Iran reports arrests of alleged spies for Israel


More than 15 Iranian and foreign nationals reportedly were arrested for carrying out alleged terrorist missions for Israel in Iran.

IRNA, Iran’s official news agency, reported Tuesday that the group is accused of spying for Israel, the attempted assassination of an Iranian expert and sabotage. The report did not identify the expert’s field.

The report also said that Iranian intelligence uncovered a Mossad spy base in a neighboring country, according to The Associated Press.

A statement issued by Iran’s Intelligence Ministry said that the group’s mission “was to identify and assassinate one of our nation’s experts and to bomb some of the nation’s installations using professionally made technical tools,” AFP reported.

Earlier this month, IRNA released a report saying that Iranian intelligence arrested a “Zionist regime-backed terrorist team” and promised more details at a later date.

The report did not say when the arrests took place.

Iran Arrests Accused Spies for U.S.


Iran has arrested 30 people accused of spying for the United States.

The alleged spies were members of a CIA spy network, Iran’s security ministry said May 21 in a statement read on state-run television, according to reports.

“Due to the massive intelligence and counter-intelligence work by Iranian intelligence agents, a complex espionage and sabotage network linked to America’s spy organization was uncovered and dismantled,” the statement said.

“Elite agents of the intelligence ministry in their confrontation with the CIA elements were able to arrest 30 America-linked spies through numerous intelligence and counter-intelligence operations.”

The statement also said that Iran had identified 42 other U.S. spies on Iran in other Middle East countries, and had fed misinformation to the CIA through double agents.

Spying is punishable by death in Iran.

Egypt says it found Israel spy ring


An Egyptian official said the country’s state security service has uncovered an Israel spy ring.

The spy network includes an Egyptian businessman and two Israelis, Hicham Badawi, an attorney in the Egyptian state security service, told reporters Monday, according to Reuters.

The Egyptian was arrested in August on charges of spying for Israel, while the Israelis had already fled the country, according to reports.

Israel has denied the charges, Reuters reported.

Also Monday, an Egyptian official said four Egyptian citizens were arrested for spying for Israel and participating in a plot to kidnap tourists, thus hurting Egypt’s economy by disrupting its lucrative tourism business.

The Egyptian men, held since May, have given detailed confessions, according to Reuters. Two Israelis reportedly were their handlers.

Lebanon charges three as spies for Israel


A military court in Lebanon charged three men for collaborating with Israel.

The military prosecutor reportedly will seek the death penalty against the two Lebanese citizens and one Palestinian. One of the Lebanese suspects was charged in absentia.

The men are accused of “providing Israel with information as well as facilitating its aggressions and terrorist acts on Lebanon,” according to the charge sheet, AFP reported. Lebanon has arrested more than 20 alleged spies, including members of its military, since a crackdown began in April 2009.

The men charged Monday reportedly gave Israel information on Hezbollah’s weapons storage and on the location of the homes of Hezbollah officials, according to the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat.

James Baker says Bush’s Syria policy is ‘ridiculous’; Sobell finally gives it up


Baker Calls Bush ‘Ridiculous’ on Syria

The Bush administration’s refusal to deal with Syria is “ridiculous,” said James Baker, a former U.S. secretary of state.

Five former secretaries of state met Monday under the auspices of CNN to discuss what advice they would give the next president.

“I would advise the president to fully engage with Syria,” said Baker, who as secretary of state under Bush’s father helped convene the 1991 Madrid talks, which for the first time brought Israelis, Palestinians, Syrians and other Arab nations into the same process. “I think it is ridiculous for us to say we’re not going to talk to Syria and yet Israel has been talking to them for six to eight months.”

The Bush administration has discouraged Israel’s talks with Syria, currently held under Turkish auspices. Israel wants to draw Syria away from the Iranian sphere; the Bush administration says it will not engage Syria until it fully disengages from Lebanon and stops its support for terrorist groups.

Also appearing at the session were Madeleine Albright and Warren Christopher, who served under President Bill Clinton; Colin Powell, who served under the current President Bush; and Henry Kissinger, who served under presidents Nixon and Ford.

Figure in Rosenberg Case Admits Spying

One of the co-defendants in the Rosenberg espionage case has admitted to spying for the Soviets.

Morton Sobell, who was tried and convicted in 1951 with Julius and Ethel Rosenberg on espionage charges, admitted for the first time on Sept. 11 in an interview with The New York Times that he had turned over military secrets to the Soviets during World War II.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, call it that,” he told The Times when asked if he was a spy. “I never thought of it as that in those terms.”

Sobell drew a distinction between providing information on defensive radar and artillery, which he did, and the information that, he said, Julius Rosenberg provided to the Soviets on the atomic bomb. He said he believes the Soviets already had obtained from other sources most of the information Rosenberg provided.

Sobell also said he believed that Ethel Rosenberg was aware of her husband’s spying, but did not actively participate. Both Rosenbergs were executed for their crimes.

The 91-year-old Sobell, who long had professed his innocence, refused to testify at his trial and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. He was released in 1969 and currently lives in the Bronx, N.Y.

He spoke as the National Archives released the bulk of the grand jury testimony in the Rosenberg case.

Justice Arthur Goldberg, baseball’s Joe Berg spied for U.S. during WWII


WASHINGTON (JTA)—Several prominent Jews spied for the United States during World War II, newly released documents show.

Former Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, philanthropist and businessman Laurence Tisch and baseball player Moe Berg were among the 35,000 men and women whose files from their service in the World War II-era Office of Strategic Services were released Thursday by the National Archives.

The files cover 35,000 Americans, both civilian and military, who worked in some capacity for the intelligence agency , the precursor to the CIA.

Goldberg’s file notes that as both a civilian and a member of the army, he supervised a section in the Secret Intelligence Branch of OSS to maintain contact with labor groups and organizations regarded as potential resistance elements in enemy-occupied and enemy countries. He organized anti-Nazi European transportation workers into an extensive intelligence network.

Steve Tilley, director of the textual archives services division of the National Archives, said Jewish Americans of that era might have been particularly attractive as recruits to the agency because of their education and their European background, particularly their knowledge of languagues.

TV chef Julia Child and Middle East negotiator Ralph Bunche were among the other names in the records.

Meditating spies


Ah, so much chaos, so little time.

In this parsha we deal with the message of the spies; insecurity leading to depression and fear; rebellion and anger by the people, Moses and God; and several severe punishments, including the major one of wandering in the desert for an additional 40 years and the minor one (in size and scope, but not in significance) of killing the Shabbat wood collector. We end with a collective breath, and more importantly, a call for awareness and attention to the inner workings of our soul, with the final paragraph instructing us about tzitzit, the fringes on the corners of our garments and tallitot (prayer shawls), which is said daily as the third paragraph of the Shema prayer.

Why is there so much disillusionment, fear and unsettling behavior in this parsha? And what can we learn from the chaos?

In practicing and teaching Jewish meditation — a central focus of my rabbinate work alongside my passion for social justice and peace — I have come to understand that an awareness of our inner spirit can greatly affect how we interpret events in the world around us, as well as how we perceive ourselves and how Judaism can help ground us in lives of meaning and fortitude. After 12 years of almost daily practice, I understand that each day brings new challenges and new barriers, along with old habits and lifelong obstacles, all of which are trying to thwart my progress.

As we say in the liturgy: Just as God renews each day, so, too, must we renew. And this is what I see happening in Shelach Lecha, albeit in reverse order.

The lack of confidence that the spies bring back — embodied in the famous line, “And we looked like grasshoppers to ourselves, and so we must have looked to them” (Numbers 13:33) — is a classic case of not being fully aware and awake. The fear that the spies bring back, which may have been justified, overtakes them and causes the entire Israelite people to lose faith, lose hope and react with chaotic perplexity.

In meditation, one can begin to develop a sense of connection to God, one’s own heart and the notion that the more awareness we have in our life, the better decisions we are able to make. We don’t read of the spies taking any time to process their findings, meditate on their experience before sharing it; rather, they blow into the camp, rally the fears of the people and cause a scene that cannot be stopped, one that will climax next week with the rebellion of Korah.

I find it fascinating that this one line about the grasshoppers speaks volumes about the inner life of the spies. Their real mistake was not in sharing their fears, but rather in not being present in their sharing, such that they conveyed not only physical fears, but also their own unprocessed and undifferentiated emotional and spiritual fears.

Moses loses control of the people and almost loses control of the whole exodus enterprise. According to the Talmud, the spies, and thereby the entire people, actually think that not only can’t they overcome the inhabitants of the land, but that even God is outmatched.

In a challenging reading of the text, Sotah 35a says that Numbers 13:31, which reads, “We cannot attack the people, for it is stronger than we,” should be read, “We cannot attack the people, for it is stronger than Him [God].” They translate the word memenu, as “than him,” rather than the traditional reading “than us.” So, in their fear, the spies not only reject the notion of conquering the land, they reject the whole premise that God is with them at all. Without a sense of presence and consciousness, God is lost to them.

And, it is this mentality that causes the overreaction to the man collecting wood on Shabbat. There is so much fear, so much confusion and lack of confidence that the people, including Moses, don’t know how to respond.

I don’t see this story as one telling us that we should kill all those who break rules on Shabbat — we would all be dead! Rather, it’s a parable of what happens when we don’t bring ourselves fully present to any situation in our lives, including religious practice. When we act out of fear, we don’t make good decisions.

It is for this reason that I see the final portion about the tzitzit fitting in. When we stop to contemplate the higher meaning and value in life, a connection to God and our souls, we find ourselves making more healthy decisions. Reading back the idea of tzitzit into the rest of the parsha, I see it as coming as a corrective to the series of fear-induced decisions that plague the people, leading to chaos, 40 years of wandering in the desert and killing someone for a small violation of a newfound religious practice. By taking time to breathe and notice the tzitzit, we find a way to operate more calmly, with greater confidence coupled with greater humility. This combination is a hallmark of Jewish meditation, one that is signified by the gathering of the tzitzit. Certainly, if our ancestors had practiced a bit more awareness meditation, imagine how differently things might have turned out.

Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater is the spiritual leader of Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center. He welcomes your comments at rabbijoshua@pjtc.net.

Trio of films offers eclectic choices: sea, spies, punk


“The Guardian”

Raised in a secular Jewish family in Chicago, “The Guardian” director Andrew Davis learned early the values and ethics he continues to believe in.

“My parents taught me war is not a good thing, so do everything you can to not go to war,” he says during a telephone interview. “And it’d be great if the armies of the world could help people and not hurt people.”

“The Guardian,” which opens on Sept. 29, is about the U.S. Coast Guard’s rescue swimmers, of whom there are only about 300 because of the rigorous training and the dangers of the job. Written by Ron L. Brinkerhoff, the film stars Kevin Costner as a heroic but aging swimmer based at Alaska’s Kodiak Island. Assigned to training school, he struggles to teach a brash, possibly reckless young recruit played by Ashton Kutcher.

“At this stage of my life or career, I didn’t want to make a film about how wonderful it is to kill somebody,” says Davis, primarily known for action films, including “Collateral Damage” (2002). “There are no bad people in this movie. Nature and the forces of weather motivate the heroism.

“I’ve done movies about cops and about soldiers, where violence is part of the tension and the entertainment. My most successful movie is ‘The Fugitive,’ which starts off with a woman being killed because her husband was not cooperating in drug protocol. That’s a very dark environment. So I was glad to make a movie where violence is not a part of it.”

Davis’ first work on a feature film was as assistant cameraman on Haskell Wexler’s groundbreaking “Medium Cool,” a political drama shot during Chicago’s 1968 Democratic Convention. His directorial debut was 1978’s “Stoney Island,” based on his brother’s experiences growing up white in Chicago’s racially changing South Side. Davis also directed “A Perfect Murder,” “Under Siege” and “Holes.”

Preparations were under way to shoot “The Guardian” in New Orleans, when Hurricane Katrina hit last year. The crew evacuated to Shreveport, La., amid the chaos.

“We were six weeks away from shooting,” Davis says. “When we arrived at Shreveport, there were 1,000 evacuees at the university gymnasium. So we were in the midst of an evacuation and trying to keep our movie alive. We hired about 200 people all told who had been affected by the storm — cast and crew.”

The Coast Guard, itself, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, was called into action to help those stranded after Katrina. By all accounts, it performed outstandingly — the Coast Guard’s Leadership News cited 24,135 lives saved by its personnel.Katrina inspired Davis: “I thought it was more important than ever to make this film and really point out what these guys do.”

“We felt the best thing we could do was maybe try to bring more light on these guys, so hopefully the government will fund them better, and there’ll be more of them, and they’ll get better facilities to train in,” Davis says. “It’s an element of the military I do support.”

— Steven Rosen, Contributing Writer

“American Hardcore: A Tribal History”

What would you do if the frustration in your life manifested itself in worries about civil liberties and a lack of freedom of speech, and you felt a combination of repression and depression about the policies and practices of the current political administration? You might be upset enough to write your local government representative or you just might be angry enough to write a punk song.

Steven Blush, author, promoter and now scriptwriter compiled the quotations of around 60 of the most notable American-born hardcore bands in “American Hardcore: A Tribal History.” In the book, Blush documents the history of the more hard-edged, second-generation of punk rock.Following up on the book’s success, Blush has written and produced a documentary using the same format. The fragmented and frustrated feelings that inspired this music are all too familiar to Blush, from his beginnings as a nice Jewish boy to his sub-culturally-inspired adulthood.

Growing up in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Blush is the son of a typical Jewish family. His parents made sure he was always cared for; he became bar mitzvah and on the cusp of adulthood, they sent him to George Washington University to get a law degree.

One night while in college, Blush went out to a club and became fascinated by something that would change his life — a band called Black Flag. The group was one of a handful of emerging sub-cultural bands made up of and being followed by a bunch of frustrated and wistful kids with backgrounds similar to Blush’s.

Blush remembers, “I had liked groups like the Sex Pistols; they were pure rock ‘n’ roll out of England, known for being rebellious. Although I loved the music, I had trouble identifying with the scene completely, because most of the people who followed them were either artists, bisexual or heavily into drugs. It really wasn’t me; I was just a suburban kid who played basketball.”

But after he witnessed the slam dancing — the raw and often violent tendencies of what was to become standard behavior at hardcore shows — Blush found his calling. He quickly made friends with everyone in the scene by being the first DJ on the East Coast to play the bands on college radio and by letting touring bands stay on his couch when in town. Blush’s life finally had a deeper meaning for him.

He recalls, “My mom tried to give me the best education and surroundings, whatever our resources were, but I never connected to it and never agreed to it. I didn’t feel part of the thing. The values in my high school were materialistic, they weren’t into the big picture, like politics and free speech. When American hardcore music happened, it was like a perfect storm, it took me over.”

Blush was certainly not the only frustrated kid willing to submit allegiance to the hardcore music scene. From 1980 to 1985, the American hardcore subculture rallied support for its cause against yuppies, conservatism, drugs and most especially, the Regan administration.Blush adds, “It turns out I have been shaped by two ethical codes, one from my Jewish heritage, which I learned from my family, and one from being a part of this music scene. Writing the book and doing the movie is studying my life’s path.”

Kids Page


Puzzle Place

Life is a puzzle, don’t you think? It’s just not always that easy to put all the pieces together in order to see the big picture. But the more we practice, the better we get at it. So, here are a bunch of fun puzzles to get your juices going!

Torah Challenge

Can you answer these questions from this week’s portion, Shelach-Lecha?

How many spies did Moses send into Israel?

a. 10

b. 12

c. 40

The spies came back spreading lies about Israel. What did they say?

a. The land is bad for planting

b. The inhabitants are as big as giants

c. The country is covered in grasshoppers

Only two of the spies said the land was good. What were their names?

a. Reuven and Levi

b. Joshua and Caleb

c. Menashe and Efraim

Mathmagic Land

Start with the number of Dalmatians in the title of the Disney movie, minus the number of commandments on the tablets, minus the number that is the square of 3, plus the number of stars you need to see in the sky to know that Shabbat is over.

Or, in simple terms:

Dalmatians –

commandments

– square

of 3 + stars = ?

What number do you get?

Alphabet Soup

Unscramble the 16 letters below to make a common three-word phrase for a victorious contestant:

E E F I I I N N R R R S T Z

F __ __ __ __ P __ __ __ __ W __ __ __ __ __

 

Parshat Shelach


Moses sends out 12 spies to check out the Land of Israel. When they come back, two of them say: “It’ll be a challenge to conquer, but it’s real beautiful there, and worth it!” The other 10 say: “Uh uh, no way. The people who live there are giants. We might as well go back to Egypt, rather than trying to enter this land.” You can look at the cup and see it half-empty or half-full. Think of a time when you tried to do something new. Did you give up in the middle because it seemed too hard? Or did you persist until you could snowboard down that mountain, do long division or play that piano piece?

Israel Speaks Up


Israel this week came out of its shell and launched a public campaign against the trial of 13 Iranian Jews charged in Isfahan with spying for Israel and the United States.

After one of the defendants, Danny Tefilin, was paraded on Iranian television to confess his “guilt,” the Foreign Ministry spokesman stated in Jerusalem on Monday: “The attempt to present the Jewish detainees as spies is outrageous and cruel. Israel reiterates that the detainees are innocent and should be released immediately.”

The minister for Diaspora affairs, Rabbi Michael Melchior, announced a day later that he and the Sephardi chief rabbi, Eliahu Bakshi-Doron, would lead a prayer meeting on the Iranians’ behalf at the Western Wall on Thursday. He called on synagogues across Israel and the world to join them in prayer.

This represents a calculated raising of Israel’s profile. Although it had already denied that the 13 were spies, Ehud Barak’s government preferred to mobilize international diplomatic support. It feared that too strident an Israeli campaign would rebound on the prisoners, but this reticence seems to have failed, while the Jews are trapped in a power struggle between liberal and conservative forces in Teheran.

Oded Granot, Ma’ariv’s Middle East analyst, commented: “The ‘confession’ forced on Tefilin, just like the tendentious leaks published in Arab newspapers that several of the arrested Jews tried to gather information on Iran’s atomic reactor, means that Iran does not intend to retract under the pressure which the Americans and Jewish sources throughout the world are applying for the release of the 13 Jews.”

In addition, Granot detected signs that Islamic conservatives, who controlled the courts, wanted to use the Jews’ trial as a weapon against the moderate President Hatami, who was accused of being soft on civil rights and looking for an opening toward the West. The radicals had earlier flexed their muscles by closing 15 pro-Hatami newspapers and jailing dozens of civil rights activists.