Jews Must Choose


By what criteria should Jewish voters select Los Angeles’ next mayor? The March 8 election is looming as a referendum on first-term incumbent James K. Hahn.

As professor Raphael J. Sonenshein of California State University, Fullerton noted in an earlier Jewish Journal column, the Jewish community seems split mostly among three candidates.

More conservative, Valley-dwelling voters are especially drawn to attorney and former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg. Centrists, city employees and others closer to the power structure tend to favor Hahn. Westsiders and progressive Jews again may lean toward the charismatic last-minute loser of the 2001 campaign, Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa.

But splitting the vote is nothing new in this predominantly Democratic community. To some, the 25-year-old divisions over mandatory school busing remain unresolved. Recently, Republican upstart Arnold Schwarzenegger carried lots of Jewish voters in the Valley — many of whom had backed Valley secession.

For the undecided, what are the desiderata of a mayoral candidate?

“The most important thing is to get to the polls,” said Rabbi Laura Geller of Temple Emanuel. “It’s sad in a way that this has to be stressed, but this is something that fewer and fewer people are doing.”

“While we pray for the peace of our city, it matters for Jews [to vote] in order to be a part of our larger community,” she continued. “Unfortunately, nowadays, not everyone takes this obligation for granted. This year is the 350th anniversary of the arrival of Jews in America; it needs to be remembered how since then we’ve earned the privilege of electing our leaders.”

Longtime Democratic powerhouse Carmen Warschaw doesn’t hesitate to take sides. She supports Hahn.

“He’s done a good job,” Warschaw said, “and the problems with his administration,” those reported grand jury investigations and so on, “are the same ones any large-size administration has.”

It also matters to her that Hahn is a longtime supporter of Israel and Jewish causes. Hahn’s term will be remembered for his defeat of Valley secession and his decision to hire Police Chief William Bratton.

Businessman and publisher David Abel is a self-described policy wonk going way back, but that’s just one reason he favors Hertzberg, who is similarly inclined. He sees Hertzberg as “someone who will fight for the survival of the community. This city is at a turning point.”

The voter needs to pick someone who can put the entire city before everything else, Abel said, adding, “Someone who can say ‘no’ to his friends and take on the local power centers.”

Los Angeles’ mayor lacks legal authority over the local school system. But Abel asserted that Jewish voters should expect the next mayor to confront and transform the ungainly Los Angeles Unified School District.

After sitting 18 months on the citizens advisory panel for the school bond, Abel said, he grew to doubt that city schools can be greatly improved in the school district’s present form.

“Reforming East Germany was easier,” he said.

As Abel sees it, it is the next mayor’s job to make this happen. This, added Abel, is the best way to maintain Los Angeles’ eroding middle-class population.

Villaraigosa is the choice of Washington-based commentator Harold Meyerson, who spent most of his career in Los Angeles and still writes about L.A. politics. He said voters should take a more affirmative view. He doesn’t see the L.A. middle segment as eroding, but potentially increasing: “Antonio Villaraigosa wants to build up the middle class.”

Meyerson envisions Villaraigosa helping to bring the low-wage worker into the middle class through city policies and negotiations that are pro-labor. Meyerson noted that Los Angeles is usually rated the nation’s top manufacturing city. So some of corporate America must already be accommodating itself to city hall’s social agenda.

Many union leaders have concluded that this social agenda has made progress under Hahn. That’s why most of the unions are endorsing the incumbent.

For his part, Hertzberg emphasizes what he calls the city’s negative attitude toward business. He implies that being aggressively pro-labor could cost the city jobs.

For Geller, these divides over crucial issues underscore the importance of the election to Jews and everyone else.

“These are not specifically Jewish issues,” she said. “But they affect everyone. They move beyond ethnic politics and make us one community. This is the most important thing for voters to remember.”

Marc B. Haefele is news editor of the Los Angeles Alternative Press and comments on local government for KPCC-FM.


Peace Petition GetsWolfowitz’s Support

A grass-roots petition for Israeli-Palestinian peace, chugging along slowly for months, took off last week when a powerful and surprising name was attached to it.

Paul Wolfowitz, the U.S. deputy secretary of defense who is a close adviser to President Bush, voiced strong support for a plan formulated by former Israeli Shin Bet security chief Ami Ayalon and Palestinian intellectual Sari Nusseibeh.

“There are thousands of Israelis and Palestinians who feel the same way [that President Bush does],” Wolfowitz told a Georgetown University audience, referring to Bush’s support for side-by-side Israeli and Palestinian states under the “road map.” peace plan.

“How do I know?” he said. “Well, right now there is a significant grass-roots movement that has already gotten some 90,000 Israeli signatures and some 60,000 Palestinian signatures in support of principles that look very much like the road map favoring a two-state solution.”

Wolfowitz’s comments, buried in a lengthy prepared speech, surprised Israeli, American Jewish and Palestinian officials.

Wolfowitz has a reputation as a hawk, having built his career on arguing that a failure to deal decisively with terror and tyranny can be fatal. That is precisely Israel’s argument in its current dealings with terrorist groups and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. Wolfowitz also has emphasized repeatedly that Israel’s military strength is key to its survival.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s landslide election in February 2001 and his closeness to Bush supposedly had buried notions of an Israeli withdrawal from virtually the entire West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, which had informed peace talks at the Egyptian resort of Taba in the previous government’s dying days. The Ayalon-Nusseibeh plan appears to be modeled closely on the Taba talks.

“Everyone in Israel is reading this very carefully,” an Israeli official said. “If it comes from Wolfowitz, it’s serious.”

Wolfowitz’s support could mark a sea change for the Bush administration. Until now, the hallmark of Bush’s Middle East policy has been to avoid the talk of theoretical endgames that marked the Clinton administration’s final months, other than a commitment to vague notions of Palestinian statehood and an end to terrorism. Instead, Bush has insisted that Israel and the Palestinians come to an accommodation before the United States steps in.

By contrast, the one-page document Wolfowitz praised envisions a division of land along the pre-1967 armistice lines, uproots Israeli settlers from a future Palestinian state, establishes a physical connection between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, divides Jerusalem and quashes Palestinian refugees’ hopes for a “right of return” to Israel.

The Ayalon-Nusseibeh proposal still lacks the specifics of the Geneva accord, which was negotiated much more publicly by leading Israeli doves and Palestinian moderates.

According to leaked reports, those negotiators agreed to hand over to the Palestinians the Israeli city of Ariel in the West Bank and did not rule out a “right of return.” Their agreement, due to be signed in Switzerland on Nov. 20, has been widely derided in Israel; some hawks have called it treasonous.

The noise around the Geneva accord in Israel and Europe makes the attention Ayalon and Nusseibeh are getting here stand out. The New York Times ran an editorial last week on the petition drive, mentioning the Geneva agreement only as an afterthought.

Part of the reason for the duo’s sympathetic hearing is that they are less confrontational than the Geneva negotiators, and they have unassailable credentials. Ayalon shepherded the Shin Bet through one of its most difficult periods after it failed to protect Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin from assassination in 1995. Nusseibeh has pressed for accommodation, despite derision from Arafat and others, and even has been beaten by Palestinians angered by his willingness to compromise.

The Israeli and Palestinian political establishments have hardly noticed the petition until now, partly because Nusseibeh and Ayalon wanted it that way. Ayalon has said they hope to garner approximately 250,000 signatures from each side before taking the petition to the Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

After a summer of quiet campaigning, the drive has stalled at about 60,000 signatures on the Palestinian side and 100,000 on the Israeli side. A trip to Washington last month may have been aimed at getting the kind of publicity that would give the effort a second wind.

“Our hope is to take this single page and put it inside the road map,” Nusseibeh said.

Wolfowitz made exactly that connection, though experts and officials were cautious about how far the United States would go with the idea.

“It would be over-extrapolating to say that, beyond the commitment to a two-state solution — which is already policy — exact lines would be announced at a speech by an official who doesn’t deal with this issue,” said David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Nevertheless, Makovsky stressed the significance of Wolfowitz’s comments.

Ziad Abu Amr, a leading Palestinian legislator from Gaza, expressed skepticism that the plan would take hold among the parties.

“This plan is very controversial, and with only 60,000 Palestinians and 100,000 Israelis, it is not a breakthrough,” he said.

Whatever its popular support, the plan might be less important than the frustration Wolfowitz repeatedly expressed. In a question-and-answer session after the talk, he chided a student who criticized Israel for violating “tons” of human rights — because she didn’t go far enough.

“You cited some things that Israelis have to change, and you could make a longer list,” Wolfowitz said. “You could have talked about settlements, for example. The president has talked about settlements, he’s talked about the wall. He’s talked about the suffering of Palestinians under Israeli occupation. There’s no question that the president is prepared to put pressure on the Israelis to change.”

An Israeli official expressed amazement that Wolfowitz used the term “wall,” the Palestinian description of Israel’s security barrier, which some have said conjures up the image of a ghetto. The overwhelming majority of the barrier is electronic fencing, with only several short portions — where a major highway passes next to Palestinian cities — consisting of an actual wall.

Bush and his aides clearly place most of the blame for the continuing violence on Arafat. However, U.S. officials say they also see moderate Palestinian leaders ready to succeed Arafat and worry that Sharon will prejudice a workable outcome by carving the West Bank into cantons through settlement building and the security barrier.

The signals are not coming only from Wolfowitz. Administration officials closely monitored the brouhaha that erupted last week between Sharon’s government and army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya’alon, who complained that restrictive measures were increasing Palestinian violence, rather than reducing it.

“We believe that it is exceedingly important that the Israelis improve the lives of the Palestinian people,” Bush’s national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, told a group of foreign journalists Oct. 30, the same day as Wolfowitz’s speech.

Rice and others also were furious at Sharon’s suggestion last week that a second security barrier could run through the Jordan Valley, cutting Palestinians off from Jordan and surrounding them with Israelis.

Much of the impetus for the tough talk stems from administration efforts to earn credibility — especially in the Arab world — for the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq.

Israelis and Arabs are closely watching what happens next. The United States has some leverage with $3 billion in loan guarantees due to Israel next year; it has pledged to deduct the cost of new building in West Bank settlements and could also deduct the $1 billion-plus cost of the fence.

Open Debate Preferable to Blind Support

A recent report in The New York Times captured almost perfectly the thorny questions that stand at the center of relations between the American Jewish community and Israel. Should one be permitted to criticize the government of a foreign country with which one feels a deep affinity, or is it a moral and political imperative to support the policies of that government, right or wrong?

What was so striking about The Times article was that it raised these questions not about the American Jewish community and Israel, but rather about the African American community and Zimbabwe.

The parallels between the two cases couldn’t be more intriguing. Just as a number of American Jews, usually of the progressive persuasion, have asserted their right and responsibility to criticize Israeli government policy, so, too, a group of African American intellectuals and activists recently abandoned their posture of strong support and advocacy for Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe by issuing a stinging condemnation of his policies, including appropriation of white-owned farmland.

In a letter of June 3, 2003, they recalled their “strong historical ties to the liberation movements in Zimbabwe, which included material and political support, as well as opposition to U.S. government policies that supported white minority rule.” But they quickly moved on to denounce “the political repression under way in Zimbabwe as intolerable and in complete contradiction of the values and principles that were both the foundation of your liberation struggle and of our solidarity with that struggle.”

This public letter provoked a torrent of responses from African Americans, many of whom were critical of the signatories. According to The Times account, the letter writers have been cast as “politically naive, sellouts and misguided betrayers of liberation struggle.”

Among the more serious critics, professor Ronald Walters of the University of Maryland justified his opposition to the letter by stating that “I am on the side of the people who claim there’s a justice issue in terms of the land. You can’t escape the racial dynamic, and you can’t escape the political history.”

Another critic, Mark Fancher, questioned the legitimacy of the letter writers. “This is an African problem, a Zimbabwean problem” — beyond the ken of “people who are really disconnected from the day-to-day lives of people in Zimbabwe.”

It is hard not to hear in those words echoes of a refrain frequently uttered in the American Jewish community — the gist of which is that it is the responsibility of American Jews to express enthusiastic and unequivocal support for the government of Israel.

The underlying logic is that American Jews are themselves “disconnected from the day-to-day lives” of Israelis. It is not they who fight the wars or suffer from the scourge of terrorism; consequently, they have no standing to criticize. Indeed, to express criticism of Israeli policies is to abet the enemy — and thereby come dangerously close to treason.

I am familiar with these arguments, because I have often been on the wrong end of them. Those of us American Jews who have felt compelled to condemn the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as immoral, self-destructive and a violation of Israel’s own best ideals have often faced the wrath of fellow community members. How could a Jew attack Israel in a time of need? Hadn’t the Palestinians surrendered any right to a state? Weren’t they better off now than before 1967?

A similar set of justifications now issues from the mouths of the opponents of Mugabe’s African American critics. How can one attack an African leader, a heroic figure, in time of need? After all, as Fancher asserts, “The one thing nobody disputes is that, whether he won or not, Mugabe got a lot of votes.” Such statements reveal the absurdity — and moral bankruptcy — of blind support.

Curiously, the tables have turned in the case of American Jews and Israel. Not too long ago, it was taboo to criticize Israel’s occupation. Israel’s government had to be supported, regardless of its policies.

But will the same people who insisted on these principles now be able to reverse course? After all, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, in a speech to his own party, used the “O” word — occupation — to refer to Israel’s hold on the West Bank and Gaza. All of the extraordinary Israeli and Jewish public relations efforts that went into claiming that the territories were “administered” rather than “occupied” went out the door after that speech.

Even more significantly, Sharon has adopted the “road map” for peace. The logic of blind support would dictate that American Jews line up in warm embrace of this Israeli government policy.

It is tempting to argue that those who demanded in an earlier period that American Jewish progressives hold their criticism do the same as Israel enters a new and more promising phase, even if they have reservations about the road map. Tempting perhaps, but not beneficial in the long run.

The recent case of African Americans and Zimbabwe reveals that the stifling of dissent not only reinforces a dangerous status quo but replicates the very policies of repression that one might want to criticize. Open debate, with all its messiness, is preferable to blind support.

This is an important principle to keep in mind — now and in the future — as Jews and African Americans debate the policies of, and demonstrate their bonds to, the countries of their dreams.

David N. Myers is professor of Jewish history and vice chair of the history department at UCLA.

Increasing Political Isolation for Jews

If all those statistics are true about Jews still being one of the most liberal voting blocs in the nation, why are they increasingly estranged from the American left?

Easy: The left, ranging from the anti-globalism fringes to the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to some segments of the mainstream liberal community, has adopted policies and perspectives that even many progressive Jews regard as offensive and dangerous.

Good causes have been rendered marginal by activists looking for easy-to-grasp heroes and villains; political correctness has turned Israel from a noble experiment into the ultimate example of vicious colonialism.

And a political culture that can’t say no to extremists has turned the concept of civil rights on its head. It’s no longer unusual to see activists peddling the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" at anti-war and anti-globalism rallies — and for organizers, for all their talk of human rights, to remain silent in the face of this overt anti-Semitism.

That’s producing a kind of political disenfranchisement for Jewish voters who remain strongly liberal, but increasingly lack partners with whom to pursue those political interests.

The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) is in sync with mainstream Jewish voters on a host of important domestic issues. But there is also no other group that is as tolerant of some of the most anti-Israel and

anti-Jewish voices.

Many have been highly critical of Israel in recent years. That’s no sin, since many American Jews and Israelis openly criticize Israeli policies.

But many of these lawmakers go further by giving legitimacy to those who criticize the very idea of Israel, and whose criticism veers off into outright anti-Semitism.

When a United Nations conference

on racism was hijacked by anti-Israel forces and turned into a lynch mob of open anti-Semitism, administration officials boycotted the conference — but leading CBC members, including Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) demanded full U.S. participation.

When McKinney and Rep. Earl Hilliard (D-Ala.) lost their reelection bids, some CBC members complained about excessive Jewish influence in American democracy. McKinney’s father, a defeated state legislator, was blunter: when asked about why she lost, he angrily spelled out the reason: "J-E-W-S."

Overt expressions of racial intolerance are no longer acceptable in American life, but if the targets are Jews or Jewish influence, many who rally under the civil rights banner are surprisingly tolerant of intolerance.

Other CBC members have provided a Capitol Hill platform for Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. When Farrakhan returned from a recent Mideast "peace mission," it was CBC founder Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) who provided him a forum, as if he was a legitimate statesman, not a garden-variety bigot.

It’s not just the CBC.

When anti-globalism, anti-International Monetary Fund forces come to Washington to demonstrate, a wide range of left-wing groups rally under a banner that also includes nutty anarchists and aggressive pro-Palestinian forces.

Collectively, they depict Israel as the last colonial power and the ultimate example of institutional human rights abuses, Yasser Arafat and Saddam Hussein as misunderstood freedom fighters, Zionism as inherently racist.

That same process is at work in the nascent anti-war movement focused on the expected U.S. strike against Iraq.

Many Jews probably share the aversion to a unilateral, preemptive U.S. strike, but don’t expect to see lots of Jews joining anti-war demonstrations; the movement is already linked to the same pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli forces that produced so much overt anti-Semitism at the U.N. racism conference.

Even Tikkun Magazine Editor Michael Lerner, in a letter to supporters, expressed concern about "vulgarity and anti-Semitism" in the new anti-war movement. The left just can’t say no to groups, however extreme and however intolerant, as long as their intolerance is wrapped in the proper Third World, anti-colonialist argot.

Another example: the divestment campaign on American college campuses, which reached an absurdist crescendo with the recent divestment conference at the University of Michigan.

Many Israelis agree that their country has a human rights problem. But to say that Israel is in the same league as Sudan, Iraq, Iran, Syria or an endless list of others reflects a breathtaking lack of balance that looks more like political correctness run amok and a pathological hatred of Israel than compassion for victims.

Overwhelmingly, the left chooses to ignore genocide by Third World countries, while relentlessly criticizing Israel for an occupation most recent governments have tried to end.

The result: Jews who remain liberal, which means a majority are becoming politically isolated.

Their views on a host of domestic issues remain progressive and they continue to be turned off, not only by the Republican Party’s positions on those issues, but by the iron grip of the religious right on the GOP.

But increasingly, they feel uncomfortable in coalitions with groups that tolerate or even encourage the viscerally anti-Israel, Third World rhetoric and misguidedly accepts anti-Semitism in the name of human rights.

The Ties Grow Stronger

Launched in the shadow of Sept. 11, the Jewish year 5762 was marked for Israel by two developments directly related to those terrorist attacks: a tightening of ties between Israel and the United States and a growing American disaffection with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.

Shortly after the planes hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, many Americans said they understood how Israelis felt, living in a society threatened by terror. Aside from the immediate emotional identification between the two nations’ plights, however, a larger strategic alliance developed in the ensuing months.

In one of the defining policy pronouncements of his early presidency, President Bush said shortly after Sept. 11 that the international community would be divided between those who supported terrorism and those who opposed it.

Arafat ultimately came down on the wrong side, and paid the price in diplomatic ostracism. The discrediting of Arafat in American eyes was, for Israel, the most significant political development of 5762, and appreciably changed the diplomatic balance between Israel and the Palestinians.

The process of discrediting the Palestinian leader took several months. Sensing the political shift, Arafat on Sept. 19 prudently declared a cease-fire in the intifada against Israel. If Palestinian attacks on Israel continued, he realized, he risked being branded as a sponsor of terrorism.

Although the cease-fire failed to hold, even for a few days, Bush gave Arafat the benefit of the doubt, and in early October formally noted America’s support for the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. In November, Secretary of State Colin Powell followed this up with a major policy speech at the University of Louisville in which he called for an end to the intifada, an end to the Israeli presence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the creation of a viable Palestinian state.

With the Palestinian terrorist onslaught continuing and even intensifying, however, American perceptions began to change.

In late November, retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni arrived in Israel as Powell’s special envoy, charged with hammering out a cease-fire. Instead, the Palestinians greeted Zinni with a series of terror attacks that, over the course of a single weekend in early December, left 25 Israelis dead and almost 230 wounded. The attacks shattered Zinni’s mission.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon held Arafat "directly responsible for everything that’s happening," terming him "the great obstacle to peace and stability in the Middle East." A few days later, after an Israeli bus was attacked outside the West Bank settlement of Immanuel on Dec. 12, killing 10 people and wounding 23, the Israeli Cabinet issued a statement declaring Arafat "no longer relevant," and severing all contact with him.

Signaling his dismay at the Palestinians, Bush temporarily recalled Zinni, but sent him back to the region in late December.

The decisive shift in Bush’s attitude toward Arafat came after Israel on Jan. 3 seized the Karine-A, a ship purchased by the Palestinians and laden with arms acquired in Iran. The 50-ton cargo included Katyusha rockets, mortars, anti-tank missiles, anti-tank mines, sniper rifles and other munitions.

Arafat repeatedly denied any involvement, and the Americans at first were reluctant to believe that the arms had been purchased on his authority. Within days, however, Israel was able to prove that the arms had been purchased by Fuad Shubaki, a member of Arafat’s inner circle whom the Palestinian leader often used as a financial go-between.

By mid-January, the CIA was convinced of Arafat’s direct involvement in the arms deal and of his links with Tehran, which formed part of Bush’s "Axis of Evil."

Reportedly livid at the Palestinian leader’s lies, Bush several weeks later formally suspended the Zinni mission and announced that he was "disappointed in Arafat." In early February, Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Arafat "must confront terror and choose peace over violence. He cannot have it both ways."

Still, the administration stopped short of severing ties with the Palestinian leader.

After months of suicide bombings, culminating in the Park Hotel massacre in Netanya on March 27, in which 29 Israelis, mostly elderly, were killed as they sat down to a Passover meal, Israel launched Operation Protective Wall, a major ground offensive designed to crush the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure in the West Bank.

However, when the Israel Defense Forces trapped Arafat in his headquarters in Ramallah, Powell crossed the army cordon to meet the Palestinian leader in an abortive attempt to broker a cease-fire.

The invasion of the West Bank ended in controversial standoffs at Arafat’s compound and at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, but Israel did manage to uncover a trove of documents in Palestinian Authority offices clearly proving Arafat’s personal involvement in Palestinian terror.

In early June, Sharon convinced Bush that persisting with Arafat was "a cardinal error." On June 24, in a long-awaited policy speech, the president appeared to signal the end of the Arafat era, calling on the Palestinians to elect new leaders "not compromised by terror."

The Bush speech was followed by a joint Israeli-American demand for extensive reform of Palestinian political, financial and military institutions. This was a logical outcome of the new insistence on a Palestinian leadership that could be trusted to keep a peace agreement that entailed major Israeli concessions.

For the Israelis, the key demand was reform of the Palestinian security apparatus, in the hope that once this was implemented, the Palestinians would be able — and willing — to control terror.

One of the immediate implications of Arafat’s gradual loss of credibility was that Israel was able to take increasingly tough countermeasures against Palestinian violence as the year progressed. When, after the Oct. 17 assassination of Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evi in Jerusalem, the IDF moved ground forces into six Palestinian cities. The Americans immediately pressured Israel to speedily withdraw.

The same thing happened soon after Operation Protective Wall was launched in the spring, but that time Sharon kept Israeli troops in place for several weeks.

When, after another wave of terror attacks, Israel moved back into Palestinian cities in mid-July in Operation Determined Path, there was virtually no American protest.

So, too, with Israel’s policy of targeted killings of known Palestinian terrorists. While at first controversial, the killings elicited less and less criticism as the year progressed — though critics argued that at times they were counterproductive.

After Israel’s mid-January killing of Raed Karmi, the head of Arafat’s Tanzim militia in Tulkarm and a leading instigator of attacks, Palestinians launched a ferocious wave of terror that started with a deadly shooting attack on a bat mitzvah celebration in Hedera in mid-January and culminated in the Netanya attack in late March.

Israel, nevertheless, persisted with its targeted killings. In late July, the air force assassinated the military chief of Hamas, Salah Shehada, dropping a one-ton bomb on his Gaza apartment and killing at least 14 civilians, including nine children. That attack prompted a wave of international condemnation and sparked a new round of Hamas attacks — and, according to some Palestinian sources, undermined chances for at least a partial cease-fire.

Despite growing American support, Israel faced much international, especially European, criticism for its handling of the intifada. Sharon was castigated in the European press for refusing to allow Arafat to attend Christmas services in Bethlehem or the Arab League summit in Beirut in late March, where Arab countries endorsed a Saudi initiative for normal relations with Israel in exchange for an Israeli withdrawal to its pre-1967 borders.

But the heaviest criticism came after a heated early April battle in the Jenin refugee camp, where Palestinians claimed a massacre had taken place, involving several hundred to several thousand victims. Though Israel said only 52 Palestinians — most of them armed fighters — had been killed, the massacre claim gained credence around the world.

Israel initially agreed to allow a U.N. Security Council team to come to Jenin to investigate the claims, but later reversed its stand when the United Nation’s refusal to address Israeli concerns led some to conclude that Israel was being set up for condemnation by a biased jury.

In July, a U.N. report dismissed the massacre claims, but criticized the IDF for allegedly not allowing humanitarian aid to reach Palestinians for several days.

The Jenin battle also coincided with calls throughout Europe to boycott Israeli goods and end contact with Israeli academics and other professionals. Such calls made little progress, but anti-Israel media, anti-Israel demonstrations throughout the Continent and an outbreak of anti-Semitic attacks tied to the intifada showed how low Israel had fallen in Europe’s estimation.

The intifada took an enormous economic toll on both Israel and the Palestinians. On the Palestinian side, economic activity ground to a halt, and food supplies grew scarce when Israel imposed long curfews on Palestinian cities to curb terrorist movements.

On the Israeli side, investments dried up; GDP per capita fell by 6 percent over a two-year period; fewer than 400,000 tourists visited in the first half of 2002; and unemployment was rapidly reaching record levels of more than 10 percent. The government introduced a number of austerity programs but failed to reinvigorate the economy or restore public confidence in its economic policies.

On the domestic political front, the Labor Party remained in disarray as it struggled to find a leader, and many members called on the party to leave Sharon’s national unity government. Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer bested Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg in a disputed election for party chairman, but was expected to face additional opposition when Labor held yet another leadership vote in November.

For a time it seemed that longtime Labor politico Haim Ramon would challenge Ben-Eliezer in November. In August, however, Haifa Mayor Amram Mitzna, a former general whose initial interviews suggested strongly left- wing views, emerged as a potential challenger.

More ferment was evident on the two fringes of the political spectrum. In March, the far-right National Unity-Israel, Our Home bloc deserted the unity government because it felt Sharon was not being tough enough on Palestinian terror.

On the left, more dovish elements of the Labor Party and some leaders of the Meretz Party debated breaking away to form a new left-wing movement that would focus on social justice and seek to revive the peace process with the Palestinians.

On the religious front, the fervently Orthodox Shas Party threatened to withdraw from the government in May unless Sharon met their funding demands at a time when the government was facing severe budget cuts. Unlike previous prime ministers, who largely gave in to Shas’ demands, Sharon stared them down, firing the Shas ministers and allowing them back into the government only when they agreed to vote for his budget.

Yet for many Israelis, political intrigue and realignment seemed an abstract concern in 5762; the main priority merely was to stay alive.

Some pinned their hopes on the construction of a security fence that Sharon approved in June along Israel’s convoluted border with the West Bank. But others warned that in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not even good fences would make good neighbors.

Sept. 11 Forced Shift to Israel

It was only a day after the Twin Towers had fallen, and already it seemed that United States policy toward Israel was changing.

Walking into a packed briefing room on Sept. 12, Secretary of State Colin Powell outlined America’s intention to retaliate against Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorist group and head off the threat of subsequent attacks.

"I think when you are attacked by a terrorist, and you know who the terrorist is, and you can fingerprint back to the cause of the terror, you should respond," Powell said. "If you are able to stop terrorist attacks, you should stop terrorist attacks."

Many pro-Israel activists hoped those words, along with countless other utterances in the weeks and months that followed, would force the United States to drop its "even-handed" approach toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israeli policies like targeted killings of terrorists and military incursions into Palestinian areas, which once brought rebukes from the United States, seemed to be little different to the pro-Israel community from what American forces were doing in Afghanistan — and Israel’s supporters hoped the similarities would be noticed.

Almost a year later, analysts say they believe the United States has noticed: It is increasingly empathetic to Israel’s plight in the face of Palestinian terror, and U.S. policy has shifted substantially.

But it was not a knee-jerk reaction, analysts say.

"The government went through an evolution," said Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, a Philadelphia-based think tank.

After the initial empathy toward Israel, the Bush White House began to broaden its view of the war on terrorism and considered an attack against Iraq. The need for Arab support was seen as crucial to the effort, and there was concern that Israeli concessions to the Palestinians would be demanded as an enticement to Arab states to join a coalition to remove Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from power.

For several months, pressure grew on Israel to drop its insistence that Palestinian violence end before peace talks could resume, and the Bush administration began to speak openly about a future Palestinian state.

All that was necessary, it appeared, was for Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat to take some steps against terrorism — or at least appear to do so — for the ball to be placed firmly in Israel’s court.

"In the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, there developed an unexpected opening for U.S. influence on the Palestinians to end their terrorism," said Henry Siegman, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

But Arafat, misreading the new geostrategic map, gambled that he could continue sponsoring terrorism without sacrificing American support — and miscalculated badly.

The turning point came in January, when Arafat baldly lied to the Bush administration about his ties to a shipment of 50 tons of forbidden weapons from Iran, a charter member of President Bush’s "Axis of Evil."

The Bush administration found that, in any case, it would not have Arab support for its actions in Iraq. Bush vowed to go into Iraq alone if necessary, reducing the importance of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a factor in American planning.

"The Arab leverage is much reduced because they are not onboard and are not about to be," Pipes said. "Earlier attempts to win their approval have ended, and one sees a much tougher-minded Arab policy."

The new U.S. perspective has been one of increasing empathy and tolerance for Israeli self-defense tactics. Much of the change coincided with a rash of suicide bombings around Passover in late March, including one at a seder in Netanya that killed 29 Israelis.

"I think the Passover bombing was suddenly viewed as something more comparable to the Twin Towers," said Lenny Ben-David, a former Israeli diplomat. "That probably cemented American attitudes toward Israel."

Looking around the Middle East, America saw few real friends aside from Israel. In the eyes of the American public and government, skepticism has grown about the Arab states’ true allegiances. Ben-David said the most significant change since the Sept. 11 attacks is the new scrutiny given to radical Muslim groups.

"Before Sept. 11, people discounted what was being said in the Muslim world," he said. "Osama bin Laden was threatening for several years and no one took it seriously. Arafat was threatening and people didn’t take it seriously."

American frustration with the actions of the Palestinians and Arafat has grown. Many were startled by the scenes of Palestinians dancing in the streets after the World Trade Center collapsed. But it was the arms shipment from Iran that placed the Palestinian leadership squarely in the category of a friend of terrorism, in the minds of the Bush administration.

Presumed links between Saudi Arabia and Palestinian terrorist groups, and between Arafat and Hussein, also helped place the Palestinians on the wrong side of Bush’s "you’re either with us or against us" equation.

In contrast, the past year has seen greater U.S. reliance on Israel. So often the beneficiary of the U.S.-Israeli alliance, Israel was able to give the United States advice and resources on the new challenges America faced in the post-Sept. 11 world, such as airline and homeland security and information on the terrorist infrastructure. Analysts also said that the shift toward Iraq as a target has solidified U.S. attitudes toward Israel.

"When the United States went after Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, Israel was a problem," Ben-David said. "For the United States to go after Saddam Hussein, Israel is not the same problem."

But with the Bush administration divided on the wisdom of attacking Iraq, some voices still believe the United States should be courting Arab support.

By and large, however, administration hawks who advocate regime change in Iraq are winning the president’s ear, and there has been less open courting of Arab leaders.

Hypothetical questions remain as to whether U.S. policy toward Israel and the Middle East would have evolved as it did regardless of Sept. 11, given the intensification of the Palestinian terror onslaught. But analysts say that Sept. 11 focused the Bush administration’s foreign policy.

"We tend to forget that prior to Sept. 11, the administration was simply uninvolved" in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Siegman said.

Justice Delayed and Justice Denied

Holocaust survivors have been waiting decades to reclaim Holocaust-era insurance policies. Unfortunately, the findings of an ongoing congressional investigation I initiated indicate that their wait is far from over.

In 1998, the International Commission on Holocaust-Era Insurance Claims (ICHEIC) was set up to settle outstanding policies issued to victims of the Holocaust as quickly as possible. In November 2001, the House Government Reform Committee conducted an oversight hearing on the work of the ICHEIC, and the findings were disheartening.

ICHEIC revealed that it has spent over $40 million in salaries, administrative expenses and outreach, while paying barely $12 million to survivors and their families. Of the 77,800 claim applications received by ICHEIC, only 758 resulted in offers, yielding an approval rate of only 1 percent. In many instances, survivors and their families cannot name the insurance company that provided the Holocaust-era insurance. But even among those applications that name specific companies, the compensation rate was less than 10 percent.

The main cause of the failure to resolve claims appears to be the actions — and the inaction — of insurance companies. The majority of the companies that have agreed to the ICHEIC process have not lived up to their obligation to disclose policyholder lists. The ICHEIC member companies also appear to have wrongfully rejected, undervalued or left unanswered the claims of many survivors. And the majority of German insurance companies have refused to even join the ICHEIC process.

I was surprised and disappointed by the response of ICHEIC Chairman Lawrence Eagleburger during the hearing to questions regarding the administration of ICHEIC itself. When I pressed Eagleburger for more information about ICHEIC’s $40 million in expenditures on salaries, office space, meetings and outreach, he became angry and said, "I’m not going to sit here and spend my time to tell you something that is frankly none of your business."

It would be deeply troubling if ICHEIC could operate without oversight, as its existence is central to the current United States policy on Holocaust-era insurance claims.

Under a July 2000 agreement with Germany, the United States agreed to urge U.S. courts to dismiss all cases involving Holocaust-era claims against German companies, including insurance claims that come under the scope of ICHEIC, for all companies that contribute to a $4.4 billion fund established for the settlement of these claims. A similar agreement was signed with Austria. However, the U.S. government’s determination of whether to intervene in an insurance case does not take into account whether or not a company has abided by ICHEIC’s rules and standards. Thus, if the ICHEIC system isn’t working, Holocaust survivors — many of whom are nearing the end of their lives — may have no meaningful recourse for their claims.

Take the example of Judith Steiner, a Los Angeles area survivor who was only 7 years old when her family was deported from Hungary to a series of concentration camps. After the war ended, she was miraculously able to recover some of her family’s belongings. She submitted a claim to ICHEIC with a copy of a premium payment her grandfather paid to a subsidiary of the German insurer Allianz. The company’s insignia was on the page, yet she was rejected because "no evidence of contractual relationship could be found."

The rejection of Steiner’s claim was in clear violation of ICHEIC rules, but it wasn’t until a year later, after I raised her case at the hearing, that the company acknowledged "a clerical oversight" and the firing of the claim-handler who made the mistake.

Without proper oversight and monitoring to catch these errors, many Holocaust survivors like Steiner, face a Catch-22: They could file an appeal, but ICHEIC rules require them to waive their right to file suit against the company and the appeal decision would be final. Even if they did go to court, the U.S. government would ask for the dismissal of their case.

This is the worst kind of unfairness. It is justice delayed and justice denied.

In light of the current U.S. policy, it is entirely Congress’ prerogative to make sure that ICHEIC is operating efficiently and effectively.

The hearing in November sparked several important developments. During the hearing, Eagleburger announced a plan to institute a policing commission to make sure that companies are following ICHEIC rules. I look forward to seeing this system swiftly put into place. In January, the deadline for submitting claims was extended from the original Feb. 15 deadline through Sept. 30, 2002.

While I am still concerned that the deadline extension will make little difference unless a comprehensive list of Holocaust-era policyholders is published, I am cautiously optimistic that more names will be forthcoming. I will also keep working for the passage of H.R. 2693, the Holocaust Victims Insurance Relief Act, legislation I introduced to require all insurance companies operating in the United States to disclose the names on policies issued in Nazi Europe. I am determined to do everything necessary to make sure that ICHEIC is held accountable to the public and to the individual survivors who have been waiting so long for answers.

Given the concerns that have been raised about insurance companies’ commitment to the ICHEIC process, it is time for the United States to explore new forms of leverage that will compel the insurance companies to live up to their obligations. Otherwise, many Holocaust survivors may never see justice in their lifetimes.

Saying Uncle?

Let’s not kid ourselves: Jewish Community Centers of Greater Los Angeles (JCCGLA) has been hurting for a long, long time. If some part of the system of centers and services are to be saved, as hundreds if not thousands of Jews are now trying to do, it will take surgery, not first aid.

The current crisis may be the most severe, but it didn’t arrive without warning: there have been years of public struggle over center programs and policies, a general dilapidation of many center properties, and a steady drop in overall center membership.

Now, in what only seems like a flash, the JCCGLA’s largest single benefactor, The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, has refused to give the flailing system a penny more to keep it afloat beyond June. What’s more, it wants JCCGLA to sell its properties in order to pay off a commercial bank loan The Federation is guaranteeing. Five of seven centers face complete closure and likely sale.

The Federation is not a bank, its leaders point out, the JCCGLA has no money, and at the end of the day, this is a money problem.

Or is it?

I’m realistic enough to know that behind every visionary plan there’s the problem of money, and I’m idealistic enough to believe that behind most money problems there’s a crisis of vision.

There is certainly enough money in this town to solve the JCC’s money woes. Depending on who tells more of the financial truth better (more on that later), the sums are not huge. Organizers out to save the Westside JCC say their deficit is $200,000. Even if they’re wrong by a factor of five, you’re still in the ballpark of affordable philanthropy. Last Sunday morning, a handful of organizers enabled 12,000 people committed to helping victims of Palestinian terror raise $500,000 — before lunch.

If money is not the problem, vision is. Those who believe in the utter necessity of a JCC system to attract future generations of committed Jews of all beliefs, of all backgrounds, of all income levels into Jewish life, have simply not been successful at making that case to people with money.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the JCCs epitomized the aggregation of both vision and money. The membership rolls of the JCC in its heyday boasted the movers and shakers of L.A. Jewry. Lou Warschaw was JCC president in the 1950s when the organization decided it was time to close the Michigan Soto Center, as Jews had mostly moved west. That decision also caused an uproar, but Warschaw and his board did it as they bolstered the system elsewhere. But let the system collapse? They built it. They believed in it.

Most communities still do. They depend on JCCs to reach out to Jews who are on the margins of Jewish life. In New York City, New Orleans, Orange County, Newton, Mass., Toronto and Silicon Valley, communities have spent millions on saving and revitalizing their JCCs.

JCCs in these cities face the same pressures those in Los Angeles do: limited resources, competition from synagogues and health clubs, changing demographics, aging structures. Their leaders saw these obstacles as challenges, not excuses. The same week the JCCGLA here announced its closures, The Forward newspaper in New York reported that the city’s preeminent JCC, the 92nd Street Y, had entered into an arrangement to offer salon and aromatherapy services, in order to attract a new generation of upscale Jews. The idea is to change with the times, not just give up.

As intermarriage and assimilation become greater challenges to creating a strong community, JCCs are ideally suited to draw in families who would never think — or who could never afford — to join a synagogue. The Silverlake-Los Feliz JCC serves an area thirsty for Jewish life: Temple Israel of Hollywood has grown 20 percent over the past five years. The Westside JCC still sits in the midst of numerous Jewish neighborhoods — The Federation paid for a demography study that proves it. Bay Cities, North Valley and West Valley JCCs also serve eager, diverse Jewish populations. If certain JCCs refuse to change and adapt to meet current Jewish needs, goodbye and good luck. But are we ready to let the whole system go down with no replacement?

Traditionally, JCCs have funneled their users into greater Jewish involvement. Rabbis and other Jewish leaders need to weigh in on behalf of one of the few Jewish institutions in this town that can reach across boundaries and bring our disparate Jewish communities together.

So why are so many people so willing to write this crisis off? For one, those responsible for the JCC system screwed up big time. Over the years, the level of mismanagement, miscommunication and neglect would be laughable if the results were not so bitter for thousands of JCC users and laid-off employees. The Journal is not ready to point fingers (yet), but activists and potential donors would be wise to demand a full accounting of what went wrong, and a concrete plan to prevent such a thing from happening again.

In this regard, it is not just the reputation of the JCCs at stake.

JCCs must understand that they have been, as Federation President John Fishel said at one public meeting, “hemorrhaging money.” But Federation board members must understand that thousands of JCC supporters are still turning to The Federation for answers and guidance. It is commendable that Fishel met publicly with JCC parents and supporters across the city to present his board’s views of the crisis. In doing so he weathered a verbal barrage that makes “The McLaughlin Group” look like “Blue’s Clues.”

But people still want to know more: If the mission of the centers was worth supporting with millions of donor dollars over the years, how can it suddenly be worth nothing?

How did The Federation, which oversaw JCCGLA books and demanded the JCCGLA use The Federation’s own outside auditor, plead ignorance of the extent of JCCGLA mismanagement?

Why do Federation leaders keep changing the degree of their own fundraising problems? Fishel told an audience at the West Valley JCC that a crisis in Federation’s own ability to raise funds was apparent in January. But in May, William S. Bernstein, Federation’s executive vice president for financial resource development, told the Journal that fundraising is “off to its best start in seven years.” If we’re all in this together — and we are — we all need to work off the same numbers.

Whether Los Angeles’ own JCCs are in the throes of death or painful rebirth depends on how honestly, and how creatively, this community faces these very difficult issues. We believe outgoing Federation President CEO Todd Morgan when he says that the concern across the community is real, and a search for solutions is at hand. It certainly goes against the grain to destroy the fruits of 50 years of Jewish communal vision without putting forward one of our own. In his interview last May with The Journal, Bernstein went on to say, “The accumulated wealth of the community … still leaves contributors with significant flexibility in terms of how they wish to spend their charitable dollars.”

So which is it? Are we short on cash, or bereft of vision?


Let us now praise Jewish disunity.

The com-munity-wide rally in solidarity with the people of Israel, this Sunday, is proof that there is power in what many people consider our communal weakness.

The 40-odd groups that have come together to support the July 22 rally have very different ideas on how to resolve the current Middle East crisis. Some decry Israeli policies that they believe have contributed to the crisis; others maintain the Palestinians alone are to blame.

But beyond Israel, these groups represent Jews who stand on opposing sides of many issues: vouchers, immigration, welfare — not to mention cultural and denominational differences.

It’s fair to say the groups that met to organize the rally represent a Jewish community as disunified and diverse as can be.

This fact is not lost on organizers. They are stressing that the rally is "apolitical," which of course must sound absurd to Palestinians and, for that matter, Israelis, whose futures will be determined by this crisis’ political outcome.

What organizers mean is that a broad swath of L.A. Jews is united in support of the people of Israel in this difficult time. Anyone who tries to deliver a more politically-charged message than that, as Ronald Lauder did at a Jerusalem rally last January, will no doubt find him or herself alienating a good chunk of those present.

But the rally’s clearest message should go not to organizers and participants, but to politicians, the press and the public-at-large.

The fact that we are not a monolithic community makes the message of our coming together that much stronger. When a community that rarely speaks in a single voice finally does so, its message is that much harder to ignore.

Fund for Survivors

A foundation to aid needy Holocaust survivors in California, funded through a $4.2-million check from three Dutch insurance companies, was formally established last week by state officials, Jewish organizations and survivors.

The California Humanitarian Foundation for Holocaust Survivors is believed to be the first of its kind funded by European insurers, who have generally dragged their feet in meeting their obligations to Jews who took out policies between the two world wars.

In presenting the check, representing contributions by Aegon USA, ING America Insurance Holdings and Fortis, Inc., California Attorney General Bill Lockyer said he hoped the action by the three Dutch affiliates "will unleash efforts all over the world by insurance companies to overcome interminable delays."

He urged other European insurance carriers to step forward in meeting their obligations to Jewish and other victims of the Holocaust "as a matter of conscience."

Arthur Stern described establishment of the new foundation, which he chairs, as "a significant milestone for all survivors." Stern, like eight of the foundation’s 12 board members, is himself a Holocaust survivor.

He estimated that 1,000 to 2,000 out of 22,000 survivors in California are indigent and should receive payments "equitably, speedily" and with a minimum of red tape. The primary California survivor communities are in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area and San Diego.

Though appreciative of the Dutch gesture, survivor Jona Goldrich, who serves as Gov. Gray Davis’ liaison for Holocaust issues, commented that the $4.2 million represented "just a token of the money owed." He estimated that European insurers owe as much as $1 billion to survivors and their heirs.

The action by the Dutch companies is a humanitarian gesture and does not affect any insurance claims against them. Lockyer praised the three as "the best corporate citizens" among European insurers, in contrast to insurance giants Allianz of Germany and Assicurazioni Generali of Italy, which owe hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars to their former policyholders, he said.

Initial announcement of the companies’ $4.2-million offer was made as long ago as November 1999 by then-state Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush. However, he failed to collect the money, and some months afterward he became embroiled in corruption charges and eventually resigned.

Quackenbush’s interim successor, Harry Low, said he hoped to have all the money distributed to needy survivors by 2002, and Stern said he expected to send out the first checks this year by Labor Day.

The Jewish Community Foundation in Los Angeles will administer and distribute the funds without cost so that all the money will go directly to survivors in need.

Among those applauding the new humanitarian fund was survivor Fred Diament, 77, who lost his parents and three brothers in the Final Solution.

"After all the suffering, and now in the last years of their lives, [survivors] should live in a garage? That’s unacceptable and intolerable," he said.

Richard Mahan, the foundation’s executive director, advised those wishing further information to phone (888) 890-9911.

Staff Writer Michael Aushenker contributed to this article.

Valerie Fields A Voice For Change

When Valerie Fields decided to run for the school board four years ago, it wasn’t her first experience with education policy or trying to fix our schools.

I first met Valerie 25 years ago when she was the top education adviser to Mayor Tom Bradley. We worked together on projects like the Black/Jewish Youth Experience, where we brought together African American and Jewish teenagers to help break down the walls of misunderstanding that separated our communities. This was the precursor the Anti-Defamation League program Children of the Dream, of which I am now national chair. Before that, Valerie was an elementary school teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District in Van Nuys.

Valerie was, and still is, a key figure in the Jewish community and was crucial in helping to forge the legendary Bradley coalition. She is one of the few people who was there at the beginning of the Bradley administration, and at the end she focused exclusively on how the city could help improve its schools. That’s how we got programs like L.A.’s BEST, a nationally recognized model for quality after-school programs. Valerie helped make the city a vital partner in our children’s education.

Valerie Fields is a great force for making the changes we need to save our schools. Since she joined the school board, she has proven that she is a reform-minded, independent thinker. She led the effort to return phonics-based reading to our classrooms, restored arts and music education to the curriculum, and fought the waste and mismanagement in administration. An uncompromising advocate for our schools and our children, Valerie has the experience and understanding of education that the school district needs.

She is an independent voice on the board who isn’t afraid to stand up and question district policies. Before Valerie was elected, the LAUSD used whole-language reading instruction that deemphasized comprehension in favor of context. But whole language didn’t effectively teach our children to read.

Valerie contacted her old friend, Marion Josephs, the leading expert on phonics-based reading in the state and a current member of the State Board of Education, and brought her to Los Angeles to help implement results-oriented phonics-based reading. Today, thanks largely to the efforts of Valerie Fields, our schools use phonics to teach youngsters to read. More kids are reading at grade level, and test scores are up.

Valerie also realized that the budget cuts the district had endured over the years had eradicated important programs such as art and music education. She brought together the Los Angeles arts community to help restore arts to the curriculum and developed training programs that help teachers use art to teach other core subjects like math, science and history.

She also realized that a great deal of money was being wasted or spent on redundant programs, so she forced the district to submit to tough performance audits to identify waste, as well as redundant and obsolete programs. She also supported the creation of the inspector general position to investigate waste and mismanagement, as well as authoring the resolution to restructure the general counsel’s office, significantly lowering the district’s legal fees and costs.

But most important, Valerie Fields committed herself to funding the most important resource in the classroom — teachers. Valerie voted to give our teachers a fair raise even when Mayor Richard Riordan threatened to withdraw his endorsement and spend millions to defeat her. Our teachers were among the lowest paid in Southern California, and it was nearly impossible to attract and retain quality teachers. Now they are at about the middle of the pay scale.

Valerie does what she believes is right for our children, not for her political career. That is part of what makes her so valuable to our children and schools: She is an education policy expert with a lifetime of experience and community involvement. She is making progress in turning our schools around and making teachers more effective and better trained.

In just the few years that Valerie has been on the board, much has been accomplished, and much remains to be done. She has proven herself an independent voice for change. I urge you to support Valerie Fields for School Board on June 5.

Bush Sets a New Course

Though it is too early to judge the success of an administration, President Bush is headed in the right direction on many fronts. It is hoped that his leadership will have lasting effects in many areas.

Most importantly, he has, as promised, set a new tone of civility in Washington. It was pleasant to watch a presidential news conference the other day that was not focused on foibles but on policies affecting Americans. The simple matter of being on time for meetings and being courteous to others has brought plaudits from both sides of the aisle. Our representatives, though they may have policy disagreements, at least are engaging each other now in a respectful manner.

Bush has aggressively attempted to right an economy that went off course last year. Alan Greenspan’s misguided maneuvers in the monetary policy area have had serious negative effects on our economy. Though the government has less ability to correct economic course than some believe, the Bush Administration is at least making an attempt.

First, it has decided to curb the outrageous increases in governmental domestic spending. When domestic spending exceeds the inflation rate by a factor of two, it denies the right of average citizens to spend those monies in their own manner.

Second, it has attempted to correct a misguided tax code and overtaxation. Bush’s main goal of overall rate reduction is still on course. Congress is looking at three other areas of the tax code that are blatantly unfair. The marriage penalty, estate tax, and phaseout of itemized deductions and personal exemptions have been targeted for elimination. In addition, the onerous and incomprehensible alternative minimum tax has been ticketed for the trash can of history.

President Bush has also moved forward on a proposal that he and Vice-President Gore campaigned on — the so-called faith-based initiative. Though the Jewish left has often anguished over any governmental recognition that religion exists, the reality is beginning to shift for most other Americans. People have begun to realize that a lot of the programs that exist either do not work or espouse their own religion of secularism. We have to make a choice as to whether we want to heal the people who are in need of these programs.

Turning to the foreign front, the Bush Administration has re-established that the United States is no patsy. China has become aware that it cannot make this administration roll over, as it did the last one.

Most important to Jewish Americans, Israel is once again in good hands. After the disaster that occurred during the last administration, Bush has made two clear points. First, he will not intercede in the peace process — he will act only as a catalyst. He will not force down the throat of the Israelis a settlement that jeopardizes their long-term future. Second, the violence is the responsibility of Arafat and the Palestinians, and Arafat must put a stop to it if peace is to be achieved. No longer will the Jewish people’s homeland be at risk because of someone’s seeking a political legacy.

Bush has come under attack for his rejection of two environmental policies that should concern us all, but let us look at the facts. First, no one wants an unacceptable level of arsenic in drinking water. If the policy that was put in place was of such magnitude, why did the Clinton Administration sneak it in without going through the normal channels? Since no one has answered that question for me, the answer becomes clear: The policy needs review, and that is all Bush has said.

Second, regarding the policy on CO2 emissions and the Kyoto agreement, there is no question that this agreement is disproportionately detrimental to the United States. But is it scientifically sound? The answer to that is no. Dr. Peter Huber in his recent book “Hard Green” stated clearly that the United States is not the problem in the area of international CO2 emissions. No one to my knowledge has refuted his analysis of the situation. More important, he identifies the true problem areas — the underdeveloped countries — and the new economies, such as China.

The fact is, Bush stood up to knee-jerk environmentalism that could have cost the citizens of the United States, without the results we all seek. That took leadership.

George W. Bush has begun to accomplish the goals he outlined in his campaign. He has done it in a straightforward and congenial manner. My hope is that he stays the course on his policies, to give them a chance and to let us all see whether our trust in him is warranted. I believe it will be.

Barak’s Legacy

Ehud Barak’s term as Israeli prime minister was among the shortest in Israeli history, but in just 19 months he succeeded in altering the strategic landscape of the Middle East and recasting the terms of Israeli political debate.

Barak’s most recognized accomplishment was the withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon after a bloody 18-year engagement.

In that sense, Barak and the man who defeated him Tuesday, Likud Party leader Ariel Sharon, stand as bookends in Israeli history: Sharon was the man who led Israeli forces into Lebanon, Barak the one who took them out.

The ultimate verdict on the withdrawal is still out, however, as Hezbollah militants continue to harass Israel along its northern border and many Palestinians consider Hezbollah’s war tactics a model for the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Still, Barak’s bold move ended the slow bloodletting of Israeli youth in southern Lebanon, removed a strategic card from the Syrian arsenal and erased a major stain on Israel’s international reputation.

On the peace process, Barak is scorned by many Israelis for his willingness to consider extraordinary concessions even in the face of Palestinian violence.

History, however, may judge Barak’s efforts differently.

By going further than any other Israeli leader in his pursuit of final peace agreements with the Palestinians and Syrians — only to be met with intransigence and rejection — Barak’s greatest achievement may have been to pull the masks off Israel’s "peace partners" as no right-winger ever could.

Criticized for "zigzagging" on important policies in office, Barak displayed a remarkable consistency in his attitude toward the peace process.

Despite his courage in touching what he called the "living heart" of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he always was skeptical of the Oslo process and never really trusted Palestinian intentions.

From his days as army chief of staff when the 1993 Oslo accord was negotiated under Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Barak objected to what he considered a major weakness of the peace process: the focus on interim agreements under which Israel gradually surrendered its bargaining chips without having an idea of the Palestinian endgame.

After becoming prime minister, Barak refused to implement the remaining withdrawals demanded of Israel and instead sought to go straight to a final agreement, even if it entailed deeper Israeli concessions.

While that final agreement proved beyond his grasp, Barak — unlike even his predecessor, the Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu — did not turn over even one acre of land to Palestinian control.

The major concessions Barak reportedly was willing to offer — dividing Jerusalem, giving the Palestinians unprecedented control of the Temple Mount, relinquishing virtually all the land Israel won in the 1967 Six-Day War — destroyed many of Israel’s sacred cows of the last three decades and seem likely to set the parameters of Israeli political debate in the coming years.

Yet those concessions were not enough for the Palestinians.

Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat continued to hold out for the "right" of some 3 million to 4 million Arab refugees and their descendants to return to homes they left in 1948, a demand that would amount to demographic suicide for Israel.

And Arafat refused to countenance any measure of Israeli control of holy sites in Jerusalem, denying any Jewish historical tie to the Temple Mount.

Arafat’s response to Barak’s offer was the low-intensity war that has engulfed the Palestinian territories since late September. In effect, the Palestinians overthrew Barak, just as they overthrew his two predecessors.

With his return to violence, Arafat more than any other individual is responsible for the victory of Sharon, a man the Palestinians profess to hate.

That lesson is instructive for what it says of Palestinian intentions and points to the greatest danger now facing Israel.

The Palestinian preference for a "hard-line" Israeli leader appears to confirm the charge that Arafat is not truly interested in a peace agreement but knows that under a right-wing government, Israel is likely to take the international blame for any tension.

The return to the international doghouse Israel inhabited during Netanyahu’s term would be a significant diplomatic blow.

More important, however, is the danger of a rift within Israeli society if the left also returns to blaming Israel for any deterioration in the peace process.

Because of the concessions he was willing to make, Barak restored for most Israelis a belief in the justness of their cause, a belief that such a war truly was not responsible for the violence of recent months.

That’s no small feat, given Israelis’ remarkable penchant for self-flagellation. If war comes on Sharon’s watch, it’s far from clear that it will find Israel with such unity of purpose.

What little Sharon has revealed of his diplomatic plan does not augur well for the prospect of a peace agreement.

Given the rehabilitation of other once-disgraced Israeli leaders — Sharon and Netanyahu come quickly to mind — it’s quite possible that the Israeli and Palestinian publics will soon clamor to have Barak back.

Who Was Bart Crum?

Who was Bart Crum? Now there’s a question that separates the young from the old, or, to be kind, the younger from the older.

For the generation that came of age in the 1940s and 1950s, Crum was a ubiquitous actor on the national stage. With Zelig-like frequency, he appeared at the center of news-making events. There’s Bart Crum representing Rita Hayworth in her divorce with the Aga Khan; here’s Bart Crum defending Hollywood’s “Unfriendly Nineteen” before the House Un-American Activities Committee; there’s Crum managing the presidential campaign of Wendell Wilkie.

But Jews of that era mostly remember him this way: Bart Crum was good for the Jews.

On Jan. 1, 1946, President Harry S. Truman appointed Crum to the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry in Palestine. The joint British-U.S. committee was charged with recommending policies to deal with the 100,000 Eastern European Jewish refugees of the Holocaust. To the consternation of the British and the Americans, Crum took his job seriously. He was moved by the cruelty and squalor of the Displaced Persons camps to speak out on behalf of the DPs. He gave speeches, describing the unimaginable horror of Holocaust survivors being forced to live in camps so horrendous that the German army had refused to use them to house POWs. Crum called for the immediate emigration of the DPs to Palestine.

These were Jews with few friends, no power, and no place to go. Crum, a successful, well-connected Catholic lawyer, had nothing to gain and everything to lose by standing up for them.

If pushing the cause of the DPs was one of the high points of Crum’s life, there were plenty of low points — a failed attempt to run a New York City daily, the suicide of his beloved son, his own addiction to alcohol and barbiturates, the constant harassment by the FBI, his ultimate inability to withstand the pressure to name names, and, finally, his own suicide.

History has footnoted Bartley Crum, reducing his life and accomplishments to a mention here or there. In his massive “A History of Israel,” historian Howard M. Sachar dismisses Crum as a “would-be politico.” But the man is more fascinating, and more troublesome, than that.

In her moving, elegiac memoir, “Anything Your Little Heart Desires” (Simon & Schuster, $27.50), Patricia Bosworth, Crum’s daughter, re-examines her father’s legacy.

Bosworth was 25 when her father killed himself. For many years, he remained lodged in her memory as a glamorous crusader for high ideals and just causes. Only when she uncovered new evidence that ran counter to her father’s “heroic image” did Bosworth, the author of much-lauded biographies of Montgomery Clift and photographer Diane Arbus, turn her talents on her own dad.

The result is a book that is simply, wholly captivating. It begins with one of the finest first sentences in the history of nonfiction: “The night before my father committed suicide, my mother gave a dinner party.” And the writing remains supple, insightful, as intriguing as the subject himself.

Raised a devout Catholic in a politically active household in Sacramento, Bartley Crum seemed destined for a life that combined political intrigue with high moral purpose. Handsome and energetic, he used his law degree and his ever-widening circle of establishment connections to defend striking workers and persecuted Communists in the 1930s (though he himself was anti-Communist).

He sought out wealthier clients too, and he and his pretty wife, Anna Gertrude Bosworth, spent lavishly, especially on entertaining at their San Francisco home.

But, Bosworth writes, her father always gravitated back toward the usually indigent, underdog clients, as if engaged on a personal “search for redemption…to find a deeper, more dedicated purpose in his life.”

That search seemed to come to an end with his appointment to the Anglo-American Committee. Charged with finding a solution to the DP crisis, Crum toured the former concentration camps, listened to the testimony of survivors — sometimes vomiting from what he heard — and saw, firsthand, the squalid DP camps. Crum met with Arab and Jewish leaders — Chaim Weizmann, David Ben-Gurion, even Albert Einstein — and was won over by the latter. Because the British were intent on maintaining the status quo in Palestine, which was under their control, and the American State Department didn’t want to upset the Arab oil states, neither government ever had any intention of taking the Committee’s report seriously. It was, writes Bosworth, “one of the most futile missions in history.”

Still, immigration to Palestine was the windmill that Crum decided to tilt at. He went on radio, gave lectures and wrote columns, defending the Jews’ right to enter their homeland. He voiced his support for a partition solution to Palestine when the reality of it was still two years away. He charged British and American officialdom with deceiving the public about the Palestinian question, and he unveiled the content of secret communiqués between the State Department and Arab leaders, going back to the 1920s, that reassured the Arabs that “no matter what public promises were made to the Jews, the situation would remain the same, and nothing would be done.”

The journalist Yehuda Hellman wrote in the Palestine Post: “What Bart Crum did was crucial. He brought all these secrets out into the open. The story had tremendous impact because Bart was a Gentile and Bart had been there.”

Crum’s crusade on behalf of the Jews brought him to the attention of British intelligence, the CIA and the FBI. For the rest of his life, the FBI would track him, investigate him, dog him. When the Communist witch hunt started up, Crum was already high on the FBI’s list of targets.

The FBI pressures, Bosworth believes, ultimately led her father to reveal the names of two Communist lawyers to the FBI and HUAC in 1953. Although the lawyers’ involvements were already well-known, Crum did name names, a fact he concealed from his daughter and wife.

The revelation that he did so upset Bosworth, who finally found out in 1977. The myth of her father as hero was shaken, although she is ultimately able to find some explanation for his actions.

“I realized I felt betrayed that he’d betrayed me and my impossible fantasies of him,” she writes.

Whatever the reasons, the experience shook Crum too. That, combined with the suicide of his son, Bart Jr., and his growing dependence on alcohol and barbiturates, brought him to take his own life in 1959, at the age of 59.

After years of research and reflection, Bosworth has managed to make sense of such a sad trajectory. “Anything Your Little Heart Desires” is part history, part elegy and always captivating. In it, Bosworth-the-daughter and Bosworth-the-biographer finally complete the difficult task of finding out who Bart Crum really was.

My Father, Myself

He had a tremendous moral conscience,” Patricia Bosworth says of her father, the subject of her memoir, “Anything Your Little Heart Desires.”

Sitting for an interview with The Jewish Journal while on tour in Los Angeles, the acclaimed biographer reflects on the reasons Crum stood up to two governments to advance the cause of the Jews.

“He was sickened at all their double-dealing,” she says of the U.S. State Department and the British. “I was a young girl back then, but I remember him being appalled at the conditions of the DPs.”

Although Crum had been exposed, all his life, to anti-Semitism from his own family, from within the establishment and, most shockingly, from most of the members of the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry in Palestine itself, he never took the bait. Bosworth recalls that her father was influenced by the sermons against anti-Semitism of a young priest he had heard as a boy in Sacramento.

Speaking out for the DPs remained one of her father’s greatest accomplishments, says Bosworth, and one of his most memorable. Twelve rabbis attended his funeral, and he was eulogized warmly in the Jewish press.

For years after his death, Bosworth says that she was greeted with tears by Holocaust survivors and Israelis who remained touched by her father’s advocacy. One of those Israelis gave Bosworth, then a young actress, her first typewriter. On it she launched her career as a writer.

It took the author 10 years to write her memoir. She conducted dozens of interviews, researched FBI files and explored historical archives. (She was told that there are JNF forests and streets in Israel named for her father, but her research turned up none.)

In the end, she found that her father retained an “innocent, childlike spirit” that, at the same time, brought him to the side of the downtrodden but exposed him to the cruelties of a Cold War America gone berserk.

“I suppose I wish he had been tougher,” she says. “I wish he had protected himself more.”