Radical Muslim cleric returns to Australia

A radical Muslim cleric who described Jews as “pigs” and is accused of inciting terrorism has returned to Australia to preach after years in exile.

Sheik Feiz Mohammed, a Sydney native, was told in 2007 by then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd that he was “not welcome here” after an inflammatory DVD series emerged in which he is quoted saying that “We want to have children and offer them as soldiers defending Islam. Teach them this: There is nothing more beloved to me than wanting to die as a mujahid [holy warrior].”

Media reports this week said Mohammed was back in Sydney teaching at mosques, which drew the ire of New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Vic Alhadeff.

“We deplore the use of any such language against any group,” Alhadeff said. “Bringing such hatred to Australia is not what we’re about, and most Australians unequivocally condemn such vicious bigotry.”

But Samil Dandan, president of the Lebanese Muslim Association, said the firebrand preacher was a new man and shouldn’t be judged on his past.

A police spokesman told the Sunday Telegraph newspaper that Mohammed was being monitored.

Daniel Pipes fights the worldwide threat of Islamism — from Malibu

Pipes spoke at UC Irvine in January

The view from Daniel Pipes’ front porch in Malibu is “California Dreamin'” perfect. With the Pacific stretching beyond the horizon, the vista induces a Zen-like calm. If the scholar’s striped cotton shirt and khakis betray his Boston roots, Pipes’ barely audible voice and gentle demeanor suggest that he has gone native just weeks after his arrival as a visiting professor this semester at Pepperdine University.

But Pipes’ words are not so laid-back. The 57-year-old Harvard-educated Middle East expert is one of the most prominent scholars to have warned of the growing threat of fundamentalist Muslim terrorism to the West before the Sept. 11 attacks. He has become a lightening rod for some Muslims as well as other critics, in part because he predicts that radical Islam is a far greater threat than most people would like to imagine. The United States, he says, must gird itself for a protracted struggle against an enemy that wants nothing less than to transform this country from a beacon of democracy into a repressive Islamic state.

“You name it, radical Islam is anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, anti-female, anti-moderate Muslim and anti anyone who disagrees with it,” said Pipes, who is Jewish. “Anyone in their way is their enemy.”

Pipes calls himself a “soldier” in the war against Islamic fundamentalism; he is founder and director of the Middle East Forum — a Philadelphia think tank that publishes Middle East Quarterly — and he has written hundreds of newspaper columns, appeared countless times on Fox News and CNN and traveled the globe, including a recent trip to England to debate London Mayor Ken Livingstone with the purpose of warning of the growing danger. He soon plans to unveil Islamist Watch, a Web site which he describes as an attempt to monitor nonviolent radical Islam in the West.

Pipes gets nearly 3 million visits annually to his Web site, making him, if not exactly a household name, then at least one of the most prominent anti-Islamists on the scene.

“It used to be that people would ask him if he was related to me,” said Pipes’ father, Richard Pipes, professor emeritus of Russian history at Harvard and a former policy adviser to President Ronald Reagan. “Now, it’s the other way around.”

Like his father, Daniel Pipes has a reputation for bluntness and a willingness to go against conventional wisdom — both in the academy and elsewhere. Whereas Richard Pipes sounded the alarm against appeasing the Soviets, Daniel Pipes preaches against working with radical Muslims, no matter how law-abiding, scholarly or open-minded they might appear.

Instead, “like David Duke and Louis Farrakhan,” Pipes said, “Islamists should be ostracized socially and politically.”

He favors the profiling of Muslims at U.S. airports.

Pipes has come to Pepperdine to teach a graduate seminar on “Islam & Politics.” During his time in Southern California, he is also speaking about the war on terror and the Arab-Israeli conflict at a number of local institutions. In late February, Pipes gave a talk at Valley Beth Shalom in Encino; on March 29, he will speak at Sinai Temple.

His supporters believe that Pipes provides an invaluable service.

“Without Daniel Pipes, we would never be able to prepare ourselves to face the enemy,” said Tashbih Sayyed, the editor in chief of Pakistan Today and Muslim World Today, weekly newspapers that oppose militant Islam. “We would be standing unprepared and unarmed, just like a sitting duck.”

Pipes, said Robert Spencer, founder of Jihad Watch and author of the New York Times bestseller “The Truth About Muhammad,” is “one of the most heroic defenders in the United States against global jihad.”
However, Pipes’ detractors call him paranoid, prone to conspiracy theories and anti-Islamic, though Pipes has long said, “Radical Islam is the problem, and moderate Islam is the solution.”

On Jan. 31, dozens of members of the Muslim Student Union interrupted a speech he was delivering at UC Irvine before they stormed out in protest. In 2003, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim civil rights group that Pipes has characterized as a Saudi-funded, pro-Hamas Islamist outfit, led efforts to block his nomination by President Bush to the board of the U.S. Institute of Peace.

After several senators opposed Pipes, including Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), who said that Pipes’ record “did not reflect a commitment to bridging differences and preventing conflict,” the White House made a recess appointment, which allowed Pipes to serve for 16 months.

UCLA law professor Khaled Abou El Fadl, author of “The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam From the Extremists,” and a presidential appointee to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, described Pipes at the start of his career as a “promising scholar” of Islamic history, who has since lost his perspective.

“Pipes has grown … more suspicious and more alarmist,” said El Fadl, whom Pipes has called a stealth Islamist. “His whole recent work has turned to a critique of Islam based on conspiracy theory.”

Driven largely by a desire to discredit Muslim critics of Israel, Pipes is “clearly opposed to the interests of the American Muslim community and would do anything in his power, I believe, to prevent the political and social empowerment of American Muslims,” said Ibrahim Hooper, national spokesman for CAIR.

Stephen Suleyman Schwartz, executive director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, a Washington D.C.-based think tank that promotes moderate Islam, said groups such as CAIR “smear” Pipes, because he exposes the dangers they pose.

Yet, Pipes’ critics have failed to derail him. With untiring zeal, he works to blunt what he sees as the threat of radical Islam wherever it crops up. A recent crusade involved a seemingly minor issue at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

For years, some Muslim cab drivers had refused to pick up passengers visibly carrying alcohol, typically in duty free bags, because of religious considerations. The situation had inherent frictions, as the cabbies who turned down the fares had to return to the back of the cab line, while the riders who had been denied service sometimes felt angry and confused as to why the drivers had bypassed them.

Radical right resents judges and juries

The right-wing effort to defeat independent-minded judges has reached the usually peaceful second floor of the Ronald Reagan State Building in downtown Los Angeles, home of the
2nd District Court of Appeal.

The justices’ office suite is a quiet place, insulated from the noise of Spring Street. When I was at the Times just down the street, the justices used to invite me over occasionally to give them tips on dealing with the press. Not that they needed it. Reporters seldom came calling to inquire about their heavily legalistic and usually non-controversial decisions.

But these days no judge is safe from the assault of the religious right, anti-government crusaders and law and order zealots. And, as a result of the reach and speed of the Internet, the most obscure fringe group can spread its message as if it were a fast moving virus, penetrating even the second floor of the Reagan building.

The Terry Schiavo Case, prayer, gay relationships and abortion decisions have prompted vicious attacks on the courts. On each of these issues, the radical right have gone after the courts and judges, rather than the legal reasoning behind the decisions.

These assaults from the conservative evangelical Christian bloc — the Republicans’ much heralded base — has prompted retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a Republican appointed by President Reagan, to warn that the independence of judges, and the rights of all Americans, are threatened by such attacks, as is the freedom of us all. It was an unusually forthright speech, given earlier this year and reported by the only journalist present, Nina Totenberg, NPR’s legal affairs correspondent.

I didn’t pay much attention until I received a call from one of the appellate justices. He told me that there was much concern in the legal community because of far-right slates urging a no vote on some of the justices. The governor appoints the justices, and whenever they seek another term, they are on the ballot to be confirmed or rejected by the voters with a yes or no vote. Judges are on Tuesday’s ballot. Judges are non-partisan, and governors, from Arnold Schwarzenegger back to his predecessors, have appointed Republicans and Democrats to the bench.

At first, I wasn’t especially interested. Why pay attention to fringe groups? But the appellate judge kept after me. Then I got a call from a lawyer who said the situation was of special importance to the Jewish community. Her point: We’re people of the law. And in this country, the law, a Constitution that separates religion from the state, has protected our beliefs.

Searching through the web, I came to the site of California Christians.net also known as bw.boyarsky@verizon.net.

Muslims and Jews must move on and strengthen ties

Muslim-Jewish relations in Los Angeles have undoubtedly undergone a test the past several weeks, the outcome of which is still unclear. But out of an acrimonious political battle,
many Muslims would like to move on and attempt to re-establish discussion and dialogue with our fellow Jewish Angelenos.

What is being referred to is last week’s decision by the L.A. County Commission on Human Relations to give its John Allen Buggs Humanitarian Award to Muslim leader Dr. Maher Hathout and the vitriolic rhetoric from a segment of the Jewish community in the weeks preceding. It has, amongst other things, been a trial for Muslim-Jewish relations. But interestingly enough, the period has also seen certain bonds between the two groups solidify.

Based on his past criticisms of Israel, a segment of the Jewish community engaged in what can be fairly called a smear campaign against Hathout. In doing so, it took a long-standing moderate and intellectual Muslim leader and painted him as an extremist in an attempt to make him, and the organizations he represents, politically radioactive.

In a Sept. 1 press release, the American Jewish Committee (AJCommittee) called Hathout “a radical Islamic leader masquerading as a moderate and deceiving the American public.” The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) on Sept. 6 accused Hathout of “promoting violence, hatred and divisiveness”; this again because Hathout likened Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to “apartheid,” a term even Israeli news organizations use to characterize Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories.

Led by these two groups, and eventually joined by others such as The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and the FBI-designated terrorist group, the Jewish Defense League, an unsuccessful campaign to rescind the award was orchestrated.

This unfortunate effort, filled with more anger by some of these groups than I care to describe, did nothing but build resentment in Muslims. In their view, this campaign continued a pattern of opposing Muslim political integration purely because of its differing viewpoint on a foreign country.

But to others in the Jewish community, Hathout was none of the above. In fact, Hathout and the organizations of which he is a part, should be embraced and recognized for their struggle to bring moderation to the Muslim community and harmony in interfaith relations.

The Progressive Jewish Alliance, Rabbi Leonard Beerman of Leo Baeck Temple, Rabbi Steve Jacobs of Temple Kol Tikvah and David Wolf, son of the prominent late Rabbi Alfred Wolf of the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, were among the numerous interfaith leaders attesting to Hathout’s genuine and decades-long effort to build harmony and trust amongst Jews and Muslims in Los Angeles. Yes, they acknowledge there are differences on the Middle East, but that should never exclude Muslims like Hathout from the political process or make him ineligible to receive the award.

To these Jewish leaders who had the courage to stand on principle, we express our deep thanks. Their actions should not only make many Jews proud; they have also set an example for us as Muslim Americans. They represent the best of what Muslim-Jewish relations can bring.

To the AJCommittee, ZOA, Jewish Federation and others who have never really engaged us in dialogue, we stand at the ready. We stand ready to meet and engage on our differences, not expecting to come to agreement but expecting to make things more civil.

Brutal tactics such as those used in this campaign risk poisoning overall Muslim-Jewish relations and building resentment. Such a negative outcome could potentially impact not just Muslims and Jews in Los Angeles but, unfortunately, extend into Muslim-Jewish relations around the country.

To those in the Jewish community who know us, it is time to take our efforts to the next level. Rather than predicate our relations on the dynamics of the Middle East (of which we have no control and to which we actually stand opposed to dictatorial Arab regimes), we should work on domestic issues, such as homelessness, health care, education and other issues which our respective faiths have much in common and which effect us equally as members of the same society.

At the end of the day, Muslims and Jews have far more in common than they realize. It is time to start building on those commonalities for the betterment of our communities, our nation, and our world.

Omar Ricci is chairman of the

Chipping Away at Israel Support Endangers U.S.

I spent a fair amount of time in Israel in the late 1990s, traveling throughout the country. One of my many impressions of that nation was that there was a pervasive
desire by Israelis for a lasting, mutually beneficial peace with hostile neighbors.

At the time of my visit, I was a recovering ultraleftist who was open and generally sympathetic to the issues of Palestinians. But what is seared in my mind is the experience of sitting with a young woman during a lunchtime visit to a kibbutz near the Syrian border. On her lap sat her 3-year-old son and an automatic rifle was casually slung over her shoulder.

After a bit of polite chitchat, I asked her, “How are you going to be able to guarantee your son’s future with that weapon?”

She said guns could never do that. “Only a true and lasting peace with our neighbors can insure my child’s future” the woman told me.

I was thinking about that young Israeli as I watched rockets slam into Israel’s cities over the past few weeks.

Israel is getting lots of bad press these days. Easily influenced reporters from the BBC to CNN have made the argument — in one way or another — that this tiny Jewish state responded “disproportionately” to attacks from Hamas and Hezbollah — raids that killed Israeli soldiers and kidnapped others.

Parroting Hezbollah spokesmen, Israel’s Western opponents tell us that Israel has targeted civilians and United Nations personnel intentionally. This charge mimics the age-old anti-Semitic slur of Jewish blood lust, since those making this charge are hard pressed to explain how indiscriminately killing Arab civilians would serve Israel’s interests.

War is always a nasty affair — in this case complicated by terrorist operations that intentionally launch missiles from crowded urban neighborhoods, where innocent Lebanese civilians live. In other words, Iran-sponsored Hezbollah fighters cynically know that their actions will draw an immediate and deadly response, a reply that may mean death for innocent Lebanese civilians near the launch site. The resultant photos of death and destruction provide an all-important public relations advantage among willing Western media sources, as well as for the Al Jazeera network.

Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz points out that in various wars with enemy forces, Israel has killed far fewer civilians in proportion to the number of its own civilians than any country engaged in a comparable war. Yet, Israel is cited by the merlot-sipping set as the prime example of human rights violations.

Arguments of this kind are made with vigor and conviction in places like France and in the capitals of other European Union countries, where anti-Semitism is rampant, but are made, as well, by many here at home. It is part of a larger and disturbing pattern.

In a recent open letter, Noam Chomsky, the high priest of America’s crypto-Marxists, argues that Israel is at fault for the current warfare and that the kidnapping of Israeli military personnel should not have been the cause of a war of this intensity (the overreaction argument) since Israel supposedly holds “approximately 10,000 [Palestinians] in Israeli jails.” According to this view, all Palestinians held in Israeli jails, whatever the number, are innocent victims of the Jewish state — therefore judged by Chomsky and his ilk to be “political prisoners.”

On the heels of this, top human rights officials at the United Nations have said that Israel’s bombing in Lebanon “might constitute war crimes,” while generally avoiding comment on the indiscriminate shelling of cities in northern Israel by Hezbollah rocket fire — intended only to kill and maim Jewish civilians.

Some argue that the views of America’s hard left are marginal, and others see the United Nations as the emperor with no clothes. However, there is an undeniable influence here that cannot be disregarded. Chomsky — along with Marx, Shakespeare and the Bible — is one of the 10 most-quoted sources in the humanities, and despite ongoing scandals, the United Nations remains to be considered by many Americans to be a voice for peace.

The United Nation’s unsavory role in places like the Congo, Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe and Iraq remains unknown by many, although evidence from these places tells us that the United Nations may well be the world’s prime example of corruption, conciliation of dictatorships and moral timidity.

Giving new meaning to the word chutzpah, the United Nations has singled out the State of Israel for human rights condemnations more than any other nation in the world. This is more than a bit odd — since the world includes nations such as North Korea, Sudan and Cuba, among a host of others that ignore the concept of human rights.

Since 2000 in the United States, there has been an active and organized campaign by the radical left to promote divestment of city government, university, church and other investment portfolios from Israel and the companies that do business with that nation. The idea is to punish Israel for its policies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip — claimed to be oppressive and racist. The Presbyterian Church (USA) has been embroiled in its own internally controversial plan since 2004 to “divest from Israel” — all the while declaring uncritical “solidarity with Palestinian liberation.”

And if all of this were not enough to test one’s patience, the Southern California chapter of the ACLU has decided to honor Salam Al-Marayati with its Religious Freedom Award at the group’s upcoming garden party.

Just this past week, Al-Marayati, director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, condemned the president for referring to “Islamo-fascism”; previously he had admonished journalists to “cease the use of Islamic terminology to explain this very clear political narrative” (referring to terrorist acts). He recently opined in the Los Angeles times that Hezbollah “is not just an army” and should be understood as a “massive political party and social welfare network.”

Terrorism with a smile? For this brand of “tolerant” thinking he gets a religious freedom award.

Obviously, it is not just leftists and Muslim or Arab American advocacy groups that blame Jews for almost everything. Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, Iraq’s parliament speaker, recently accused Jews of financing acts of violence in Iraq.
He said, “These acts [random killing and kidnappings] are not the work of Iraqis. I am sure that he who does this is a Jew and the son of a Jew.”

This kind of high-level bigotry raises questions about the future of Iraqi democracy and should — if Sept. 11 didn’t adequately do that — raise our antenna to the deadly serious nature of the international struggle against radical Islamism. The warfare in the Mideast reverberates close to home.

Is this simply Israel’s war to win or lose?

As William Kristol has pointed out, “Better to say that what’s under attack is liberal democratic civilization, whose leading representative right now happens to be the United States.” Israel can’t afford to lose this conflict, nor can we. Here at home, those who chip away at American’s resolve to support Israel are chipping away at our own freedoms.

Joe R. Hicks is a social critic, the vice president of Community Advocate. Inc. and a talk radio host in Los Angeles.

Amona Violence an Uncertain Harbinger

Had Ariel Sharon been able to continue as Israeli prime minister, his main strategic goal would have been establishing a new long-term border between Israel and the West Bank.

That remains the primary aim of his Kadima Party, but last week’s violent clashes between settlers and police at the tiny West Bank outpost of Amona show just how difficult achieving it might be.

The intensity of the confrontation highlighted a profound rift between young settler radicals and the State of Israel. Some even go so far as to say they no longer feel any allegiance to secular Israel and want to establish a theocratic “State of Judea” in its stead.

The confrontation also brought to the surface differences inside the settler movement itself: The young radicals advocate uncompromising physical resistance to any further withdrawal plans; the moderates argue that the most rational thing the settlers can do is work with the government in drawing up new lines that take their interests into account.

The issue surfaced again when Israel’s acting prime minister said a probe into the clashes is unnecessary. Ehud Olmert said at Sunday’s Cabinet meeting that accusations of excessive police force during the Feb. 1 evacuation of Amona should not be investigated because he doesn’t want to politicize the event.

On Sunday night, settlers and their supporters showed they wouldn’t let the issue die easily either, as tens of thousands filled the streets of Jerusalem to rally against what they called an excessive use of police force in quelling the riots.

The already-explosive situation is further complicated by the fact that Israel is in the throes of a general election. All the major parties are trying to exploit government-settler tensions.

In the fighting over the demolition of nine illegal permanent homes built at Amona, more than 200 people were injured. The radical settlers wanted to make a point: Further evacuation of the West Bank will encounter much tougher opposition than the disengagement from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank in the summer did. The police wanted to establish a precedent, too: to show that nothing will deter them from carrying out government policy. Both sides are convinced they got their messages across.

For the young settler radicals, the evacuation of the Gaza and northern West Bank settlements was a traumatic experience. For many it caused a major shift in their attitudes to the State of Israel. From ardent Zionists, they became bitter critics, arguing that settlement is a central Zionist tenet, a step toward the coming of the Messiah, and, therefore, any state that gives up settlements undermines hope for redemption.

“A growing proportion of the National Religious public is becoming post-Zionist,” said Avihai Boaron, a young lawyer who headed the Amona campaign against the homes’ demolition. “The State of Israel is no longer seen as the beginning of redemption. On the contrary, it is seen to be impeding the natural development of the Jewish people. Not very wisely, Israel is turning good citizens from lovers of the country into, dare I say it, enemies of the state.”

For the moderates, the lesson learned from the Gaza withdrawal is very different. For them, the state remains supreme, and the challenge is to prevent a schism between the rest of the people and the settlers.

Leading the moderate camp is Otniel Schneller, a former head of the Yesha council of settlers.

The settlers, he argues, are servants of the majority, as reflected by the elected government. It can expand or curb settlement as it sees fit, and the settlers should go along with whatever decisions it takes. His goal is to avert future confrontation by getting the government to adopt a plan for new borders that most settlers will be able to support.

To this end, he has joined Kadima, and put his plan for settlement relocation on the table. Schneller defines four types of settlement: those inside the separation fence, those close to it, those with strategic or historic value and those far from the fence with neither.

The first three categories would be retained by Israel, the fourth relocated inside the fence or in Israel proper to make way for a contiguous Palestinian state alongside Israel. Schneller said he showed his plan to Sharon the day he suffered his major brain hemorrhage, and to Olmert a few days later. He claims both were impressed and that he has reason to believe the plan will be adopted as official Israeli policy.

The key, though, is how much settler support he gets. Many young radicals are already branding him a traitor. But Schneller claims most settlers are behind him.

“It’s hard to believe. I thought there would be an intifada against me. But it’s just the opposite. People have not stopped phoning me. They want to help, to take things forward, to see where it leads,” he said in an interview.

The current settler council is vacillating. Its leaders maintain close ties with radicals, while exploring compromise proposals of their own with the government. A day after doing virtually nothing to curb settler violence on Amona, council leaders Benzi Lieberman and Zeev Hever met with Foreign and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni to discuss their proposed map of settlement.

The feelers came as all the main political parties are trying to use government-settler tensions in the wake of the Amona clash to score political points. The parties on the right maintain that Olmert deliberately sought the violent confrontation to create a strongman image. On the left, the claim is that under Sharon, things would have been under control, and the level of violence much lower. Olmert’s retort to critics on both sides of the political spectrum is the same: He was simply doing what had to be done — carrying out a Supreme Court order to demolish the illegal homes.

The public seems confused. On the one hand, 50 percent think that Olmert wanted a bloody fight; on the other, 57 percent blame the settlers for the level of violence. More importantly, the Amona fracas seems to be having no perceptible effect on the nation’s voting patterns. In weekend polls after the violence, Kadima still had more than 40 of the 120 Knesset seats, with Labor at somewhere 16 and 21 and the Likud at between 13 and 17.

The fact that such major developments as the Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections and the violent police-settler showdown have failed to dent the polls has led several Israeli pundits to conclude that election has, to all intents and purposes, already been decided. Although balloting is still eight weeks away and the campaigns have hardly started, it seems that it will take something really extraordinary to alter the anticipated outcome.


Iranian President’s Call Helps Israel

Israel often comes under international criticism for its counterterrorist and settlement-building policies. But comments by Iran’s president calling for Israel’s destruction have elicited international sympathy for the Jewish state.

In itself, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s televised late October call for the Jewish state to be “wiped off the map” wasn’t so new.

But since the comments came not from one of the country’s ayatollahs but from its president, and came soon after Israel garnered international plaudits for its Gaza Strip withdrawal, and as international scrutiny on Iran’s nuclear program intensifies — they drew a lot of attention.

Israel found its objections to the radical rhetoric echoed worldwide — from the United States to Europe to the United Nations.

Even Russia, which is helping Iran build its Bushehr nuclear reactor and has long been hesitant to criticize its trading partner in the Persian Gulf, joined in.

“What I saw on television is unacceptable. We will bring this to the attention of the Iranians,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who in a landmark United Nations address in September bemoaned the fact that “no one opens their mouth” when such threats are made against his country, launched a campaign to have Iran expelled from the forum.

“A country that calls for the destruction of another people cannot be a member of the United Nations,” Sharon said.

Jerusalem officials admitted that a U.N ouster of Iran was unlikely, given that it would require a Security Council recommendation and two-thirds majority vote in the General Assembly — traditionally a bastion of anti-Israel sentiment.

“I don’t know if it has any chance of success,” Vice Premier Shimon Peres said of the campaign. “But it is something we must say. I don’t think it is a matter of what one thinks is worthwhile or not. This is intolerable.”

The U.N. Security Council has rebuked Iran for Ahmadinejad’s comments.

For its part, Iran over has accused the West of using its president’s comments about the destruction of Israel in order to intensify pressure on Iran over its nuclear program.

At the same time, Iran’s Foreign Ministry released a statement saying that the government’s official stance “is that the occupation of Palestine should end, refugees should return and a democratic state should be formed with Jerusalem as its capital.”

According to some Jerusalem officials, the international community responded so strongly to Israel’s diplomatic offensive in a bid to avert an Israeli military offensive.

Sharon, like President Bush, has long hinted that force could be a last resort for preventing Iran from getting the bomb. Ahmadinejad’s speech at the “World Without Zionism” rally — where the title was posted in English, not Farsi, for international consumption — coupled with his lack of cooperation with European-led efforts to curb Iran’s nuclear program, have made this specter of confrontation loom ever larger.

“Such a country, with nuclear arms, is a danger, not just to Israel and the Middle East, but also to Europe,” Sharon said. Similar comments came from the White House.

Still, no one expects military escalation before the exhaustion of U.S.-led efforts to bring Iran before the Security Council and impose sanctions unless it abandons its quest for weapons of mass destruction.

Ahmadinejad has made this possibility more likely.

“I cannot fail to recognize that those who favor transferring the Iranian nuclear issue to the U.N. Security Council now have an additional argument,” Lavrov was quoted as saying.

Activists Looking to Past for Inspiration

When I arrived in Los Angeles, I was drawn to Boyle Heights, a Latino community that had once been the home of Los Angeles Jewish radical life.

It wasn’t that I was looking for Eastside, left-wing Jewish roots. I didn’t have any. When my grandparents lived in Los Angeles before moving north, they had a grocery store in Eagle Rock and later one near Bunker Hill. My mother commuted to UCLA by bus and streetcar to attend the first classes on the Westwood campus.

But from my first visit, I saw a great American story in Boyle Heights. From the 1920s through part of the 1950s, Jews, Latinos, Asians and non-Jewish Russian immigrants had lived together there and in other Eastside neighborhoods, sharing the same poverty, same hopes, same mixed feelings of estrangement and belonging.

The bond was visible on Roosevelt High’s football teams and in the political arena. East Los Angeles immigrant families gave birth to Los Angeles’ first interethnic political coalitions. Eastside left-wingers worked for the defense of young Latinos falsely accused of murder in the infamous Sleepy Lagoon case, and Jewish and Latino activists elected Ed Roybal to the Los Angeles City Council.

As the Eastside political sage, Richard Alatorre, likes to say, “That was then; this is now.” Now we heap contempt on immigrants for not speaking English or voting, forgetting that our grandparents and great-grandparents were just as poor, alienated and non-English speaking.

But while those with a sense of history recall the old days, Jewish and Latino leaders now struggle painfully toward forming a coalition. The subject was part of the discussion last month at a conference on immigration at the Milken Institute in Santa Monica.

Some of the participants remembered Los Angeles’ earlier ethnic coalition, the union of young, progressive blacks, Latinos and Jews, which elected Tom Bradley, an African American, as mayor in 1973 and dominated City Hall and city politics for several years afterward.

It was a great coalition based on the civil rights movement, and it extended deep into the everyday lives of blacks and Jews.

For example, retired Superior Court Judge Jack Tenner, who is Jewish, waged guerrilla warfare against the restrictive covenants that barred blacks from buying homes outside a narrow stretch of South Los Angeles.

He became a dummy purchaser for black lawyers, judges and others wanting to move to bigger and better houses. He bought one on behalf of Tom Bradley and another for the great baseball player Frank Robinson, who moved into a house in Baldwin Hills.

Tenner recalled in an interview how some residents went door-to-door trying to collect signatures against Robinson. But “kids in the neighborhood found out it was Frank Robinson. So they went to his house, asked him to come out and play ball with them. Which he did; he spent a day or two teaching them how to hold a bat, to throw a ball. And the whole fight dissolved,” Tenner said.

Politics were hot then. Now, “it seems culturally unacceptable to vote,” said professor Raphael J. Sonenshein, author of “Politics in Black and White: Race and Power in Los Angeles.” Louis DeSipio of UC Irvine said that Latino immigrants are voting at a lower rate than U.S.-born Latinos. “Numbers are not yet adding up to political influence,” he said

That was clear in the last mayoral election, when Antonio Villaraigosa lost to James Hahn in an election in which Latino voting was higher than in the past but not enough to propel Villaraigosa to victory.

Still, four of the 15 council members are Latino, and Eric Garcetti’s ethnic background, as rich as Los Angeles’, includes Mexican roots. As Matea Gold reported in Tuesday’s Los Angeles Times, more than half of the City Council is African American or Latino.

There’s a new game in town, and Jews shouldn’t remain on the sidelines.

Jews, numbering 600,000 in the greater Los Angeles area, remain a huge force in the cultural and economic life of the city. They are consumers of city services, ranging from police protection to street cleaning. And despite defections in the last 30 years, many Jewish families send their kids to the Los Angeles Unified District’s schools.

That is why some Jewish community activists, believing in coalition politics, are looking for inspiration in the glory days of Boyle Heights.

Such projects as restoration of the Breed Street Shul are bringing Latinos and Jews together. “It’s a real opportunity to connect the Eastside with the Westside,” Villaraigosa said.

Their efforts remind us that the lives of our forebears were not too different than those of today’s immigrants. Contrary to cherished family myths, great grandpa did not step off the boat carrying a copy of the Declaration of Independence, ready to jump into the melting pot.

Bill Boyarsky’s column on Jews and civic life appears on the first Friday of
each month. Until leaving the Los Angeles Times in 2001, Boyarsky worked as a
political correspondent, a metro columnist for nine years and as city editor for
three years. You can reach him at bw.boyarsky@verizon.net.

Community Briefs

9th Circuit Upholds Holocaust Statute

A federal appeals court has upheld a California law designed to aid thousands of Holocaust victims and their families in obtaining compensation from European insurance companies.

Monday’s 3-0 ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals marks the first time a higher federal court has upheld such a state statue, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The court’s decision reversed a trial judge’s earlier ruling that California’s Holocaust Victim Insurance Act of 1999, authored by former Los Angeles Assemblyman Wally Knox, was unconstitutional.

The law requires any insurer doing business in California to disclose information about any policy sold in Europe between 1920 and 1945. Some 20,000 Holocaust survivors residing in the state and thousands of heirs can now obtain the information needed to pursue their claims. Arguing against the court’s decision were major European insurance companies and the U.S. Justice Department. The latter feared that the state law could worsen U.S. relations with other countries. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Pearl Murder Mastermind Sentenced to

A Pakistani court imposed a death sentence Monday on Ahmad Saeed Sheikh, the mastermind in the kidnapping and murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl.

Three accomplices were sentenced to life imprisonment. They were also ordered to pay fines, totaling $62,200, with the money expected to go to Pearl’s widow, Mariane, and their infant son, Adam.

In a statement, the slain newsman’s parents, Judea and Ruth Pearl of Encino, his two sisters and his wife, said:

“We are grateful for the tireless efforts by authorities in Pakistan and the United States to bring those guilty of Danny’s kidnapping and murder to justice.

“Today’s verdict is the first chapter in this process. We hope and trust that the search for the remaining abductors and murderers will continue, so that all accomplices in this unthinkable crime will be brought to justice.

“We are confident that around the world, people will continue to be inspired by Danny’s courage and commitment to truth, humanity and dialogue, and we call upon them to rise against all forms of hatred and intolerance.” — TT

The Dangers of Radical Islam

Exactly 10 months after Sept. 11, the Rev. Keith Roderick, an Episcopal priest, spoke at the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance on the dangers of radical Islam and jihad ideology — for Christians, as well as Jews. “I know I’m speaking to the convinced tonight,” Roderick told his audience, “I’m hoping you’ll become really convinced advocates.” The evening speech, co-sponsored by the Israel-advocacy group StandWithUs, attracted approximately 200 people to the museum’s Peltz Theater. Audience member Raphael Confortes, a regular attendee at Museum of Tolerance events, told The Journal “Most of the speakers are Jewish. I thought it would be interesting to hear an Episcopalian.” Roderick is the founder of the Coalition for the Defense of Human Rights (CDHR), an organization of Christian and Jewish houses of worship dedicated to improving the lives of non-Muslims living in Muslim countries. Roderick described some of the worst cases of abuse: in Sudan, where two million Christians have been killed since 1980; in Nigeria, where some states have begun imposing sharia (Islamic law) on the world’s largest Anglican population; and in Indonesia, where Christian villages are often attacked. CDHR proposed a declaration equating jihad and radical Islam with racism at the World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, which was rejected. The group also held a rally at the U.N. building in January for “victims of jihad-terror.” In his speech, Roderick described Israel as “the only nation in the Middle East where Christians live as equals,” and said of the United Nations, “they need to understand, and we need to understand, that Israel is not the problem.” The text of the CDHR resolution equating radical Islam with racism is available at http://www.dhimmi.com. — Mike Levy, Staff Writer

New Chabad Campus Breaks Ground

Chabad Los Angeles broke ground for its new Bais Sonya Gutte Campus, an all-girls school slated to open September 2003. The four-story building will house Chabad’s nonsectarian co-educational Garden Preschool and Girls Schools, Bais Chaya Mushka Elementary and Bais Rebbe Junior High. Located at Pico Boulevard and Weatherly Drive, the 47,000-square-foot facility will hold almost 400 students, and will be the first all-girls’ religious elementary school in Los Angeles.

At the June 23 ceremony attendees included benefactors Karen and Gary Winnick, who donated $3 million toward the Bais Sonya Gutte Campus in honor of Karen Winnick’s grandmother, Sonya Gutte, and Andy and Beverly Liggett of L.A. Movers, who dedicated the Bais Chaya Mushka Girls School with a $1.5 million donation. Maurice Kraines and the Kraines family dedicated the Kraines Family Early Childhood Education Center with a donation of $1.5 million.

“The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, teaches us that in the face of darkness, we must light a candle,” said Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin, director of Chabad-Lubavitch on the West Coast and executive producer of Chabad’s “L’Chaim-To Life!” telethon. “That is what we are doing here today — building a campus where every child will have the opportunity to gain wisdom and knowledge and to learn to go out and illuminate the world with goodness and kindness.”

Chabad is also seeking to expand its boys campus, Yeshiva Ohr Elchanan Chabad, and has applied to the city for permits. — Staff Report