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September 21, 2014 / 26 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Sarah Stern’

JCPA: ‘We’re The Voice of American Jews,’ But Many Beg to Differ

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

As we conclude the somber observance of Tish B’Av, the time when so many tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people are recalled, it is perhaps not irrelevant that U.S. secretary of state John Kerry has returned to the Middle East.

Official reports claim Kerry has no plans to visit Israel, but, as Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu reported in The Jewish Press, Kerry met with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas while in Jordan.  It turns out he is also meeting with various Arab leaders who, according to al Jazeera, Kerry believes “are essential to his push to get Israelis and Palestinians to resume peace talks.”  That’s right.  Arab leaders to push – who? Who else, but Israel, to restart the “peace talks.”

Yes, although the entire Middle East is in turmoil, Egypt has just gone through a second revolution, nearly a100,000 have died in Syria’s ongoing civil war, one into which Lebanon is increasingly being drawn, Turkey is nearing the boiling point, Iraq continues to unravel and Iran is approaching nuclear weapons capability, leave it to a group of professional Jewish professionals to sashay into D.C. and tell the relevant congressional committees that now is the time for Kerry to kickstart the Arab-Israeli “peace talks.”  And that’s what happened, just before Kerry left for the Middle East.

The Jewish group making the possibly worst-timed suggestion ever is the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA).

According to its website, the JCPA has a tripartite mission: first, “to safeguard the rights of Jews here and around the world”; second, “to dedicate ourselves to the safety and security of the state of Israel”; and third, “to protect, preserve and promote a just American society, one that is democratic and pluralistic, one that furthers harmonious interreligious, inter ethnic [sic] interracial and other intergroup relations.”

From their mission, you might think that the safety and security of Jews and the Jewish state would be the primary focus of JCPA’s activities.  But you might be wrong, as a quick look at their website makes clear.  The JCPA’s focus is on liberal domestic issues. Israel and Judaism play a minor role.

JCPA CLAIMS TO REPRESENT THE ORGANIZED JEWISH COMMUNITY

Nonetheless, the JCPA can prioritize as it wishes and make whatever suggestions it wants to members of congress.  But when the JCPA leaps over its goal to be something and starts proclaiming it is something, that is when people begin to bristle.

You see, on the JCPA Facebook page, and on its Twitter homepage, it states, with no qualifiers, that “the JCPA is the representative voice of the organized Jewish community.”

That’s news to a whole lot of American Jews who shared their response with The Jewish Press.

Because when the JCPA decided to meet with the House and the Senate foreign relations committees, asserting that the American Jewish community wants Kerry to focus on restarting the peace talks, that claim may have been heard as if it had far more weight than warranted.

Let’s put aside for the moment that when the JCPA went to congress to make its claims, it was double-dating with the American Task Force on Palestine.  That’s something they do a lot.  Again, whatever JCPA does is its own business.

But The Jewish Press asked a broad geographical cross-section of American Jews who are knowledgeable about the Middle East in general and Israel in particular, whether, as the JCPA asserts, it is the “representative voice of the organized Jewish community,” and if it spoke representing them when it went to congress urging the restart of the “peace talks” at this time.

In a word, no.

People in California, Chicago, Florida, Washington, D.C., and New York were asked to comment.  Rabbis, architects, businesspeople, financial wizards, intelligence analysts, and Jewish communal leaders were asked to comment.  They all said no, the JCPA does not represent them.

“They don’t represent me,” said Jeff Ballabon, the president of a New York consulting firm and the founder of the Coordinating Council on Jerusalem, a consortium of two dozen national pro-Israel groups.

“Israel has stated very clearly: there are to be no preconditions for starting the peace talks, so I have to wonder, why are these groups putting pressure on Israel?  I don’t see how any American Jew who cares about Israel’s safety and security would be pushing this now,” Ballabon said.

Which Jews Choose (Samantha) Power, Which Won’t

Friday, June 7th, 2013

At least three leading pro-Israel American organizations have come out early and with vigor against the nomination of Samantha Power to become the next United States Ambassador to the United Nations.

The non-partisan Washington D.C.-based Endowment for Middle East Truth, a self-described think tank and policy shop, issued a statement deploring the nomination on Tuesday, June 4,  the same day that the Republican Jewish Coalition did.  The Zionist Organization of America, the oldest Zionist organization in America, was the first out of the starting gate with its long, detailed, public opposition to Power’s nomination on Monday June 3.

And on the other side of the ring we have perhaps the most famous and famously wealthy Jewish organization, the Anti-Defamation League, Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz and rabbi to the Stars and former congressional candidate Shmuley Boteach, all of whom are publicly placing their heckshers on Powers.

The Republican Jewish Coalition said Power “has a record of statements that are very troubling to Americans who support Israel.”

“In 2008, as an academic who taught at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Samantha Power suggested  that the U.S. should invade Israel militarily to impose a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and protect “a new state of Palestine.” Her writing and public appearances reflected her views that special-interest lobbies in this country (read, the “Israel lobby”) have too great an impact on our foreign policy in the Middle East,” RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks said in a written statement. “She must respond to the strong doubts about her views raised by that record. Senators should also examine her tenure as head of the President’s Atrocity Prevention Board to see what results, if any, came out of her time there.”

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “The ZOA is deeply concerned about and opposed to the nomination of Samantha Power as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. The overwhelming evidence of her entire record causes us great fear and concern as to her appropriateness for this post. Ms. Power’s record clearly shows that she is viscerally hostile to Israel, regards it as a major human rights abuser, even committing war crimes, and would like to see the weight of American military and financial power go to supporting the Palestinian Authority, not Israel. In contrast, she has spoken of Iran as though it scarcely poses a problem. She also strongly suggested that the U.S. cease worrying about alleged Jewish power and money which allegedly forces the U.S. to support Israel and which allegedly is not in the national interest.

“Samantha Power is clearly the wrong choice for UN Ambassador, particularly at this sensitive juncture in history,” EMET’s President and Founder Sarah Stern wrote in a press release.

“Considering  Power’s openly hostile positions  on Israel as well as her deep seated resentment for the United States, and her biases in favor of the Palestinians despite their continued incitement to hate and to kill Israelis, our one true democratic  ally in the region,  and on the Iranian nuclear program, “she continued, “this appointment shows supporters of Israel that the Obama Administration’s worst instincts are coming to the fore in its second term. It’s deeply distressing.  We  oppose her nomination in the strongest terms possible.”

There are those in the public eye who are frequently considered to have strongly Jewish, pro-Israel positions, who have expressed support for Power.Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the prolific author once known as the “rabbi to the stars” because of his close-relationship with singer Michael Jackson, was won over by Power during a closed meeting between her and “40 Jewish leaders held in the offices of Jewish philanthropist Michael Steinhardt.

Boteach described that meeting and his conversion to Power-lover and defender of Power in an article published in the Huffington Post:

Typical of her erudition and brilliance, Samantha presented a sweeping view of American policy in the world’s most dangerous region. Then, she directly addressed the accusations that she harbored animus toward Israel. And in the presence of the leaders of our community, she suddenly became deeply emotional and struggled to complete her presentation as she expressed how deeply such accusations had affected her.

Tears streamed down her cheeks and I think it fair to say that there was no one in the room who wasn’t deeply moved by this incredible display of pain and emotion.

And the ADL’s national director Abraham Foxman and Barry Curtiss-Lusher, ADL National Chair, had this to say:

As the world is sickened by the images of slaughter in Syria and as Israel faces an ever more volatile Middle East, we are heartened that the U.S. will be represented by an individual whose moral resolve and fierce pragmatism will serve our country well.

Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz, strongly recommended confirming Powers’ nomination, but the words he chose and the way he used them are worth parsing carefully.  He wrote:

      To be sure, Samantha has said some things she now regrets — about Hillary Clinton, about Israel and about other controversial matters. She says what she thinks when she thinks it.
As the United States representative to the United Nations, she will articulate the policy of the Obama Administration.        She will have to be more diplomatic than she was while in private life. I am confident that she will make our country proud.
I have discussed the Israeli-Arab and Israeli-Palestinian conflict with Samantha on many occasions. As a strong supporter of Israel’s security, I have a high level of confidence that she will do and say the right things.
Indeed, because of her sometimes critical attitude toward certain Israeli policies — some of which I agree with, others of which I do not — she will bring added credibility to her positions at the most anti-Israel location in the world other than perhaps, Tehran.

In other words, she has a loose mouth, she’s said things she shouldn’t have, she will need to learn to be a diplomat, but she will be the voice of the Obama administration at the United Nations.  And by the way, her being perceived as anti-Israel is really kinda good for the Jews, right?

Right-Leaning Pro-Israel Organizations Join Voices in D.C.

Monday, January 7th, 2013

The Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) and the National Council of Young Israel announced on Friday, January 4, that EMET will serve as the NCYI’s voice on Capitol Hill for purposes of addressing foreign policy.  Both organizations are right-of-center and resolutely pro-Israel.

EMET is a small Washington, D.C. think tank which conducts weekly one-on-one briefings with Congressional offices, and hosts frequent talks by leading policy experts which are attended by members of congress, staffers, and others interested in Middle East policy.

According to Sarah Stern, founder and president of EMET, the collaboration between the two organizations makes sense

because of the strong symmetry in foreign policy views shared by the two organizations.  EMET’s policy focus will remain, as always, preserving and defending the national security of the United States, and its ally Israel, in the joint struggle against the forces of radical Islam and emphasizing Israel’s unique role as the eastern outpost of Western democratic values.  EMET currently does this with the backing of over 25,000 Americans throughout the United States.

The issues that EMET focuses its attention on educating members of Congress about include the need for Jerusalem to remain undivided; the need to demand of Islamist regimes that unless they meet required policy thresholds, U.S. military and financial assistance will be curtailed or even terminated; the dangers of a nuclear Iran; the dangers of a failed “land for peace” policy in dealing with the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the recognition that the path to peace is blocked by Arab Palestinian intransigence; and the need for American leadership in obtaining the release of unjustly jailed Jews around the world, including Jonathan Pollard.

The NCYI is an organization that grew out of the needs of Torah observant Jews to meet the challenges of a non-accommodating diaspora world, especially during the early decades of the Twentieth Century. Young Israel has 146 branches throughout North America, and it currently focuses not only on Torah observance, but on the needs and aspirations of its community, including various kinds of focused political action.  Obtaining the release from prison of Jonathan Pollard is a particularly important issue for Young Israel.  Rabbi Pesach Lerner, the executive vice president of the organization until his recent retirement, was one of Pollard’s most fervent advocates.

NCYI President Farley Weiss said in a joint press release about the arrangement between the two organizations, “NCYI is very excited to have EMET represent NCYI on it matters of foreign policy concerns.  I personally have admired for many years the tremendous job Sarah Stern and EMET has done and accomplished on Capitol Hill and their sterling reputation.  We are confident that partnering with EMET will be a win-win situation for both parties and will give the National Council of Young Israel a much stronger voice on issues of concern to our members.  We look forward to a great relationship with EMET.”

No Equal Justice Under The Law

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

On May 8, 2001, twelve-year-old Koby Mandell, an American citizen, decided to do the Huck Finn thing together with his friend Yoseph Ishran and skip school. Koby’s parents, Sherri and Seth Mandell, old friends of mine from Silver Spring, Maryland, began to worry when he failed to return home that night.

The boys’ bodies – so disfigured they had to be identified through dental records – were found in a cave outside their parents’ community of Tekoa, Israel.

I knew I had to call Koby’s parents while they were sitting shiva, but what does one say to parents who had just lost their firstborn son in the most brutal way possible?

I told them I had been working on a piece of legislation to take the entire portfolio of Americans maimed or killed by Palestinian terrorists out of the State Department, which, to be fair, is concerned primarily with diplomacy, and put it in the Justice Department, where the primary concern should be justice. I asked Sherri whether she would like this bill to be named in memory of Koby.

I will never forget her response: “I can just see Koby jumping up and down in heaven to have a law named after him,” she said.

At that point I made a vow to myself that I would not rest until this bill crossed the finish line and became U.S. law.

To make a very long story very short, the Koby Mandell Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush in December 2004. I immediately called Sherri and Seth to inform them. We were all ecstatic.

The law created the Office of Justice of Victims for Overseas Terrorism in the Department of Justice, whose job it was to ensure that all American citizens, irrespective of where they were killed or maimed, would get the justice under American law they deserve.

The office was opened in May 2005. I naively thought we had reached the finish line; that the 54 American citizens who had been killed by Palestinian terrorists and the 83 who had been wounded would finally get a crack at the American justice they so richly deserved.

According to a 1991 Antiterrorism act, whenever an American is killed or wounded anywhere in the world our government has the right to apprehend the suspect, bring him to these shores, indict him, prosecute him, and ensure he gets the full punishment coming to him under American law.

Unfortunately, it’s been seven years now and not one American family has seen even a single suspect apprehended and brought here to stand justice (I am glad to report that the murderer of an American missionary in Indonesia was found and brought to justice there.).

This all hit home while I was in Israel last October. It was during that time that the government of Israel decided to exchange 1,027 terrorists, some of them with American blood on their hands, for Gilad Shalit, a soldier who had been captured by Hamas and imprisoned for five years.

This was a very difficult decision for the Israeli government. Every person in Israel has someone he or she loves – a son, a daughter, a sister, a brother, a niece, a nephew – in the Israel Defense Forces. It has always been a part of the IDF code that no soldier is left alone on the battlefield.

When Shalit returned to Israel, every Israeli was glued to a television set. The busiest streets in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa were empty of cars. Every family felt the pain and the subsequent astonishment, joy, and relief of Gilad’s parents, Noam and Aviva.

But there was also enormous joy in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. Every terrorist who had been released was welcomed home as a hero.

One of these terrorists was Ahlam Tamimi, who engineered the Sbarro Pizza bombing in the middle of downtown Jerusalem on August 9, 2001, in which 15 civilians were killed and 130 wounded. Two of the civilians killed were American citizens – Malki Roth, 15, from New York and Judith Greenbaum, 31, from Passaic New Jersey.

In a video interview conducted by a journalist while Tamimi was still imprisoned in Israel, she was asked if she knew how many children had been killed. Tamimi responded, “I don’t know…maybe four.”

“No,” said the journalist, “eight.” The video shows a look of total contentment and satisfaction crossing Tamimi’s face as she realizes her action had in fact resulted in the murder of eight Jewish children.

This woman is now in Jordan, where she has been celebrated as a hero and has her own talk show. America has an extradition treaty with Jordan. We know where she is and we have the tape where she freely takes credit for masterminding the Sbarro bombing.

Why are we not extraditing her? Why are we not shackling her and bringing her to these shores to stand justice? Why are we not punishing her to the fullest extent of the law? When I returned to the United States, I worked on a letter – sponsored by Rep. Howard Berman, a Democrat from California and the ranking minority chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, together with Rep. Joe Walsh, a Republican from Illinois, and signed by 52 members of Congress – asking Attorney General Eric Holder precisely that question. The letter was sent to Holder on March 1 of this year.

‘Don’t Worry, Dad, I’m OK’

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

At 5:30 in the morning on a recent Wednesday, my husband was awakened by a phone call from our son, Noam, in Beer Sheba.

“Don’t worry, dad, we’re in our safe rooms at home and we’re OK.”

He made the call because the sirens went off after a missile came perilously close to that city’s population center. This was one of more than 50 rockets that had been launched into Southern Israel from Gaza in the previous several days.

My daughter-in-law, Ali, who commutes from Beer Sheba to Hebrew University, got on the bus to Jerusalem that day only to learn a terrorist attack had occurred just a few miles away from where she was, at a bus stop she often uses. The attack, the first in Jerusalem in several years, killed one woman, Mary Jane Gardner, 55, and left dozens wounded, some critically. Another phone call was made to tell us: “If you hear anything about a bus bombing in Jerusalem, don’t worry, I’m OK.”

This is life in Israel. Israelis know what they’re up against. They know they’re living in the midst of an earthquake. They’re well aware of the dangers of living on this shaky ground. But they’re plucky and self-reliant. After each terrorist attack or bus bombing they pick themselves up, clean up the damage, and move on. Advertisement

They know that now more than ever there are rival terrorist groups itching to have Israel get into the fight. They know that to some of these gangs, Jewish blood is a trophy to hang on their wall.

Israelis are well aware of the long tentacles of Iran stretching into every terrorist group. And they know that according to the latest IAEA report Iran has already compiled 3,606 kg. of low-enriched uranium (that we know of) and might already possess the nuclear warhead mechanism to deliver them.

Israelis know the ultimate trophy coveted by Iran – one that would win the Islamic Republic unparalleled prestige in the Arab world and finally settle the centuries-old tribal feud for the mantle of Muslim leadership – is nothing more or less than the destruction of the Jewish state.

They know Iran has provided training to Hizbullah and sent 50,000 to 60,000 missiles to its bases in Southern Lebanon and that Iran has also been providing money, weapons and training to Hamas in Gaza.

They know the rockets routinely fired from Gaza into Southern Israel now have a much larger and wider trajectory. The attacks have forced schools to be temporarily shut down in Ashdod, Ashkelon and Beer Sheba. Psychiatrists have been reporting frequent and sever symptoms of trauma in the school-age population.

Israelis know international public opinion holds Israel to a standard that would be impossible for any other nation of the world to live with. They realize the world scrutinizes their every move. They’re well aware of the stakes of military engagement.

They know that if, in order to discourage further launching of missiles against its citizens, Israel decides to retaliate against Hamas (which Israel has the right to do according to international law and Article 51 of the United Nations Charter), the Palestinians will use their people as human shields and launch rockets from heavily populated urban centers.

They also know there’s been a two-year period of relative quiet coming out of Gaza only because Israel responded with force against Hamas in Operation Cast Lead in 2009.

Which brings me to my daughter, Rachel, who is going out seriously with a young American serving in the Golani brigade of Israel Defense Forces. Rachel’s boyfriend is proud to wear the uniform of the IDF. He is now being prepared to go from house to house, in case the command comes to re-enter Gaza. He is willing to do this not because he seeks death but because he values life.

Which brings me back to my son Noam. He’s a medical student in Beer Sheba who volunteers for a magnificent humanitarian organization in Israel called Save A Child’s Heart (SACH). This organization provides highly sophisticated cardiac surgery, free of charge, to any youngster in the world who needs it.

SACH has already operated on more than 2,500 children from 43 countries and runs a clinic every week at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon for Palestinian children – not only from the West Bank but from Hamas-controlled Gaza as well – who need cardiac care. More than 1,200 Palestinian children have undergone open-heart surgery since the organization was founded in 1995.

All The Troubles Of The Middle East In One Little Country

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

There is a country in the Middle East accused of conducting a brutal decades-long occupation. A country where a blockade causes starvation among a civilian refugee population. A country that violently cracks down on all opposition and shoots into crowds of protestors but receives substantial financial aid from the United States as an ally in the War on Terror even as it undermines our war efforts by pursuing its own agenda.

We refer, of course, to Yemen.

The country of Yemen, on the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, has long been a simmering pot of violence. One conflict is geographic; much of largely secular southern Yemen (which was the independent Democratic People’s Republic of Yemen from 1967 until 1990) claims to suffer from an unwanted occupation from its more theocratic and traditional northern counterpart. This conflict between North and South has long been a sort of proxy between various influences in the region including at one time or another Egyptians, Jordanians, Saudis, British, and Soviets.

Another conflict involves the Iranian-backed Shi’ite Houthi rebels on the border of Saudi Arabia near the city of Sa’dah, stemming from an ancient feud that goes all the way back to the rebellion of the Zaydi tribes in 1905.

A third, and much newer, conflict is with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, though some assert the Yemeni government’s stance on al Qaeda is closer to cooperative then confrontational.

In November 2009, the government of Saudi Arabia, which is allied with Yemen against the Shi’ite rebels, placed a naval blockade along the coast of Houthi-occupied Northern Yemen in order to prevent the Iranians from re-supplying their proxy fighters. As former Israeli ambassador to the UN Dore Gold noted during the Mavi Marmara incident, there was no outcry against Saudi Arabia or Yemen for that action.

Astoundingly, the purpose of the blockade – to prevent Iranian arms from reaching the area of conflict – was identical to that of the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza which receives such harsh international criticism.

In Southern Yemen, a land blockade meant to put pressure on separatists there has caused dislocation and dwindling food and medical supplies. But unlike the Israeli checkpoints into Gaza, which permit about 15,000 tons of supplies to cross every week, there is no such humanitarianism on display in Yemen. In January, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees asserted that as many as a quarter of a million civilians have been dislocated in Yemen due to fighting.

Yet unlike the Palestinians, who have a billion-dollar-a-year agency (UNWRA) devoted specifically to their needs, the Yemeni refugees were faced with cuts in food assistance when donors could not be found. Those who did contribute were, not surprisingly, largely Western countries, including the U.S. and France, while neighboring Arab states such as Saudi Arabia have provided little or nothing.

Police in Yemen have opened fire on Southern protestors and conducted torture while the Yemeni military has shelled Southern homes with little provocation. American and British flags are often present at demonstrations of secessionist protestors, though they are generally waved in solidarity, not burned as in Gaza and the West Bank.

And while the world screams in protest when Israeli bulldozers demolish Palestinian houses for lacking legal permits or hiding smuggling tunnels, there was no similar outcry when the Saudis annihilated an entire village, including a mosque, in Northern Yemen during their intervention against the Houthi rebels.

But despite such ham-handed and bloody tactics, American assistance continues to flow to the Yemeni government.

The importance of Yemen in the global war on terror has escalated since American-born Yemeni cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki fled there. Al-Awlaki was the confidante and spiritual mentor of many terrorist plotters, including three of the 9/11 hijackers, the Fort Hood shooter and the Christmas Day “underwear bomber,” and was an inspiration for failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shazhad.

Incredibly, though, $150 million in military aid does not even buy the U.S. the ability to extradite al-Awlaki from Yemen in the event of his capture. Yemeni authorities say Awlaki will be tried in Yemen for terrorist acts he may have committed there, even though Yemen’s track record of keeping terrorists behind bars is abysmal at best and conducting jihad against foreigners outside of Yemen is not even a crime under Yemeni law.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/all-the-troubles-of-the-middle-east-in-one-little-country/2010/07/28/

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