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Bad Arolsen Inside Story

USHMM's Shapiro At Odds with Red Cross Bid for Bad Arolsen Openness

August 29th 2007

Central Name File
Bad Arolsen files

During the week of August 20, Red Cross officials transferred to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum some 13.5 million embargoed files from its massive Nazi-era archive at Bad Arolsen known as the International Tracing Service. The hard drives were hand-delivered by ITS director Reto Meister. For the Red Cross, it was a significant moment that it had labored hard to achieve.

The highlight of the initial ITS handover was a special Museum briefing held August 23 for several dozen Holocaust survivors, Second Generation members, and Jewish organizational leaders. The meeting was a chance to connect with the Holocaust community face to face. Survivors flew in from around the nation to attend. By all accounts the exchange was successful and a tribute to the efforts undertaken by both the Museum and the Red Cross to accelerate the controversial transfer.

During the presentation, ITS director Reto Meister deftly explained the technical complexities in transferring the huge collection and what could be expected in the future, according to several in the audience. Meister’s presentation and response to questions, in spite of a few pesky challenges, was honest and convincing as he promised continued dedication to the process, according to multiple reports from audience members.

Ironically, the special Museum briefing was nowhere covered in the media, not even the Jewish media which normally covers such events. Why? Read more ..


Armenian Genocide Conflict

Armenian Genocide is a Historical Imperative

August 27th 2007

World Scenes - Armenian Genocide1 Bodies

Armenian Genocide Victims 

From 2000 to 2002, I led a graduate seminar entitled "Post-Holocaust Ethical and Political Issues” at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. Among the topics covered was the politics of memory.

One of the case studies we explored was the controversy surrounding language and its power. We looked in depth at the massacre of Armenians and how its depiction had become a subject of fierce debate, primarily between Armenians, who insisted on calling the events of 1915 a genocide, and Turks, who adamantly refused to countenance the "G word." Essentially, this was a zero-sum game.

Either one supported the Armenian or the Turkish position, whether for historical or political reasons, but neither side allowed room for compromise. The basic Armenian argument was that up to 1.5 million Armenians were deliberately targeted and massacred by the Ottoman Empire, eight years before the modern Turkish Republic came into being. At the time, the word genocide didn’t exist. Read more ..


Inside Iran

Missing in Iran

August 26th 2007

World Citizens - Micah Halpern headshot
Micah Halpern

Bob Levinson worked for the FBI and before that for the DEA. He retired from these "companies" about ten years ago and like many former agents, went into the private sector. According to his resume, Bob Levinson had "extensive international experience and has focused on criminal activities, business intelligence projects, asset location and recoveries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Russia and Europe."

Bob Levinson was last heard from on March 8th, 2007. He was last seen on an Iranian island called Kish, a resort that caters to a Muslim and European clientele. Unlike the rest of Iran, Kish is a commercially-oriented area where even United States residents - who can enter Iran proper only after undergoing scrutiny and obtaining a special visa and travel papers - are permitted entry without special visas.

Former agents often do private work after retirement. They gain employment as contractors for the government or for companies in the private sector interested in their contacts and talents. As the saying goes, once a spy always a spy. Levinson, it seems, was not working on a covert operation. He was working for a film company and he was in Kish gathering information and meeting contacts.

Almost five months later and there has been no word from Levinson or about Levinson. Relations between the United States and Iran being what they are there is no direct line of communication between the State Department and the powers that be in Iran. Diplomatic ties were severed in 1979 when the Iranians took the United States embassy in Teheran hostage. The United States is at a loss, their access to information is through back channels. Christine, Levinson, the missing man’s wife. is trying on her own, through the media, to gather any information that she can on the condition of her husband of thirty-three years.

She has been interviewed by CNN. There have also even been Persian language programs discussing the disappearance of her husband. She is making a direct appeal for help and information via radio. Her efforts even include an appeal on the Voice of Peace broadcast into Iran.

About two to three US citizens disappear each year in Iran. Sometimes, there is a happy ending, often there is not. One glimmer of hope for finding Bob Levinson comes in the form of the return of another US hostage. The director of the Middle East division of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, an Iranian American who was held hostage since May was just released on “bail.” The terms of her release involved the exchange of a very large sum of money - but she is free. Read more ..


Palestine and Israel

Will Abbas Finally Seize the Opportunity?

August 20th 2007

Howard Kohr headshot
Howard Kohr

Following the violent Hamas overthrow of the Palestinian Authority (PA) government in Gaza, President Mahmoud Abbas fired the Hamas ministers and created a new PA government in the West Bank. This seismic shift presented Israel with a potential partner for peace in Abbas and his new government.

In the two months since Hamas’ coup, Israel has taken bold steps to bolster Abbas and his new prime minister, Salam Fayyad. These measures include releasing Palestinian tax monies, freeing 250 Palestinian prisoners, offering amnesty to wanted Fatah militiamen and sending over 50,000 tons of humanitarian aid to Gaza’s civilians Read more ..


Terrorism Readiness

New York Emergency Response an Invaluable Drill

August 20th 2007

World Citizens - Micah Halpern headshot
Micah Halpern

New York recently went on high alert after an Internet prediction of an Islamic terror attack. Traffic was a mess. Trucks and vans were scrutinized. Bridges, tunnels and highways were moving along at a steady crawl. One of the most fast paced and vibrant cities in the whole wide world was forced to move slowly, deliberately and cautiously.

And then it was over.

And now we must ask – what was that all about? What really is the purpose of putting a city, a population, a nation on high alert? One would think that between the Office of Homeland Security, local police and law enforcement, informants and counter terrorism wonks, the “people in the know” would know how to tell which threats are real and credible and which are hype and improbable.

Well, they do know.

Counter terrorism is an art, it is also a science, and it is also a precise, exacting military-like series of maneuvers. And elevated alerts are an important tool in the arsenal of the counter terrorist. What happened in New York on that specific Saturday was an exercise well worth the time, effort, discipline and the discomfort of the citizens and visitors who happened to have been in town on that warm summer morning.

Elevated alerts are rushed into action following a credible threat emanating from credible Intel. The goal is to prevent a terrorist attack from happening.

A terror attack is like a jigsaw puzzle. It requires many pieces and all the pieces must interlock properly or it will not succeed. Take away one piece and an entire operation is either aborted – or doomed to fail.

With elevated alerts comes heightened security. And one of the best ways to achieve heightened security is through the use of roadblocks. Roadblocks are an attempt to prevent one or more pieces of the terrorist puzzle from coming into the arena. Roadblocks are used to force the planners to halt their operation.

Heightened or elevated alerts send out messages. The message to the public is that we are on top of things, we are not letting terrorist sneak in or slide by, we are maintaining a serious defense system. More important is the message that is sent out to terrorists. An alert says “we know something, we have information.” And then it is up to the terrorists to determine just what and how much really is known – about their plan, about their players, about their general operation. The message is used to instill the fear of failure, the fear of being caught, in the terrorist operatives. Read more ..


Saudi Arms

Confronting The Saudi Arms Deal

August 19th 2007

Contributors / Staff - Waliid Phares headshot
Walid Phares

The U.S. is considering a new gigantic arms sale to Saudi Arabia of up to $20 billion. The proposed package includes advanced satellite-guided bombs, upgrades to its fighters and new naval vessels as a U.S. strategy to contain the rising military expansion of Iran in the region. The titanic arms deal is seen as a major Saudi spending to shield itself from a Khomeinist menace looming at the horizons: an Iranian nuclear bomb, a future Pasdaran control of Iraq, and a Hezbollah offensive in Lebanon.

In reality, the Iranian threat against the Saudis materializes as follows: A) If the U.S.-led coalition leaves abruptly, the Iranian forces - via the help of their militias in Iraq - will be at the borders with Saudi Arabia. Throughout the Gulf, Iran’s mullahs will be eyeing the Hijaz on the one hand and the oil-rich provinces on the other hand. B)Hezbollah threatens the Lebanese government, which is friendly to the Saudis. Hezbollah, already training for subversion in Iraq, will become the main trainer of Shiite radicals in the eastern province of Saudi Arabia. C) Finally, across Iraq’s borders, Syria and Iran can send all sorts of jihadis, including Sunnis.

With such hydra advancing, the Wahhabi monarchy is hurrying to arm itself with all the military technology it can get from Uncle Sam. Riyadh believes that with improved F-16s, fast boats, electronics and smarter bombs it can withstand the forthcoming onslaught. I believe it won’t. For as the Iraq-Iran war has proved, the ideologically rooted brutality of the Iranian regime has no boundaries. If the U.S. withdraws from the region without a strong pro-Western Iraq in the neighborhood and absent of a war of ideas making progress against fundamentalism as a whole, the Saudis won’t stand a chance for survival. For the Iranians will apply their pressures directly and unleash more radical forces among the neo-Wahhabis against Saudi Arabia. The Shiite mullahs will adroitly manipulate radical Sunnis, as they have in Iraq and Lebanon. So what should the U.S. advise the Saudis to do instead of spending hugely on arms? Read more ..


Genetically Modified Food

Unmasking the FDA's Policy on Cloned Food

August 12th 2007

Science - Mouse in Beaker

The FDA is still considering whether to allow meat and milk from cloned animals into America’s food chain, without so much as a warning label. Polls show that Americans oppose cloned foods 3 to 1, and the livestock and dairy industries have repeatedly said that cloned hotdogs and milkshakes make little business sense. Neverthless, the push for cloned livestock has been insistent for years.

In 2003, approval was said to be six months away; that didn’t happen, presumably because of fears of public outrage, but the public relations campaign continued. At the very end of 2006, a long-awaited draft “Risk Assessment” was published, inspiring a flurry of ill-informed puff pieces intended to legitimize the technology. That failed: the FDA received over 100,000 public comments, overwhelmingly opposed to food from cloned animals.

Officials then paused to consider their final decision. Some reports say that FDA approval will come later this year. Others suggest that it may take two years. The mainstream media seems to accept that it’s only a matter of time, no matter what the public wants – and no matter what the real scientific evidence is.

A scathing report by the Center for Food Safety (CFS) exposed embarrassing if not crippling inadequacies in the data the FDA used to suggest that cloned food is safe. The CFS report showed there are no peer-reviewed safety studies on meat from cloned cows, pigs or goats, and only three inconclusive ones on milk; this suggests further study, not immediate approval. Even before that, the National Academies of Science – the government’s science advisors – articulated concerns that the processes for assessing cloned food safety are currently not up to par. Read more ..


Palestine and Israel

Palestine Not Ready for Statehood

August 10th 2007

World Citizens - Micah Halpern headshot
Micah Halpern

The Palestinian people deserve a state of their own. But not now, not yet.

Why? Because the Palestinians have not yet adequately proven themselves ready for total self-government. At least, not democratic self-government. The Palestinians have been in control of their own destiny for a significant chunk of time. And each time they are faced with a pivotal challenge, they fail to rise up to that challenge. And each failure is then blamed on Israel.

The election of Hamas to power, for example, was a challenge to the concept of democracy. And the result was a miserable failure of democracy and a return to anarchy. The decision to arrest terrorists is another example of a challenge the Palestinians faced and failed. The result was the decision not to make arrests by circumventing the issue and calling the gun-toting, saber rattling, Qassam throwing brigades not terrorists, but resistance fighters. Everyone speaks of normalization, but these actions should never be termed normal. These actions are an ab-normalization of the situation and they are an abomination.

Before they can become a democratic state, the Palestinians must be ready, willing and most crucially, able, to make changes in attitudes and in behaviors. Democracy is more than a system of self-government. Democracy is about respect. Respect for law and for laws. Respect for religious and cultural minorities. Respect for education.

Neither Palestinian leadership nor the Palestinian people have grasped the true essence of democracy. They have no understanding of the concept of freedom. They do not yet understand that democracy and freedom are co-joined, that democracy without freedom is dictatorship, that freedom without democracy is anarchy.

Striving for democracy is an admirable goal. Freedom is an inalienable right. But they come with a price - responsibility. Until Palestinian leadership is willing to accept that responsibility, the people will continue to live under an umbrella of violence, poverty and uncertainty. Read more ..



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