to as why so many Jews supported him, and mourned as millions of Americans did, when he passed from this world.

Alex Burrola, Montebello

Correction

In Obituaries (May 18), a listing should have read: Mary Scovis died March 26, at the age of 92. She is survived by her daughter-in-law, Jenny Scovis; two grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

Nonie Darwich

So impressed was I with Nonie Darwich’s article of “When Arab Means Never Saying Sorry” that I sent it far and wide to friends and relatives (June 4). However, on reading the snide letter by Deborah Bochner Kennel in today’s Journal, I really had to at least try to write a complimentary letter to the editor. Kennel’s hatchet job is not well-researched, or perhaps not researched at all. Her “politically correct” jeremiad is ignorant, vicious — and sly. (She manages to insert the name of the equally vicious “Institute for Historical Review” — a Holocaust-denial group — in such a fashion that the casual reader will think that Darwich is affiliated with that sewer.)

Darwich’s article captured perfectly the fanatic, self-delusional, hysterical, duplicitous character of Radical Jihadist Islam: “Americans should stop judging other cultures with the American value system and especially stop expecting Arab Muslim culture to respond rationally according to Western standards. Arab power is derived from oil, terror and manipulative public relations campaigns.”

That is the reality. And the sooner we learn to understand those who kill “Zionists and Crusaders” (read: Jews and Christians) in the name of their twisted interpretation of Islam, the better able we will be to at least try to protect ourselves against their murderous intentions.

Sara Meric, Santa Monica

In ‘Control’


Gullibility cuts both ways.

I try to remember this as I reflect on "Control Room," a fascinating documentary on the Arab news channel Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera broadcasts out of the Persian Gulf state of Qatar to more than 40 million Arabic-speaking viewers around the world.

Its many critics in the West say the station inflames Arab anger against America and Israel by presented skewed coverage of the war in Iraq and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Its defenders say Al Jazeera is the first truly independent news channel in the Arab world, and its popularity is based on its accuracy and high journalistic standards.

Since I don’t watch the channel and don’t speak Arabic, I find it frustratingly difficult to write off Al Jazeera as a broadcaster of lies and propaganda, as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld does at one point in the documentary.

Everyone was telling "Control Room" director Jahane Noujaim what to think about Al Jazeera, so the young filmmaker set out to find out for herself. Noujaim grew up shuttling between Egypt and the United States before attending Harvard University. She helped make "The War Room" and "Start-up.com," then set about doing her own documentary on something near and dear to her heart: the clash between the West and Islam.

The movie opens by following the editors and reporters of Al Jazeera during the days leading up the Iraq War. She filmed mostly at Central Command, where the U.S. military conveniently set up its headquarters just 10 miles from Al Jazeera’s offices. The film’s main characters are quickly and sharply drawn: Samir Khader, a knowing, perpetually exhausted senior producer; Hassan Ibrahim, a Falstaffian, Sudanese-born correspondent; and U.S. Marine Lt. Josh Rushing, a young, earnest information officer who becomes our surrogate as he tries to understand and influence the Arab journalists around him.

Early on, these men spar in almost theoretical terms over who is more misguided. "Saddam Hussein has killed more Muslims than anyone in the world," Rushing tells Ibrahim early on, accusing the network of bias "and Al Jazeera is protecting him."

Khader shoots back: "The American media were hijacked by some people within the administration to be used for their own agenda."

As the horrible reality of war plays out on Al Jazeera screens, the men grow less glib and more pained. Rushing watches Al Jazeera footage of horribly maimed Iraqi civilians and dead U.S. soldiers — stuff never shown on any American network.

"It makes me hate war," the suddenly deflated Marine says, "but it doesn’t make me believe we’re in a world where you can live without it yet."

Ibrahim reacts to yet another shrill Arab protest with an exasperated sigh: "If an underground pipe breaks in the center of Doha, it will be blamed on the Israelis instead of our own incompetence."

For an 84-minute documentary about foreign-language media, this is compelling and emotional material, raising as many questions as it answers.

To help me sort them out, I sat down with Noujaim and Ibrahim while they were in Los Angeles this week promoting the movie. Ibrahim told me his English wife spent years in Jersualem and speaks fluent Hebrew. I asked Ibrahim, who said he attended grade school with Osama bin Laden, if he was raised Muslim.

"I describe myself as a Muslim Jew for Jesus," he said with a laugh.

Ibrahim may be the most palatable face of Al Jazeera, or he might be the most accurate spokesman of its ethos — again, I don’t know. But the affable journalist defended his work in almost missionary terms. Arab governments blackball companies from advertising on the station because they consider it seditious, he said. For one, almost every major Israeli official except Ariel Sharon has appeared on the news and interview programs, which irks Arab rulers. The station airs plenty of footage of Palestinian dead and wounded, but it also shows and interviews Israeli victims of Palestinian terror — though admittedly less. It may not be perfectly balanced, but it is revolutionary in the Arab world, where the media is almost wholly government controlled.

"People ask me, ‘Is it true you have a team of Israeli agents working on the third floor, telling you what to report,’" Ibrahim told me, winding up to a big laugh. "I tell them the team is actually on the fourth floor. Except that Al Jazeera is in a one-story building."

"It pisses me off," he continued. "In the Arab world we use scapegoats a lot, and Israelis are now it. But we are starting to take responsibility for our actions, and the fact is that we have a bunch of corrupt regimes that need to be removed, not just reformed."

Al Jazeera, he said, is part of the mission. For every instance where I pointed to skewed coverage of Iraq or Israel, he countered. During the Daniel Pearl tragedy, he said, the network refused to air the murderers’ gruesome footage.

"He was loved by a lot of us guys," Ibrahim said. "People [at Al Jazeera] shed tears over Daniel Pearl."

I find it plausible that Al Jazeera itself embodies the contradictions at the heart of the drama of the Arab world. Its best journalists want reform and openness, a sense of belonging to the larger world, while others want to use it to further a narrow Islamist agenda

Middle East expert Jennifer Bryson, who does know of such things, wrote that, "Al Jazeera usually lives up to its own high standards for factual reporting, and it fosters important discussions within the Arab world."

"Control Room" should foster important discussion in our world as well.

"Control Room" plays for one week beginning Friday, June 18 at The Nuart Theatre in West Los Angeles.

Bush or Kerry?


America’s Jews face a difficult choice in this year’s election. For many, the Bush administration symbolizes the kind of yahoo Republicanism — shaped by evangelical Christianity and the South — that grates on the sensibilities of a highly urbanized and socially liberal community.

Yet on the other side, we have a Democratic candidate, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, whose foreign and defense policy record is, at best, questionable. Although he has been pro-Israel throughout his career, his wobbliness on the larger and related issue of the war on terror is cause for concern.

Kerry’s foreign policy proclivities, from what can now be gleaned, are largely those of the liberal Northeastern establishment, anchored in the media and academic elite. It is a policy shaped, more than anything else, by the 1960s experience with the Vietnam War, a general abhorrence of unilateral action and a deep unwillingness to confront adversaries.

The experience of Vietnam, particularly for a discontented veteran like Kerry, has created a mentality that is fundamentally hostile to U.S. assertiveness. This can be seen in his mid-1990s move to cut into CIA funding and his decision this year to withhold funds for the reconstruction of Iraq. And finally, it is manifest in his desire to fit U.S. policy in the terror war to fit the proclivities of our erstwhile European "allies" such as France and the new Spanish government.

When American foreign policy was focused primarily on the Cold War, Jews within the Democratic Party divided along ideological lines. A large proportion saw the struggle against communism as inherently flawed, while a significant portion favored the more hard-line approach pioneered by Harry Truman, followed by John Kennedy and most recently by Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman.

The hard-line Democrats reflected notions of an expanding, fundamentally optimistic nation that seemed capable of accomplishing what others — whether the British Empire, Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union — could not achieve. Although Democrats became more oriented to government action in the 20th century, the traditional core of the party, including organized labor, never lost sight of American exceptionalism and the nation’s destiny.

Compare this now with the Democratic Party today. With the only Democrats of the old school — Lieberman and Missouri Rep. Richard Gephardt — out of the race, we now confront a Democratic Party that tends to favor a less aggressive, more accommodating view of the terror war. In these attitudes lie many grave dangers for the terrorists’ prime targets: the Jews and Israel.

Rather than identify with American greatness, Democrats like Kerry have become the party of American unexceptionalism — more likely to blame the United States for the world’s problem than even our worst enemies. Kerry’s wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, in particular, has supported such groups as the Tides Foundation, which has lent backing to groups such as Council for American Islamic Relations and the National Lawyers Guild, both of which have backed jihadists opposed to both America and Israel.

To be sure, it seems likely that a wealthy heiress like Heinz Kerry is simply too busy to know where her money goes. We also can not be sure that the couple shares all their same ideas; that would certainly not be a news flash. But her support for such groups does suggest, at the very least, a broader shift in Democratic attitudes toward the war on terror.

More troubling, however, oft-stated proclivity of Kerry and his backers to seek a closer accord with the European Union and the United Nations. Both have proven themselves to be strongly pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel. Kowtowing toward Paris and Brussels — growing centers of Europe’s leftist and pan-Arabist anti-Semitism — will shift our policy focus in ways not friendly to either Jewish or Israeli interests.

This matters directly to Jews in a way far more profound than the arguments over Cold War policy. Although that conflict also impacted Jews, we are in the ultimate crosshairs of the terror war.

The conflict over terror centers in large part about the right to exist for Jews — or Christians or even dissident Muslims — in the Middle East and elsewhere. The terrorists who attack Israel also want to kill Jews everywhere. One does not have to favor the often-destructive policies of Ariel Sharon to know this is a basic truth.

Given these forces, the foreign equation should lead most Jews to support President Bush. But here the other side of our identity comes in: We are also Americans who would like to see a more unified country, with greater concern for the poor, the middle class and for outsiders in general.

In all these areas, Bush has been a horrific failure, particularly given his earlier self-identification as a "compassionate conservative." No president since Richard Nixon has done more to exacerbate divisions within the country.

Bush has failed on some of the basic elements of domestic leadership. He has made little effort to reach out to those who doubt his policies and done little to rally anyone but his own conservative base. Even worse, he has taken to pandering to that base, most notably with his endorsement of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

Whole parts of the country — particularly many among gay people, working women, residents of the great cities — feel totally abandoned and alienated. Such divisions are always bad for the Jews; the last time the threat of anti-Semitism was greater was back in the divisive period around the Great Depression.

This domestic policy approach is likely to backfire on the Republicans, at least among Jews. We may have become notably more conservative on fiscal issues and foreign policy, but Jews have a peculiar stake in the idea of tolerance.

One does not have to agree with the extralegal marriages in San Francisco to see that the issue of gay marriage should be worked out at the state, or even community level. A proposed constitutional amendment seems totally uncalled for and unnecessarily divisive.

Similarly, many Jews are likely to remain concerned about other Bush administration foibles, such as the depriving of constitutional rights to U.S. citizens under Attorney General John Ashcroft or the gross abuses by Texas oil firms in the Iraqi reconstruction. The wisdom of tax cuts and changes in environmental laws may also bother some.

As a result, what could have been a major realignment election for Jews to move toward the GOP now seems unlikely. Although Bush will win some Jewish votes, Kerry seems certain to capture the vast majority, something that could help him in several critical states.

Yet this is not a result that should get anyone dancing the hora. The movement of Kerry-style Democrats into the White House might be good for our social values but could prove bad news for the kind of foreign policy that gives Israel a chance to exist and Jews around the world a greater sense of security.

My Culture War


Freedom of the press is, strictly speaking, the freedom to own a press. Within wonderfully broad limits, The New York Times can say anything it wants, but you can’t say anything you want in The New York Times.

Radio entertainer Howard Stern, as successful and wealthy as he is, doesn’t own the stations or networks that broadcast his show. So when one of those networks, Clear Channel Communications, dumped him last week from six of its stations on extremely suspicious indecency charges, all he could hope for was that outraged citizens or loyal listeners would speak out.

Howard, here I am.

I discovered Stern’s morning show driving to work 11 years ago, and I’ve been listening since. Day in and out, it has guaranteed me at least one good smile before work begins. To the working commuter that is a gift. When it’s good, which is often, Stern’s show offers a kind of ongoing, un-PC satire of political, pop and celebrity culture that — at least until Jon Stewart’s "The Daily Show" appeared — had all but vanished from TV and radio. I turn it on after I drop the kids off at school. When it bores or offends me, I switch stations for a while.

Now people want to take my show away. After Clear Channel dropped his program, Stern said that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is moving to bring fines for indecency against the show, which will eventually force Infinity Broadcasting to drop it as well.

Make no mistake: the FCC, composed of five presidential appointees, levies fines, grants licenses and approves station expansion. It holds all the best cards here.

I understand that by many peoples’ standards, Stern is indecent, but he has been so for a long, long time. The incident that prompted Clear Channel to dump him, and for which the FCC may levy fines, has been so commonplace on his program that it could have been mistaken for a promo spot.

Ever since Janet Jackson exposed herself during the Super Bowl’s halftime show, the FCC and some members of Congress have been pushing for tougher decency standards and higher fines. Conservative religious-oriented citizens groups, like Focus on the Family, have urged them along with coordinated e-mail campaigns.

The media have picked up on this latest battlefront in the Culture War because the media loves a good Culture War. The issues are easier to understand than arguments over health care or the tax code, and they usually involve sex (Howard Stern, gay marriage) and violence (Mel Gibson, gun control).

Stern is saying that what has put the FCC on his trail this time is not dirty words, but his sudden and outspoken opposition to the re-election of President Bush. Stern supported Bush following Sept. 11 and throughout the second Gulf War, praising him as a tough leader. But he began speaking out against Bush over issues at the heart of the Culture War — stem-cell research, gay rights — and began urging his listeners to vote for Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).

Former New Jersey Gov. Christie Todd Whitman, a centrist Republican, has credited Stern’s on-air support with making the difference that got her elected. Clear Channel, a corporation with a long history of support for Bush, might not have pulled Stern from such swing-state markets in Florida and Pennsylvania for political reasons, but doing so certainly won’t hurt Bush there.

I’ve never really understood where the Culture War ends in this country and the Political War begins. My sense is that each needs and uses the other, and an election year kicks them both into high gear. Each side wants you to believe that it is on the brink of losing the war, but the evidence is murky.

Sure, Stern may get canceled, but books by leftists like Michael Moore and Al Franken are at the top of national bestseller lists. Yes, many in the media trashed "The Passion of the Christ," but that didn’t stop it from earning close to $200 million so far. There may be vast conspiracies of the left- or right-wing, but Americans themselves vacillate.

It isn’t surprising that Stern is caught up in the kind of cultural and political battle in which Jewish comedians and commentators like Mort Sahl and Lenny Bruce once found themselves.

He is heir to the Jewish tradition of the badchen, or shtetl entertainer. "They were scandalous, filled with gossip," comedian and frequent Stern guest Richard Belzer has said. "Their essence was to expose and make fun of things in their society. The badchen’s society was the shtetl. We expand it to include the whole society."

"Stern’s is an unleashed id unrepressed by socially approved feelings," writes Lawrence Epstein in his seminal study of Jewish comedy, "The Haunted Smile." "He is an attack on society’s right to censor the honest feels of the individual. He is a safety valve, a release." In as free and democratic medium that exists, 18 million Americans vote for Stern each morning.

The badchen is what Thomas Cahill might call a "Gift of the Jews," an outsider who exposes society’s foibles, pokes fun at its hypocrisies, makes people laugh and makes people think. The FCC has no right to look this gift horse in the mouth.

Letter to Jason Alexander: OneVoice Off Key


Today is my daughter, Malki's, 18th birthday. I won't be buying her a cake or a present. Friends will not be coming over, nor will we be singing her any birthday songs.

Instead, I am writing to you to commemorate the day her life began — because that life ended two years ago.

My beautiful, gentle, kind child was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist. She was standing in line with her best friend, Michal, waiting for a pizza. It was the middle of the summer school break, and the Sbarro pizzeria was packed with children and entire families.

Death came immediately for Malki, or so the coroners told my sons who identified her body at the morgue. Her friend, Michal, hung on for a few hours before dying in a local hospital.

I feel you ought to know about their murders and my pain. Ever since you chose to involve yourself in the OneVoice organization and to advise us on how to achieve peace, you obligated yourself to hear about my Malki.

OneVoice's sound-bite version of this conflict is misleading. Enticing, no doubt, but grossly inaccurate. Crucial facts have been omitted, and it's easy to see why. They punch holes in the attractive solution your minders have sold you — the solution you are peddling to us.

First, contrary to your claims in a local press interview Mr. Alexander, most Palestinians do not favor a peaceful solution over a continuation of the fighting. In a poll conducted in October, 77 percent of Palestinians supported the current intifada, and 68 percent would like to see attacks against Israelis resumed.

Sixty-one percent of respondents backed the use of suicide bomb attacks against Israeli civilians. A full 83 percent said that either terrorism and negotiations should go hand in hand, or that the Palestinian Authority should stop negotiating and fully support the terrorist campaign.

And how many of them want the Palestinian Authority to honor the Oslo accord obligations and abandon violence? How many want to see the conflict resolved solely through bilateral talks? Thirteen percent. Is that the “silent majority” OneVoice is referring to?

These findings are the results of a poll conducted by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Center, a Palestinian organization. If you were, in fact, aware of these statistics, you may have heard the popular rationalization for them: The Palestinians, so it goes, are desperate. They have been compelled to resort to violent means by the conditions of their existence.

Let me tell you a bit about desperation. It's something with which I am intimately familiar. At times, it is triggered in me by a recurrent dream where my Malki somehow returns to me safe and sound. In my dream, I am baffled, but I caress and kiss her ecstatically. Then I wake up — desperate.

Then there are the photographs of my Malki cuddling her retarded 8-year-old sister, whom she helped me feed, bathe, dress and exercise. I have one in my wallet. Sometimes when hunting for my driver's license, I see it — and become desperate.

At those moments, I wonder how much longer I can bear the intense longing for her. But somehow, I never consider packing a guitar case with explosives, the way my daughter's murderer did. I never contemplate heading for a crowded Palestinian market to snuff out innocent lives — ever. And I'm no saint. I'm just human. Moral human beings do not commit such acts.

Would you have us make one-sided concessions to people who flout that morality? Perhaps the Palestinians you've had contact with have convinced you that they will cease all acts of terror if we Israelis relinquish the land captured in '67 — in a war launched by our four invading Arab neighbors.

They haven't convinced me. At Camp David in August 2000, Israel's then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered them 90 percent of the land they are now clamoring for — minus the fighting and bloodshed. But they rejected it flat out.

A few weeks later in October 2000, they unveiled their alternative: this intifada. Then, in January 2001 at Taba, Israel offered 96 percent of that land. Once again, they rejected the offer and resumed their intifada.

OneVoice insists that the overwhelming majority of people on both sides espouse moderate views. That an “extremist minority on both sides has drowned out the voice of that majority of people.”

We have a pithy Hebrew response to such wishful thinking: halevai. Roughly translated that's: if only it were so.

With 75 percent of Palestinians supporting the suicide bombing at the Maxim restaurant in Haifa, does it seem that way to you? That was the attack in October 2003 that snuffed out 20 lives — Israeli Arabs and Jews eating lunch on a Saturday afternoon.

Do you think there is anyone around who craves peace more than I do — an Israeli mother who has buried one precious daughter?

It is noble of you to want to harness your celebrity for the betterment of others. But joining OneVoice is no way to improve our lives.

The fact is, you have, perhaps unwittingly, helped us enormously. There have been many days during these past two years when “Seinfeld” was my only source of laughter. My entire family, Malki included, turned to your show for relief, even if only temporary, from the grief and stress that engulf us.

Be proud of that contribution and continue making it. But please reassess your support for OneVoice.

Frimet Roth lives in Jerusalem.

Looking for Truth in Documentaries


A Palestinian boy, about 8 years old, dressed in a red T-shirt and missing his two front teeth, is yelling in Arabic: “I foresee my death and I run toward it. On your life, this is a hero’s death and he who seeks the death of a suicide warrior, this is it.”

The scene, which aired on Palestinian Authority television in 1998 appears again in “Relentless: The Struggle for Peace in Israel,” a documentary recently released by the media watchdog organization Honest Reporting. The documentary, which examines both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and evaluates each side’s commitment to the peace process by comparing how each held to its obligations as outlined by the Oslo accords, addresses the perpetuation of incitement as only one Palestinian violation.

Based on a PowerPoint presentation that the film’s executive producer, Raphael Shore, developed while teaching a political science class in Israel, “Relentless” uses TV clips, polls, analysis and newspaper articles to make Israel’s case.

Adopted by Jewish organizations, including American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Jewish National Fund, Aish HaTorah, and various JCCs, “Relentless” has been viewed by more than 10,000 people (both Jewish and non-Jewish) since its February release. As such, it is one in a slew of recent films that organizations and individuals have developed in order to promote the Jewish State, offer insight into Israel’s position in the conflict, and ultimately, “to get Jews behind Israel,” Shore told The Journal.

The question of whether such films can be considered documentary or propaganda largely depends upon whom you ask.

“We feel, and I don’t think we’re unique, that Israel is going to be facing a lot of international pressure in coming years,” Shore said. “The Palestinian and Arab world has won the media battle and, as a result, Jews are finding it difficult to come to the support of Israel. Our goal is to get Jews back supporting Israel and understanding that Israel has a higher moral ground.”

While the filmmakers hope that their documentaries will initiate further support for Israel, they insist that their motivation for making their film was not to push a particular political agenda. Instead, each felt it was important to show a side of the story that had been left untold.

In “Jenin: The Battle for Truth,” scheduled for completion in July, writer and political commentator Avi Davis attempts to set the record straight regarding the controversial battle of Jenin.

“The headline that stays in people’s minds when they hear the word ‘Jenin’ is ‘massacre,'” Davis said. “It’s very difficult to take that word back.”

Through interviews with media experts, eyewitnesses and reporters that covered the event, Davis hopes his documentary will create awareness of the partiality that exists in reporting today.

AIPAC and the Jewish Television Network (JTN) have taken a more emotional approach. Limited only to private showings, AIPAC’s “A Soldier’s Story” and “When War Is in Your Backyard” attempt to give a voice to those individuals on the front line of the conflict. Through personal interviews, AIPAC’s “A Soldier’s Story” examines the moral conflict that Israeli soldiers face on a daily basis, while “When War Is in Your Backyard,” tells the stories of individuals struggling for normalcy despite the constant threat of terror.

In the JTN production, “No Safe Place: Six Lives Forever Changed,” executive producer Jay Sanderson and producer Harvey Lehrer have set out to acknowledge the human toll of terror.

“We felt there wasn’t a human face on the suffering of innocent Israelis,” Sanderson said, adding that the film is expected to be picked up by major television networks in the near future. “We wanted to put a human face on this side of the struggle because we didn’t feel it existed.” “No Safe Place” does that through six heart-wrenching testimonials of Israelis whose lives have been drastically altered by acts of terror, including that of a woman whose mother and 5-year-old daughter were murdered in a suicide bombing attack, a boy who suffers from extreme trauma as a result of witnessing the murder of his father during the Passover massacre and a bus driver who lives in fear as a result of the high risk involved in riding buses in Israel today. Lehrer hopes the documentary motivates people to action.

Some, however, question how a documentary will be accepted in the mainstream when it is affiliated with an organization or individual that is known to support Jewish causes. Richard Trank, executive producer of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s film division, Moriah Films, encounters such a problem on a regular basis. He believes that it is more likely that independent filmmakers and media outlets will be taken seriously in the mainstream than an organization or individual who has a known political agenda.

“It could be a great film, totally balanced, but there’s this hump they have to get over,” said Trank, who produced “The Long Way Home,” the 1997 Academy Award-winner for Best Documentary Feature.

Davis paid particular attention to the challenge of objectivity, he said.

“I went to Jenin as a journalist and I am very pro-Israel, but I went there to conduct a documentary that is balanced and fair. I wanted to present both sides of the story,” Davis said. “I made great pains to give everybody a fair shake which is why I allowed the correspondents to defend themselves.”

Trank acknowledges the challenges that those like Davis encounter in addressing such controversial subjects and supports any efforts being made to educate and to support Israel.

“The reason why organizations are coming out with these is that there’s been a concern about how Israel’s position has been portrayed during the intifada — people should be upset,” Trank said.

While Jewish documentarians seem to be concerned about appearing overly sympathetic, Jewish leaders are concerned that notoriously provocative director Oliver Stone’s new documentary on the Middle East, “Persona Non Grata,” will not be sympathetic enough (see story, above).

Mark J. Harris, professor at the USC School of Cinema-Television, realizes that one man’s propaganda may be another man’s truth, and he applies a rule of thumb to films concerning the controversial situation in Middle East:

“Any film that attempts to demonize the other side would, in my view, be propaganda,” Harris said. “But if people are sympathetic to the point of view expressed in these films, they may be more inclined to see them as documentary truth.”

To order a personal copy of “Relentless: The Struggle
for Peace in Israel,” visit

Exhibit to Detail Nazi Persecution of Gays


When Dr. Edward Phillips set out to create the first English-language exhibit on the Nazi persecution of homosexuals, opening Sunday at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, information proved elusive.

Crucial records had vanished when the Allies bombed the Reich’s Central Office to Combat Homosexuality and Abortion in the spring of 1945, Phillips said. While Jews flocked to give testimony after the war, the tens of thousands of gay survivors largely remained silent.

"They couldn’t talk openly about the victimization they suffered, because they were still considered criminals," said Phillips of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

"Homosexuals were imprisoned [after World War II] under the exact same law the Nazis used," said UCLA’s Dr. Todd Presner, who is organizing events related to the Los Angeles show. "The few survivors I met said it wasn’t just a one-time oppression but a continued punishment and embarrassment and deep shame. The case of gays is unique, because their persecution continued after the war."

The exhibition, titled, "The Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals: 1933-1945," joins a growing body of work on gays that is emerging after years of intense focus on Jewish victims, including scholarly books, such as Claudia Schoppmann’s "Days of Masquerade," and films, such as the documentary, "Paragraph 175."

Because so little first-person testimony exists, the exhibit tells the story largely through news clippings, magazine illustrations, cartoons and photographs, including police mug shots and a chilling picture of an operating table on which gays were castrated at Sachsenhausen.

There are also drawings by the late Bauhaus-trained painter Richard Grune, who was incarcerated in camps from 1937-1945 and created some of the first artistic images of inmates after the war. A diagram depicts the pink triangle that gays were forced to wear on their camp uniforms.

The exhibit –the first of its kind to tour this country — dodges the titillating "was Hitler gay" question, because "we look at the victims of the Nazi era, not the perpetrators," according to Phillips.

He added that while the show drew considerable media attention when it debuted in Washington last year, there were a handful of vocal complaints. "They came mostly from Orthodox Jews, who felt a Holocaust museum shouldn’t be talking about gays, whom they consider [sinners] under Jewish law," Phillips said.

At the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, Director Rachel Jagoda was so concerned about the potential for controversy that she agreed to host the show only after two weeks of informally polling visitors and board members.

"I was worried some people might be offended, because we’re dealing with a generation where homosexuality was considered taboo," Jagoda, 29, said. "But the survivors blew me away with how progressive they were. The typical response was, ‘I saw them being hurt in camp, and I think it’s terrible what they endured.’"

The show began some years ago when officials at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum decided to create exhibitions on lesser-known groups targeted by Hitler, including Jehovah’s Witnesses and the handicapped. Phillips started researching the project in 2000 by combing documents unearthed for an unprecedented exhibit at the Gay Museum Berlin. Yet locating artifacts to include in the U.S. show proved so difficult, he said, "we had to search for clues about who had what in the footnotes of historical journals."

The resulting exhibit begins with a description of Paragraph 175, the seldom-enforced 1871 anti-gay law that Hitler broadened to include "simple looking" and "simple touching" between men. Lesbians generally weren’t included, because the Reich assumed women were natural wives and mothers.

Photographs depict Nazis ransacking the Institute of Sexual Science in Berlin, founded by trailblazing gay Jewish physician Magnus Hirschfeld, several months after Hitler seized power in 1933. Authorities looted the building, before parading Hirschfeld’s bust on a pike and hurling it into a bonfire with all his books.

A year later, Hitler ordered the murder of his openly gay storm trooper chief Ernst Roehm, whose private life had been tolerated until he began spouting controversial political views. "That opened the door for German society to identify homosexuality with treasonous behavior," Phillips said.

Nevertheless, the Nazis soon found themselves in a conundrum over the gay issue. "Because they described everything in medical terms, they saw homosexuality as a ‘contagion’ spread by means of seduction, which was the ‘carrier,’" Phillips said. "But because most gays were Aryan, they were racially important to propagate the master race…. [Thus] the Reich distinguished between one-time offenders, who had merely been ‘tainted’ and could be ‘cured,’ and ‘incorrigible homosexuals,’ who were perceived to have a biological flaw."

In 1940, Gestapo chief Heinrich Himmler ordered repeat offenders be sent to concentration camps, where he allowed officials to castrate gays, starting in 1942. He also approved a Buchenwald experiment in which physicians injected hormones into prisoners’ groins to see at what level homosexuals could be "converted" into heterosexuals.

By the end of the war, 100,000 gays had been arrested, 50,000 imprisoned and up to 15,000 sent to concentration camps, where many were assigned to "penalty battalions" and an estimated 60 percent perished. "But I wouldn’t say there was a Holocaust against gay men," Presner said. "It was a persecution. The Holocaust is a term I’d reserve exclusively for Jews."

Yet he is quick to point out that while Jews were free to rebuild their lives after the war, a number of homosexual survivors were transferred to German prisons. Because the anti-gay law, as revised by the Nazis, remained on the books, an estimated 50,000 men were eventually incarcerated — as many as had been imprisoned under Hitler.

Paragraph 175 remained law until 1969. The statute was not entirely abolished until 1994, and victims weren’t officially pardoned until last year. Until the recent $1.25 billion Swiss banks settlement, gays were systematically barred from receiving survivor’s reparations, according to Presner.

At a time when 14 U.S. states retain anti-sodomy laws, Presner believes the exhibit is relevant today. "The equation of homosexuality with degeneracy is still alive and well," he said.

The exhibit opens Sunday, May 18, at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, with a VIP brunch reception at 11 a.m., featuring a performance by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, cabaret music by Jeremy Lawrence and more. Tickets are $100 per person (pay at the door). To attend, leave a message at (323) 761-8170. A free community open house immediately follows at 1 p.m.

Thereafter, 12 events related to the exhibit will include a panel discussion, "Masculinity, Fascism and Homosexual Panic" and screenings of "Paragraph 175" and Rosa von Praunheim’s 1999 documentary, "The Einstein of Sex," on Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld.

For information, call (323) 761-8170. The museum is located at 6006 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles.

Rabbis, Scholars OK CBS ‘Hitler’ Pic


There were nights, CBS Television president and CEO Leslie Moonves remembered, “when I lay in bed looking up at the ceiling and asking myself, ‘Is this the right thing to do? Will it open old wounds? Are we creating more anti-Semitism?'”

Moonves had good cause for sleepless introspection. Since announcing last July that CBS would air a prime-time four-hour miniseries on the early life of Adolf Hitler, media critics and Jewish spokesmen have had a field day.

They feared that the early Hitler would be “humanized” into a sympathetic figure as an abused child and misunderstood artist or as a German Rocky who overcame tremendous odds, and even that the film might trigger pogrom-like outbursts. Moonves, much of whose grandparents’ family in Poland perished in the Holocaust, even took flak from his own relatives.

Now, with “Hitler: The Rise of Evil” broadcasting Sunday, May 18 and Tuesday, May 20 at 9 p.m. during the ratings sweeps period, the CBS chief is breathing easier.

After previewing tapes of the film, a half-dozen Holocaust scholars and prominent rabbis have generally given it thumbs up, with most appraisals ranging from the positive to the enthusiastic.

Some of the turnaround can be credited to an entirely new script and complete revision of the original project, starting with the metamorphosis of the title from (a “misspoken”) “Young Hitler” to “Hitler: The Early Years,” “Hitler,” “Hitler: The Origin of Evil” and finally to the present title.

The earlier critical volleys and advice from Jewish leaders consulted by the producers apparently gave a substantial push to the fundamental revisions.

In its final form, the film briefly touches on young Hitler’s brutal and domineering father, his troubled adolescence, his rootless existence in Vienna as a failed artist and his enthusiastic soldiering in World War I.

But the bulk of the film deals with Hitler’s career from a Munich beerhall orator in 1920, through his political machinations within the Nazi party and against the Weimar Republic, ending in 1934 with the consolidation of all state power in his own hands.

In stark statistics and pictures, an epilogue summarizes the utter devastation wrought by the Führer on Europe and the Jewish people.

“I think any fears in the Jewish community that the film would glorify Hitler have been allayed,” said noted Holocaust scholar Michael Berenbaum. “It successfully narrates Hitler’s rise to power and shows clearly how those who tried to manipulate him were instead manipulated by him.

“Historians may have some trouble with interpretation, as they always do, and with some composite figures, but, in general, the film deals well with a part of Hitler’s life that people need to know,” said Berenbaum, director of the Sigi Ziering Institute for the Study of Ethics and the Holocaust at the University of Judaism.

Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, warmly applauded the film.

“It delivers a very powerful message, especially to young people, how many times Hitler could have been stopped in the early years, how potent evil is and how fragile democracy is,” he said.

A similar theme was emphasized by Rabbi Harvey Fields of Wilshire Boulevard Temple, who counts the Moonves family among his congregants. Fields, who had voiced strong objections to the initial script, noted that the final film “raises significant lessons for us today about the dangers to democracy of political and religious fanaticism, from whatever source.”

Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, praised the film and acknowledged that his earlier fears about the project had been unjustified. However, he would have liked to have seen the presence of a more substantial Jewish character and strongly urged a sequel which would take the Hitler story to its end in 1945.

“There are now youngsters who know nothing about World War II and the Holocaust, who didn’t see ‘Schindler’s List,’ and who need to know,” Hier said.

Rabbi and author Joseph Telushkin, an early adviser on the project, described the film as “very powerful, which gives dimension to Hitler but does not soften him. In no way does it downplay the depth of his anti-Semitism.”

All of the cited experts gave much of the credit for the effectiveness of the film to Scottish actor Robert Carlyle, whose portrayal of Hitler, Foxman said, is “frighteningly brilliant.”

One dissenting view came from philosophy professor John K. Roth, director of the newly formed Center for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights at Claremont McKenna College. While acknowledging the complexity of the subject and the overall usefulness of the film, Roth felt that Hitler, perhaps to avoid any sympathy for him, came across as “too histrionic and crazed, and insufficiently nuanced and ambiguous.”

The danger in such a portrayal is that “it plays into the stereotype of Hitler as a crazy man and that viewers will say ‘I now understand who he was.’ It might be better to live with some ambiguity and to admit that we don’t really understand Hitler.”

Elie Wiesel, who has long been disenchanted with “dramatic” interpretations of the Holocaust and the Hitler era, had a lengthy critical exchange with Moonves. Wiesel viewed the tape quite recently but could not be reached for his evaluation.

Two aspects of Hitler that the film does not explain, and which, indeed, may be beyond explanation, are his charisma and almost hypnotic effect on his followers, especially women, and what triggered his murderous hatred of Jews.

On the first point, Berenbaum cites an exemplar, if not an understanding, of Hitler’s magnetism, by quoting from the autobiography of Albert Speer, an urbane and sophisticated architect and later Hitler’s armaments minister.

Out of curiosity, Speer went to hear Hitler speak in 1930 and, on the way, saw some posters of the Führer, which Speer viewed as Chaplinesque caricatures.

But, Speer wrote, “Three hours later [after hearing Hitler speak] I left the beer garden a changed person. I saw the same posters … but I looked at them with different eyes. A blown-up picture of Adolf Hitler in a martial pose, which I had regarded with a touch of amusement on the way in, had suddenly lost all its ridiculousness.”

The roots and launching point of Hitler’s virulent anti-Semitism continue to baffle the experts. Theories abound — a brighter Jewish classmate in school, a Jewish doctor who performed a mastectomy on Hitler’s beloved mother, the poisonous anti-Semitism of Vienna, or simply the oratorical success of his anti-Jewish tirades — but a definitive answer may never be found.

Almost as interesting as the miniseries itself is the exemplar of “Hitler: The Rise of Evil” on the vagaries of filmmaking, especially when the subject retains its hold on the sensitivities and unhealed wounds of millions.

The project was first presented to Moonves about 18 months ago by Peter Sussman, CEO of the Toronto-based Alliance Atlantis Entertainment Group.

“The Nazi era and the Holocaust have generally been dramatized from the perspective of the victim,” Sussman said. “We thought it would be interesting to approach that evil and horror in another way.”

Moonves greenlighted the project, with CBS putting up around 60 percent of the $20 million plus price tag. “In remembering the Holocaust, as we always must, I thought it important to find out what steps led up to the making of this monster [Hitler]. Not to pay any attention to that would be like sticking our head in the sand,” Moonves said.

The first script, by G. Ross Parker, was, by now-general agreement, pretty much a bust.

“It was a really simplistic treatment,” Fields said, “with different kinds of psychological interpretations and with little feel for the context and climate of the time.”

A new writer, John Pielmeier, was brought in and shooting started in early January in Prague.

Then in early April, with the film almost completed, a mini-disaster struck.

In an interview, co-executive producer Ed Gernon, a key player, pointing to the timeliness of the film, seemed to draw an analogy between the Germans’ fear and acquiescence that led to Hitler’s dictatorship with similar emotions among the American people in the run-up to the war in Iraq.

The interview was published at the height of the war and denounced, among others, by the New York Post, which claimed that Gernon had equated President Bush with Hitler.

Alliance Atlantis and CBS called Gernon’s remarks “insensitive and outright wrong” and fired him instantly. Sussman declined to discuss the incident.

During the broadcast of the film, there will be a number of public service announcements on tolerance, with guidance from the Anti- Defamation League, and CBS said it will make donations to one or more Holocaust education funds. Moonves stated that solicitation of advertisers was proceeding normally. A comprehensive study guide for high school teachers and students has been developed as a companion piece to the film.

Plans also call for the film to be sold across the world, “certainly in Europe and Israel,” Sussman said, and will be available in video and DVD format.

As for all the preceding controversy, Moonves remains unfazed.

“All of that should help the ratings,” he said hopefully. “I think the public will be curious.”

For more information, visit www.cbs.com/specials/rise_of_evil .

Your Letters


Women Suffer Blow

I write to express my hurt and outrage at your recent article, “Women Suffer Blow on Praying at the Wall,” (April 11). To which women, exactly, are you referring? Surely not the thousands of women, secular as well as religious, who come year round to pour their hearts out to the Almighty at all hours of the day and night.

I have never been to the Kotel without being overcome by emotion — partly because I am praying in a spot so drenched in sanctity, but also, invariably, because of the sight of my fellow daveners. No matter what time of day or what season of the year at the Kotel, any Jewish woman can experience a sublime connection to our foremothers — we watch all around us the devotion of living embodiments of our Mother Rachel, weeping for her children. These are the real Women of the Wall, and they come to worship and beseech God’s mercy every day, not once a month with fanfare and advance press releases.

Nowhere in your article do I sense any concern for the sensitivities of these women who are hurt and offended by the strident, politically based activities of Women of the Wall, which disturb their prayers and marginalize their devotion to the peace and holiness of the site. Please, the next time you choose to address this issue, take into consideration the feelings of the real Women of the Wall.

Shana Kramer, Director Creative Learning Pavilion of Torah Umesorah Los Angeles

Rome and Baghdad

Reuven Firestone’s article on Islam modernization through defeat oversimplifies the issue. Islam did lose many wars, and its confidence was shaken (“Rome and Baghdad,” April 11). The losses to the Turks and Mongols were the greatest of such disasters. These did not just fade the caliphate away, but brutally overwhelmed it in worse ways than the American victory over Baghdad. That which Firestone claims did not happen happened.

The reason why a “softer Islam” did not emerge after such debacles is because the invading hordes took up the religion and even infused it with new fervor. Islam did soften somewhat during various periods in history, and often when its confidence had been high for centuries.

It was the defeats, upheavals and ease of interpreting the Koran in belligerent ways that seems to have always led to a new wave of fundamentalist Islam. Professor Firestone generously praises the value of humble pie to Islam, but his historical analysis of cause and effect in this case entitle him to a slice.

Andrei L. Doran, El Segundo

A Letter of Thanks

This is a note of a sincere, warm “Thank you.”

We are residents in a retirement facility, which has a number of Jewish residents. Receiving The Jewish Journal each week keeps us in touch with what’s happening locally and internationally within the Jewish communities. While physical conditions don’t permit being active anymore, as we once were, just reading and seeing photos as to what is going on helps keep our interest “upbeat.”

To enjoy all of this and not say, “Thank you,” would be remiss on my part. My wife and I wish you and your entire, so capable staff a very happy Passover holiday.

Jack and Cecily Flamer, Chatsworth

The War at Home

Just wanted to let Rob Eshman know that he wrote a great article on “The War at Home” (April 18). Three-hundred and fifty people killed in one year in Los Angeles alone? It is amazing how many problems go unreported by the major news media.

Thanks for reporting on the extremely high murder rate here in Los Angeles, which has been invisible by the major news media. Your article helps create the first step — awareness. Hopefully, enough people read it.

What’s the next step? Your suggestion for individuals — community leaders and anyone who is willing to make contact with L.A. leaders — was that speaking out is key. I hope your message is heard.

Mike Cohen , Sherman Oaks

Between 1997 and 2001, a total of 5,960 Los Angeles County residents were killed by guns. Where is the outrage? “The War at Home” echoes a message we at Women Against Gun Violence try hard to share.

Those who protest the war in Iraq need also to turn their energies to protesting this war at home. Support Sheriff Baca and Chief Bratton’s request for resources.

Ask them, and all law enforcement, to focus their attention on where the guns are coming from. How do they so easily get into the hands of young people and those with criminal records? Are there enough resources in programs which trace confiscated guns to help identify gun dealers who sell out the back door? Do legal gun owners lock up their guns so that they cannot be stolen?

By all means send support to the sheriff, and for moreinformation and ways to get involved, contact us at info@wagv.org, or phone (310) 204-2348 and checkout our memorial Web site, with pictures and tributes to victims of gunviolence, at www.wagv.org . Those stories should be enough to help you feel the outrage.

Ann Reiss Lane, Women Against Gun Violence

The Challenge of Pluralism

In Julie Gruenbaum Fax’s piece, “The Challenge of Pluralism in Israel” (April 11), Ehud Bandel is quoted as saying, “The sad reality about religious life in Israel is this unholy alliance between the Orthodox and the secular that says that Judaism is a matter of everything or nothing at all.”

While I agree entirely that Jews are best searching for spirituality “at home,” I find it difficult to understand how Bandel sees Orthodoxy as monolithic or “everything or nothing.” It is clear that no Jew, no matter how righteous or pious, is “all”; no one has reached perfection. Even Moses was denied entry to the Holy Land for his lack of perfection.

Judaism teaches that each and every adherent should strive to the best of his or her ability and to make the greatest possible use of the unique gifts that God has bestowed upon him or her. An Israeli Jew can go to a Sephardi, Azhkenazi, Charedi or Mizrachi community to find like-minded strivers and together create a better Israel, and a better Jewish people.

Manny Saltiel, Los Angeles

Birthright Continues BirthrightIsrael

I was excited to read the features on Birthright Israel in your April 4 issue (“Birthright Continues Despite Setbacks”). As an alumna of the winter 2000-2001 trip, the articles brought back wonderful memories. Birthright Israel provided me with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit Israel (free of charge) with people my age, all experiencing the same wonder and excitement together.

I went on my trip with peers from all over the United States, but when I returned, I was anxious to meet people locally that had shared in my experience. The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles is helping to make this possible. The Federation is currently planning ways for Birthright Israel alums to stay involved and connected through social gatherings, and give back to the community through tzedakah and tikkun olam.

When you hear about the generous financial support The Federation provides for these trips and others like them, you think “Dayenu.” But it’s when you really begin to take advantage of these programs that give you an opportunity to be part of a community, you realize The Federation is doing much, much more.

I hope people will call The Federation’s Israel connections/experiences department at (323) 761-8342 to learn more and get involved.

Kimberly Gordon , Birthright Israel alumna

Helluva Ball Club

I had no idea that baseball Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg was also an outstanding executive in his chosen sport until I read Richard A. Macales’ informative and entertaining article, “Helluva Ball Club.” (April 4). Greenberg’s work in the front office was sadly omitted from the acclaimed documentary film on his life The Journal reviewed some time back.

After I read Macales’s article, I checked the record of Greenberg’s Cleveland and Chicago teams. In 10 years as general manager and/or part owner, his clubs finished first three times and second five times. They never had a losing season and won a then-league record 111 games in 1954.

His son, Steve Greenberg, was deputy commissioner of baseball. It is too bad, as Macales correctly writes, that Greenberg didn’t get the Angels franchise. The Dodgers should have never moved out of Brooklyn. Shame on you for what you did to Brooklyn’s loyal fans and to the Angels team, Walter O’Malley!

Dr. Melvin Myers, Chatsworth

Defining Moment

Your cover story referring to “The American Empire” (“War Marks Defining Moment for Jews,” April 4) was highly inappropriate. An empire as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is “a major political unit having a territory of great extent or a number of territories or peoples under a single sovereign authority.”

Has The Jewish Journal now joined the Arab propaganda machine (along with some naive members of the political left wing) in suggesting that the United States plans permanent sovereign rule over the Iraqi people?

I could not have imagined a more inflammatory cover page feeding into the misplaced rage of those who really wish to hurt us all. What’s next? Perhaps a cover story with an expose detailing the Zionist conspiracy behind the empire?

Edith Ellenhorn , Beverly Hills

Your choice of headlines, “Will the American Empire Be Good for the Jews,” on the April 4 issue disturbs me. Without question, I want what is best for the Jews throughout the world, but to put it on the front cover in reference to this war and show concern only for the Jews is wrong. What about Christians and Muslims, will it be good for them? I am fearful that this type of headline will only bring out more anti-Semitism.

Phoebe Reff , Tarzana

Correction

In the Friday listing for the April 4, “7 Days in the Arts,” the “Strange Fruit” songwriter adopted the sons of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg.

War Goes to School


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Step in Removing Terror Regimes


The American war against Saddam Hussein represents a
significant departure from the traditional U.S. posture of appeasing Arab
terrorist regimes.

Hopefully, it will be just the first step in a new approach
to combating terrorism.

In the past, the United States consistently refrained from
taking serious action against Arab regimes that sponsored terrorists. Instead,
it tried to appease those regimes by offering them military and financial
assistance and pressuring Israel to make territorial and other concessions.

After the creation of the Palestine Liberation Organization
in 1964, the governments of Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia provided the
PLO with funds, safe haven, training facilities and weapons. One Israeli anti-terror
raid on PLO bases in Lebanon uncovered crates of United States-made rifles that
had been given to Saudi Arabia, which the Saudis then gave to the PLO.

Yet instead of taking action against these terror sponsors,
the Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford administrations pursued
friendly relations with Cairo, Damascus, Amman and Riyadh, gradually increasing
U.S. aid to those regimes. Even worse, the United States began pressuring
Israel to give those regimes the strategically crucial territories that Israel
had won in self-defense when Egypt, Jordan and Syria attacked in 1967.

The policy of appeasing pro-terror regimes continued during
the Jimmy Carter administration. The supply of American weapons to Egypt,
Jordan and Saudi Arabia increased, and Israel was pressured to make concessions
to the Palestinian Arabs.

When Israel struck at PLO terrorists in Lebanon and
temporarily took over a narrow strip of border territory that had been used by
the PLO, Carter pressured Israel to retreat — just five years after PLO
terrorists, acting on Yasser Arafat’s direct orders, murdered two American
diplomats in Khartoum.

Officials in the Ronald Reagan administration seemed to
understand the terror threat more clearly, yet when it came to Arab regimes
that sponsored anti-Israel terror, that familiar blind spot surfaced. Instead
of using its leverage to force the Arab regimes to stop sponsoring terror, the
administration unveiled the 1982 Reagan Plan, which, in effect, rewarded the
Palestinian Arabs for their terrorism by proposing an Israeli withdrawal to the
indefensible pre-1967 borders, and the creation of a Palestinian Arab regime in
the vacated territories.

Israel’s leaders called the plan “national suicide for
Israel.” Reagan’s token bombings of Libya and Syria, in response to specific
anti-American terrorist attacks sponsored by those regimes, turned out to be
one-time gestures, not manifestations of a new policy.

During the administrations of George Bush (senior) and Bill
Clinton, the appeasement policy reached new lows. Courting pro-terror Arab
regimes and pressuring Israel became a central focus of U.S. foreign policy.
Bush did go to war against Iraq — but because of its occupation of Kuwait and
its oil fields, not because of Iraqi sponsorship of terror.

And all the while, U.S. military aid continued to flow into
Egypt (over $2 billion annually), Jordan (its $700 million debt to the United
States was forgiven and new weapons were supplied) and Saudi Arabia, and trade
with Syria continued — despite those regimes’ continuing sponsorship of
terrorism.

The United States failed to take decisive action against the
terrorists or their sponsors, even when the attacks were directed at Americans.
There was no serious response to the taking of American hostages by Iran, the
bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon, the Khobar Towers attack in Saudi
Arabia, the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, the downing of Pan Am 103 and so
many other terrorist attacks. It was case after case of risk-free massacres of
Americans.

The Clinton administration mastered the art of using
pro-Israel rhetoric to soothe Israel’s supporters, while carrying out policies
that appeased terrorists and undermined Israel.

Palestinian Arab violations of the Oslo accords were
ignored. Palestinian Arab terrorism galvanized the administration to put even
more pressure on Israel. Arafat was showered with $100 million each year and
was invited to the White House more often than other foreign leaders.

Clinton’s secretaries of state visited Damascus literally
dozens of times, desperately and unsuccessfully courting Syria’s pro-terrorist
regime. Just down the block from where U.S. officials met with Syrian leaders
were the headquarters of at least 10 international terrorist groups, yet
Clinton turned a blind eye.

The Bush administration’s record has been equally troubling.
Palestinian Arab violations have been whitewashed, and Israel’s self-defense
policies have been condemned as “excessive.” The same administration that
demanded regime change in Afghanistan and Iraq because of their sponsorship of
terror, is pressuring Israel to give the terrorist Palestinian Authority regime
its own sovereign state.

Under the Bush administration, Saudi Arabia is treated as an
ally, despite its deep involvement in promoting Islamic terrorism. Syria is
praised, despite its sponsorship of international terrorist groups.

Media reports indicate Bush is seeking a rapprochement with
terrorist Libya. The administration even claims to detect signs of “moderation”
in terrorist Iran and continues to prevent American victims of
Iranian-sponsored terrorism from implementing court-ordered seizures of Iranian
assets.

Terrorism cannot be fought on one front and ignored on
another. To defeat terrorism worldwide, America needs to be consistent and
uncompromising. Kabul and Baghdad should be just the first steps.

Replacing the pro-terrorist regimes in Riyadh, Damascus and
Ramallah should be next on America’s list.


Morton A. Klein is national president of the Zionist Organization of America

Moranic Statement


A furor over comments by a U.S. lawmaker is highlighting the
resurgent trend of blaming Israel and the Jewish community for the impending
war against Iraq.

Six rabbis from northern Virginia have asked for the
resignation of Rep. James Moran (D-Va.), after he told constituents last week
that the Jewish community is behind the Bush administration’s push for war.

Moran is apologizing to the Jewish community and is planning
to meet with area rabbis later this week.

While Moran’s comments specifically linked the organized
American Jewish community with a push for war, an increasing number of people
are blaming the looming Iraq war on Jewish officials in the Bush
administration.

The sentiments echo those made in 1991 by conservative
commentator Patrick Buchanan, who said the Persian Gulf War was being touted by
“the Israeli Defense Ministry and its amen corner in the United States.”

Given widespread skepticism of the U.S. motives for a strike
on Baghdad, some Jewish leaders say there is potential for the “amen corner”
comments to gain as much — if not more — traction than they did a decade ago.

“There is a greater potential for mischief on this issue now
than 11 or 12 years ago,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the
Anti-Defamation League.

In a March 3 town hall meeting with constituents, Moran
said, “If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this
war with Iraq, we would not be doing this,” according to the Virginia-area
Connection newspapers.

Moran said Jewish leaders were motivated by discussions they
had with Israeli Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the hawkish former prime
minister.

Rabbi Jack Moline, rabbi at the conservative Agudas Achim
Congregation of Northern Virginia, is leading the charge for Moran’s
resignation.

Moline, who spoke with the congressman for 45 minutes last
Friday, said the lawmaker’s remarks are comparable to the comments of Sen.
Trent Lott (R-Miss.), who was forced to vacate his leadership post last year
after making racially insensitive comments at a birthday party.

The Jewish community has had problems with Moran for years,
because of his outspoken comments against Israel. They have also been
frustrated by the lack of a primary challenger against him in congressional
races.

“We have attempted to bridge the gap with Congressman
Moran,” Moline said. “And we have attempted to persuade the Democratic Party
that he wasn’t the best representative for us.”

Moran told JTA on Monday that he didn’t intend to single out
the Jewish community, but was responding to a question from a woman who
identified herself as Jewish. He said he was trying to make the point that all
faith communities could affect the administration’s choice to go to war.

“I slipped up and I said something that has been properly
taken as offensive,” Moran said. “I wish I had caught myself and reflected on
it before I said it.”

Ever since military action against Iraq became a
possibility, the American Jewish community has been treading lightly so as not
to fuel criticism that the war would be for Israel’s benefit.

Many are cognizant of the discomfort the Jewish community
felt after Buchanan made his comments in 1991 and want to keep Israel as much
out of the mix as possible.

Israel, too, has taken a low profile, though the widespread
view is that Jerusalem supports U.S. efforts to dismantle a regime that is a
threat to its security.

But some have pointedly noted that some of the strongest
advocates for war in the Bush administration are Jewish, implying that their
support for Israel is the rationale.

Among those being targeted are Paul Wolfowitz, deputy
secretary of defense; Richard Perle, chairman of the Defense Policy Board;
Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense for policy, and Dov Zakheim, the
Pentagon’s comptroller.

The comments are predominantly in the international media —
specifically in Europe and the Arab world — but are also finding their way into
print in the United States.

And, in contrast to 1991, the attacks on Jewish officials
have come from the liberal as well as the conservative media.

“They use code words,” Lawrence Kaplan, senior editor of The
New Republic, said of the commentators.

“Very rarely does anyone come out and say it’s a bunch of
Jews,” said Kaplan, co-author of a new book with William Kristol, “The War Over
Iraq: Saddam’s Tyranny and America’s Mission.”

In a Washington Post op-ed last month, Kaplan chastised
University of Illinois professor Paul Schroeder for comments he made in
Buchanan’s magazine — The American Conservative — that suggested the war would
be fought for Israel’s benefit and is being pushed by Jewish neo-conservatives.

Schroeder says he is trying to walk the fine line between
criticizing policy that can benefit Israel and being viewed as anti-Semitic. He
wants Americans to realize that Israel has more to gain from this war than the
United States.

Kaplan says the problem is not that people are saying a war
with Iraq would help Israel, it’s the insinuation that Jewish and Zionist
members of the Bush administration are drumming up the war for Israel’s benefit.

He notes that there are many non-Jewish advocates for war in
the Bush staff, such as Bush’s national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, and
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, but they are never mentioned in these
articles that speak of Israel’s interests.

Jewish leaders are reaching out to senior Bush
administration officials, asking them to think about the ramifications their
comments related to a war could have for the Jewish community.

But because Jewish leaders do not see the rash of remarks as
a conspiracy, they say it is easier to address each comment individually,
rather than speaking out publicly.

Israel’s interests are not the only rationale given by
anti-war protesters for the impending military action. They also cite Iraq’s
oil reserves, as well as the personal vendetta Bush may have — both because of
his father’s last go-round with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and because
Saddam later tried to assassinate his father.

But the comments about a war for Israel could cause an
anti-Jewish response if the war goes poorly, Jewish officials say.

Kaplan said even if the war is successful, the statements
lead to a perception that the United States is placing the interests of another
country ahead of its own.

Sharon Seeks a Trade


The first shot has yet to be fired in the anticipated American-led war against Iraq, but diplomats are already preparing the ground for a concerted effort to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as soon as it’s over.

The "Quartet," made up of the United States, European Union, Russia and the United Nations, is refining ideas for a political road map to be presented to Israel and the Palestinians when America’s business with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is finished. Such efforts formed the subtext to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s meeting with President Bush in Washington on Wednesday.

The Bush administration is exerting tremendous pressure on Israel to take a low profile in a war with Iraq, even if Israel is attacked.

After the meeting, Bush said Israel had a right to respond if Iraq launched an "unprovoked"attack "tomorrow." But a White House spokesman later said the remarks did not indicate Bush’s view if Israel is attacked in the course of a U.S.-led war against Iraq.

Sharon, for his part, reiterated his position that Israel would act to defend its citizens. Such statements that Israel must defend itself from Iraq may be cover for the quid pro quo Sharon hopes to extract in Washington: an American commitment to coordinate post-Iraq policy on the Palestinian issue with Israel.

Before the Bush-Sharon meeting, the administration presented the Israeli delegation with a blueprint for easing tensions with the Palestinians and eventually restarting diplomatic talks. The United States plans to present the plan to the Quartet next week.

The Quartet, meanwhile, has compiled its own plan. Both the United States and Britain have assured Israel that there will be no "imposed settlement" of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Sharon, however, fears a situation in which the powers don’t formally impose anything, but exert enormous pressure on Israel to make compromises it finds untenable.

In broad outline, the Quartet envisions a three-year process with steps happening in sequence:

  • A general cease-fire.

  • An Israeli withdrawal to positions held before the Palestinian intifada began two years ago.

  • A further Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

  • The establishment of a Palestinian ministate under an international protectorate.

  • Talks on final borders, Jerusalem, refugees and the transition to full Palestinian independence.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair already has called for an international conference whose agenda would, to a large extent, be governed by those ideas.

For months the United States and other members of the Quartet have been trying to find a way to back Israel’s struggle against Palestinian terrorism while, at the same time, giving the Palestinians hope for a better future.

In his watershed June 24 speech, Bush tried to square the circle by calling on the Palestinians to elect new leaders not associated with terrorism, while holding out the promise of Palestinian statehood in three years if they did so. Now, with Israeli troops again occupying Palestinian cities, towns and villages, both the Americans and British have taken up the Palestinian humanitarian case.

The primary impetus no doubt is concern for Palestinian suffering. But the pressure also is intended to signal to the Palestinians that the United States and Britain are sensitive to their needs and can create conditions conducive to political negotiation.

The latest directive from Washington to ease conditions in the Palestinian territories, delivered by Daniel Kurtzer, U.S. ambassador to Israel, was couched in exceptionally blunt language.

Sharon was accused of failing to keep his promises to ease the plight of the Palestinian population and the Israeli army was accused of ignoring settler violence against Palestinians.

In a private conversation with the Israeli general in charge of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Sherard Cowper-Coles, the British ambassador to Israel, was even more blunt: Israel was in danger of turning the territories into the "largest detention camp in the world," he said, according to Israeli media.

Cowper-Coles is one of the more outspoken advocates of an international protectorate transition stage. It would help separate Israeli and Palestinian forces, keep a lid on Palestinian terror, restore Palestinian civilian life, rebuild Palestinian civil society and create functioning institutions, he argues.

Cowper-Coles emphasized the need to build an efficient Palestinian security force that would give Israel the confidence to withdraw from territory it has taken in response to Palestinian violence.

"I agree if Israel pulls out of the territories there is a risk of terrorism flaring up again," Cowper-Coles said. "The only way to give Israel the confidence it needs to pull back is for there to be some sort of international supervision of Palestinian security forces as they reform and get a grip on security. It’s unlikely that the Palestinians would be able to do it themselves or that Israel would have confidence in them doing it themselves."

Britain would be willing to provide monitors, observers and trainers, Cowper-Coles said. The United States and France have said they would be willing to do the same.

Sharon, however, is firmly opposed to the protectorate idea. He argues that there is too much potential for friction between Israel and the international force, which he believes would not be able to halt Palestinian terror attacks, but would impede Israeli efforts to retaliate.

Indeed, Sharon is worried about the international community trying to move too early and too fast on the Palestinian track. He fears Israel’s interests may be sacrificed both before an attack on Iraq — as America tries to build an international coalition — and after the attack as America tries to rebuild strained ties with the Arab world.

Therefore, Sharon sees the main goal of Israeli diplomacy as coordinating with the United States what policy on the Palestinians will be after a war on Iraq.

Before he left for his meeting in Washington, Sharon made sure that arrangements had been made to hand over frozen Palestinian tax money and that the process of removing illegal settlement outposts in the West Bank had begun.

Pundits saw this as an attempt to convince the international community that Israel was ready to make constructive moves on the Palestinian track and ease Palestinian suffering.

At the same time, however, Sharon issued tough public statements about Israel’s readiness to defend itself if attacked by Iraq. Sharon knows very well that the United States wants Israel to stay out of the war, and pundits say his public statements were intended to raise the price for Israel’s compliance.

Sharon also wants to clarify the circumstances in which Israel would receive a green light from the Americans to retaliate against Iraq — for example, if it was attacked with nonconventional weapons or suffered massive casualties.

In exchange for Israel’s agreement not to retaliate against a conventional Iraqi missile attack, Sharon wants an American commitment on the Palestinian issue. Sharon especially wants to make sure the United States will stick to Bush’s demands for thorough reform of Palestinian Authority institutions and the election of new leaders not compromised by terror.

Only then, in Sharon’s view, can serious negotiations on Palestinian statehood begin — and he hopes prior coordination with the Bush administration will help avoid future misunderstandings on that score.

The Unexpected


It was Sept. 11, 2002, and there was no reason on earth to feel anything but somber. That pervasive sense of doubt and vulnerability that had been thrust upon us a year ago would probably have been reawakened anyway, but certainly, with all the media replays, ceremonies and testimonials, an American person going to work would be hard-pressed to anticipate a day of anything but quiet resignation.

Thus my frame of mind on Sept. 11 as I crossed the California State University, Northridge campus toward the classroom where I teach freshman composition. People were wearing dark colors, I noticed, and the campus was unusually still. But then, draped on the side of one of the buildings, an enormous banner rustled in the desert breeze: “Anti-War Protest: In front of the Oviatt Library 1-3 p.m.” Well, against all the odds and expectations, I felt a smile coming on. I was positively beaming.

It was the perfect gesture on the perfect day. The students, I thought proudly, were participating, acting, recognizing their role in the world and asserting their collective voice. They, of course, are the people who will have to go and fight a war if there is one. How perfect that on this day, a day our government seemed to be exploiting to advance a military confrontation, these college students would take their stand against it.

My classes would be over by 1 p.m., I realized, noticing that my gait had quickened to accommodate a lively spring. I’d join the students on their march. I’d march not only out of a sense of nostalgia, although there would be that, but to show support, one generation to another, for an important action on a significant day.

As 1 p.m. rolled around, I finished up some business I had in the library. With mild trepidation, I wended my way to the front of the majestic building and wondered: Would the turnout be pathetic? Would there be a turnout? Earlier, when I’d buoyantly asked my students whether they’d be attending, they’d looked at me blankly. Had I misread the enormous banner? Had my eyes deceived me?

No, there they were, about a 150 students clad in black. They hoisted placards reminiscent of an earlier time and stood proudly waiting as more students fell in to join them. Not a sizable showing, but still, a noticeable presence of serious purpose on the sun-bleached campus.

Waiting for the sea of students to commence its movement, I beamed like a proud parent, and joined the small but forceful throng as it passed my way. There was spirit here and pluck. Why, I could see as we approached him, there was even a serious-looking, bespectacled youth handing out fliers. Maybe this march had legs; maybe follow-up demonstrations were in the works. Who said our young people weren’t politically involved?

With a smile of support, I took the sheet that the boy handed out and read. My spirits sank as quickly as they had lifted earlier in the day. The paper I was reading was an anti-Israel tirade, put out by the Lyndon LaRouche for President campaign.

“A nest of Israeli agents,” it hissed, “[sits] inside the U.S. government.” And its goal is, “to induce President Bush and the U.S. Congress into a war with Iraq…. Does this raise questions about the true, mysterious authors of the Sept. 11 attack?” the paper toxically posed.

“How can you spread this poison?” I asked the student. “How can you suggest that Israel had anything to do with this atrocity?”

The boy shoved his face to within inches of mine. “You don’t know what you’re talking about,” he shouted.

Of the many things that can be said of Sept. 11, it’s fairly clear that, at least for the foreseeable future, it will be a morning on which we wake up resigned to being permeated with feelings of solemnity. This year, however, for this American citizen, feelings were not so easy to predict. Within a few short hours, my expectations had been blown by events and ideas I could not have anticipated. And maybe that’s the most fitting commemoration of all.

What We’ve Learned


On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Dr. Larry Eisenberg, president of the West Coast Region of the Orthodox Union, was in Toronto for a cousin’s wedding. He had just dropped off his daughter, a Fordham University law student, at the airport about an hour before for her 8 a.m. flight home to New York and was listening to the radio on his way back to the hotel.

Suddenly, a reporter broke in with news that an airplane had struck the north tower of the World Trade Center, followed by reports of problems with other planes. Eisenberg calculated the departure and arrival times for his daughter’s flight and realized she could very well be on one of those planes. He began to pray, both for her safety and that his wife was still asleep.

"I got back to the hotel and my wife had the television on and was hardly breathing. We couldn’t find out anything, we couldn’t get through," he recalled. It would be several hours before his daughter finally reached him to tell him she was safe.

While there were many similar stories of near misses — too many — more than 3,000 ended tragically. For the families and friends of those lost, time stopped that day. But even for those not personally connected to the victims, one thing is certain: we all remember exactly where we were and what we were doing on Sept. 11, 2001. The lessons we learned in the ensuing year continue to color our actions and our thoughts, and probably will continue to do so for the rest of our lives.

On a national level, the main lessons learned concerned security. In a recent interview, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer noted that all internal security organizations, particularly the FBI, have since shifted their focus to fighting terrorism and that, while the removal of the Taliban from power and the blows against Al Qaida’s infrastructure have diminished their threat, improving America’s security remains a major concern.

"The risk that our country faces, a country that has [before Sept. 11] enjoyed virtual immunity from attacks on our own shores, is that time and technology are not on America’s side," Fleischer said. "Time and technology are on the side of the terrorists. Terrorists, over time, could get access to technology, principally chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and they have shown a desire to use the weapons they obtain to inflict maximum harm. Sept. 11 showed that, and that’s why President Bush has taken the steps he’s taken to protect our country from terrorists who obtain these weapons."

Hand in hand with Bush’s continued military actions (including a possible attack on Iraq) has been a growing interest in issues of faith. In this vein, Fleischer announced Bush will hold a meeting this Friday with a group of interfaith leaders at the White House during which he will designate Sept. 6-8 as national days of prayer and remembrance, "to honor those who were lost, to pray for those who grieve and to give thanks for God’s blessings."

For some, the lessons of Sept. 11 have been spiritual and emotional. In the days following the tragedies, we were reminded by our leaders in the Jewish community to hug our children and our partners, pray for the families of the victims and feel grateful for the blessings in our lives. Other lessons have been more concrete: to be aware of our surroundings, to plan on spending an extra hour waiting in line at the airport. But in the days immediately following the terrorist attacks, it was hard to foresee that the world would ever return to normal.

Transplanted New Yorkers took some of the hardest blows on the day of — and days following — Sept. 11.

"The terror attacks were personal for every American, but for New Yorkers who lived there and worked there, it was even more shocking," said Rabbi Debra Orenstein of Makom Ohr Shalom in Los Angeles. "There was a sense of disbelief that permeated the day. Even looking at images on television, it all seemed kind of surreal. I think it took a long time for people to accept it really happened."

Orenstein grew up in New York; her sister, a law professor at The Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Yeshiva University, works just 2.5 miles from the World Trade Center. Their grandfather once had an office in the Twin Towers and both women knew many people who worked in and around the buildings.

"My first cousin worked at Cantor Fitzgerald," Orenstein said. "She had just decided to start working flex-time, and the day she picked as her day off was Tuesday. It was only by chance she wasn’t there. I had another friend who worked in the building next to the Twin Towers, and after he helped evacuate the building he was able to get out."

For Orenstein, the near-misses underscored her belief in the miraculous.

"The thing I was struck by was the sense of grace. There was this tremendous tragedy, but also tremendous chesed [lovingkindness]. The idea that the planes were relatively empty, that on one of the planes the passengers managed to divert [it] so as not to cause even more tragedy, that so many people were evacuated and that even with people who did not make it some got to say goodbye on their cell phones … that was God’s grace. And there were so many people reaching out to help. There was a human response of real giving that happened that day," she said.

Rabbi David Woznica, executive vice president of Jewish affairs for The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, had just returned to Southern California in August of 2001 after living for 13 years in New York City, where he had been director of the 92nd Street Y Bronfman Center for Jewish Life. Five days after the tragedies, he flew back to conduct High Holiday services there and to be with the people of his adopted city.

"The most vivid memory I had was walking on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and getting to the fire station on East 85th Street," he said. "Normally the gates were closed, but the gates were open, even though it was late at night, and there were pictures there of five men, five firefighters who had died. The pictures were surrounded by literally thousands of letters from schoolchildren and hundreds of burning candles, and there were firefighters milling about along with local residents. Everyone was in this ashen state and there was almost no talking.

"That was the strange thing; the city was so silent. And everywhere you went, there were photocopied pictures of people with something like, ‘WTC, 92nd floor, please call, I love her very much.’ In those first few days, there was the assumption that there would be survivors. You couldn’t walk by without reading them and then you would just get chills."

Woznica said he feared it might be too early to know the real lessons of Sept. 11.

"I guess one lesson is the reminder that evil exists," he said. "It was also a lesson in how unbelievably generous Americans are, and not just with money. There are people who are willing to risk their lives for others and we see them every day. Sometimes they wear a uniform and sometimes they don’t."

For other L.A. residents, Sept. 11 is a reminder of our vulnerability, a word which was rarely used in concert with the word "American" before the terror attacks.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, was at Heathrow Airport in London on his way to Israel when he noticed people gathered around a television monitor and shouting.

"It was right after the first attack," he said. "Then we saw the second attack on the south tower, and it immediately occurred to me that this had never happened in American history. It was, in a way, much worse than Pearl Harbor, because it was an attack on a major city plus an attempt on Washington, D.C., I thought, this will change America forever. American history will be known as before Sept. 11 and after Sept. 11."

Despite the attacks, Hier said he is confident that Americans and American Jews are safer now than before Sept. 11 because of heightened sensitivity to security issues. But he voiced his disappointment that world religious leaders, particularly Muslim clerics, have avoided addressing the key issue: Islamic fundamentalism.

"Not enough time has been devoted by the media and politicians, and not enough resources have been devoted to involving all the world’s religious leaders in defeating the scourge of this terrorism at its roots, which is the teaching of this [suicide attacks] as a legitimate form of martyrdom and a way to heaven," Hier said. "Here we are, a year later, and the Muslim clerics and the United Nations have not come out in force against this. Why does the United Nations think that nudging only works over territories?"

LAPD Deputy Chief David Kalish, commanding officer of operations for the West Bureau, was busy in the hours after the incidents in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania making sure that if Los Angeles was indeed a target, the city was as prepared as possible to survive (and if possible prevent) another attack.

"Historically, we know with these terrorists that if at first they don’t succeed, they try, try again," Kalish said. "We saw that with the World Trade Center. Like New York, Los Angeles is a target-rich environment and the airport is obviously a top priority, so we added additional deployment that remains to this day."

Like Hier, Kalish feels that the city has become safer.

"The world has changed. I think we have learned we are vulnerable, but I think because of this, officers are much more cognizant of security issues than in the past," Kalish said.

Kalish said he feels the most important lesson to be learned from the events of Sept. 11 is the need to balance vigilance with the hallmarks of American democracy, including liberty and tolerance.

"Almost half the population [of Los Angeles] is foreign-born, and so it is important that we respect one another and are tolerant of one another. We have to be very careful that in our war on terrorism, we do not confuse the terrorists with other populations. Despite the fact that there is certainly the potential for terrorism to strike anywhere, we must never let it compromise our way of life and our freedoms," he said.

The need within the Los Angeles Jewish community to respond to the tragedies resulted in one of the strongest years for The Federation. According to Federation President John Fishel, the Federation has raised $54 million in pledges so far this year, with over $500,000 in unsolicited giving from last fiscal year and this fiscal year being set aside for victims of Sept. 11.

"From a fundraising standpoint, the last year has been extraordinary, especially given the malaise in our economy," Fishel said. "People responded extremely generously and enabled us to help the victims."

A year after the tragedies, the media is full of stories of healing and recovery. Among Jewish community leaders, some insist that while healing is necessary, it is equally essential that we do not lessen the impact of Sept. 11. Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple notes that "too often, Americans forget the past, and Jews despair of the future, especially in Israel. That is a terrible mistake. The memorial, a serious memorial, of Sept. 11 is important, and the ability for Jews to get together and acknowledge we have a future is also very important.

"Sept. 11 has enlarged the community of people who care passionately about politics, especially foreign policy, and has reawakened us to the reality that America is not an isolated place in the world," Wolpe said. "We may be bounded by oceans, but we are not above the tides of time. What happens to the world happens to us. We need to care about the rest of the world and continue to pay close attention to it."

Overall, the mood in Los Angeles seems to be one of optimism for the future. Perhaps because we were not directly affected, it is easier to distance ourselves from the horrors and hold onto the hope.

Orenstein said she, like many other rabbis this year, will be addressing the shadow of Sept. 11 in her High Holiday sermons (see related story, page 39).

"I’m planning to say something about how to say goodbye to the past year. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov has a High Holiday prayer in which he says to ‘let the curses of the old year end and the blessings of the new year begin’ and that really resonates strongly for people right now," said Orenstein. "Sept. 11 is very hard for people to close the book on, but part of the High Holidays is to turn to a new page on which you can start fresh."

Sense From Senselessness


What follows is an edited version of a speech that Judea Pearl, the father of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, delivered upon accepting an award on his son’s behalf from the Los Angeles Press Club on June 22, 2002.

It is a great honor for me and Ruth to accept this award on behalf of our son, Danny.

I would like to share with you a few thoughts on how we can make sense of the tragedy that befell Danny, and whether anything good can possibly come out of it. I have been asking myself these questions a million times in the past few months and, frankly, the answers are not easy.

To be honest — the terrorists who killed Danny got everything they wanted. They embarrassed [Pakistan President Gen. Pervez] Musharraf, gained publicity, recruited more terrorists, inflicted pain and humiliation on the West and scared foreign journalists. They even managed to lure a greedy American weekly into publicizing their gruesome victory in vivid colors. So, on the surface, they seem to have won on all fronts — and this thought caused me great pain.

Fortunately, among the many letters that we have received, there were several that lifted my spirit and gave me a glimpse at what good may possibly come out of it. I would like to share them with you.

The first letter comes from a 23-year-old medical student in Torino, Italy. She tells me that she has written to the mayor of Torino and, to her surprise, the mayor’s office agreed that they should build a memorial for Danny in Torino. "Torino?" I asked. "Danny never set foot in Torino." Yes, she replied, but we are going to host the Winter Olympics four years from now, and who can better personify the spirit of humanity and international comradeship than Daniel Pearl?

It then dawned on me that they are not doing this for me, or for Danny — they are doing it for the people of Torino who evidently had difficulty finding a symbol for that abstract concept called "humanity," and needed to give the spirit of humanity a face and a body and a smile. And I understood then that, if Danny’s death can give humanity, or whatever is left of her, the banner that she needs to defend herself, then something good may come out of it.

The second letter was from a Jewish congregation in East Brunswick, N.J., asking my permission to name their religious school after Danny. "Religious school?" I asked. "Danny barely survived one year of Sunday school!"

But the rabbi insisted: "We want our children to have a model of what it means to be Jewish, and every mother that I speak to wants her son to be like Danny Pearl."

Again, I realized that he is not saying that to flatter me, but to serve the needs of those good mothers in East Brunswick. I realized then, that to fight anti-Semitism, Jewishness, too, is in need of a banner with a human face on it. And if, by pointing to Danny’s picture, the children of East Brunswick could lift their heads up high and say: "He is one of us, this is who we are," and if being "who we are" entails the pursuit of truth and friendship, then something good will come out of it.

The third letter, believe it or not, came from Alex [Block], informing me of the L.A. Press Club’s decision to establish this award in Danny’s memory. I immediately concluded that journalism too, especially the elusive notion of courage in journalism, needs a banner and a human role model. This was further reinforced by a letter from a Minneapolis lady who writes: "Hi there, my name is Jennifer, and I am going to become a journalist. For a very long time I was confused as to what I wanted to do with my life. When Daniel’s story began unfolding, I realized what passion and courage journalists like him have. I carry a picture of Daniel in my wallet to remind me of why I finally chose to become a journalist."

My goodness! I thought, if the picture of Danny can inspire young talents like Jennifer to become journalists and help reduce ignorance and hatred in this world, then something good already came out of it.

It is in this spirit that the Daniel Pearl Foundation was created. It is based on the simple premise that humanity is fighting a battle of survival, and that troops do not rally behind abstract concepts — they rally behind banners with real faces. I think of the foundation as an enterprise that creates partnerships for good causes, and lends Danny’s banner to help humanity win her battle of survival.

Your presence here, tonight, makes you a partner in this enterprise, and I feel confident that, with partners like you, I would be able to tell my grandson, Adam, some day: "You see, Junior. Your father’s banner helped us win that battle."

Hitler, Still in Development


CBS President and CEO Leslie Moonves says major changes are being made to the first draft script of their planned miniseries on the early life of Adolf Hitler.

"The shooting version of the script will differ greatly to the one you read," Moonves told The Journal.

Last week, The Journal obtained a copy of a May 2002 script based on history professor Ian Kershaw’s book "Hitler: 1889-1936 Hubris."

CBS’ announcement in July that the book — which deals with Hitler’s early life and ends before the outbreak of World War II — would become a prime time miniseries, triggered lots of reaction from those who are worried that a TV movie about the early years in the life of the Nazi Führer might depict him in a sympathetic light and influence young viewers who are not aware of the historical context of Hitler’s monstrous legacy.

Moonves, who has held the top spot at CBS since 1998, stressed that both the network and Canadian-based production company Alliance Atlantis Entertainment, who are making the miniseries, are sensitive to the implications of this story.

"We are speaking to many, many Jewish leaders throughout the country, and people who I am close to and people who I am not," Moonves said, "and there’s much discussion going on pro and con. All of it is being taken extremely seriously, and please note that none of this is being treated lightly. There are some rabbis in the L.A. area, and other Jewish leaders that we’ve spoken to. We do appreciate the dialogue, and some of it will guide us in decisions we’re making."

Moonves said he also plans to provide a final shooting script to Rabbi Harvey Fields of Wilshire Boulevard Temple. "He’s someone I trust and greatly respect, and his son is also a TV producer, so Rabbi Fields does understand the exigencies of our business, " Moonves said.

Rabbi Fields told The Journal that although he has concerns about the project, "If I saw the script, I would have a lot more certitude in terms of my critical analysis."

The CBS head noted that he agreed with many of the points brought up in The Journal articles on the subject, however he was critical of the unnamed former top network executive who was quoted in last week’s article, "Furor of Der Führer," saying that an airing of the film "is going to get people killed."

"If someone makes a ridiculous statement as drastic and offensive as that, they should have to guts to go on the record," he said.

While admitting that the quality of some network television "is not so good," Moonves adds, "I think network TV can hold its head up anywhere in terms of quality and in terms of other media including feature films. The fact that this is a four-hour drama enables us to do things that a two-hour feature film couldn’t accomplish."

Moonves said the network has not yet hired an actor to play the young Hitler, and denied reports that several directors in Hollywood had turned down the chance to make the picture.

"We approached one director [Christian Duguay] and he accepted," Moonves insisted.

He also said no actors had turned down the lead role and most of the names that have been mentioned as possible leads [such as Scotsman Ewan McGregor] were not accurate.

"Other actors have been discussed, but not offered the role, because they were tied up on other projects," he said. "More than likely we will go with an actor who is someone we’ve never heard of."

While the miniseries is expected to air sometime next year, Moonves said no sponsors have yet been approached.

"I do believe there will be people who are willing to support this, although I don’t anticipate we will get the normal kind of ads we get for a normal miniseries. This will have to be treated specially as certain projects are treated by the advertising community. But I think responsible advertisers will see the merit of our project."

Moonves admitted he was surprised at the reaction to the news of the miniseries which followed stories in The Journal, the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times.

"But I do understand people’s concerns. It’s obviously a very passionate subject. One of the things that people fear is the question, ‘Are TV network people purely a bunch of oddballs that are just driven by ratings or is there legitimate concern for what they are putting on the air?’ I can assure you it’s the latter."

Sensitive issues can be handled well on television, he noted, pointing to a recent documentary film on events surrounding Sept. 11 which aired on CBS and will air again around the week of Sept. 11.

"That was the consummate artistic expression done by two young French filmmakers," Moonves pointed out.

Israel Welcomes New P.R. Strategy


Israeli officials are notoriously loath to learn from outsiders — but they have been deeply impressed by an American study of Israel’s public relations needs in the United States, and say they intend to carry out most of its recommendations.

Among them: Be less confrontational and more hopeful in television appearances; don’t trash Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat or the Palestinian people; and, whenever possible, stress Israel’s desire for peace, its vibrant democracy and the values it shares with America.

Steven Cohen, a professor at the Melton Centre at Hebrew University, put the strategy this way: "When you’re speaking for Israel, say the word ‘peace’ four times, like the other side says ‘occupation’ four times."

The study is part of the Israel P.R. Project led by Democratic Party consultant Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, with polling and analysis by Democratic consultant Stanley Greenberg and Republican strategist Frank Luntz.

Mizrahi and Greenberg came to Israel in late July to present their findings, and were followed two weeks later by Luntz. All three met officials in the prime minister’s office, the Foreign Ministry and the army spokesman’s office — and all three, officials say, made a powerful impression.

"I have been working in this job for two years now, and I say this is a huge contribution, because it gives us a quality of feedback we have never had before," said Gidon Meir, the deputy director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry. "It will enable us to build a more professional campaign."

Until now, Israeli public relations has not been able to afford the professionals who could give it this kind of advice, Meir said. His annual public relations budget at the Foreign Ministry is only $9 million, and last year, he said he turned down an offer for similar research because he simply could afford the $1.2 million cost.

Already, Meir said, his ministry is reshaping the way it packages Israeli government policies to the media.

Meir agreed with most of the consultants’ recommendations — but not all.

"If we talk terror, terror, terror all the time, and don’t add hope at the end, maybe we are missing the mark," he said. "We must tell the Americans that we and the Palestinians are suffering because they don’t want peace. If they did, we would welcome them with open arms, as we did Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat and Jordan’s King Hussein."

But Israeli officials balk at stopping their negative campaign against Arafat. They point out that discrediting Arafat is not just a P.R. gambit, but a central element of Israeli policy.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, they say, really believes that as long as Arafat is around, there is no chance of peace with the Palestinians, and that Israel’s biggest foreign policy success, since the intifada began two years ago, has been convincing the Bush administration that Arafat must go.

The foundation for the change in administration policy was laid by a P.R. effort launched last December, Meir said, followed-up by a file on Arafat put together by Cabinet Minister Dan Naveh.

But, as the Palestinians desperately try to revive Arafat’s fortunes, Israel must continue explaining why he must be replaced and Palestinian institutions reformed to allow a genuine peace process, officials said.

The Arafat issue aside, the key problem in Israeli hasbara (public relations) has been its narrative of peacemakers fighting terrorists against the Palestinian narrative of freedom fighters opposing occupiers. That has led to Israel’s emphasis on the nihilistic and immoral nature of Palestinian terror and the duplicity of the Palestinian leadership.

In many focus groups, however, this leads to a kind of "moral equivalence," a blurred perception of violence and suffering on both sides and an inability to distinguish between them, the American group says: Both sides are seen as aggressors, both as victims, both as having justified claims.

The insight that most impressed the Israelis, Meir said, is that to break this P.R. deadlock, Israel should stress the uniqueness of its relationship with the American people. That is what will make Israel, rather than the Palestinians, special in the collective American consciousness.

Despite Meir’s enthusiasm, the plan was received less warmly in Sharon’s office.

Sharon spokesman Ra’anan Gissin called polls "subjects of some circumspection," and compared public relations to "cosmetics."

"In order to have good hasbara, Israel has to stand by its birthright," Gissin told JTA. "We failed because we neglected to explain that Jews have a birthright to live here, not just a security need. But our neighbors haven’t recognized our right to live here."

Ironically, Luntz says the historical message is precisely one that Israel should play down.

In tests where viewers used a dial to indicate their reactions to a television advertisement, the needle sank upon mention of the Jews’ ancient connection to the Land of Israel. That’s because it makes viewers think the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a timeless blood feud that will never be resolved, Luntz said.

When the ad stressed Israel’s multiculturalism and democracy, response ratings shot up.

Privately, several sources said Gissin’s confrontational media appearances were singled out for criticism, with Cohen saying Gissin has been described as "bellicose."

Gissin doubted that all Israeli spokespersons would accept the new P.R. directive.

The coming weeks and months will tell if it makes any difference.