November 16, 2018

The CNN-NPR-NY Times Middle East Conspiracy

Have you noticed that when people complain about bias in the media, it’s always bias against their own point of view and never bias in favor of their side?

When press accounts confirm your interpretation of events, they’re fair, accurate and objective. When the upshot of a news story is that your team is the bad guys and the other team is the good guys, it’s obvious that the reporter or paper or network or corporation is in the tank for the other side. And when articles and broadcasts balance ammo for your side with ammo for the other side, they’re guilty of the fallacy of false equivalence, which turns righteous battles between right and wrong into vapid he-said/she-said standoffs.

Nowhere is this more true than in coverage of the Middle East.

Supporters of Israel are furious that when pictures of Palestinian casualties are shown, the causes and context of the war are left out—Hamas’ rocket attacks on southern Israel, which precipitated the attack on Gaza; its cynical use of civilians as human shields, which is a war crime; its intention to destroy Israel and Jewry, which amounts to genocide—all get scandalously short shrift from the press.

Supporters of Hamas are just as enraged about the inhumane living conditions in Gaza, which Israel has blockaded; the Israeli refusal to allow the international press into the battle zone; what they believe is the original sin of Zionism, the displacement of Arabs, and that when Israel is portrayed as a victim, the suffering of the Palestinian people is conveniently omitted.

And what if you’re not a partisan of either side, but think of yourself instead as an independent advocate for human rights and peace? Then not only will you bring down on yourself the opprobrium of both sides for failing to take a stand at a moment that demands a choice, you will also find in the prevailing media narrative no hook to hang your conciliatory analysis on, no peg for your empyrean perspective, no patience for your it’s-all-so-complicated heartsickness.

Any news story can be successfully picked apart from any vantage point. Why does the Los Angeles Times disparage the Israeli point of view as ““>anonymous mitigating hearsay about a Hamas sniper? Why aren’t the networks airing the “>Israeli scholar’s assertion that Palestinian casualties aren’t excessive because “so far well over three-quarters have been armed gunmen, and that is a percentage which is very rarely attained in urban warfare”?

In fact, two reasons make it really hard to conclude (but not to claim) that a mainstream media outlet is biased—on the Middle East or on anything else. And a third reason makes the whole enterprise of watchdogging the press somewhat quixotic.

One is the sheer quantity of content. The stories and pictures you saw may be plenty to convince you, say, that the Associated Press is unfair to Israel, but the plural of “anecdote” is not “data.” The only way to determine anything defensible about bias in reporting is to analyze a scientific sample—to examine a slice of stories that’s large enough to be representative of all stories and to choose that slice randomly, without knowing what’s going to be in it.

Some people may feel that they watch CNN so much or read The New York Times so regularly that they have plenty of data to base conclusions on. Not so. That’s why pollsters are paid big bucks: The methods they use to construct the universe of people they survey are even more important than the questions they ask them.

Second is the difficulty of coming up with an objective measure of bias. One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter. If you can show me a journalistic scoring system that Alan Dershowitz and Noam Chomsky can agree on, then I’d like to show you how to earn 12 percent a year in a very special investment fund.

But even if you had a scientific sample; even if you devised a neutral litmus test for bias, the strange truth is that media spin probably matters a lot less than we assume.

Yes, public opinion is an important element of public policy. Nations care what people think about them. But the audience for cable news is astonishingly small, maybe 2 million people on a good day; the daily readership of a prestige newspaper is hardly more than that, and the only way that public radio can claim north of 20 million listeners is to count all the people who listened to any of its programs during a week.

Sure, the Internet has surged as a source of news, but its audience is fragmented into niches. If you want to get really depressed, chew on this: For decades, Americans have said that their number one source for news is local television news. Not only is that audience scattered among a thousand stations in a couple of hundred media markets, the amount of attention those stations give to international news is a tiny fraction of the airtime they give to celebrities, freak accidents and crime.

There’s no question that some elite media set the agenda for much of the rest of the press. And some nonnews programming, like talk radio hotheads, get demonstrably big listenerships. But it’s next to impossible to prove a cause-and-effect relation between these bloviators and public opinion, and the same is true of the impact of the mainstream press on public attitudes and beliefs. In the end, why Americans think what they do about Israel and Hamas is as much a mystery as how they decide who to vote for or what toothpaste to buy.

I get just as steamed as anyone else when I see a Middle East news story that I think is wildly unfair. I’m just unwilling to ascribe it to a conspiracy or to think it matters as much as the frustration and fury I feel.

Marty Kaplan is the Norman Lear Professor of Entertainment, Media and Society at the USC Annenberg School. His column appears here weekly. He can be reached at martyk@jewishjournal.com.

Death, fear and fighting take toll on both sides of Gaza border

ALTTEXT
Damage to a home in Sderot from a Qassam rocket. Photo by The Media Line

The body, wrapped only in a flag, is lowered into the ground as family members throw themselves toward the grave, screaming in anguish. At that moment, their world has ended.

For the hundreds standing around them, vengeance is the only path worth treading.

It doesn’t matter whether you are now imagining the victim as a Palestinian or an Israeli — the scene is identical.

Residents of the Gaza Strip and southern Israel alike will tell you that in years gone by, they built up close working relationships and, in some cases, real friendships. Yet throughout the last 40 years there has always been an unease between the two, which all too often has spilled over into bloodshed.

Ever since the creation of the Palestinian Authority in the early 1990s, Hamas has been a dominant force in Gaza, and when in 2006 the Islamist movement claimed victory in the Palestinian parliamentary election, it was clear that soon it would gain de facto control of the narrow coastal enclave. A year later, Hamas took over the running of Gaza from Fatah in what Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas described as “a bloody coup.”

Complete Gaza CoverageIt has left some Gaza-based Fatah officials smarting, angry and even prepared to blame Hamas rather than Israel for the current violence.

“We were protective of the people and made sure that the Palestinian cause was on the right path until we got the world on our side,” said Ibrahim Abu A-Naja, a member of Fatah’s Executive Committee.

However, the overriding view in Gaza is that Israel is directly to blame for the new reality on the ground, in addition to the troubles already besetting Gazans.

Similarly in Israel, the residents of the towns and villages that have been under rocket fire for eight years accuse Hamas and the smaller armed organizations in Gaza of being responsible for the violence and bloodshed.

“For years we’ve been suffering like this,” said Victoria, a 20-something resident of the Israeli town Sderot, which has faced the brunt of Hamas’ missiles. “I want the Israel Defense Forces to do exactly what it’s doing now and not to stop in the middle.”

That is the overriding view in southern Israel. Many people say the government was right to launch its Gaza operation against Hamas, and if there is collateral damage — the euphemism for civilian casualties — so be it.

“Yesterday the rocket blew out my window and just missed the propane tanks, and the last time it blew two doors off their hinges, and they were blown together like a sandwich,” said Yair Madmon, a man in his late 50s who said he served in the Israeli army as a reservist until he was 48.

Like many who live in Sderot, Madmon said he will never leave.

However, that is not the case for everyone. Since the missiles began raining in, people have fled the town. It means businesses are in decline, leaving the local economy in ruins.

The middle-age mustached owner of the local lottery franchise in Sderot, who asks not to be named, said he works on a percentage basis — his income dependent on the number of tickets sold. He said fewer people than ever come his way, and he spends much of his day running for shelter in the nearby supermarket. The strain on his family, both financial and mental, is enormous.

“My wife’s worried about me, and I am about her,” he said, while handing a white and pink lottery ticket to his solitary customer. “We panic when one of us doesn’t answer the phone or if the line’s engaged or if it’s out of order.”

ALTTEXTLooking for interviewees in the public areas of Sderot is not as easy as it used to be. The residents are wary of what they see as an apathetic, biased media and, more importantly, they are scared to stand in the streets for fear of what may fall from the sky as they relate their stories.

A woman runs by, having returned her supermarket cart, and smiles apologetically, calling out, “I would talk to you, but it’s too dangerous here; I need to be home.”

Indeed, the conversation with the customer at the lottery booth is rudely interrupted by a stern female voice, broadcast via a hidden loudspeaker, warning all residents to take cover. The few people in the public square run for shelter in the local supermarket. They have 15 seconds before the rockets hits.

That rocket was fired from just a handful of miles away in Gaza.

“Leave it, it’s mine,” is a normal cry from a Gazan who has spent his day in a line in front of a bakery, waiting to purchase a package of bread. There has been a lack of flour since the first day of the Israeli military operation.

That aerial attack at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 27, came like a bolt out of the blue for Palestinians and for Hamas in particular. Some 150 Hamas security personnel were killed in just three minutes. Since then, Gazans have awakened every day to the sound of explosions and the sight of smoke plumes peppering the sky. Many residents use the same word to describe their life over the last weeks: “Hell.”

Empty streets, closed stores, pale faces, police officers sleeping on Gaza’s roads, cameramen passing in their cars — those have been the dominant scenes in Gaza. Those, along with the ambulances racing from destroyed buildings to overcrowded hospitals.

“It’s a war crime. Many innocent civilians have been killed, particularly kids and women,” said Momen, a Gaza resident. “Besides, the humanitarian situation gets more difficult and totally inhumane because of lack of flour and gasoline.”

The shortages are not only in basic foodstuffs and the power supply but also in room in Gaza’s morgues. As a result, hospital employees are gathering bodies in the open air. The identification process has taken on a grizzly nature, with family members having to walk along the rows of bodies to see if any are their loved ones. Many of the bodies are mangled beyond recognition.

Basel Faraj, a trainee in a local media production company, was wounded while covering the first airstrikes in Gaza.

“He’s critically wounded, but we can’t transfer him to anywhere; I’m losing my son,” his mother cried. “As I passed by another bed in the intensive-care unit I found another victim struggling to survive, despite the lack of oxygen and medicine.”

A car arrives at Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s largest. Someone rushes in screaming: “He’s alive. Save him. Please save him.”

It is a man carrying a young adult. The wounded man is dying. He is a cameraman with Hamas’ Al-Aq’sa TV. It appears unlikely the ill-equipped ambulances and dirty conditions in the hospital will help in his failing fight for survival.

Five journalists were wounded on the first day of the military operation. Two of them were working with Al-Aq’sa TV.

The decision makers at the local level are at a loss. In Gaza there is little advice they can offer and no comfort. People cannot flee the situation. Many want to leave Gaza via the Rafah crossing into Egypt, but for the vast majority of the time, Cairo insists the border remain closed.

Hamas’ leadership has gone to ground in bunkers, tunnels and elsewhere, meaning there is no one to whom the public can turn for help.

In Israel, there are more options available to the population, but local politicians are still unsure how to advise their electorate.

“I’m not the general manager of the lives of the people here,” Sderot Mayor David Bouskila said from his underground logistics bunker. “I don’t know what to tell the people — to be here and suffer or to go elsewhere.”

In Israel, at least, the radio and TV channels are constantly broadcasting warning messages as to where the rockets are headed and offering phone numbers of psychological services available to residents of the south. National radio is calling on those living in northern Israel to offer home hospitality to all who desire. Many southerners take advantage of this support and are relocating to spare bedrooms up and down the country.

Schools, synagogues and offices are collecting foodstuffs, which are distributed to those still in the south. While fewer rockets are being fired from Gaza now that the Israeli ground offensive is in full swing, their range has increased, with Grad rockets capable of traveling some 25 miles being launched from Gaza.

In previous years, the name Sderot became synonymous with the Qassam rockets of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but now the coastal cities Ashkelon and Ashdod can be added to the list, as well as the capital of the south Beer Sheva, Netivot, Qiryat Malachi and a host of other towns and villages.

While the damage is far less significant on the Israeli side of the border, the number of Israelis now within range of the rockets is reaching a par with that for the Palestinians. Schools are closed throughout the south. City and regional councils have unlocked bomb shelters that have been closed for years to prepare for worst-case scenarios.

While Israel has had to get used to daily rocket attacks over the last eight years, the international community is now firmly focused on Israel’s strikes against Hamas, with many ambassadors to the United Nations speaking of Jerusalem’s “disproportionate use of force.”

As has been the case in recent decades, Israel’s main detractor on the international scene is the Muslim bloc, as represented by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which is arguably the strongest grouping in the United Nations.

In the days leading up to the Israeli strike and immediately following, Egypt proved to be the key exception by blaming Hamas for all the ills that have befallen the civilian population of Gaza.

The Islamist movement handed Israel an opportunity “on a golden plate” to attack, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu Al-Gheit told reporters. Palestinian Authority leader Abbas made similar remarks as he toured regional capitals on the day the warfare commenced.

Israel’s key ally is the United States, with other “old friends” attempting to prevent comprehensive condemnation of Jerusalem’s actions. Among them: the United Kingdom and the Czech Republic, which crucially has just taken over the presidency of the European Union from France. Prague is stressing the Israeli action is “defensive” rather than “offensive.”

ALTTEXTYet, most in the international community see things differently. While criticizing Hamas’ rocket firing, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon roundly condemned Israel: “While recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself, I have also condemned the excessive use of force by Israel in Gaza. The suffering caused to civilian populations as a result of the large-scale violence and destruction that have taken place over the past few days has saddened me profoundly.”

In Muslim capitals and elsewhere, the rhetoric has been far stronger than that adopted by U.N. diplomats.

“Muslims of the world should stay united against world arrogance, the criminal Zionists in particular … to line up against [the] wicked party with more solidarity than ever,” the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps was quoted as saying by IRNA, Tehran’s official news agency. The comment was published as Said Jalili, Iran’s security chief, was in Beirut for talks with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, among others.

In Malaysia, Israel’s actions were described as “tantamount to genocide” by Abd Al-Rahim Bakri, the country’s deputy foreign minister,.

However, Israel maintains that during its aerial bombardment of Gaza it was doing its utmost to ensure civilians were not caught up in the airstrikes and only Hamas members and other combatants were targeted.

“We’re using very high-precision weaponry,” said Maj. Avital Leibovich, a senior IDF spokeswoman.

The Israeli message to the world has remained the same throughout the campaign: Hamas has brought the warfare upon itself and ordinary Gazans. It goes back to the time Israel withdrew all its civilians and military personnel from Gaza three years ago.

“We hoped the Palestinians would do something good with their lives,” Leibovich said. “We wanted a better future for them, and for a while it worked.”

She pointed to the successful exports of millions of dollars worth of flowers and fruits from Gaza in the first months following the Israeli pullback.

“But then Hamas was elected and changed the priorities,” the spokeswoman continued. “It invested a lot of money in building headquarters, recruiting troops, training them, digging hundreds of tunnels, buying weapons and explosives. That money did not go to the Palestinians themselves.”

A similar message came from Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak when he explained why Israel had moved to a land invasion of Gaza on Jan. 3: “I have said all along that our military activities will widen and deepen as much as needed. Our aim is to force Hamas to stop its hostile activities against Israel and Israelis from Gaza and to bring about a significant change in the situation in southern Israel.

“We have carefully weighed all our options,” he said. “We are not war hungry, but we shall not, I repeat — we shall not allow a situation in which our towns, villages and civilians are constantly targeted by Hamas. It will not be easy or short, but we are determined.”

Hamas, too, has repeatedly made a single point whenever it has been given the chance.

“We first declared a truce between the Palestinian parties and the occupation [Israel] to protect the Palestinians from the daily attacking, daily killing and assassinations, but the calm failed to put an end to their tragedy,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said.

As a result, he added, Hamas had little choice other than to refuse to extend the truce. The mood in Gaza made it clear the people did not want the unilaterally declared truce to continue any longer.

Hamas also has international media coverage on its side. The Palestinian Ramattan production company has set up video cameras on Gaza rooftops and is transmitting a live feed to any TV channels that want to broadcast the pictures. Indeed, on Arabic satellite TV, dozens of stations are choosing to show the pictures, which are interspersed with graphic scenes from Gaza hospitals, propagandist videos and one-sided studio discussions.

Similarly, the visual footage coming out of Gaza is being lapped up by the international media, given that it is far more graphic than pictures of Israelis sitting in their bomb shelters.

Those scenes are also bringing about a degree of renewed unity between Hamas and Fatah, its bitter Palestinian rival faction. Politicians from the two sides held their first publicized joint meeting in months with the outbreak of Gaza hostilities.

“Israel used the Palestinian division and the truce to prepare itself well in order to attack Gaza. Now Israel doesn’t differentiate between Hamas and Fatah. We’re also targeted in Gaza,” said senior Fatah official Faisal Abu Shahla, who chose to remain in Gaza rather than flee to the West Bank when Hamas took control of the coastal enclave in 2007.

Comments like these and others from Palestinians, Israelis and world leaders will soon be forgotten, but the vivid images from Gaza and southern Israel will be remembered for years to come: Palestinian and Israeli civilians alike weeping uncontrollably in the face of a fate they cannot control.

The following is a collection of quotations gathered both in Gaza and southern Israel in the last week — and they are remarkably similar:

“It was on Friday; my mother was preparing the food when the shrapnel hit her in the foot.”

“I hope the attacks will stop, and we can live in peace, and we can live a normal life like anyone — to go to school, to go to work in peace and to be able to sleep well.”

“I’m so scared to stay alone in my house.”

“It’s calm at this minute, but it wasn’t hours ago. We heard explosions. They attacked children. Not fighters. Children.”

“People are angry about this. Why didn’t the world say anything and take positive steps?”

The two people are divided by an enormous chasm, by fences, ditches, armed forces and a deep-set paranoia about the intentions of the other. Yet the two have far more in common than perhaps they are ready to admit as the rockets and shells still pound away.

Israelis and Palestinians are united in their fear of the power of weaponry in the hands of the enemy. Both sit in their homes wondering if the next explosive projectile is heading for them. They are making the same visits to hospitals to visit the victims of warfare.

And both are as one as they pay the ultimate price — burying their dead.

Images: Gaza bread line, funeral in Israel

The Gaza Question

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Eyeless in Gaza

First I saw a young protester telling a CNN reporter in Trafalgar Square, “Every single day, as soon as we turn on the TV, we see children there die in the hospitals, adults dying, children dying on the floor. Why, why, why? Why do children have to die? Why do innocent children have to die on the floor? Why?”

And I thought, She’s right, those children in Gaza are innocent, every human life is precious, civilians aren’t combatants. Doesn’t everyone deserve basic human rights like food and water and life itself?

But then I thought, Where was she when 80 or 90 Hamas rockets a day were raining down on Israel? Where were all the television cameras when innocent children in Ashkelon and Sderot were being maimed and killed?

But then I saw pictures of massive devastation in Gaza on the front pages of the newspapers, and I thought, What good does it do if Israel appears to act like its enemies?

But then I heard Shimon Peres tell George Stephanopoulos that Hamas “did things which are unprecedented in the history even of terror. They made mosques into headquarters. They put bombs in the kindergartens, in their own homes. They are hiding in hospitals.” Where were all the people of Gaza rising up in outrage when Hamas used them as human shields?

Then I heard Palestinian negotiator Hannan Ashwari say that Gaza was a secondary issue, that the real imperative was to reach a lasting political agreement, not a temporary military outcome, and I thought, She’s right, there will be no peace and security for Israel unless a viable two-state solution is reached.

” alt=’Complete Gaza Coverage’ title=’Complete Gaza Coverage’ vspace = 8 hspace = 8 border = 0 align = left>But then I read a blog by Atlantic writer Jeffrey Goldberg recounting his interview with Nizzar Rayyan, the Hamas leader who was killed by Israeli bombs last week. “This is what he said when I asked him if he could envision a 50-year hudna (or cease-fire) with Israel: ‘The only reason to have a hudna is to prepare yourself for the final battle. We don’t need 50 years to prepare ourselves for the final battle with Israel.’ There is no chance, he said, that true Islam would ever allow a Jewish state to survive in the Muslim Middle East.

‘Israel is an impossibility. It is an offense against God… You [Jews] are murderers of the prophets and you have closed your ears to the Messenger of Allah…. Jews tried to kill the Prophet, peace be unto him. All throughout history, you have stood in opposition to the word of God.'”

And I thought, How can you negotiate with people who reject your nation’s right to exist, and whose version of religion calls you a murderous race? If someone claimed that the best way for America to deal with Bin Laden is to reach a political agreement with al-Qaeda, I’d say that they’re nuts, that there can be no negotiation or accommodation with people lusting for a final battle to rid your people from the earth.

But then I heard an Arab diplomat railing against Israel’s continuing tolerance of illegal settlements, and I thought, As long as Knesset coalition governments are dependent on ultra-Orthodox parties who have no respect for the law, how can anyone expect Arab moderates to gain enough political power for Israel to negotiate with them, when Israeli moderates can’t muster that clout either?

Then I reminded myself that the people of Gaza overwhelmingly voted for Hamas in a democratic election, and I thought, What good is democracy, if it can put terrorists in charge of governments?

But then I read that tens of thousands of Israeli Arabs in the Israeli town of Sakhnin had rallied against Israel’s Gaza offensive, and I thought, What Middle East nation except Israel would ensure that anti-government protesters had the right to hold such a demonstration?

And then I remembered reading that former Israeli army chief Moshe Yaalon warned Israelis not to delude themselves about Israel’s Arab population, that Israeli Arabs — a fifth of Israel — constitute a potential fifth column.

Then I saw a Teleseker Institute poll saying that 95 percent of Israeli Jews support Operation Cast Lead against Hamas. But then I saw a Rasmussen poll saying that while 44 percent of Americans think Israel should have taken military action against the Palestinians, 41 percent say it should have tried to find a diplomatic solution — essentially a tie, within the poll’s margin of error. And I wondered, How long does diplomacy have to keep failing, how many bombs have to keep dropping, before self-defense finally trumps talk?

I wish I didn’t believe that the events now unfolding in the Middle East are too complicated for unalloyed outrage. I wish the arguments of only one side rang wholly true to me. I am the first to accuse myself of paralyzing moral generosity — the fatal empathy that terrorists prey on. But ambivalence is not the same as moral equivalence, and holy war, no matter who is waging it, makes my flesh crawl.

In Milton’s poem “Samson Agonistes,” Samson — blinded, in chains — cries out, “Promise was that I/ Should Israel from Philistian yoke deliver;/ Ask for this great deliverer now, and find him/ Eyeless in Gaza at the mill with slaves.” But when Samson shows the strength to shun Delilah, God restores his power, enabling him to pull down the temple and kill the Philistines, though along with himself.

What makes “Samson Agonistes” a tragedy is the self-destruction that victory entails. I passionately assert Israel’s right to exist in peace with its neighbors and within secure borders. But I can’t help fearing that its military success in Gaza, should it come, will also entail a tragic cost.

Marty Kaplan holds the Norman Lear chair at the USC Annenberg School for Communication. His column appears here weekly; the views he expresses are his own. Reach him at martyk@jewishjournal.com.

Necessary tactics in ‘War on Terror’

I recently heard novelist Vince Flynn, author of spy thrillers, speak at YULA High School, discussing such issues as the war on terror. During his speech, he gave everyone an interesting point to consider.

He asked: While watching “24” or reading his books, when Jack Bauer or Mitch Rapp beat up and interrogate the terrorists, do you say stop? The audience said emphatically, “No!”

Our generation of teenagers is growing up in a time of war and hatred. As a 16-year-old, I feel it is of the utmost importance for teens to get involved in politics and be informed about important issues that deal with the war on terror. If we as teenagers stay informed, we will have the knowledge to make the correct choices in the future.

Flynn taught me that we as Americans need to protect our country. That is our first priority. If the CIA needs to interrogate like Jack or Mitch, then they should do it. We are living in a different world after Sept. 11.

Flynn’s latest book, “Extreme Measures,” points out that the CIA’s biggest adversaries are politicians who “either think there’s no war on terror, or if we’d just be nice to these zealots, they’ll leave us alone.”

It seems to me that politicians and journalists have changed the game plan. They’ve moved from understanding why the terrorists act the way they do to thinking if we’d just be nice, they’ll leave us alone.

Israel is an example of how a country stands up to terrorists and seems to have done a pretty good job recently of greatly reducing terrorist acts. One only has to look at the recent events in Mumbai to see U.S. intelligence in action: The Indian government could have stopped the attack had they taken seriously the warnings given by U.S. intelligence. After capturing one of the terrorists, the Indian government obtained valuable information in a very short period of time. I do not think they got the terrorist to talk by offering him teatime.

While President Bush made some errors in judgment, he deserves credit for keeping us safe by allowing these organizations to implement certain programs. The CIA and their methods are crucial in this national security issue. Hopefully, President-elect Obama will continue President Bush’s policy regarding national security and interrogation methods.

Let’s examine one of the CIA’s methods — water-boarding. Water-boarding makes tight-lipped terrorists talk. At least three major al-Qaeda leaders reportedly have been water-boarded, most notably Khalid Sheik Mohammed. U.S. and Pakistani authorities captured Mohammed on March 1, 2003, in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Mohammed didn’t talk for months, often answering questions with Koranic chants. Interrogators eventually water-boarded him — for just 90 seconds. Mohammed “didn’t resist,” one CIA veteran said in the August 13 issue of The New Yorker. “He sang right away. He cracked real quick.” Another CIA official told ABC News: “[Mohammed] lasted the longest under water-boarding, about a minute and a half, but once he broke, it never had to be used again.”

Mohammed’s disclosures helped authorities identify and imprison at least six major terrorists. Yet, there are those who still argue against water-boarding. Water boarding is not used on American citizens suspected of tax evasion, sexual harassment or bank robbery. Water boarding is used on foreign Islamic-extremist terrorists, captured abroad, who would love nothing more than to dismember innocent men, women and children into small, bloody pieces.

There are those who argue that water-boarding is a form of torture and degrading. For me, Flynn sums it up best: “The guy lives in a cave nine months out of the year. His specialty is convincing the parents of Down syndrome kids to let him use their children as suicide bombers. The word degrading isn’t in his vocabulary.” Besides, those who water-board have to go through vigorous training, which includes having to be water-boarded themselves.

There has also been discussion of closing the military prison at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. If it is closed down, what will happen to those known terrorists? Do we release them, so once again they can attack us? Recently, the terrorists wanted to plead guilty so they would become martyrs. “Our success is the greatest praise of the Lord,” stated Mohammed and the other five defendants to the military judge, concerning the Sept. 11 attacks. As one of the terrorists in Flynn’s novel, “Extreme Measures,” says, “Your country is too divided … too concerned with the rights of your enemies.”

I know the argument is that the terrorists are entitled to due process, that the Guantanamo Bay detainees should receive the legal rights established by the U.S. Constitution for American citizens. This is mind boggling to me, since they are not American citizens, and therefore, are not entitled to any legal rights under the Constitution of the United States.

Flynn summarizes it best as he writes in the book: “Freedom does not come without a fight. Those two documents [Bills of Rights and Constitution] are bathed in blood…. They did not survive on high-minded ideals alone.”

We did not start this war, and the terrorists have not backed down on their mission to kill Americans, as recently evidenced in Mumbai. The CIA operatives must use tactics that are unsavory but necessary to protect us. These men and women in our intelligence agencies are not sadists but rather have a responsibility to protect and defend this country.

Phil Cooper is a sophomore at Beverly Hills High School.

Speak Up!
Tribe, a page by and for teens, appears the first issue of every month in The Jewish Journal. Ninth- to 12th-graders are invited to submit first-person columns, feature articles or news stories of up to 800 words. Deadline for the January issue is Dec. 15; deadline for the February issue is Jan. 15. Send submissions to julief@jewishjournal.com.

Gaza outcomes

If you’re like me, you don’t like to see dead children.

The initial images from Israel’s retaliatory strikes against the Hamas government in Gaza aren’t pretty. One that keeps reappearing is of a terrified, bleeding Palestinian girl, maybe 7 years old, clutching her father’s arm as they rush from a bombed-out building. Yes, the guy might be a Hamas operative for all I know. But I doubt she is. There’s another picture that keeps cropping up — the bodies of three small Palestinian boys, killed in an Israeli air strike Monday morning, wrapped in funeral shrouds and laid out on a dirty floor.

You could say I don’t have the stomach for war — you’d be right. As of press time on Monday, 350 Palestinians have been killed, some 60 of them civilians, many of those children. Two Israelis were killed by Hamas rocket attacks on Monday as well. I am not a fan of the inevitable innocent blood and guts that Israel’s far superior military force will necessarily spill in its fight to stop Hamas from shooting rockets into Israel whenever it wants. And yet, of course, I deeply believe Israel has the right, the obligation, to stop Hamas from its capricious acts of terror. I was in Sderot and southern Israel earlier this year, and I spoke with many residents, including many children, about what it’s like to live amid a near-constant rain of rockets and missiles.

“We want peace, but the missiles won’t stop,” a 12-year-old boy named Stav told me. Two years ago a Qassam rocket fell on his house. It was only sheer luck that his photo did not end up on the Internet as well. “They just send more and more. We can’t play in the fields, because if there’s a warning siren, there’s no place to run.”

One of my strongest memories from my trip is of a shadowy smudge on a sidewalk at Sapir College, near Sderot. A student was standing there when a Kassam struck. All that was left was that darkened spot. What moved me in my talks with young people around Sderot was how little anger they felt toward Palestinians in general.

“I don’t hate them,” a 16-year-old named Tal told me last June. The kibbutz where she lives is just two kilometers from Gaza City. When she looks out her window each morning, she sees the minarets. Two days before I spoke with her, a missile had landed outside her front door. “I hear about the people who live there, and I don’t have a reason to hate them. But trust me, it’s hard.”

No people in any nation on earth can abide such terror. Since Israel withdrew its forces from Gaza in 2005, Hamas has fired 6,300 rockets into Israel, killing 10 people and wounding 780. Many people, especially around Sderot, say Israel waited far too long to do what it began doing over the weekend. Maybe so. The undeniable fact is the missiles would have only gotten worse and the attacks deadlier.

On the other hand, it is hard to be optimistic that Israel’s retaliation, for all its justification, will succeed in the various aims its boosters have claimed for it. Will it topple Hamas, as Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni asserts? Even Prime Minister Ehud Olmert didn’t promise that in his pre-battle declaration. Hamas is deeply entrenched, democratically elected (by the way, thank you President George W. Bush, for pushing for those elections), heavily funded via Iran and thuggishly powerful (where was the world’s condemnation when Hamas killed more than 50 Palestinians in 2007 while fighting Fatah in the streets of Gaza?).

Will the offensive stop the rocket attacks, as Olmert promised it would on the eve of this campaign? Well, the prime minister attempted the same strategy in Lebanon in 2006, and since then Hezbollah has only built up its arsenal.

Will the war somehow bring peace, as Michael Oren and Yossi Klein Halevi predict, writing in The Wall Street Journal? Their argument is that until Hamas is deterred from firing rockets from territory Israel once occupied, no Israeli will support further territorial compromise. That makes sense, but raises the question of whether a generation of Gazans battered by occupation and war will be in the mood to make peace; whether their true masters in Iran and Syria will allow them; and whether Israel will be able to defeat Hamas any more than it was able to defeat its last archrival, Fatah, or its current one, Hezbollah?

Will the war, as analyst Felice Friedson writes in these pages, herald a new alignment of Middle East power that allies Israel with its former enemies Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia against Iran-supported Hamas and Hezbollah? That has already happened — but the thing about strange bedfellows is they are … strange. That Israel might align itself with some of the most dictatorial and anti-democratic regimes in the Middle East is hardly cheery news.

No, the best that could come of this very bloody reality is a stretch of quiet for the deserving residents of Israel’s south. Unlike Hamas, I don’t like to see dead children — no matter their race, creed or nationality.

Gaza campaign shows cautious regional unity

There are no coincidences in the Middle East. Not between the Israelis and the Palestinians, not between Fatah and Hamas and certainly not between the international community and Israel or the Palestinian Authority.

What there are, this time around, are startling confluences in planning and policy that have driven a wedge in Arab unity, while providing unprecedented illustrations of cooperation between Israel and some of its neighbors. Operation Cast Lead, as the Israelis call it, foreshadows far more than another temporary period of relative quiet along a border.

At work is a fascinating scenario in which Israel “does the deed” — toppling Hamas — which arguably benefits the Palestinians, Egyptians, Saudis and other Arab states as much as it does Israel. Jordan faces a special dynamic. But there’s more: In doing so, are the Israelis in effect clearing the way for an agreement with the Palestinians (road map for peace plan) and with the entire Arab world (Arab — nee Saudi — initiative)?

For months there has been speculation as to who will invade Gaza: Could Mahmoud Abbas and his American-trained cadre of fighters do the job, or must it be the Israelis who clearly wanted to avoid taking the plunge and risking the ever-present quagmire?

As Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu Al-Gheit admonished Hamas at a Cairo news conference after the Israeli campaign began, it could not fire 300 rockets into Israel between the Dec. 19 end of the “calm agreement” and the Dec. 27 response without forcing Israel’s hand. Israeli military planners, meanwhile, never doubted the Hamas obstinacy and certain course to conflict.

It was a lesson about which Jerusalem and Cairo were very much in synch. Egypt went to the well twice and came up empty: in its attempt to negotiate a rapprochement among Palestinian factions and in its attempt to negotiate an extension to the Israel-Hamas “calm agreement.”

With a presumed good measure of prodding from the White House and vigorous nodding from the U.S. administration-elect, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak took the decision not to allow U.S. largesse to crumble at the self-defeating hands of Hamas.

Once he took the plunge, Mubarak never vacillated, showing courage in feeding Hamas the disinformation that flushed its leadership out of hiding in time for the first Israeli assault, fighting back the surge of Gazans trying to enter Egypt and allowing Al-Gheit to cast the blame for the Israeli onslaught on Hamas itself — courage helped along by a fear of the Muslim Brotherhood and the allure of continuing American aid.

Abbas, meanwhile, emerges as the primary beneficiary of this extraordinary convergence of interests. Gingerly testing the waters from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and from Cairo — anywhere but Ramallah — he provided an important piece to the puzzle. When Saudi King Abdullah phoned President Bush to demand that Israel be reined-in, Abbas himself was still in the city, the two leaders having just met. No coincidence here, either. Clearly the Americans, Saudis and Palestinians were all on the same page as the Egyptians and Israelis.

And Iran? Not much in the way of sabre-rattling this time around. Tehran fights Israel through proxies: the Syrians, Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border and Hamas down south.

Syria continues to weigh the long-term benefits of patching up things with Washington; Hamas is being left with little but rhetoric, and some military wonks believe Hassan Nasrallah is savvy enough to realize he bit the bullet in 2006 and should not be quick to bite the apple again. Accordingly, it is noteworthy that Nasrallah inveighed against Cairo, not Jerusalem, when Operation Cast Lead began.

In all, while remaining mindful that not without reason generations of peacemaking in the Middle East has failed miserably and that courses chartered through the region are rarely completed, the participants appear to have put on an impressive demonstration of coordinated international gamesmanship that, in its first stage, was carried out with precision planning and cooperation that extended across ancient fault lines.

Whether the planners will achieve their respective goals in subsequent stages will depend on their ability to remain focused on the benefits of their cooperation and eschew impulses to push beyond agreed limits.

Felice Friedson is president and CEO of The Media Line News Agency, a U.S. organization specializing in Middle East coverage, and founder of the Mideast Press Club. She can be reached at editor@themedialine.org.

In the Mideast, Israel is the opium of the people

“Why aren’t you as an Arab lady writing about Gaza?”

“Where are your columns about Gaza?”

“Say the Israelis are wrong!”

The messages started to arrive soon after Israel’s bombardment of Gaza killed close to 300 Palestinians. Implicit was the pressure to toe the party line: Hamas is good; Israel is bad. Say it, say it! Or else you’re not Arab enough; you’re not Muslim enough; you’re not enough.

But what to say about a conflict that for more than 60 years now has fed Arab and Israeli senses of victimhood and their respective demands to stop everything else we’re doing and pay attention to their fights, because what’s the slaughter of anyone else — be they in Darfur, Congo or anywhere else — compared to their often avoidable bloodletting?

Hasn’t it all been said before? Has nothing been learned?

And then the suicide cyclist in Iraq made me snap, and I had to write — not to take sides but to lament the moral bankruptcy that is born from the amnesia rife in the Middle East.

On Sunday, a man on a bicycle blew himself up in the middle of an anti-Israel demonstration in the Iraqi city of Mosul. The technique legitimized and blessed by clerics throughout the Arab world as a weapon against Israel had gone haywire and was used against Arabs protesting Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.

That twisted and morbid full circle completed on the streets of Mosul can be captured only by paraphrasing Karl Marx — Israel is the opium of the people.

What else explains the collective amnesia on display last weekend in the Middle East?

Has Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni forgotten already that just last year she was close to ousting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for his handling of Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon, which was launched under very similar circumstances to those that preceded the bombardment of Gaza? And yet there she was making the rounds of U.S. Sunday news shows to explain why Israel had to act against the Muslim militant Hamas movement in power in Gaza.

Does Israel want to make heroes of Hamas in the way it did Hezbollah? What has been achieved from the blockade of Gaza except for the suffering of civilians, whose leaders care for them as little as Israel does?

Talking about Hezbollah and unwise leaders, has Hassan Nasrallah forgotten that while he rails against Egypt for aiding the blockade of Gaza, he lives in a country — Lebanon — that keeps generations of Palestinian refugees in camps that serve as virtual jails?

And the demonstrators in Jordan and Lebanon? Who reminds them that in 1970, Jordan killed tens of thousands as it tried to control Palestinian groups based there, forcing the Palestine Liberation Army into Lebanon, where in 1982, the Phalangist Christian Lebanese militiamen slaughtered 3,000 Palestinian refugees in the Sabra and Shatila camps?

Not a single Phalangist has been held accountable for that massacre. An Israeli state inquiry in 1983 found Ariel Sharon, then defense minister, indirectly responsible for the killings at the refugee camps during Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon. But don’t hold your breath for an Arab inquiry. It is Israel that gives sense to our victimhood. The horrors we visit upon each other are irrelevant.

It is difficult to criticize Palestinians when so many have died this weekend, but the Hamas rulers of Gaza are just the latest of their leaders to fail them. For those of us who long to separate religion from politics, Hamas has given the truth to the fear that Islamists care more about facing down Israel than taking care of their people. The Palestinians of Gaza are victims equally of Hamas and Israel.

Where was the anger when two Palestinian schoolgirls were killed in Gaza when Hamas rockets meant for Israel misfired, just a day before Israel’s bombardment?

As for the country of my birth, Egypt, President Hosni Mubarak, in power for more than 27 years, has presided over a disastrous policy that on the one hand maintains a 1979 peace treaty his predecessor, Anwar Sadat, signed with Israel and on the other unleashes state-owned media fury at Israel that has fanned a near-hysterical hatred for the country among ordinary Egyptians.

Yes, Israel’s occupation of Arab land angers Egyptians, but there is absolutely no space in Egyptian media, culture or intellectual circles for discussing Israel as anything but an enemy. And neither is there an attempt to forge it.

And now Mubarak, old, tired and out of new ideas, is reaping a policy that plays all sides against each other in an attempt to make his regime indispensable.

But my question to Egyptians and others across the region incensed at Israel is where is their anger at the human rights violations, torture and oppression in their respective countries? If such large crowds turned out onto Arab capitals every week, they could’ve toppled their dictators years ago.

It is the ultimate dishonor to the memory of Palestinians killed last weekend to call for more violence. It has failed to deliver for 60 years.

We honor the dead by smashing through the region’s amnesia until we break through to the taboos and continue to smash.

Talking to Hamas? Israel should do it if it will end the violence. Focusing on internal issues in each Arab country and ignoring the opium that is Israel? Egyptians, Jordanians, Lebanese, Syrians, et al, should do it before their respective states fail for the sake of Palestine.

Palestinians still have no state. What a shame it would be for one Arab state after the other to fail in the name of Palestine.

Mona Eltahawy is a columnist for Egypt’s Al Masry Al Youm and Qatar’s Al Arab. She is based in New York.

How we fight

Am I dreaming?

Did Israel actually trick our terrorist enemy into complacency before catching it off guard? Did we use the six-month cease-fire with Hamas to beef up our intelligence and plan a blitzkrieg counterattack in response to the incessant bombing of Israeli civilians?

Did we really put those delusional peace talks on hold and say enough is enough, now it’s time to defend ourselves? Did we also launch a PR and diplomatic offensive with the international community to defend our actions?

Excuse me, but this is not the weak-looking and tentative Israel I’ve come to know over the past few years.

Complete Gaza CoverageEver since Israel evacuated all civilians and army personnel from Gaza in the summer of 2005, Hamas has fired some 6,300 bombs targeted directly at Israeli civilians, killing 10 and injuring 700. While these bombs were falling, Israel fought a dumb and sloppy war in Lebanon that only emboldened our enemies; chose a policy of restraint despite the thousands of Hamas bombs; and desperately pursued unrealistic peace talks with a splintered Palestinian people and a terror-sponsoring state (Syria).

In the process, Israel lost much of its power of deterrence, which is a diplomatic way of saying: Our enemies stopped fearing us. This deterrence was crucial to Israel’s ability to survive for 60 years in a neighborhood with 300 million hostile neighbors. The situation got so bad that a few days before Israel’s Gaza offensive, Hamas was mocking Israel’s weakness, demanding that Israel reopen the crossings into Gaza and offering, well, more bombs and the continued imprisonment of Gilad Shalit.

Even the eminently reasonable and peace-loving Barack Obama seemed to be giving the Israelis a lesson when, during a summer visit to Sderot, he said: “If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I would do everything to stop that, and would expect Israel to do the same.”

Apparently, Israel has decided to follow Obama’s advice, which might not be so bad.

As Michael Oren and Yossi Klein Halevi argued in The Wall Street Journal this week, giving Israel full leeway to counterattack against Hamas is a good thing for the peace process, because Israelis will never agree to further land concessions if they feel they can’t defend themselves against terrorist aggression.

Of course, if Israel does not heed Obama’s message and fails to “do everything” it can to stop the terror on its doorstep, we can expect even less willingness from Israelis to take risks for peace.

In other words, in Israel today, the best way to fight for peace is to fight against terror.

As it turns out, a day before Israel launched its anti-terror offensive, I was sitting in the New York apartment of one of the Jewish people’s toughest and most relentless terror fighters.

She is a diminutive woman in her 50s named Rachel Ehrenfeld, director of the New York-based American Center for Democracy, and author of “Narco-Terrorism” and “Funding Evil, Updated: How Terrorism is Financed and How to Stop It,” among other books.

Ehrenfeld’s obsession is money. If we can figure out where and how the terrorists get their funding, she says, we can suffocate their efforts.

She has spent the last few years of her life trying to expose “the most vital and venomous sources of terrorists’ financial power” — including state sponsorship, government corruption and the illegal drug trade. “Funding Evil,” which has a foreword by former CIA Director James Woolsey, is a highly detailed exposé of the labyrinth of terrorist financing, with a special focus on a major culprit, Saudi Arabia.

Since the book came out four years ago, she has had death threats and, most recently, has been the target of a lawsuit launched in a British court by a Saudi billionaire, Khalid bin Mahfouz, who denied the charges made in the book of his connection to terror financing.

Ever the fighter, Ehrenfeld turned the tables on Mahfouz by countersuing and got a bill passed in New York State called “Rachel’s Law,” which protects American authors published in America from getting sued in foreign courts for libel. She is now fighting to get the bill passed in Congress.

She says she gets little support from the Jewish community, because many of her findings are “politically incorrect,” as they involve American allies like Saudi Arabia, with whom America does a lot of business. But out of her tiny, orchid-filled apartment in midtown Manhattan, she will continue, she says, her one-woman campaign to expose the money trail of global terrorism.

“It’s an outrage that all the information is out there, and we are acting as if these people [the Saudis] are our best friends,” she said.

So, yes, there’s more than one way to fight terror. For the Ehrenfelds of the world, we must follow the money and get it out of the terrorists’ hands. For those on the front lines, we must make clear to our terrorist neighbors that while we do long for peace, that won’t stop us from doing whatever it takes to defend our people.

I also experienced on my long weekend in New York yet another way that Jews fight terror. It was an evening event at a synagogue on the Lower East Side billed as “our most powerful response to the Mumbai massacre.”

What was it? It was 200 Jews beating their drums at a Chanukah party sponsored by my friend, Rabbi Simon Jacobson of the Meaningful Life Center.

Late into the chilly Manhattan night, these Jewish hipsters followed the beat of a professional percussion band, led by an exuberant conductor named Aviva Nash, who urged the ecstatic crowd to just let it rip as if the whole world were watching.

There was no talk of deterrence or money trails at this Chanukah party. There was just a noisy reminder of how some of us fight, and what, in the end, we’re all fighting for.

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

Eight members of the Levi family adjust to rockets in Ashkelon

ASHKELON, Israel (JTA) — Another rocket warning siren wails and eight members of the Levi family, including a grandmother and a newborn baby, quickly cram into the small bedroom made of reinforced concrete that serves as the family’s bomb shelter.

“Come on, come on! Get in!” they shout. Just before the heavy metal door slams shut, the family dog, Pick, quickly is whisked inside.

Standing shoulder to shoulder, they listen as the sound of the siren’s wail trails off, replaced by the thud of the rocket landing. Returning to the television news a few minutes later, they see it has landed a few blocks away at a local soccer stadium.

Earlier in the day, another rocket landed much closer — just across the street.

The Grad-type missile hit a construction site, killing Hani el Mahdi, a 27-year old construction worker from a Bedouin town in the Negev, and injured several other workers at the scene, some of them seriously.

“After hearing the boom this morning I’m just not myself,” said Geula Levi, 50, whose house quickly filled up with family members. “I’ve been trying to make lunch but I simply can’t seem to get anything together.”

Since the fighting began over the weekend, two of Levi’s adult children have moved back in, one of them bringing his wife and their 2-month-old daughter. The baby never leaves the reinforced room. Her mother, Vered, ventures out only to get food from the kitchen.

About 60 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel on Monday. Many landed in Ashkelon, about 10 miles north of the Gaza Strip. Some reached as far as Ashdod, some 20 miles from Gaza, killing one woman as she bolted her car to take cover at a bus stop.

This week marks the first time these two major coastal cities have been subject to ongoing rocket barrages from Gaza. Ashkelon, home to some 120,000 people, had been targeted before, but hit only rarely. Ashdod had been considered out of range of Gaza’s rocket fire, but Hamas’ newly imported missiles — thought to be smuggled into the strip from Egypt during the six-month cease-fire that officially ended Dec. 19 — have increased the range of Gaza’s rockets.

Geula Levi said she was fully supportive of the army’s operation in Gaza, which by late Monday had killed 350 Palestinians in Gaza, most of them Hamas militiamen, according to reports.

“They learned their lessons from the Second Lebanon War so I think this time things will be conducted more intelligently,” she said of Israel’s military leaders.

“We’d rather suffer with the missiles now than become like Kiryat Shemona, which suffered for years,” said her eldest son, Avichai, 27.

Outside, the sound of Israeli artillery being fired into Gaza echoed in the streets, which were quiet and mostly empty. Staring out into the eerie emptiness were campaign posters for the upcoming election, including a billboard with a photograph of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni next to the words, “The courage to say the truth.”

Livni’s party, along with those of her main rivals, canceled campaign events scheduled for this week.

At the entrance to Ashkelon, one of those rivals, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the architect of the Israeli strike on Gaza, had his own image up on a billboard with the slogan “Looking truth in the face.”

For the people of Ashkelon, who are living their leaders’ “truths,” there was stoicism mixed with fear.

“It is miserable but it will go on for a while,” said Capt. David Biton, the police commander who oversees the southern district that includes half a million people and stretches from Ashdod to Sderot — all now within range of Gaza’s rockets.

Galit Ben-Asher Yonah, 37, said it was “the shock of my life” to discover that her home in Gan Yavne, a bedroom community near Ashdod, now has come under attack.

Gan Yavne was hit for the first time Sunday, and two more rockets fell Monday. It is the farthest point north that the rockets have reached to date.

Yonah, originally from Los Angeles, is the mother of two young daughters and a newborn son. She says she will be keeping all her children at home for the next few days.

“Never in my life did I think I would have to explain to my 5-year-old that we have to go to the basement because a bomb was falling,” she said. “And there she was guiding me, telling me to cover my head with my hands and stay away from the window as she was taught in nursery school.”

Tal, her 5-year-old, also brought down a snack of bananas and cookies for them after the first rocket fell, telling her in a serious but calm voice that they might be sitting in the basement, which is reinforced against rockets, for a while.

In nearby Nitzan, where many of the families who were evicted three years ago from the Gush Katif settlement bloc in Gaza live in temporary homes, there are no protective rooms to which to flee.

“We left the Kasssam rockets to get Katyushas instead,” said Yuval Nefesh, 41, referring to the longer-range Katyusha rockets now striking Israel from Gaza. Before, Palestinians relied almost exclusively on the Kassam, a crude rocket with a range of 10 miles and poor accuracy.

He shrugs when asked how the people are coping. “We pray,” he said.

Nefesh is still in touch with some of the Palestinians from Gaza he met while living there, and he said he has been talking to them by phone since the Israeli air assault began.

Outside, the Elikum Shwarma and Kebab restaurant was one of the few bustling businesses in Ashkelon on Monday. Delivery people were busy ferrying orders to the thousands of people staying indoors.

Avi Zarad, working the cash register, tried to maintain a cheerful atmosphere.

“We can’t send out a message of being stressed out,” he said. A few minutes later a siren sounded and, with no shelter to run to, the customers continued eating calmly.

The soccer stadium where a rocket fell an hour earlier is just across the road.

“We are getting used to it, but it’s a horrible reality,” said Kinneret Cohen, a restaurant worker preparing salads in the kitchen. “We just breathe deeply knowing we have to give the army time to do its work.”

Hold your fire! Cease fire! Fire!

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The will of the people, the light of Chabad, the gift of ‘The Goldbergs’

Proposition 8

Thank you for printing Supervisor Yaroslavsky’s eloquent piece (“Proposition 8 and ‘The Will of the People,’” Nov. 28). While I fully respect the concept of the will of the people, I understand that America ensures that when the will of the people seeks to discriminate, violate or abrogate rights of some people in the name of others, that we have instituted a court system of judiciary impartiality to safeguard those rights.

If we left it to the will of the people, would we ever have ended segregation in this country? Would women have gained the right to vote?

Of all people, we Jews should understand that the will of the people is not always what is best in any given time. Thankfully, our Constitution established a system of justice that isn’t, or certainly is not supposed to be, driven solely by the will of the people.

Sometimes the will of the people doesn’t know what is best for all people in a given situation. We depend on judges, who, according to the Torah, are not supposed to take bribes and should administer justice fairly and with righteousness. Lets hope that this happens with Proposition 8, as Yaroslavsky says — soon and in our day.

Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater
Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center

My husband and I picketed the Mormon church on Santa Monica Boulevard 11 days after our legal wedding (Letters, Dec. 5). Our signs said, “I Love My Husband,” and our picture made the L.A. Times.

The Mormon Church chose to make war against our marriage. We were married by a rabbi at our synagogue.

What about our religious rights? I don’t feel sorry for the Mormon Church or for the businesses being boycotted because the owners donated to Proposition 8.

Barry Wendell
West Hollywood

Chabadnik

“I’m a Chabadnik,” Rob Eshman writes in “Open House” (Dec. 5). In sympathy, I davened the last two Shabbats with my Northridge Chabad, where my husband, Marcel, z’l, served as baal korei (master of reading).

I met the Rebbe in 1970, when he gave me a dollar, but I did not know who he was that fall day on Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn. Foolishly, I spent the dollar on gas to get back to Queens.

I then had a Chabad wedding in L.A., and later my daughter, Aviva, met her husband, Brett, at a Chabad Shabbat dinner with Rabbi and Chani Backman in Boston. When my husband had cancer treatments out of town, we called Rabbi Minsk and his wife at the Newport Chabad and they invited us over for Shabbat dinner.

Staying in different hospitals, where I knew no one, there was always a Chabad rabbi that would go with a smile and a bracha to visit Marcel. Chabad Rabbis Schwartzie, Rivkin, Spritzer and Korf visited. Chabad Rabbi Bryski sent Shabbat meals to me via his mother-in-law for the first cancer surgery, and had the Rebbe send us blessings.

I may also be a Renewal Jew, but I sure know where I can find chesed, loving kindness. I’m a Chabadnik.

Joy Krauthammer
Northridge

Thank you for that very touching, moving and powerful editorial.

Rabbi Moshe Bryski
via e-mail

No Money

In “No Money, No Cry” (Nov. 28), David Suissa pointed out that the current economy presents nonprofits an opportunity to explore ways to do more with less.

David cited a hypothetical example of a Holocaust memorial struggling to raise the money to build a new museum.

I’m pleased to point out the extent to which David’s example was, in fact, purely hypothetical. L’havdil, the real Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, successfully meets its benchmarks in its $20 million capital campaign.

Construction continues apace at the site in Pan Pacific Park for the new museum. This construction could not have begun had we not been able to demonstrate to the city of Los Angeles full funding for our construction needs.

We invite David and the entire community to attend the gala awards ceremony and screening on Jan. 29.

Mark A. Rothman
Executive Director
Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust

‘The Goldbergs’

I got such a kick out of the Gertrude Berg TV show on your Web site.

Aunt Tilly, as my mother called her, was my grandpa’s first cousin. Today of all days, I’m wearing a bird pin that Aunt Tilly bought at Tiffany’s as a gift when my mother stayed with her in her Park Avenue apartment.

My great-grandmother was a source of inspiration in creating Molly’s character for the radio show, which, as you probably know, was the original soap opera. Anyway, thanks for the memories.

Bonnie Somers
via e-mail

Dose of Spirituality

Last Friday my family sat in our hotel room in Jerusalem glued to CNN and watching the horror in India. Unfortunately, at 3:45 the bulletin flashing across the screen stating that 5 people were killed at the Chabad House brought total gloom to Jews around the world. Even though it was drizzling, my son suggested that we daven Kabbalat Shabbos at the Kotel. Arriving at the Kotel, I finally realized the feeling that I had hoped for. Soldiers dancing with boys from YULA and Skokie High Schools. Charedim dancing with Chasidim and soldiers singing “AM YISROEL CHAI.” The davening was intense and the dancing invigorating.

As we walked back to the hotel that night I came to two realizations.

The first is that the next time I visit the Kotel, I should bring more shekels. The poverty level being very high in Israel, I should think more of helping these people than them interrupting my davening.

The second realization is that throughout history hate mongers have tried to destroy us. These acts of violence do not make us weaker but in fact make us stronger and more united. These acts show me how resilient we are as a people and giving some like myself an overflowing feel of spirituality.

Richard Katz
Los Angeles

Anti-Semitism in Pakistan — hate on a sliding scale



This is the second of two parts on Pakistan and terror. Previously: Pakistan Reaction: Something dark is growing in our own backyard



Right in the middle of Karachi, Pakistan’s biggest city, stands one of the most recognized symbols of Judaism: the Star of David. It adorns, in relief, Merewether Tower, one of the city’s best-known landmarks, a 112-foot-tall clock tower built by Sir Evans James in 1892. Today, a busy transit intersection has developed around the tower, which hundreds of thousands of Muslims pass each day Complete coverage of Mumbai Chabad attackon their way to work.

Nadeem Ahmed, a broker at the Karachi Stock Exchange located just across the street, points to some old graffiti at the base of the tower that reads “Israel na manzoor” (Israel is not acceptable).

“These marks show the anger of some fanatics for the brutality of Israelis against the Muslims of Palestine and Lebanon,” he says. “Frankly speaking, I’m neither happy nor sad about the Jews who were killed in Mumbai.”

Ahmed’s apathy falls right in the middle of the spectrum of Pakistani attitudes toward Jews. At one end are the virulently anti-Semitic beliefs held by people such as the members of the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT), Army of the Pure, a banned terrorist outfit operating in Kashmir. The LeT is suspected of being behind the attack on the Chabad House in Mumbai and the murder of the five Jews, including Rabbi Gabriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivkah.

At the other end of the spectrum are Pakistanis such as Maria (not her real name), a Shia who converted to Judaism, married a Jewish professor whom she met during her studies in the United States and with whom she has two children.

Unfortunately, tragedies such as what took place in Mumbai last month, in New York in 2001 and in London in 2005, as well as the 2002 murder in Karachi of Wall Street Journal foreign correspondent Daniel Pearl, throw the spotlight on only one end of the spectrum in Pakistan and give the worst impression of Muslims. The other end lies in the dark — the many other variations of how Pakistani Muslims perceive Jews are left out of the picture.

ALTTEXTMerewether Tower

For India’s Jews, sense of security is shattered

MUMBAI, India (JTA) – The Colaba neighborhood that surrounds the modern apartment block where terrorists last week murdered a Chabad-Lubavitch couple and four other Jews has begun to return to normal.

The maze of dusty alleyways that surround the now infamous building, Nariman House, is bustling. Shoppers have returned to the market around the corner, where Chabad Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg used to buy chickens for kosher slaughter. On nearby apartment blocks, residents are repairing windows shattered by the Complete coverage of Mumbai Chabad attackgunshots and grenade blasts that took the lives of Holtzberg, his wife, Rivkah, and the others.

But for Mumbai’s ancient Jewish community, nothing will ever be the same.

“This is the first time when a Jew has been targeted in India because he is a Jew,” said Jonathon Solomon, a Mumbai lawyer and the president of the Indian Jewish Federation. “The tradition of the last thousand years has been breached.”

Jews are believed to have lived in India since the time of King Solomon, and throughout its ancient history the community has experienced virtually no anti-Semitism — a source of pride to India’s Jews and non-Jews alike.

“This is one of the few countries where Jews never faced discrimination and persecution,” said Ezekiel Isaac Malekar, who heads the Jewish community in New Delhi.

Mumbai’s Jewish associations run particularly deep. The construction of many of the city’s best-known monuments and civic institutions were funded by the so-called “Baghdadi Jews” – actually a collection of families from Syria and Iran as well as from the Iraqi cities of Baghdad and Basra – who arrived in then-British Bombay as shipping barons and manufacturing tycoons in the late 18th century.

The city is also the heart of the Bene Israel community, a group of ethnically Indian Jews who claim to be descended from seven families shipwrecked on the southern Indian coast while fleeing persecution in the Galilee during the second century B.C.E.

In 1947, at the time of India’s Independence, it was estimated that about 25,000 Jews lived in India. Fewer than 5,000 remain today, the majority of them in Mumbai and its suburbs. But Solomon said that perhaps five times that many Indians have at least one Jewish parent.

Since the Nov. 26 terrorist attacks that laid siege to the city and left at least 170 dead altogether, a sense of sadness, shock and fear pervades the community, said Antony Korenstein, the India country director for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. The JDC provides social, cultural and educational services to local Jews.

“This attack has really shaken us up,” said one local Jewish educator, who in a sign of the newfound insecurity among the city’s Jews would only speak on the condition of anonymity because he feared he might be targeted in the future if his name appeared in the media.

“If with such ease they could finish off the whole Chabad House – the property and the people – now we have to have a fresh look at our own security,” the educator said.

Solomon said that Jewish leaders here are considering whether they would have to restrict access to synagogues and community centers to authorized visitors – a precaution common throughout much of the world but never done here.

“Jewish institutions in India are soft targets,” he said. “After being used to living fearless for so long, we are going through a phase where we are debating with ourselves about being careful and whether we need to change our mode of existence.”

Many of Mumbai’s old Jewish synagogues are in predominantly Muslim neighborhoods. Historically, relations between Muslims and Jews in Mumbai have been cordial.

“The Jewish community has always been very close to the Muslims,” Korenstein said. “In this kind of society, with its hundreds of religions, the two great monotheist faiths living together, they find an affinity.”

Solomon Sopher, the chairman and managing trustee of the Sir Jacob Sassoon and Allied Trusts, agreed. He pointed out that 98 percent of the student body at the E.E.E. Sassoon High School in the Mumbai neighborhood of Byculla is Muslim, even though it was founded as a Jewish school and is run by a Jewish trust.

But Sopher worries that another international jihadi group will wish to target India’s Jews. The one alleged terrorist in Indian custody – he was part of the overall attack, but not the seizure of the Chabad House – has told interrogators that all the attackers were Pakistani and confessed to being a member of Pakistani-based militant outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba, according to the Mumbai police.

“It is an outside hand and not something from within,” Sopher said.

Others are less certain. Among some Mumbai Jews, fears are growing about radicalization among the large local Muslim population.

“We have had of late this imported brand of hatred coming from west Asia which is really changing the Muslim population here,” said the local Jewish educator. “We see changes in them, and though there are moderates and good Muslims, there are some who speak against us.”

In the streets surrounding the Chabad House, Hindus and Muslims, Jains and Parsis all mix easily. This part of Mumbai has never experienced the communal violence that at times has wracked other parts of the city, according to residents.

Holtzberg and the other Lubavitchers staying at the Chabad center were a visible presence in the neighborhood, with their black garb and hats, said Kailash Sonawane, who lives across the street from the Nariman House. But Sonawane and other residents said the Chabad Jews kept to themselves, almost never speaking to local residents. Local residents were often shooed away from the Nariman House gate by the Chabad House residents, Sonawane and others said.

The Holtzbergs’ nanny would take their 2-year old son, Moshe, to play in the street outside the Nariman building, but she would never let anyone else play with or touch the boy, said Kalpana Sonawane, Kailash’s sister.

Still, they never had any concerns about the Jews living in their midst, the residents said. Following the attacks, however, the local residents said they were unhappy that Chabad-Lubavitch has declared its intention to rebuild another Chabad House on the same site.

They fear the new building could become a target again, endangering their lives. Terrorists firing from Nariman House during the siege shot and killed at least three Indians on the surrounding streets.

There seemed to be some separation, too, between Chabad and most of the local Jews, several in the community said. The community here has often been fragmented. The Orthodox Baghdadi Jews tended to look down upon the less observant and darker complected Bene Israel.

As the city’s Jewish population dwindled, however, these distinctions became less important. The Lubavitchers, however, remained unkown even to most other Mumbai Jews.

“Rabbi Holtzberg’s work was with visiting Israelis, businesspeople and tourists,” Korenstein said. In addition, the Chabad House is located in Colaba, at the southern tip of Mumbai’s long peninsula, whereas most Mumbai Jews live farther north.

But Holtzberg did provide kosher meat for the Orthodox among the Indian Jews and ran a Torah study class for local youth. He also led Shabbat services at the Keneseth Eliyahu synagogue, a turquoise-painted colonial-era temple that has become a popular tourist attraction for Jewish and non-Jewish visitors to the city.

Sopher said the attacks had already brought the community together as never before. He said the leadership of the various synagogues and community centers have met to figure out their response to the attacks and ways to enhance security.

But for now, the mourning continued. About 100 people gathered Monday at Keneseth Eliyahu to mourn the Jewish deaths.

Rivkah Holtzberg’s father, Shimon Rosenberg, memorialized his daughter and son-in-law, and thanked his grandson Moshe’s caregiver, Sandra Samuel, who escaped with the 2-year-old in the early hours of the siege.

“With great resourcefulness Sandra saved the life of my grandson,” Rosenberg said, according to reports. “Had she not he surely would have been murdered.”

During the ceremony, Moshe cried out for his mother.

Mark Sofer, the Israeli ambassador to India, spoke to the victims’ relatives and Mumbai Jews.

“The State of Israel will not sit quietly while Israelis and Jews are massacred just because they are Jews,” he said. “We will continue to work with India and with other countries in the world in order to prevent this kind of event from happening in the future.”

Mahatma’s tears

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Pakistan Reaction: Something dark is growing in our own backyard



This is the first of two parts on Pakistan and terror. Next week: Anti-Semitism and Pakistan.



“Abhi India me pat’ta bhi nahi hil sakega.”

“Now even a leaf will need permission to stir in India,” remarked R, a young Indian woman at an expat dinner off London’s Baker Street on the Saturday after the Mumbai bombing. She was deep in discussion with three Pakistanis and nine fellow Indians about the expected tightening in security measures after the tragedy.

“It will be like the U.S. after 9/11,” she said, as heads nodded in agreement around the room. One of the Pakistanis opened her mouth but shut it quickly.

For Pakistanis at home, the fear is more palpable. It is not necessarily fear of immediate violence, but of something much darker growing in our very own backyard. Initially, the tragedy had seemed somewhat distant, but then came the damning reports that the terrorists used a boat to travel from Karachi. If Complete coverage of Mumbai Chabad attackproven true, this confirms yet again what the people of Karachi (and all over Pakistan) have known for a long time, that this city is being used as a base for terror groups. The long-term implications are terrifying. In the short term, Pakistan is worried that, as in 2001, when the Kashmir-based Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) — the same group being named for the Mumbai terror — attacked the Indian parliament, the two countries could be brought to the brink of war.

Caution vs. the Blame Game

The Mumbai attacks made front-page news across Pakistan in the English-, Urdu- and regional-language media. All political statements condemning the merciless assault were carried, and Pakistan was one of the first countries to make its stance clear.

However, much of the media debates were fed by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement that it was evident the group that carried out the attacks was based outside the country, and that India would act against any neighboring country that allowed itself to be used as a base for attacking India. These words raised alarm bells all over Pakistan and in a way have provided a case study of the divisions between the English and Urdu media. Also important was that President Asif Ali Zardari denied any Pakistani role in the attacks, pledged action against any group found to be involved, and advised New Delhi not to “over-react.”

The timing of the Mumbai attacks is extremely suspicious to some analysts. It just so happens that whenever the government of Pakistan reaches out to work on peace with India, something terrible happens to sabotage the process. Sabotage may be a strong word to use here, but consider Taliban expert Ahmed Rashid’s words. The author of “Descent Into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia” said on Nov. 4, just weeks before the attacks, that he would hardly be surprised if something were to happen to derail the talks initiated by Zardari. He gave examples of how the military had sabotaged diplomatic efforts for peace with India in the past: Benazir Bhutto met Rajiv Gandhi in her first term, following which problems in Kashmir flared up; Nawaz Sharif met with A.B. Vajpayee, following which then-President Pervez Musharraf went into Kargil, a border hot spot with the two countries.

Thus, there are sections of society and the media that harbor a general mistrust, and help perpetuate it between the two countries, despite the fact that the two were one nation for hundreds of years until 1947. Some sections of the Urdu media exemplify this stance. They condemned the loss of life, but nonetheless fed into the blame game, an old tack. Their opinions ranged from the alarmist to the paranoid. Jang, one of the more widely read Urdu newspapers, warned in an editorial that Pakistan should be careful. But the editorial’s use of the word “propaganda” against Muslims to malign Pakistan had an old-school ring to it. The same line was taken by daily Urdu newspaper Nawa-i-Waqt, saying in its editorial that this was part of a “great game” by America, India and Israel against Pakistan.

Daily Urdu Ummat went so far as to indirectly support the “Deccan Mujahideen” by saying that their demands for the independence of Kashmir were “proof” enough that India could not “oppress” its Muslim populations for long. Urdu daily Khabrain chose to extrapolate on the earlier arrest of one Indian army lieutenant colonel for conspiracy by saying that India needed to get its own house in order. Similarly, daily Urdu newspaper Express felt that the “Indian rulers ought to change their thinking of hatred towards Pakistan,” urging them to look in their own backyard for terrorists hiding there, a reference to the time when Hindu extremists attacked a church in Mumbai.

This is not to say that one should dismiss the possibility of homegrown terrorism for India. But as some sections of the English media demonstrated, in a much more cautious, balanced and well-informed tone, there is another way of factoring that into the analysis of the situation rather than just by being accusing. For example, Dr. Hasan-Askari Rizvi, a well-respected political and defense analyst, pointed out in an op-ed piece in Daily Times that the blame game between India and Pakistan serves the political agendas of both hard-line Hindus and hard-line Muslims, who have always opposed normalization of India-Pakistan relations.

“India will soon learn what Pakistan already knows: It is not easy to control shadowy militant groups, especially when they cultivate support in sections of society,” he wrote.

Similarly, in its editorial, Dawn — one of the most widely circulated and oldest English newspapers — cautioned that those implicated in previous attacks in India have been homegrown Muslim militants. “In addition, Hindu militants have been linked to attacks targeting Muslims and Christians in India. What this all clearly adds up to is that India has a massive problem of domestic terrorism that it appears ill equipped to respond to…. But Pakistan cannot afford to be smug as India suffers. We have a grave problem of militancy, and the attacks in Mumbai are a grim reminder of the endless possibilities of terror.” These voices, mostly from the English media, acknowledge the problem, but instead of perpetuating insular rhetoric colored by anti-Semitic bias, urge cooperation; opinion based on historical trends and emerging facts; and transborder, regional solutions — given that the terrorists operate globally.

ALTTEXT
Photo: The Chabad House in Mumbai (before.) Next page: Chabad House interior (after)

Analysis: Mumbai attacks mean new challenges for Israel

ALTTEXTChabad men mourn near the bodies of Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, 29, and his wife Rivkah, 28. Photo by Brian Hendler/JTA

Israel may consider beefing up security at hundreds of Israeli and Jewish institutions around the world in the wake of the terrorist attack at the Chabad center in Mumbai, experts say.

The attacks on 10 sites in the Indian city, which killed nearly 200 people, could lead to a shift in the way Israel views global terrorism and the way to combat it.

Besides tightening security around the institutions — Israeli representatives and businesspeople abroad may be advised to concentrate their offices in a single, well-protected compound — experts say there will have to be more training of counterterrorism forces, restructuring of intelligence gathering and enhanced global cooperation in training special forces and sharing intelligence.

The Indian special forces who responded to the Mumbai attacks were criticized as being slow to respond, inadequately prepared for such an attack and lacking key equipment.

Israeli experts long have predicted a mega-terror attack involving local, Western and Israeli targets, including symbols of government and economic power. Experts believe Mumbai will become the new model for international terrorist networks, such as Global Jihad or al-Qaeda.

As the Mumbai case showed, even in cases in which Israel ostensibly is not the focus of the conflict or attack, Israeli and Jewish institutions are likely to be targeted.

The lone surviving Mumbai terrorist, 21-year-old Azam Amir Kasab, reportedly told investigators that he and his comrades were given specific instructions to kill Israelis.

” alt=”Complete coverage of Mumbai Chabad attack” title=”Click here for complete Mumbai Chabad coverage” vspace = 4 hspace = 4 border = 0 align = ‘left’>Weeks before the attack, reports said, members of the terrorist squad spent time at the Chabad center to gather intelligence. If true, this shows that the attack on Israelis and Jews was part of the overall planning of a highly sophisticated, multitarget operation.

It has enormous implications for security at Israeli and Jewish institutions worldwide, but equally so for intelligence gathering.

At the behest of then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the former head of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Dan Meridor, produced a classified report in 2006 on Israel’s defense and intelligence needs in an age of potential high-tech megaterror. His recommendations, which remain secret, apparently were largely ignored; Mossad chief Meir Dagan preferred to focus the agency’s intelligence-gathering effort almost exclusively on Iran’s nuclear program.

Counterterrorism experts now are calling for revising this approach.

The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the bombings in subsequent years in Bali, London and Madrid all involved the Global Jihad’s modus operandi of hitting several targets simultaneously.

Israeli experts see even greater sophistication in the Mumbai attacks. More targets were involved, the targets were selected carefully to shut down a big city and the nature of the attack required a huge military effort to bring it to an end. The possibility of Hezbollah, Hamas or Global Jihad attempting something similar in Israel is a worst-case scenario that Israeli security specialists must consider.

What was new about Mumbai was the sheer size of the targets taken over by the terrorists. Indeed, the Mumbai attacks may serve as a game-changer in the way counterterrorist forces prepare for attacks.

Going room to room and floor to floor in a multistory, modern building to flush out terrorists who could be anywhere and to save hostages requires highly coordinated action by much larger special forces than currently exist in Israel — or for that matter, anywhere else. For Israel, it means training more special forces at home and possibly helping train others abroad. It also means heightened surveillance at potential target sites to spot suspicious people, guests or customers trying to gather intelligence and prepare for an attack.

Israeli experts note that the attackers in Mumbai were highly skilled in the use of weapons and explosives, had detailed intelligence on their targets and used sophisticated navigation devices. In other words, they performed like soldiers in a regular army.

Like soldiers, they likely spent time at terrorist camps undergoing training. An effective preemptive counterterrorist measure could be to hit terrorist training camps in places such as Lebanon or Pakistan, Israeli experts say.

While acknowledging the difficulty of fighting terrorists at as many as 10 sites, Israeli experts have been very critical of the way Indian security and special forces operated.

They point to three stages of failure: the lack of any prior intelligence on the planned terrorist operation, the failure to intercept the terrorists as they infiltrated the Indian coast and the slowness of the counterterrorism operation on the ground.

The experts were particularly critical of the drawn-out operation at Nariman House, the building that houses the Chabad center. Unlike the large hotels, the experts say, there was no reason to take 12 hours to liberate the much smaller Chabad house. For the hostages to have had any chance of survival, the counterterrorist operation needed to take place in minutes, not hours.

Others in Israel slammed the critics, noting that Israel, with its long history of fighting terrorism, has had its fair share of failures, too.

For its part, the Israeli government has studiously avoided any official criticism of the Indian effort. Diplomats, fearing possible strains on the close ties between Israel and India, urged Israeli critics to tread more carefully.

Israeli-Indian military, intelligence and counterterrorism cooperation is extremely close. Over the past several years, India has purchased an estimated $8 billion worth of military equipment from Israel, including the Green Pines radar system employed by Israel’s Arrow anti-ballistic missile batteries. India’s defense-related purchases from Israel amount to some $1.5 billion annually.

Just three weeks ago, Indian Defense Secretary Vijay Singh visited Israel to discuss the purchase of state-of-the-art Phalcon early-warning planes, missiles, helicopters and maintenance equipment for unmanned aircraft. The visit also focused on counterterrorism, with high-level intelligence exchanges on the war against global terrorism.

After Mumbai, the already deep cooperation between the two countries on counterterrorism almost certainly will be enhanced. India will want to share Israeli expertise, and Israel will be desperately keen to provide it. Both sides recognize that fighting global terrorism will take a huge international collaborative effort.

The world must not remain silent

Following is the text of a speech Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and director of the Simon Weisenthal Center and the Museum of Tolerance, delivered at the community memorial for Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg at Chabad House in Westwood on Nov. 30.

What is there to say or speak? What has become of our world? First, let me express my heartfelt sympathy to all the victims in Mumbai of this horrific attack, Jews and non-Jews, the families of the murdered, the maimed and the traumatized.

Every Saturday night when Shabbat concludes, Jews around the world make a special blessing, “Blessed are you Almighty, who has separated the holy from the secular, light from darkness.” Never has there been such a clear Complete coverage of Mumbai Chabad attackdistinction between the world of light and the world of darkness.

In one community, a wonderful 29-year-old Rav Gavriel Holtzberg and his 28-year-old wife, Rivkah, of blessed memory, were in their Chabad house, and what were they doing my friends? Helping people — meals for strangers, places to stay for travelers, counseling for the downtrodden and forgotten, kosher food and a place to pray and study for those seeking spiritual sustenance.

They could have stayed in Israel or in the United States. They had a child who died of genetic illness and another who is hospitalized with the same ailment. They had no political motivations — all they wanted to do was work hard for a better world.

On the other hand, the young men who came by boat — they too had a task: who should they murder? Should it be the doctor making his hospital rounds, nurses at their stations, a mother shopping for her family, a grandmother walking near the hotel with her grandchild or anyone who just happened to look in their direction?

The world has never experienced such a plague of darkness like the plague of Islamic fundamentalism that reveres death over life, that teaches young people that the preferred way to get to heaven is by murdering and maiming.

Even the worst murderers in the history of mankind, the Nazis, who gassed millions — for themselves would do anything to live another day. That’s what Eichmann and Mengele did when they were on the run.

The world should be very clear — achieving martyrdom by killing innocent civilians is an abomination. It is a concept that desecrates religion, denigrates humankind and defames God himself.

But it is not only the terrorists who bear the responsibility — it is the religious leaders who programmed them, inspired them and sent them, who are equally culpable. Joseph Goebbels and Julius Streicher never killed anyone, but they were named as war criminals at Nuremberg because, on a daily basis, they poisoned the minds of tens of millions of Germans. That is exactly what the imams of the Islamic fundamentalists do.

The world must not remain silent. We have the tools to at least do something. The United Nations must make suicide terror a priority. Why is it that the General Assembly can call special sessions on drug cartels, on AIDS, on disarmament, on apartheid — all crucial issues — but it has not yet called for a special session on the greatest crime of the 21st century — suicide terror?

The other day, I saw someone on television making the point that we must understand the grievances of the terrorists, that the world has neglected them. My friends, if there is anyone who has grievances in history, it should be the Jewish people and, particularly, the generation of survivors of the Holocaust, who witnessed one-third of world Jewry gassed and murdered.

They, too, had grievances, but did you ever see children of survivors blowing up hospitals, hotels, schools and restaurants?

Yet what was their reaction? They picked themselves up by the bootstraps, taught themselves how to smile and love again, educated their children to dignify the world and not to destroy it, to contribute to it and not to demean it.

In keeping with that tradition, I’m sure that 2-year-old Moshe Holtzberg, who was miraculously saved, who has no parents to bar mitzvah him or to escort him to his wedding, will learn about his parents and will grow up following in their footsteps, teaching kindness and love and finding good in people.

And to you, the supporters of the terrorists, wherever you are, your concept may be new, but we’ve seen your prototype before — you’re not the first to threaten our humanity. For 3,500 years we’ve seen your likes during the pogroms, the Inquisition and the Holocaust, and we’ve never changed our belief.

To use a metaphor that is appropriate for the forthcoming Chanukah festival — that one cruse of light that emanated from the Chabad house in Mumbai has contributed more to humanity than your whole ideology and way of life.

The Jewish people whom you seek to destroy will still be here long after you and your haters have been deposited in the dustbins of history.

Remember the victims, hate their killers

All terrorism is monstrous, but the murder of Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivkah, by religious Islamic extremists stands out for its unspeakable infamy.

The deliberate targeting of a small Jewish center and its married young directors, whose only purpose it was to provide for the religious needs of a community and feed travelers, proves that those who perpetrated this crime are bereft not only of even a hint of humanity, but every shred of faith as well.

Complete coverage of Mumbai Chabad attackThe world’s most aggressive atheists are more religious than these spiritual charlatans and pious frauds. When Osama bin Laden, whose beard masks the face of the ultimate religious hypocrite, attacked the World Trade Center in New York, the target was purportedly chosen as the very symbol of American materialism and excess.

But what could these “religious” people have been thinking in exterminating a twenty-something couple with two babies, who moved from the world’s richest country to India to provide religious services and faith to the poor and the needy? What blow against Western decadence were they striking by targeting a Chabad house, whose entire purpose it is to spread spirituality to people whose lives lack it?

Now is not only a time to remember the victims, but to hate their killers. One cannot love the innocent without simultaneously loathing those who orphan their children.

I know how uncomfortable people feel about hatred. It smacks of revenge. It poisons the heart of those who hate. But this is true only if we hate the good, the innocent or the neutral. Hating monsters, however, motivates us to fight them. Only if an act like this repulses us to our core will we summon the will to fight these devils, so that they can never murder again.

I am well aware that my hero, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” But surely, the great man never meant for this to apply to people like Hitler, who was never going to be stopped by love but only by an eloquent loathing as articulated by Winston Churchill, which summoned an allied campaign to carpet-bomb his war-making apparatus into oblivion.

Indeed, had King’s nonviolent movement not been protected at crucial times by federal marshals and the National Guard, the terrorist thugs of the Ku Klux Klan might have killed every last one of them.

As for my Christian brethren who regularly quote to me Jesus’ famous saying, “Love your enemies,” my response is that our enemies and God’s enemies are different parties altogether. Jesus meant to love those who steal your girlfriend, cut you off on the road or swindle you in a business deal.

But to love those who indiscriminately murder God’s children is an abomination against all that is sacred. Is there a man who is human whose heart is not filled with moral revulsion against terrorists who target a rabbi who feeds the hungry? Would God or Jesus ask me to extend even one morsel of my limited capacity for compassion to fiends, rather than saving every last particle for their victims instead?

Could God really be so unreasonable; could Jesus be so cruel as to ask me to love baby killers? And would such a God be moral if He did? Could I pray to a God who loves terrorists? Could I find comfort in Him knowing that He offers them comfort as well?

No. Such a god would be my enemy. He would abide in Hades rather than heaven. And I would be damned before I would worship him. I will accept an eternity in purgatory rather than a moment of celestial bliss shared with these beasts.

Now is the time for our Muslim cleric brethren to rise in chorus and condemn the repulsive assassins who use Islam to justify their hatred. One such courageous imam, and one of the North America’s most prominent, is my friend Imam Shabir Ali of Toronto, who courageously responded to my call with a public statement the day after the murders:

“Such terrorist attacks are not justifiable on any grounds. Islam cannot condone such murder of innocent civilians. From what you have described, Rabbi and Mrs. Holtzberg are of great service to humanity.

“Our knowledge of their service adds to our sense of loss and grief that such bad things can happen to such good people. Islam is built on the monotheist foundations which the Jewish people struggled for many centuries to maintain in the face of much severe opposition.

“Muslims and Jews should work together for a better world in which the terrorist acts we have seen in Mumbai … are a thing of the past. I pray that the perpetrators will be brought to justice, and that the Lord will compensate the victims with a handsome reward in this world and the next.”

But as the next world is reserved for God, who also has much to answer for as to how He can allow righteous people like the Holtzbergs and all the other Mumbai innocents to die, it is for us the living to recommit to their work. I suggest that best possible response by the world Jewish community to this travesty is to implement a program of a Jewish peace corps to Chabad houses the world over.

Young people, especially students ages 16 to 30, should offer to spend two weeks of each summer volunteering for a Chabad house somewhere in the world to help the emissaries with their very difficult and important work.

This past summer, three of my teen children volunteered to work for Chabad in Cordova, Argentina, and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of their lives as they shared in the isolation of a dedicated Chabad family, who have lived there for 20 years to cater to the spiritual needs of the local community.

Finally, the world witnessed how the Holtzberg’s non-Jewish nanny, Sandra Samuels, saved their 2-year-old Moshe’s life, running out with the child while risking being mowed down by machine-gun fire. In that instant, we saw how the religious differences among people pale beside the higher truth of us all being equally God’s children, Indian and Jew, Muslim and Christian, and how acts of courage and compassion are what unite us.

As I write these lines, the State of Israel is being lobbied by the Holtzbergs’ remaining family to grant Samuels immediate citizenship. A hero of her caliber would be an honor to the Jewish state and the request should not be delayed by even a single day.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the founder of This World: The Jewish Values Network. His upcoming book, “The Kosher Sutra,” will be published in January by HarperOne. His Web site is www.shmuley.com.

Starving the murderers

I was at a Thanksgiving dinner at my sister’s house in Orange County, sitting next to a woman who couldn’t take her eyes off her BlackBerry®. The woman wasn’t being rude; she was texting back and forth with her friend Peggi Sturm, who was holed up in one of the hotels under siege in Mumbai.

The woman showed me one of Sturm’s nervous texts — the word “scary” was in all caps (Sturm eventually made it out alive) — and she seemed dumbfounded. Here we were in the middle of a warm and joyous Thanksgiving celebration, even as she was in such close contact with the human carnage unfolding in Mumbai, and she simply couldn’t fathom where all this evil was coming from, or what anyone could do about it.

The notion of this pleasant and polite Orange County mother confronted by the ugly face of cold-blooded jihadist terrorism halfway around the world left me speechless, too. What could I tell her? That I’m from Morocco, so I understand this kind of stuff? That I felt like strangling the murderers?

Complete coverage of Mumbai Chabad attackSo I suggested she read a recent essay from the Shalem Center in Jerusalem written by its senior fellow, Martin Kramer, the world-renowned historian, author and biographer of Sir Winston Churchill. Although the essay isn’t connected to the Mumbai massacre, it touches on the broader issue of dealing with Islamic fundamentalism.

Kramer’s essay, titled, “What Do the Present Financial Crisis and U.S. Middle East Policy Have in Common?” draws an analogy between the headlong rush toward disaster in our financial markets and what he sees as a similar fate for our foreign policy. Behind both, he explains, is “a well-practiced mechanism for concealing risk.”

“The risk was there,” he writes of the financial crisis, “and it was constantly growing, but it could be disguised, repackaged and renamed, so that in the end it seemed to have disappeared. Much of the debate about foreign policy in the United States is conducted in the same manner: Policymakers and pundits, to get what they want, conceal the risks.”

By far the biggest danger Kramer sees today lies in how we conceal the risks associated with Islamic fundamentalism (or radical Islam, or jihadism, or Islamism, take your pick), which the West does in two ways:

First, it ignores the “deep-down dimension of Islamism,” which he describes as follows: “The enemies of Islam enjoy much more power than the believing Muslims do. But if we Muslims return to the faith, we can restore to ourselves the vast power we exercised in the past, when Islam dominated the world as the West dominates today.”

The second concealment relates to concessions: “We are told that the demands of Hamas, Hezbollah or Iran are finite. If we give them a concession here, or a foothold there, we will have somehow diminished their demands for more concessions and footholds. But if their purpose is the reversal of history, then our gestures of accommodation, far from enticing them to give up their grand vision, only persuade them to press on.”

He explains that no amount of “engagement” can change that dynamic. In the Middle East, Kramer says, “there is harm in talking, if your talking legitimates your enemies, and persuades them and those on the sidelines that you have done so from weakness.”

He concludes that the least risky path for the United States is to “show the resolve and grit to wear and grind down adversaries, with soft power, hard power and will power.”

What Kramer is saying, in essence, is that it’s very risky to negotiate with evil forces that have a destructive and religious agenda, because they’re not motivated by grievances that can be accommodated.

Just like the moderate David Horovitz, editor of the Jerusalem Post, wrote after the Mumbai attacks: “Much of the international community clings to the self-evidently risible notion that there are specific, legitimate grievances motivating the murders, and that these grievances can be sated and normal service resumed.”

In discussing the premeditated nature of the attacks, Horovitz added: “This is only the latest bloody declaration of war by the death-cult Islamists, seeking now to destabilize India, but ultimately threatening all of our freedoms.”

To our sophisticated Western minds, these are bitter and inconvenient truths that must be concealed. We much prefer making loud and grand gestures to create the illusion of forward movement. So we set up toothless U.N. commissions, or orchestrate fanciful peace-seeking spectacles like the one at Annapolis, and then we wonder why the only things that really move forward are violence and cynicism.

And when violence does strike, we get angry and bang on the table and make all this noise about our “Global War on Terror,” which only feeds into the jihadists’ pathology and apocalyptic visions — and helps them recruit even more jihadists.

Maybe it’s time we take a deep breath.

As we mourn and pray silently for the victims of Mumbai, maybe we ought to consider a quieter, more lethal approach to fighting the multi-headed serpent of Islamic terrorism, one that doesn’t play to the movement’s craving for high drama and worldwide media exposure.

Our goal should be to starve the murderers — of money, attention and prestige. We should fight them with every tool and weapon at our disposal and with maximum worldwide collaboration — but do it without fanfare, without honoring them with a loud war. We should target their training camps and “take them out” with commando raids — but do it without telling CNN. As we freeze their assets, we should also freeze their egos.

The only loud noise we should insist on is for moderate Muslims and their religious leaders to rise up in anger against their violent brethren who are desecrating the name of their God and their religion.

In short, we should treat Islamic terrorists like the losers and cowards that they are, and do everything we can to diminish their unearned status and prestige.

This is what I wanted to say to that mom from Orange County on Thanksgiving Day, but there were too many kids around.

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

Grim news from Mumbai hits home

” alt=”complete coverage on mumbai chabad attack” title=”Click here for complete Mumbai Chabad coverage” vspace = 8 hspace = 8 border = 0 align = left>NEW YORK (JTA)—Until confirmation finally came that the Chabad emissaries in Mumbai were among the more than 170 victims killed in this week’s terrorist attacks in India, Chabad Chasidim and emissaries the world over prayed for the best while fearing for the worst.

By the morning of Nov. 28, the hostage standoff at the Chabad’s Nariman House was over some two days after it had begun.

Early that day, witnesses saw a series of explosions at the community center as Indian special forces stormed the site and battled with the gunmen who had taken over the house—one of 10 sites in the city attacked Nov. 26 by terrorists

When the smoke had cleared, the bodies of five hostages were found, including those of the couple that ran the center, Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg.

At a Nov. 28 news conference at Chabad world headquarters in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, N.Y., the mood was one of shock and grief.

“This news is fresh and this news is raw,” the chairman of Chabad’s education and social services arm, Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, told reporters. New York Police Department Commissioner Raymond Kelly also was on hand.

Chabad has more than 3,500 emissaries, known as schluchim, who run Jewish outreach centers around the world. The centers began to be established at the behest of the late Lubavitcher rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson.

Those who knew the Holtzbergs—Gavriel, 29, and Rivka, 28—spoke of them as highly dedicated to the Chabad mission of spreading Judaism to Jews around the globe. The couple moved from Brooklyn to Mumbai in 2003 at the urging of Chabad’s leadership. Their apartment in Colaba, in the southern part of Mumbai, quickly became a hub both for Jews traveling in India—many of them Israeli backpackers traveling in the country following their service in the Israeli army—and for those living in India.

“Jews from all nationalities stopped there—primarily Israelis, but also those from Singapore and other places,” said Elijah Jacob, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s country manager for India. “It was almost like a second home to them. Our country director used to say it was like a second home to him because of all of the Jews there on Shabbat.”

Gavriel “was one of the finest and kindest gentlemen you could imagine,” said Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, the vice chairman of Chabad’s education arm. He recounted the last conversation Gavriel had with the Israeli Embassy, on the night of Nov. 26, shortly after the center was taken over by the terrorists.

“He said, ‘The situation is not good,’ ” Kotlarsky recalled. “And then he was cut off.”

News of the Holtzbergs’ deaths hit hard in the Lubavitch neighborhood of Crown Heights, where tens of thousands of Chabadniks live. In this tight-knit community, nearly everyone is connected to one another.

“It is painful to see,” Rabbi Velvel Farkash said outside of Chabad-Lubavitch headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway. “It is a deep pain. I really have no words for it.”

Jacob described Gavriel Holtzberg as a community builder in Mumbai, home to some 4,500 Jews living in a western Indian city of 14 million. The city has eight synagogues, mostly in the southern part in predominantly Muslim neighborhoods.

“[Gavriel] helped out with some of the local synagogues. He helped them collect donations and did fund-raising for the synagogue T’feret Israel, in central Mumbai in Jacobs Circle. He helped build a mikveh there,” Jacob, who grew up in India, told JTA.

“He was also officially a shochet [ritual slaughterer] and made chickens available to the community. They also made challah for the community. They were available for the community. If people had questions about halachic principles, what is right and what is wrong in terms of the rights and customs of Judaism, they were basically guiding the local community.”

On Nov. 27, the day after terrorists took over the Chabad House, the gunmen released the Holtzbergs’ 2-year-old son, Moishe, and the building’s cook, Sandra Samuel, who reported that the Chabad emissaries were alive but unconscious. The Holtzbergs have another son who was not in the center when it was captured.

Krinsky said Chabad would take care of Moishe.

“The world of Chabad-Lubavitch and its emissaries will adopt this beautiful toddler, and raise him and give him a beautiful upbringing,” Krinsky said at the news conference.

On the morning of Nov. 28, as reports spread that five of the hostages being held at the Chabad house were dead, Erin Beser was holding out hope that the Chabad emissaries were not among them.

Beser, who spent a year in Mumbai as a volunteer for the JDC, said she spent nearly every Shabbat at the Chabad house during her time in India.

“I was by myself in India for two months as a volunteer,” Beser said. “And in India, your week is just so stressful and foreign, and everything is different, from the food to the climate. But going to Chabad was just like coming home. And I came back every week. If I didn’t come one week, she would call.”

Another victim at the center was Norma Shvarzblat Rabinovich, 50, a Mexican citizen who was scheduled to make aliyah on Dec. 1, according to a news release from The Jewish Agency for Israel. Two of her three children already were living in Israel.

Rabinovich, who was visiting the Chabad center, had been traveling in India with the intention of making aliyah at the end of her trip.

Unlike other Chabad houses in the Far East, which see a steady stream of Israeli backpackers, the Nariman House catered more to Israeli and foreign businessmen. A typical Shabbat dinner at the Holtzbergs would include up to 50 guests, ranging from locals to the Israeli consul general and his family, Beser said.

“They were so committed to what they were doing and they were such good people,” Beser said of the Holtzbergs. “They were so welcoming. It was amazing how many people came through that house. And still she was like, ‘How was your week?’ and was able to hold all of this information about what I was doing.”

Hirsi Ali, critic of Islam, honored for courage

A tall African-born woman, raised a devout Muslim but now one of Islam’s sharpest critics, last week calmly dismantled some of the favorite shibboleths of American liberalism.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali was in town to accept an inaugural award for her remarkable personal and civic courage from Community Advocates, Inc., in front of some 600 Angelenos of various political stripes.

In an interview, and in parts of her remarks at the downtown Japan America Theatre, she questioned the virtues of multiculturalism, the West’s understanding of Islam and its comprehension of the roots of terrorism.

Hirsi Ali, 38, was born in Somalia, was an ultra-devout Muslim during adolescence, but changed gradually, and then radically, when she found asylum in Holland in 1992.

She was elected to the lower house of the Dutch parliament in 2003 and became an international figure in 2004, after she wrote the screenplay for the short film “Submission,” a barbed indictment of Islam’s treatment of women.

That same year, the movie’s director, Theo van Gogh, was assassinated on an Amsterdam street by a young Muslim, who pinned a death threat against Hirsi Ali to Van Gogh’s chest.

She now lives under constant police protection in America and continues to write and speak out as a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.

In 2005, she made TIME’s list of “100 of the World’s Most Influential People.”

Her categorical denunciations of Islam have been questioned, but never her personal mettle. It was for the latter characteristic that she was honored with the inaugural Ziegler Prize For Courage of Conviction by Community Advocates, Inc. (CAI) chairman and former Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan, together with CAI President David Lehrer and Vice President Joe Hicks.

The accompanying citation reads: “In recognition of your indomitable courage and spirit, which teaches, offers hope and provides inspiration to humanity.”

In her acceptance response and during her interview with The Journal, Hirsi Ali also faulted the West for its choice of weapons in fighting threats from Iran and Islamic militants.

“The United States has the option of using military force against Iran, which it may still have to do, or diplomacy, which has not worked so far,” she said.

But the West has failed by not promoting its ideology in the “clash of ideas and values,” Hirsi Ali declared.

“When Saudi Arabia spends $2 billion abroad for hospitals, mosques and schools, it conditions the aid on the recipient’s acceptance of Saudi Arabia’s fundamentalist form of Islam,” she said. “But Western private and public philanthropy comes with no message, it’s value free.”

What the West must do, she urged, is to attach a clear message to its aid inculcating the values of individual responsibility, the equality of men and women and a scientific approach to counter tribal superstitions.

The West also fails to understand that there’s little basic difference between Islamic “moderates” and “extremists,” Hirsi Ali argued.

“When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust, we may consider him crazy, but the concept that Jews are vermin is accepted throughout the Islamic world,” she said. “In none of the 57 nations that make up the Organization of Islamic Countries is the Holocaust taught.”

Hirsi Ali recalled, “I was raised in an educated family, and my father led the opposition to the Somali dictatorship, but I heard nothing about the Holocaust until I came to The Netherlands.”

Another Western mistake lies in its admiration of multiculturalism and its exclusive focus on white racism, Hirsi Ali maintained.

“It is a fallacy that all cultures are equally valuable and must be preserved,” she said. “Some cultures are superior to others. Some value human rights, while others justify the subjugation of women.”

Along the same line, “While white racism is properly denounced, we’re too shy to address black racism or Islamic racism.”

CAI, headed by the white liberal Lerner and the black conservative Hicks, has made a name for itself by frequently challenging the accepted wisdom and strategies of mainstream civil rights and human relations groups.

In its writings and actions, CAI states, it seeks “to promote critical discourse about issues that transcend race, ethnicity, gender and religion.”

Should we ‘roll the dice’ on untested Obama?

The pretentiously messianic Sen. Barack Obama would be comical, except many people vote apparently not for president but for debate team captain. While partisans argue unconditionally for Obama or Sen. John McCain, both candidates are, as in any election, flawed. It isincreasingly unlikely the imperfect McCain will win, but he should. And he still could.

There has been a liquidity crisis, which means the dysfunctional credit markets collapsed temporarily, not forever. When people lack confidence in economic calculation, the economy paralyzes. Meanwhile, the Iraq War has improved, so General Obama’s opposition to the surge is discredited, another reason he neatly changes the subject.

Stocks were sold as if the world is coming to an end. The media encouraged fear of an economic Armageddon, consequently, a political panic ensued. The schizophrenic McCain campaign — Obama is wonderful, no, risky — has been slow to adapt. People do not understand what has caused the economic mess. They want change. This inescapable synergy tilts toward Obama, who is mindlessly applauded when he boasts he was for change first, as if he defined a profile in courage.

The common misconception fed by the infatuated media is: Wholesale deregulation by the Bush administration is the culprit. In reality, most Democrats and some Republicans share a long history of irresponsibility. The machinations are largely creatures nurtured in government test tubes, broken, the virus highly contagious. History is thus: Government intervention, per Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman, actually exacerbates instability.

Without the collusion, if not the encouragement of the feds, these mortgages would not have been given to poor credit risks — unknown income, no down payment. But the federal government, via its quasi-governmental agencies known as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, subsidized the loans, assumed the risk. Fannie and Freddie should never have been created. President Bill Clinton expanded their charter.

A few years later, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) said we should not ” fix something that wasn’t broke.” She praised “the outstanding leadership” of Fannie Mae CEO Franklin Raines, who subsequently left in disgrace but with $90 million of bonuses after an accounting scandal.

Obama is the largest recipient ever of campaign money from Fannie/Freddie, which generously supported mainly Democratic Fannie and Freddie defenders like Senate Finance Committee chair Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and his House Financial Affairs Committee counterpart, Barney Frank. Frank resisted reform: “I want to roll the dice a little bit more in this situation towards subsidized housing.”

Do we now similarly “roll the dice” on the untested Obama? We do not know much about Obama. He portrays his community organizing as altruistic. In fact, he parlayed those community contacts into a political base.

Ambition is not bad. Own up to it. More to the point, Obama affiliated with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s church not because of its spirituality but because of its politics.

I cannot say Obama hates America or Jews, but Wright, in my opinion, hates both. That someone as bright and curious as Obama could attend Wright’s church for so many years, where his sermons were available on tape, and not know what Wright was/is about is implausible.

Obama used Wright and his church for political volunteers, voter registration and turnout then this year opportunistically discarded him. Obama succeeded as a go-along, get-along Chicago machine politician, not as an anti-establishment reformist.

Voters confuse Obama stagecraft with vision. He is articulate and confident but also glib and cocky. This is not a humble man who knows what he doesn’t know. This is someone who earlier this year dismissed Iran as a threat because it, unlike the former Soviet Union, is “a small country.”

The Soviets, precisely as a major power, acted rationally; the doctrine of mutually assured destruction deterred nuclear war. Iran has no such inhibitions, professor Obama: Such small rogue nations are temperamentally capable of a nuclear first strike.

Readers of this newspaper are interested in Israel. We know McCain is absolutely solid. Obama is, at best, evolving. For example, immediately after his American Israel Public Affairs Committee speech endorsing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Obama abruptly reversed himself.

If Israel were under attack and its prime minister called the White House at the proverbial 3 a.m., who would you want at the other end of the line? If you’re for Obama for other reasons, that’s fine. But don’t say it’s because of his position on Israel.

Many voters see Obama as an agent of change, when he, in fact, is an ideologue — most left voting record in the Senate. In a centrist nation, the favored Obama is much, much farther to the left than the struggling McCain is somewhat to the right.

On the economy, maverick McCain would be more likely to take on the establishment. McCain had warned more than two years ago, “American taxpayers will continue to be exposed to the enormous risk that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pose to the housing market, the overall financial system and the economy as a whole.” As even the liberal Washington Post editorialized, Obama was AWOL.

Obama had an undistinguished record as a part-time member of the Illinois Senate, where he often voted simply “present.” Then in his brief two years in the U.S. Senate, he has never taken on his party’s leadership. Unlike McCain, Obama does win the congeniality award not because he worked in a bipartisan way but because he never made waves.

The unqualified Obama communicates well; the qualified McCain communicates poorly, and communicating is a qualification. But when the American economy requires seismic change to compete in the global economy, who will adapt? McCain — long pro-change record — or Obama — short anti-change record?

Who would be more likely to embrace a Smoot-Hawley Tariff associated with the Great Depression — protectionist Obama or free-trader McCain? An economic corollary: If you think education reform is essential, do you want McCain, who champions innovation and supports school choice, or Obama, who is beholden to the teachers union and opposes school choice?

Obama has not run anything, met a payroll or served in the military. No Obama legislation or even bipartisanship. Admittedly contentious, McCain has challenged his party’s leadership, even worked collaboratively with opposing Democrats who, until recently, praised him.

For the economy, the present cure could be worse than the disease, unless down the line we get the government out of the banking business. McCain can do that. He believes in limited government, low taxation, economic opportunity and growth.

Obviously, we can’t bet the farm on Obama.

Arnold Steinberg is a political strategist and analyst.

Arab attacker strikes in Jerusalem; dozen injured, terrorist killed

JERUSALEM (JTA)—An Arab assailant plowed a vehicle into a crowd of Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem before being shot dead.

Two soldiers were moderately injured and more than a dozen others suffered slight injuries. The driver was killed by a soldier at the scene.

The soldiers, who were on a tour of the Old City, were struck at a crowded intersection near the Jaffa Gate by an Arab from eastern Jerusalem driving a black BMW, according to reports.

The attack marked the third time in recent months that an Arab from eastern Jerusalem has used a vehicle to perpetrate an attack in Jerusalem. In the other two cases, one of which resulted in the deaths of Israeli civilians, the assailants used construction vehicles.

Here’s the AP report:

JERUSALEM (AP)—A driver plowed a BMW into a group of soldiers at a busy intersection near Jerusalem’s Old City late Monday, injuring 13 of them before he was shot to death, Israeli police and the rescue service said.

Jerusalem police commander Ilan Franco said a soldier in the group killed the driver.

The driver was not immediately identified, but Franco said he was a Palestinian resident of east Jerusalem who apparently acted alone. Israel TV said the car was registered to a resident of Jabel Mukaber, an Arab village inside the city limits.

It was the third incident in Jerusalem in which vehicles apparently have been used as weapons in recent months. In July, two Palestinians living in Jerusalem carried out separate attacks using heavy construction machinery that killed three people and injured several others. Both attackers were fatally shot by police and soldiers.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak released a statement demanding a speedup of procedures to allow the destruction of homes of Palestinian attackers ‘‘to contribute to deterring potential terrorists.’’ Several years ago, an Israeli Supreme Court justice ruled that destroying houses does not deter attackers and the practice was halted.

Ambulances and police units raced to the scene Monday night after the crash about 11 p.m. and quickly carried away the injured.

Police said two of the 13 injured were in serious condition while the others suffered light wounds. Doctors at the hospitals said all were conscious and were being treated.

Israel Radio said the soldiers, from the Artillery Corps, were on a tour of Jerusalem ahead of the Jewish New Year holiday next week.

An Israel Radio reporter described a large group of Jews, most of them ultra-Orthodox, chasing an Arab into the nearby Old City after the incident.

Police said the car rammed into the soldiers waiting at the intersection. Witnesses said the car ended up on the sidewalk near the intersection, which lies along the line between the Jewish and Arab sections of Jerusalem.

Since Israel captured the Arab section of the city in 1967, there are no barriers between the two sides.

Palestinians demand the Arab portion as the capital of the independent state they want to create.

Israel united the city under its rule weeks after the 1967 war, but in recent years some officials have shown a willingness to cede Arab neighborhoods to the Palestinians. However, sharing the city and its holy sites remains one of the toughest issues in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

 

Kassams land near mayor of Sderot’s house; Interfaith fellowship group denies missionary ties

Qassam Lands Near Sderot Mayor’s Home

A Qassam rocket fired from the Gaza Strip landed in a residential neighborhood of Sderot.

The rocket landed Sunday not far from the home of Mayor Eli Moyal, Ynet reported, and started a fire that was extinguished quickly by firefighters. No injuries were reported.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered all Israel-Gaza border crossings closed Monday in response to the attack.

An Egyptian-mediated cease-fire between Israel and the terrorist Hamas-run Gaza Strip has been breached by rocket attacks more than 36 times in the past three months.

“Everything is all right at home,” Moyal told Ynet. “The problem here is not a personal one but a political one. People are under the impression that there is a cease-fire, but a few dozen rockets have been fired at Israel since the truce went into effect.

“During the months of the cease-fire the Palestinian groups have armed themselves with thousands of more rockets.”

Eckstein Denies Group’s Money Used to Missionize

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein denied a report suggesting that some money raised by his interfaith group was used to missionize Jews.

The Israeli daily Ma’ariv reported Monday that Eckstein’s organization, the Chicago-based International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, gave $10,000 in 2007 to an evangelical group in Jerusalem that proselytizes Israeli Jews. It also reported that the fellowship sent money to a Protestant group in Massachusetts that Ma’ariv called “a controversial Christian cult.”

Eckstein, the fellowship’s founder and president who has raised tens of millions of dollars for Israel from American evangelicals, insisted the story misrepresented the facts. He said the report was simply a continuation of a smear campaign against him and the information was fed to the newspaper by a source with an axe to grind.

Eckstein said the fellowship used the Jerusalem group, King of Kings, to pass $10,000 to a church in Bethlehem to help provide humanitarian aid to local Christians before Christmas.

“We were informed last year about the dwindling Christian community in Bethlehem, which has been persecuted by the radical Muslims there to the point that most of them have left. And the Protestant church there and the people there needed funds for basic needs — food, clothing, medicine, heating fuel,” he said. “We didn’t hesitate to respond with a modest gift — at least for us. The only place that could deliver that was this group, King of Kings.”

As to the gift to the Massachusetts group, the Community of Christ in Orleans, Eckstein said it was a $750 donation by the fellowship to the group’s choir after canceling on an event there.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Federation drops security grants for shuls; Farmar shoots, scores for Chabad

Federation Drops Grants to Provide Security for High Holy Days at Small Synagogues

In 2006, in the wake of Israel’s war with Hezbollah, Jewish communities throughout the Diaspora were on edge. A lone gunman had already killed one and wounded five at a Seattle Jewish center, and many were concerned that High Holy Days could make Jews an easy mark.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles responded by granting $1,000 each to nearly 150 small synagogues to be used for High Holy Day security.

This year, The Federation will not be offering those grants.

“This year, we decided we wouldn’t do it again,” said John Fishel, Federation president. “What we are doing, and will continue to do, is in-depth security analyses with Jewish schools throughout Los Angeles, which is not really focused on getting a guard for the holiday. We think focusing on venues that on a daily basis have children and youth and could be targets is a better use of community resources.”

Concern about security at services and how to fund it persists among at least some of the small synagogues, which will now need to reallocate resources or decide to go without.

“It will be extremely difficult to provide security,” said Andrew Friedman, president of the 100-member Congregation Bais Naftoli. “I’m not going to say we are not going to for two reasons: (a) we may, and (b) I don’t want the terrorist to know we will not provide security. We may — but it will be a great financial burden.”

Though 2008 has been marked by several high-profile anti-Semitic attacks, including the firebombing of The New JCC at Milken, the global threat against Jews seems to have lessened since summer 2006.

Fishel said that in such a noncrisis atmosphere, the security briefing co-sponsored annually by the Anti-Defamation League and L.A. Councilman Jack Weiss is sufficient for improving cautionary measures during holiday season. The briefing, held last Friday at the Skirball Cultural Center, instructed the 80 synagogue and Jewish institutional leaders attending on how to increase security for the High Holy Days and improve it throughout the year. Amanda Susskind, ADL regional director, said all members of the Jewish community bear a responsibility in protecting against threats.

“Everyone who works at a Jewish institution is part security officer,” she said.

The ADL offers a manual, “Protecting Your Jewish Institution,” on its Web site, www.adl.org/security.

— Brad A. Greenberg, Senior Writer

Chabad Telethon Raises $8 Million


Los Angeles Lakers star Jordan Farmar shoots 36 baskets in 90 seconds to raise $64,800 for Chabad. Apparel executive Masud Sarshar offered the challenge

Chabad’s “To Life” telethon raised more than $8 million Sunday night — some of it due to amazing basketball shooting by Lakers star Jordan Formar.

Farmar, just back from Israel, shot 36 baskets (‘double chai’) in 90 seconds to raise over $64K for the organization. Apparel exec Masud Sashar offered to donate $1800 from every basket the UCLA alum shot.

The telethon, which was broadcast nationally on the AmericanLife TV Network, featured Chabad rabbis dancing on stage with high-profile donors such as former Beverly Hills Mayor Jimmy Delshad. The mayor, a Persian Jew, contributed $1,800 and made a plea in his native Farsi for others to donate.

The actor Jon Voight, making his 18th appearance on the Chabad telethon, was given a Lubavitch-style black hat. Voight also made a plug for Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

Other celebrities featured on the show included Martin Landau, James Cromwell, Camryn Manheim, Mimi Rogers, JoBeth Williams, Tom Arnold, Kellie Martin and Merrin Dungey. Pre-taped messages of support came from Larry King, Jackie Mason, Howie Mandel and Regis Philbin.

The $8,092,269 raised during the telethon will be used to support, among other large-scale religious and philanthropic projects, the Chabad Residential Drug Treatment Center in Los Angeles, as well as Chabad’s Camp Gan Israel, which has been a safe haven for Israeli girls escaping rocket attacks in Sderot.

— Dennis Wilen, Web Director, with contributions from Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Adat Ari El Completes New Gym

Adat Ari El Day School has completed the installation of a state-of-the-art sports pavilion. The facility includes a covered basketball court and climbing wall, among other features, and enables students to participate in physical activity year round.

Haim Linder, the school’s head physical education teacher, said the temperature in the pavilion is about 20 degrees cooler than the outside temperature — important during the Valley’s hot, summer days.

“It’s a big milestone for our school,” he said.

Linder said the sports facility would also help ensure that students stay focused, because research shows that children who are physically active are better able to concentrate on academics.

Additionally, the facility gives the school’s sports teams a place to practice. The pavilion will be named after Mannon Kaplan — one of the founder’s of the school — and in memory of his wife, Sybil. The Kaplan family funded the project and a dedication and thank you ceremony will be held at the school on Sept. 21.

— Lilly Fowler, Contributing Writer

Flag Day

What a weird week.

The presidential race, instead of focusing on the best energy policy, the best Mideast policy, the best health care policy, wasall about moose and pigs and pitbulls. The financial companies that once defined stability have teetered or collapsed. The stock market is on the verge of a nervous breakdown, a hurricane ate our Gulf Coast refineries and, by the way, is anybody noticing that Pakistan is imploding?

Meanwhile, over at the Israeli Consulate, they’re planning a massive, pull-out-the-stops effort to … raise the Israeli flag?

That’s right. On Sunday, Sept. 28, thousands of people are expected to rally outside the Israeli Consulate on Wilshire Boulevard to watch as the blue and white national flag is raised permanently in front of the building.

You would think there are more important things to focus on right now. To be honest, when Consul General Jacob Dayan first told me his idea, that was my gut reaction — which I kept to myself. The world is going nuts, and that’s what you want us to do — raise a flag?

But I’ve let the idea percolate; I’ve turned it over in my head, and sure enough, I’ve changed my mind. It’s the perfect thing to do. It’s brilliant.

Neither Dayan nor the building’s owner, Jamison Services, will discuss why until now no Israeli flag has been allowed to stand in front of the otherwise nondescript office tower at 6380 Wilshire Blvd.

But let’s hazard a wild guess: security.

Building owners and Israeli ambassadors themselves regularly cite concerns over protests and terrorism as the primary reasons so few Israeli diplomatic stations display their country’s flag.

It’s not an unreasonable concern. From 1969 to the present there have been at least 30 attacks on Israeli embassies, according to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (The ministry actually lists and details the attacks on its Web sites, which could not have made Dayan’s job convincing his landlord any easier). The most recent one occurred this past February, when a group calling itself “al Qaeda in the Magreb” fired shots at the Israeli Embassy in Mauritania, wounding three local residents.

It’s a fact of life: Israel’s blue and white is a red flag for the fanatics. Wave it, and they are likely to charge.

Sometimes, the reaction is horrific, as at the El Al ticket counter several years ago, when a man opened fire by the flag. Sometimes, it is boringly predictable, as at those Hezbollah rallies in Lebanon, where they actually have to make their own Israeli flag just to destroy it. Sometimes, it is pathetic: In the Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem last spring, a 50-year-old Orthodox Israeli man waving his flag on Israel’s Independence Day was set upon and beaten by members of the anti-Zionist Naturei Karta Jewish sect.

Given these reactions, it’s only wise and natural to be cautious, to fear the fanatics and abide by their rule: Don’t you dare display your flag.

And now, Dayan is offering his response: tough.

In his book, “A Case for Democracy,” Natan Sharansky offers up a test to determine whether a society is truly free and democratic. He calls it his Town Square test:

“If a person cannot walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm, then that person is living in a fear society, not a free society. We cannot rest until every person living in a ‘fear society’ has finally won their freedom.”

I suspect the default reflex of Jews is to rest inside a fear society. Centuries of persecution have conditioned us to cut our losses and accept a base level of fear and intimidation, so long as our families and livelihoods are not immediately threatened. Our mental public square has always been inhabited by thugs: We have grown comfortable with them.

The establishment of the State of Israel was supposed to have freed us from the physical ghettos in which Jews found themselves and from these psychic ones, as well. A free people in a free land could not be bullied, need not live in fear.

The physical and psychic shackles cracked in 1948, when the Israeli flag was first raised over the independent, sovereign Jewish state, and they broke in 1967, when the country swept to victory in the Six-Day War and the flag flew over a united Jerusalem.

But that was then. Now, with terror at our doorsteps and Israel still in peril, most of us are content to lay low. It turns out we are less butterfly than hermit crab. Survival teaches us that rather than float free, better to run from shell to shell.

But if we let our city fail the Town Square test, we delude ourselves in thinking we can forever be safe off the square, in our synagogues, at our schools. Whether we fly the flag or not, those who would do us harm will find us anyway.

In the Age of Google, there is no way to hide. We can be better or worse targets, but we are still targets.

The vast majority of us want to live in a world where disagreements don’t demand violence. We don’t want the crazy few determining how we live our lives, demonstrate our loyalties, express our identity. We want a thousand flags to fly (including, yes, the Palestinian one). We want to be free.

That’s why I love Dayan’s vision. He saw reality and raised it — hell, he went all in. Once he received approval to fly the flag, he could have just quietly run it up one morning and left it at that. But no: He has arranged to close off Wilshire Boulevard between San Vicente Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue. He has invited schools, synagogues and churches to come out and show their support. There will be a stage, speeches (short, he promises), dignitaries and performance by a recording artist Macy Gray.

The Israeli flag is going up on Wilshire Boulevard; attention will be paid, and I, for one, will be there.

Freshman Israeli filmmaker earns three Emmy nods

Arranging a telephone interview with Israeli documentary filmmaker Hilla Medalia requires the scheduling dexterity of a flight attendant: She is constantly en route to someplace else — making movies, promoting various projects and generally wheeling and dealing. And the sense is that it’s not about to get any easier. Medalia’s debut work, “To Die in Jerusalem,” has garnered three Emmy nominations — best documentary, best score and outstanding achievement in investigative journalism.

The Emmys will air live from the Nokia Theatre on Sept. 21 on ABC.

“This is the stuff of dreams,” the filmmaker exclaimed. “To be nominated for an Emmy is one of the highest accolades in my industry.”

Medilia’s film, which earned her a Peabody Award and first place at the International Human Rights Film Festival in Paris, tells the story of two women: one the mother of a Palestinian suicide bomber and the other the mother of a young Israeli girl killed in the same attack.

For Medalia, the attention means more people will see her films, which is the main point.

“For me, the power of film is in the amount of people that can potentially watch what you produce,” she said. “It’s when I understood this that I decided that my role as a filmmaker was to focus on projects that have a social conscience.”

Medalia’s journey to becoming a filmmaker began courtesy of her athletic prowess. During the course of a fairly typical Israeli childhood, she became a teen track star. A subsequent stint in the Israel Defense Forces, with the special status of “athlete of excellence,” was a springboard to an athletic scholarship to study film at the University of Southern Illinois.

“University was great because I was in the middle of nowhere, which meant there was nothing to do but study and train,” Medalia said. “The freedom you have is wonderful; if you want to shoot something, you just take a camera and shoot.”

Her master’s submission, “Daughters of Abraham,” earned her a prestigious Angelus Student Film Festival award and would later become the basis of the Emmy-nominated “To Die in Jerusalem.”

After finishing school, Medalia moved to New York to learn the ropes. Her journey up the filmmaking ladder included the rookie tasks of carrying lights and being an assistant director on a horror film. But Medalia’s biggest break came with working with fellow Israeli filmmaker Danny Menkin on his award-winning film, “39 Pounds of Love.”

“It was a great way to learn the business inside out, because I was involved in so many aspects,” she said. “In the end, I helped raise finance and distribute the finished product, so it also schooled me in the business end of the industry.”

The involvement in and subsequent successful theatrical release of Menkin’s film gave Medalia the confidence to begin work on “To Die in Jerusalem.” She raised the bulk of the funding on her own and traveled repeatedly to Tel Aviv over a period of two years to complete the film. At the rough-cut stage, Medalia achieved every documentary filmmaker’s dream: a pre-sale to HBO.

The journey since has launched Medalia’s career. She has traveled tirelessly with the film to numerous festivals and screenings, from Hong Kong to Cape Town and Edinburgh.

“It’s been an incredible experience professionally,” she said. “I’ve met so many people in the industry, learned so much.”

The results are more than evident: Medalia currently has two projects in the works.

The first, “After the Storm,” focuses on a group of teens in post-Katrina New Orleans who stage a musical in a resurrected community center. The film focuses on the lives of the kids, their schools, homes, struggles and hopes as they attempt to make sense of New Orleans after the disaster. For Medalia, the process has been incredibly moving.

“On one hand, it’s been very difficult because of the conditions there, even though we shot two years after the hurricane,” she explained. “But in another sense, it is very inspiring to see that despite everything that has happened, they are moving forward. It’s a very special place.”

Rosie O’Donnell was impressed enough by Medalia and her venture that she joined the project as executive producer.

Medalia’s other work in progress is a joint project with Israeli producer Itai Horstock, which tells the story of returned soldier-musician Kobi Vitman, who battles Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and ultimately deals with it through writing and staging a rock opera on the subject.

“It talks about things we prefer not to address: namely, the effect of war on society and on soldiers,” she said.

Medalia sees a commonality in all her projects.

“I like personal stories, not just stories about people,” the filmmaker explained. “It’s much more appealing for me than doing things from a historical or purely narrative angle.”

Given all the recognition, it would seem that Medalia is on to something.


The trailer

Paul McCartney is ‘shocked but not intimidated’ by jihadi threats re Israel concert [VIDEO]

LONDON (JTA)—Suicide bombers will target Paul McCartney unless he cancels his concert in Tel Aviv, a Muslim cleric said.

Omar Bakri said the ex-Beatle’s decision to perform in Israel “is creating more enemies than friends,” London’s Sunday Express reported.

“If he values his life Mr. McCartney must not come to Israel. He will not be safe there,” Bakri said. “The sacrifice operatives will be waiting for him.”

Bakri made the comments on his weekly Internet broadcast from his home-in-exile in Lebanon after being banned from returning to Britain, according to the Express.

McCartney is scheduled to perform for thousands of Israelis in Hayarkon Park on Sept. 25 as part of a world tour.

Several pro-Palestinian and political groups have asked McCartney to cancel his show, but he has refused.



From The Express . . .

SIR PAUL: TERROR TARGET
Sunday September 14,2008
Dennis Rice
SIR Paul McCartney has been threatened that he will be the target of suicide bombers unless he abandons plans to play his first concert in Israel.

Self-styled preacher of hate Omar Bakri claimed the former Beatle’s decision to take part in the Jewish state’s 60th anniversary celebrations had made him an enemy of all Muslims.

Sources said Sir Paul was shocked but refused to be intimidated.

In an interview with Israeli media yesterday he said: “I was approached by different groups and political bodies who asked me not to come here. I refused. I do what I think and I have many friends who support Israel.”

Sir Paul, 65, should have gone to Israel with the Beatles in 1965 but they were barred by the Jewish nation’s government over fears they would corrupt young people.

Yesterday a number of websites described him as an infidel and suggested he was going to Israel only because of the reported £2.3m fee for the one-off concert.

A message posted on one website said: “Shame on you Paul McCartney for day trippin’ to apartheid Israel” and vowed never to buy his music again.

Bakri, who made his weekly internet broadcast to fellow extremists from his home in Lebanon, where he has lived in exile since being banned from returning to Britain, said Sir Paul was “making more enemies than friends”.

Syrian-born Bakri, 48, went on: “I heard today that the pop star Paul McCartney is playing as a part of the celebrations.

“If you speak about the holocaust and its authenticity never being proved historically in the way the Jewish community portray it, people will arrest you. People will you say you should not speak like this. Yet they go and celebrate the anniversary of 60 years of what?

“Instead of supporting the people of Palestine in their suffering, McCartney is celebrating the atrocities of the occupiers. The one who is under occupation is supposed to be getting the help.

“And so I believe for Paul McCartney, what he is doing really is creating more enemies than friends.”

Explaining his comments, Bakri told the Sunday Express: “Our enemy’s friend is our enemy.

“Thus Paul McCartney is the enemy of every Muslim. We have what we call ‘sacrifice’ operatives who will not stand by while he joins in a celebration of their oppression.

“If he values his life Mr McCartney must not come to Israel. He will not be safe there. The sacrifice operatives will be waiting for him.”

Lawyer Anjem Choudary, who last week chaired a meeting in London at which extremists claimed the next 9/11-style atrocity would be in Britain, said Sir Paul had allowed himself to become a propaganda tool for Israel.

He added: “Muslims have every right to be angry at Paul McCartney. How would the world react if he wanted to have a
concert in occupied Kashmir?

“They would not allow it to happen but because it is Israel he can play. A country which, as the celebration indicates did not exist 60 years ago, only exists thanks to stealing and occupying another country’s lands.” Yesterday the comments drew condemnation from Palestinian sources and outsiders.

Omar Barghouti, of The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, described the threat as “deplorable”.

Patrick Mercer, the Conservative MP for Newark and a former Shadow Security Minister, said: “One could dismiss Bakri as a ranting extremist but history has shown that he has an ability to twist minds, so his comments should not be underestimated.

“If Sir Paul McCartney wants to play at the 60th anniversary then it is the worst form of illiberalism for Omar Bakri to restrict the artist’s freedom in this way.”

A spokesman for Sir Paul declined to comment on the threat, saying: “Paul’s Friendship First concert is about his music. Paul’s is a message of peace.”

Tickets for the concert range from £70 to £230.

Last night Sir Paul performed his first concert in the Ukraine, playing to tens of thousands in the capital Kiev.

Fan video welcomes Sir Paul to Israel

 

 

Iran is bombastic but Pakistan has the bomb

If you think Iran is scary, just consider what would happen if Islamic extremists took over Pakistan.

It’s a very real possibility in that increasingly worrisome country thathelped spawn the Taliban and which Foreign Policy magazine has called “the country most likely to transfer nuclear technology to terrorists.”

That is the conclusion of 69 of 100 national security experts surveyed for the publication’s “Terrorism Index 2008.”

More than half responded that Pakistan is “most likely to serve as al-Qaeda’s next home base.”

“We’re all really worried that a radical theocracy like Iran will get ‘the bomb,’ but what if the bomb gets a radical theocracy?” asked a Washington defense analyst speaking on background.

Iran may be getting all the attention from Israel and the United States, but shaky Pakistan is the only Islamic nuclear power.

Iran may boast of great strides in its pursuit of nuclear, missile and satellite technology, but analysts say its progress is no match for its overblown rhetoric.

But Pakistan doesn’t need to boast. It already has a stockpile estimated at 60 or more nuclear warheads and North Korean ballistic missiles and U.S.-made F-16s to deliver them; target one is India, but in the hands of an extremist Islamist regime that could easily shift to Israel.

Washington has reportedly spent more than $100 million to help secure Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal although it does not even know its size or location.

Pakistan is a failed nation state. It has an unstable government on the verge of collapse, a tenuous flirtation with democracy, a coup-inclined military with ties to the Taliban, and an upcoming presidential election in which the front-runner’s lawyers contend he suffers from dementia and depression. It also has sold nuclear technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

Growing Islamization of state institutions and policies, notably the schools, is legitimizing religious extremism. Many Taliban trace their roots to Pakistani madrassas.

Most important, Pakistan’s porous border with Afghanistan is a sanctuary and training ground for the Taliban resurgence and al-Qaeda. Osama bin Laden is believed to be holed up in those areas that are more hospitable to the Islamic extremists than the Pakistani government and army, which has been unable or unwilling to do much about it.

In fact, Western experts believe elements of Pakistan’s military and its powerful intelligence service, ISI, are working with the Taliban. The new army leader, Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani, recently stepped down as head of the agency.

Pakistan, said the defense analyst, is “the scariest place on earth.” It could splinter if powerful ethnic groups like the Pashtun and the Baluch seek to break away and form their own states. Or there could be yet another military coup, this time led by the ISI, elements close to the Taliban.

Hamid Karzai, the pro-U.S. president of Afghanistan, has accused Pakistan of giving the Taliban sanctuary and bases to attack his country, and ISI has been accused of being behind attempts on his life.

A recent Council on Foreign Relations report said ISI is believed to have links to terrorist groups in several countries, including England, India, Afghanistan and Iraq.

ISI-Taliban cooperation goes back nearly 30 years, and many of its agents “have ethnic and cultural ties to Afghan insurgents and naturally sympathize with them,” according to Frederic Grare of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Author Steve Coll, an expert on the Taliban, has called it “an asset of the ISI” and “a proxy force, a client of the Pakistan army.”

The Pentagon sees the deteriorating situation in Pakistan as increasingly dangerous. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, flew out to the Indian Ocean last week to convene a highly unusual secret meeting of senior American and Pakistani commanders aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.

His message: You’ve got to do more to combat the militants who have found sanctuary in the border areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan and are responsible for the rising number of U.S. and NATO casualties.

He wants Pakistan to allow U.S. Special Operations forces operate more freely in those areas.

There are serious questions as to which side the Pakistani military and ISI are really on. President Bush has reportedly complained that some ISI elements are leaking U.S. intelligence information to the Taliban and aiding militants’ attacks U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

A coup led by pro-Taliban elements would put that country’s nuclear arsenal in the hands of some of the world’s most dangerous Islamic extremists.

Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid writes that “Islamic extremism is gaining strength” in his country and warns that the army may insist that a pro-Taliban Islamic party, the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam, be part of any future government.

Pakistan might be the greatest challenge awaiting the next president of the United States, but so far it has been getting scant attention in either campaign.

Douglas M. Bloomfield is a nationally syndicated columnist. This column is printed with permission from the Washington Jewish Week.