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November 29, 2014 / 7 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘U.S.’

Every Jew – a .22?

Tuesday, December 25th, 2012

I have not yet addressed the horrific tragedy that struck our nation a little over week ago in Newtown, Connecticut. The truth is that this is the kind of thing that I do not usually discuss since it is not a Jewish issue. Even though there was one Jewish victim, the tragedy is much larger than one victim.

But the fact is that the issues raised by this tragedy affects us all – Jew and Gentile alike.

On Friday morning, December 14th, 27 people were massacred at the Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School by Adam Lanza, a mentally ill 20-year-old with easy access to four semi-automatic weapons. Twenty of the victims were very young children and at least two of the adults, one a teacher and the other the school principal were murdered while attempting to shield children from the hail of bullets.

Like just about everyone else I was stunned by it. I could not imagine the sudden grief that parents, friends, and families must have felt. The idea that a group of six-year-old children were so quickly massacred in this way is unimaginable. So terrible is this to me this that my mind is mentally blocked from putting myself into the shoes of those parents. I think I would have a mental breakdown if I did. I was basically numbed by it. The President was visibly moved to tears when he first made public comments about it.

My immediate thoughts were about the guns. I thought it was indeed the easy access to guns that was the problem here. Those guns were legally obtained by Lanza’s mother, an avid gun enthusiast. Unfortunately for her, that attitude cost her her life at the hands of her own son just before he went on his killing rampage and suicide. The state of Connecticut is reputed to have some of the strictest gun laws in the country. It didn’t matter. The guns were there at the disposal of a mentally deranged individual.

Personally, I wouldn’t go anywhere near a gun. Guns scare me, frankly. To me the dangers of someone getting accidentally shot far outweigh the improbability of my using it for protection, which would be the only reason for me to own one. I am reminded of a former employee of mine whose son was killed by a gun carelessly placed on a table in her home by a friend who was police trainee. The boy found it, started playing with it and he accidentally shot himself in the head.

I believe that the massacre in Newton would never have happened if guns were made illegal.

It happens to be the case that in England gun ownership is very strictly controlled. If I understand correctly the police don’t even carry guns. It also happens to be the case that the gun homicide rate there is one of the lowest in the world. If we could do the same here in America, this massacre would very likely never have happened.

The trouble is you can’t do that here. It is a constitutional right of every American citizen to bear arms. And there is some truth to the slogan of gun rights advocates that if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns. It is therefore quite understandable that some people feel the need to own a gun for protection.

If I recall correctly the founding fathers believed that confiscating guns from the citizenry was a first step towards tyranny. Which is one reason they introduced the 2nd amendment. But is that still the case? In my view making all guns illegal would be a huge step towards solving this problem. But the only way that can be done is to repeal the second amendment to the constitution. That is not going to happen. Although using England as an example I think it should. Will outlaws still have guns? Of course they will. But I would differ with England in that I would still allow law enforcement to carry them.

Gun enthusiasts of course would vehemently protest any such move. They use guns as toys… for target practice and the like. And then there are hunters. Perhaps an exception could be made for single shot rifles for hunting purposes. But I would outlaw all private ownership of all handguns and assault type semi automatic weapons that can take a large magazine clip filled with bullets. I would certainly outlaw those large ammunition clips. This is the type of gun and clip used by Lanza to shoot and kill so many victims so quickly.

But then I had another thought that went in an entirely different direction. I couldn’t help thinking that if the principal who had encountered him at the beginning of his shooting rampage had a gun with a conceal/carry permit, was well trained and proficient with firearms – that she could have shot Lanza before he did so much damage. I don’t know if she would have gotten to him before he killed anyone. But she surely could have saved many of those children and herself. Lest anyone think this is ridiculous, there are schools in Texas where all or most of the teachers are trained in firearms and carry weapons.

But I have to admit that the thought of a teacher who carries a gun in the classroom teaching my child is a scary thought. Teachers can be – or become – deranged too. With a gun at the ready, there could just as easily be another shooting of this type. Only this time by a deranged teacher.

Then there is the proposal by the NRA. They want to station armed police guards in every school. While many people are outraged by this, I don’t see it that way. If properly trained they too could have prevented the Newtown massacre had they been there.

The NRA points to Israeli schools who have this exact situation. Israel as we all know has been frequently subjected to terrorist attacks by suicide bombers. I don’t blame them a bit for protecting their schools in this way.

It would put my mind at greater ease to know that Israeli trained sharpshooters were on alert in my child’s school for any terrorist that might enter. Israel’s attitude about guns is more along the lines of the NRA. It is also true that a civilian carrying a handgun is a fairly common sight there. I also believe there has never been an incident like this in Israel’s history… where in the US it seems like every Monday and Thursday we see one.

Are armed guards a viable option here in America? I don’t know. Counter claims are being made that it would be ineffective. Columbine had an armed guard that was somehow eluded and students were massacred there by other students.

But still you can’t argue with the success of such a program in Israel. I think it is therefore really a matter of better training. Something the Israelis could help us with.

What about a Jewish school? Should we have armed guards in every day school? That would make quite a sight… something we are all not used to here at all. Or maybe we should all carry guns the way Meir Kahane once suggested. He coined the phrase “Every Jew – 22.” Twenty-two is the caliber handgun he suggested we own. He claimed that had the Jewish people had guns at the beginning of the Holocaust they could have fight back effectively.

That of course is very debatable. It may have made the annihilation of six-million Jews more difficult – but I doubt it would have done anything more than delay it.

Rabbi Kahane said that a Holocaust could happen anywhere; anytime. And we should be ready for it by having our own weapons. That is of course ridiculous. But I understand where he was coming from. He did not want to see us to go like sheep to the slaughter – which is what happens when an armed tyrannical government starts rounding up its unarmed citizens like Germany did to the Jewish people during the Holocaust.

But still, if every Jew carried a handgun – that would include every teacher and Rebbe. That would surely prevent the kind of massacre that happened in Newtown.

Does this sound like a viable idea to anyone?

Some have also suggested that the real issue here is mental illness, not handguns. While I agree – that too is an issue that ought to be addressed here, I don’t think that mental Illness will be cured anytime soon. No matter how much time and energy we devote to it. Although I fully agree that we need to devote a lot more time and money to it than we do now it does not offer any real solutions in the short term.

One thing seems clear to me. One way or the other something needs to change here in a big way. Because if it doesn’t. We may not have seen the last of this kind of thing.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

That’s the Way the World Is…

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

I was talking to my son Elie about the Sandy Hook/Newtown tragedy and about some discussions I’ve been following on Twitter. The consensus of one group is that teachers should carry concealed weapons, making them better able to protect the children under their care.

“That’s stupid,” said Elie. “They need trained guards, and fences around the schools. And even if the security guard is killed…”

He continued but I got stuck at “even if the security guard is killed.” My sons are security guards. I can’t quite just walk past that statement of Elie’s without pausing but he was going on.

“And it would help the economy; give people jobs.”

He’s right. Securing schools in America so that they are all surrounded by fences and guarded by trained security would provide more jobs. But would America agree to live that way? The way we have been living for so long?

“That’s the way the world is,” Elie answered back. He’s too young to mourn the cynicism of that statement, too used to it being that way to know that it shouldn’t be natural to have to guard children with guns.

“I’m not even only talking about terrorism,” Elie continued while my brain took a quick trip down memory lane to when I was a child in the schools of America. “Even just against sick people.”

When I was a child, my school had a fence – around the playground area only – so that the balls didn’t go into neighboring properties. The schools were not locked; no guards, not metal detectors. There were no cameras, no monitors.

My children go to school behind fences, with an armed guard at the gates. A few times a year, and at times when security is heightened, policemen are added in front of the schools.

Part of me mourns that my children need to be protected in this way and part of me mourns that fact that it doesn’t bother them. The security guard is their friend; they know his name and greet him each day. That’s the way the world is…

Silly to wish it wasn’t but even sillier to ignore that it is. No, I do not believe teachers should be armed; that principals should be responsible for guarding children with their lives. If you put a security guard in front of a bank, then put one in front of your school. Your child should be the most precious part of your life.

In Israel, we have become accustomed to certain infringements on our lives. We go to a mall and do not hesitate to open the trunks of our cars, our purses. We empty our pockets. I sometimes feel “honored” to walk into the mall with Elie or Shmulik because they flash their ID and gun licenses and not only are they allowed to enter without being searched, but I get to go along for the ride.

The concept is logical – if he’s okay and he says you’re okay, go through. Years ago, an American security officer was explaining to an Israeli officer how they search every person. The Israeli answered, “if you search all, you search none.”

The goal here is not to be politically correct, it is to save lives. If a person who is acceptable and known to pose no security risk takes you through security, you are trusted too – but only so long as you are with them.

Actually, not really. Some of the people at the mall know that I am Elie and Shmulik’s mother and let me in without being checked – but it still feels like a privilege to me, something strange. For the most part, like all Israelis, I open my backpack or pocketbook; I walk through the metal detectors and answer the questions I am asked.

No, it is not a violation of my rights; it is a protection of my life and those around me. I can’t imagine the US putting security guards before their schools…and yet, I can’t avoid the reality that a security guard would have questioned and even blocked a young man who didn’t belong where he was going from entering the school.

Elie says, “that’s the way the world is.” I accepted long ago that this is the way we live here in Israel and it has never bothered me. I want that guard there because I have to know my children are being protected.

The Sandy Hook Tragedy

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

The 26 murders at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut last Friday have triggered yet another nationwide debate over how something so horrific could happen in the United States.

We’ve seen similar discussions after other mass killings, but usually they are forgotten in a matter of weeks. Perhaps the Newtown massacre, with its sheer number of dead and the heartbreakingly young age of most of the victims, will prove to be different.

In the immediate aftermath of the atrocity, most are still focused on the adequacy of gun control measures and the attention paid to the special threats posed by the mentally ill. And these concerns are obviously on point.

Yet far too little attention is being paid to the steady diet of violence and depravity – including depictions and even celebrations of murder, torture, dismemberment and rape – being served up to our young people in movies, song lyrics, video games and of course on the Internet.

While more details about the Newtown killer, Adam Lanza, are sure to become known in the days ahead, we already know he spent an inordinate amount of time behind closed doors playing violent Internet games.

Understandably, as a nation that revels in free speech we tend to be reluctant to dwell on these matters, but a clearer understanding of the long-term effects of this kind of exposure would seem to be crucial in understanding and possibly preventing such unthinkable violence.

In the meantime, we join our fellow Americans and indeed the rest of the world in expressing our deepest sorrow and sympathy to the families and friends of the children and teachers whose lives were so senselessly ended last week.

Fuel For The Pollard Controversy

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Many Washington officials have long spun the story that convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard did immense harm to this country’s national security by stealing vital American military and intelligence secrets. Thus, the U.S. intelligence community has always opposed Mr. Pollard’s release.

(Most notoriously, then-CIA director George Tenet threatened to resign if President Clinton followed through on his reported plan to release Mr. Pollard in return for Israeli concessions at the Wye Plantation negotiations; Mr. Clinton backed off on releasing Pollard but pocketed the concessions anyway.)

In any event, it was maintained that Mr. Pollard refused to disclose the full extent of his spying which was said to have included turning over to his Israeli handlers the names of U.S. agents around the world, information said to have ended up in Soviet hands because of Soviet penetration of Israeli intelligence.

Newly released declassified documents, however, paint a significantly different picture.

The documents primarily relate to the 1987 CIA damage assessment report based on its interrogation of Mr. Pollard. It records that Mr. Pollard’s spying was focused, at Israel’s request, on information the U.S. had about the Soviets and Arab states, not U.S. military secrets. In particular this involved gathering data on Syria’s chemical weapons program, Pakistan’s nuclear program and Egypt’s missile program. According to the documents, “The Israelis did not request or receive from Pollard intelligence concerning some of the most sensitive U.S. national security resources…. The Israelis never expressed interest in U.S. military activities, plans, capabilities or equipment. Likewise, they did not ask for intelligence on U.S. communications per se.”

The documents also note that Mr. Pollard’s CIA debriefers said he cooperated “in good faith” and that polygraph examinations “tended to confirm that his cooperation with U.S. authorities was bona fide.” As a consequence, they were confident they were aware of the full extent of the information Mr. Pollard shared with Israel.

The documents also debunk the widespread belief that a secret memorandum submitted to the sentencing judge sealed Mr. Pollard’s fate. Rather, he received a life sentence despite a plea agreement calling for a much shorter term because he gave an interview to The Jerusalem Post in violation of the agreement. (Mr. Pollard’s attorneys deny that the interview violated the agreement.)

There are, to be sure, negatives in the report for Mr. Pollard: as was widely reported from the beginning of the story, his spying for Israel was done on a for-pay basis, and there is the unexplained assertion in a mostly redacted section in the report that “Pollard’s espionage has put at risk important U.S. intelligence and foreign-policy interests.” Perhaps this alludes to the Soviets having indirectly deduced U.S. information gathering techniques from the data on Arab countries.

But in the 28th year of Mr. Pollard’s imprisonment, and especially in light of what the declassified documents reveal, that should now be beside the point.

As Lawrence Korb, a U.S. deputy secretary of defense at the time of Mr. Pollard’s arrest, has said, the release of the CIA report “underscores the case for Pollard’s immediate release…. We knew all along that the information that Pollard passed concerned Arab countries, and not the U.S., but the release of this official document confirming the facts makes it much easier to bring a speedy end to this tragedy. After 28 years is time for Pollard to be released and to go home now.”

We agree.

Chinese Government Demanding Stricter US Gun Control

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

You have to wonder if anyone understands anyone else on this planet any longer. A case in point is this heartfelt call by the official Chinese news agency Xinhua under the title: “Innocent blood demands no delay for U.S. gun control.”

“Twenty-eight innocent people, including 20 primary students, have been slaughtered in a mass shooting at an elementary school in the U.S. state of Connecticut. Their blood and tears demand no delay for the U.S. gun control.”

Let’s not bicker over the difference between “primary school” and “primary students.” This demand represents the essential nightmare of every Second Amendment loving American, from the sober hunters of New England (well, maybe not so sober) to the nuttiest survivalist in Appalachia. The Chinese are going to take away our guns!

Even I, an adamant advocate of gun control, got the urge to go buy me a six shooter in response to that idiotic item.

Brandon Darby, writing for Breitbart, points out that the Chinese government has reported a number of U.S. mass shootings but failed to mention they were either stopped by a citizen legally carrying a firearm or otherwise only occurred in the controversial gun-free zones that critics say make prime targets for madmen.

Darby adds another point not willingly made by the government of the Communist People’s Republic of China: the fact that over the past 60 years, give or take a year, it killed between 40 and 70 million people in “starvation, executions, and re-education camps.”

So, it’s been established, no matter how wise they may think they’re being with those demands for stricter gun control, none of us, Americans, are prepared to receive advice from Red China. And those among us who have been stocking up on ammo and even more guns, in fear of an inevitable decree from President Obama to give up our guns – this next passage in the Xinhua manifesto wasn’t particularly helpful:

“Obama said of the latest tragedy the country had ‘been through this too many times,’ and it was time to put aside political differences and ‘take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this.’ Some people have noticed Obama’s tougher tone this time, compared to the Colorado shooting, when he called for ‘prayer and reflection.’”

Yes, news of Obama who’s tougher on guns, that’s going to work.

And, in conclusion, our caring Chinese comrades suggest that “Action speaks louder than words. If Obama wants to take practical measures to control guns, he has to make preparation for a protracted war and considerable political cost.”

A protracted war? You mean like with black helicopters and federal marshals showing up outside your survival camp to rip the rifles out of your cold, dead hands?

It’s what we needed, to facilitate a mature and introspective debate over gun use in America: an intervention from one of the most oppressive, bloodiest regimes in human history.

Pollard Still Imprisoned After 27 Years: An Object Lesson for Jews?

Monday, December 17th, 2012

Highly redacted CIA document about Jonathan Pollard case. Click for larger version.

Highly redacted CIA document about Jonathan Pollard case.

I haven’t written about Jonathan Pollard in a while. I’m prompted to do so again by two things: a recent news report that Pollard was taken to the hospital after collapsing in his cell (he is now back in jail), and the release today of formerly classified documents about his case.

Pollard, a Navy intelligence analyst, was arrested for passing classified information to Israel in 1985 and sentenced in 1987 to life imprisonment, when the government reneged on a plea deal. The judge in the case ruled after receiving confidential information about the damage that Pollard’s spying allegedly caused from former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger.

Weinberger’s memo to the court has now been declassified, but unfortunately the content that persuaded the judge to send Pollard to prison for life has been redacted, so we still don’t know exactly what Pollard is supposed to have done that justified his hugely disproportionate sentence. You can read more about the case here.

Some commentators think that Pollard was accused of being the source of information which led to the deaths of American agents at the hands of the Soviet KGB, when in fact this was provided by traitors Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen. But this can’t be determined from what’s left of Weinberger’s memo.

One interesting item that appears in the declassified documents are details about some of what Pollard provided:

The documents provided information on PLO headquarters in Tunisia; specific capabilities of Tunisian and Libyan air defense systems; Iraqi and Syrian chemical warfare productions capabilities (including detailed satellite imagery); Soviet arms shipments to Syria and other Arab states; naval forces, port facilities, and lines of communication of various Middle Eastern and North African countries; the MiG-29 fighter; and Pakistan’s nuclear program. Also included was a U.S. assessment of Israeli military capabilities.

The government has not provided any additional information that makes the reasons for keeping Pollard in prison clear. While he certainly is guilty of transmitting classified information to an ally, his is the only case of this kind that has resulted in a life sentence. I can’t believe, if the government actually has information to justify the sentence, that it could not be provided in a manner that would be convincing without revealing damaging secrets.

There are at least two other possible reasons for not releasing Pollard that come to mind: either:

  1. Pollard knows something which still, after 27 years, would embarrass the CIA or some other government entity or official; or,
  2. The administration believes that it is absolutely necessary to send a message that Jewish disloyalty will be treated with maximum harshness.

I’m going with number 2.

Visit Fresno Zionism.

Israel, US to Exchange Tax Information, Banking Secrecy Disregarded

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

Globes cites sources claiming that the Ministry of Finance is working to sign an agreement with the U.S. Department of the Treasury on the transfer of information regarding bank accounts belonging to foreign nationals in both countries.

According to Globes, Israel Tax Authority director general Doron Arbeli last week met Internal Revenue Service (IRS) acting commissioner Steven Miller to advance this effort. Should an agreement be signed, Israel will establish an organization to monitor and enable the transfer of the necessary information to the U.S., and the IRS will send to Israel details of bank accounts belonging to Israeli residents in the U.S.

The initiative was born by an effort of the Ministry of Finance to help Israeli banks deal with draconian U.S. regulations under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), which applies to US citizens residing overseas.

Under FATCA, banks in foreign countries—including Israeli banks—must provide the IRS with lists and details of accounts belonging to U.S. citizens, including declarations from said citizens that they have paid the required taxes back in America.

The IRS has been known to impose sanctions against a bank which knowingly permitted customers to violate FACTA rules.

According to Globes, banks around the world have sharply criticized FACTA’s hard nosed policies, but one way of dealing with the law’s requirements is signing an agreement of cooperation between the foreign country and the U.S. the agreement allows local banks to send bank account details to their own government, which then passes them on to U.S. authorities.

Banking secrecy? We don’t need no stinking banking secrecy…

Globes cited a U.S. Department of the Treasury document published in November, which states that the U.S. administration was in talks with Israel’s Ministry of Finance to draw up an agreement, under which the US authorities would also provide the Israeli authorities with information about the bank accounts of Israeli citizens residing in the U.S.

Uncle Sam is in similar talks with Argentina, Hungary, New Zealand, and South Korea.

The agreement will not be symmetrical. The U.S. will be required to transfer less information than the Israelis will be doing, but Globes suggests that even partial information could help the Israeli government fight tax evasion by Israelis in the U.S.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/israel-us-to-exchange-tax-information-banking-secrecy-disregarded/2012/12/13/

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