Right Goal—Wrong Strategy

The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) held a ” title=”hate crime report” target=”_blank”>hate crime report, for 2009, revealed that, nationally, there were 1,303 religiously based hate crimes, of which 107 were directed against Muslims. Clearly a matter of concern, but, put in context — there were 931 hate crimes directed against Jews (a numerically comparable cohort nationally) that year — hardly a reason for a feeling of “psychological alienation.” Locally, the ” title=”Pew poll” target=”_blank”>Pew poll found that Americans were concerned about domestic Islamic extremism (the poll was conducted in the wake of the deadly Fort Hood Army base murders) — 79 percent of the public was “very or somewhat concerned about the rise of Islamic extremism in the United States.” If four-fifths of the public is troubled by the rise of American-based Islamic extremism, and there are headline-making incidents to support that concern, one doesn’t have to be George Gallup to conclude that, like it or not, it will impact attitudes toward Islam and, likely, American Muslims.

Nothing justifies extrapolating from individuals to the larger group in terms of stereotyping and bigotry, but the events of the past decade have clearly put Americans’ tolerance to the test and attitudinal shifts — if not actions — can be the result; the death of bin Laden is but one step in the right direction. Fewer American Muslims heeding the siren call of religious martyrdom would help as well.

MPAC’s president, Salam Al-Marayati, in a post-bin Laden statement buttressed his hopeful message of a “new era” dawning with an analysis that concluded that bin Laden was essentially an outlier in the Muslim world: “His acts of senseless terror have been met with moral outrage by Muslims worldwide at every turn in the past decade.” The logic presumably being that if the outlier is gone, saner heads will prevail in the Muslim world.

If only that were true. The sad reality is that bin Laden had, and likely still has, a sympathetic audience for his fanaticism in large swaths of the Muslim world.

A largely ignored

Did U.S. use lessons from Israel’s Entebbe raid to prep for bin Laden killing?

In the mid-1990s, William McRaven, then a U.S. Navy SEAL, wrote a book about commando operations. Entitled “Spec Ops: Case Studies in Special Operations Warfare: Theory and Practice” (Presidio Press), the book featured six case studies. One chapter was devoted to Entebbe, beginning with the lessons learned in the Israel Defense Forces as a whole, and in the Sayeret Matkal special operations unit in particular, after the failure to save the lives of 25 hostages in Ma’alot two years earlier. It included a discussion of Israeli intelligence gathering, decision-making processes, creation of the command and control system, personnel conflicts and the actual rescue operation in Entebbe Airport in Uganda, on July 4, 1976.

One of the slides McRaven subsequently used in lectures was a drawing of the old terminal building there, a sort of elderly relative of the intricate mock-up that McRaven – who is now relinquishing control of the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in order to be promoted – used for preparing for last week’s targeted raid on Osama bin Laden.

The earliest document in Osama bin Laden’s FBI file, connected to Interpol case 1998/20232, contains an international arrest warrant issued, surprisingly, by the government of Libya. Muammar Gadhafi’s Justice Ministry declared that bin Laden and four of his associates were wanted for the murder of two German citizens in the Libyan city of Sirte in 1994, and for “illegal possession of firearms.” At the bottom of the page, Interpol has prominently added, whether at its own initiative or at Libya’s request, a declaration: The request for extradition of the suspects is relevant to all countries – excluding Israel. The FBI file notes that Theodore Katz, a federal judge in New York, signed an American arrest warrant, should bin Laden show his face (described in the document as having full beard and mustache, olive skin and no scars) in Manhattan. Back in 2000 the bounty offered for him was $5 million. Only after September 11, 2001, was the reward upped to $25 million, with another $2 million thrown into the pot by the American Airline Pilots Association.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

Al-Qaida confirms death of Osama bin Laden

Al-Qaida has issued its first confirmation of Osama bin Laden’s death in an Internet statement posted on militant websites, dispelling doubts and conspiracy theories that the Islamist leader did not actually die.

Friday’s statement by the terror network says “holy warrior” bin Laden’s blood “will not be wasted” and it will continue attacking Americans and their allies.

Al-Qaida said in the online statement that bin Laden’s blood is “is more precious to us and to every Muslim than to be wasted in vain”.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

How should Jews respond to bin Laden's death?

When the news of Osama bin Laden’s death at U.S. hands hit the airwaves Sunday, America breathed a collective sigh of relief. Spontaneous celebrations broke out in front of the White House, as crowds gathered to wave the Stars and Stripes and chant their delight.

But how should Jews respond when an evil-doer meets his end?

There is no easy answer, leading rabbis say.

Even asking the question is very Jewish, writes Rabbi Tzvi Freeman on Chabad.org.

“It’s so typically Jewish to feel guilty about rejoicing,” he opined.

A number of prominent rabbis spoke to JTA on the subject, sharing their conflicted reactions borne of a tension within Jewish teaching itself.

“As the president said, justice was done,” said Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism. “Bin Laden was an evil man. He preyed on the weak. He killed in the name of God.”

“But,” the rabbi continued, “I was not comfortable with the celebrations. Thoughtful discussion and thoughtful remembrance of recent events are to be preferred to dancing in the streets.”

There are examples within Jewish tradition of celebrating an enemy’s death, of asking God for their destruction.

Consider the Purim story, where the Jews feasted after slaying those who were, admittedly, arming to slay them. Or God’s command to King Saul to obliterate the entire house of Amalek for its wicked ways: “Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey” (I Sam. 15: 2-3).

Conversely, one of the best-known rituals of the Passover seder is spilling 10 drops of wine when mentioning the Ten Plagues to symbolize a lessening of our own joy in the face of Egyptian suffering. In Sanhedrin 39b, God admonishes the angels for rejoicing when the Egyptian soldiers drown in the Red Sea, saying “The work of My hands is drowning in the sea, and you want to sing?”

“I don’t think we ‘celebrate’ a death,” explained Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly, the professional association of Conservative clergy.

In the case of bin Laden there is, she said, “a sense of relief, an affirmation of God’s justice has been carried out.” Such an event, however, “is a time for sobriety, not celebration.”

Nevertheless, Schonfeld added, one needs to distinguish between an ideal, religiously inspired response and the reality of human nature.

“Sept. 11 was a day of tremendous trauma,” she said, and the raucous street celebrations can be viewed as a kind of catharsis. “What we’re seeing is a reminder of how personally people were affected. It’s an understandable human response that we as Jews are blessed to elevate to a Jewish response.”

Rabbi Basil Herring, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Council of America, the professional association for Orthodox clergy, also distinguished between the ideal and the real.

“In an ideal world, we serve God because we want to do His will, not because he rewards us or we fear punishment,” he said. “But we’re human, we’re not angels. We live in a world where people need reinforcement, need a sense that it’s all worth it in the end.”

The Jewish way is not to gloat, Herring said. It is appropriate to rejoice when evil doers get their just reward, but the rejoicing should be because we are witnessing God’s power and justice. It shouldn’t come, he said, from “a self-satisfied smug sense of ‘Yes, I’ve been proven right.’

“It’s an affirmation that God is not just an abstract idea, a Creator, but part of our lives,” Herring continued. “God cares. God loves us. That’s an essential article of our faith, that God rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked. We rejoice because our faith is borne out.”

Rabbi Arthur Waskow, a Jewish Renewal rabbi and director of Philadelphia’s Shalom Center, said he would have preferred that the Navy SEALS had brought bin Laden back to the United States to stand trial.

Just as Israeli agents didn’t kill Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann when they found him in Argentina a half-century ago, but tried him in Jerusalem to expose the true horror of the Holocaust and give its victims a chance to speak their truth, so would putting bin Laden on trial have been an opportunity to uncover the real face of al-Qaida, he said.

“That would have been an extraordinary act in support of upholding the values we claim make us different,” Waskow said.

Pointing to the story of Moses, Waskow quotes the Midrash as saying that one reason Moses was not permitted to cross the Jordan and enter the Promised Land was because in his youth he killed an Egyptian overseer without permitting him a trial.

Trying bin Laden “would have been messy,” Waskow acknowledged, “but in the long run I’m sure it would have been better.”

Senior Pakistan official: U.S. shot bin Laden in cold blood

A senior Pakistani security official said U.S. troops killed Osama bin Laden in “cold blood,” fuelling a global controversy and straining a vital relationship Washington was trying to repair on Thursday.

And Pakistan’s army, in its first comment since Monday’s raid, threatened to halt cooperation with its military sponsor if it repeated what it called a violation of sovereignty.

But U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington was still anxious to maintain its alliance with Islamabad.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

Jon Stewart on the bin Laden photo debate

Video courtesy of Comedy Central.

The Osama postmortem

Evaluating the responses to the US action against Osama bin Laden is an important element in understanding who the West’s true enemies really are.

There have been four significant voices speaking out against the killing of bin Laden.

The most obvious voice is that of the Taliban. The most vociferous belongs to Hamas, followed by a very significant group of Palestinians in East Jerusalem and finally, as one would expect, Iran.

All four groups are united in their claim that the United States overstepped its role and violated international law. They describe the action as a premeditated cold blooded murder. They call the attack on bin Laden an attack on all believing Muslims.

The skepticism that the Taliban are displaying over whether or not bin Laden is in fact and truly even dead is sincere. The Taliban want more evidence and on Wednesday they issued a statement saying that there is no real evidence of his death. But honestly, even had the entire event been broadcast live these ‘believers’ would not acknowledge what was being shown. The Taliban are true believers. They believe that Osama bin Laden was their great leader and they believe that the West, especially the United States, is the devil.

For Hamas and Islamists in East Jerusalem, the logic of their outcry makes sense. Bin Laden was their hero. Bin Laden challenged the US and the West. Bin Laden fought for the Muslim cause. For Hamas the demise of Bin Laden is a vehicle to garner supporters. For Hamas, the death of bin Laden is an opportunity. The murder of their hero at the hands of infidels is an opportunity to teach and to draw passive supporters and donors and fighters from al Qaeda into their stable. Now the leaders of Hamas can thrust themselves into the limelight as the center of Muslim activism challenging the established Western norm.

But why has Iran been critical of the demise of bin Laden?

Iran was a target of bin Laden. Iran and Osama bin Laden were sworn enemies. For bin Laden Iran represented religious heresy. Iranians were worse than non-believers, they believed in and follow the tenets of a misreading of the Prophet Mohamed.

So why is Iran upset by the demise of Osama bin Laden?

They are upset for the same reason that the Taliban, Hamas and segments of Palestinian East Jerusalem are upset. It is the reason that unites Muslim radicals around the world who wish to usurp the role of the United States as the preeminent cultural and economic and military power in the world.

The Machiavelli dictum is correct, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

These terrorists and terrorist supporters and terrorist wannabes have one thing in common. They despise US dominance and US values. They particularly resent the Western value of equality which includes equal rights for women and religious pluralism. They cannot comprehend the principle that suggests that you can agree to disagree and then leave it at that—and not take the further step and kill the person you disagree with.

Like Osama bin Laden, Iran, Hamas and other Islamists are united in their hatred of the West. What unites them is stronger than what separates them. We must be stronger than them all.

Micah D. Halpern is a columnist and a social and political commentator. His latest book is “Thugs: How History’s Most Notorious Despots Transformed the World through Terror, Tyranny, and Mass Murder” (Thomas Nelson).

Obama decides not to release photos of bin Laden’s body

U.S. President Barack Obama has decided not to release photos of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden dead, U.S. television networks said on Wednesday.

“We discussed this internally, did DNA sampling. It was important for us the photos won’t become a propaganda tool,” Obama said, according to White House spokesman Jay Carney.

“We don’t use this staff as a trophy that’s not who we are. Given the graphic nature of these pictures, it could be used for incitement members of my national security team agreed,” he said.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

Complete video footage from Obama’s announcement of bin Laden’s death [VIDEO]

CIA director: U.S. was concerned Pakistan may ‘alert targets’ before bin Laden operation

U.S. officials were concerned that Pakistan could jeopardize the Osama bin Laden operation and “might alert the targets,” CIA Director Leon Panetta said on Tuesday.

Meanwhile Pakistan’s president denied on Tuesday that his government may have sheltered a bin Laden but admitted that his security forces were left out of a U.S. operation to kill the al Qaida chief.

The revelation that bin Laden had holed up in a luxury compound in the military garrison town of Abbottabad, possibly for five to six years, prompted many U.S. lawmakers to demand a review of the billions of dollars in aid Washington gives to nuclear-armed Pakistan.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

State slams Hamas mourning of bin Laden

The Obama administration slammed as “outrageous” Hamas’ condemnation of the killing of Osama bin Laden.

“It goes without saying bin Laden was a murderer and a terrorist,” Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman told reporters. “He ordered the killings of thousands of innocent men, women and children, and many of whom were Muslim.”

Hamas had lauded the terrorist leader as a martyr in the wake of this weekend’s U.S. operation in Pakistan that killed him.

The Obama administration has expressed its dismay about last week’s reconciliation between Hamas, the terrorist group that runs the Gaza Strip, and the Palestinian Authority, but has stopped short of saying it will cut off the P.A.

Mahmoud Abbas, the P.A. president, welcomed the action against bin Laden.

Hideout of Osama bin Laden

Hideout of Osama bin Laden, the location of his death, in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Saving by remembering, first impression

Saving by Remembering

A little more than a month ago, Rabbi Levi Meier, died after a yearlong battle with brain cancer (“Rabbi Levi Meier, Whose Pulpit Was Hospital Rooms, Dies at 62,”). He was a man who cut a broad swath through the Los Angeles Jewish community, as captured by David Suissa’s eloquent obituary in The Journal on July 16.

Levi was a gentle man. He suffered with his cancer and with his treatment and was not reticent about saying so. He wondered aloud to me not just why this was happening to him and, more than once, whether or not he was going to make it — meaning not whether or not he was going to beat the disease but survive the chemotherapy, the radiation and the operations. That was also Levi — a man who had comforted thousands at their most vulnerable, unafraid of being vulnerable before a friend.

Post-diagnosis, the first thing Levi said to me upon my first visit was to ask my forgiveness for any slight he may have ever dealt me. There was, of course, nothing to forgive, and instead, I urged him to fight. Fighting — for I reasoned one must fight — gave one a better chance at survival, and I wanted desperately for him to win and survive.

I first got to know Levi in our Avi Chai Torah class, a unique monthly event for nearly eight years. In class, Levi had a way of bringing out the best in all of us. We became something of a family, bonding through the emotional camaraderie of study.

Later, because I worked nearby, I also sat in a weekly class in the Cedars-Sinai chapel, where we would sit in pews and study. I would often just stop in to see him. One day he might say, “Take a walk with me,” and we’d wander the hospital complex, more often than not to visit a patient, which, of course, was such a vital part of his daily work.

Perhaps as well known as any line of Gemara is the one that says saving the life of one Jew is like saving the entire Jewish people. But what does “save” have to mean? Must it mean rescue or preserve from harm or death, or can it mean, as well, to keep and preserve for the future.

And if we can save one person that way, is there a limit as to how many people we can save? Can we not then save the entire people? Do we save someone when we keep him or her alive in our hearts and our thoughts?

I think we do. I think we must. And that’s how I think of Rabbi Levi Meier.

Mitch Paradise
via e-mail

First Impressions

Rob Eshman asked [Umar] Cheema, the journalist from Pakistan: “Who is more popular in your country, George Bush or Osama bin Laden?” (“First Impressions,” Aug. 22.)

Cheema answered after a long silence: It’s not that Bin Laden is popular, just that Bush is so unpopular. “People only like Osama in reaction,” he said.

Then Eshman went on: “It’s a question I’ve been asking for five years, and the response is always the same, always sobering. It leads me to wonder — putting all blame aside — how far the image of this country has fallen in the world’s eyes, and if we can regain the ground we’ve lost.”

I wonder if Eshman had asked Muslim journalists before five years ago what was their impression of America? The World Trade Center has been attacked more than once. Was America more popular in the eyes of the Muslim world before Sept. 11?

I think it can be safely said that Israel is perceived as an extension of America in the Middle East by the Muslim world. I recall Abba Eban, that great statesman, of blessed memory, from Israel who represented Israel in the United Nations saying not too long after the Six-Day War: “If Algeria introduced a resolution declaring that the earth was flat and that Israel had flattened it, it would pass by a vote of 164 to 13, with 26 abstentions.”

I wonder if Eshman were to ask Daniel Pearl Fellows who is more popular in your country Bin Laden or Jews? Are Jews, in their eyes, self- interested, unilateral, bullying? Is all this a post-Sept. 11 phenomenon?

If any aspect of George Bush’s policies are perceived by the Muslim world enabling Israel, as the lone democracy in a dangerous neighborhood, to survive, perhaps, the real reason for Bush’s unpopularity in the Muslim world has more to do with the Jews and Israel than with America.

Gershon Weissman
Agoura Hills

Anti-Semitism on Campus

“Thank you for Brad Greenberg’s informative article on anti-Semitism on college campuses (“Quiet War on Campus,” Aug. 22).

Here in Pasadena, away from the mainstream Jewish community, we know firsthand the pressures that face our young adults as they head off to their college careers.

Anita Brenner, Peter Brier, Ahuva Einstein, Marty Levine, Edie Taylor
Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center
Israel Committee

Brad Greenberg is right.

Anti-Zionism/anti-Semitism remain a serious problem on American and international campuses. Some Jewish leaders have been lulled by the decreasing volatility of anti-Israel demonstrations, but like Greenberg, we have found that the problem is even more insidious today, with anti-Israel misinformation spread by mainstream figures like Jimmy Carter and professors whose students are captive — and often intimidated — audiences.

For example, UCLA professor Gabriel Pieterberg refused our offer to bring a mainstream speaker to his classes, which are obliged to listen to the anti-Zionist ideologues he typically invites, such as Ilan Pappe. Such practices are irresponsible, anti-intellectual and a method of indoctrination.

Unfortunately the message of the many professors like Pieterberg is further amplified by the hundreds of well-funded anti-Israel speakers and groups who annually tour campuses. We need to empower students with information so they can confidently challenge the one-sided views that denigrate Israel.

We are pleased that we have helped empower so many students, and Greenberg’s article underscores how much more we all need to do.

Roz Rothstein
International Director
Roberta Seid
Education Director

As a 24-year-old graduate of UCLA, I could attest to the very anti-Israel attitude that lurks around the campus atmosphere. However, I can also attest that there is an even greater danger, which is the loss of our fellow college-age Jews to non-Jewish boyfriends/girlfriends and Jews-for-Jesus movements.

These problems will continue to grow as we send our kids to public schools, thus ensuring the great ignorance of many in our community to the Jewish religion.

Another player at fault is the religious community here in Los Angeles, which seems more concerned that their slurpees are indeed kosher than the fact that their secular Jewish neighbors don’t know how to recite the Shema.

We Jews should be more responsible for each other. Let’s invite more of the nonreligious to our homes and help spread our wonderful Jewish values. And please, if your child will be attending college this year, please be less concerned that they will be exposed to anti-Semitism and more concerned that they will be further separated from the Jewish way of life.

Dina Michaels
Beverly Hills

I want to thank you for your well-researched article regarding campus anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism that is prevalent on college campuses. This troubling scenario has gone on for over eight years, with no let up in sight.

Due to the large amount of monies funding the Muslim Student Association by Saudi Arabia, it is a hard act to follow in these hard financial times.
One thing, however, troubled me. It was the lack of attention given to StandWithUs. As a local organization that has been on the ground floor dealing with the issues of anti-Semitism at UC Irvine, it has been in the forefront of the campus since the beginning of the Second Intifada.

As a former member of the organization, I witnessed, along with Roz Rothstein and Gary Ratner of the American Jewish Congress, the beginning of the tidal wave. And seeing how StandWithUs has taken the initiative and lead, it was disappointing not to see more credit given to an organization that is not only in your own backyard but has been the inspiration for other organizations on other coasts to follow the model of StandWithUs.

The amazing amount of materials and workshops have inspired not only students to become vocal and proud of standing for Israel, it has also brought parents, teachers and others into becoming active. StandWithUs deserves more recognition for being on the front lines.

Unfortunately, the need for such amazing organizations has not diminished due to the tensions in the Middle East and undue focus on Israel. StandWithUs has continued to rise to the occasion and be there for the students and faculty 24/7. This is something The Jewish Journal must acknowledge.

Allyson Rowen Taylor
Valley Glen

Hard Times

In the July 25 cover story, “Hard Times,” writer Brad Greenberg overlooked a politically incorrect factor in the banking crisis: illegal immigration.

Before you accuse me of immigrant bashing, the Los Angeles Times chronicled the aggressive efforts of mortgage lenders to reach out to the immigrant community in a front-page story headlined, “Mortgage Lenders Help Illegal Immigrants Become Homeowners” (Aug. 9, 2005).

Are illegal immigrants solely to blame for the current crisis? No. But why would any mortgage broker write a loan for a prospective homeowner with little or no credit, unreported income or, worse, a fraudulent Social Security number?

Well, ask your friends in the mortgage business how an unscrupulous lender can transform a low-paid gardener into a horticultural specialist with a six-figure income — and do it with the stroke of a pen.

Les Hammer

Strange Love

In his column, “Strange Love” (Aug. 22), David Suissa notes the behavior of a Christian missionary who approached him while in Boulder, Colo. While I certainly have no problem with the natural and inherent tug and pull that inevitably occurs from such encounters, what concerns me is the visceral reaction David had as a result of the missionary’s style and tactics and misconception of the message the missionary was trying to deliver that resulted from his reaction.

Clearly there was a communication gap. On the one hand, the missionary failed to communicate his message through his overwhelming and impassioned style, while we can see that David clearly missed the message from how he chooses to close his piece:

“No, indeed, they don’t want your money, I thought to myself. They want something more valuable.

“They want your soul — because they love you.”

The truth is that they don’t want your soul, what they want is to help you draw closer to God and in so doing, enjoy a fuller and more complete life now and in eternity.

The lesson here: to be extremely careful when encountering impassioned zealots, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, and not to confuse the message being delivered with the delivery of the message itself.

Jeff Kramer
Woodland Hills