Israeli Chief Rabbi David Lau: Slur on blacks was a ‘joke’


Rabbi David Lau, the newly elected chief rabbi of Israel, said a remark he made about blacks that was widely condemned as racist was a “joke.”

Lau told haredi Orthodox students at a yeshiva in the Israeli town of Modiin Illit last week to stop hanging out at convenience stores to watch basketball on television.

“Why do you care about whether the ‘kushim’ who get paid in Tel Aviv beat the ‘kushim’ who get paid in Greece?” he said, using a derogatory Israeli term for blacks.

The remarks were first reported by a phone news service for haredim, Hakol Haharedi, and subsequently picked up by major Israeli newspapers.

In an interview Thursday on Israel Radio, Lau responded to the criticism by saying that Israelis “excel at taking a humorous remark and turning it into a headline.” He added, “The one and only headline is: You are yeshiva students so sit and study Torah.”

Lau was elected last month to a 10-year term as Israel’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi. After the reports this week about his comment, he canceled a planned vacation abroad.

75 Israeli soccer fans ejected over racist chanting


Some 75 Israeli soccer fans were removed from a game between Beitar Jerusalem and the Israeli-Arab Bnei Sakhnin team for anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim taunting.

Police removed an equal number of fans from each team — many before Sunday's match at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem even started — according to reports. Hundreds of police were called in to secure some 9,000 spectators for the game.

Fans of the two teams have clashed in the past. In addition, Beitar Jerusalem fans over the past two weeks have protested the recent hiring of two Muslim players from the Chechen Terek Gorzny team.

While many Beitar Jerusalem fans shouted for the new Muslim players to “go home,” some cheered loudly when one of the two new players, Gabriel Kadiev, took the field and each time he touched the ball, according to reports.

The game ended in a 2-2 tie.

On Feb. 8, arsonists set fire to the trophy room of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team following the indictment of four fans for anti-Muslim hate speech.

Hours before the match, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Israeli soccer fans to reject racism.

“The last thing we want, and which we absolutely reject is violence, racism and boycotts. These are unacceptable to us. I say this in regards to a team that I have supported for years, Beitar Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said Sunday morning at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting. “Lately, we have seen displays of extremism that we find unacceptable. These must be uprooted from the public sphere and, of course, from the world of sports.”

Sweden’s guest tweeter makes inappropriate remarks about Jews


A guest tweeter on Sweden’s official Twitter account raised hackles over some racially charged comments about Jews.

Sonja Abrahamsson, 27, who identifies herself as an unemployed single mother from a small Swedish town, immediately apologized for the tweets, saying that she did not mean for her questions to be offensive. “I just don’t get why some people hate Jews so much,” she said.

Every week a regular Swedish citizen is chosen to be in charge of the official state account, @Sweden, which its curators call “the world’s most democratic Twitter account.”

On Tuesday, Abrahamsson, who said that there are no Jews where she lives, first made a crass comment about how to identify a male as Jewish. She then tweeted: In nazi German they even had to sew stars on their sleeves. If they didn’t, they could never now who was a jew and who was not a jew.

She continued: Once I asked a co-worker what a jew is. He was “part jew”, whatever that means. He’s like “uuuuh… jews are.. uh.. well educated..?”

Abrahamsson had also made inappropriate remarks about other groups of people.

Her remarks drew some criticism from fellow tweeters.

It appears Abrahamsson will be allowed to finish out her week as guest tweeter.

“It’s very important for us to let everyone take a unique viewpoint,” Tommy Sollén, Social Media Manager at VisitSweden, told the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday. “Every one of our curators is there with a different perspective.”

Abrahamsson is the country’s 24th guest tweeter.

Gingrich questions Ron Paul about racist newsletters


Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich on Friday urged rival Ron Paul to explain his links to newsletters two decades ago that carried the Texas congressman’s name and contained racist, anti-homosexual and anti-Israel rants.

“I think that Congressman Paul has to explain his own situation and how he could have had a decade of newsletters that had his name on it that he apparently wasn’t aware of,” Gingrich said.

“I think that somebody should say to him ‘OK, how much money did you make from the newsletters?’ These things are really nasty, and he didn’t know about it? Wasn’t aware of it? But he’s sufficiently ready to be president? It strikes me it raises some fundamental questions about him.”

Paul, leading the race for the Jan. 3 Republican caucuses vote in Iowa, the first nominating contest in the nation, has come under pressure after revelations of possible links to far-right comments.

A direct-mail solicitation for Paul’s political and investment newsletters in the 1990s warned of a “coming race war in our big cities” and of a “federal-homosexual cover-up” to play down the impact of AIDS.

The eight-page letter, which appears to carry Paul’s signature at the end, also warns that the U.S. government’s redesign of currency to include different colors – a move aimed at thwarting counterfeiters – actually was part of a plot to allow the government to track Americans using the “new money.”

Paul’s campaign has launched a wave of attack ads on Gingrich in Iowa, as the Republican race to select a nominee to challenge President Barack Obama in the 2012 election heats up.

PAYROLL TAX DEAL

Speaking before a crowd of about 250 in the early voting state South Carolina, Gingrich criticized Congress’s last-minute deal this week to extend the payroll tax extension for two months, which followed a bruising political battle.

“I don’t know how we get this message across to both parties, but there’s something profoundly wrong in this economy, with the problems around the world threatening to make it worse, to have the president and Congress thinking that they accomplished something by passing a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut.”

He went on to tout his own record as speaker of the House of Representatives in the mid-1990s when, he said, he was able to work with Democrats on welfare reform, a balanced budget and the creation of 11 million new jobs. “Unemployment went down to 4.2 percent” during his tenure as speaker, he said.

Gingrich is the choice for 38 percent of South Carolina primary voters, while twenty-one percent said they favored former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, according to Clemson University poll results released on Monday.

The poll surveyed by telephone 600 South Carolinians who said they would vote in the state’s Jan. 21 primary. About a third of the respondents said they had decided on a candidate. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Gingrich called Romney a “Massachusetts moderate”.

Fresh from his effort to get his name on the ballot for the Virginia primary, Gingrich will be off the campaign trail until Tuesday.

Reporting By Alistair Bell; Editing by Paul Simao

Anti-Semitic incidents rise in Canada


Anti-Semitism in Canada is on the rise, and much of it has gone digital, according to the latest audit by B’nai Brith Canada.

In total, 1,306 anti-Jewish incidents were reported to the human rights group in 2010—a 3.3 percent increase over the previous year.

B’nai Brith’s League for Human Rights tallied 965 cases of harassment, 317 incidents of vandalism and 24 cases of violence.

“Incidents were reported across the country in synagogues, schools, playgrounds, on campus, at street rallies, sporting events, workplaces, even reaching people’s own homes,” said Frank Dimant, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, at the release Monday of the group’s annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents.

The numbers also represent a four-fold increase over the past decade.

Dimant said the Internet has played a key role in the rise of anti-Semitic incidents. The League for Human Rights said it received 564 reports of web-based hate activity with a Canadian connection, up from 435 reports in 2009 and 405 reports in 2008.

“New technologies are giving a modern twist to age-old anti-Jewish messaging,” Dimant said. “Cyber-bullying—in this case anti-Semitic—is just one of the newest threats to society.”

Meanwhile, a junior hockey league team in Ontario alleged that its opponents in a playoff series directed an anti-Semitic slur at two Jewish players during a game Monday.

The London Nationals said that someone sitting on the bench of the St. Thomas Stars directed a reference to Hitler at Noah and Brendan Schwartz during the second period of Game 6 of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League Western Conference finals.

The Stars won the match and Game 7 the following day to become the conference champions in the hotly contested series. The team has denied making any slurs but did receive a warning from game referees, who said they would investigate the incident.

Nationals coach Tim Flynn told the London Free Press that he plans to contact the Ontario Hockey Association over the incident.

Jackie Mason Calls Obama the ‘SCH’-word


NEW YORK (JTA)—Comedian Jackie Mason called President Obama a “schvartze” during a performance in New York, angering some audience members.

The Web site TMZ reported Sunday that Mason used the term, which means “black” in Yiddish but is considered derogatory by some, during a performance at Feinstein’s at Loews Regency in New York City on March 12.

TMZ quoted one audience member as saying, “He’s more offensive to the Jews than Madoff tonight.”

“I’m an old Jew. I was raised in a Jewish family where ‘schvartze’ was used,” Mason told TMZ. “It’s not a demeaning word and I’m not going to defend myself.”

The Rev. Al Sharpton reminded TMZ that in 1991, Mason apologized for calling then-New York mayoral candidate David Dinkins “a fancy schvartze with a mustache.”

“At this stage in Jackie’s life and career, he should get our prayers more than our responses,” Sharpton told TMZ Sunday.

Briefs: Sheriff wants to prosecute YULA girls after soccer brawl; Graffiti targets Jews in Beverlywo


Sheriff wants to prosecute Yeshiva Girls soccer players for brawling after lost game

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is planning to ask the district attorney to prosecute a YULA student and the girls soccer team coach.

The request stems from a brawl that occurred on Feb. 5 after the Yeshiva University Girls High School of Los Angeles lost to Avalon High in a girls’ soccer game on Catalina Island, according to Avalon Mayor Robert Kennedy.

A team member and spectator from Avalon High are also being referred to the DA’s office, said Kennedy, who conferred with Avalon Sheriff’s station commander Lt. Pat Hunter.

According to YULA principal Rabbi Yosef Furman, as the YULA girls were leaving the field, student spectators from Avalon attacked the girls, knocking one in the head, putting another in a headlock and pulling her hair and punching her in the stomachFurman called the possible actions against the YULA player and coach “complete nonsense.” He said the assaults against the YULA girls, which were unprovoked. “We have witnesses who say that our students acted appropriately and our coach acted professionally.”

No one was seriously injured in the melee, and no accounts of racial or religious taunting have been confirmed.

Both sides agree that the game got ugly and physical, with the crowd of about 100 spectators riling the Avalon team for even more aggressive play.

Mayor Kennedy, who was not at the game, says his understanding is that both teams engaged in name-calling and rough play, but YULA counters that the taunting was one-sided.

After the post-game fracas, the YULA team sequestered itself in the visitors’ locker room with the help of Avalon school officials, and called the sheriff’s department. Officers arrived and escorted the team to the ferry landing, where sheriffs spent several hours interviewing team members, chaperones and YULA Coach Kat Gude, before the team traveled back to the mainland.

Five Avalon students were disciplined after the event, according to a spokesman for the Long Beach Unified School District. One ninth-grade team member was suspended for pushing and shoving; two 12th-grade girls, who were spectators at the event, were suspended for fighting; and an eighth-grade boy and a tenth-grade boy were barred from attending future soccer games.

YULA has canceled all further games with Avalon teams. In addition, YULA circulated a letter asking parents to send a message to Avalon that such conduct is reprehensible. It included phone numbers for city officials.

“The city of Avalon will more likely take action if they get the message that there could be negative repercussions to future tourism,” the letter stated.

Kennedy has received more than 30 phone calls — on his cell phone — from irate YULA parents. He said he is offended and upset by YULA’s sweeping condemnation of the city, especially before an investigation has been completed.

“The worst part of this whole thing is it takes two to tango — there are always two sides to a story. But it seems that the visiting team’s parents have already tried and convicted the Avalon kids that were involved,” the mayor said.

— Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Education Editor

Graffiti targets Jews in Beverlywood

Children and their parents walking to the West L.A. Castle Heights Elementary School on Tuesday morning saw a BMW spray-painted with the word “JEW” on its side. The car was parked on Castle Heights Place, just three houses down from the school.

The vehicle’s owners had learned about the damage at 2 a.m., when a neighborhood patrol officer informed them of the incident. Three other cars on nearby streets in the Beverlywood Homes Association neighborhood were reportedly also vandalized. Although his was the only vehicle to bear a reference to religion, the owner, who is Persian and asked that his name not be used, said another of the defaced vehicles’ owners belongs to his synagogue, Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel.

An officer from the Los Angeles Police Department took a report documenting the incident, and said it will be filed as a hate crime. He said the chances of catching the perpetrator were slim. Nevertheless, the officer called a supervisor, who also visited the scene.

“We take these things pretty seriously,” he said.

— Nancy Steiner, Contributing Writer

Super Sunday fundraising beats 2006 total

On Feb. 11, the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ largest annual fundraiser known as Super Sunday raised $4.4 million, up from $4.2 million last year, according to Federation spokeswoman Deborah Dragon, Nearly 2,000 volunteers worked the phones at three locations, which received visits during the day from L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, City Controller Laura Chick, City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and City Councilmember Jack Weiss.

About one-third of the money raised from the annual campaign goes for overseas allocations, with the bulk earmarked for Israel.

This year’s Super Sunday took place against the backdrop of Federation turmoil. Less than one month before the event, the Federation relieved its chief fundraiser, Craig Prizant, of his job.

No reason has been given for the departure of Prizant, who had worked closely with major donors.

Federation spokeswoman Dragon said that the mega-fundraiser is but the beginning of the organization’s annual campaign.

“The community still has great needs,” she said.

— Marc Ballon, Senior Writer

Sarah Silverman ‘Nightline’ interview


What’s funny to Sarah?  And does she tell racist jokes?  Well, she does use the ‘C’ word.

Michael Richards: still not a Jew


Michael Richards is not a Jew.

As Cosmo Kramer in “Seinfeld,” Richards played one on TV. But he himself is not Jewish — not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Richards lashed out a heckler at the Laugh Factory last Friday, spitting out the “N” word without humor and with abandon. Audience members booed, several walked out, then Richards himself walked off stage.

The incident was caught on a cellphone camera and posted at the TMZ.com Web site, where it ignited a firestorm of criticism against Richards. Richards apologized on “The Late Show With David Letterman” Monday night. “I was at a comedy club trying to do my act, and I got heckled, and I took it badly and went into a rage,” he said. “For me to be in a comedy club and flip out and say this crap, I’m deeply, deeply sorry. I’m not a racist. That’s what’s so insane about this.”

Fellow comedians and fans have been quick to criticize Richards — and misrepresent his religious background. Comedian Paul Rodriquez held a press conference at the Laugh Factory, saying that Richards should know better, because the Hollywood community defended Jews against actor Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic tirades.

The implication was that Richards, a Jew, should not be launching racist attacks. He shouldn’t, but he also isn’t Jewish.

“Someone needs to tell Rodriquez that Michael isn’t a Jew,” said a television director who has known Richards for years. The two worked together in 1980 on ABC’s “Fridays” television show and have remained in touch ever since.

According to sources familiar with Richards, the actor was raised I no specific religious tradition. “He does not have Jewish blood,” said New York publicist Howard Rubenstein, who Richards retained to help manage his PR nightmare.

Rubenstein created some confusion over Richards’ heritage when he told the press that the actor is indeed Jewish. “He’s Jewish,” Rubenstein is quoted as saying to Yahoo news.

In a telephone interview with The Jewish Journal, Rubenstein clarified that Richards was not born Jewish and never converted to Judaism. “He believes in Judaism, and that’s what he’s adopted for himself,” said Rubenstein

According to traditional Jewish law, a Jew is any person whose mother was a Jew or any person who has gone through the formal process of conversion to Judaism.Liberal streams of Judaism also recognize as Jewish a person born of a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother. By any of these definitions, Richards is not technically Jewish, as Rubenstein acknowledged. “He identifies strongly with [Judaism],” the publicist said.

A biography of Richards on the Wikipedia web site lists no religion, but does say Richards is very involved in the Masons. Masonry is not a religion but Masons do subscribe to a set of ethical precepts.

“Seinfeld” was Richards’ first big break after a long and unlikely rise to stardom.

According to Wikipedia, Richards was born in Culver City to Phyllis (nee Nardozzi), a medical records librarian. He was raised by Nardozzi and William Richards, an electrical engineer. “Richards attended California Institute of the Arts but received a bachelor’s degree in drama from Evergreen State College in 1975.

He was drafted during the Vietnam War and stationed in Germany, as one of the co-directors of the V Corps Training Road Show. He produced and directed shows dealing with race relations and drug abuse. He then spent two years in the Army developing educational skits and a couple more years ‘finding himself’ at a commune in the Santa Clara Mountains. He drove a bus and developed a stand-up comedy act in 1979,” according to the Web site.

In “Seinfeld,” which aired from 1989-1998, Richards played Kramer, a character based on show co-creator Larry David’s former across-the-hall neighbor, Kenny Kramer. The real Kramer is indeed of Jewish heritage — not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Richards did appear Sep. 14 at the Laugh Factory’s evening of Jewish comics, called, “The King Davids of Comedy.” However, the management made it clear at the time that Richards and the other major comic at the event, Louis CK, were not part of that evening’s themed show, and that no photography would be permitted during their sets.

Following Richard’s racist remarks, Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada posted this message on the company’s Web site: “We do not support or condone the inappropriate, hurtful and offensive comments that Mr. Richards made on Friday night at the Laugh Factory.

“Mr. Richards was scheduled to appear on Saturday night and had informed management of his intention to apologize for his hurtful and unprofessional outburst from the previous night. He failed to do so and disappointed us.

“We have made it clear that Mr. Richards is no longer welcomed here. The Laugh Factory is a comedy club not a forum for personal attacks.”

Laugh Factory owner Masada is Jewish.

Confusion over Richards’ heritage grew after the Anti-Defamation League issued a press release Monday denouncing the actor’s tirade.

“Richards’ repeated use of the ‘n-word’ and apparent reference to lynching is offensive in any context. There is no excuse for such insensitive and bigoted language. It has no place in a comedy club and no place in America and must be clearly repudiated,” the release said.

“We hope Mr. Richards will now take a public stand against appeals to racism and bigotry and publicly apologize for his poor judgment in shouting them from the stage.”

The release did not address Richard’s own religion. In the past, the ADL has regularly taken public stances against instances of racism unrelated to anti-Semitism.

The Arrogant Poet You Love to Hate


In “Pound of Flesh,” at the Odyssey Theater, Ezra Pound spars with Pvt. Cooper, a young soldier who keeps him company while he awaits trial in Italy for his crimes of treachery against the United States in World War II. If this private is not Pound’s intellectual match, he more than matches the poet on moral grounds.

Michael Peter Bolus, who wrote and directed the play, first considered using a Jewish soldier as Pound’s foil. But Pvt. Rothberg, the fictional man he created, was too brainy, too intellectual, and the debates between the two divested the play of its inherent drama and left it as a case of talking heads. Though Bolus changed Rothberg into a non-Jew, the character “wouldn’t go away,” says the playwright. Rothberg turned into “a shadowy presence” haunting the play. Behind the scenes, it is Rothberg who teaches Cooper what Pound’s poetry is all about — hatred.

This is not a new point of view. Critics as eminent as Harold Bloom find little aesthetic value in Pound’s work. Still, Pound was one of the leading poets of the past century. As Bolus says, “It’s difficult, if not impossible, to confront 20th century literature without confronting Ezra Pound.”

Thirteen years after the Odyssey staged Tom Dulack’s “Incommunicado,” a play that also tackled Pound’s days in a wartime prison but with a larger cast, “Pound of Flesh” goes beyond the modern question of asking whether an artist can be separated from his art. Where writers like Philip Roth still produce inspiring work even if they live morally dubious lives, Pound did not conceal the malevolence in his poetry.

“Unlike a lot of anti-Semites and racists, his racism is right there in the poetry,” says playwright Bolus, who studied poetry with Derek Walcott, and got a Ph.D. in theater studies at the City University of New York.

The title of “Pound of Flesh,” of course, invokes Shylock’s famous words in “The Merchant of Venice,” and Bolus does a remarkable job of capturing the arrogance, the brilliance and the over-the-top hubris of the poet. His voice is quite distinctive and comes through even when reading the script. Bolus also nicely allows the non-Jewish soldier to turn the tables on Pound, even correcting him on his grammar.

Say what one will about Shylock, but he never ended a sentence with a preposition — something Pound does in this play.

“Pound of Flesh” plays at the Odyssey Theater, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Wed.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m. (except June 4 and June 11 shows at 2 p.m.). Through June 25. (310) 477-2055.

Ideological Insults


As terror struck New York and Washington, D.C., Jewish activists were still recovering from the ideological bomb of a U.N. conference that lashed out at Israel as racist and apartheid.

The final governmental declaration adopted here last Saturday by the U.N. World Conference Against Racism was dramatically toned down in its criticism of Israel.

But an earlier declaration by non-governmental organizations remains on the ledger as, in the view of Jewish activists, the most damning indictment of Jews since World War II.

The impact of the NGO declaration may be seen when a series of U.N. forums resumes later this month.

Israel and the United States withdrew their delegations from Durban several days after the NGO declaration, and vigorous lobbying by European governments managed to remove direct references to Israel from the conference’s final governmental declaration.

That prompted back-slapping in Jerusalem — but the document nevertheless criticizes the Jewish State by implication.

Compromise language adopted Saturday, after the conference had been extended a day in the search for a settlement, condemned anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. The Arab bloc’s last-minute effort to label foreign occupation “among the forms and sources of racial discrimination” was also rejected.

But the conference did recognize the “plight of the Palestinian people under foreign occupation.”

In Israel, Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Melchior breathed a sigh of relief that the document did not “include one word condemning Israel.” Foreign Minister Shimon Peres described it as an “accomplishment for Israeli foreign policy.”

Beneath the spin, though, lay a more ominous truth.

It would be one thing for the United Nations to acknowledge the Palestinian “plight” at say, the U.N. General Assembly. It’s another when the linkage is made at an anti-racism conference.

The implication is that Palestinian suffering is a result of racism — and that Israel therefore must be practicing racism.

In contrast to the governmental declaration, the NGO declaration requires no parsing. It accuses Israel of “genocide,” “ethnic cleansing,” “racism” and “apartheid.”

It calls for the creation of an international tribunal to investigate war crimes and other crimes that Israel allegedly has committed against the Palestinians.

And it unveils what Jewish observers say is a strategy aimed at dismantling Israel through extreme international isolation.

In linking Israel with the old South Africa as pariah apartheid states based on notions of racial superiority, the NGO declaration proposes a similar recipe for dismantling — “mandatory and comprehensive sanctions and embargoes, the full cessation of all links (diplomatic, economic, social, aid, military cooperation and training) between all states and Israel” and the “launch of an international anti-Israel apartheid movement” through “a global solidarity campaign network of international civil society, U.N. bodies and agencies, business communities, and to end the conspiracy of silence among states, particularly the European Union and the United States.”

While the “apartheid” tag is new, some Jewish activists suggested it is merely an escalation in the Palestinian diplomatic offensive against Israel.

“No doubt, the language adopted here is another brick in the wall for those using international human-rights mechanisms to delegitimize or even dismantle the Jewish State,” said Stacy Burdett, the Anti-Defamation League’s associate director of government affairs. “This movement has always existed. But our opponents have demonstrated an unprecedented sophistication and cunning.”

While the language may have changed, the intent remains the same, said Irwin Cotler, a Canadian parliamentarian and renowned human rights lawyer.

“In a world in which human rights has emerged as the secular religion of our time, Israel, portrayed as the worst of human-rights violators, is the new anti-Christ,” said Cotler, who worked closely with the Jewish caucus in Durban.

“Classical anti-Semitism was discrimination against or denial of the right of individual Jews to live as equal members of a free society,” he said. “The new anti-Jewishness is discrimination against [Israel], or denial of the right of the Jewish State to live as an equal member of the family of nations.”

The declaration was so harsh that U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson said she would not recommend it to governmental delegates as a guideline for their own declaration.

However, Robinson said, she also was determined that the final declaration recognize the Palestinians’ “suffering” — indicating her belief that a racism conference was the proper context for Palestinian complaints.

While some observers and activists dismissed the NGO declaration as irrelevant, the Palestinians and their allies will be able to claim that the “voice of civil society” has spoken, since roughly 8,000 NGO delegates from around the world were on hand.

Jewish activists suggested that the NGO statement was so caustic that Palestinian sympathizers felt they could ease off in the government document, appearing magnanimous and open to compromise.

But Jewish observers said they wouldn’t be surprised if the “racist, apartheid” mantra comes up again when the U.N. General Assembly reconvenes in New York later this month, at an upcoming U.N. conference on children, at the U.N. Human Rights Commission, and in other forums.

In addition, pro-Palestinian student groups plan to launch a nationwide campaign Oct. 12-14, urging people and institutions to divest from “Israeli apartheid,” a la South Africa.

The declaration raises other questions.

Some wonder whether the European defense of Israel in the waning days of the conference was motivated by a sense of justice or Europe’s longtime desire to play a more influential role in the Mideast crisis.

Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel, whose country currently holds the E.U.’s rotating presidency, hinted as much when, at a press conference late Friday night, he boasted that the continent is emerging as a “peace power.”

Since the intifada broke out a year ago, the Palestinians have been pushing to marginalize the Americans — whom the Arab world considers hopelessly allied to Israel — and to “internationalize” the Mideast crisis by bringing in other parties.

When the European Union came to Israel’s defense at Durban, a Jordanian journalist lashed out at Michel, suggesting that the E.U.’s hard bargaining was damaging its status as a “neutral” player.

Finally, with the Mideast conflict drowning out practically all other causes at Durban — and detracting from a potentially historic apology for slavery — there was concern about who would be blamed for the missed opportunity.

Some at Durban grumbled about U.S. Jewish groups and Israel, alleging that they have too much influence in Washington and orchestrated the U.S. pullout.

“Those groups who didn’t get their issues aired fully will be looking for someone to blame,” said Alan Gold, a spokesman for B’nai B’rith International. “And the historic scapegoating is of the Jews.”

February 11: A Rally for Israel


Talmudic sages wondered how King Achav of Israel could have reigned for decades, considering his practice and encouragement of idolatry and every type of sin. They arrived at the answer that at least during his reign there was, if nothing else, unity among the Jewish people. Today we find deep divisions among our people, perhaps nowhere more so than in our attitudes toward Israel and the peace process. It almost makes you wish for the good old days of King Achav.

These days, there are radical hard-liners on both the right and left who are ready to push their single-minded agendas even at the cost of death and destruction. There are racist, bigoted Jews and self-hating anti-Semitic Jews, and both must be discredited at all costs.

As for the rest of us, it sometimes seems as though if we are united in anything, it is in the belief that the other side is dead wrong and largely responsible for the terrible predicament that confronts our people. At least we agree on something.

The losers in this struggle are Israel and the Jewish people. This is not a new circumstance for our people. The sages of the Talmud tell us that baseless hatred was the proximate cause of the destruction of the Second Temple. While this has traditionally been seen as a philosophical point, with the “great sin” tipping the scales of some heavenly balance, it has a more pragmatic interpretation as well. The Jews of Jerusalem were busy with internal conflict even as the Roman siege tightened around them. Large storehouses of food were put to the torch by Jews who didn’t agree with government policies, and the people and the city were then doomed. The unthinkable has already happened. We must not let it happen again.

We have no choice but to see ourselves again as one people. Our adversaries certainly don’t differentiate us by religious or political variant. More importantly, our own Torah sees us as one people, warts and all.

Promises by G-d of a special role in the world, of a land of our own and of our continuity as a people, were made to the nation of Israel, not to its left or right wings. It is only together that we can fulfill our destiny as Jews.

The road to achdut (unity) is long and arduous. We can begin by finding the common ground, our support for the people and the State of Israel. We feel their pains and hurts as if they were our own. It is in this spirit that we of the Orthodox Union call upon the Jewish community to unite in a rally in support of our brothers and sisters in Israel and their quest for a true peace, Sunday, Feb. 11, 10:15 a.m., at the corner of Olympic and Doheny. (Rain location is next door at Beth Jacob Congregation, 9030 W. Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills.) The program is to include prayer, addresses by Israeli Consul General Yuval Rotem and Rep. Henry Waxman, an address by Rabbi Marvin Hier and songs of hope, unity and peace. It’s a start — please join in.



Dr. Larry Eisenberg is president of the Orthodox Union’s West Coast region.

Terror, Again


Nothing much happened in Los Angeles last week to mark it as a special week in Jewish history. Ditto for Chicago and Sacramento, Calif.

No, it was pretty much a normal week in all three cities. Kids read their bar and bat mitzvah portions. A few couples got married. Folks gathered, as they do this time every year, to observe Holocaust Remembrance Day with the usual speeches, chanting of El malei rachamim (“God of compassion”) and vows of “Never again.”

Nothing much happened to remind you that an exclusive little club of three – Sacramento, Los Angeles and Chicago – had just gained a fourth member. Pittsburgh had become the fourth American community inside a year to experience an armed anti-Semitic assault by a right-wing terrorist. Yes, again. On Friday afternoon, April 28, Richard Scott Baumhammers, a suburban Pittsburgh attorney with far-right views and a history of mental illness, allegedly shot his Jewish next door neighbor to death and set her house afire. The victim, Anita “Nicki” Gordon, 63, was found near her front door, shot six times, hands outstretched in a vain effort to protect herself.

He then set out by car on a two-county orgy of racist violence, shooting up two synagogues, a Chinese restaurant, an Indian grocery and a karate club, killing four more people: an African American and three immigrants, from India, China and Vietnam. Another Indian immigrant was critically injured. Baumhammers, 34, is a child of Latvian immigrants. He received his law degree in 1992 at a Baptist college in Alabama, after spending a semester abroad at the University of Heidelberg in Germany. He briefly practiced immigration law in Georgia, but was hospitalized for mental illness and eventually returned to Pittsburgh. Increasingly preoccupied with his Latvian roots, he repeatedly visited Europe, where he was said to be in touch with far-right militants.

Last winter he launched his own “political party,” the Free Market Party, which favored ending “Third World immigration” and restoring “European American” supremacy. It had no known adherents, though its Web site was impressive enough that the Council of Conservative Citizens, a Southern group with ties to Republican congressional leaders, agreed to a link.

Pittsburgh, Jewish and non-Jewish, reacted to the shootings with a now-familiar outpouring of grief, condemnation and intergroup solidarity. Victims’ funerals became public demonstrations of sympathy. The Anti-Defamation League and NAACP joined in a downtown Pittsburgh rally against “hate violence.” The desecrated synagogues were packed Friday evening with Jews and non-Jews from across Pittsburgh, come to show unity.

Jewish community leaders declared that the shootings proved the need for stricter gun-control laws and vowed a stepped-up campaign in the coming weeks. “What was in play here was [the suspect’s] ability to gain access to high-power weapons,” said Edie Naveh, director of the Pittsburgh Jewish Community Relations Council.

What’s not planned is an examination of Baumhammers’ political motives. “We have to be very careful about reading too much into it about hate groups and anti-Semitism,” said Rabbi Neal Scheindlin of Beth El Congregation, one of the desecrated synagogues. “While he clearly had read some of that stuff, he also had some mental illness. I don’t know that it represents much beyond himself.”

But this wasn’t some isolated breakdown. It was part of a growing nationwide pattern – indeed, a virtual replay of assaults elsewhere.

The first came last June in Sacramento, when three synagogues were firebombed in a coordinated attack. The men eventually charged, Benjamin Matthew and James Tyler Williams, are also suspected in the separate shooting death of a gay couple in northern California.

In July in Chicago, six Jews were shot – none fatally – while walking home from synagogue on a Friday night. Over the next two days the shooter, 21-year-old Benjamin Smith, an activist in the far-right World Church of the Creator, drove through two states, shooting at blacks and Asians. When it was over there were two dead – one black, one Korean-American – and seven wounded, including the six Jews. Smith shot himself after police cornered him in southern Illinois.

Then came the armed assault on the North Valley Jewish Community Center in suburban Los Angeles in August. After wounding five Jews – a center worker, a teen counselor and three children – the suspected shooter, Buford Furrow, allegedly drove off to shoot and kill an Asian-American postal worker. And now Pittsburgh.

Three of the four incidents – in Chicago, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh – follow a precise pattern: extended shooting sprees, each by an individual with far-right views and a history of mental illness. And, says Chicago Jewish Community Relations Council director Jay Tcath, “in all three cases anti-Semitism was the trigger. All three started their attacks with Jews and then went on to attack others.” It’s not exactly an anti-Semitic terror wave, but it’s close.

Oddly, the Pittsburgh attack “seems to have barely made a blip on the radar screen,” Tcath said. The nation’s major newspapers buried it deep inside. No editorials or op-eds denounced it. In Jewish communities around the country there was barely a yawn – no rallies, no solidarity funds, nothing. Why not? “Maybe it’s outrage exhaustion, a sense that we’ve seen it all before,” Tcath said. Maybe we missed it “because it wasn’t in a major media market, like Chicago or Los Angeles. And because there wasn’t an extended chase to hold the public’s attention.”

Still, Tcath said, “it’s a little befuddling. The incident in Pittsburgh had a much higher death toll than the others.” It was also the first incident in which a Jew was killed. Why haven’t Jews responded? The apathy puts community leaders in a ticklish position. Those who do see the larger picture are hesitant to speak out too firmly. “Starting a panic won’t help anyone,” says regional ADL director Joel Ratner. But silence is dangerous, too. It leaves Jews under the misapprehension that attacks like Baumhammers’ merely represent isolated violence by deranged individuals. That’s wrong.

There’s a subculture of extremism out there, driven by cynics and fanatics and accelerated by the Internet, waiting for a lost soul to come along and pull the trigger. And wishing won’t make it go away.

J.J. Goldberg writes a weekly column for The Jewish Journal

Defiant Actions


A far-right party has forged an agreement to share power in Austria’s government in defiance of an unprecedented European Union threat to penalize the country.

The strong condemnation of Freedom Party leader Jorg Haider by the Europeans and the world community brought back memories of a Jewish-led campaign to isolate Austria in the 1980s.

Then, Kurt Waldheim was elected president despite revelations that he concealed a Nazi past.

This time, Austria’s 14 European Union partners, vowing to rebuff any anti-democratic trends within Europe, have taken on the battle to keep the Freedom Party, and particularly Haider, out of the halls of power.

Significantly, the E.U. move, announced Monday, came just days after leaders from 46 countries attended an international conference on the Holocaust in Stockholm which, among other things, called for more preventive diplomacy and an early warning system to alert leaders to racist problems that could escalate.

“If a party which has expressed xenophobic views, and which does not abide by the essential values of the European family, comes to power, naturally we won’t be able to continue the same relations as in the past, however much we regret it,” Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres, whose government currently heads the European Union, told reporters Monday. “Nothing will be as before.”

Haider’s Freedom Party won more than 27 percent in general elections last October, becoming the country’s second largest party and representing the biggest breakthrough by a far-right party in Europe since the end of World War II.


Wiesenthal Center Joins European Protest of Haider

The Simon Wiesenthal Center has expressed “grave concern” about the inclusion of the far-right Freedom Party, led by Jorg Haider, in a new Austrian coalition government.

In a letter to Austrian President Thomas Klestil, Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Wiesenthal Center, noted that Haider had visited the center’s Museum of Tolerance twice to demand that his photo be removed from the museum’s “Demagogue Wall.”

Haider was informed that “the only way the photo would come down was if he changed his policies and began telling the truth about the SS and National Socialism and stopped his attempts to curry favor with extremists,” Hier wrote.

At the same time, the American Jewish Committee applauded the stand by the 15-nation European Union to break off political contact with Austria if the Freedom Party is included in the next government. “The EU’s forthright and principled response on a matter of great importance to defenders of human rights and tolerance everywhere is deeply appreciated,” said AJC president Bruce M. Ramer. — Tom Tugend, Conributing Editor

Changing Teens’ Thinking


The fresh-faced teenager looks like the girl next door until she displays her swastika tattoo in an episode of “The Teen Files,” which continues this week on UPN. “I think the Holocaust was a good thing,” she says, serenely. “[Hitler] probably should have done more.”

But by the end of the program, the girl and two other racist teens have met a Holocaust survivor and a black man paralyzed during a hate crime. They have met his mother. And they have changed their minds. “I don’t think you can judge people by their [religion] or skin color,” one of them concludes, tearfully.

It’s the kind of social change that has been the focus of producer-director Arnold Shapiro’s 36-year television career.

That was crucial for the producer, best known for his searing, Oscar-winning, 1978 documentary “Scared Straight!” “Documentaries have always been my mainstay, because that is where I know I can really make a difference,” says Shapiro, whose landmark piece on child abuse, “Scared Silent,” simultaneously aired on three networks in 1992.

Shapiro, 58, learned about changing the world from his Jewish parents, who owned an Alhambra beauty parlor and were active in the Anti-Defamation League. He remembers the day two desperate Polish immigrants entered the shop: “My father spoke to them in Yiddish, then helped find them jobs and a place to live, as he had for so many other people.” As for his mother: “Around 1960, she hired an African-American hairstylist when nobody else would, and put her booth right up in front of the shop.”

Shapiro, who produced his first TV show at age 22, is continuing to follow his parents’ legacy with “The Teen Files,” a series that tackles issues such as teenage drinking, smoking, violence, sex and racism.

“I’ve often been there with the cameras when something happened that was so shocking to young people that they did change,” he says. ‘Scared Straight!’ is a perfect example of that. I’ve seen it happen and I’ve seen it stick.”

“The Teen Files” continues Aug. 19, 8 p.m. on UPN with “The Truth About Drinking” and “Smoking: Truth or Dare.”

Cover Story


The recent revelations about the South OrangeCounty Community College District’s desire to offer a course that, inpart, blames the Mossad and the Anti-Defamation League for theassassination of President John F. Kennedy read something like a badclipping from the area’s far-right past.

Even as the county continues to emerge as anincreasingly cosmopolitan, high-tech region, it appears that theregressive gene, with its racist and anti-Semitic characteristics,remains all too embedded in the county’s public policy. Despite thecancellation of the course (due to various outside pressures), theelected head of the board of trustees, Steven T. Frogue, continues tospew out the right-wing conspiratorial line, which, in other parts ofSouthern California, has thankfully receded into history.

Indeed, despite rapid demographic and economicchange, the county still is bedeviled with a significant, highlyvisible group of people whose views seem more in line with the MiddleAges than the Information Age. Of course, such views do not representanything like a majority in Orange County, notes UC Irvine’s MarcBaldassare, the region’s leading pollster. By his estimation, no morethan 20 percent of Orange County residents share the kind of”hard-right” politics that produces leaders such as Frogue. Evenwithin the Republican Party, Baldassare believes, the vast majoritytend more toward a libertarian, fiscally conservative but sociallymoderate philosophy.

“The whole right-wing social agenda, ‘familyvalues’ thing does not play well here,” Baldassare says, noting thatin the 1996 elections, Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole wononly 50 percent of the Orange County vote and moderate DemocratLoretta Sanchez upset far-right (but not anti-Semitic) incumbentCongressman Bob Dornan. “I don’t think there’s a vast undercurrent ofracism or anti-Semitism here at all. That conflicts with theprevailing sense of personal rights and responsibility.”

Rabbi Arnie Rachlis of University Synagogue inIrvine essentially shares these views, suggesting that the region’sJewish community, estimated to be between 70,000 and 100,000 strong,has little to fear from anti-Semitism from its non-Jewishneighbors.

Life in Orange County may be plagued by a kind of”Stepford Wives” suburbanite conformity, but not by rabidanti-Semitism. “People like Frogue are exceptional,” Rachlis says.”When you go out to soccer practice, it’s white, Gentile andconservative, but not a bunch of Birchers and skinheads.”

Perhaps so, but having Frogue entrenched as anelected official still should give pause to Jews in Orange County andthroughout Southern California. For one thing, Frogue’s anti-Semiticpolitics are not a new development on the other side of the OrangeCurtain.

Since the 1920s, racist, anti-Semitic and nativistsentiments have surfaced repeatedly in Orange County politics.Indeed, back in the 1920s and 1930s, the Ku Klux Klan gainedpolitical power in cities such as Anaheim, Fullerton, Brea and LaHabra; the rabidly anti-Semitic group was hardly on the fringe. Asone scholar noted later, most Klansmen were considered “civicallyactive, substantial citizens.”

Nor did the extremist element die with the demiseof the Klan in the 1930s. Although Jews, African-Americans andAsian-Americans were only a tiny proportion of the county’spopulation — itself nearly 75 percent white Protestant — the racistculture continued to exist in Orange County’s fertile soil. Into the1960s, extreme right-wing politicians, such as James B. Utt,represented the southern end of the county, even proposing aconstitutional amendment that called for official recognition of “theauthority and law of Jesus Christ, Savior and Ruler of Nations.” TheJohn Birch Society also found its strongest California base in OrangeCounty.

As the county grew in population and economicpower, far-right anti-Semitic and racist elements still found succorwithin prominent institutions, such as Knott’s Berry Farm. In thiscase, recalls marketing consultant Bob Kelley, it may have been morea matter of indifference and ignorance than outright activeanti-Semitism. Walter Knott, Kelley says, was himself not ananti-Semite and even had Jewish secretaries, but he tolerated afundamentalist-run bookstore that openly sold anti-Jewish tracts.Eventually, Kelley and other advisers persuaded Knott to shut downthe bookstore.

But Kelley, my own longtime personal friend and aprominent adviser to many Orange County high-tech companies, believesthat the region is now at a crossroads between its far-right,intolerant past and a more cosmopolitan future. The bulk of OrangeCounty’s increasingly high-tech and trade-oriented businessleadership remains politically conservative but far from racist orexclusive. Indeed, Kelley points out, some of the county’s leadingbusiness figures — such as Quicksilver Software’s Bill Fisher,Westec’s Michael Kaye and Toshiba Information Systems’ Paul Wexler –are themselves Jews.

“In the high-tech and medical world that I dealwith, it’s pretty Jewish these days,” Kelley says. “In that world, Inever encounter anti-Semitism. But, sometimes, when I was dealingwith car dealers and with insurance brokers, well, some of themclearly came from wherever rednecks are minted.”

In other words, Kelley and other business leaderssuggest, Orange County’s new, and buoyant, economy, increasinglydominated by Asians and Latinos, has no room for bigots — even ifonly in its own self-interest. To compete for educated workers,capital and media attention against Silicon Valley or other high-techregions, Orange County must purge itself as much as possible of itsugly regressive genes. It may be blind optimism to believe this willhappen, but I’m betting that it will.

Joel Kotkin is the John M. Olin Fellow at thePepperdine Institute for Public Policy.


A Stitch in Time May Save Jobs


For generations of my own family, and many Jewish families, thegarment industry long has been a source of employment andentrepreneurial opportunity. Yet, in recent weeks, some local Jewishactivists, led by the American Jewish Congress, have been making theshmatte business and its workers once again the object oftheir heartfelt intentions.

Although concern for garment workers’ rights and wages is alegitimate one, the AJCongress seems more motivated by what ExecutiveDirector Carole Levy calls “our hearts and morals” and nostalgicmemories of “our grandparents” than by a well-thought-outunderstanding of either the current economic realities or the ethnicclimate that is Los Angeles.

For one thing, the AJCongress campaign has already resulted inseveral pieces in the mainstream media — including one by UC SantaBarbara Professor Richard Applebaum — painting Jewish manufacturersas largely responsible for the exploitation of predominately Latinoworkers. Given the recent racially tinged flap over Councilman MikeFeuer and Councilwoman Laura Chick’s demand for coke-sniffingCouncilman Mike Hernandez’s resignation, posing the garment issue insuch ethnic terms makes about as much sense as lofting a Molotovcockatil in a crowded theater.

The AJCongress campaign also is almost certain to drive yetanother chasm within the Jewish community itself. Despite Levy’sgenuine claims of impartiality, the Los Angeles Jewish Commission ofSweatshops is likely to reflect the views of industry critics such asacademic Applebaum. He sits on the commission alongside arepresentative of the Jewish Labor Committee, a tiny but vocal groupwhose first vice president is Jay Mazur, the president of UNITE, theleading garment workers union. Industry representatives, althoughinvited to observe and testify, have been excluded from the panel,leading one disgusted former AJCongress board member, David Abel, toliken the whole investigation to a “kangaroo court.”

Linking union agitation to the sweatshop fight has been a commontactic since the revelation in 1995 of a “slave shop” in El Monte. Inthe media wars, the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and TextileEmployees (UNITE) — the result of the mid-1990s merger of two fadingold-line garment unions — has used revelations of sometimesdisgraceful working conditions as a way to win sympathy for its causeand condemnation for the industry.

Yet a close examination of recent U.S. Labor Department findingsmight lead some of the less Pavlovian Jewish activists to rethinktheir retro-1930s views of unionism. Just last month, the LaborDepartment published findings identifying sweatshop violations of theFair Labor Standards Act by 63 percent of the shops in heavilyunionized New York; among shops represented by UNITE, the level ofviolations reached 75 percent.

Ironically, the New York survey puts the relative performance ofthe much-abused, largely unorganized Los Angeles garment industry –the prime concern of the AJCongress campaigners — in a somewhat morefavorable light. After having been rightfully shamed by disgracefulconditions at some of their contractors, California manufacturershave proven themselves more proficient at reducing abuses than theirunionized colleagues across the county. The development of anindustry-funded monitoring system is a primary reason.

A survey last year, for example, found roughly 39 percent of LosAngeles-based contractors in compliance, with two-thirds of monitoredfirms in full compliance. As the manufacturer-led compliance programhas expanded, one top Labor Department official estimates thatoverall compliance may now be roughly 50 percent, and far higheramong monitored firms.

These changes, along with boosts in the minimum wage, have helpeddrive wages for Los Angeles’ garment workers up 20 percent since1995, according to Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman.

Ultimately, the good-hearted activists of the AJCongress should gobeyond their nostalgic union proclivities to also explore other ways– such as improved industry monitoring, better marketing and workertraining — that might be more effective in boosting wages andworking conditions in a highly competitive, globalized industry. Thisis no longer your — or my — grandmother’s garment industry oreconomy; unions may not be the solution that they once were in an erawhen America faced limited foreign competition and had effectivelycurtailed most immigration.

Instead of patronizingly suggesting that Latino and Asian workersfollow the model of our own forebears, perhaps it would be better tounderstand why so few workers today — UNITE can claim no more than500 members in an industry that employs upward of 100,000 workers –see their salvation in unionization.

At Sorrento Mills in San Bernardino, 42 out of 50 workers thisfall voted to “decertify” the union, claiming that UNITE did littleto improve their working conditions or wages. A lawsuit against UNITEfiled by Sorrento workers claims that the union punished them fortheir actions by forcing M. Shapiro, a unionized Los Angelescoat-maker, to withdraw a contract from the firm.

The experience of Sorrento’s co-owner, Simeon Prophet, alsoprovides some insight into something that the AJCongress inquisitorsmight do well to consider — why so many employers dislike UNITE.Like others who have tried to work with the union, Prophet chargesthe union with using intimidation tactics, such as slashing tires,breaking windows and verbally intimidating workers who wanted tobreak ranks — claims with which a UNITE spokeswoman in New York saidshe was completely unfamiliar.

At the same time, the commission should also consider how itsefforts to what role the one-sided portrayal of the industry may havein helping push more and more sewing operations, including those fromUNITE bête noire Guess?, out of the region and to such bastionsof labor rights as Mexico, Sri Lanka and the People’s Republic ofChina. Of course, the jobs gone from Los Angeles won’t be those heldby righteous liberals in Brentwood, Santa Monica or Malibu. But thepain will be real for the thousands of workers, mostly Latino, andentrepreneurs, many recent Jewish immigrants from the Middle East andNorth Africa, who could lose their jobs, hopes and dreams. Maybe thenthey will be able call up the good-hearted activists of theAJCongress to pay the rent and feed their families. After all, itwould be the “moral” thing to do.

Joel Kotkin is the John M. Olin Fellow at the PepperdineInstitute for Public Policy and a Senior Fellow at the PacificResearch Institute.

All rights reserved by author

Beyond the Orange Curtain


The recent revelations about the South OrangeCounty Community College District’s desire to offer a course that, inpart, blames the Mossad and the Anti-Defamation League for theassassination of President John F. Kennedy read something like a badclipping from the area’s far-right past.

Even as the county continues to emerge as anincreasingly cosmopolitan, high-tech region, it appears that theregressive gene, with its racist and anti-Semitic characteristics,remains all too embedded in the county’s public policy. Despite thecancellation of the course (due to various outside pressures), theelected head of the board of trustees, Steven T. Frogue, continues tospew out the right-wing conspiratorial line, which, in other parts ofSouthern California, has thankfully receded into history.

Indeed, despite rapid demographic and economicchange, the county still is bedeviled with a significant, highlyvisible group of people whose views seem more in line with the MiddleAges than the Information Age. Of course, such views do not representanything like a majority in Orange County, notes UC Irvine’s MarcBaldassare, the region’s leading pollster. By his estimation, no morethan 20 percent of Orange County residents share the kind of”hard-right” politics that produces leaders such as Frogue. Evenwithin the Republican Party, Baldassare believes, the vast majoritytend more toward a libertarian, fiscally conservative but sociallymoderate philosophy.

“The whole right-wing social agenda, ‘familyvalues’ thing does not play well here,” Baldassare says, noting thatin the 1996 elections, Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole wononly 50 percent of the Orange County vote and moderate DemocratLoretta Sanchez upset far-right (but not anti-Semitic) incumbentCongressman Bob Dornan. “I don’t think there’s a vast undercurrent ofracism or anti-Semitism here at all. That conflicts with theprevailing sense of personal rights and responsibility.”

Rabbi Arnie Rachlis of University Synagogue inIrvine essentially shares these views, suggesting that the region’sJewish community, estimated to be between 70,000 and 100,000 strong,has little to fear from anti-Semitism from its non-Jewishneighbors.

Life in Orange County may be plagued by a kind of”Stepford Wives” suburbanite conformity, but not by rabidanti-Semitism. “People like Frogue are exceptional,” Rachlis says.”When you go out to soccer practice, it’s white, Gentile andconservative, but not a bunch of Birchers and skinheads.”

Perhaps so, but having Frogue entrenched as anelected official still should give pause to Jews in Orange County andthroughout Southern California. For one thing, Frogue’s anti-Semiticpolitics are not a new development on the other side of the OrangeCurtain.

Since the 1920s, racist, anti-Semitic and nativistsentiments have surfaced repeatedly in Orange County politics.Indeed, back in the 1920s and 1930s, the Ku Klux Klan gainedpolitical power in cities such as Anaheim, Fullerton, Brea and LaHabra; the rabidly anti-Semitic group was hardly on the fringe. Asone scholar noted later, most Klansmen were considered “civicallyactive, substantial citizens.”

Nor did the extremist element die with the demiseof the Klan in the 1930s. Although Jews, African-Americans andAsian-Americans were only a tiny proportion of the county’spopulation — itself nearly 75 percent white Protestant — the racistculture continued to exist in Orange County’s fertile soil. Into the1960s, extreme right-wing politicians, such as James B. Utt,represented the southern end of the county, even proposing aconstitutional amendment that called for official recognition of “theauthority and law of Jesus Christ, Savior and Ruler of Nations.” TheJohn Birch Society also found its strongest California base in OrangeCounty.

As the county grew in population and economicpower, far-right anti-Semitic and racist elements still found succorwithin prominent institutions, such as Knott’s Berry Farm. In thiscase, recalls marketing consultant Bob Kelley, it may have been morea matter of indifference and ignorance than outright activeanti-Semitism. Walter Knott, Kelley says, was himself not ananti-Semite and even had Jewish secretaries, but he tolerated afundamentalist-run bookstore that openly sold anti-Jewish tracts.Eventually, Kelley and other advisers persuaded Knott to shut downthe bookstore.

But Kelley, my own longtime personal friend and aprominent adviser to many Orange County high-tech companies, believesthat the region is now at a crossroads between its far-right,intolerant past and a more cosmopolitan future. The bulk of OrangeCounty’s increasingly high-tech and trade-oriented businessleadership remains politically conservative but far from racist orexclusive. Indeed, Kelley points out, some of the county’s leadingbusiness figures — such as Quicksilver Software’s Bill Fisher,Westec’s Michael Kaye and Toshiba Information Systems’ Paul Wexler –are themselves Jews.

“In the high-tech and medical world that I dealwith, it’s pretty Jewish these days,” Kelley says. “In that world, Inever encounter anti-Semitism. But, sometimes, when I was dealingwith car dealers and with insurance brokers, well, some of themclearly came from wherever rednecks are minted.”

In other words, Kelley and other business leaderssuggest, Orange County’s new, and buoyant, economy, increasinglydominated by Asians and Latinos, has no room for bigots — even ifonly in its own self-interest. To compete for educated workers,capital and media attention against Silicon Valley or other high-techregions, Orange County must purge itself as much as possible of itsugly regressive genes. It may be blind optimism to believe this willhappen, but I’m betting that it will.

Joel Kotkin is the John M. Olin Fellow at thePepperdine Institute for Public Policy.