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Wiesenthal Center Officials Ask Ecuador to Intercede for Alan Gross

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Officials of the Simon Wiesenthal Center met with Ecuadorian authorities to seek their support in asking Cuba to release American prisoner Alan Gross.

The meetings came on the sidelines of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s Latin American gathering of Jewish communities in Quito, the capital of Ecuador.

Sergio Widder, the Wiesenthal Center’s Latin American director, and Dr. Shimon Samuels, its director of international relations, in separate meetings with Ecuador’s deputy justice minister, Carmen Simone Lasso, and the Justice Ministry’s legal adviser, Marco Prado, requested “the humanitarian intervention of Ecuador — in view of its close bilateral relations — to urge the Cuban authorities for an early release of U.S. citizen Alan Gross.”

Widder told JTA that Lasso did not comment on future steps regarding the Gross case. Lasso expressed her support for Holocaust education in Ecuador, he said.

Gross, 63, of Potomac, Md., was sentenced last year to 15 years in prison for “crimes against the state.” He was arrested in 2009 for allegedly bringing satellite phones and computer equipment to members of Cuba’s Jewish community while working as a contractor for the U.S. Agency on International Development.

“We believe that President Rafael Correa Delgado is best-placed to convince Havana to make a humanitarian gesture,” Samuels and Widder told Ecuadorian officials.

On Sunday, more than 500 rabbis urged the release of Alan Gross, citing the possibility that he has a cancerous growth, based on a recent assessment of his medical records by a U.S. radiologist.

Also, the Wiesenthal Center expressed its concern at the growing influence of Iran in Ecuador and its anti-American, ALBA bloc partners of Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua.

“This represents a potential danger of Iranian-supported Hezbollah terrorist networks abusing Ecuador’s hospitality as a springboard for expansion throughout South America,” Samuels said.

Sarah Silverman Eyes Israeli Elections

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

Now that U.S. politics are over, Sarah Silverman has found a new target – Israel.

In a tweet sent on Wednesday, Silverman writes,

“My Israeli bros & sissies: Do yourselves a fave & Vote Meretz OR the Green Movement for Kenesset sweeet”.

According to the Israeli site Nana, Meretz party chief, MK Zahava Galon (of “Jew-boy” fame) thanked Silverman for her support and congratulated her on Obama’s victory.

Now what would Rabbi Rosenblatt have to say?

Ha’aretz’s Good News Poll

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

Can we trust Haaretz reporting on polls?

After Eldar and Levy on those “apartheid” stories?

Here’s the latest, “For the right man, Israelis would make peace” which makes the claim that

“The consensus is moving to the right, but that doesn’t mean Israeli Jews won’t support a deal with the PA if the right leader comes along, a new study shows.”

The May (five months ago!) data is from Tel Aviv University’s Walter Lebach Institute for Jewish-Arab Coexistence, but it seems not even to be up at its site.

Some findings:

- 80 percent of Israelis don’t believe it’s possible to make peace with the Palestinians. Half of them don’t believe it’s ever possible to make peace, while half don’t believe it’s possible in the foreseeable future. About two-thirds support a diplomatic solution, but many more still eagerly buy the convenient argument that there’s no partner.

- 87 percent of secular Jewish Israelis believe in the need for peace with the Palestinians, but only half the religiously observant and a smaller percentage of the ultra-Orthodox believe this. Traditional Jews have moved to the right and are now in the middle of the road.

- Only about 20 percent of secular Jews see the demographic threat as an existential problem and only one-third believe the occupation and the settlements are creating a security threat to Israel.

- Nearly half the respondents consider Palestinian terror a major security problem.

- Within the Green Line, the number who consider themselves rightists or right-leaning has increased from 41 percent to 48 percent. Two-thirds of this increase comes at the expense of those who say they hold centrist positions. But between 2002 and 2012 the left has strengthened; it has grown from 20 percent to 25 percent.

- 60 percent of the public supports a democratic solution to the conflict, 22 percent of Jewish residents of the West Bank prefer the authority of the rabbis to the authority of the elected institutions.

-  Six percent of the respondents (14 percent of the settlers ) see the use of violence to prevent withdrawal from the West Bank as legitimate, while 59 percent (70 percent of the settlers ) believe that the public only has the right to fight for its beliefs within the law (compared with 31 percent and 45 percent respectively at the beginning of the decade ).

- Around 37 percent of the secular respondents see the settlers as pioneers, compared with 32 percent in 2005, and 35 percent see them as “the bedrock of our existence,” compared with 23 percent in 2005.

The really silly item Eldar emphasizes that

the hard core of settlers as represented by Gush Emunim, which has pushed the Israeli government and public to settle in the territories, hasn’t spread its messianic ideology among the public, or even among the settlers. It turns out that the main motivations for living in the territories, including among many of the religious, are comfort and quality of life.

But that was the point, that it is natural for Jews to live in their homeland.  The vanguard always needs a more powerful ideological motivation but in pulling over the masses, the reasons for their remaining can assuredly be such mundane, for Eldar, ones.  Doesn’t alter the reality.

He also claims the report indicates

…it’s possible to evacuate half the settlers with their consent if they are offered compensation equivalent to up to 300 percent of the value of their property.

but also the public is split

between people with a neo-Zionist outlook who emphasize a nationalist-religious agenda and a moderate Zionist majority that focuses on the land inside the Green Line and promotes a social agenda.  Therefore, the right is advancing its agenda unhindered, the researchers say…the occupation remains on the margins of the[centrists'] political concerns.

I think that’s good news.

Visit My Right Word.

Gaming the System

Monday, November 5th, 2012

One of the more troubling issues for me about the current right-wing push for all of their students to learn Torah full time for as long as possible (well into their marriage and long after having a number of children to support) is the way in which this is financed.

I have long ago expressed my disagreement with this policy as it is currently applied. The idea of directing every single male in all of Jewry into a life of Torah study as the ideal (to the exclusion of any other productive endeavor) is anathema to the very idea of a Jewish nation.

I am not going to go into the details as to why I feel that way in this post other than to say that I do not believe God wants His people to not fully utilize all the individually different talents He has granted them. Every individual Jew is different with talents in a broad range of different fields. They ought to choose those fields where their talents lie.

For those whose talents are uniquely geared to Torah study – that is the best use of their time. But for those whose talents are suited elsewhere, they should find out what they are, utilize them that way and thus make a far greater contribution to God, Judaism, and the Jewish people.

The Lakewood ideal is to sublimate those talents into full time Torah study.

One of the terrible consequences of this push for every male to spend his life learning Torah is the material cost. This is most acutely felt in Israel. But Americans who do this aren’t exactly living the good life either. Learning full time means they do not earn any money outside of a meager stipend a Yeshiva like Lakewood pays. Those funds cannot possibly support them enough to put a roof over their heads, put food on the table, send their children to private religious schools (even those with very low tuition) and other expenses required just to live a bare-bones modest lifestyle.

While it is true that many Kollel wives work to support their husbands they rarely make enough to support their very large families. Sometimes there are parents and in-laws that help. But that too is not enough, and is drying up a source of income with every succeeding generation. More than ever young people are being convinced to spend their lives in a Beis HaMedrash well into their prime earning years.

One of the ways Lakewood helps its Avreichim is by teaching them how to game the system. By this I mean applying for every possible federal dollar available to students who need financial aid to continue their advanced studies beyond high school. One of the most commonly used federal programs is the Pell Grant.

The Pell Grant was created 40 years ago by then Senator Claiborne Pell to provide financial aid to low income students enabling them to access higher education. While these Avrechim do apparently qualify under Pell Grant guidelines I nevertheless find this to be a misuse of the system.

I do not accuse them of stealing from the government. But there is no way that the Pell grant was ever intended to be used as supplemental income. Which is for the most part how it is used.

A lengthy article in the Forward has taken a closer look at this situation. Here are some of their troubling observations.

Said Heather Valentine, vice president of public policy at the Council for Opportunity in Education put it:

“It’s not just about creating the access to higher education… It’s about making sure that students are… graduating and getting placed in jobs.”

I think that Lakewood and the rest of the Yeshiva world that promotes full time learning understands this. This is how they have addressed the issue:

Proponents of yeshiva education point out that critical thinking and argumentative skills that develop while poring over Talmud — not to mention grueling day-long study sessions broken only for prayer and meals — serve students well for careers in many professions, particularly business and law.

In her book, “Heart of the Stranger: A Portrait of Lakewood’s Orthodox Community,” Botein-Furrevig said the current CEO of BMG (Lakewood), Kotler’s grandson Aaron Kotler, told her that BMG has “a successful job placement service” for graduates and that many students go on to careers in “business, the rabbinate, academia, medicine, finance, law or technology.”

Is this not Gneivas Daas (deception)? I have no doubt that there have been and still are students who have attended Yeshivos like Lakewood and have gone on to a wide variety of successful careers like those mentioned by Lakewood CEO, Rabbi Aaron Kotler.

But to imply that they have a successful job placement service in the fields of medicine, law and technology when that is not the case is simply wrong.

I believe the opposite is true. With the exception of helping their students find jobs in Chinuch or similar jobs, they do nothing to support students seeking careers in any of those fields.

They don’t even approve of schools like Touro and consider a lifestyle outside of learning to be less than desirable. I will never forget the remarks Lakewood Rosh HaYeshiva Rav Malkiel Kotler made along those lines about Dr. Bernard Lander – founder of Touro upon his passing

I understand the need for Lakewood and similar Yeshivos to help their students find legitimate and legal sources of financial aid. But I do not understand misleading the public about how these schools live up to the expectations of helping their students find decent careers – when doing so is anathema to its philosophy.

If that isn’t Genivas Daas, I do know what is. Need based stealing does not justify doing it. Even if it is done for the lofty goal of learning Torah.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

In New Jersey 9th Race, Boteach Is Best Bet

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

For New Jersey voters who place a high priority on the safety of Israel and want the U.S. government to continue its strong support for the Jewish State, there is only one choice in the 9th District race – Rabbi Shmuley Boteach.

It isn’t just that Boteach is a rabbi, steeped in Jewish law and lore and is strongly pro-marriage, pro-America and pro-democracy, and it certainly isn’t that he is a world-famous author and larger-than-life personality, although he is all of that. It’s simply that despite there being a low bar set for congressmen to apply to their lapels the hecsher of “pro-Israel,” not all of them really deserve it, and Boteach’s opponent falls firmly into that category.

Boteach’s opponent, Bill Pascrell, Jr., was first elected to congress in 1996 and since then represented New Jersey’s 8th District, until it was redrawn which is why he is now facing Boteach in the 9th.  It is true that during his congressional tenure Pascrell has voted each time to support aid to Israel which, in the eyes of many who professionally hold out that low bar, makes Pascrell pro-Israel.

In fact, following a recent debate between the congressional candidates after Boteach insisted his opponent’s record is not sufficiently pro-Israel, Pascrell thundered at Boteach, “you don’t preach to me about my relationship with Israel!”

Pascrell practically foamed at the mouth as he spat out, “I did the right thing [in supporting Israel]. I want Israel to have the power to protect itself. You show me one time I went against that principle or one time I didn’t vote for dollars to make Israel safer!”

But Boteach doesn’t question Pascrell’s vote for U.S. aid to Israel.  “Instead,” he told The Jewish Press, “the problem is that Pascrell criticizes Israel when she uses that aid to defend herself.”

Pascrell signed the infamous Gaza 54 letter blasting Israel for what it called “collective punishment” of Gazans by blockading food and medicine — not true — and reserved a meeting space for the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) in the Capital building.

And just recently Boteach pointed out another way in which Pascrell, despite his public vows, is tone deaf to the interests of Jews.

This September it was announced that a portion of a park located within the 9th District, in Clifton, was going to be renamed for a local resident who had recently died, Chester Grabowski.  Grabowski had been the publisher of a local Polish-American weekly, the Post Eagle.

Pascrell had written an enthusiastic letter of endorsement to rename that park.  But Grabowski’s Post Eagle regularly referred to Jews as “vermin,” “animals” and “Christ killers.”

Pascrell’s letter in support of honoring Grabowski stated,

I knew Chester for many years and he was a great friend. He was a kind and respected man who would help anyone in need and he was a friend to all.  Chester was an individual who cared about the City of Clifton and was a strong advocate of the Polish-American community, not only in the City of Clifton, but all across the great State of New Jersey…For this, I whole heartedly support the honor of memorializing the Richard Scales Park to a resident, a businessman, and a leader in the City of Clifton, Mr. Chester Grabowski. His legacy will not only be that of a successful newspaper he operated for many years, but the family man who worked so hard for his community

And this isn’t the only hater of Jews and Israel on behalf of whom Pascrell has used his public office.

Pascrell signed an affidavit opposing the deportation of radical anti-Israel Imam Mohamad Qatanani, the Imam of one of the largest mosques in New Jersey, calling him “peace-loving” and “magnanimous.”  That’s hard to square with information provided by Steve Emerson, one of the world’s leading terrorism experts.

Emerson wrote that Qatanani’s deportation case centered on the Imam’s lying on his immigration documents about having been arrested by Israel for membership in the terrorist organization Hamas.  But even while in the United States, Qatanani openly displayed his hatred and contempt for Israel.  He allegedly referred to the creation of Israel as “the greatest disaster which occurred on the face of the Earth,” and has called for supporting the children of homocide bombers.

It is difficult to reconcile that with the words in Pascrell’s affidavit and his 2008 description of Qatanani whom he said, “put so much time into bringing peace for all of us. Thank you imam, for all you’ve done for America since you’ve come here.”

Thank you, voters of New Jersey’s 9th, if you vote for Rabbi Shmuley Boteach to be your next congressional representative.

Benghazi’s Tough Questions

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

The story of how the Obama Administration failed to secure a U.S. consulate and then failed to send in support while it was under attack may turn out to be the biggest scandal of this administration. But that will only happen if Benghazigate is the subject of a thorough and rigorous investigation. And that means basing stories on facts or on reliable reports, rather than on speculation and internet rumors that no one would take seriously in any other context.

I have received dozens of emails in the last few days claiming that General Ham was fired for trying to go ahead with a rescue operation. The story appeared in the Washington Times. The source for the Times’ story was an anonymous comment on Tiger Droppings, a forum for LSU football fans, from someone in Louisiana working in “Self Employed/Restaurants/Catering” who claimed that the story came “from someone inside the military”.

Now for all I know this story is true, but an anonymous comment on a football fan forum is not enough to run with a major story. It’s certainly not enough to start treating it as an established fact.

That comment has gone beyond the Washington Times and is being sourced in various outlets all of whom are reporting a story based on an anonymous comment on an internet forum.

On October 20th, Clare Lopez wrote a column raising various questions about Benghazi and suggesting that Ambassador Stevens may have been involved in a weapons smuggling operation moving Libyan weapons into Syria. Lopez’s column raised some questions, a lot of them, but provided no proof and no truly credible connection between Stevens and the transfer of Libyan weapons to Syrian Jihadists. Nor did that theory come with a motive for why the consulate was attacked.

Nevertheless large numbers of people have now taken it as a fact that Stevens was involved in running Libyan guns to Syria without any actual evidence to verify that as a fact. Many repeat Lopez’s suggestion that the warehouses behind the consulate stored guns meant for Syria as a statement of fact. To many people, it seems “right” and it may be true, it may not be true. The difference between the two is actual evidence.

I am not attacking Lopez, she was doing what many of us were doing in the days and weeks after the attack. I have run plenty of speculative pieces, some that were right, some that were wrong, it’s in the nature of the business to do that. The problem only begins when a speculative piece is treated as fact and when speculations begin to be used as evidence when they are only questions, not answers.

Was Stevens being set up to be used in a prisoner exchange for the Blind Sheik? It’s an interesting theory, but if Obama had really wanted to release the Blind Sheik, he would extradited him to Egypt and after waiting two months, the Egyptian government would have released him. Furthermore if the goal was to take an American hostage, then there were easier and safer ways to take Stevens than an armed attack on a consulate.

Obama might have personally benefited from a hostage crisis involving a U.S. ambassador, but it’s more likely that he would taken a hit and his entire policy on Libya would have become subject to the same scrutiny that the entire Benghazi cover-up has sought to avoid. It would have been a desperate move at a time when he didn’t see any reason for desperation and believed that he would easily win the election.

That doesn’t mean that it’s impossible for all this to have taken place. Logic only takes you so far and often events are the result of bad and stupid decisions. So nothing can really be ruled out, but its plausibility can be challenged. And should be challenged because through those questions and counter-questions we can come closer to the truth.

Was Stevens involved in running guns to Libya? It’s possible, but almost somewhat unnecessary. The Saudis, Turks and Qataris had taken the lead in running guns to the groups of Jihadists that they were linked to. They really didn’t Stevens to “help” them out in their own backyard. A similar story that claims Stevens was acting as a representative for the Saudis does not make a great deal of sense. The Saudis really didn’t need an American ambassador to act as their agent in the Arab world.

The American role in the weapons pipeline was a wink and a nod to the shipments. The diplomats would pretend to see to it that the weapons were going to “moderate” rebels and that nothing too heavy was being shipped to them. Then when it turned out that the Jihadists were getting heavy weapons, there would be some plausible deniability on the table.

To what extent was Stevens playing a role in this remains an open question. But it is unlikely that even the Obama Administration would have approved of weapons transfers to groups that had not, at least formally, repudiated Al Qaeda, the way that the LIFG had. Giving weapons to Al Qaeda would contradict the entire purpose of the Arab Spring which was to weaken Al Qaeda by empowering political Islamists such as the Muslim Brotherhood. Such weapons transfers would lead to terrorist attacks and suggesting that such attacks were calculated takes us into a whole other territory.

If weapons smuggling were taking place, then Al Qaeda linked militias were not likely in the same weapons pipeline as Islamist militias linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. Or weren’t supposed to be. Which is to say that there might have been two weapons smuggling pipelines, one that was supposed to go to the Brotherhood’s militias and another going to Al Qaeda linked militias and that the mission was supposed to keep an eye on both pipelines only to discover that they were one and the same.

Then I could further speculate that reports from the Benghazi mission about the transfer of weapons to Al Qaeda linked militias were intercepted and passed along by a State Department Muslim Brotherhood sympathizer back to the militias which led to a coordinated attack on the mission to blind the American eye in Benghazi.

But all this is still speculation. It’s questions piled on questions, rather than answers. It’s a series of assumptions linked to other assumptions with too much distance between known facts and the final narrative. It might be true and it might not be.

The various Benghazi conspiracy theories may be true, in part or in whole, but we have to first look at the fact that the attack was not an isolated event, but part of a series of Islamist attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities coinciding with September 11. The only reason that Benghazi is unique is because it was in a city run by Islamist militias with little police or military support available making it a soft target.

Claiming that the Benghazi attack was timed to go specifically after Stevens ignores the fact that there was a series of international attacks linked to a defining date. Stevens may have been a target, or he may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Again, we don’t really know and we can’t know until more actual facts come out.

There might have been both a local and a global motive, but for the moment the global motive is fact, the local motive is speculation.

Al Qaeda views American embassies as a natural target. It has been carrying out such attacks since 1998 without the need for extraordinary motives to justify them. That doesn’t mean that such motives can’t exist, but it means they aren’t strictly necessary to explain what happened.

Nor is a coverup of specific wrongdoing involving the Benghazi consulate required to explain the Obama Administration’s refusal to intervene in the attack. This is not an administration that is willing to offend Muslims to save American lives. For it to have taken action in Benghazi would have been more extraordinary than not taking action.

Let’s go back to the Battle of Ganjgal in 2009.where 5 Americans were killed because they were denied artillery support under the Rules of Engagement. That battle led to Dakota Meyer, a United States Marine, receiving a Medal of Honor. The Battle of Ganjgal in multiple reprimands for the officers who denied support, but it led to no changes in the way that things were done.

Here is a statement from the father of Lance Corporal Hunter Hogan, “The policies of this current administration and the rules of engagement are a huge factor with these casualty reports. The limited air and artillery support our men receive. The limited company level support such as motors, as well as the approval to return fire are hampering and adding to the danger they are in daily.”

Here is yet a third letter from a soldier serving in Afghanistan. “The soldiers of the U.S. never engage the enemy unless we know that we have will always have the tactical advantage in defending ourselves, that advantage is the use of close air support and air weapons team. To take those weapons away from us is to level the playing field for the enemy and thus exposing our soldiers to more danger… The very presence of aircraft over our foot patrols has also saved lives and now our chain of command is being told by our political leadership that this is now not allowed.”

If this is how our soldiers in a legitimate war zone have been treated, then what reason was there to expect any other outcome in Benghazi?

When all is said and done, we will likely find that the Battle of Benghazi had more in common with the Battle of Ganjgal than it did with any of the conspiracies. And that is one of the most important points that can be made.

The four Americans killed in Benghazi were not the first Americans to die because of a policy of appeasing Muslims. They will not be the last until the entire worldview of the decision makers is forced to change. It is important not to lose sight of that in debating just what happened in Benghazi, because this is much bigger than Benghazi.

Benghazi is one spot of blood in a stain that marks the map of the globe. Countless American soldiers and civilians have died because diplomacy was thought to be a surer way of avoiding war than an aggressive posture. And if we don’t learn the lessons of Benghazi, then we will be forced to repeat them.

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

Hurricane Sandy takes out Major NYC Internet Provider

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Hurricane-downgraded-to-Post-tropical storm Sandy has taken out Internap, which operates a global content delivery network and data centers.

Internap has emailed its customers the following warning:

Please be advised that Internap’s LGA11 facility is experiencing significant flooding in the sub-basement of the 75 Broad Street building as a result of Hurricane Sandy. The flooding has submerged and destroyed the site’s diesel pumps and is preventing fuel from being pumped to the generators on the mezzanine level.

The available fuel reserves on the mezzanine level are estimated to support customer loads for approximately 5-7 hours. Once this fuel supply has been exhausted the generator will no longer be able to sustain operation and critical customer power loads will be lost.

According to The Register, a Microsoft employee reported that submarine cables have gone dark. The Service Help Dashboard at Amazon Web Services reported all is well, as did Rackspace.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/hurricane-sandy-takes-out-major-nyc-internet-provider/2012/10/30/

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