Archive for December 2007
Inside the Media
|Gary Rosenblatt||December 27th 2007|
New York Jewish Week editor-in-chief
Israelis are known for being direct and blunt. But comments made by David Landau, editor of the Israeli daily, Haaretz, to Condoleezza Rice about Israel needing to be “raped” by the U.S. to achieve a Mideast settlement caused quite a stir among the 20 or so attendees at a confidential briefing with the secretary of state on a recent visit to Israel.
The incident, which took place Sept. 10 at the private residence of America’s ambassador to Israel, Richard Jones, has not been fully reported until now. What is contested is not the raw language Landau used but the context of his impassioned comments.
Following Rice’s briefing to the gathered military, academic and media elites at the dinner, the guests offered their views and comments about the Mideast impasse. Landau, who was seated next to Rice, was said to have referred to Israel as a “failed state” politically, one in need of a U.S.-imposed settlement. He was said to have implored Rice to intervene, asserting that the Israeli government wanted “to be raped” and that it would be like a “wet dream” for him to see this happen.
When contacted this week, Landau said the description was “inaccurate” and “a perversion of what I said.” He said his views had been delivered with “much more sophistication.” Read more ..
Inside the Media
|Isi Leibler||December 27th 2007|
In the course of a visit to Israel by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, approximately 20 heads of the most senior Israeli think tanks and media leaders were invited by the American Ambassador to Israel, Richard Jones, to a dinner at his private residence to receive a confidential briefing from the Secretary of State. The event took place on September 10.
A bizarre exchange took place at this gathering between one of the participants and the Secretary of State. It was initially broadcast on Israel TV Channel 2 by Ehud Yaari, one of Israel's most highly respected commentators, who had not attended the dinner but had verified the details with colleagues who were present. The public did not appreciate the seriousness of the incident because Yaari failed to disclose that the person involved was none other than Haaretz editor David Landau.
I have independently verified details of what transpired and in response to questioning by Yaari and in an interview with Gary Rosenblatt, the editor of the New York Jewish Week, Landau himself confirmed the veracity of the events. Read more ..
Inside the Beltway
|The Cutting Edge Staff||December 21st 2007|
The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs has announced the return of Ambassador John Bolton to the organization's Board of Advisors. Mr. Bolton served on the Board for many years and had taken leave from 2001 to the end of 2006 when he served as America's Permanent Representative to the United Nations and as Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. JINSA executive dirtector Tom Neumann, in maing the announcement stated, "We appreciate John personally and we appreciate the strength and soundness of his ideas. He represents the very best of national security thinking in the country. David Steinmann, Chairman of JINSA's Board of Advisors added, "This is a
crucial year for American security policy - not because of the presidential election, but precisely because the threats we face will not change when our president changes. John Bolton brings extraordinary clarity of thought and a rare understanding of the workings of government to the table. It might have been better for the country to have had him remain in government service, but we will work to ensure that his voice is heard regardless of where he sits"
|Shoshana Bryen||December 20th 2007|
Cutting Edge contributor
The traditional job of the national intelligence apparatus is to describe what it sees and what it believes it cannot see, hedging its bets with what it calls “estimative language” and degrees of confidence. It traditionally ascribes no intentions to its subjects and prescribes no policies to its government. The new unclassified National Intelligence Estimate on Iran, however, leaves a large exclusion it its field of vision; traffics heavily in purported intentions over observed and understood capabilities; and has the effect of proscribing military action as an element of American policy.
Quick reading indeed, the “Key Judgments” span only three pages, followed by a handy-dandy chart comparing the 2005 NIE to its current counterpart.
Most prominently in the news, the NIE asserts with “high confidence” that Iran shut down its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and has “moderate confidence” that it has not restarted. “Our assessment that the program probably was halted in response to international pressure suggests Iran might be more vulnerable to influence on the issue than we judged previously.”
To understand how this came to be, start with the single footnote – an extraordinary admission of the limitation of the intelligence process:
By ‘nuclear weapons program’ we mean Iran’s nuclear weapon design and weaponization work and covert uranium conversion-related and enrichment-related work; we do not mean Iran’s declared civil work related to uranium conversion and enrichment.'
This begs questions. Read more ..
Palestine and Israel
|Hanna Siniora||December 20th 2007|
Despite the cynicism of the experts, the Annapolis meeting was a resounding victory for the persistent efforts of American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The presence of Saudi Arabia and Syria signaled the desire of the Arab League to demonstrate their commitment to the Arab Peace Initiative.
The second leg of Annapolis, the December 17th Donor’s meeting, proved to be extremely supportive and generous. In the Palestinian Authority Development and Reform Plan for the next three years, the PA asked for US $5.6 billion dollars and received total pledges of US $7.4 billion, with $3.373 billion for 2008, $2.054 billion for 2009 and $2.054 billion for 2010.
Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad now have a concrete demonstration of the international community’s support for their leadership and the two-state solution. French President Nicholas Sarkozy and his foreign minister Bernard Kouchner excelled in the arrangements that provided the Quartet envoy, former PM Tony Blair, with the tools needed to jumpstart the Palestinian economy. President Abbas, always sensitive to his Palestinian constituency in Gaza, promised to spend more than half of the funds for the benefit of the destitute Gaza Strip. Read more ..
|Jack Halpern||December 20th 2007|
I applaud President George Bush for signing of the U.S.-Israel Energy Cooperation Act (USIECA) into law as a provision of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The measure, passed by both houses of Congress within the last week, was signed by the President on Wednesday, December 19 at a special ceremony at the Department of Energy which I attended along with AJCongress Executive Director Neil B. Goldstein at the invitation of the White House. USEICA will help reduce American dependence on foreign oil by tapping into Israeli skills in solar energy, biotechnology, and chemistry, engineering and nanotechnology.
Jack Halpern is chairman of the American Jewish Congress Energy Independence Task Force.
|Kenneth L. Bobu||December 20th 2007|
We are familiar with the work and research Edwin Black and The Cutting Edge have conducted regarding the vast information that has recently been transferred from the ITC via the Red Cross to the USHMM.
Whereas, we have been puzzled for quite some time at the USHMM’s reluctance to approach the process of enabling access to the records in an open fashion, we understand that the suggestion has been made that there may be technical impediments to doing so.
Nothing could be further from the truth, Sir.
In fact, the process of making the millions of records available via the Internet is perfectly straightforward and not at all something that poses insurmountable technical complexities.
While not wishing to speculate as to the USHMM’s motivation to restrict access, and definitely not wanting to discuss how they obtained the records for all the victims regardless of their religious connection, it strikes us that the USHMM is being disingenuous at best in suggesting that such an endeavor would take years and cost many millions.
We believe that we could undertake this job and start having the records brought online within months, and certainly at a cost far more reasonable that what is being suggested by USHMM. Our technological record in dealing with millions of records has long been established, and we see this project as easily attainable. If ever it were true, this is THE project where time is of the essence.
Serious inquiries regarding the technical feasibility of this project can be forwarded to us via The Cutting Edge News.
Kenneth L. Bobu is the CEO of PMCentral Systems, Inc., a major provider of high-end content management services with offices in both the United States and Europe.
|Howard Kohr||December 19th 2007|
Despite some headlines to the contrary, the new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran only reinforces our understanding of the danger posed by Tehran’s ongoing pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability.
The NIE’s dramatic revelation that the Islamic Republic had a clandestine nuclear weapons program is perhaps the clearest official confirmation to date that Iran’s nuclear efforts—which the regime illegally concealed for more than 18 years—are ultimately intended to produce an atomic bomb.
If Iran is trying to suggest otherwise, the regime’s actions are unconvincing. Iranian leaders boast, and the NIE confirms, that Tehran is pressing ahead with its efforts to enrich uranium—the most important and difficult step in developing a nuclear weapon. Thus, Iran could restart its weapons program any time the regime chooses to do so. Read more ..
USHMM and the Bad Arolsen Conflict
|Edwin Black||December 14th 2007|
|Bad Arolsen Archives|
A leading Holocaust survivors group has publicly called for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to radically alter its plans to sequester the long-secret Holocaust records of the International Tracing Service now held at Bad Arolsen, saying the Museum’s controversial plans will “create intolerable bottlenecks and sufferings” for survivors desperate to discover the fate of loved ones and the facts of their own enslavement. The Museum’s plan is to block off-site physical or electronic dissemination of the records to other institutions closer to the populations of elderly survivors in New York, Florida and California, requiring survivors needing more complex research to travel to Washington.
In the latest issue of the newsletter of the National Association of Jewish Child Holocaust Survivors (NAHOS), and in a letter to the Cutting Edge (see LETTERS section), the group’s president responded to recent Cutting Edge coverage of the Museum’s policy. This included exclusive revelations detailing Museum point man on Bad Arolsen Paul Shapiro’s intense efforts to exclude media from Red Cross presentations during the week of August 23, 2007. Red Cross officials traveled to Washington to explain their plan for the records transfer to the US. The Red Cross has earnestly sought complete transparency and openness about its record keeping process. Read more ..
|Leo Rechter||December 14th 2007|
With regard to your coverage of the Holocaust-era of the International Tracing Service records now held at Bad Arolsen and being transferred to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, please note that an executive board member of a Holocaust survivor organization, Fred Taucher of Seattle, an expert and owner of a computer company, traveled to Bad Arolsen. He received a very cooperative welcome. But it took him and an ITS assistant 45 minutes of searching, following up and discarding wrong leads to find the records of his half brother.
His experience leads to two unfavorable conclusions: 1) The software that needs to be created to make the data searchable on the Internet might take several years. It needs to be tested and retested. 2) In many cases, the participation by the Survivor—who has the first-hand information—is imperative in the search process. Only the survivor can provide clues or links that will lead to an accurate match. That assessment supports our case for a widespread dissemination of access-ports in libraries and museums all over the country. To depend on a single access-gate at the USHMM in Washington, D.C., is bound to create intolerable bottlenecks and sufferings. We hope that the USHMM directorate will keep this fact in mind while the appropriate software is being developed.
Leo Rechter is the elected president of the National Organization of Jewish Child Holocaust Survivors.
America's Islamic Strategy
|Walid Phares||December 14th 2007|
Over the past few months a number of Western leaders, including senior United States figures, have lent their support to separating the province of Kosovo from the Republic of Serbia, based on the fact that a majority of the inhabitants in the province, ethnic Albanians, wishes this to be done.
The U.S Secretary of State and top European diplomats have been working on the assumption that the ultimate outcome of the crisis should be to see another new Republic emerging in the Balkans from the rubble of former Yugoslavia. Their participation in the UN-sponsored negotiations, along with Serbia, Kosovo, Albania and Russia, has been heading toward the endpoint of breaking one nation state's territory into two states, ignoring the historical context, consequences, and important principles, with far-reaching unpleasant consequences when these principles serve as precedents elsewhere.
Underlying all of this is a not-so-hidden agenda: an anticipated so-called diplomatic dividend for pleasing the Muslim world. A prominent US legislator declared over the summer that granting Kosovo its independence would please the Muslim world and would show that America is not anti-Islamic. The Kosovo affair has this assumed extra importance in this precarious post 9/11 era, as a token. But it risks kindling a chain reaction of explosive crises around the world. Read more ..
Amazon Author Wars
|Edwin Black||December 14th 2007|
Many Authors have recently become astonished to discover their books being offered by Amazon at a steep discount on a promising and highly promoted if shadowy new Amazon service called Kindle. Most authors did not know their books were being converted into that format, and what the royalties will be. This latest Amazon technological incision into copyrighted content has only deepened the divide between the company and the world of writers who have collectively voiced resentment over the company’s sales tactics.
What is Kindle? The service is simply an e-book system rigged to work only with a sleek new Amazon ten ounce electronic PDA-style reader called Kindle that stores books remotely. But it is wireless. You only own a virtual copy that does not exist outside a wireless-enabled environment. Forget about it on a cruise, a trip into the wilderness, crossing the border into Mexico or Canada unless you download books into a handheld library which can be a time consuming an expensive proposition especially for those who have to pay for a wireless connection.
The $400 reader, currently not shipping due to limited manufacturing, is the latest attempt to convince people to read books on palm-top computer screens instead of holding them in their hands. Previous attempts have suffered a dismal fate. Initial reviews are mixed from unlimited praise by first adopters on the Amazon website to "not used friendly and destined to failure" by one publisher working closely with the site. That said, the Kindle concept is more than nifty. It may be the wave of the future. Unfortunately for now, Amazon’s mishandling of the program is giving it a black eye. Read more ..
Getting Off Oil
|R. James Woolsey & Anne Korin||December 14th 2007|
|R. James Woolsey|
A determined pack has begun to race its engines and to try to shoulder us off the road toward energy independence. It’s time for those determined to stay on the track to drive aggressively.
The energy-independence question is really about oil — the rest of U.S. energy use presents important issues, but not the danger of our being subject to the control of nations that “do not particularly like us,” as the president put it. Some of the engine racers have an economic interest in keeping our transportation system 97-percent oil-dependent. Less understandable are the authors of a recent Council on Foreign Relations report accusing those working for such independence of “doing the nation a disservice.”
The authors of that report and their followers define “independence,” contrary to both Webster’s and common sense, as essentially “autarky” — i.e. complete self-sufficiency, or not importing oil even though we remain dependent on it. Such a Pickwickian definition captures none of the thinking of serious advocates of reducing our oil dependence: The point of independence is not to be an economic hermit, but rather to be a free actor. Read more ..
|Joseph K. Grieboski||December 13th 2007|
The US House of Representatives Tuesday adopted a measure intended to halt Burma's rubies and high-quality jade from entering the United States. The bill tightens already tough sanctions against a ruling military junta that killed peaceful pro-democracy protesters and Buddhist monks in September.
According to the bill, assets by Burma's leaders would be frozen and tax deductions would be curt off for any US companies working in Burma. Burma has a record of dodging US sanctions through laundering gemstones in third countries before selling them in the United States.
"Burma's generals fund this repression of their own people by selling off the country's natural resources, especially oil and gems, leaving the Burmese people in poverty," Tom Lantos, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement. Tightened sanctions would "ensure that the United States stands up to these thugs."
To avoid US sanctions, the Burma regime tries to hide the origin of the gemstones it ships to the US. The bill would also stop Burma's leaders from using US financial institutions in third countries to launder their money. Officials involved in the crackdown would be banned from getting US visas, as would their families. The bill would also cut off tax deductions for US companies working in Burma.
Similar legislation has been introduced in the Senate by Senator Biden, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and with the co-sponsor of Senators McConnell, Boxer, Dodd, Leahy, and Feinstein.
The writer is President, Institute on Religion and Public Policy and Secretary General, Interparliamentary Conference on Human Rights and Religious Freedom. He can be reached at http://www.religionandpolicy.org/.
Getting off Oil
|Sam Orez||December 13th 2007|
One little known but crucial provision in the comprehensive energy legislation that just passed the Senate last week is the U.S.-Israel Energy Cooperation Act (USIECA). The bill is headed for passage in the House this week and the President’s signature thereafter.
USEICA allocates U.S. funding for Israeli research into new technologies to decrease American dependence on foreign oil. The law will establish a multi-year program of grants for joint projects at the basic research level between U.S. and Israeli academic institutions, and at the applied research and development level between U.S. and Israeli companies. Administered by the Secretary of Energy, the program who will be driven by a joint American and Israel board of advisors.
USIECA was the brainchild of Jack Halpern, Chairman of the American Jewish Congress’s Energy Independence Task Force. For his part, Halpern expressed “Extraordinary pride in the passage of this important measure because of the many years we put into the effort for its enactment, beginning with our conceptualization of the measure in 2003, through lobbying for the measure for four years.” Read more ..
|Leslie Susser||December 12th 2007|
JTA news analysis
|Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at Nuclear Facility|
After the shock of last week’s U.S. intelligence estimate that found that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003, Israel is reshaping its Iran strategy.
Israel essentially is arguing that the U.S. assessment is dangerously misleading and that Tehran is as determined as ever to acquire nuclear weapons. The Israeli dilemma is how to prove Iran is cheating without being accused of trying to push the United States into war. That is why the official strategy is to work quietly behind the scenes. Israel's top intelligence agencies all believe Iran is still at full throttle to produce a nuclear bomb and will be capable of doing so by 2009 or 2010.
The new Israeli strategy is based on four main elements:
- actively pushing for stiffer international sanctions on Iran, despite the U.S. report;
- working quietly behind the scenes to convince others through Israel’s own intelligence material that Iran is intent on producing nuclear weapons;
- refraining from arguing with the U.S. assessment in public, lest Israel be seen to be trying to push the United States into military action against Iran;
- and Israel keeping open its own military options.The emerging policy is the result of close consultations among Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.
In a Cabinet meeting Sunday, Olmert stressed that Israel would work to "expose Iran's clandestine operations."
Barak earlier had advised the prime minister not to get into a public spat with the United States over its assessment of Iran's nuclear program but rather promoted the behind-the-scenes effort. Read more ..
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|David Horovitz||December 11th 2007|
Jerusalem Post editor-in-chief
I touched down at Heathrow at a little after one in the afternoon on Tuesday, knowing that I would be back at the airport precisely 24 hours later.
I'd been invited to London by the Zionist Federation, a venerable institution now undergoing a certain reinvigoration, which had organized a lecture to mark the 40th anniversary of the Six Day War.
I'd imagined that my talk would be one of a series of such events arranged by the Anglo-Jewish community, an opportunity to recall Israel's near-miraculous confounding of President Nasser's plans for our elimination and to inform another generation - Jews and the rest of the Brits - about the circumstances of that defining conflict.
But I was mistaken.
Despite the snowballing campaign in the UK to delegitimize Israel, and the consequent imperative for Israel's diplomatic representatives and the Anglo-Jewish leadership to seize any and every opportunity to promulgate a nuanced narrative, there was no such communal celebration and education program.
There had been a ceremony to mark the coincidental 25th anniversary of the shooting at the Dorchester Hotel of ambassador Shlomo Argov on June 3, 1982, the act of terrorism that precipitated what we must now learn to call the First Lebanon War. But this was a low-key, formal commemoration. The embassy had planned no major '67-related event.
A respected former cabinet minister flew in on the same day as I did to give lectures about the Six Day War anniversary, but it turned out these were private briefings to a select few. Read more ..
The Genetic Battlefield
|Marcy Darnovsky||December 11th 2007|
Research teams at two prestigious universities announced a major feat of biological alchemy this week: They've taken ordinary human cells and turned them into cells with all the characteristics and promise of embryonic stem cells.
This entirely new way to derive what the researchers are calling induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells uses neither eggs nor embryos. Instead, it reprograms body cells, reactivating genes that return them to the undifferentiated state characteristic of "conventional" embryonic stem cells.
If the new technique holds up, it will also reprogram the science and politics of stem-cell research. Read more ..
The Genetic Battlefield
|Richard Hayes||December 11th 2007|
Cutting Edge contributor
The debate over cloning embryos for stem cell research has been one of the most divisive and unpleasant public controversies of the last decade. Partisans on both sides have sought to polarize the issue for political advantage rather than look for middle-ground positions that a majority of Americans would welcome.
In general, Republicans have equated medical research using single-celled clonal embryos with murder, while Democrats have promoted state ballot initiatives enshrining human embryo cloning as a constitutional right and committing billions of taxpayer dollars to a procedure that could open the door to socially pernicious applications, threaten women's health and exacerbate healthcare inequities.
Now we have a chance to put the cloning debate behind us. Read more ..
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|Sam Orez||December 11th 2007|
Israel is more likely to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran's nuclear facilities than the United States, said.
French president Nicolas Sarkozy believes the world has come a step closer to an Israeli pre-emptive attack of Iran's nuclear facilities. In an interview in the French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur, Sarkozy admitted, "The danger of a war exists," he said. "The problem for us is not so much the risk that the Americans launch a military intervention but that the Israelis consider that their security is truly threatened." He continued, "Everyone agrees that what the Iranians are doing has no civilian explanation." The French president added that his nation was willing to help Tehran proceed on a purely peaceful nuclear energy program. Sarkozy has beem a leading exponent of curbing Iranian nuclear technologies and recently welcomed both Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu to Paris for strategic talks on Iran as well as other Middle East issues.
Venezuelan Regime Anti-Jewish
|Abraham H. Foxman||December 11th 2007|
Cutting Edge contributor
Last week’s police raid at Club Hebraica, a Jewish community center in Caracas, was another manifestation of a government-sanctioned campaign of intimidation against the Venezuelan Jewish community. The raid occurred only hours before Venezuelans voted on constitutional changes proposed by President Hugo Chavez. During the raid, members of a police unit that investigates drug trafficking and terrorism reportedly broke the main gate of the center and searched the premises. Needless to say, no arrests were made and they left empty handed.
This is the second time that Club Hebraica was raided since Chavez came to power. In November 2004, a police incursion occurred in the early morning as children were being bused to school. In the three years since, no clear government response has been given as to why Jews were targeted. It seems far-fetched to think one will be offered to explain this latest incident.
It is especially dangerous when law enforcement commits these kinds of unfounded acts, as some may interpret them as justification to commit violence against Jews. When a community is singled out and bullied in this way, the danger exists for xenophobes to seize on the government’s actions to spread their hate. Read more ..
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