Neither Trump nor ISIS is going away soon


There are three things most young men want – need really – so much so that it’s seemingly part of their DNA:  1) to feel relevant, to have status of some sort; 2) to be able to give vent to their aggressive tendencies, up to and including sometimes, killing; 3) to have sex, pretty much by any means possible.  In civilian society, there are a limited variety of ways to eventually get to a place where these three urges can be satisfied; mainly they involve succeeding at something either pretty high profile or that is inherently violent to begin with like say, law enforcement, the military, or pro football (Ray McDonald – late of the San Francisco 49’ers and Chicago Bears – was recently arrested for raping a woman he thought was dead).  Otherwise, music (seen “Straight Outta Compton” lately) and other entertainment industry pursuits often seem to fill the bill, as well as business success.  Between them all, there are enough scandalous anecdotes on the wires to start your own tabloid. 

So where do ISIS and Donald Trump fit into this equation? 

Let’s begin by stipulating that it would be worth a lot – perhaps even another world war – to obliterate ISIS.  They have megalomaniacal ambitions; they operate across borders and are a barbaric threat to destabilize several countries; they kill wantonly in the most brutal fashion; they obliterate cultural patrimony; they force women into sexual slavery; they commit terrorist atrocities.  That a world-wide armed operation hasn’t risen up to cauterize them from the body Earth is a testimony, sadly, to their current locale – the Middle East, where we’ve grown accustomed to both conflict and atrocity, and comfortable with the delusion that trouble there doesn’t threaten Western civilization (only its relics) – and the evolutionary divisions of 21st Century politics.  

I’m going to further stipulate that I am not equating Donald Trump with ISIS and therefore not calling for a world war to have him obliterated.  However, it’s pretty clear that just about everyone has underestimated the staying power of both.  Both are doing something that people did not expect – drawing people to them like a giant magnet – because both have tapped into something fundamental in the mass psyche – our motivational trifecta.  Admittedly, with Trump (entertainingly megalomaniacal in his own way), it’s not limited to young men (as are not, exclusively, those impulses themselves); the tea party crowd has adopted these aggressive motivations, from grey-haired ladies to soccer moms, to screeching adolescents, to feel relevant and give vent to their aggressive tendencies.  Has there been anything more aggressive in his campaign than Trump’s calling out an entire nationality as rapists and murderers or calling for the mass deportation of 11 million people.  What better way to feel relevant than being in the vanguard of cleansing your country and “restoring its greatness.”  As for the sex, well, you can choose your poll, women rank confidence and power interchangeably one/two for on the sexy scale, and as for the men, maybe it’s the vicarious identification of being the guy with the supermodel wife. 

Just as clearly, ISIS has tapped into something so fundamental in the psyche of young Islamic men, that God only knows what percentage of them you’d have to eliminate to destroy its farm system.  ISIS goes a conventional military one better in providing for our core motivations.  Any military will convey status: even a private wears a uniform and carries a gun for his country, and those upper ranks system, don’t get me started.  Venting your aggressions?  Check and double check.  But the only organization on Earth that offers virtually instant gratification in all three arenas is….ISIS. 

First, join up and you’re in a perpetual state of war (battle is actually the point) and not just any war – the war for world domination promised in the book.  Sure, some ISIS recruits come on board because they fervently believe in the brutal, ultra-conservative Islamic brand “Caliph” Baghdadi is peddling, and the glory of the Caliphate I’m sure stirs the imagination of more than a few.  After all, their dreary lives as marginalized young men in various Western European or Third World countries  don’t offer much to stir their emotions – as with the un- and under-employed white people backing Trump.  Join ISIS, and you’re an instant soldier for the cause, conferring instant status.  Your friends back home, suffering through school, toiling in dead-end jobs, surviving on petty crime – who are they compared to you?  Do you want news of them, or do they want news of you? 

But just as powerful, I’m sure, is the promise of a high caliber automatic weapon.  Come to Syria, be a soldier for the cause, and tote an AK-47, or a nice, American AR-15 looted from the Iraqis, or better yet, a .50 caliber mounted on a pickup truck.  (Donald Trump, by the way:  “I’m a big Second Amendment guy”)  You, young man, get to shoot at, maim, and kill people with impunity.  You are Jason Bourne and Ethan Hunt and Napoleon Solo, and whoever Vin Diesel is this week, and if you’re blood is really up – yes, you may even get to cut off someone’s head.  Rare air indeed. 

Don’t think that’s a big psychological draw?  Re-examine movie billboards.  There is not one TV program or movie, that can possibly support the logic of an image of a weapon, that does not include one.  Ever.  Speaking of Vin Diesel, notice how the Fast and Furious franchise graduated from hot girls, guys, and cars, to a prominent display of weaponry as we got to “Fast Five” and beyond. 

But here’s the icing on the cake; here’s where ISIS puts the U.S. Army and the NFL to shame.  You get to be a gun-toting warrior for the cause, and it comes with your own sex slave.  You don’t have to worry about your parents narrow ideas of sex before marriage, meeting someone, overcoming resistance, moral qualms, societal taboos, the law, the cops – you can get a sexual slave and get laid all the time.  It’s sanctioned, dude.  The Caliph says it’s in the book.  This is even better than Trump, who merely disparages and degrades women, though admittedly, that seems to be working so well across his supporters’ demographics, he hasn’t yet needed to up the ante. 

And just as Trump makes it okay for the disaffected class to support someone more like Romney than they promised themselves they would ever put up with again, ISIS makes it okay to indulge those base, secret longings you always suspected were the core Islam now been validated by a rogue revolutionary that has actually claimed and held real estate – as Trump has claimed and held political real estate, despite the worst examples of public behavior in recent history for a mainstream candidate.  

If you need it in simpler terms, here it is from one Roger Stone, who worked with Nixon, Lee Atwater, and at one time, Trump, and the author of the still unpublished, “Stone’s Rules for War, Politics, Food, Fashion, and Living.”  Rule: “hate is a stronger motivator than love.”  By the looks of things, he knows what he’s talking about, and while a case can be made that for Trump, it’s more disdain than hate, it’s why we can expect both ISIS and Trump to be with us for quite some time. 

Mitch Paradise is a writer and producer living in Los Angeles.

Nearly all Israelis have power again following snowstorm


Electricity was restored in Israel in the wake of last week’s snowstorm, though isolated customers in Jerusalem still had no power.

The Israel Electric Corp. on its website Tuesday afternoon urged the customers without power to contact the company’s service center.

Up to 60,000 households were without power at the apex of the storm.

The Jerusalem Light Rail resumed service for the first time since last week early Tuesday morning, and public bus transportation began running regularly in and out of the city.

[Related: I got stranded in the great Israeli snowstorm of 2013]

Some schools in Jerusalem reopened an hour late on Tuesday morning. Schools remained closed in the northern city of Safed and in areas of the West Bank.  Hebrew University in Jerusalem remained closed due to traffic issues, however.

The main road to the Etzion bloc south of Jerusalem remained closed Tuesday due to large snow drifts and dangerous ice patches.

Time to enter the Iranian bazaar on the nuclear issue


Morsi’s decree leaves U.S. in hot seat


[Cairo] As a staunch advocate of democracy, the American administration’s position was brought into question when Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi awarded himself sweeping powers in a game-changing constitutional declaration announced last week.

The declaration, which rendered the president’s decrees immune to oversight by the courts and is deemed to be an infringement on judicial independence, comes on the heels of a successful ceasefire in the Gaza Strip brokered by Morsi himself.

Experts argue that given Morsi’s newfound role as the Middle East mediator who serves US interests, the Obama administration is unlikely to speak out against the decree despite its blatant anti-democratic nature.

Morsi reportedly worked closely with US President Barack Obama throughout the weeklong assault on Hamas in Gaza by Israeli forces, finally mediating a ceasefire. The Associated Press reported that both presidents spoke three times in 24 hours during the final stages of negotiations. Afterward, Egypt’s president was widely praised for his efforts.

Nathan Brown, professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, explains that the US position is clear; “It supports Egyptian democracy but not any political outcome or leader, and it has regional security interests and positions that inhibit it from speaking forcefully on the democracy issue.”

“That has not changed,” he told The Media Line.

The US was heavily criticized for supporting Hosni Mubarak and turning a blind eye to Egyptian human rights violations while continuing to provide his government billions of dollars in aid annually. 

So far, the American administration has been reluctant to take a clear stance on Morsi’s recent decree, which drove the country into turmoil, prompting ongoing protests as more than 200,000 demonstrators poured into Tahrir Square.

At a press conference Tuesday, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Washington is still trying to gather more information about the situation which she explained remains unclear. Nuland said the Obama administration had called for settling the dispute in a democratic manner that preserves the balance of power.

“When confronted with concerns about the decree that he issued, President Morsi entered into discussions with the judiciary, with other stakeholders in Egypt,” Nuland said. “That's a far cry from an autocrat just saying, ‘My way or the highway.’”

She emphasized that the US-Egypt relationship depends on its leader’s determination to achieve all the revolution’s goals and work towards a democratic country, after which she immediately praised Morsi’s role in brokering the ceasefire in Gaza.

The Obama administration insists the Egyptian fray over Morsi’s assumption of powers is a domestic matter. Jay Carney, White House press secretary, said that “We believe firmly that this needs to be resolved internally as part of a transition to democracy.”

Emad Gad, political analyst at the Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies and a senior member of the Egyptian Democratic Social Party, agrees.

While he acknowledges that the US administration “supports Morsi because he cooperates with them,” Gad said that Egypt cannot bank on any kind of foreign pressure or interference, and that the standoff with the president can only be resolved internally.

“The US only cares about its own, as well as Israel’s interests,” Gad told The Media Line, “We’re not even in the equation.”

“I wouldn’t put too much weight on the US stance altogether,” Gad said. “It all depends on internal maneuvers.”

Brown also echoed the same sentiments.

“The Egyptian political struggle is primarily domestic. Most political actors are quick to accuse their adversaries of being unpatriotic and even foreign agents,” he said, explaining that for this reason he suspects that “the main dialogue [with the US] – if it is taking place at all – is going on in private.”

This week, the European Union threatened to decrease aid to Egypt should Morsi insist on implementing his decree, a senior member of the EU Parliament told German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau.

Earlier this month, the EU approved a 5 billion euros [about $6.5 billion] “support package” to Egypt, to be disbursed through European financial institutions over a two-year period.

“If Morsi chooses the road of dictatorship then the funds pumped into the Egyptian market will be less,” Elmar Brok, head of the EU Parliament's foreign affairs committee, said.

Similarly, the controversial decree raised questions about last week’s preliminary agreement under which the International Monetary Fund will provide Egypt with a $4.8 billion loan. 

However, during her news conference Nuland said that the IMF makes its own decisions and that when it reaches an initial agreement with a country, in this case Egypt, the conditions are economic, not political.

With regard to US aid to Egypt, which amounts to more than $1.9 billion each year, mostly allocated to the military, Nuland said, “As we made clear, we support clearing this through the Congress, but the Congress is also watching democratic developments in Egypt.”

However, Gad maintains that even if the Washington would withhold the aid, it is unlikely to affect the outcome. “Whatever pressure the US puts on Morsi to rescind his decree, we don’t care, the situation ultimately depends on domestic pressure,” he said.

On his part, Morsi seems adamant about implementing his decree, backed by the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters. As tens of thousands of Egyptians poured into Tahrir Square on Tuesday denouncing the constitutional declaration, the Islamist group not only seemed unfazed, but was defiant, with the presidential spokesperson Yasser Ali stating that “there is no turning back, the decree is staying and those not willing to reach a point of stability will be held accountable to God and history.” 

The Muslim Brotherhood has called for mass protests on Saturday in support of Morsi’s decree in Tahrir Square where its detractors are staging a sit-in, raising fears of violent confrontations.  

Jewish community bears impact of Hurricane Sandy


Less than a year into her job at North Shore Synagogue in Syosset, N.Y., Rabbi Debbie Bravo sounded remarkably poised as she and her community faced one of their most powerful challenges together: Hurricane Sandy.

Bravo’s land line was dead. When she picked up her cell phone Tuesday, she had just returned from the local police station.

“I have a child who takes medication that has to be refrigerated,” she said calmly.

According to figures released by The Long Island Power Authority on Tuesday, more than 930,000 families — 90 percent of all island residents — are without power after Hurricane Sandy wrought havoc Monday night across the northeastern United States. Among those 930,000 are an estimated 139,000 Jewish househoolds.

Hurricane Sandy, which washed ashore Monday evening just south of Atlantic City, N.J., took dead aim at the most populous region of the country, home as well to the majority of the country's Jews. In its wake, it left a trail of devastation that may take weeks to restore, if not longer.

“I went over to the synagogue a few hours ago, which is right next to a woodsy area,” Bravo said. “Ten plus trees are down, including a huge one down on the front law. Everyone’s saying this is a hundred times worse” than previous natural disasters that hit the island.

The greater New York area, home to the largest population of Jews in North America, took a harsh hit as severe winds and flooding toppled trees, triggered electrical fires and flooded public transportation systems. The result: mass evacuations of apartments and dormitories, widespread school closings and damaged homes and community institutions.

Early Tuesday afternoon, David Weissberg, executive director of the 120-year-old Isabella Freedman Retreat Center in Falls Village, Conn., posted a photo of a tree that literally sliced through the roof over the center’s main building.

“We’re looking in the short term how to work around that space and need to assess how long it will take to get that space repaired,” Weissberg said.

“It’s an amazingly precise cut,” he marvelled. “It fell at an angle perfectly perpendicular to the building, which will hopefully make the repair an easier one.”

Jewish communal organizations, whose offices, landlines and in some cases e-mail servers were closed or down on Tuesday, largely set up shop remotely as they set out to formulate a response.

“The concerns of the Jewish Federations movement is focussed on both those in the Jewish community and non-Jewish community as we work with local Jewish federations as well as local, state and federal emergency management personnel to assess the damage and look forward to recovery,” said William Daroff, vice president of public policy and director of the Washington office of The Jewish Federations of North America.

Daroff noted that while watching the devastation unfold, social media was a source of comfort. “Compared to visuals from New York and the Long Island coast, having a support structure and literally thousands of friends acquired through Facebook and Twitter helped me feel less alone as my family sat shuttering with gusts of wind at 50 mph.”

The Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago set up a relief fund Monday night, with The Jewish Federations of North America and Union for Reform Judaism following suit the next afternoon.

For those without power on Long Island, finding alternative to landlines was critical.

“A lot of people are not getting cell phone service at home,” Bravo said. “For one congregant, the only time i could talk to her was when she left her house.”

As Bravo attempts to establish and maintain contact with the elderly and other congregants — including two with recent births — she also pondered the next moves for her synagogue’s two b’nai mizvah this weekend, which in all likelihood will be conducted without power.

“Truthfully in my mind, our options are try to use daylight,” she said.

Palestian power issues: The night that the lights went out?


The Palestinian Authority (PA) owes more than $170 million to the Israel Electric Company, and Israel is threatening to cut off the flow unless the debt is paid. Palestinian officials say that could cause widespread blackouts throughout the West Bank.

“A week ago they gave us a warning that if we don’t pay they will start to cut off the electricity,” Hisham Omari, the general director of the East Jerusalem Electricity Company told The Media Line. “They told us that it’s not a political issue, but an economic one. We understand that the Israeli electricity company needs their money. Most of our problem is with the Palestinian Authority.”

Iris Ben Shahal, a spokeswoman for the utility confirmed the numbers.

“The East Jerusalem Development Company owes $106 million dollars and the Palestinian Authority owes the rest,” she told The Media Line. Ben Shahal would not comment on what steps the Electric Company plans to take.

Officials at the Israeli company say this is not a new problem. As part of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement, they supply electricity to the east Jerusalem power company, which does not have its own infrastructure.

“There are always debts and they repay part but then the debt grows again,” an official at the electricity company told The Media Line. “We’re just asking for what they owe us. We’re having our own financial problems because the price of gas has gone up dramatically. Before we go to take out loans at high interest, we want the debts paid.”

The issue arises as Israel’s electricity consumption is at an all-time high due to record-breaking summer heat and the disruption in natural gas supplies from Egypt. The company is urging Israelis not to use washing machines and dryers between noon and 5 p.m. when demand is at its peak.

The east Jerusalem company supplies electricity to Bethlehem, Ramallah and Jericho as well as twelve refugee camps. Hisham Omari says only about five percent of the refugees pay for electricity. In Gaza, he says, most refugees are not billed for electricity. Under an Israeli-Palestinian agreement, Israel deducts the electricity costs for Gaza from the customs taxes it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority for exports from Gaza.

“We send bills but they just throw them away,” Omari said. “They say that since the refugees in Gaza don’t pay, they don’t want to pay either. We need the Palestinian Authority to help us with this issue.”

Of the total $106 million the east Jerusalem company owes Israel, more than $60 million represents unpaid bills from refugees. Omari is also calling for harsher penalties for those found stealing electricity.

“Right now even if we catch them and take them to court, they get a fine of $50,” he said. “We want to put them in jail for three months, but the bill is waiting on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s desk.”

He says cutting off the electricity could virtually shut down the Palestinian economy in the West Bank including hospitals, water pumps (all electrically-operated) and communications. Omari said he has appealed to the Israeli company to delay action for two weeks in recognition of the three-day holiday of Id Al-Fitr which is set to begin this weekend. Soon after that, Palestinian schools reopen. During that time, he says, the Jerusalem electricity company will try to work out a payment schedule and the Palestinian Authority will pay part of the debt.

Omari also worries that the dispute, while economic, could have political consequences.

“If electricity is cut off, there could be a new intifada,” he said, referring to the Palestinian uprising in 2000. “People will go into the streets and they will be angry at both Israel and the PA. Once this starts, nobody will be able to stop it.”

Iran plans nuclear-powered submarine, report says


Iran said on Tuesday it planned to build its first nuclear-powered submarine, a news agency reported, an announcement that came days before talks with world powers and may add to Western concerns over its atomic activities.

“Preliminary steps in making an atomic submarine have started and we hope to see the use of … nuclear submarines in the navy in the future,” deputy navy commander Abbas Zamini was quoted as saying by Iran’s Fars News Agency.

Many nuclear-powered submarines use as fuel uranium enriched to levels that could also be suitable for atomic bombs, said Mark Hibbs, a nuclear proliferation expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a diplomatic think-tank.

He suggested Tehran could use the submarine project to justify refining uranium to higher levels.

However analysts say Iran at times exaggerates its nuclear and military advances to try to strengthen its bargaining position with world powers who want curbs on Tehran’s atomic program to ensure it is for peaceful ends only.

Iran denies Western accusations that it is seeking to build nuclear weapons, saying it simply wants to generate electricity.

Zamini said all countries had the right to use peaceful nuclear technology, including for the propulsion system of their vessels, Fars reported.

NEW TALKS

Tehran is now refining uranium to a fissile concentration of up to 20 percent. This is below the 90 percent concentration needed for nuclear arms and any attempt to process to higher levels would alarm the West and Israel.

Tehran is due to hold a new round of nuclear talks with the United States, China, Russia, Germany, France and Britain in Moscow on June 18-19.

European Union officials said on Monday that Tehran had agreed to discuss a proposal to curb its output of uranium enrichment.

The United States and Israel have not ruled out military action if diplomacy fails to resolve the dispute.

Hibbs said only a few countries in the world – the United States, Russia, France and Britain – had nuclear-powered submarines. “If Iran moves forward on this project it would be for political reasons. Iran could easily defend itself with conventional submarine technology,” he said.

At talks in Baghdad in May, world powers proposed that Tehran stop production of 20 percent uranium enrichment, close the Fordow underground facility where such work is done and ship any stockpile out of the country.

In return, they offered to supply it with fuel for a medical research reactor in Tehran, which requires 20 percent uranium, and to ease sanctions on the sale of parts for commercial aircraft to Iran.

No agreement was reached in Baghdad but the seven countries agreed to continue discussions in Moscow.

Reporting by Zahra Hosseinian; additional reporting by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Pravin Char

Minister’s idea to cut electricity to Gaza before Israel is ignored


Israel’s Cabinet ignored a suggestion by the environmental protection minister to cut the electricity supply to Gaza rather than have rolling blackouts in Israel.

Gilad Erdan made his suggestion during a Cabinet discussion on Sunday about how to deal with an expected power shortage this summer, when demand for electricity is high.

The Cabinet approved a plan that included allowing the Israel Electric Corp. to use an unlimited amount of highly polluting heavy fuel oil for electricity generation. Erdan’s recommendation was not part of the plan.

Erdan had called on the ministers to add a clause to the emergency energy agreement stipulating that if electricity needs to be temporarily stopped, the blackouts should first take place in Gaza, according to reports.

“Take care of your own needs first,” Erdan said. “It’s unreasonable that if there’s an electricity shortage, we’ll cut off the supply to Israelis—but not to Gaza, which we left seven years ago and have no responsibility for.”

Israel exports about 4.5 percent of the electricity it generates to the Palestinian Authority, Erdan said.

Wicked weather causing damage in Israel


Severe weather in Israel has caused damage and blackouts.

Heavy rain and high winds disrupted air traffic at Ben Gurion Airport. Some wind gusts reached 62 miles per hour, according to reports.

The severe weather is supposed to last at least until Saturday; Friday is expected to be the coldest day of the year throughout the country. Snowfall is possible in the center of the country, including Jerusalem.

Mount Hermon was closed to skiers and other visitors Thursday after 10 inches of snow accumulated over Wednesday night—the highest amount on the mountain in a decade. Many roads and schools in the Golan Heights were closed, The Jerusalem Post reported.

On Wednesday, the level of the Sea of Galilee in the country’s North rose by more than an inch and sandstorms hit the South, which now is expecting flooding.

In Tel Aviv, power lines were downed by uprooted trees, and a bench was ripped from the sidewalk and thrown into a main street, Haaretz reported. Street signs and traffic lights also were blown down.

Where are the great American Jewish leaders?


We are living in a troubling and dangerous time, a time when we need courageous and insightful leaders more than at any point since the Holocaust. We are facing a potentially existential crisis for Israel and ultimately, I believe, for Jewish people worldwide. Yet our leaders for the most part have not responded in a forceful way.

Those among us who understand what is at stake must immediately light a fire under our current leaders. At the same time, we need to rethink the process of how we select our leaders and what we expect of them.

If we look squarely at the facts and are unflinchingly honest with ourselves, we will admit that we are confronted with substantial threats. Today we are experiencing two primary attacks. The Arab/Muslim/Persian drive to remove Israel as a Jewish state is a fact, as is the very real threat of catastrophe that a nuclear Iran poses to Israel.

The unsettling recent events in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen and the entire Arab world add to the instability of Israel’s neighbors. Increasingly, radical Islamists, who interpret certain edicts of the Koran as instructing them to kill Jews, are directing their vitriol and hateful propaganda not solely at Israel but at the Jewish people as well. Anti-Israel sentiment is simply a new twist on an old canard. The hate has migrated from Christian religious anti-Semitism to Nazi racial anti-Semitism to Muslim political anti-Semitism and, finally, to a leftist, intellectual form of anti-Semitism under the guise of political correctness.

There is a frightening groundswell of negativity in the Western and Muslim worlds toward Israel and the Jews resulting from a deliberate, pernicious and astonishingly effective international propaganda campaign to delegitimize Israel by portraying it as a colonial implant and oppressive occupier. We have a situation in which Jews everywhere are experiencing a level of insecurity that has not existed since the 1940s.

Many would agree that Jewish leadership has a poor record when it comes to the perennial American Jewish problems of Jewish education, assimilation and confronting modernity. Most everyone also would agree that American Jewish leadership during the Holocaust was abysmal.

Why, then, have we ignored the lessons of that era? We certainly have the wherewithal—we have shown ourselves to be effective change agents and effective leaders in so many spheres outside of the Jewish world, from the media to medicine to the sciences to the arts and humanities. Where is our “Jewish genius”?

To all who would argue that we already have been responding, I submit that we have not. Mass assemblies within our communities with the stars of the Israeli lecture circuit and American political leaders might make American Jews feel good, but won’t make a difference—preaching to the converted never does.

American Jewish leadership does a reasonably good job running nursing homes, feeding the poor and housing the homeless. It is essentially a model forged in the prewar Ashkenazic communities of Europe and in the Sephardic world of the Levant, when the Jewish people were in effect powerless.

But when it comes to issues of exercising serious power to prevent another catastrophe in which the unthinkable can happen in an instant, our leaders have been impotent. They have adhered to an outdated model based on powerlessness despite the fact that, since the founding of the State of Israel, we now have power and a voice that potentially can be heard the world over.

I am not denying that we have an effective group in AIPAC, which does a phenomenal job of lobbying Congress. Paradoxically, however, no Jewish organization has succeeded when it comes to lobbying the Jewish people—and no organization has been successful in motivating the masses of Jews to action.

Where are our great, inspiring leaders who will be able to rally us, help us coalesce to work together for the good of the Jewish people and the world? Where is our Brandeis, our Martin Luther King Jr.? Where is our American Ben-Gurion or Jabotinsky?



Threats and insufficient response


We are running out of time. While the Arab leadership funded a well-thought-out campaign to sway the hearts and minds of the masses in Europe and the left in the United States; while they endowed chairs on college campuses and subsequently embedded like-minded professors sympathetic to their cause; we were marching at Israel Day parades singing “Am Yisrael Chai.”

While we were feeling warm and fuzzy, while we were asleep at the wheel, our enemies laid out and put into action a detailed and effective plan to destroy the State of Israel and the Jewish people. What they could not accomplish on the battlefield, they determined to carry out in the public arena.

We are now playing catch up—we finally realized what was going on and have been making a belated attempt to fight delegitimization and promote Israel studies on the campuses, but our efforts are nowhere near the scope that is necessary to effectively counter the momentum in place from our enemies’ efforts.  It is a case of too little, too late.

What are our leaders doing about these threats to the safety of Israel and the Jews? How loudly did our leaders protest when the world sided with the Turkish flotilla? How much is really being done about the Iran issue? Were our leaders vocal enough in response to the Goldstone report? And it staggers the mind how our leadership is not clamping down on some Jewish federations as they continue to fund organizations that espouse anti-Israel activities.

Considering our recent history, it seems inconceivable that our leaders are not more vociferous in their calls for justice and protection, are not organizing marches on Washington and putting unrelenting pressure on the president, are not coordinating a voice of truth to counter the growing threats. Quiet, behind-the-scenes diplomacy did not work during the Holocaust, and it won’t work now. The isolated voices of organizations like AIPAC, the Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee, the Zionist Organization of America and others are not enough. The groups that are pushing for sanctions are not doing enough.

We need our leaders to be louder and more forceful, and for their actions to have real results. They need to motivate not only Congress and the administration to take action, but also Jews as a whole from apathy into action. We need more in-your-face Jewish activism. And we also need to form real partnerships with those that wish us well, i.e., the Evangelicals.

Would today’s Jewish leadership have the wherewithal to call for Jewish civil disobedience if a nightmare scenario develops, as yesterday’s leaders should have but did not during the Shoah?

Of course, there are some very dedicated and inspired leaders among us. There are those who are speaking out, those who are trying to apply the lessons of the Soviet Jewry model, which was one of American Jewry’s successes (albeit only after impetus from the masses). But there are too few of them.

To understand, it helps to look back. The failure of American Jewish leadership during World War II was no doubt in part motivated by fear, by the conviction that not rocking the boat was the best course, by the desire to hold onto the relatively newfound security of living in America, a safe haven and an ocean away from the turmoil of Europe. During the Holocaust, there were grass-roots groups doing valiant work on behalf of Europe’s Jews that were essentially silenced by America’s mainstream Jewish leadership.

This is the legacy we have inherited. Our leaders today have additional reasons for choosing to keep silent. Raising the alarm about the threats to Israel runs the risk of being labeled a racist or Islamophobe. And certainly there are many leaders who simply don’t know what to do. As a consequence they are doing next to nothing.

We know from modern Jewish history that people, organizations and leadership can change. In the 1940s, despite the horrific news coming from Europe, a number of individuals, organizations and rabbis were and remained opposed to the establishment of the refuge of the State of Israel. Some Jews opposed the United States entering and prosecuting the war. In hindsight, their opposition was ghastly.

Yet when prompted by their constituents, organizations do change, as do their leaders. Although the American Jewish Committee was not enthusiastic about Zionism before the State of Israel was declared, today it is one of the leading advocates for Israel and the Jewish people.

Choosing our leaders

Finally, we must reconsider how we choose our leaders. Our decision-makers today, the ones on the boards guiding collective Jewish action, are predominantly consensus builders drawn from the moneyed class, many of whom are unschooled in Jewish history and ritual, often unappreciative of the mystique and grandeur of our heritage, and lacking a solid grasp of what is most beneficial for the Jewish people and for Israel. When they do act, they often make ill-considered decisions that lead to poor outcomes.

To continue to choose our leaders from the same subset year after year and expect different results is not rational.

We should choose our leaders with different criteria in mind. Leaders should be people who are independent, creative thinkers and committed doers. They should be people of conviction and vision with the moral courage to rock the boat. We need leadership that is more diverse in terms of age and range of experience.

Our leaders should include members of the clergy, the academy and the creative community—people who understand the lessons of history and believe that history has a purpose. They are the ones who can inject into our community the missing vitality, imagination and vision.

We are in dire need of leaders who are connected to core Jewish values and who are caring, have empathy, wisdom and a majestic vision to be part of the power structure. Their collective experience, combined with the acumen of some of the current leaders, should improve the process of decision-making and lead to better outcomes.

If we choose our leaders with these criteria in mind, we will increase the probability that charismatic and forceful leaders will arise.

We cannot afford to remain silent. It is up to us to speak up, motivate our current leaders and ultimately strengthen our leadership. That is our homework. Let us hope that there is still time.

(Aryeh Rubin, a JTA board member, is the managing partner of the Maot Group and the founder and director of Targum Shlishi.

)

Report: Iran to build new nuclear research reactors


Iran plans to build “four to five” nuclear research reactors and will continue to enrich uranium to provide their fuel, a nuclear official said on Monday despite Western pressure on Tehran to curb atomic work.

The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Fereydoon Abbasi, said Tehran would build the reactors “in the next few years” to produce medical radioisotopes, according to the students news agency ISNA.

“To provide the fuel for these (new) reactors, we need to continue with the 20 percent enrichment of uranium,” ISNA quoted him as saying.

Israel reconsidering nuclear power plans in light of Japan crisis


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview with CNN that Israel is reconsidering its plans for a nuclear energy facility in light of what happened in Japan. The interview is set to be aired later on Thursday.

Japan is facing a nuclear crisis after a major earthquake and tsunami led to explosions and rising radiation levels in the country’s nuclear plants. The UN nuclear watchdog said on Thursday the situation at the damaged Japanese nuclear power plant remained very serious but no major worsening had occurred since Wednesday.

Israel created a plan for a nuclear energy plant to be located in the Negev several years ago but it has yet come into fruition.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

Jewish groups congratulate Egypt, hope for continued peace


In initial statements, Jewish groups congratulated Egyptians on ousting Hosni Mubarak and expressed hope for continued peace with Israel.

“The demonstrations by the people of Egypt against the regime’s authoritarianism and repression, and their demands for greater freedom, political accountability and transparency, have been inspiring to all who cherish democracy and liberty,” the Anti-Defamation League said in a statement Friday after Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman announced that Mubarak had relinquished his powers to the army. “The people of Egypt must now channel their passion for change into the more difficult task of building the foundations for a true open, inclusive and stable democracy.”

The statement noted uncertainty about “the new role of the military is and how they will govern” as well as “serious questions about what role the Muslim Brotherhood will play in the transition and beyond, and how this will impact Egypt’s policies, and its relations with the West and the State of Israel.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center said it “congratulates and commends the Egyptian people’s courageous and non-violent transformation of their country.” It continued: “We hope that future developments will help institutionalize individual and political freedoms and that the new Egyptian government will continue to maintain the legacy of peaceful coexistence with all its neighbors, including the state of Israel.”

J Street’s President Jeremy Ben-Ami also issued a statement congratulating the Egyptian people, adding “The epic changes underway in the broader Arab world have important implications for Israel, beyond simply its bilateral relationship with Egypt, as well as for the United States. It is now even more imperative to seriously pursue a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert provided the following advice this week to his successor Benjamin Netanyahu in light of events in Egypt: ‘Don’t wait. Move, lead and make history. This is the time. There will not be a better one.’”

Jewish Journal staff contributed to this report.

Shooting Sarah Palin


I was visiting with a friend and Israeli war hero the other day, a guy with great stories named Elan Frank, and all we could talk about was Sarah Palin.

Let me explain. Frank was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1982 after he rescued 25 Israeli soldiers caught in a nighttime terrorist ambush deep inside Lebanon. The conditions were so risky that Frank’s co-pilot suggested they abort the mission. Frank ignored the advice, and under intense enemy fire, he made a daredevil 360 degree move to speed up the helicopter’s landing and rescue the troops.

That was 26 years ago. Now Frank is a busy filmmaker.

Earlier this year, he called the office of the governor of Alaska to ask permission to shoot Sarah Palin for his new film, a documentary about powerful women of the world. Because he had spent a lot of time in Alaska, he’d heard about the feisty Palin and thought she’d be a natural.

Well, guess what? She said yes.

So there he was in Alaska a few weeks later, with his camera practically glued for several days to the eight-months-pregnant governor as she went about her daily business.

As fate would have it, soon thereafter Palin became the most talked-about woman on the planet, and Frank became the proprietor of film footage everyone wanted to see.

While I sat in his office last week, he took several calls from the press, including one from a producer at Fox television, who’s flying him to New York this week to appear on Fox News’ “On The Record With Greta Van Susteren.”

Frank hasn’t yet decided what to do with all the footage. Eventually, he hopes to make it part of his “Great Women” series and air it on a major television network.

I couldn’t wait that long, so he gave me a sneak preview of several hours of raw footage, including lots of private, off-the-cuff moments.

Here’s my conclusion after observing Palin in action: If you’re rooting for Obama-Biden this November, there’s reason to be nervous.

I don’t say this because I discovered something new and extraordinary about Palin. Rather, it’s that everything I saw reinforced the attributes that make her a winner.

For starters, she’s a likeable adrenalin junkie who doesn’t shy from public exposure. Palin gave Frank unusual access, so we got to see, on a typical day: Palin discussing legislative strategy with her chief of staff; reviewing the bidding process for the $40 billion Alaskan gas pipeline; making jokes about having to dust her office; schmoozing with lawmakers; asking pointed questions of her aides; inviting Oprah, on camera, to visit Alaska; speaking emotionally about fighting for oppressed women around the world; rushing under a snowfall to greet her 7-year-old daughter at a school bus stop; flirting with her husband and calling him “the boss”; playing the flute by a window; and, while talking to an aide on the phone in her kitchen and making dinner for her daughter, reminding the daughter not to stuff herself on potato chips.

Through it all, Palin was upbeat and cheerful — but you can sense an underlying edge. Frank’s camera captured some of that edge by showing the forceful movement of her hands when she felt strongly about something, or the occasional subtle glare when something didn’t please her.

There’s little doubt about Palin’s competitive streak; she couldn’t have succeeded in the rough world of Alaskan politics without one. Yet, unlike other driven politicians like Hillary Clinton, whose steely demeanor and exaggerated enthusiasm can turn off or intimidate people, Palin uses her folksy charm to disarm people. It’s the proverbial fist in the velvet glove.

Beyond that, there’s one sobering thought for sophisticated liberals who are aghast at the possibility that this caribou-hunting evangelical supermom will snatch defeat from their jaws of victory.

She’s a quick study.

Unlike a well-known current resident of the White House, she’s not intellectually lazy or impatient with details. What I saw was a probing, engaged woman who’s always on — and is anything but a naïve, small-town hick.

I wouldn’t be surprised if she looks more and more savvy as the campaign heads to the finish line. Unlike her critics who see her as a shooting star who will flame out, I see an ambitious newcomer to the big time who’s got enough street smarts to quickly improve herself. (The question, of course, will be how quickly she can catch up and make up for her lack of national experience.)

Frank saw all of those things and more when he hung out with Palin in Alaska. Frank himself is an independent who’s staunchly pro-Israel, and whose primary concern as a voter is the global threat of nuclear-based terrorism.

He’s not overly worried about Palin’s lack of experience on the world stage. He’s seen too many “experienced” and worldly politicians fall flat on their faces, and he sees in Palin a “natural-born leader” with good intuition who knows how to ask the right questions.

He thinks Palin is the opposite of what they call in Israel a “freyer” (a sucker or a fool), meaning that she’ll see right through the deceptive tactics of sneaky lizards like Ahmadinejad of Iran or Assad of Syria, who he believes would outmatch a well-intentioned and articulate diplomat like Barack Obama.

So yes, Frank seems to have fallen under her spell. But Frank is no freyer himself. This is a war hero who spent seven years in the Israeli army fighting a wily foe. He knows all about deception. He doesn’t trust easily. He can tell real from fake and tough from soft.

If Sarah Palin is anything, he says, she’s real and tough.

And in a dangerous world, Frank sees the appeal of a lioness who’s real and tough. Especially a lioness who learns quickly, loves her country and hates to lose.

David Suissa, an advertising executive, is founder of OLAM magazine and Ads4Israel.com. He can be reached at dsuissa@olam.org.



Israel Invests in Clean Tech as energy Crunch Looms


At a lab in Rehovot, the man who developed the Arrow missile is consumed with his next mission: making Israel energy independent by using cheap solar power.

“The issue of energy is the greatest danger to Israel, because in 30 years there will be no energy means, no oil and no gas, and the use of coal will be prohibited,” said Dov Raviv, now the CEO of MST, an Israeli renewable energy company. “Without energy Israel cannot survive, and we must find a substitute and find it fast. That is what I am trying to do.”

Raviv’s company is working to reduce the high price of solar power, which is not yet competitive with the price of conventional energy sources like oil, by more efficiently harnessing solar energy through a method of concentrating sunlight on a matrix of single solar cells.

MST is one of dozens of alternative energy start-ups across Israel seeking solutions to the global energy crisis.

Among the innovations under development are a gear system that dramatically boosts the efficiency of wind turbines, a device that would reduce gas emissions from trucks, the generation of bio-fuels from desert plants and various techniques to generate energy from unlikely sources, including seaweed and sewage water.

Entrepreneurs say Israeli solutions can help not only Israel but also the world.

“Israel has the minds, the R&D, the technology and the entrepreneurship, but we are lagging behind in terms of actual deployment,” said David Schwartz, the chairman of MyPlanet, an Israeli consortium of companies involved in energy and security issues. “This is impeding reaching our full potential as a source of alternative energy for the world.”

Israel’s leadership in the development of alternative energy also can have security benefits. If the world is weaned from its overwhelming dependence on oil, the oil-rich autocratic regimes that surround the Jewish state, including Iran, will have less oil revenue to pay for their anti-Israel activities — whether the development of nuclear weapons or the funding of fundamentalist terrorist groups.

During a recent visit to Israel to accept the $1 million Dan David Award for promoting environmental awareness, Al Gore asked a question many Israelis have been pondering themselves: “How is it here, in the land of the sun, there is no widespread use of solar energy?”

Alternative energy is “good for the Jews,” Gore told a conference on the subject at Tel Aviv University.

Industry observers say more aggressive government policies, such as underwriting renewable energy initiatives and granting more land for power plants, are needed to bolster the development of alternative energy.

“Europe and the U.S. have made incredible strides,” Schwartz said. “Israel has not.”

Meanwhile, Israel has an energy shortage looming. Israel’s supply capacity is 10,600 megawatts per day, and the country has come dangerously close to exceeding that demand on especially hot and cold days.

With limited energy reserves to accommodate for surges, and as the country’s population and energy use grows, the problem is becoming more acute.

The head of the Israel Energy Forum, Yael Cohen-Paran, says some relatively simple measures could significantly reduce the load on the energy grid: cash rebates for those who purchase energy-efficient air conditioning and heating units, and government encouragement of energy-saving building practices.

The long-term solution, however, may require more of a shift.

At the Tel Aviv energy conference, Israel’s infrastructure minister, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, responded to criticism of government policy on the issue by announcing a commitment to increase the share of such energies to 15 percent to 20 percent of Israel’s total energy use by 2020, double that of previous targets.

He also pledged to adopt a plan to build one new solar station per year for the next 20 years and introduce a bill to make the Negev Desert and southern Israel a “national preference region” for renewable energies. Tax breaks and other incentives would be part of the package.

Yossi Abramowitz, the president of Arava Power, wants to install 62,500 solar panels by year’s end on the sun-drenched sands of Israel’s deserts. He says his company has found investors to pay for solar power stations that would be capable of supplying up to 500 megawatts of electricity for the country — nearly 5 percent of Israel’s daily energy needs during daylight hours.

The project relies on the use of photovoltaics, or PV, a relatively expensive technology that uses a fraction of the silicon used in conventional solar panels to convert sunlight-generated photons into energy.

But for this energy to be competitive on the open market, the government needs to double its current rate of subsidy, Abramowitz says, bringing Israel more in line with the levels of subsidy in countries such as Germany and Spain.

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev recently announced a new deal with Israeli start-up Zenith Solar to license solar energy technology developed by its researchers that could revolutionize the way solar power is collected and drastically reduce its price.

The new method, a form of “concentrated PV,” would use fewer of the expensive silicon solar cells to create energy. Instead it would use low-cost glass mirrors to collect sunlight and then focus it onto a relatively small amount of those solar cells to generate power.

The Israeli founder of an algae fuel company called GreenFuel, Isaac Berzin, who was named by Time magazine as one of its Top 100 people in the world for 2008, says Israel is too small of a country to keep such technology to itself.

“Israel should be a catalyst for change,” Berzin said. “Israel is a very small market, a very small place in the middle of nowhere, but it has here what it takes in terms of technology, the know-how to change the world.”

Elegy for a Dream


I came to America 30 years ago last month. I arrived in Los Angeles the night Elvis died. I was 16 years old, fresh out of a Swiss boarding school, about to
start my first year of college.

This was two years before the Islamic Revolution, yet I had left Iran willingly and without regret, certain that I would never go back except to visit. I did love the country, and most of its people. To this day, I think it’s the most beautiful place I have seen, and that its people, by and large, are among the smartest, most hospitable, most capable in the world.

But even in 1977, when the Shah was still firmly in power and his kingdom was, in the fateful words of President Carter, “an island of stability,” Iran was a place of great injustice and vast intolerance — a land of the mighty where the rich, the well-connected wielded nearly absolute power over the weak. And though I came from a well-to-do family, at a time when the Jews had thrived and prospered thanks to the Shah, I was acutely aware of the small and large cruelties — the devastating limitations imposed on the poor, the meek and women by religion and geography and thousand-year-old traditions.

The first two years in Los Angeles were a time of great loneliness for me: I had lost touch with my Iranian friends when I left for boarding school, and I lost my boarding school friends when I left for America. Back then, most Americans had not heard of Iran and couldn’t imagine what kind of place it was. When I told them it’s somewhere in the Middle East, near some Arab countries, and that we had oil, they asked, without malice or sarcasm, if I could belly-dance and if we had paved roads and cars or if we rode camels to work and school. When I told them that Iranians are not Arabs, that Iran is the old Persia, they looked at me suspiciously and asked why, then, had I claimed I was Iranian, and not Persian.

Still, there was something about being cut loose from the past, existing in a vacuum of tradition and identity so dissimilar to the rigid structure that would have stifled me in Iran, having possibilities I wouldn’t have dared contemplate as a woman or a Jew back there, that gave me a sense of exhilaration and optimism.

When the Shah fell in early ’79, and tens of thousands of other Iranians began to settle in Los Angeles, I thought I had been granted two blessings at once: I could live in the proximity of my Iranian family and friends, without having to submit to the inequities of Iranian society. I found it strange that other Iranian Jews, even women my age, lamented the fall of the Shah and their own subsequent exile with such great passion, that they spent months, even years, glued to American television and Farsi language radio, waiting for news of the coup they were sure the Shah, and later his son, would stage. I could understand the sense of loss and disorientation, the nostalgia for home and country that many of my fellow Iranian Jews suffered from in those days, but I didn’t see how any of us would want to return to the place we had been, in my mind at least, liberated from. How we could, in good conscience, pray to return to life in a dictatorship when we could live in a democratic country; how we could wish to be ruled by one man’s whims and wishes when we could opt for a set of laws that transcended the individual?

Once the Shah died and his crown prince assumed the role of “monarch in exile,” I watched with wonder as Iranians rallied around him in hopes that he would unseat the mullahs and bring them all back home. I had seen him — Crown Prince Reza — when I was a child in Iran. He was about my age. In official photographs and on the television news, he looked lost in his surroundings, uncomfortable in the French suits and military uniforms he was made to wear, uneasy before the grown men who bowed before him and kissed his hand, the jewel-clad women who were moved to tears by the honor of having permission to curtsy before him.

Three decades later, in the gatherings hosted by Iranian immigrants in Los Angeles, he was tall, graying, and still, to my mind, a bit lost. He spoke about his imminent return to Iran, how he was going to save the country and its people, rule as a constitutional monarch. To me, he sounded tentative — as if he were playing a role he had assumed for lack of another option, chasing a destiny that, try as he might, he knew he wasn’t going to catch. But all around me people sat glued to his words, praising his speeches, rushing to applaud.

I could understand the adoration most Jews had for him and his father: The Shah had been good to us. He had given us freedom and opportunity and a sense of safety we hadn’t known for more than 1,000 years of living in Shiite Iran. But he had also ruled as a tyrant who claimed he was God’s personal envoy on Earth, who insisted that his portrait be displayed in every house and business establishment in the country, that his anthem — not the national anthem, but the one created to worship him — be played in every movie theater before every showing of every film. That schoolchildren everywhere in the country begin their day with a prayer for his health and well-being. His appetite for power was endless; the consequences for disobeying were unthinkable. Is this, I wondered, what people were wishing to return to?

On Aug. 24, I was clearing out my junk e-mail when I came upon an e-mail sent by one of the many Iranian-American groups active on the Web. Perhaps because it was the anniversary of my arrival in the United States, because I was already amazed and stunned at the speed with which time had passed, I opened the e-mail. It was a grainy, black-and-white, home video shot by an unsteady hand and posted on You Tube. It showed images of Tehran on the morning of the Shah’s official coronation: Empty, barricaded streets; the Shah and his family inside a palace, walking down a velvet rug, up to a bejeweled throne where he placed a crown on his queen’s head, and another on his own. Afterward, thousands of people lined up behind barricades on the sides of the streets, an endless police motorcade, two carriages — one for the Shah and his queen, the other for the crown prince — pulled by white horses. It was an unreal sight — the young prince, so small that his feet, I imagined, didn’t reach the floor of the carriage, sitting behind the window with the solid gold frame, waving his little hand at his father’s subjects, traversing a street, a city, a country that, he has been told all his life, will one day be his.

Documentary shows ‘Blood and Tears’ of Israeli-Palestinian conflict


Isidore Rosmarin is a brave, or foolhardy, documentary filmmaker. In “Blood and Tears: The Arab-Israeli Conflict,” he has attempted to encapsulate, without fear or favor, the relationship between the two peoples — from biblical times to the present — all within 73 minutes.

Surprisingly, Rosmarin, a veteran of “60 Minutes” and “Dateline,” has come as close to objectivity as seems possible amid the swirling passions. He starts out on the assumption that his general audience has little factual knowledge about the Middle East and that partisans on either side are largely ignorant about how their adversaries feel and think.

Thus, like a good teacher, he stops the narration at intervals to flash signboards with pithy explanations of key terms: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Zionism, Hamas, Fatah. That technique may be a bit of a drag for the “expert” but helpful to the millions with firm opinions based more on prejudice than knowledge.

Through interviews, file footage, graphics and animation, the film manages to squeeze in an astonishing amount of information and an impressive array of talking heads, spanning the spectrum of ideologies on both sides. To add flavor and body, regular folk in the Arab village or Jewish town have their say, often to convey their grievous sense of loss and pain at the killing of sons and daughters.

Israeli politicians, such as Binyamin Netanyahu on the right and Yossi Beilin on the left, weigh in, as do Palestine Authority spokesman Saeed Erekat and Hamas co-founder Abdul Aziz al Rantissi, interviewed in the film before he was killed by an Israeli Apache helicopter missile in 2004. Lending a scholarly, though not unbiased, view are Princeton’s Bernard Lewis, Harvard’s Alan Dershowitz and American University’s Akbar Ahmed .

More interesting than the largely predictable pronouncements by politicians and professors is the genuine soul-wrestling by such men as American-born Israeli journalist Yossi Klein Halevi, who served as a soldier in the Gaza Strip.

On the one hand, “There was the shame of policing other people,” Halevi ponders, offset “by the realization that [the Arabs] wanted to turn us into refugees.”

His counterpart on the Palestinian side is a young physician who rejects the argument that the land is too small by quoting an Arab proverb, “A small house is large enough to accommodate 100 friends, but too small to hold two enemies.”

Pessimistic Lewis puts little faith in proverbs, explaining that a basic tenet of Islam is that any land once under Muslim rule can never be given up; and be taken back from the infidel. He emphasizes the point more colloquially, declaring, “Asking Islam to give up terrorism is like asking Tiger Woods to give up golf.”

For his part, Rosmarin holds out little hope that peace will come through the exertions of politicians or pressure from outside powers. Peace will only come “from the ground up,” he believes, when the two wounded people decide that an imperfect compromise is better than endless killing.

“Blood and Tears” opens Aug. 24 at Laemmle’s Grande 4-plex. (213) 617-0268.

Iran pulling strings to create Mideast turmoil


What do all the current threats facing the Middle East — the Hamas takeover in the Gaza Strip, Hezbollah’s bid for power in Lebanon, political turmoil in Iraq and imminent nu- clear weapons in the hands of a radical dictatorship — all have in common? Answer: Iran.

While these issues all have their local roots, they are also linked by Tehran’s drive for regional hegemony. Iran’s strategy has basically been in place since the 1979 Islamist revolution, but it has only recently begun to pay off. The often-stated goal of the revolution was to turn Iran into a utopian Islamist society and then to spread this revolution throughout the Middle East and the Islamic world in general.

While all Iranian leaders voice basic support for this program, the country has often been cautious in pursuing it, especially given the long war with Iraq in the 1980s and the possibility of Western opposition. But now a number of events have given the regime renewed confidence, and the extreme line taken by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has also produced more daring and, thus, both reckless and violent behavior.

Iran tries to extend its influence in three ways: through propaganda and incitement, by promoting client groups and projecting the state’s own power. Today, Iran sponsors radical Islamist groups in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and among the Palestinians, as well as in other countries. Its two most important clients are Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Palestinian group Hamas.

While this is not to suggest that these organizations are totally controlled by Tehran and have their every move dictated by it, Iran largely finances these groups, provides weapons and training, encourages them to launch attacks and shapes their ideology. Without Iran’s backing, they would lack most of their power.

The evidence indicates that Iran has been urging them to be more aggressive and to launch terrorist attacks and more general offensives.

Take Lebanon, for example. Hezbollah, the large Shi’a Muslim group, closely follows Iran’s line. The organization’s head, Hassan Nasrallah, is also the official representative in Lebanon of Iran’s “spiritual guide” or supreme leader — that country’s most powerful official.

In 2006, it launched attacks on Israel that led to a major war, steps it would never dared have taken unless Hezbollah’s leadership knew that Iran wanted such actions. Indeed, in an April interview on Al-Kawthar TV, Hezbollah Deputy Secretary-General Sheikh Naim Qassem told his interviewer that “Hezbollah, when it comes to matters of jurisprudence pertaining to its general direction, as well as to its jihad direction, bases itself on the decisions of the ‘spiritual guide’ [Iran’s supreme leader]…. With regard to all the other details — whenever we need jurisprudent clarifications regarding what is permitted and what is forbidden on the jihad front, we ask, receive general answers and implement them.”

Since the end of the summer 2006 war, Hezbollah’s emphasis has been to seek control over Lebanon, though it has simultaneously rebuilt its military power. On a number of occasions, Iran has been caught smuggling arms to Hezbollah, through both Syria and Turkey. Iranian Revolutionary Guards act as military advisers to Hezbollah.

Opponents of an Iranian-Syrian takeover in Lebanon, both politicians and journalists, have been systematically murdered in terrorist attacks. Clearly, as many Lebanese have noted, Iran is seeking to turn Lebanon into a satellite state.

The same tactics are employed with the Palestinians. Hamas and the even more extremist Palestinian Islamic Jihad follow Iran’s line. Tehran has publicly urged these organizations to carry out terrorist attacks and, in addition to training and arms, provides them with examples of openly anti-Semitic rhetoric duplicated in their propaganda.

This June was a turning point in Palestinian history. Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip, expelled its nationalist Fatah rivals, executed many people because of their political views or activities and made clear its intention of transforming the Gaza Strip into an Islamist state, basically following Iran’s example.

Many Palestinians and other Arabs publicly state their fear and resentment at the idea that Hamas represented an Iranian effort to seize control of their land and cause. On June 20, Yasser Abed Rabbo, senior member of Fatah’s PLO executive committee, said in a press statement that “Iran helped Hamas to lead a military coup against the legitimate Palestinian leadership and to control the Gaza Strip.”

“Iran supports those hostile powers in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories in order to serve its regional interests on the expense of the peoples and nations of the region,” Abed Rabbo said.

Similarly, in a recent speech, Egyptian Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit asserted that Iranian aid to Hamas activities in Gaza posed a threat to Egyptian national security.

Two of the Arab world’s top journalists have also spoken out on this issue. Tariq al-Humayd, editor of the popular Arabic daily, Asharq Alawsat, wrote, “The source of the funds is obviously Iran. Today, no one has control over Hamas … except Iran, its economic patron, and Syria,” Iran’s ally and the place where Hamas has its headquarters.

Ahmad Al-Jarallah, editor of Kuwait’s Al-Siyassa, noted: “By means of Hamas’ takeover in Gaza, the Iran-Syria axis has managed … to sabotage the Israeli-Palestinian peace” and become the main arbiter of regional politics.

Make no mistake — this is only the beginning. On the horizon looms Iran’s nuclear arsenal. If Tehran gets this ultimate weapon of mass destruction, it will rally far larger numbers of radical and terrorist forces in attacking the West and more moderate Arabs, as well as Israel.

Hiding behind its nuclear umbrella, Iran and its allies will also be able to openly engage in attacks on Western interests without fear of Western retribution. Finally, if Iran gets the upper hand, it will block any chance for peace and push the region into decades of more bloodshed.

This is why the details of events in Iraq, Lebanon and among the Palestinians do not detract from, but indeed reinforce, the need to contain Iran and especially to ensure that it does not obtain nuclear weapons.

Ehud Danoch is consul general of Israel to the Southwestern United States and served previously as chief of staff to Israel’s deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs.

Ugly ties bind genocide past and present


Genocide.

The word evokes different, powerful references, depending upon who hears it.

For Jews, the primary thought is the Holocaust, officially recognized in the United States as the first genocide.

For Armenians, it refers to mass killings by the Ottomans in Turkey in 1915, though many countries, including the United States, have not recognized those as such.

These days the word immediately points to Africa — to Rwanda, Darfur and other recent bloodbaths that have involved ethnic cleansing.

But genocide is not a modern invention, and although the term has legal connotations — specific conditions must apply in a conflict for the U.S. government to officially use the designation — acts of genocide can be traced back to the Bible. Some scholars argue that there have been 15 or more additional occurrences that could qualify in the 20th century. And while the motives of the perpetrators, the identity of the victims and the region of the carnage have changed over time, genocides almost always share one common thread:
Religion.

“Whenever genocide takes place, religion is involved — before, during or after — in one way or another,” said John K. Roth, founding director of the Center for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights at Claremont McKenna College and the author of “Approaches to Auschwitz: The Holocaust and Its Legacy.”

Roth spoke last month at a conference titled “Genocide and Religion: Victims, Perpetrators, Bystanders and Resisters,” a collaboration between the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Pepperdine University School of Law, Institute on Law, Religion and Ethics.

The Feb 17-19 symposium, which was open to the public and attended by a few hundred students, scholars, rabbis and community members, aimed to broaden the discussion beyond the usual focus on a single genocide, such as the Holocaust — the subject of many books, studies, films and classes.

It also went deeper than many such conferences by examining as many as possible of the various groups involved in a genocide — the perpetrators, the victims, the bystanders and resisters — all of whom can be found in every such conflict, past and present.

“We didn’t want it to be just another conference on perpetrators’ responsibility,” said Roger Alford, an associate professor in the law school at Pepperdine, who organized the conference with professor Michael Bazyler, of Whittier Law School in Costa Mesa.

“We wanted to basically focus on the issue of how law and genocide and religion connect with one another: Is there a religious motivation, why are certain groups targeted, why is it the resisters try to resist, is there a religious component to that, what is it about bystanders and why do they not do more?” Alford said of the three days of lectures by academics, legal scholars and government officials from around the world.

There are four motivations for genocide, Roth said: To implement a belief, a theory or ideology; to eliminate threat; to spread terror among enemies; and to acquire economic wealth.

“Religion can be an agitating factor in genocides,” he said, noting that it is impossible to understand the numbers of people affected by the devastation, which has effects for generations to come, because it destroys cultures and traditions. “The effects of genocide have not stopped. On the contrary. Genocide has gone on and on. It might continue to do so.”

Religion plays a role in conflicts today, said Sandra Bunn-Livingstone, of the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom, Bureau of Human Rights. “The less religious freedom, the higher the religious persecution, and it sets the stage for possible genocide.”

Today, she pointed out, “there is higher religious persecution in countries with Muslims.”

Of 143 countries monitored for the highest level of persecution, 40 percent had a Muslim majority, versus 3.9 percent with a Christian majority.

On speakers’ and audience members’ minds was the role that Islam plays in world conflicts today — conflicts that have not been designated as genocide, but which involve terrorism, murder and group persecution.

Is there something inherent in Islam that is responsible for the terrorist tactics we see being perpetrated around the world today?
“We have to be very careful about demonizing religion,” Bazyler said in an interview. “We in the Jewish community have to be careful not to do that; it doesn’t serve us well.”

Instead of condemning the entire community or religion, we should “criticize individuals in the Muslim communities for not condemning enough the extremist elements, and we can reach out to what we believe are moderate Muslims.”

Others at the event lamented a climate in academia in which there’s “a fear of political incorrectness,” in the words of Israel Charney, executive director of the Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Although Charney is against those who completely vilify Islam, such as Daniel Pipes and Arianna Fallaci — “who are so inciting they inflame the process I’m against,” he said — he allowed that “the violent position has prevailed” many times in Islamic society, and he said that it’s important to tell it like it is.

Of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s call to eliminate Israel, Charney said, “I don’t think you send that to a committee for discussion; you treat it as incitement, you treat that as a call to kill, you add that to your evaluation to what it means that they’re seeking nuclear weapons, and unless you’re a complete jerk, you start looking for what actions to take, but you don’t do nothing and say, ‘We don’t really know if he means it, we don’t know if he has influence,’ That’s been the rationalization [so] that you don’t have to respond to stop him.”

Others at the conference were less certain.

“How Islam is to be interpreted,” Roth said, is still up for discussion. “If you go back to the Hebrew Bible or other traditions, you can see there’s a struggle taking place” between the injunction against murder and the allowances for it.

Unmasking Purim’s vital meaning


It’s a classic Jewish tale: Just when we feel comfortable and safe, nahafokh hu — the whole world can turn upside down.

Megillat Esther, read on Purim, reminds us that history is capricious and life is fragile; that willing or not, we must confront our powerlessness and vulnerability, our inability to control everything. Or anything. We’re given some tools to assist in that brutal awakening — masks and flasks — which help us laugh at ourselves as we venture into the dangerous territory of rabbi-sanctioned drunken revelry, of the outrageous, irresponsible behavior most of us work hard to guard against the rest of the year.

On Purim we are instructed (Megillah 7a) to drink ad d’lo yada, until we can no longer distinguish between Haman and Mordecai, evil and good, blessing and curse — an excuse to be utterly confused, an annual corrective to our desperate attempts to exert control over our lives.

But is this really a laudable religious goal? The practice of Purim seems counterintuitive, counterproductive and even dangerous. Why put ourselves through it?

The Talmud tells the story of Rabbah, who, in a drunken frenzy on Purim, accidentally murders R. Zeira, then miraculously resuscitates him after sobering up. A year later, Rabbah again invites R. Zeira to celebrate Purim with him, but R. Zeira blithely refuses this time, saying that miracles are not to be taken for granted (Megillah 7b).

This story is an expression of rabbinic ambivalence to ad d’lo yada — underscoring the deeply problematic nature of Purim for people of conscience and sensibility. Most of us spend our year working assiduously to make order out of a chaotic world — trying to repair broken relationships, to make space for holiness in our work and in our homes; trying to respond to grief with comfort, to cruelty with goodness. Most of us work hard to try to remember — amidst the chaos — that every deed, every moment has the potential to pierce the darkness with some light.

Then Purim arrives each year, mandating that we contemplate a world without God (there is no mention of God throughout the entire megillah), that we entertain our darkest fears about the direction of history (there is no such thing as real security — our individual and collective destinies could change in an instant).

On Purim we are forced to confront the possibility that nothing we do really matters, because history is ultimately arbitrary, and life is therefore unalterably unpredictable. No wonder they tell us to have a couple of drinks …
But the power of Purim is not that it leaves us in a drunken stupor, vulnerable, uncertain and hungover.

The real power of Purim is that we move beyond the costumed debauchery — the ultimate response to nothingness — and respond to chaos with an affirmation of somethingness: namely the human capacity for goodness. One of the central obligations of Purim is not only to give mishloah manot — gifts to our loved ones, but also to give matanot l’evyonim — gifts to the poor. Remarkably, though the obligation is to give two gifts to two people in need, we are taught that even more is expected of us. “One is not exceedingly precautious with money on Purim. Rather, everyone who puts out a hand [in need], we are to give to that person” (Shulkhan Arukh, OH 694:3).

Purim demands that, for one day of the year, we are released from the shackles of cautious discernment and, instead, we give to anyone and everyone who lacks. We give, regardless of what we think or fear the person might do with the money, and regardless of our political perspectives on how best to fight poverty, homelessness and hunger. We give indiscriminately and generously, just because somebody needs.

Why the obligatory openheartedness? Because ultimately the message of Purim is that we can’t control history, but we must control how we treat humanity. Out of the depths of darkness, out of utter nonsense, we have the capacity to dream of a different kind of reality, one in which no person suffers the indignity of poverty, no parent puts her kids to bed hungry, and human beings work devotedly, even indiscriminately, to realize a world of dignity, justice and love.

At IKAR we try to communicate the complexity of this holiday through our Purim Justice Carnival. We embrace the confusion and moral ambiguity of Purim simultaneously with drunken revelry and a renewed commitment to social change.

We play blackjack with cards bearing hunger stats; we spin prize wheels for sweat-free souvenirs; we eat, drink and dance until it hurts. And at the end of the night, each of us ends up with a chunk of money that we give to organizations that are working to address critical local and global social justice issues.

But hunger, AIDS, economic justice on Purim? How do we reconcile those struggles with the obligation to have real simcha, joy of the holiday? The rabbis tell us exactly what it means to really experience the joy of the holiday.

“There is no greater or more wonderful joy,” says the Mishnah Berurah, “than to make happy the heart of a poor person, an orphan or a widow. And in this way, we are imitating God.”

Our commitment to help those most vulnerable fuels our celebration. Our Purim Justice Carnival is an attempt to integrate the religious and the political, the spiritual and the social — and for that reason it’s our best party of the year.

The rabbis teach that even when all the other festivals are abolished in the World to Come, Purim will remain (Midrash Mishle 9:2). Why is that? Because Purim is one holiday that teaches that no matter what life deals to us, we have the power to respond with love, hope, joy and purpose. We embrace chaos and meaninglessness for one day each year, precisely to affirm that that is not the world we want to live in. Then we spend the rest of the year making sure that it does not become our reality.

May we all be blessed this year with the capacity to internalize the message of Purim — to refuse to accept the inevitability of the flow of history, to give with all our hearts, to love with all our beings, and to work with all our strength to bring light, hope and healing into our world.

L’chayim!


Sharon Brous is rabbi of Olmert-Rice-Abbas summit meets low expectations

Fated to Meddle


So like every other red-blooded, terrorist-hating American I know, I spent some of this weekend watching the premiere of the new season of “24.”

It’s a four-hour thrill ride — three hours and change with TiVo — and whenever the hero, Jack Bauer, appears, my eyes make like Velcro to the screen, and a geopolitical satori blossoms within me. I allow myself to feel, for those precious moments, something I so rarely feel these days: No matter what, we are going to kick their butts.

Then I read Michael Oren’s new book.

At 604 pages, “Power, Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present” (Norton, 2007) will take you a bit more than four hours. But it is worth it — in fact, it’s a critical read for anyone who wants to understand how America can face the challenges arising from that region of the world.

The book is the first comprehensive history of American involvement in the Middle East. Its title gives the central thesis away: Our involvement has largely revolved around the quest for financial, military and diplomatic power, the impact of religion and the pull of fiction and fantasy (did I mention “24”?).

In other words, if your take on our role in the Middle East is limited to just oil, or just freedom and democracy, or just imperialism — Oren’s meticulously researched and grippingly narrated book will school you.

Take the first major foreign crisis our founders faced. “Prior to the revolution,” writes Oren, “the only major threat to America’s vital Mediterranean trade came from the Middle East. Styling themselves as mujahadeen warriors in an Islamic holy war, Arabic speaking pirates preyed on Western vessels, impounding their cargoes and enslaving their crews.”

After the revolution, the inevitable confrontation with these North African Barbary pirates led directly to the raising of the U.S. Navy, to the creation of the Constitution — a document that could secure the national unity necessary to fund and fight a foreign war — and thus to America’s first war on foreign soil — that soil being in the Mideast.

The alternative to war was to pay a $1 million tribute to the pasha of Tripoli, whose representative warned Thomas Jefferson in London, “It was … written in the Koran that all Nations who should not have acknowledged their [the Muslims’] authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon whoever they could find … and that every Musselman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.”

Oren uncovers the kinds of patterns that historians live to expose and the rest of us live to repeat. But he also provides examples where America acted benevolently, out of expanded self-interest. Following the Civil War, American expertise and largesse helped build the foundations of a modern army and a civil society in Egypt.

To read Arab propaganda today, you’d think America’s only Mideast offspring was the State of Israel. But Oren provides a fascinating account of how, following World War II, President Harry S. Truman provided crucial support for the independence of Libya, Syria and Iran.

Granted, the latter measures were designed in part to thwart Soviet power and ensure American oil supplies, but as Oren points out, “….The United States emerged from World War II as … an advocate for [Middle East] development and a defender of its freedom.”

These political developments interacted over the years with America’s deep religiosity, which held the Middle East as sacred soil. Americans were Zionists before Zionists existed.

In 1819, Protestant missionaries sailed from Boston determined to restore Palestine to the Jews. In the 1840s, one of their leaders was a Hebrew scholar at New York University named George Bush, forebear to two presidents. Later waves of American missionaries created institutions, including modern universities, that reshaped the Middle East.

And through it all, Oren argues, fiction and fantasy, from “A Thousand and One Arabian Nights” to “State of Siege” have shaped our perceptions (He neglects to mention “24,” a correction due for the next edition). Nineteenth- century travelers to the region took only one book as their literal guidebook: the Bible. In search of Abraham and King David, they were inevitably disappointed.

After Sept. 11, CNN analysts turned to spy novelist Tom Clancy for insights into Arab terrorism, an indication, to Oren, of “the degree to which fantasy and fact remained blurred in America’s Middle East perceptions.” The disappointment persists.

Oren, a Yale-trained historian who lives in Jerusalem, ends his book with Operation Iraqi Freedom — another George Bush, another confluence of power, faith and fantasy.

“The debate over the essential nature of the Middle East and its relations with the United States,” he writes, “shows no signs of waning.”

True. And that’s what makes this particular book such a crucial textbook for the next generation of policymakers. I called Oren at his home and asked him what the lesson for these people would be.”Nuance,” Oren said. “I keep coming back to that word. I hope they come to see that American involvement is far more nuanced than they may believe or have been led to believe.”

“On balance,” he said, “the good America has done in the Middle East has outweighed the damage it might have caused. The picture is far more multidimensional.”

An American-born Israeli, Oren is not a man without opinions, but his book lays out “the background and context” by which Americans can make their fateful decisions. “I was very careful not to be prescriptive,” he said.

Still, in reading the book, the lessons leap out. One is that America’s fate is strangely tied to the fate of the Middle East. Like it or not, that has been our lot since the founding. Another is that most of what Oren points to as our successes in the Middle East have to do with economic and political building and development, not war and confrontation (Oh, now he tells us).

Oren points out that the Civil War general, George B. McClellan, who made a post-bellum semiofficial trip up the Nile, wrote that education and widening exposure to the West could gradually transform the region.

Getting kicked out of shul


A few weeks before the High Holidays, Aaron Biston went to pray at Beth Jacob Congregation, a Modern Orthodox synagogue on Olympic Boulevard in Beverly Hills.

After services, during the Kiddush, Steven Weil, the congregation’s rabbi, came over to Biston and asked him to leave the synagogue because he had been banned from its premises several months prior.

Biston refused and demanded, in front of his 13-year-old daughter, to know why he should comply.

Biston said the rabbi replied by addressing the girl: “Your dad’s a thief, a crook, a bad man and a menace to the community.”

Biston then cursed out the rabbi.

What happened next is a matter of some dispute, but both parties agree that the rabbi publicly asked Biston to leave the synagogue and never return.

Biston is now threatening a lawsuit against the congregation unless, he said, he receives a public apology from the rabbi and is allowed to return to the synagogue. Weil has already sent a letter to Biston and his daughter, in which he apologized for his language but said he stands by his decision to ban Biston from the shul.

Biston’s public airing of his story and his threat to file suit have brought to light a number of complaints from others who also have been asked to leave Beth Jacob. They claim the rabbi is autocratic and mercurial and bars people who don’t fit his image of an appropriate congregant.

Weil is a charismatic and intense leader. He came to Beth Jacob from Detroit in 2000, and he can often be seen wearing the work boots and jeans of his upstate New York farming upbringing. He is known for innovative programming, including a cigar club where the rabbi and young men in the community smoke, drink and learn Torah, and the summer Kollel, a post-college learning program.

He spoke to The Journal in the company of synagogue president Dr. Steve Tabak and former synagogue president Marc Rohatiner. Together they openly discussed the half-dozen people who have been banned from their shul.

Although they did not divulge identities of the people they had banned in order to protect them and their accusers from public scrutiny, they painted a picture of individuals whom they believe pose a threat to Beth Jacob’s membership.

Among the stories was that of Biston, who was a defendant in a civil lawsuit over a real estate deal with another member of Beth Jacob that went sour. Court documents allege that Biston cultivated the deal on the shul’s grounds, although Biston claims to have known the man outside of the shul.

The other individuals include someone alleged to have sexually harassed a synagogue member, a man alleged to have behaved inappropriately with children, a woman alleged to have stalked a member with whom she believed she had a relationship and a man who, shortly before being asked to leave the shul, was convicted of pedophilia.

This ugly underside of synagogue life raises the question for all synagogues, not just Beth Jacob: What power does a rabbi or executive board have to deny entry to Jews?

The legal answer is straightforward: A synagogue is a private institution, and when it comes to membership — or in this case, entry, because most of the people asked to leave were not members — the synagogue is entitled to accommodate however it sees fit.

The religious answer is not quite as clear. According to halacha (Jewish law), one needs a beit din, a religious court, to put a person in herem — which means to excommunicate them, to cast them away from the community and isolate them.
But the old rules don’t really hold today, when there are many congregations from which to choose.

“Many times, throughout Jewish history, there were rabbis who placed people in herem,” said Rabbi Alan Kalinsky, West Coast director of the Orthodox Union. “In those days it was a major thing; today, they’d laugh and go to the next town.”

The Rabbinical Council of California (RCC), which runs the Orthodox religious court of California, said it does not get involved in private synagogue matters.
“The RCC is a council of rabbis, not a council of synagogues, per se, and doesn’t set synagogue policy,” said Rabbi Avrohom Union, the administrator for the RCC.

In any case, all the religious courts have refused to intervene in the Biston case. (Biston said he is taking his case to a New York beit din.)
The Orthodox Union, the governing organization for Orthodox shuls, holds that a rabbi has the authority to act independently.

“Each rabbi is the morah d’atra, the rabbinic halachic authority of his congregation — that’s why he was chosen,” Kalinsky said. “If the rabbi feels strongly about [someone], he will go to his board, which is responsible for the issues of governance in the synagogue, and they could enforce what they deem appropriate.”

Even if the question is neither legal nor halachic, it nevertheless remains one of ethics: If a synagogue is intended to be open to all Jews, how should leadership deal with characters they feel are unsavory or pose a threat to the community? What is the balance between freedom and security?

Synagogues everywhere always have grappled with the issue of security, but especially since the attacks of Sept. 11. With terrorism and anti-Semitic attacks on the rise internationally, most Jewish institutions have strengthened their security. For example, on the High Holidays this year, a month after the Jewish Federation offices in Seattle were attacked by a gunman, murdering one worker, most synagogues in Southern California increased the number of guards at their doors and carefully checked guest lists of people who had preregistered.

The price? Drop-ins, unaffiliated, undecided and last-minute shul-goers, were turned away. In addition, before the High Holidays, Los Angeles City Councilman Jack Weiss met with neighborhood synagogues to discuss security issues and precautions.

But what of the insider whom synagogue leaders believe may pose a threat to synagogue members? In a climate of increasing vigilance against sexual predators, many religious leaders these days would rather err on the side of caution than take any potential risk.

Holy Doubt


This week’s Torah portion contains a story that most of us skipped in Hebrew school — the story of Dina.

Dina goes out to “see the daughters of the land.”

Shechem,
the eponymous local prince, sees her, sleeps with her and vaye’aneha — sexually forces or humiliates her.

His soul clings to her, he loves her, and he speaks tenderly to her.

This begins a protracted negotiation, in which Jacob remains silent and his sons, Dina’s brothers, maintain their outrage.

Shechem invites Jacob and the brothers to name any amount for a bride price.

The brothers answer with guile, seeming to accept Shechem’s proposal with the proviso that he and all his male subjects undergo circumcision to become “one people” with the Israelites.

Three days after all the males of Shechem are circumcised, while they are still in pain, Simon and Levi, two of Dina’s full brothers, enter the city, confident. They kill all the men and remove Dina from the house.

Jacob’s sons appropriate the property of the slain and take the women captive. Jacob objects: “You have stirred up trouble …[with my neighbors] while I am few in number, so if they band together against me and attack me, I and my house will be destroyed.”

The sons answer: “Shall our sister be dealt with like a whore?”

The story raises many questions, particularly from Dina’s perspective.

Did she learn of her impending marriage? If so, from whom? What was it like for her in the three or four days after the rape and before the “rescue”?

How did she feel when her brothers stormed in, killing the men and taking the women who were to be her new family? Was this similar to the way she had been taken captive? What was she looking for when she “went out to see the daughters of the land”? Had she and the local women already forged the kind of friendship and alliance that the men were negotiating for?

Or could Dina have been a spy against the women? (“To see” and “to spy on” are the same verb in Hebrew.) Can we imagine her as a Mata Hari figure, conspiring with her brothers to conquer Shechem? Or did Dina’s soul cleave to Shechem’s as improbably and enduringly as his cleaved to hers?

The Torah focuses on the men’s motivations, yet these, too, are far from clear. Jacob’s political objection to his sons’ actions ignores the harm to Dina, the sons’ deception and violence, and the murder of innocents. Is Jacob cautiously protecting the clan after a traumatic loss, or has he ceded control and leadership? Is he indifferent to his daughter’s suffering, or so distraught that he becomes passive?

Are the brothers overzealous defenders of their sister’s honor (perhaps in response to Jacob’s passivity) and/or do they see an opportunity for a land grab?

On his deathbed, Jacob will condemn Simon and Levi’s excesses and bar the two tribes from owning land (Genesis 49:5-7). Is the crime that most troubles the brothers rape — or theft? The males of Dina’s family should have commanded a bride price for her in advance, and the brothers seem more interested in orchestrating revenge than in facilitating Dina’s release.

Is Shechem a rapist? It is certainly not typical of a rapist to love his victim, want to marry her, offer to pay any amount of money and undergo genital surgery to be with her. Shechem more than fulfills all the requirements later imposed on Israelites (Deuteronomy 22:28-29) who bed an unbetrothed girl without gaining permission first.

Perhaps Shechem, prince of the land, thought that Dina, visiting among the daughters of the land, was one of his subjects, and therefore legal and eligible to him.

Long before Anita Diamant’s “The Red Tent,” the ancient rabbis wondered if Dina chose — before or after the fact — to be with Shechem.

One midrash suggests that Dina was enticed by his uncircumcised body, and had to be removed from his house because she would not leave voluntarily.

Other midrashim don’t attribute sexual volition to Dina, but posit instead her extraordinary spiritual power: she would have caused Esau to repent had she been paired with him; she was Job’s second wife and healed him. Dina was indeed raped, but she inspired a rapist to repent immediately and completely.

The verb vaye’aneha — usually translated as “he raped her” — comes from the root ayin-nun-hey, which has two meanings: to answer or respond; or to force, afflict or humiliate, especially sexually.

Translating according to the first definition, it is possible to read vaye’aneha as parallel to vayidaber al lev hane’ara, he spoke to the girl tenderly (Genesis 34:2-3). This supports the interpretation that Shechem seduced Dina, rather than raped her. Similarly, it is possible to reverse the usual translation in 34:13: the brothers didn’t just answer Shechem with guile, they afflicted him with it.

It surprises me how confident people sometimes are about exactly what the Bible intends. What is meant, literally and in context, by “frontlets between your eyes” or “a man lying with a man as with a woman” or even “your neighbor?”

The Bible is laconic, allusive, ambiguous, layered.

It is not always clear to me, after years of study, which stories are cautionary tales and which are examples to be emulated.

Torah urges us: read again, review again, and don’t be so sure.

Approach with holy doubt, and humility.

Rabbi Debra Orenstein, editor of “Lifecycles 2: Jewish Women on Biblical Themes in Contemporary Life,” is spiritual leader of Makom Ohr Shalom in Tarzana. More of her writings can be found at makom.org.

Two-state solution ASAP only chance for peace


Lebanon held the world’s headlines for much of the summer as Hezbollah and Israel waged sudden, furious battle. On the strength of the internationally brokered cease-fire that
brought a halt to the violence, Israel has now withdrawn the last of its troops and the world is holding its breath, hoping the cease-fire is sustainable.

But in the meantime, the Gaza Strip has continued to fester and collapse, seemingly forgotten. The situation in Gaza has been deplorable since Israel’s unilateral withdrawal in August 2005, its population suffering from hunger and growing desperation. Late spring saw further deterioration and an escalation in the violence.

During a June 25 attack on an Israeli army base, two soldiers were killed and Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit was captured.

Since that time, Gazans have been subjected to repeated Israeli attempts to combat terrorism, resulting in enormous loss of life and damage to the area’s infrastructure. Newspaper readers know, for instance, that the war in Lebanon led to the deaths of more than 850 Lebanese and 150 Israelis, combatants and civilians. How many know that since June 25, more than 240 Palestinians, combatants and civilians, have been killed by the Israel Defense Forces?

Meanwhile, Qassam rockets have continued to be launched into southern Israel — far fewer in recent weeks, but still a source of fear and tension for those living within the rockets’ range. Despite an iron-fisted response to the Hamas attack and reports of a possible prisoner exchange, Shalit remains in his captors’ hands.

Most critically, the humanitarian situation in Gaza has gone from awful to far worse. The New York Times reported earlier this month that “it is difficult to exaggerate the economic collapse of Gaza,” and Jan Egeland, the United Nations undersecretary for humanitarian affairs, called Gaza “a ticking time bomb.”

Gaza’s economy, health care and social services are near collapse, and there are growing signs of malnutrition. Sixty percent of the population is without electricity, due to Israel’s bombing of Gaza’s only power station.

Border crossings have been open for only a few days over the past several months, leading to drastic shortages in basic human necessities: hospital supplies, essential medicines and food. Seventy-nine percent of households are now subsisting below the poverty line, and the World Bank forecasts that if the current situation persists, 2006 may be the worst year in Palestinian economic history.

As American Jews for whom Israel’s well-being is of paramount importance, we find it impossible to believe that these circumstances will lead to Israel’s security or help bring about a lasting peace. While it is understandable that we focused our attention on Lebanon for many weeks, we now call on the U.S. government and international community to dedicate the resources employed in achieving the Hezbollah-Israel cease-fire to address the looming disaster in Gaza and work toward reviving negotiations for a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

First and foremost, the United States must work with Israel and the international community to open the border crossings on a regular basis to ensure receipt of desperately needed humanitarian supplies and the establishment of a functioning economy. Indeed, the Israeli daily, Ha’aretz, reported early this month that the U.S. Security Coordinator, Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, told a group of Israeli and Palestinian business leaders that “without the restoration of commercial activity, there will be no security in the area.”

The possible formation of a Palestinian unity government may allow for the resumption of direct aid to the Palestinian Authority but seeing to it that more Palestinians get enough to eat and can meet their basic medical needs will not be enough.

Ha’aretz columnist Gidon Levy said of Israeli actions: “There is a horror taking place in Gaza, and while it might prevent a few terror attacks in the short run, it is bound to give birth to much more murderous terror.”

The only thing that can bring a final resolution of the conflict, creating economic stability for Palestinians and Israelis alike, as well as the longed-for end to the violence, is a negotiated, two-state solution.

Now that the cease-fire is in place and Israeli troops have left Lebanon, the international community, led by the United States, must turn its attention to Gaza. Continuing to ignore the problem will not make it go away. On the contrary, if the crisis is not addressed soon, Palestinians and Israelis alike will pay dearly as the peace process is further delayed.

Steve Masters and Diane Balser are the chair and co-chair of Brit Tzedek v’Shalom’s national advocacy committee. Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace, is a national grass-roots movement more than 35,000 strong that educates and mobilizes American Jews in support of a negotiated two-state resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

What’s your Jewish I.Q.?


1. When was Judaism founded?
(a) 1000 C.E.
(b) 5000 B.C.E.
(c) 2000 B.C.E.
(d) 1000 B.C.E.

2. Who was the mother of Moses?

3. Who was born a Moabite, became a Jew and was the great-grandmother of King David?
(a) Rebekkah
(b) Deborah
(c) Lillith
(d) Ruth

4. Complete this line from Exodus 23:9: "You shall not oppress the _______ for you were _________ in the land of Egypt."

5. The Jews received the Torah at _____________ __________. God said there: "You shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a ________ __________." (Exodus 19:6)

6. The phrase "Chosen People" refers to:
(a) God chose the Jews to be persecuted.
(b) God entered into a covenant with the Jews.
(c) Only Jews are made in the image of God.

7. The First Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 B.C.E. by which power?
(a) Macedonia
(b) Rome
(c) Assyria
(d) Babylonia

8. The tragic last stand of the Jews in their revolt against Rome took place at:
(a) Qumran
(b) Jerusalem
(c) Masada
(d) Hebron

9. The Spanish Jews who chose conversion between 1391-1492 and continued to practice Judaism in secret were called:
(a) Kabbalists
(b) Marranos
(c) Pietists
(d) Sephardim

10. The first Jewish community in North America was established in this settlement by 23 Dutch Jews fleeing the Inquisition in Brazil:
(a) New Amsterdam
(b) Newport
(c) Charleston
(d) Savannah

11. In 1807, __________ freed the Jews from their ghettos, granting them citizenship.

12. The main wave of 2 million Jewish immigrants entered the United States in which period?
(a) 1914-1933
(b) 1860-1870
(c) 1880-1914
(d) 1933-1945

13. What Jewish person won nine Olympic gold medals in swimming and is considered the greatest swimmer in the history of the sport?

14. TRUE OR FALSE? Historians cite three factors that distinguish the Holocaust from other genocides: its cruelty, its scale and its efficiency.

15. During the Holocaust, what three countries resisted the deportation of their Jewish population?

16. "Hear O Israel the Lord is Our God, the Lord is One" is the first line of?:
(a) The Israeli National Anthem
(b) The Shemoneh Esrei
(c) The "Shema"

17. A mitzvah is:
(a) A prayer
(b) A commandment
(c) A sin

18. Where is it written:
(a)"We support the non-Jewish poor together with the Jewish poor, and we visit the non-Jewish sick alongside the Jewish sick, and we bury non-Jewish dead alongside Jewish dead, all for the sake of the ways of peace."
(b)"You shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor. I am the Lord."

19. Fill in: "On three things does the world stand: Torah, service to God, and acts of ____________" (Pirke Avot).

20. TRUE OR FALSE? The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel offers "Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel" the "full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions."

Click here for the answers.

Test contributors include the American Jewish Committee, Jewish Outreach Institute, www.expertrating.com and The Journal editors.

Book Review: Tools to fight terror: big dreams, good friends


“Prisoners: A Muslim & a Jew Across the Middle East Divide,” by Jeff Goldberg (Knopf, $25).

The full title of Jeffrey Goldberg’s new book, “Prisoners: A Muslim & a Jew Across the Middle East Divide,” immediately conjures up notions of a Pinteresque power struggle between two people. Yet “Prisoners” is far from the tale of sadomasochism and role reversal of Pinter plays like “The Night Porter” or screenplays like “The Servant.” Goldberg was a military policeman at Ketziot, an Israeli prison, where he and Rafiq, one of the inmates, developed a friendship that never truly revolved around power dynamics. Their relationship began because Goldberg recognized a “stillness” and a shared sense of irony in Rafiq.

Despite the tragedy of the Middle East and the moral dilemmas facing Goldberg as an Israeli soldier at a prison, Goldberg lightens the memoir with that irony and, at times, belly-chortling humor. For instance, in the wake of the massacre of two Israeli reservists, Goldberg describes being held captive by a terrorist cell in Gaza, where he defends his usage of the word “lynching” by saying to his captors, “Well, that was Ramallah…. What do you expect?”

He then writes, “Jokes at the expense of the West Bank usually go over well in Gaza. Not this one, however.”

Goldberg, who will appear in a public conversation with author and essayist Jack Miles on Oct. 18 at the Skirball Cultural Center, finds that, unlike American Jews, Israelis seem to lack a sense of humor.

That is not his only criticism of both Israelis and Palestinians.

After a bus explosion that killed three Jewish children, he says to a follower of Sheik Ahmed Yassin, Hamas’ founder, that the Sheik’s “preternaturally calm” statement that Israel “was created in defiance of God’s will” is “pathetic.” He also admits to being disillusioned by the kibbutzniks at Mishmar Ha Emek (where I must disclose I met the author many years ago), when they tell him not to clean three feet of coagulated hatchling droppings and blood in the chicken coop. They are saving that job for Arabs.

Goldberg has spent the past 15 years writing primarily about terrorists, yet in an interview from his home in Washington, D.C., where he is a correspondent for The New Yorker, Goldberg dismissed the notion that his work is so dangerous:

“The murder of Danny Pearl is the tragic, horrible exception, not the rule. All terrorists believe they’re doing something good and useful. Most of these groups are happy to explain themselves to people.”

In spite of his obvious courage, Goldberg writes in the book, “I am not brave, in the fuller meaning of the word.”

He says that, as a military policeman, “I should have done more to try to change things I didn’t like,” instead of being a “get-along, go-along kind of guy.”

Yet, more than once, he defied his fellow soldiers, as well as his commanding officer, whom he remembers as one of the dumbest Jews he ever met, by allowing the prisoners to shower in the kitchen and by restraining a guard from beating a helpless inmate.

Goldberg recently won the Anti-Defamation League’s Daniel Pearl Award and goes so far as to suggest that being Jewish has benefited him in his dealings with terrorists.

“I’ve always found it to my advantage. I use my Jewishness as a tool.”

He adds, “There’s an attraction-repulsion quality to these encounters.

Anti-Semites spend most of their time thinking about Jews; they spend more time thinking about Jews than Jews do.”

Goldberg’s interest in Zionism may have been sparked as a boy in the Long Island town of Malverne, where he was subjected to games of “Jew Penny.” Catholic boys, primarily Irish ones, would throw pennies at him and force him to pick them up.

If he didn’t stoop to retrieve the coins, they would throw nickels and dimes at him. Either way, he would be beaten. Goldberg felt that fighting wasn’t in his wiring, and he never actually defended himself until an African American friend told him to hit one Irish boy back. Even though his tormentor left him alone afterward, the wounds remained.

In “Prisoners,” he characterizes his upbringing this way: “I didn’t like the dog’s life of the Diaspora. We were a whipped and boneless people.”

By the end of the book, though, Goldberg, who immigrated to Israel in the late 1980s, has returned to America, a country he praises.

“If America had not taken in my ancestors three generations ago, we wouldn’t exist,” he says, pointing out, “Nothing makes you more patriotic as an American than spending three weeks in Pakistan. America with all its flaws is still a wonderful idea.”

Likewise, he found that though Israel may not be a utopia, its prisons, which he says “were not nice places, especially in the first uprising,” are far more humane than those in the rest of the world. At a time when prisoners in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo have been tortured and denied habeas corpus, Goldberg argues that the prisons in the West Bank and Gaza “became worse for Palestinians when Palestinians were running them than when the Israelis were running them.”

He states without hesitation that the “baroque cruelty” and “sexually charged sadism” of Abu Ghraib did not and could not happen in Israeli prisons.

While Goldberg works on a book on Judah Maccabee for Schocken and Nextbook’s “Jewish Encounters” series, he remains hopeful about the Middle East. He bookends “Prisoners” with references to the story of Isaac and Ishmael, both sons of Abraham, who join hands in burying their father. As Goldberg writes, “This might be the single-most hopeful image in all the Bible, a palliative against the despair that has seeped into all of us.”

Jeffrey Goldberg will appear in a conversation with Jack Miles at the Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, on Wed., Oct. 18, at 7:30 p.m. For tickets, call (866) 468-3399.

Power of the Prez; In the wake of war; Children work for a cure


Power of the Prez

Century City attorney and Iranian Jewish activist H. David Nahai was elected president of the Los Angeles Board of Water and Power Commission on Sept. 21. The five-person commission unanimously elected Nahai who was originally appointed to the board that overseas the city’s water and power service by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa last September.

“For me it’s a great honor and a significant opportunity because there is so much more the DWP can do, such as renewable energy, finding new water sources, and doing outreach,” Nahai said.

This new position is significant in that Nahai becomes one of only two Iranian Jews currently serving in local government in Southern California, a rare achievement for the Iranian Jewish community which had never been involved in political office in Iran. Indeed, Nahai is no novice when it comes to environmental issues as he practices environmental law and is chairman of the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board. In January 2005, Nahai was reappointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for an unprecedented third term on the Water Quality Control that overseas water quality in Los Angeles and Ventura counties. In addition, he currently serves as vice chairman of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission.

— Karmel Melamed, Contributing Writer

In the wake of war

Knesset member Arieh Eldad paid a rare visit to Los Angeles last week and spoke about current challenges facing Israel after the war against Hezbollah.
Eldad, a member of the Israeli Knesset Ethics Committee, served as the chief medical officer for the Israel Defense Forces (brigadier general, retired). He headed the plastic surgery and burns unit at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem.

While at Beverly Hills City Hall, Eldad met briefly with Mayor Steve Webb and Vice Mayor Jimmy Delshad and later with Soraya Nazarian of Hadassah International Outreach. He explained about the treatment of burn victims of homicide bombings in Jerusalem. The professor is planning to visit the L.A. area again in December.

Children work for a cure

The Cure FD Foundation held a Sunday Morning of Fun event Sept. 17 to benefit children living with Familial Dysautonomia (FD). The event included a special showing of the “The Sound of Music” and featured free popcorn, raffle prizes, a live auction and brunch items for sale. All proceeds went to fast forward research to save hundreds of children with FD.

Charity Becomes Them

Creative Arts Temple volunteers celebrated Rosh Hashanah by distributing food to the needy on the Jewish New Year. More than 2,500 men, women and children enjoyed a dinner donated by L.A. caterer Joann Roth-Oseary and received blankets, socks, diapers and other necessities as part of the celebration. Celebrities who participated included: Stanley Kamel, Monty Hall, Joe Bologna and Dick Van Patten.

Mazel to Merkel

Herman Merkel, an L.A. resident for 26 years and a former chairman of Our Parents Home in Johannesburg, South Africa, was honored for years of devoted service to the Jewish Home for the Aging (JHA). A donation in his honor will fund a major renovation of the JHA lounge, which was named for Merkel at a ceremony on July 11.

Merkel, 89, was deeply committed to serving Our Parents Home for more than 10 years. As a member of the board, he lent his expertise as a civil engineer and was known for the time he spent getting to know its residents. As chairman from 1975-1979, Merkel was a daily visitor at JHA, ensuring that it operated smoothly at all times. The ceremony at Our Parents Home was attended by Merkel’s granddaughter, Karen Berelowitz, of Washington, D.C, family members living in Johannesburg, JHA residents and Johannesburg Jewish community leaders.

Two to Cheer For

Democrats for Israel (DFI) gathered at its annual garden party recently to honor Rep. Adam Schiff and state Insurance Commissioner and lieutenant governor candidate John Garamendi. They used the opportunity to pay tribute to the 33 members of California’s Democratic congressional delegation who supported Israel’s right to defend itself against Hezbollah, Iran and Syria by voting for a pair of resolutions expressing solidarity with Israel and demanding the return of three kidnapped Israeli soldiers.

Schiff was selected for his staunch support of Israel in Congress, and Garamendi was picked due to his tireless work to ensure that European insurance companies honor their commitments to Holocaust survivors.

The well-attended event reiterated Schiff’s belief for the need for the United States to support Israel and commended the strong support of House and Senate Democrats for Israel’s right to defend itself.

DFI President Andrew Lachman praised the two honorees, saying, “We are thrilled that Congressman Schiff and Insurance Commissioner Garamendi accepted these awards and spoke before us today.”

Other elected officials and candidates who attended the Garden Party included Assemblymen Paul Koretz and Lloyd Levine; Los Angeles City Councilmembers Jack Weiss and Wendy Greuel; Democratic Assembly nominees Mike Feuer, Julia Brownley and Anthony Portantino, and Democratic Board of Equalization candidate Judy Chu.

Israel, U.S. Act on Request for Renewable Energy


Israel and the United States will pool their scientific brainpower to find and develop alternative energy sources under a bill passed by the House and now wending its way through the Senate.

Under the proposed U.S.-Israel Energy Cooperation Act, scientists and engineers from both countries would focus on research, development and commercial use of renewable energy from solar, wind, hydrogen and biofuel sources.

The act would appropriate $20 million annually through 2012 for grants to researchers at universities and business enterprises, awarded by a newly established International Energy Advisory Board in the U.S. Department of Energy.

All the funds are to come from the United States.

In a rare display of bipartisanship, the energy act was introduced by Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) and Rep. John Shadegg (R-Phoenix), and approved by an overwhelming voice vote in the House last month.

Essentially the same bill has been sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) and 14 of his colleagues. Although the bill faces the usual committee and appropriations hurdles, Smith’s spokesman, R.C. Hammond, expressed confidence that the measure would pass the full Senate by the end of the current session.

The act received a boost from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert during his May 24 address to a joint session of Congress, when he stressed America and Israel’s common “desire for energy security” and praised the pending legislation.

Ron Dermer, minister of economic affairs at the Israeli embassy in Washington, said that the act would build on previous collaboration through the U.S.-Israel Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Foundation.

Dermer also pointed to the large pool of Israeli scientific talent, such as at the Weizmann Institute of Science, and its ability to tackle new research fields.

Similarly, Sherman noted past technological collaboration between the two countries, as in the development of the Arrow missile, and Israeli pioneer work in developing more efficient batteries, solar energy and fuel cells.

In the language of the bill, he and Shadegg stressed that energy independence was “in the highest national security interest of the United States,” and warned that the U.S. now imports from foreign countries 58 percent of its oil.

Such dependence will increase by 33 percent over the next 20 years, the legislators projected, with some of the exporting countries using their profits to fund terrorism and hostile propaganda.

In a phone interview, Sherman said that when he introduced a similar measure last year, it died in committee hearing, contrasted to the overwhelming support this year.

He paid special tribute to the American Jewish Congress (AJCongress), which has been lobbying for effective energy legislation for many years and has mobilized public support for the House measure.

Gary P. Ratner, AJCongress western regional executive director, said that his national organization had sent e-mails to some 25,000 members in support of the House bill. He urged that voters now contact their senators to advocate passage of Senate Bill 1862.

AJCongress National Executive Director Neil B. Goldstein said he was optimistic that the legislation would be passed by the Senate and signed by President Bush, noting that Senate majority leaders Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) had expressed interest in presenting the bill to the full Senate for an early vote.In a related development, American and Israeli business, academic and financial leaders will meet in Tel Aviv on Nov. 8 for a high-level Alternative and Renewable Energy Conference, according to Shai Aizin, Israel West Coast consul for economic affairs.

For information on the conference, call (323) 658-7924, or e-mail losangeles@moital.gov.il. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Anchors Let Slip Plaintiff’s Name

Two Israeli radio disc jockeys were suspended for broadcasting the first name of a woman who alleges that President Moshe Katsav sexually assaulted her. Shai Goldstein and Dror Raphael, irreverent anchors on Tel Aviv Radio, were suspended for a week following a recent surprise phone call they made on air to the former Katsav aide, who previously had been identified in the media only by her first initial “A” due to the sensitivity of the case. Before she hung up on the duo, they used her full first name. The radio station apologized for the indiscretion but noted that the name is so common in Israel that the chance that the woman had been unmasked was slim. Shai and Dror, as they are popularly known, are famous for their broadcast pranks, which have included making crank calls to Israeli leaders and even enemy countries like Iran and Iraq.

Olmert Limits Inquiry Into War

Ehud Olmert announced that his government would conduct a limited inquiry into Israel’s handling of the Lebanon war. The prime minister said Monday that a former Mossad chief, Nahum Admoni, would lead the government-appointed commission to investigate whether the military and political echelons mishandled the 34-day offensive against Hezbollah. Olmert’s decision fell short of the independent judicial commission that his opponents had called for, and which might have had the power to recommend the prime minister’s resignation. Olmert said such a probe would take too long and would neglect the need to rehabilitate Israel’s defense apparatus ahead of possible future conflicts with Hezbollah or its patron, Iran.

Poll: Israelis Want Olmert Resignation

Sixty-three percent of Israelis want Ehud Olmert to resign, according to a new poll. Results of the Yediot Achronot poll, released Friday, showed for the first time that a majority of Israelis favor the resignation of the prime minister, elected in March, because of his handling of Israel’s war with Hezbollah. The poll showed 45 percent backing Benjamin Netanyahu, a former prime minister who heads the Likud Party.

New Orleans Shul Dedicates New Torah

A New Orleans synagogue that lost its Torah scrolls to flooding dedicated a new scroll for the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. On Sunday, Congregation Beth Israel dedicated a scroll donated by the Los Angeles Jewish community through a fundraising drive by 16-year-old Hayley Fields of Hancock Park, who raised $18,000 to buy the Torah. Seven ruined Torah scrolls were recovered and buried after last year’s flood. National Council of Young Israel, the Orthodox umbrella body, facilitated the dedication.

Argentine Jews Complain Over Blocked Protest

Argentine Jewish leaders met with the country’s interior minister after left-wing activists prevented Jews from holding a demonstration against Iran.Luis Grynwald, president of the community’s central AMIA institution, and Jorge Kirszenbaum, president of the DAIA political umbrella group, talked with Anibal Fernandez for more than an hour Friday morning about an incident Thursday in which the Quebracho group blocked a street where Jews were to demonstrate. Many saw the move as anti-Semitic.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Lebanon War: Mission Accomplished


Contrary to what is now the accepted wisdom in the media, Hezbollah, in its recent offensive against Israel, neither badly bloodied the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) nor fought it
to a standstill.

In fact, the opposite is the case.

By any legitimate measure, the IDF handed a resounding military defeat to Hezbollah, and while Israel’s soldiers did not cure the cancer that is Hezbollah, they did send it into remission.

From a military perspective, there can be absolutely no doubt as to the results of Hezbollah and Iran’s offensive against Israel. It was a defeat. Every part of their war plan, except the manipulation of the media, failed.

Hezbollah expected and planned for a massive charge of Israeli armor into Southern Lebanon. The amounts and types of anti-tank weapons they acquired and had operationally deployed in their forward positions, as well as their secondary and tertiary bands of fortresses and strongholds through southern Lebanon, attest to this fact. They intended to do in mountainous terrain what Egypt had so effectively done in the Sinai Desert in the Yom Kippur War.

In that war, Sinai indeed became a graveyard for Israeli armor. Egypt destroyed hundreds of Israeli tanks. Whole brigades were decimated in single battles by the Egyptians’ highly effective anti-tank missile ambushes. In that war, almost 3,000 Israeli soldiers were killed. That was Hezbollah’s plan. It was a good one. And it failed.

Just prior to the cease-fire, Israel suffered 29 tanks hit. Of those, 25 were back in service within 24 hours. Israel suffered 117 soldiers killed in four weeks of combat. As painful as those individual losses were to their families and to the Israeli collective psyche, which views all its soldiers as their biological sons and daughters, those numbers in fact represent the fewest casualties suffered by Israel in any of its major conflicts.

In 1948, Israel suffered 6,000 killed. In 1967, in what was regarded as its most decisive victory, Israel lost almost 700 killed in six days. In 1973, Israel lost 2,700 killed, and in the first week of the first war in Lebanon, Israel suffered 176 soldiers killed.

Why then the impression of massive Israeli casualties in clear contrast to the actual numbers of those killed? It is because the Israeli army is a citizen’s army. It is made up of everyone’s child, everyone’s brother or sister, aunt or uncle. The nation, as a whole, mourned the loss of its children quite literally, as if they were the sons and daughters of each and every family.

Were I, as an Israeli officer in the military spokesperson’s unit, to have made a statement to the Israeli press about the actual lightness of Israel’s casualties, I would, at the least, have been relieved of duties, if not also of rank.

Indeed, members of my unit volunteered to a man to go into Lebanon under fire to help retrieve the bodies of four fallen soldiers and make sure that reporters (who by that time were reported to be simply driving into Lebanon) could not broadcast pictures before the families were notified. We provided an additional covering force, as well, against Hezbollah, while medics and a rabbi safeguarded the sanctity of the remains of four kids, younger than my 22-year-old son. We did so not only not under orders but in violation of orders, because we were all of us fathers, as well as soldiers, and these were not only our comrades in arms but our sons. We were there to bring them home.

That is the emotion. But the numbers are different. They are the lightest casualties suffered by the IDF in all of its wars.

Military historians will spend years deciphering why exactly this was so. Was Israel’s government and its general staff, by its refusal to commit large numbers of forces for the first three weeks of combat, in fact making a highly intelligent strategic choice? Possibly.

Possibly it was dumb luck or divine intervention. Either way it meant three things:

  1. Hezbollah’s ambush never happened, because Israel didn’t take the bait. Instead, it used air power and then a series of probing raids, primarily by infantry, to methodically, slowly identify and root out the enemy positions.
  2. It meant that those small numbers of troops deployed into Lebanon in the first weeks of fighting had to do more with less than perhaps any other Israeli fighters in any other war. Certainly in other wars, there were many individual battles in which so much was expected of and accomplished by so few. But no war comes to mind in which so few soldiers were deployed across an entire front.

    They performed brilliantly and with uncommon courage in the face of withering fire from heavily fortified and prepared positions. These were draft-age soldiers: 18- and nineteen-year-olds, commanded on the platoon and company levels by 20-somethings, none of whom had ever faced anything remotely like the combat against Hezbollah’s terrorist army. In spite of what many see as the logistical and command failures of their superiors, they performed brilliantly and achieved their objectives.

  3. When the vast bulk of Israel’s force was finally deployed, made up primarily of its reservists, these soldiers achieved in 48 hours what many believe they should have been given weeks to accomplish. Despite logistical failures, some times fighting without food or water, Israel’s soldiers, regular army and reserves alike, handed Hezbollah a decisive military defeat.

All of Hezbollah’s Siegfried Line-like system of fortresses and strongholds, their network of command and control bunkers along Israel’s northern border were destroyed, abandoned or under the control of the IDF by the end of the hostilities. Hezbollah’s miniterrorist state within a state south of the Litani had been dismantled.

Its terrorist capital within a capital in Beirut, its command and control center and infrastructure were in ruins. In the end, it sought and accepted a cease-fire resolution in the United Nations that provided the framework for Israel to achieve all of its stated war aims. This last point is of no minor consequence both in terms of what Israel achieved and failed to achieve in the counteroffensive it waged against Hezbollah.

I can speak to this subject with some degree of expertise, since I was one of the people tasked with putting into a simple declarative sentence what the IDF’s mission was as handed down to it by Israel’s democratically elected political leaders. The sentence defining the IDF’s mission read as follows:

Mideast Fighting Strains Fragile Interfaith Ties


For more than three decades, Rabbi Allen Krause has believed in the power of interfaith and intercultural dialogue, especially between Jews and Muslims.
In the aftermath of Sept. 11, the head rabbi of Temple Beth El in Aliso Viejo offered to have members of his congregation guard local Muslim day schools, he stood alongside other religious leaders to publicly decry a vicious assault on a Yorba Linda Arab American high school student and he invited a Palestinian to address his congregation to talk about the hardships of living in the territories.

However, the interfaith ties that Krause and others like him have carefully cultivated are now being tested as never before. Against the backdrop of Hezbollah rockets raining on Israel and Israeli bombs exploding in Lebanon and Gaza, friends are splitting into two sides. In mid-July, several Muslim members of Common Ground, an Orange County interfaith group Krause helped found, declined to attend a scheduled meeting, because they “might say things they might regret,” he was told.

Krause’s experience is not unusual. As war in the Middle East rages, one of the casualties has been the fragile ties between Muslim and Jewish interfaith and other groups. Already weakened by the failed peace promise of Oslo and the second intifada, in recent weeks Muslim-Jewish relations have hit their lowest ebb in more than a decade. The increased strain has re-sown the seeds of mistrust in some interfaith group that enthusiasts hoped to have forever banished.

To be sure, a few Muslim and Jewish groups have redoubled their efforts to bridge the growing chasm. The Progressive Jewish Alliance (PJA) will soon announce a sweeping interfaith collaboration with a yet-to-be-named Muslim group, said PJA Executive Director Daniel Sokatch.

Wilshire Boulevard Temple, which has a longstanding relationship with the Islamic Center of Southern California, soon plans to open a Center for Religious Inquiry that would invite members of all faiths, including Muslims, Jews and Christians, to discuss and examine the world’s major religions, said Rabbi Stephen Julius Stein. A new outfit named L.A. Jews for Peace recently held two peace vigils outside the Israeli Consulate and sent a representative to a large anti-Israel peace protest co-sponsored by Muslim and other organizations, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

Overall, though, Jewish-Muslim relations are strained, and tensions will likely worsen before getting better, predicts Rabbi John Rosove, senior rabbi at Temple Israel of Hollywood.

“I think the current state [of Jewish-Muslim relations] is non-existent and will be even more alienated in the near future,” he said.

Rosove, once a major proponent of the Jewish-Muslim Dialogue, quit the now moribund group soon after Sept. 11 when, he said, several Muslim participants savagely criticized attempted to de-legitimize Israel. The dialogue, founded in 1998 amid great expectations, lost considerable Jewish and Muslim support over the years, including the withdrawal of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and CAIR, because of internal arguments over the Middle East. The group has not convened a meeting in more than a year.

David Lehrer, president of Community Advocates Inc., a Los-Angeles-based human relations organization that promotes civil rights, said he favors Jewish-Muslim dialogue. However, “unrelenting” anti-Israel attitudes he believes are shared by the majority of Muslim-American leaders makes that dialogue all but impossible.
“I think it’s incumbent upon us to find moderate Muslim voices. They’re out there; they’re just not leading the Muslim organization that Jewish organizations have traditionally dealt with,” said Lehrer, who served as the ADL’s regional director when the group quit the Jewish-Muslim Dialogue after Sept. 11.

On the other side, Reed Hamzeh, an L.A.-based attorney and regional director of the Arab American Institute, a civil rights group, believes that Israel’s actions in Lebanon are stoking anti-Semitism as well as anti-Americanism in the Muslim and Arab worlds.

“I’ve spoken to many Jewish-American friends,” said Hamzeh, whose parents were visiting Lebanon when the bombing began there. “We are in agreement that Israel’s actions are not in the best interest of Israel, the Jewish people and for the prospects of peace in the region, which should be everybody’s desired goal.”

In one reflection of the changing climate, a longtime Jewish member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) blasted the group’s local chapter for planning to honor an activist whom he characterizes as an anti-Israel propagandist. Joel Bellman, press deputy to County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, sent a blistering e-mail on July 20 to the ACLU questioning the local chapter’s intention to honor Salam Al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) at the ACLU’s 43rd annual Garden Party in September.

“I guess I’m extremely pissed off, because MPAC has been extremely successful in packaging its message in very soothing and moderate tones,” Bellman said. “But when you strip away the dainty and decorous language, their positions are almost indistinguishable from anti-Israel, anti-Jewish attitudes found in much of the Muslim and Arab world.”

This is not the first time that Al-Marayati has been the focus of controversy: In an interview just after the Sept. 11, attacks, Al-Marayati suggested that Israel could be behind the terrorists. He later apologized for his comments and said they were taken out of context.

Al-Marayati, who said Bellman’s attack caught him by surprise, also said his group supports a two-state solution, denounces terrorism and reflects the outlook of moderate American Muslims. Yet Al-Marayati says that now more than ever, Jews and Muslims need to work together on issues of mutual interest such as hate crimes, civil rights and the separation of church and state, despite their differences about the Middle East.

Sande Hart, the Jewish co-founder of the Orange County-based Spiritual and Religious Alliance for Hope (SARAH), a four-year-old women’s interfaith group, also believes Jews and Muslims need to talk to one another as never before. Unfortunately, she said some Jewish and Muslim members no longer want to interact for the time being. Two Christians, no Muslims and just two Jews attended the group’s most recent meeting. Typically, two to three Muslims, five Jews and several Christians come to the interfaith gatherings. Hart said both Muslim and Jewish SARAH members told her they needed “space.”

“Our common ground is a little smaller than it was three weeks ago,” said Hart, who vows to patch-up relations among the group’s members.

Like their Jewish counterparts, many Muslims fear that events overseas could poison relations locally. They have expressed surprise at what they characterize as the “ferocity” of Israel’s strikes against Lebanon and Gaza.

Orange County resident Osman Umarji called Israel’s military campaign “vicious,” and said it nearly claimed the life of a close friend, who, in attempting to flee from the fighting in southern Lebanon , crossed a bridge with his mother just moments before Israeli bombs destroyed it.

The former president of the Muslim Student Union at UC Irvine — a group often at odds with pro-Israeli student groups at the university — said he thought Israel’s war in Lebanon would galvanize pro-Palestinian forces and breathe new life into the divestment movement at UCI and other campuses.

“I’m sure the discussion will intensify, and more Muslim and Arab students will get involved in educating people and speaking out against the atrocities Israel’s committing,” said Umarji, now an engineer at Broadcom Corp., a global leader in semiconductors for wired and wireless communications.

For Hussam Ayloush, Israeli “aggression” is personal. The executive director of the Southern California chapter of the CAIR said he grew up in Lebanon and left in 1989 during the civil war. Coming to America to study, he eventually settled in Southern California. Now married with three children, he said he returns to Lebanon once every couple years to visit family members, including a brother who lives in the capital city of Beirut.

Soon after Israel’s air campaign began, Ayloush said he fell out of contact with his brother and his parents for four long days (His parents were in Lebanon visiting their son). Scared for their safety, Ayloush said he barely slept. He checked e-mails incessantly and watched the news round-the-clock. Although relieved when he finally reached his loved ones, he said he knows their lives continue to remain in peril.

“We would be fooling ourselves if we didn’t realize that this new conflict will increase hatred among Arabs, Muslims and Jews. It’s not going to just increase anti-Semitism but also Islamophobia and anti-Arab feelings,” Ayloush said. “That’s a tragedy.”

But not all hope for continued dialogue has been dashed. Despite the July disappointment, Temple Beth El’s Krause persisted with his group, and after some heart-to-heart talks, the Muslim members have agreed to attend a mid-August gathering, much to Krause’s satisfaction and
relief.