Ahead of March meetings, Israel and the U.S. close ranks on Iran

It’s one of those coincidences too tempting to believe is a coincidence.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is delivering a speech to AIPAC about what should happen next with Iran and likely meeting with President Obama to discuss Iran options on the same day that the International Atomic Energy Agency convenes in Vienna to consider a report about Iran.

Netanyahu’s office confirmed over the weekend that he would address the American Israel Public Affairs policy conference on March 5, and sources say a meeting with Obama is likely. The IAEA board is meeting the same day—hours before the speech—to consider its inspectors’ latest Iran report. The most recent such report came closer than ever to indicting the Iranian regime for making weapons, and it helped spur stronger international sanctions against Tehran.

It is a coincidence, though.

Attendance by Israeli prime ministers at the annual AIPAC policy conference, which these days draws nearly 10,000 people, is generally a must. The IAEA board, although it meets twice yearly, does not set a date until several months in advance.

The confluence of events, however coincidental, underscores how decision-making on Iran is drawing closer for all the parties, and could come to a head if not by March, then before the year ends, according to recent media reports.

“Israel is in a delicate place,” Uzi Rabi, the director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, told a small group of reporters on Tuesday in Washington, where he is meeting officials under the auspices of The Israel Project. “It has committed itself to a military engagement” unless Iran retreats from its suspected nuclear program, he said.

“I don’t see how we can skip that after August,” Rabi added, noting that the fall is the approximate deadline that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has set before Iran’s program becomes too intractable to curtail through a military strike.

There are signs that the Obama and Netanyahu governments, after a period of uncertainty, have begun to coordinate their message on Iran.

Rabi, who also chairs Tel Aviv University’s Middle East history department, said he had heard that the recent visit to Israel by Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the U.S. military joint chiefs of staff, “made things clearer.” Previously there had been reported tensions between the two countries over Israel’s reported refusal to promise advance warning to the United States of an Iran strike.

In the wake of Dempsey’s meetings with his counterparts, U.S. and Israeli officials reset a date for the Austere Challenge, the largest-ever joint anti-missile exercise, for sometime around October, according to officials who have knowledge of the discussions, and U.S. military officials will visit Israel later this month to plan the exercise. A decision by Israel in December to postpone the exercise, originally set for May, spurred talk of distancing between the two countries.

Obama sought to set such doubts about coordination to rest in a pre-Super Bowl interview he gave Sunday to NBC.

“We have closer military and intelligence consultation between our two countries than we ever have,” he said when Matt Lauer asked him if he expected advance warning from Israel in case of a strike. “And my No. 1 priority continues to be the security of the United States, but also the security of Israel, and we are going to make sure that we work in lockstep as we proceed to try to solve this, hopefully diplomatically.”

The same day, Obama signed off on the most restrictive Iran sanctions yet, targeting Iran’s Central Bank, essentially making it impossible for third parties to deal with the U.S. and Iranian economies simultaneously.

A letter to Congress accompanying the order notes that it comports with the enhanced sanctions law passed by Congress in December and underscores its expansive intent. The order enhances freezes on U.S. dealings with Iran dating back to 1995 that forced any U.S. entity or its subsidiary to return funds that are identified as having originated with sanctioned Iranian individuals or entities.

Mark Dubowitz, the director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a think tank that tracks the effectiveness of sanctions, said the Central Bank sanctions will accelerate the impoverishment of the Iranian regime.

“It’s an effective way to target Iranian government assets being processed through the U.S. financial system and potentially to freeze those assets for later distribution to victims of Iranian terrorism,” he said.

Congressional aides involved in sanctions legislation noted that the order comports with the law signed by Obama on Dec. 31 that was authored by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.). Still, it was a sign of the urgency that the Obama administration is now attaching to heading off a nuclear Iran—and the prospect of an Israeli or U.S. military strike—that the president issued the order well within the 60 days provided by the law before he had to invoke a waiver.

Obama administration officials, in conversations in recent weeks with their Israeli counterparts and with Jewish and Israeli media, had emphasized that it was necessary to line up substantive international support for the sanctions in order for them not to backfire. One nightmare scenario, they said, would be for oil prices to rise as a result of the sanctions, thus further enriching Iran’s theocracy.

Those ducks appeared to be lining up: On Jan. 23, the European Union imposed an oil embargo on Iran, and on Monday, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal al Saud, who runs Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Holding Company, told CNBC that the Saudis would not allow the price of oil to top $100 a barrel. It is currently at $97 a barrel.

Rabi said Israel would have to see substantive steps toward the likely disintegration of Iran’s current regime if it were to hold off on a strike: The impoverishment of the Iranian middle class, precipitating upward pressure on the regime, would be one sign.

“Sanctions will work,” he said, “if the ayatollahs feel that the whole saga is aiming at their very survival.”

Another would be meaningful inspections at Iranian nuclear sites, including the one near Qom uncovered by Western intelligence in 2009. A team of IAEA inspectors last month met with Iranian officials in an attempt to resume comprehensive inspections.

For now, Israeli leaders seem satisfied with the pace of pressure on Iran. After meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said he “thanked her for the determined stance of the United States on the Iran issue and said the steps taken in recent weeks send an important message to the entire region.”

Koreatown residents visit the synagogue next door

When Charles Kim called Rabbi Stephen Julius Stein of Wilshire Boulevard Temple last year, it didn’t take long for the Korean American leader to get to the point.

“He was wondering if the temple was for sale,” said Stein, head of the synagogue’s Center for Religious Inquiry. “I can’t sell you the temple, I replied, but I hope I can sell you on a relationship.”

A series of discussions about how to bring the Korean and Jewish communities together followed. After Stein accepted an invitation to address a Koreatown Rotary Club meeting in December, he invited the Korean American community to the Byzantine-style synagogue on Feb. 27.

During an evening open house reception at Wilshire Boulevard Temple that featured desserts such as sticky sweet rice cakes and hamantaschen, Korean Americans and Jews gathered to dialogue about mutual understanding and to discuss conditions in the formerly Jewish Wilshire Center district, which is now home to the largest Korean population outside of Seoul.

While the Jewish and predominantly Korean communities have had dialogues before, this intercultural initiative marks the first time the Wilshire Center synagogue has opened its doors to the surrounding Korean community, which is predominantly Christian. About 80 people attended the event, which included Korean business and educational leaders as well as synagogue clergy, staff and congregants.

“It took us 34 years to get here,” said Kim, national president of the Korean American Coalition. “Thank you for making us feel at home. Shalom.”

A major topic of discussion between the Jewish and Korean communities was the shared use of the building’s facilities, which already house a predominantly Hispanic charter school during the day. Proposed joint ventures include introductory Judaism courses taught in Korean, a brown-bag lunch lecture series, and educational trips to Israel and Korea.

But a more daunting, shared problem facing the area is gang activity, Stein said. Among the 11 most dangerous L.A. gangs recently identified by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, one is active in Koreatown.

“That’s our neighborhood,” said Stein, gesturing to the entire room. “We all have to work on that.”

Kim echoed Stein’s enthusiasm for cooperation between the ethnically, religiously and culturally distinct communities.

“Up until now, we have been like many islands, instead of one community,” said Kim, who traveled to Israel in 1987 as part of an Asian goodwill delegation.

This is not the first attempt at Korean-Jewish togetherness. A decade ago the American Jewish Committee launched a project to bring local Korean and Jewish business and political leaders together, and in 2005 the Simon Wiesenthal Center and The Jewish Federation held a “Talking Tolerance” discussion with Koreans and Jews. In the heart of Koreatown, the Rev. Yong-Soo Hyun runs the Shema Educational Institute, which promotes the study of Hebrew and Jewish culture.

Wilshire Boulevard Temple hopes to become an ongoing and significant partner in the life of the neighborhood.

The corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Hobart Street was once known as “the Jewish address” in Los Angeles, according to the synagogue’s literature. Originally dedicated in 1929, the building is actually the third inhabited by Los Angeles’ oldest synagogue community, founded as Congregation B’nai B’rith in 1862. After much of the Jewish population shifted West, Wilshire Boulevard Temple built the Audrey and Sydney Irmas Campus on the corner of Olympic Boulevard and Barrington Avenue in the mid-1990s.

The synagogue recently commissioned a demographic survey to determine how many Jewish families live in the surrounding mid-Wilshire area, and officials were surprised to discover a near 30 percent increase in Jewish residents within a 20-minute drive of the Koreatown campus.

“We are deeply committed to this neighborhood and plan to be here for hundreds of years to come,” Senior Rabbi Steven Z. Leder said.

Following the reception, guests were led on an hour-long tour of the synagogue, which features biblical murals by artist Hugo Ballin and a 100-foot dome in the Edgar F. Magnin Sanctuary.

“It is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen,” Kim said of the sanctuary.

When Stein told the story of a synagogue’s Torah scroll being rescued from a barn in Czechoslovakia during the Holocaust, the Korean guests were awed.

“Wow,” said Jun Su, executive director of the Korean Institute of Southern California, an educational organization. “A miracle.”

Stein nodded and smiled.

A spirit of hope and optimism surrounding a new friendship dominated the event, but there was one point of dispute between the Jews and Koreans. During the press conference, Kim strode up to the podium after Stein and said in a very solemn tone, “I have one correction to make.”

Kim looked to Stein and joked, “I never asked Stephen to sell me the temple. I asked him to give it to me.”

Wilshire Boulevard Temple, ‘ target=’_blank’>www.kacla.org

Shema Educational Institute, Briefs: Survey to catalog landmark Boyle Heights buildings to prevent destruction; Chabad expands on

FBI Stings Seen as Part of Policy ‘War’


Last June, leading neoconservative Richard Perle received an unexpected phone call at his home. It was Larry Franklin calling. Franklin is the veteran Iran specialist in the Pentagon’s Near East South Asia office and the key Iraq War planner who had been pressured by the FBI into launching a series of counterintelligence stings. Perle, a former chairman of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, was an architect of the 2003 Iraq War.

Franklin, who never had phoned before, asked Perle to “convey a message to Chalabi” in Iraq, according to sources aware of the call. Ahmad Chalabi is the embattled president of the Iraqi National Congress. He is currently at the vortex of a Pentagon-intelligence community conflict over pre- and post-war policy, but is still endorsed by neoconservatives, such as Perle.

Something about Franklin’s unexpected call struck Perle as “weird,” according to the sources. Why was Franklin calling?

In the recent past, Perle had only encountered Franklin a few times in passing, the sources said. Perle became “impatient” to end his brief conversation with Franklin, and finally just declined to pass a message to Chalabi or to cooperate in any way, according to the sources.

Perle refused to comment.

While the purpose of the mysterious call to Perle is still unclear, a source with knowledge of Franklin’s calls suggested that Franklin might have been trying to warn Perle and Chalabi that conflict between the counterintelligence community and the neoconservatives and the Chalabi camp was spinning out of control.

Unbeknownst to Franklin, the FBI was listening.

By the time Franklin phoned Perle, Franklin had been under surveillance for at least a year by the FBI’s counterintelligence division, which is led by controversial counterintelligence chief David Szady. Franklin had been monitored since a meeting June 26, 2003, at the Tivoli Restaurant in Virginia, where he discussed a classified Iran policy document with officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

He also was monitored late last May while responding to a routine media inquiry by CBS reporters about Iran’s intelligence activities in Iraq, according to multiple sources. The CBS call was pivotal.

Among the reporters who spoke to Franklin in late May, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the call, was former CIA attorney Adam Ciralsky, who had joined CBS as a reporter. During that call, Franklin purportedly revealed classified information, according to the sources.

In late June, Szady’s FBI counterintelligence division finally confronted a shocked Franklin with evidence of his monitored calls. The bureau arranged for Franklin to be placed on administrative leave without pay, and then threatened him with years of imprisonment unless Franklin engaged in a series of stings against a list of prominent Washington targets, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the FBI’s actions in the case.

Terrified, needing to provide for a wheelchair-bound wife and five children and without the benefit of legal representation, Franklin agreed to ensnare the individuals on the FBI sting list, the sources said. The list might include as many as six names, according to sources.

In a special Jewish Telegraphic Agency investigation, this reporter first revealed Franklin’s stings and the circumstances surrounding them.

AIPAC was stung July 21. That day, Franklin met an AIPAC official in a Virginia mall and urged that information be passed to Israel that Israelis operating in northern Kurdistan were in danger of being kidnapped and killed by Iranian intelligence, according to multiple sources. That information — the validity of which has been questioned — was reportedly passed to the Israeli Embassy, thereby providing the FBI with a basis for search warrants and threats of an espionage prosecution against AIPAC Policy Director Steve Rosen and AIPAC Iran specialist Keith Weissman, according to the sources.

AIPAC officials contacted declined to comment.

Attorneys familiar with FBI security prosecutions identified Section 794 and 798 of the Espionage Act as ideally suited to the FBI’s sting strategy. Section 798, titled, “Disclosure of Classified Information,” applies to “whoever knowingly and willfully communicates, furnishes [or] transmits — for the benefit of any foreign government to the detriment of the United States any classified information — concerning the communication of intelligence activities of the United States or any foreign government.” The sweeping statute would cover classified information not only about America but also about Iran and Iraq.

Reporter Janine Zacharia first revealed initial news of the July AIPAC sting in The Jerusalem Post.

After the AIPAC sting on or about Aug. 20, Franklin — still without legal representation — was directed by his FBI handlers to launch a sting against Chalabi’s Washington-based political adviser, Francis Brooke, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge of Franklin’s stings.

At the time, Washington intelligence circles were accusing Chalabi of passing sensitive American intelligence code-breaking information to Iranian intelligence. The charges against Chalabi have since fallen from view.

Brooke, a southerner who lives in a Washington-area home owned by Chalabi, took the August call from Franklin on the kitchen phone.

“Franklin called,” Brooke related, “and said, ‘You have a real problem on your hands with Iran and Chalabi.’ I told him, ‘It is all horse—-.’ Larry got very angry at me. He said it was ‘deadly serious.’ I said, ‘What the hell, if you say it is serious, OK. But we have no information about American code-breaking of Iranian intelligence.'”

“So Larry says, ‘I am talking to a bunch of media people, and I can spin this — but you need to level with me to get this straight,'” Brooke recalled. “This was not very much like Larry, and I just said, ‘There is nothing to spin.'”

Brooke dismissed the entire effort as part of a “vendetta against Chalabi organized by [then-CIA Director George] Tenet and others at the CIA.”

Franklin refused to comment.

In August, Franklin, still without legal counsel, was also directed by the FBI to call Ciralsky, who by this time had moved from CBS to NBC, where he was working on security developments in Iran, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge of Franklin’s calls. Franklin tried to set up a meeting with Ciralsky, but no such meeting ever occurred, according to sources familiar with the call, because shortly thereafter, on Aug. 27, the FBI’s AIPAC raids were leaked to CBS. Franklin actions were now public.

Before joining CBS, reporter Ciralsky was working as an attorney for the CIA but was allegedly forced out in 1999 during the course of an inquiry into his family background and his Jewish affiliations. Ciralsky later filed a harassment lawsuit against the CIA that is still pending.

The man who supervised much of the CIA investigation of Ciralsky and then the FBI’s investigation of Franklin following the May conversation with Ciralsky was Szady. In a JTA investigation, this reporter revealed exclusively his involvement with Ciralsky.

Critics of the current investigation point to Szady’s involvement in the probe of Ciralsky a decade ago to raise questions about a possibly larger agenda. One question involves the media.

Because Ciralsky is a reporter with NBC, some critics raised the specter of Szady’s FBI counterintelligence division consciously trying to entrap a member of the media engaged in routinely contacting sources. One source with direct knowledge of Franklin’s stings said it amounted to an “enemies list.”

Ciralsky refused to comment.

FBI officials repeatedly refused to discuss the Franklin stings. The bureau also refused to respond to questions about whether members of the media — including those at CBS, NBC and even this reporter — are under surveillance as part of their investigation. But at one point, a senior FBI official with knowledge of the case finally stated, “I cannot confirm or deny that information [due to] the pending investigation.”

Some Washington insiders believe that the FBI’s multiple stings are far from routine counterintelligence but represent a “war” between the counterintelligence community and policymakers, especially neocons.

One key insider explained the war this way: “It is two diametrically opposed ways of thinking. The neocons have an interventionist mindset willing to ally with anyone to defeat world terrorism, and they see the intelligence community as too passive. The intelligence community sees the neocons as wild men willing to champion any foreign source — no matter how specious — if it suits their ideology.”

Leading neoconservative figure Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute added his own thought.

“This is a war of the intelligence community vs. the neoconservatives,” Rubin observed. “It involves both the right and the left of the intelligence community. It is a war about policy, the point being, the CIA must not be involved in policy. The CIA’s role is to provide intelligence and let the policymakers decide what to do with it, and it appears they are not sticking to that role — and that is a dangerous situation.”

“This is the politicizing of intelligence,” he continued. “But the CIA, by its establishing principles, is not to be involved in politics.”

Rubin added that the sting effort “against AIPAC is the culmination of a 20-year witch-hunt from a small corps within the counterintelligence community” that Rubin labeled “conspiracy theorists.” He added, “What is the common denominator between the Ciralsky case and the AIPAC case? David Szady.”

Szady, who has been decorated twice by the CIA for distinguished service, answered one critic, writing, “I am not at liberty to comment on pending investigations.” Szady had issued a statement to this reporter earlier that he “has no anti-Semitic views, has never handled a case or investigation based upon an individual’s ethnicity or religious views and would never do so.”

One neoconservative at the center of the counterintelligence war said: “This is just the beginning. Nobody knows where this war is going.”

Edwin Black is the author of “IBM and the Holocaust” (Crown, 2001). Black’s current best seller is “Banking on Baghdad” (Wiley), which chronicles 7,000 years of Iraqi history. This article first appeared in the Forward.


Anti-Zionism Views Reach UC Riverside

An inflammatory poster equating Zionism with Nazism at the University of California’s Riverside (UCR) campus has mobilized Jewish students and faculty, drawn strong condemnation from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and cautious responses from university officials.

The offensive poster appeared in a display case of UCR’s sociology department in mid-October, prominently featuring photos of a Star of David and swastika, separated by an equal sign, and of an Israeli soldier pointing a rifle at a Palestinian woman.

To "explain" the Star of David/swastika "symbolism," the text noted that Israel was imposing a Nazi-like final solution on the Palestinians and that "Zionists believe that Israel is to be the land from which God’s chosen people will rule over the rest of the world, in accordance with God’s master plan."

The poster was the work of Debbi LeAnce, a 28-year-old senior, who leads a campus anti-war group, founded after Sept. 11, known as the Student Coalition for Peace and Human Rights, and, alternately, as the UCR Resistance.

A shocked Hanna Gershfeld, president of the campus Hillel chapter, turned for advice on counteraction to two sources, the ADL regional chapter in Los Angeles and UCR philosophy professor Howard Wettstein, faculty adviser to the Hillel group, which is currently without a director.

Wettstein said the attack came as a surprise because the campus, with a large number of Asian American and Latino students, is generally marked by a "pleasant, nonhostile environment."

ADL Director Amanda Susskind and Associate Director Alison Mayersohn turned first to UCR Chancellor France Cordova, asking her to condemn the hateful attack.

Cordova, who had been advised by counsel that the poster came under the free speech protection of the First Amendment, responded with a generalized statement, asking for a civil campus environment, but without mentioning the poster incident.

A follow-up letter by ADL elicited a further statement by Vice Chancellor James W. Sandoval, which also asked for respectful discourse, but did label the poster as "offensive and reprehensible."

At the same time, Robert Dynes, president of the statewide UC system, issued a statement to the board of regents, denouncing the poster as "reprehensible," but constitutionally protected.

Wettstein praised one high-level official, Patricia O’Brien, dean of humanities, arts and social sciences.

"She got it right away and was very supportive," he said.

By the end of October, the poster was removed, after the mandated two-week display limit had expired, but the controversy continued.

Last week, LeAnce and her student group announced a panel discussion at an off-campus coffee shop, which Gershfeld and seven other Hillel members decided to attend. Gershfeld asked for backup from StandWithUs, a grass-roots pro-Israel organization, which sent a three-person delegation, headed by Roz Rothstein, its executive director.

Gershfeld, a 20-year-old senior in political science, said that after an opening "rant" by LeAnce, the tone became calmer. Both she and Rothstein said they relished the opportunity to present the Israeli side to some 40 largely uncommitted and uninformed students, including a number of moderate Muslims.

Meanwhile, Wettstein was working with the UCR administration and fellow professors to organize an open forum to discuss the incident’s underlying political, free speech and campus ramifications.

The Nov. 3 meeting drew some 150 faculty, students and staff, including the chancellor and top administrators. Wettstein and a moderate leader of the local Muslim community spoke, and although LeAnce presented her customary list of anti-Israel charges, Wettstein described the event as "positive."

A series of additional forums is planned for the future.

Although pained and angered by the poster, Wettstein felt it produced some positive results.

"The incident drew Jewish students and faculty together, and energized them," he said. "Despite their anger, they didn’t become strident, stayed focused and kept their eyes on the ball.

"I was disappointed by some of my liberal and left-leaning colleagues, who are usually quick and loud to speak out against bigotry, but stayed silent in this case," he added. "But I was pleased by the student newspaper, which bluntly criticized the campus administration for not speaking out more forcefully."

A Rude Awakening in Spain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June Gloom

Two steps forward, three steps back.

That is the definition of any Middle East peace process, and the most important question now is whether President Bush, who very publicly committed himself to a “road map to peace” last month, will tough it out.

The gruesome attacks this week that have claimed almost two-dozen Israeli lives so far, as well as Israel’s assassination attempt Tuesday on Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantissi, have demonstrated that the door Bush must walk through is not just shut, but bolted closed.

“They know he’s going to be pulled deeper into this,” a source who is close to several of the president’s aides told me by phone on Wednesday, “but he’s not going to let it become a tar pit.”

The Bush administration’s A-Team must now rush in and figure out a way to prop up Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, further neutralize president-for-life Yasser Arafat and pressure Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to keep the surprises to a minimum. They must get the benefits flowing to the Palestinian street, and, at the same time, turn off the flow of terrorism into Israel. And they must do all this now. Piece of cake.

Following Israel’s attempt on Rantissi’s life — an attack that killed a woman and a baby and wounded 25 others — administration officials sought to understand Sharon’s motivation. Bush’s condemnation was not as strident as the press made it out to be. The phone call from the White House went from national security adviser Condoleeza Rice to Sharon’s chief of staff Dov Weisglass, not from Bush to Sharon. If Sharon can offer credible evidence that Rantissi was — is — the ticking bomb Israelis claim him to be, that will go a long way to calming administration jitters that Sharon is seeking a way out of the peace process, or is risking the whole venture in order to shore up support to his right.

Sharon, or any Israeli leader, must not go forward with a peace process if any step is seen as a capitulation to terror. United States diplomats and the CIA, as well as the Shin Bet, will need to provide him with assurances that Abbas is doing all he can to prevent terror, even if the inevitable attacks occur. Then Sharon will have to do what Ehud Barak and Yitzhak Rabin before him struggled to do: explain to Israelis under attack why the peace process is still worth pursuing.

The more delicate piece of the puzzle is Abbas. Bush likes him, finds him courageous. Abbas does have more guts than most of us, as demonstrated in his showdown with Hamas over the cease-fire talks last week. But he is also a pope without troops, and, given the continuing violence, is unlikely to recruit many these days. What he needs is time, and Bush and his team must find the words and the way to buy him some.

It’s by now received wisdom that the man behind the curtain in all of this is Arafat. He can throw wrenches into this machinery at will, but the administration, which so rightly cast him aside as yesterday’s terrorist, has little leverage with him. If the Europeans and Arab nations want to play a constructive role here, they can help Bush help the Palestinians by keeping Arafat in line.

After Wednesday’s attack in Jerusalem, an e-mail went out with the bloodless but terrifying statistics: 17 people dead (as of press time), five more in comas, five in intensive care, seven undergoing surgery, 108 people hospitalized. Staring at the earliest photos taken at the screen of the bombing on Jaffa Road, I felt shattered, and I can’t begin to imagine the agony of a society at constant prey to such murderers.

But another recent statistic is just as heart-wrenching. Palestinian polls are finding greater support for Hamas than for Fatah. Hamas, an organization whose stated goal is the destruction of the Jews in their homeland, now regularly outpolls Fatah, whose political focus has been negotiation with Israel. Part of Hamas’ growing popularity is that it provides social services — thus it polls high among Palestinian women.

But Hamas is also that rare political entity that does what it says it will do. One reason its cease-fire talks with Arafat broke down last January was that Hamas founder Ahmad Yasin accused Arafat of untrustworthiness. “The PA itself supports the jihad activities and the suicide attacks,” he said, “whilst at the same time it requests us to put a stop to them.”

That echoes the American and Israeli opinion of Arafat, an irony that would be funny if the results weren’t so deadly. Observers have long noted that Hamas is waiting in the wings, ready for its close up, with a leadership and infrastructure that could almost seamlessly replace that of Fatah. That would be a victory for terror that the world, much less the Israelis and the Palestinians, could not afford.

When Bush met with Sharon and Abbas, he cast his dedication to the cause of Mideast peace in spiritual terms. It’s worth noting that he declared his intention to liberate Iraq in similar language. If he made good on his commitment in Baghdad, perhaps he can be counted on to follow through with his commitments in Aqaba. There is probably no way around this tar pit but straight across, and that’s a path I hope the president takes.

L.A. Rabbis, Jackson Push for Peace

Rabbis Steven Jacobs and Leonard Beerman from Los Angeles, along with six other clergy members traveling with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, had just left a meeting with Yasser Arafat and were on the way to see Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the head of Hamas, when they heard about the bombing at Hebrew University.

The bus continued on to the Erez crossing at Gaza, and it was there that the interfaith delegation decided to cancel the visit with the man whose group had orchestrated the attack. They headed instead to Jerusalem, where the delegation went to Hadassah Hospital to visit the wounded.

"We believe in principle that if you want to get people out of jail, you have to talk to the man who has the keys, and we felt that we had to talk to the man who is responsible for terror," said Beerman, rabbi emeritus of Leo Baeck Temple in West Los Angeles and a longtime peace activist. "But we couldn’t talk to him with our dead right before us."

The delegations’ U-turn at Gaza signifies the tortured polarity of the weeklong mission: The group went to preach a message of nonviolence, to facilitate dialogue and to see to humanitarian issues, and at the same time was confronted with a grisly reality, meeting with Israelis and Palestinians whose lives have been shattered by the violence.

But it is just that reality which made the message much more urgent, Beerman told The Journal upon returning to Los Angeles.

"There are people who still cling to the possibility that there can be a diplomatic solution to this issue, and that Israelis and Palestinians are not condemned forever to slaughter one another or defend themselves against slaughter," Beerman said.

Beerman and Jacobs, the rabbi at Kol Tikvah in Woodland Hills who has traveled before with Jackson, were the two Jewish representatives on the mission, which had the support of the both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority. In addition to Arafat, the group met with Shimon Peres, Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, Chief Rabbi Yisrael Lau, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat and the Palestinian Authority Cabinet, which, thanks to the group’s visit, had its first full meeting in months since travel is so restricted in the area.

"One of the highest challenges of religion is to meet with your enemy," Jacobs said. "We knew that we were meeting the declared enemies of the Jewish people, yet we felt that we could talk about nonviolence and help in this downward spiral of events. There is terror and anxiety which grips everyone everywhere, so they don’t know where to turn."

Jacobs said the conversation with Arafat was "very tough, but very candid."

According to The Jerusalem Post, the group first listened to a prepared statement in which Arafat listed his grievances with America and Israel. Jackson helped Arafat and Erekat draft a statement, which Arafat read in Arabic and English, saying that he is "committed to peace through ending the Israeli occupation and establishing a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, next to the state of Israel." Arafat also condemned "violence, suicide, terrorism, bloodshed and confusion," as "not serving Palestinian interests."

Jacobs said he urged Arafat to resolve the issue of Israel’s missing soldiers and civilians, including soldiers kidnapped in Lebanon and a businessman who was kidnapped while traveling in Europe.

Jackson took on the issues of malnourishment among Palestinian children, which was cited in a report while the delegation was there, and tried to get Israel to ease travel restrictions so students could take final exams.

"The only hope is the lingering possibility that each can bring themselves to see the humanity of the other," Beerman said.

Jacobs said that despite Israeli grief and Palestinian despair, he found reason to hope.

Intellectuals at Palestinian universities privately told him they were ready to live side by side with the Jewish state and that they were ready to see the violence end. Israelis spoke of a negotiated solution.

One of the most moving moments for Beerman came at the end of a meeting at the Ministry of Defense.

"We were meeting with this phalanx of officers in uniform, and at the end of the meeting, Jesse Jackson said, ‘Let us pray.’ And I winced, and I thought these are hardly dati’im [religious people], these generals and officers," Beerman said.

Then Jackson asked them all to hold hands.

"And there we stood, our delegation and generals and officers, and we held hands in this room in the ministry, and Jesse said, ‘Rabbi Beerman, will you lead us in prayer?’"

As Beerman spoke the words, "Sim Shalom, Tovah U’vracha," he could hear many of the military men quietly join in.

Then he continued in English: "Grant us peace, Thy most precious gift, O Thou eternal source of peace, and enable Israel to be a messenger of peace unto all the peoples of the earth."

Israel Bolsters Local GOP Support

While the Bush administration’s strong support for Israel might not yet be paying off dividends in the Middle East, the stance has certainly been a boon for local Jewish Republicans.

Since its start in November 2000, two months after the second Palestinian intifada began, the Republican Jewish Coalition of Los Angeles (RJCLA) has attracted more than 400 paid members, making it the Republican Jewish Coalition’s (RJC) largest and most powerful local chapter nationwide. Its monthly meetings at the Skirball Cultural Center have been known to draw hundreds, as influential speakers and local conservative candidates come seeking Jewish support.

"The growth is based [in part] on the Republican Party’s strong support for Israel and the leadership of President Bush," said RJCLA President Bruce Bialosky, who also serves as Southern California chair of RJC, the Washington, D.C.-based organization that took Bush on his first trip to Israel in 1998.

"To Bush it’s a simple act of morality. He understands who the good guys and the bad guys are, and he’s on the right team."

Support for the Jewish state from the president and the Republican-controlled House, especially when contrasted against lackluster support for Israel from the left, has managed to make traditionally liberal Los Angeles fertile ground for a blossoming conservatism among Jews.

The increased interest has pushed the grass-roots organization to expand. The group hired Scott Gluck, 32, as its executive director in March and opened a field office in West Los Angeles. Until recently, most people found out about RJCLA through word-of-mouth or advertising in The Jewish Journal.

"The more that people see the members and see what we’re doing, the more people join," Bialosky said.

On Tuesday, the group hosted a town hall meeting with Adam Goldman, Bush’s liaison to the American Jewish community, at Stephen S. Wise Temple that drew more than 700 people.

At the Israel Festival in April, the group collected more than 200 names for their mailing list and even ran out of voter registration forms.

"There are a lot more Jewish Republicans than people think there are, even in the voting numbers," Bialosky said.

Luntz Research, a Republican-oriented polling company, found a reexamination of Bush and the Republican Party among Jewish voters since the 2000 election. The survey, released Dec. 3, found that 48 percent would consider voting for Bush in 2004. Only 23 percent of those surveyed had voted for him in 2000.

Among Jewish collegians, that number may be even higher.

"At least 50 percent of Jews under the age of 30 voted for George W. Bush in the last election," said Bialosky, referring to results from a Zogby poll following the 2000 election.

With an increase in anti-Israel rallies and protests on colleges campuses, RJCLA is recognizing the need to play a greater role supporting Jewish students.

"Our goal is to have a Jewish Republican chapter in each of the major universities here in Los Angeles. The key to the future of this organization is going to be the younger people," Gluck said.

Orthodox Jews constitute another bloc of interest to RJCLA. The organization, which has a number of members who attend Beth Jacob in Beverly Hills, recently held a few meetings with the observant community.

"They told us that the ones who aren’t Republican already just haven’t reregistered," Bialosky said.

RJCLA’s support base is spread throughout Southern California — from the San Fernando Valley to the South Bay — so organizers have found that monthly meetings at the Skirball Cultural Center work best for its membership. The group is diverse: from teens to septuagenarians; secular to Orthodox; Ashekenazim, Mizrahim and Sephardim — all are represented.

RJCLA has built up interest with an impressive list of speakers: former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan, gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon, Proposition 209 proponent Ward Connerly and terrorism expert Steve Emerson. Dennis Prager spoke at the organization’s Chanukah celebration about why Jews should be Republican. Bialosky is hoping to attract more White House speakers like Goldman in the near future.

For participants, the group events are a coming-out party of sorts.

Zina Lovitch, 48, came to the United States from Russia in 1978 and is proud to be a Republican. A member of RJCLA for more than one year, Lovitch said she’s been impressed with the number of candidates who make appearances at the monthly meetings and the diverse points of view brought up there.

"Thank God it’s here," she said. "Thank God we’re out of the closet."

"The one expression people say when they come to a meeting for the first time is ‘I thought I was the only one,’" Gluck said.

Perry Zuckerman, 44, came to the May RJCLA meeting for the first time seeking to meet people with similar political views and said that the party’s stand on Israel also had an impact.

"The Republican support for Israel has certainly been welcome," said Zuckerman, who complained of a growing anti-Israel sentiment among the extreme left. "I feel like this is more of a home now."

Dr. Reed Wilson, RJCLA’s activity chair, had been involved with The Jewish Federation’s Super Sunday campaign and was head of the group’s medical division, but felt that the values espoused by Jewish organizations were not representative of his opinions.

"If you said you were a Republican and Jewish in Jewish circles you were shunned or looked at as if something was genetically wrong with you." he said.

Through RJCLA, Wilson has met with local and national leaders, like John Ashcroft, experiences that he describes as "critical." With the guidance of people like RJCLA’s Vice President Joel Strom, Simon’s state volunteer chair, Wilson has also taken on a more active role in politics and is currently leading the Jewish outreach for the Simon campaign.

"Jewish ideals and goals need to be represented, no matter which party is in power," Wilson said.

Participation with RJCLA leadership has also borne fruit for Connie Friedman, RJCLA’s board secretary, who jumped into the fray this election cycle and is challenging Jewish Democrat Lloyd Levine for Assemblyman Robert Hertzberg’s 40th District seat.

The Los Angeles chapter’s success is now serving as inspiration for the creation of other local chapters, which now total 17.

Prior to the creation of RJCLA, there were 13 local chapters nationwide, many of which were organized around the efforts of one person, and their activities had waned.

Orange County, started in 1996, was one such chapter. The success of RJCLA sparked new interest, and the group has reorganized with the help of Bialosky and Gluck. Based in one of California’s most conservative counties, the Orange County chapter will celebrate its rebirth with a June 12 kickoff.

"From being a Washington-based group, [RJC is] now becoming a national group with regional satellites around the nation. Now when they’re doing it, they’re doing it on our format," Bialosky said.

"It’s really been a role model for us. The success of what we’ve been doing in Los Angeles has reinforced what we’re doing nationally," RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks said. "If we can go into Los Angeles, which has notoriously been Democratic, and have the kind of success we have, that shows we can do this on a larger level."

For more information about RJCLA, visit rjcla.org or call (310) 271-7429.

New Stamp on Service

Late last summer at Adat Ari El, when work was going on in earnest to craft the new One Shabbat Morning service, Rabbi Moshe Rothblum recalled feeling some resentment at having to drop his High Holiday preparations to attend a One Shabbat Morning meeting.

“But afterwards, I would be so rejuvenated and energized by the whole process of talking about it,” Rothblum said. “It had an impact on everybody.”

That impact has spread throughout the year, as the monthly service at the Valley Village Conservative synagogue draws between 600 and 1,000 people to a worship and study experience that puts an innovative stamp on traditional prayers and tunes.

“The idea was to find a way to build a bridge between traditional chazzanut to more innovative melodies that have been popularized by singers like Craig Taubman and Debbie Friedman, in the hopes that it will make services more accessible for a new generation of shul-goers,” said Lorin Fife, chairman of the board at Adat Ari El.

The service, with some original compositions, was developed through a collaborative effort involving Rothblum, Taubman, Associate Rabbi Jonathan Jaffe Bernhard, Cantor Ira Bigeleisen, lay people and outside experts in synagogue transformation and the cantorate.

The result is a service that begins at 9 a.m. with Torah study, usually by a guest scholar, and after a short coffee break at about 9:45 a.m., with the music beckoning people to join. The hall where the service takes place is set up with a the bimah in the center, so that the clergy — one of the rabbis, Taubman and Bigeleisen or another cantor — are closer to congregants.

Taubman leads a full band, and portions of the service are abbreviated. The Torah processional is festive and participatory, and the Torah reading consists of one aliyah — usually a group aliyah. During the musaf service, someone shares aloud a personal spiritual journey.

The service takes about two hours and is followed by a kiddush.

Fife says the service, originally meant to attract young families, has blossomed to appeal to a wide swath of the community, surpassing all expectations. Senior citizens, empty-nesters, teenagers and kids in soccer uniforms all participate in the service, funded with seed money by the Jewish Community Foundation and the Stone Family Foundation of Baltimore.

“The kind of response we’ve gotten from people has been very moving,” Rothblum said. “We have a lot of our members who come to it who said they ordinarily don’t come on Shabbat morning, and this has reconnected them to the Jewish prayer experience. And we have people who are not affiliated with any congregation who have come to join in with all their strength in making it a meaningful experience.”

For traditionalists who prefer the kind of service they have always known and loved, the main sanctuary still holds regular services every week. Bar and bat mitzvah celebrations also take place in the main sanctuary.

But the style of One Shabbat Morning is also having an impact in the sanctuary, where Rothblum and Bigeleisen are working to integrate some of the new melodies. Rothblum says they are also looking into ways to bring the clergy physically closer to the congregants in the main sanctuary.

Word about One Shabbat Morning has spread throughout the country, with synagogues calling Adat Ari El for guidance. A presentation at the Conservative movement’s Cantor’s Assembly this year won rave reviews. Fife says they are also working on putting together a CD with the music, to be distributed nationwide.

Los Angeles rabbis and synagogue leaders will have a chance to see what all the hype is about next week, when the One Shabbat Morning leaders put on a demonstration service for members of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California at the Jewish Federation offices on June 10. (Due to space considerations, this program is not open to the public.)

Rothblum is eager to share what he has learned with colleagues.

“I see this as something that has really strengthened the entire congregation,” he said.

“It shows that we are aware |that people have different needs, and we are not trying

to do everything the same way and have one approach for everybody, because that is not going to work — not today.”

The next One Shabbat Morning service is Saturday, June 10, at Adat Ari El, 12020 Burbank Blvd., Valley Village. Torah study begins at 9 a.m., services begin at 9:45 a.m.

For more information, call

(818) 766-9426.