The other refugees



Is there a more loaded word in the Arab-Israeli conflict than “refugee”? Is there anything more visceral or emotional than the sight of millions of Palestinians living in miserable refugee camps for three generations?

If any one thing has symbolized the Palestinian cause and put Israel on the defensive, it is this image — this powerful and constant reminder to the world that Israel’s creation 60 years ago came with an “original sin,” and that Palestinians deserve the “right of return.”

You can debate the fairness of this claim, but in our world of easy sound bites, the image of Palestinian suffering has become an albatross around Israel’s neck. The fact that few Jews would ever agree to this right of return — which would erode Israel’s Jewish character — has made this an enormous obstacle to any reconciliation between the two people.

But here’s the question: Will Israel ever be able to claim the high ground when it comes to justice for refugees?

This week in Montreal, where I am spending Passover with my family, I met a man who thinks the answer is yes. He is one of the leaders of the Jewish community here, and he is actively fighting for justice for Middle Eastern refugees.

Jewish refugees, that is.

As Sylvain Abitbol explains it, the expulsion and exodus of more than 850,000 Jews from Arab countries is among the most significant yet little-known injustices against humanity of the past century. For hundreds of years, and in many cases for millennia, Jews lived in countries such as Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Lybia, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, Iran, Iraq and Yemen. In several of these countries, the Jewish population was established more than 1,000 years before the advent of Islam. From the seventh century on, special laws of the Dhimmi (“the protected”) subjected the Jews of the Middle East and North Africa to prohibitions, restrictions and discrimination — not to mention harsh conditions of inferiority. Still, many Jews managed to prosper despite these circumstances.

Things took a turn for the worse after the birth of Israel in 1948. Between the 1940s and 1980s, the Jews of Arab countries endured humiliation, human rights abuses, organized persecution and expulsion by the local governments; Jewish property was seized without compensation; Jewish quarters were sacked and looted and cemeteries desecrated; synagogues, Jewish shops, schools and houses were ransacked, burned and destroyed; and hundreds of Jews were murdered in anti-Semitic riots and pogroms.

To this day, Arab countries and the world community have refused to acknowledge these human rights violations or provide compensation to the hundreds of thousands of Jews forced to abandon their homes, businesses and possessions as they fled those countries.

But activists like Abitbol are fighting back, all the way to the White House and the U.S. Congress. Abitbol, the first Sephardic Jew to lead the local Jewish Federation in Montreal and now co-president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, connected with this movement a year ago when he joined the board of Justice for Jews from Arab Countries (JJAC). Together with other organizations like the American Sephardi Federation (ASF) and the World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries (WOJAC), the movement, which is officially called the International Rights and Redress Campaign, toiled for years in obscurity.

A few weeks ago, they hit the jackpot.

That’s when the U.S. Congress overwhelmingly passed the first-ever resolution to grant recognition as refugees to Jews from Arab and Muslim countries. House Resolution 185 affirms that all victims of the Arab-Israeli conflict must be treated equally, which means it will now be official U.S. policy to mention “Jewish refugees” whenever there is mention of Palestinian refugees in any official document.

It’s a huge victory, but only a beginning. The United Nations and the world media are the next fronts in this battle for Jewish justice. Abitbol, a sophisticated man in his mid-50s who’s fluent in French, English, Arabic, Hebrew and Spanish, has no illusions about Israel’s precarious image in the world. But he’s far from being a cynic. He’s passionate about fighting for the rights of Jewish victims, and he is also a Jewish refugee (from Morocco). Yet he hardly acts like either a refugee or a victim.

Over tea at my mother’s house, he reflected on the major influences of his life. One of the things that stuck with me was something Abitbol said he learned early in his career, when he was in sales. Abitbol, who has two engineering degrees and is chairman of an innovative software company called uMind, calls the technique “listen and adapt:” You adapt your strategy and your communication to the values of your audience.

He gave me a fascinating example. While in Dubai recently on business, an Arab businessman confronted him on the situation in Israel. Abitbol, seeing that the man was a devout Muslim who believed that everything comes from God, gently explained — in Arabic — that if Israel has survived so many wars over 60 years, maybe it’s because it is “Inshallah” (God’s will). Abitbol got the other man’s attention.

Same thing when he spoke recently at a United Nations conference in Geneva on the subject of Jewish refugees. Directly facing representatives of Arab countries, he used the language of indignation and human rights that Arabs have used so successfully against Israel for so many decades, only this time it was on behalf of Jews.

Of course, he added that there is one major difference: Jews didn’t put their 850,000 refugees in squalid camps so they could have a powerful image on the evening news. They helped them resettle, so that one day, one of them would learn five languages and fly to Geneva to speak up on their behalf.

David Suissa, an advertising executive, is founder of OLAM magazine and Meals4Israel.com. He can be reached at dsuissa@olam.org.

Labeling ourselves as ‘right’ or ‘left’ limits us


I’m not done.

Media reporters meet community; Karnit Goldwasser appeals for help


A sold-out crowd of close to 450 men and women attended the Women’s Alliance for Israel Aug. 8 symposium on “Israel and the Media — How Fair the Coverage?” The event at Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel included panelists Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, founder and president of The Israel Project; David Lauter of the Los Angeles Times; Jay Sanderson, president of Jewish Television Network; and Bill Boyarsky, Pulitzer Prize winner, author and Jewish Journal contributing columnist.

For information about Women’s Alliance for Israel please call (310) 281-4711.

A Wife’s Plea

On Sept. 6, the American Jewish Congress (AJ Congress) sponsored an event at Sinai Temple in Westwood featuring Karnit Goldwasser, wife of kidnapped Israeli soldier, Ehud Goldwasser. Along with her father, Omri Avni, Goldwasser spoke about the plight of her husband held captive in Lebanon by Hezbollah terrorists since July 12.

“I am asking for help from anyone who has the key to show us that Udi is still alive,” Goldwasser said.

Both Goldwasser and Avni urged the audience of nearly 200 to pressure U.S. government officials and the International Red Cross to send on a letter sitting in the Red Cross office in Beirut from Karnit for Ehud. Following Goldwasser’s pleas for financial help to cover the costs of her travels across the United States and the world, Iranian Jewish businessman John Farahi pledged to pay for the expenses for the next six months. Goldwasser and her father have also visited Chicago, Miami, Houston and Washington, D.C., in order to raise awareness about her husband’s captivity (see story page 8).

Gary Ratner, executive director of AJ Congress, said his group would try to get Goldwasser another meeting with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.

— Karmel Melamed, Contributing Writer

Appointment for Prager

President George Bush recently named radio host and Van Nuys resident Dennis Prager to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, the governing body of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The council consists of 55 presidential appointees, in addition to 10 congressional representatives and three ex-officio members from the departments of Education, Interior and State. Prager will complete the remainder of a five-year term that expires in January 2011.

“Dennis Prager’s unique moral voice and dedication to the mission of Holocaust education and remembrance make him an ideal candidate to serve on the council, particularly today as we witness rising global anti-Semitism,” said council chairman Fred S. Zeidman. “I welcome the talent and enthusiasm he brings to the position and congratulate him on joining the council.”

Prager, host of the nationally syndicated “The Dennis Prager Show,” is a speaker, author and film producer. In 2003, Simon and Schuster reissued his work on the history of anti-Semitism, “Why the Jews,” written with co-author Joseph Telushkin. Deeply involved in interfaith dialog efforts, he is a frequent contributor to national publications and regularly offers commentary on many national TV outlets.

For more information, visit “>www.hadassah.org.

An (Israeli-American) Voice in the Wilderness


Jonathan Tasini’s name, in Israel, would be pronounced more like Tazini. It’s related to a command in classical Hebrew that Moses uses with his people: Ha’azinu. That is: You should listen.

And at the very least, Tasini wants voters to get a chance to listen to him. He offers himself up as a new kind of Jewish American anti-war candidate for Congress, the only one who, as this summer’s news about the miseries of Iraq merged with that of the Lebanon blow-up, critically addressed both situations. He’s using his small corner of New York’s political stage to speak about these two wars of vital interest to Jews, even as it goes scarcely noticed that Tasini is the closest any candidate has come to being an Israeli American running for the U.S. Congress.

Tasini
His full name is Jonathan Yoav Tasini, and he’s challenging Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in New York’s Democratic primary on Sept. 12. He’s asked Clinton to debate him — an event that, following Ned Lamont’s win against Sen. Joe Lieberman, would likely be a national story — but so far she hasn’t accepted. Publications as different as The New York Times and the New York Post recently urged Clinton to engage the 49-year-old Tasini, the articulate former head of the National Writer’s Union, saying that a Tasini-Clinton match-up would give her a chance to clarify her muddled position on Iraq.

On Iraq, Tasini — along with a broad range of progressive positions — favors an immediate pullout. On Lebanon, as recent violence surged, he quickly echoed calls elsewhere for a cease-fire and joined in criticism of Israel’s bombing campaign in civilian areas. Tasini spurred a midsummer ripple of controversy with remarks that included his lament of Israel’s “many acts of brutality and violations of human rights.” He didn’t back down, reminding his critics that his comments did not stray from civil rights reports and charges by Israeli leftists.

Still, many people haven’t heard of Tasini, and the Jewish world has barely taken note. His Italian-sounding name stops even some supporters from realizing he’s Jewish, although he’s clear enough about it on his Web site, TasiniforNewYork.org. The New York media — including the Jewish press — have also not covered him with anywhere near the interest accorded Lamont, who bought his share of outsider glamour for $4 million.

Tasini’s raised about $200,000 so far, compared to Clinton’s $22 million. After a recent boomlet of press, he’s polling at 15 percent of New York Democrats. Few think he’ll win. But his positions on the Middle East distinguish him as part of a new generation of Democratic mavericks who reflect this country’s sense of political crisis over Iraq and a measure of disillusionment about Israel’s conduct in the Lebanon War. One could even call his campaign groundbreaking, given the freshness of his views and the novelty of his biography.

“I absolutely view him as an Israeli American,” said Joel Schalit, managing editor of Tikkun Magazine. “He certainly spent enough time in Israel and he certainly has enough connections there.”

Born in Houston, Tasini has two families: an American one from the marriage of his father, Betsalel Tasini, to a woman who lives now in Los Angeles, and an Israeli side, stemming from his father’s second marriage to a New Yorker who emigrated to Israel in 1968. Tasini, a UCLA graduate, lived with his father and stepmother in Israel for seven years and speaks fluent Hebrew.

I recently talked to Rita Tasini, the candidate’s stepmother, by phone as she sat in her home in Ra’anana, north of Tel Aviv, a few days after a Hezbollah missile had fallen in Hadera, not far away.

“He has roots in Israel that are very, very deep,” she said of him. “He was here, not last year, but the year before. He was here for Pesach.”

Tasini, she said, “was left wing at 16. He was always left.”

And his support for a two-state solution for the Palestinians, his objections to the Jewish settlement movement reflected familial views.

“Jonathan’s father was against it,” said his stepmother, “and so was I; none of us believed that they should be living over there.”

Tasini’s late father, a computer scientist, was born in Palestine, and fought in the Haganah, Israel’s pre-state army, and its strike force, the Palmach, his widow told me. He lived for a time in the United States during his American-born son’s early years, then returned to Israel. Rita Tasini described how a teenaged Tasini, having joined his father, volunteered in a hospital, helping wounded Israeli soldiers during the Yom Kippur War.

Yet Tasini told me it was the Vietnam War and the perspective of his father, the independence fighter, that largely shaped his anti-war views. “I remember very specifically watching the news of the Vietnam War and every week they’d have the body counts,” Tasini said, as we talked near his tiny office in New York’s West Village. “This one week, the number of Viet Cong killed were more than Americans and I said, ‘Good,’ and my father said, ‘Why is it good?’ I said, ‘It is better that more of them die than Americans,’ and my father said, ‘It is about much more than that.’ He said that no country wants to be occupied by another country, and liberation movements are very strong. My father was not a deep ideological left-winger, but it was based on his history of having fought against the British.

“Gandhi means a lot to me, Gandhi and Martin Luther King,” he added.
While he said he believes fighting is sometimes necessary, and firmly deplored Hezbollah’s actions at the start of the recent crisis, he questions why, given previous deals Israel made to release Palestinian prisoners for captives, it wasn’t done this time.

The openness of such skepticism may make Tasini seem foolishly bold (or boldly foolish) in the context of a New York political race. But it is of a piece with his controversial past as president of the National Writer’s Union, a time that included taking The New York Times to court to win payment to freelance writers for electronic reuse of their work. He won in the U.S. Supreme Court.

But critics say he misapplied his chutzpah this summer in the middle of the fighting in Lebanon. In an interview with the political blog, Room 8, Tasini was asked whether he believed Israel was a terrorist state. He answered: “It is painful to say that, but when you fire missiles from sophisticated aircraft on unarmed civilians in Gaza, those are again, the definition to me of….” He paused, searching for the next words.

“Terrorism is a very heavily laden word. But to me, what the key thing is, what are you doing? Are your actions in violation of the international norms of the Geneva Convention, and so on? And I think it’s sad to say, but it’s clear, yeah.”

While he quickly stated, on his campaign Web site, that did not view Israel as a terrorist state, he held to his critical stance. The Clinton campaign denounced the remarks, and several Jewish organizations fired back. The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC), a Jewish Democratic group in Washington, called the remarks “outrageous” and “downright offensive.”

I asked NJDC Executive Director Ira Forman what made the remarks so wrong — beyond the “terrorist” label, which was pushed at Tasini and about which he wavered — given that human rights groups have issued reports saying more or less the same things.(Amnesty International has just issued a report critical of the Israeli bombing of civilians during the Lebanon conflagration.) Forman said the comments were “inappropriate,” and then added: “Inappropriate may not be the most accurate statement. The accurate statement is ‘very much out of the mainstream for the American Jewish community.'”

Forman’s objection — he was one of those who said he could not remember another congressional candidate who had as full an Israeli background as Tasini — goes to the heart of what makes Tasini an interesting new presence.

Said Tikkun’s magazine’s Joel Schalit: “If Israel comes across as being more fallible, dysfunctional and morally-in-trouble than previously perceived, then American Jewish opinion is going to have some kind of crisis. I think it is about time that an Israeli American entered the process. His timing couldn’t be better.”

Tasini has a political example to aim for in Los Angeles.

“I thought he was courageous to be critical of the Israeli actions in Lebanon, given Hillary’s gestures to win out the Jewish vote,” said Marcy Winograd, a Jewish anti-war progressive who took 38 percent of the vote in her recent primary run against Jane Harmon in California’s 36th Congressional District.
Tasini called the West L.A. campaign “the model” for his.

Tasini pointed out that critics of the Zionist Left who live in Israel tend to feel stronger in their right to question policies there than American Jewish critics in this country because their devotion to the survival of the state stands beyond reproach.

“American Jews feel they are living here in comfort and protection,” he said, “and they don’t really know what is going on, and they can’t criticize Israel. I have never had that. I can say what I say with authority, and I say it because I have a stake there.”

But interesting positions alone won’t get him into the same room with Hillary Clinton. At campaign stops recently she has dodged reporters who more and more often ask whether she’ll debate Tasini. She would only tell a CBS reporter, “We’ll see how the campaign develops over the next weeks.”

Of course Moses, with whom Tasini shares a linguistic legacy, sometimes had problems getting people to listen. But even he didn’t face the mighty logic of American incumbency — that you can deny an under-funded opponent a chance to be heard, if you simply don’t respond.

Allan M. Jalon is a frequent contributor to the Los Angeles Times and other publications.

Final Reckoning — Israel’s Defeat


However hard Ehud Olmert tries to spin it, the U.N. ceasefire that began this week is a disaster for Israel and for the war on terrorism generally. With an unprecedented green light from Washington to do whatever necessary to uproot the Iranian front line against Israel, and with a level of national unity and willingness to sacrifice unseen here since the 1973 Yom Kippur War, our leaders squandered weeks restraining the army and fighting a pretend war.

Ehud Olmert
Only in the two days before the cease-fire was the army finally given the go-ahead to fight a real war.

But, by then, the U.N. resolution had codified the terms of Israel’s defeat. The resolution doesn’t require the immediate return of our kidnapped soldiers, but does urgently place the Shebaa Farms on the international agenda — as if the Lebanese jihadists fired some 4,000 rockets at the Israeli homefront over the fate of a bare mountain that the United Nations concluded in 1967 belonged not to Lebanon but Syria. Worst of all, it once again entrusts the security of Israel’s northern border to the inept UNIFIL.

As one outraged TV anchor put it, Israeli towns were exposed to the worst attacks since the nation’s founding, 1 million residents of the Galilee fled or sat in shelters for a month, more than 150 Israeli civilians and soldiers were killed along with nearly 1,000 Lebanese — all in order to ensure the return of U.N. peacekeepers to southern Lebanon.

This is a nation whose heart has been broken: by our failure to uproot the jihadist threat, which will return for another and far more deadly round; by the economic devastation of the Galilee and of a neighboring land we didn’t want to attack; by the heroism of our soldiers and the hesitations of our politicians; by the young men buried and crippled in a war we prevented ourselves from winning; by foreign journalists who can’t tell the difference between good and evil; by European leaders who equate an army that tries to avoid civilian causalities with a terrorist group that revels in them; by a United Nations that questions Israel’s right to defend itself; and by growing voices on the left who question Israel’s right to exist at all.

At least some of the disasters of the past weeks were self-inflicted. We forfeited the public relations battle that was, in part, Israel’s to lose. How is it possible that we failed to explain the justness of a war fought against a genocidal enemy who attacked us across our U.N.-sanctioned international border?

It’s hard to remember now, but we began this war with the sympathy of a large part of the international community. Some Arab leaders, for the first time in the history of the Middle East conflict, actually blamed other Arabs for initiating hostilities with Israel.

That response came when Israel seemed determined to defeat Hezbollah, but, as the weeks dragged on and Hezbollah appeared to be winning, moderate Arabs adjusted accordingly. They didn’t switch sides because we were fighting too assertively but because we weren’t fighting assertively enough.

Even before the shooting stopped, the reckoning here had already begun. There are widespread expectations of dismissals for senior military commanders who — when finally given the chance to end the Hezbollah threat they had been warning about for almost 25 years — couldn’t implement a creative battle plan. But demands for accountability won’t be confined to the army alone.

Journalist Ari Shavit, who has taken on something of the role of Motti Ashkenazi — the reservist soldier who led the movement to bring down the government of Golda Meir and Moshe Dayan after the Yom Kippur War — wrote a front-page article in Haaretz calling for Olmert’s resignation. And that is only the opening shot.

Even Maariv’s Ben Caspit, one of Israel’s most pro-Olmert journalists, published an imaginary Olmert speech of apology to the nation. A cartoon in Maariv showed Olmert as a boy playing with a yo-yo inscribed with ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES. None of Israel’s wars was ever fought with greater micromanagement by a government, and no government was ever less qualified to manage a war as this one.

Just as the post-Yom Kippur War period destroyed military and political careers and eventually led to the collapse of the Labor Party’s hegemony, so will the post-Lebanon period end careers and perhaps even the short-lived Kadima Party experiment.

A long list of reckonings awaits the Israeli public. There’s the scandal of the government’s abandonment of tens of thousands of poor Israelis who lacked the means to escape the north and were confined for weeks in public shelters, their needs largely tended to by volunteers.

There’s the growing bitterness between Jewish Israelis and Arab Israelis, many of whom supported Hezbollah in a war most Jews saw as an existential attack on the state. And there’s the emergency need to resurrect the military reserves, which have been so neglected that a majority of men over 21 don’t even serve anymore and those that do tend to feel like suckers.

Still, in the Jewish calendar, the summer weeks after the fast of the Ninth of Av, commemorating the destruction of the Temple, are a time of consolation. “Be consoled, be consoled, my people,” we read from the Torah on the Sabbath after the fast. And so we console ourselves with the substantial achievements of the people of Israel during this month of war.

First, our undiminished capacity for unity. My favorite symbol of that unity is the antiwar rapper, Muki, whose hit song during the era of Palestinian suicide bombings lamented the absence of justice for the Palestinians but who, this time, insisted that the army needs to “finish the job” against Hezbollah.

Second, our middle-class children, with their cell phones, iPods and pizza deliveries to their army bases. In intimate combat, they repeatedly bested Hezbollah fighters, even though the terrorists had the advantage of familiar terrain.

This generation has given us some of Israel’s most powerful images of heroism, like the soldier from a West Bank settlement and father of two young children who leaped onto a grenade to save his friends, shouting the Shema — the prayer of God’s oneness — just before the grenade exploded.

Along with the recriminations, there will be many medals of valor awarded in the coming weeks.

But the last month’s fighting is only one battle in the jihadist war against Israel’s homefront that began with the second intifada in September 2000. Israel won the first phase of that war, the four years of suicide bombings that lasted until 2004. Now, in the second phase, we’ve lost the battle against the rockets.

But the qualities this heartbreak has revealed — unity and sacrifice and faith in the justness of our cause — will ensure our eventual victory in the next, inevitable, bitter round. Such is the nature of consolation in Israel in the summer of 2006.

Yossi Klein Halevi is a foreign correspondent for The New Republic and senior fellow of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. Reprinted with permission of The New Republic.

Mideast Fighting Strains Fragile Interfaith Ties


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One More Casualty in Crisis — Unilateralism


More than two weeks into the war in Lebanon, there is a growing consensus that one of the chief casualties will be Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s plan for a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank.

Pundits on the right and left argue that the war in Lebanon and fighting with the Palestinians in Gaza prove that unilateralism doesn’t work. They note that both previous unilateral pullbacks, from Lebanon in May 2000 and Gaza in August 2005, were followed by rocket attacks on Israeli civilians from the evacuated areas.

The same is bound to happen if Israel withdraws unilaterally from the West Bank without cast-iron security arrangements, pundits say.

But Olmert remains unmoved. Close aides say he is determined to pull out of the West Bank and set Israel’s permanent borders by the end of his current term in 2010. One of the main reasons is demographic — to ensure a democratic Israeli state with a clear Jewish majority.

The question is how to do it.

After the Lebanon and Gaza experiences — sustained rocket attacks on Israel in the wake of unilateral pullouts — will Olmert still want to adopt last summer’s Gaza model of withdrawal without agreement, or will he seek a different formula, such as bilateral arrangements with moderate Palestinian leaders or the introduction of international forces to keep the peace after Israel pulls back?
One of the most influential backers of the unilateral idea was journalist Ari Shavit of Ha’aretz, whose 2005 book, “Dividing the Land,” attempted to explain the rationale of the idea. But now Shavit has become one of unilateralism’s most outspoken critics.

Shavit’s change of heart reflects widespread disillusionment in Israel with the unilateral approach. In mid-July, a day after the outbreak of hostilities in the North, Shavit published an article “The End of the Third Way,” urging the government to come up with a new strategy.

In the article, Shavit argues that Israel has gone through three predominant policy phases since the 1967 Six-Day War, each undermined by an eruption of Arab violence. Initially, Shavit says, Israelis believed the Palestinian conflict could be maintained by occupation, then through a peace deal, and after that through unilateral separation.

But the occupation thesis was discredited by the first intifada in the late 1980s and early 1990s; the peace process it generated exploded with the second intifada in 2000 and unilateralism has crashed against the violence in Gaza and Lebanon, which Shavit calls the “third intifada.”

He concludes that “Israel is now desperately in need of a new diplomatic idea, a new strategic idea, a fourth way.”

A number of ideas are coming to the fore:

  • An international force to keep the peace and oversee the transition to Palestinian statehood after Israeli withdrawal.

    The endgame in Lebanon envisages a multinational force to keep the peace and help the Lebanese government deploy forces in the South and disarm Hezbollah. If that happens and proves successful, analysts say the model could be extended to the West Bank and Gaza.

    There it could take the form of an international mandate responsible for the transition to Palestinian statehood. Its main tasks would be to police the cease-fire, help create a single Palestinian armed force and build democratic institutions.

    The main advantage is that it could provide the stability Israel and the Palestinians have been unable to achieve. The main disadvantage is that an international force could become a target of Palestinian terrorism.
    The idea of an international transitional mandate has been proposed before by former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami and former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk.

  • The establishment of a Palestinian mini-state with temporary borders through direct negotiations under American aegis between Israel and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

    The Americans would need to give both sides strong guarantees: To Israel that the Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved in the emerging Palestinian state, and to the Palestinians that the final border will closely approximate the pre-1967 boundary.

    The main advantage of this approach is that it would be easier to achieve than a full peace deal. The main disadvantages are that the Palestinians have opposed the idea because they fear temporary borders would become permanent; the Israelis suspect that Abbas, even if he signed an agreement, would not be able to deliver.

    The Israeli Foreign Ministry has set up a team to refine this approach.

  • Going back to the “Clinton parameters” of December 2000 for a final peace deal. Left-wingers argue that if the sides are able to begin negotiations on a mini-state they might as well aim for a full peace deal and a full-fledged Palestinian state. Terrorist organizations would be dismantled, the Palestinian state would be demilitarized and border arrangements would be made to prevent weapons smuggling.

    The trouble is that this is precisely the formula that failed so dramatically at Camp David six years ago, and the situation has deteriorated markedly since then.

  • Modified unilateralism. Israel’s West Bank settlements would be dismantled but the army would remain to prevent Kassam rocket fire and other terror attacks.

    The main advantage is that Palestinian terrorists wouldn’t be able to arm and act as freely as they would if the army pulls out. The main disadvantage is that Israeli occupation would continue, creating points of friction with Palestinians and costing Israel international goodwill.

    Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter, a former head of the Shin Bet security service, is the main proponent of this approach.

  • A Palestinian arrangement in the context of a major regional shake-up. This would entail stability in Lebanon under an international umbrella, good neighborly relations between Israel and Lebanon, and possibly even detachment of Syria from the Iranian axis.

    This would depend on the degree to which Israel crushes Hezbollah’s military power in the current conflict. Hezbollah’s defeat would reverberate in the territories and could lead to a strategic reassessment by Hamas leaders, especially if the Syria-Iran axis also collapses.

    The main advantage is that conditions could be created for a final, comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Arab conflict. The disadvantage is that so far, at least, there is little sign that this scenario is realistic.

It’s clear that Olmert will have to adapt to the new post-war reality — but it’s still too early to gauge which fourth way,” if any, he’ll adopt.

Israel-Lebanon Strife Reverberates Locally


[Monday July 17] A nationwide effort to call Jews to prayer services Wednesday evening, July 19 — in support of Israel — is being organized by the Orthodox Union, the Rabbinical Council of America, and the National Council of Young Israel.

In addition, a central service and study session will be available
at http://www.ou.org led by OU Executive Vice President Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, in downtown Manahattan.

Text of OU Press Release

ORTHODOX SYNAGOGUES CALL FOR NIGHT OF PRAYER AND TORAH STUDY
ACROSS NORTH AMERICA THIS WEDNESDAY EVENING

Responding to the urgent need of American Jews to do whatever they can in support of Israel and her people at this time, the Orthodox Union and the Rabbinical Council of America, together with the National Council of Young Israel and the Young Israel Council of Rabbis, have announced the convening of a nationwide Night of Prayer and Torah Study this Wednesday, July 19.

The organizations are asking Jews to gather in their synagogues throughout North America beginning at 9:00 pm E.D.T. (6:00 pm Pacific) for the simultaneous recitation of tehillim (Psalms) and other designated prayers.

While many congregations are already adding extra tehillim to their regular services, Jewish tradition places great value in having an entire community raising their voices in unison.

With the expectation that several hundred synagogues will participate, many, many thousands of Jews will be united in their prayers at this time.

The program’s second segment will be Torah study, also a key means of spiritual support, for which study materials on relevant topics such as the mitzvah of pidyon shevuyim, rescuing captives, will be provided to the synagogues by the OU.

A central service and study session, to be led by OU Executive Vice President Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb at OU headquarters in downtown Manhattan, will be webcast and may be viewed by any synagogue, family or individual who wants to participate in this way at http://www.ou.org

The OU has also produced a Seven Point Action Plan, entitled “Israel Under Siege — What You Can Do,” which may be read on its web site.

Further plans for special round-the-clock Torah learning programs with the involvement of OU member synagogues, Young Israel synagogues, the batei
midrash and learning programs of Yeshiva University, and the rabbis of the RCA and of YI, will be announced shortly.

*****
Friday’s Stories (July 14, 2006)
*****

Rally
More than 900 Attend Wiesenthal Gathering

Hot was not the word for Thursday’s rally outside the Simon Wiesenthal
Center.

As if mirroring the escalating heat of the day’s escalating violence in, as
Hezbollah sent rockets into Israel and Israel attacked Lebanon, the Los
Angeles summer sun provided no relief for the 900-plus people gathered in the
center’s enclosed back courtyard for the 5 p.m. community rally.

“Rally” was not exactly the word for Thursday’s last-minute event either, as
it was less a public demonstration and more a gathering of friends of
Israel. The Wiesenthal Center took the lead early Thursday morning in
organizing a community event to show support for the embattled Jewish state.

“Condemn the Terrorists, Not the Response,” read a sign on the podium, which
was backed by an American flag, an Israeli flag and the Wiesenthal flag, as
well as a modern statue of Israel’s menorah, which always stands in the
courtyard.

The two-hour ceremony included speeches from Wiesenthal Rabbis Abraham
Cooper and Marvin Hier, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Los Angeles County
Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Los Angeles Consul General to Israel Ehud
Danoch, Judea Pearl (father of slain journalist Daniel Pearl) and Federation
President John Fishel.

“It’s important that we’re here today,” said Villaraigosa, who told the
story of his interrupted phone call with Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal.

“This experience shook us to the core,” he said.

The mayor also emphasized the importance that non-Jews were present at the
rally as well, referring to himself, and what may have been one of the few
other non-Jews in the audience, the Rev. Billy Ingram of Maranatha Community
Church.

“If not here,” he asked, “then where will we come together united in
solidarity with Israel?”

Always the showstopper, Hier drew the crowd to its feet a number of times.

“Let us be clear today. This is not about borders,” he said. “It’s about a
Middle East that is Judenrein — free of Jews.”

Hier drew parallels in this situation to the Holocaust, saying that the
world “did nothing” about the constant missile attacks on Israel, and on the
diplomatic front on getting captured soldier Gilad Shalit returned. He said
there was collateral damage on Germany when the Allied forces bombed the
Nazis, but that was the price they had to pay, and that Israel did not want
this terror, and those who support the leaders “have only themselves to
blame.”

Cooper played a recording of a phone call with Cheri Drori,
a former Angeleno whose husband, Tzephania, has been the chief rabbi of
Kiryat Shemona for 30 years. Drori, was in a bomb shelter in Kiryat
Shmoneh, two kilometers from the Lebanese border.

America’s support, she said, “gives us great strength to continue … we
want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”

Danoch took a tough line with the terrorists: “If in Israel they are going
to go into shelters, then in Lebanon they will go in shelters This operation
will not end until we make an end to Hezbollah,” he said. “Israel is strong.
The government is strong. The Jewish people are strong and we will last an
eternity.”

Thursday was a fast day, the 17th of Tamuz, which signifies the beginning of
the three weeks of mourning for the Jewish people when the walls of
Jerusalem were breached by the Ancient Romans before the destruction of the
Temple. A number of Orthodox rabbis recited Pslams, first in English, and
then in Hebrew, to commemorate the fast day and to pray for Israel.

The program, which began with the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner”
ended with “Hatikva” and the singing of “Oseh Shalom”: “Oseh shalom
b’mromav, hu ya’aseh shalom aleinu
…” “He who makes peace in high
places, He will make peace for us and for all Israel, let us say amen…”

— Amy Klein

Travel to Israel Uninterrupted by Mideast Conflict

Delta Airlines Flight 152 from Los Angeles to Tel Aviv via Atlanta left on
time Friday, despite the escalation of conflict between Israel and Lebanon.

While some travelers, mostly Israelis, were tranquil, others remained
skittish.

Tammy and Amit Stavinsky were flying with their three small children to Tel
Aviv to visit family. Waiting in line to check in at LAX, Tammy Stavinsky
said she was “petrified.”

Her Israeli husband was calm, however.

“The truth is nobody knows anything about life,” he said. “It could be more
dangerous here, who knows?”

“Well, obviously I have children so I don’t want to go at all,” said his
wife.

“We’ve been fighting about it,” she said, gesturing toward her husband.
“He’s going with or without me, and I don’t want to be a bad wife.”

Behind them a Calabasas man traveling to his father’s funeral in Israel said
he wasn’t concerned for his safety.

“I wouldn’t take my family with me, but I’m OK traveling on my own,” he
said.

Another Israeli man traveling to Israel via New York and Budapest said he
wasn’t worried at all.

El Al Israel Airlines reports that its Israel-bound flights continue to be
nearly full, and that the airline has not experienced an increase in
cancellations, spokeswoman Sheryl Stein said Friday. Recent demand has been
so great that on July 23 El Al will inaugurate thrice-weekly roundtrip
flights between Los Angeles and Tel Aviv.

“Tourism has really picked up in Israel, and our flights are very, very
full,” Stein said.

Like El Al, Delta Air Lines said its daily flight to Israel remains popular.
On July 14, Delta had oversold its Israel-bound flight, which departs from
Atlanta and carries up to 234 passengers, spokesman Anthony Black said.

“There hasn’t been any impact to our flights from the events at this time,”
Black said.

In other local travel news, about 60 Southland Jews have just departed for a
mission to Israel, forming half of the participants in a trip sponsored by
United Jewish Communities, the umbrella organization for the nation’s
federations.

Marc Ballon, Senior Writer & Lisa Hirschmann, Contributing
Writer

L.A.’s Jewish Groups Come Together in Support

What are the leading Jewish organizations doing to support Israel?

That’s what they gathered to find out at The Jewish Federation of Greater
Los Angeles on Thursday, July 13, as Israel came under attack from
Hezbollah, prompting Israeli air strikes into Lebanon.

The 3 p.m meeting, coordinated at the last minute, saw the participation of
major players here, including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee,
StandWithUs, Peace Now, the Pacific Jewish Alliance, The Wiesenthal Center,
the Israeli Consulate, Hillel and the Board of Rabbis of Southern
California, to name a few. Press was not invited to this “strategy session.”

“We were really trying to get an update on what everybody in attendance is
doing in support of Israel,” said John Fishel, Federation president.

He was referring to the general programs the organizations had been planning
as well as future action in light of the escalation. It was a brainstorming
session, he said, where people threw out ideas for future action — some
related to action within the Jewish community to show support and others
reach outside the community. It was not clear what the group would do to
actually help people in Israel — although The Federation will be sending
Fifth District City Councilmember Jack Weiss to Israel next week on a
support mission.

The “strategy” session will reconvene early next week, Fishel said, to
hammer out a specific plan. Perhaps this kind of unity in such a disparate
community is unusual.

“I was impressed by their sincere willingness to work together,” Fishel
said. “It’s a good reflection when there’s a crisis, everybody does pull
together.”

— AK

*****
Thursday’s Stories (July 13, 2006)
*****

Hebrew Union College Students Travel to Israel

About 15 rabbinic, cantorial and educational students from the Southern California campus of Hebrew Union College (HUC) have just arrived in Israel to fulfill their year of
required study at the school’s Jerusalem campus, according to Steven
Windmueller, interim dean for HUC’s L.A. campus. HUC, the Reform movement’s seminary and intellectual center, believes that future leaders of the Jewish community “need to be present in demonstrating their solidarity with the people of the
state of Israel,” Windmueller said.

Even at times of crisis, including the worst of the first Intifada and the Gulf War, HUC kept its doors open at its Israel campus, Windmueller said.

Funds to Move Children Raised Thursday

The Jewish Agency for Israel raised $1 million within a few hours Thursday to remove children from the North of Israel, according to a release from the agency. Working with the Jewish communities worldwide, as well as the Federations of North America and Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal, the money was raised to move children who were in the line of fire to youth villages in central Israel.

–Susan Freudenheim, Managing Editor

Israeli Consulate: “Act of War”

The Los Angeles Consulate General of Israel today issued a statement directed to community leaders on the unfolding situation in Israel. The statement offers help in organizing local event related to the ongoing conflict in Israel.

“This morning’s attacks were not a terrorist attack but the action of a sovereign state that assaulted Israel for no reason and without provocation,” the consulate’s statement says, putting a unilateral spin on Israel’s attacks, which have been condemned around the world are condemning as overly harsh.

After explaining the axis of terror in the Middle East and how Lebanon is responsible for Hezbollah and its actions, the statement asserts: “The State of Israel and its citizens now stand united. In light of these circumstance, Israel has no choice but to defend itself and its citizens and will take any measure necessary for the security of its people.”

Anxious Parents Worry About Kids in Israel

For parents with children currently in Israel, these are tough times.
The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), for one, has received several calls from
mothers and fathers worried about their kids’ safety, said Emily Grotta, the
group’s spokeswoman.

An estimated 600 11th- and 12th-graders are currently in Israel on five-
to six-week visits through the URJ. In light of the turbulent situation in
the Middle East, the group has modified travel plans to ensure student
safety, Grotta said. On Thursday, July 13, a group of children who were
supposed to go to the northern Golan Heights near Lebanon went instead went
to the southern Golan Heights, she said.

The fate of the URJ’s planned semester-long program in Israel for high
school students will be determined at a later date.

Marc Ballon, Senior Writer

Israel Advocacy Group will Proceed with Plans for Israel Trip

StandWithUs’s plans to proceed with its upcoming mission to Israel, although
the program will be somewhat modified according to the group’s Executive
Director Roz Rothstein. The pro-Israeli, Los
Angeles-based advocacy group plans to bring about 20
people to the Holy Land on a nine-day trip beginning
July 31, with an emphasis on better understanding
Israel’s security situation.

The intensifying violence in the Mideast will likely mean
the cancellation of a scheduled visit to checkpoints
near Gaza and a planned trip to the Israeli-Lebanese
border, Rothstein said.

Participant reaction to the growing violence has been
mixed, she said.

“I got a note today saying, ‘Please don’t cancel the
mission. I want to go no matter what,'” Rothstein
said. “I got another note that said, ‘I’m concerned.
What are we doing?'”

Rothstein said that given Israel’s past success in prevailing in defensive
Wars — in 1967 and 1973 — she expects the Jewish
state to win again and that the StandWithUs mission
will go forward.

–MB

U.S. State Department Travel Advisory

A Feb. 27, 2006 travel advisory from the United States Department of State
“urges U.S citizens to carefully weigh the necessity of traveling to
Israel,” because of the threat of violence between Israeli forces and
Palestinian militant groups based in the West Bank and Gaza and rocket
attacks into Israel by Palestinian terorists, among other reasons.

The State Department also encourages Americans to avoid all travel to the
Gaza Strip and to defer unnecessary travel to the West Bank.

— MB


Birthright Trips Continue as Planned

Officials at Birthright Israel, which sends 18- to 26-year-olds to Israel
for free 10-day trips, said it has received no more cancellations than usual
for its remaining summer trips to Israel. An estimated 7,000 young adults
have already gone to Israel this summer through Birthright, with another
300 slated to go, a spokesperson said.

“There’s been nothing out of the ordinary. No one’s canceled,” said a
spokesman, who asked not to be named. “People are still going.”
The last Los Angeles residents slated to participate in this summer’s
Birthright program departed for Israel Thursday morning, July 13, he added.

— MB

Rep. Darrell Issa: Ally of Israel


In the interest of balance, The Journal made several unsuccessful attemptsto procure an Op-Ed piece on behalf of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) from aJewish supporter. In lieu of an Op-Ed, the congressman’s office provided thefollowing statement concerning his record on Israel and terrorism. Ajournalistic investigation into the congressman’s record will appear shortlyin our news pages.

Darrell Issa is a California congressman of Lebanese heritage. Throughout his career in the private sector, civic affairs and public life,Issa has stood for an absolute commitment to tolerance of all faiths, as well as all Americans.

More than a reliable vote for a strong American policy in the Middle East, Issa has gone further. He has met repeatedly with leaders in the region to encourage cooperation in the war on terrorism and to advance the “road map” to peace. Issa’s record is clear, and the facts of his leadership speak volumes.

The congressman has an unequivocal voting record in favor of Israel. He has supported both the 2002 House Conference Report and final House version of America’s aid to Israel (H.R. 2056); supported House Resolution 392, expressing solidarity with Israel in its fight against terrorism; supported House Concurrent Resolution 280, urging presidential action against Palestinian terrorism; and signed the “Hyde-Lantos” letter (April, 2001) to President George W. Bush, urging a reassessment of America’s relationship with Palestinians

Demonstrating strong leadership in the Middle East, the congressman has strongly endorsed the Bush administration’s policy to liberate Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein from power; personally lobbied Egypt to return its ambassador to Tel Aviv; personally pressed Syrian and Lebanese governments to act against Hezbollah; and has traveled to Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Syria and the West Bank — always in consultation with U.S. officials

“Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles) confirmed that … his [Issa’s] votes on Middle East issues have been supportive of Israel. Other Democrats interviewed for this article agreed,” wrote The Forward. Rep. Ben Gilman (R-N.Y.) called Issa an outstanding congressman who has fought tirelessly to find a solution to the Middle East conflict,” and Daniel Ayalon, Israeli ambassador to the United States, sent the congressman a letter stating, “We would like to thank you for your assistance with the humanitarian efforts concerning the four kidnapped Israelis held by Hezbollah.”

Terrorism Link in Davis Recall


I’m a proud conservative Republican from Michigan, but I’m appealing to Californians of all political stripes not to support the recall of Gov. Gray Davis.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) — funder of the recall effort and the only announced candidate to replace Davis — might be the contemporary, real-life version of Frank Sinatra’s "Manchurian Candidate." Instead of communists, Issa’s allies are radical Islamists and supporters of terrorism against Americans, Israelis, Christians and Jews.

In a short political career, Issa’s statements and actions consistently defend terrorists, terrorist groups and terrorist sponsor states.

Saudi Arabia’s longtime lobbyist, James Gallagher, contributed to Issa’s campaign in November 2002, and Issa tried to overturn key classified evidence portions of President Bill Clinton’s 1995 counterterrorism bill. Issa is also credited with "declawing" the Patriot Act.

Then, there’s Issa’s dance with Hezbollah, an organization that is on the State Department’s terrorist list and one of the largest components of Al Qaeda. In the 1980s, Hezbollah — which means "Party of Allah" — murdered more than 260 U.S. Marines while they slept in Beirut and tortured to death Col. Richard Higgins (in 1990) and CIA attache William Buckley.

Hezbollah endorses "the use of hostages," "suicide in jihad operations" and "the duty of all Muslims to engage in Islamic jihad if it ensures the ultimate goal [of] inflicting losses on the enemy."

Less than a month after Sept. 11, Issa visited Syrian President Bashar Assad, praising Hezbollah and lauding Assad’s policies (Syria is on the State Department’s terrorist list).

The Tehran Times and IRNA (Islamic Republic News Agency, the official Iranian news agency) quoted Issa’s statements to Assad in Damascus: "Hezbollah acts legitimately and has never been involved in terrorist activities…. Hezbollah and any other Lebanese group has the right to resist the occupation of its territory…. Hezbollah’s humanitarian and governmental actions were legal…. Such behavior would be customary in any country."

Issa denies the statements, but as a recent Los Angeles Times cover story demonstrates he has a record of stretching the truth — about his military record, his criminal history, his business affairs and his political positions.

In November 2001, for instance, Issa told syndicated columnist Debra Saunders he was vehemently against Arabs suing the airlines and government over profiling. At the same time, he told the rest of the press of his plans to introduce legislation to make it easier for Arabs to collect monetary damages for airline and government profiling.

And Issa’s other statements and actions corroborate their veracity:

  • Less than a month after Sept. 11, in an Oct. 9, 2001, interview with the Beirut Daily Star’s Ibrahim, during a trip to Lebanon, Issa said, "It is Lebanon which will determine whether the party’s [Hezbollah’s] activities constitute terrorism or resistance … If [Hezbollah] wants the world to understand that its activities are legitimate, they should say it…. Resistance is a legitimate right recognized [by the U.N.]…. I have a great deal of sympathy for the work that Hezbollah tries to do." He expressed hope that Hezbollah would "reform" and become a "government" like the P.L.O.

  • Assad’s state-run SANA (official Syrian news agency) covered Issa’s November 2001 meeting with Assad, quoting Issa as saying: "Hezbollah or any other party has the right to resist occupation."

    Occupation? Israel withdrew from Southern Lebanon at least a year before, and the U.S. withdrew over a decade earlier.

    Issa’s January 2003 actions regarding Israelis captured by Hezbollah asserted the terrorist group’s moral equivalence with Israel. According to The Guardian of London, per Hezbollah’s demand, Issa asked Israel to allow the Red Cross to see captured Hezbollah terrorists in exchange for interceding with Hezbollah to allow the Red Cross to see four Israeli prisoners held by the group.

  • On Oct. 31, 2001, the London Arabic newspaper, Al-Hayat, reported, "U.S. Congressman of Lebanese origin Darrell Issa, during his recent visit to Beirut in the mid of October," conveyed a proposal to Hezbollah leadership to remove Hezbollah from the State Department’s terrorist list and "normalize U.S. relations with" the group. Hezbollah refused the offer.

  • On May 31, 2003, Issa publicly made a similar proposal to legitimize Hezbollah by giving Lebanon $500 million of taxpayer money to disarm the group and turn it into a political party.

  • On May 9, 2001, during a House subcommittee discussion of the Iran-Libya Sanctions Extension Act of 2001, Issa praised Hezbollah, "in all candor, for the good things they do, too, the humanitarian, the hospitals, the schools they pay."

  • On April 14, 2002, Issa told Fox News Channel’s Rita Cosby that Hezbollah has done "some good things" (and he also praised Yasser Arafat).

  • In November 2001, Issa told the Financial Times of London, "Hezbollah does in fact have a limited scope. You must differentiate … from other organizations that might have a global reach."

    Global? Hezbollah murdered 86 Jews and wounded hundreds of people in Buenos Aires in July 1994, in addition to murdering Israelis and U.S. Marines and civilians in Lebanon and Iran.

  • In a Sacramento radio interview, Issa said, "They do supply little old ladies with heating oil in the winter and all kinds of other activities," characterizing terrorist Hezbollah as a mere "political party" and "farmers," and adding, "I’d like to see a lot of them just go back to their farms, go back to some honest living."

    Then there’s Issa’s strange respect for Arafat and Palestinian terrorists.

  • Days after Sept. 11, Issa, during his House International Relations Committee’s discussion of fighting terrorism, tried to draw a distinction between "Palestinian groups that are resisting Israeli occupation" and Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

  • During his November 2001 trip to the Middle East, Issa told his hometown newspaper, the North County Times, that he was "particularly impressed with Arafat."

    "He is quite a charismatic individual, despite being a very small man and very old," the congressman said. "He has a wry sense of humor. He gives you food off his plate if you sit next to him."

    Arafat’s personal food taster as your next governor?

  • In April 2003, Issa spoke of Arafat’s "charm" (also in the North County Times).

    Issa’s softness on Syrian-sponsored terrorism is legendary, too. Syria is home to several fugitives, including Nazi war criminal Alois Brunner, Hamas political director Moussa Abu Marzook, Islamic Jihad chief Ramadan Abdullah Shallah and Jamil Al-Gashey, the only surviving perpetrator of the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre — all wanted and/or indicted in the United States. However, Assad refuses their extradition.

  • Issa vehemently opposes the Syrian Accountability Act, which imposes sanctions on Syria until it stops sponsoring Hezbollah and other terrorists. Issa said Syria is "cooperative."

  • The Reform Party of Syria said Issa "helps Syria with [its] propaganda campaign" and "objects to Mr. Issa’s presence in Syria. The Baath Party of Syria is duping Rep. Issa and using him as a propaganda tool."

  • In June 2003, Issa attended the Beirut signing of a major oil deal between Syria and two U.S. firms. The contract states the companies will spend $29 million in Syria and train the state-run Syrian oil company.

  • Issa hosted a pro-Syrian Capitol Hill event with a pro-Syrian Arab business group. The event was organized by former staffers to Reps. David Bonior and John Dingell, who now lobby for a "change" to U.S. Middle East policy.

  • After the Iraq War, during one of several frequent Syrian trips, Issa praised Assad, saying, "His word seems to be good."

Darrell Issa wants to be governor of California and ultimately president. With a record like this, do you want to help him?


Debbie Schlussel, a Detroit-based attorney, radio talk-show host and conservative political commentator, was the 1987 Outstanding Teen Age Republican in the Nation. She can be reached at dschlussel@yahoo.com.

First Step in Removing Terror Regimes


The American war against Saddam Hussein represents a
significant departure from the traditional U.S. posture of appeasing Arab
terrorist regimes.

Hopefully, it will be just the first step in a new approach
to combating terrorism.

In the past, the United States consistently refrained from
taking serious action against Arab regimes that sponsored terrorists. Instead,
it tried to appease those regimes by offering them military and financial
assistance and pressuring Israel to make territorial and other concessions.

After the creation of the Palestine Liberation Organization
in 1964, the governments of Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia provided the
PLO with funds, safe haven, training facilities and weapons. One Israeli anti-terror
raid on PLO bases in Lebanon uncovered crates of United States-made rifles that
had been given to Saudi Arabia, which the Saudis then gave to the PLO.

Yet instead of taking action against these terror sponsors,
the Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford administrations pursued
friendly relations with Cairo, Damascus, Amman and Riyadh, gradually increasing
U.S. aid to those regimes. Even worse, the United States began pressuring
Israel to give those regimes the strategically crucial territories that Israel
had won in self-defense when Egypt, Jordan and Syria attacked in 1967.

The policy of appeasing pro-terror regimes continued during
the Jimmy Carter administration. The supply of American weapons to Egypt,
Jordan and Saudi Arabia increased, and Israel was pressured to make concessions
to the Palestinian Arabs.

When Israel struck at PLO terrorists in Lebanon and
temporarily took over a narrow strip of border territory that had been used by
the PLO, Carter pressured Israel to retreat — just five years after PLO
terrorists, acting on Yasser Arafat’s direct orders, murdered two American
diplomats in Khartoum.

Officials in the Ronald Reagan administration seemed to
understand the terror threat more clearly, yet when it came to Arab regimes
that sponsored anti-Israel terror, that familiar blind spot surfaced. Instead
of using its leverage to force the Arab regimes to stop sponsoring terror, the
administration unveiled the 1982 Reagan Plan, which, in effect, rewarded the
Palestinian Arabs for their terrorism by proposing an Israeli withdrawal to the
indefensible pre-1967 borders, and the creation of a Palestinian Arab regime in
the vacated territories.

Israel’s leaders called the plan “national suicide for
Israel.” Reagan’s token bombings of Libya and Syria, in response to specific
anti-American terrorist attacks sponsored by those regimes, turned out to be
one-time gestures, not manifestations of a new policy.

During the administrations of George Bush (senior) and Bill
Clinton, the appeasement policy reached new lows. Courting pro-terror Arab
regimes and pressuring Israel became a central focus of U.S. foreign policy.
Bush did go to war against Iraq — but because of its occupation of Kuwait and
its oil fields, not because of Iraqi sponsorship of terror.

And all the while, U.S. military aid continued to flow into
Egypt (over $2 billion annually), Jordan (its $700 million debt to the United
States was forgiven and new weapons were supplied) and Saudi Arabia, and trade
with Syria continued — despite those regimes’ continuing sponsorship of
terrorism.

The United States failed to take decisive action against the
terrorists or their sponsors, even when the attacks were directed at Americans.
There was no serious response to the taking of American hostages by Iran, the
bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon, the Khobar Towers attack in Saudi
Arabia, the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, the downing of Pan Am 103 and so
many other terrorist attacks. It was case after case of risk-free massacres of
Americans.

The Clinton administration mastered the art of using
pro-Israel rhetoric to soothe Israel’s supporters, while carrying out policies
that appeased terrorists and undermined Israel.

Palestinian Arab violations of the Oslo accords were
ignored. Palestinian Arab terrorism galvanized the administration to put even
more pressure on Israel. Arafat was showered with $100 million each year and
was invited to the White House more often than other foreign leaders.

Clinton’s secretaries of state visited Damascus literally
dozens of times, desperately and unsuccessfully courting Syria’s pro-terrorist
regime. Just down the block from where U.S. officials met with Syrian leaders
were the headquarters of at least 10 international terrorist groups, yet
Clinton turned a blind eye.

The Bush administration’s record has been equally troubling.
Palestinian Arab violations have been whitewashed, and Israel’s self-defense
policies have been condemned as “excessive.” The same administration that
demanded regime change in Afghanistan and Iraq because of their sponsorship of
terror, is pressuring Israel to give the terrorist Palestinian Authority regime
its own sovereign state.

Under the Bush administration, Saudi Arabia is treated as an
ally, despite its deep involvement in promoting Islamic terrorism. Syria is
praised, despite its sponsorship of international terrorist groups.

Media reports indicate Bush is seeking a rapprochement with
terrorist Libya. The administration even claims to detect signs of “moderation”
in terrorist Iran and continues to prevent American victims of
Iranian-sponsored terrorism from implementing court-ordered seizures of Iranian
assets.

Terrorism cannot be fought on one front and ignored on
another. To defeat terrorism worldwide, America needs to be consistent and
uncompromising. Kabul and Baghdad should be just the first steps.

Replacing the pro-terrorist regimes in Riyadh, Damascus and
Ramallah should be next on America’s list.


Morton A. Klein is national president of the Zionist Organization of America