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Iran's Nukes

Iran Threat only Reinforced

December 19th 2007

Howard Kohr headshot
Howard Kohr

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 ..

Venezuelan Regime Anti-Jewish

Raid Another Manifestation of Anti-Jewish Sentiment in Venezuela

December 11th 2007

Abraham Foxman Color cropped

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 ..

Mortgage Crisis

An Overnight Fix to the Housing and Mortgage Crisis--Bring Back Assumable Mortgages

September 24th 2007

Edwin Black

No one needs to be reminded that a significant segment of our population has become geographically and financially immobilized by an infectious condition known generally as “the housing and mortgage crisis.” Make no mistake. The crisis involves not just the so-called “sub-prime” business, but ordinary creditworthy consumers battered by financial misconduct and over-speculation by developers.

People can’t move on because far fewer people can move in or move out. Too many houses exist for too few buyers. Prices have tumbled. Inventories of unsold parcels have skyrocketed. The whole concept of property as “a sure bet” in America has been threatened. For each person who cannot sell a house, buy a house or suffers a foreclosure, the pain and hurt is multiplied like a slow-moving epidemic throughout the domino-structured housing market. Our national housing crisis in turn is flattening or eliminating hundreds of thousands of jobs and economic vitality.

Now to the overnight fix: Bring back “the assumable mortgage.” The financial world abolished this age-old method of home buying and selling during the financially turbulent seventies and eighties when President Jimmy Carter’s double-digit inflationary society inspired the rapacious mortgage lending industry to pressure the last one to five percent assumable loans out of existence and contractually prevent any new ones. Read more ..

Discriminatory Insurance

Stop Life Insurance Discrimination Against Travelers

September 23rd 2007

Abraham Foxman Color cropped
Abraham H. Foxman

The U.S. House of Representatives finally has passed a bill to protect consumers from unfair life insurance discrimination on the basis of past or future foreign travel. This is a much needed and welcome development. For far too long, insurance companies have routinely denied coverage to individuals because of their travel plans.

This unfair practice has adversely impacted everyone from tourists to corporate executives to students studying abroad. Insurance companies typically ask questions on life insurance applications about past or future travel destinations. Those travelers listing countries appearing on the U.S. State Department’s advisory list – including Israel - have too often found themselves rejected for coverage.

We understand that the insurance industry relies on risk assessment to determine whether to provide coverage, but denials should only occur when bona fide statistical differences in risk or exposure have been substantiated. Read more ..

Gonzales Resignation

Resignation First, A Special Prosecutor Second

August 28th 2007

Nadler lo-res
Rep. Jerrold Nadler

I was pleased to learn that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has finally decided to resign. The person entrusted with enforcing our nation’s laws must also abide by them – a duty that Mr. Gonzales apparently failed to live up to. In his many appearances before both chambers of Congress, the Attorney General did little more than display his complete disrespect for both the rule of law and the oversight responsibilities of Congress. For these reasons, I have long demanded his resignation.  The administration has a choice: this can be a fresh start for the nation or it can be a ploy to continue the stonewalling of the truth. 

While we must move beyond the scandal plagued tenure of Alberto Gonzales, many questions still remain. The problems with this Administration’s actions go far beyond Mr. Gonzales and rest firmly with President Bush. A Special Prosecutor is still needed to investigate the Attorney General’s false statements to Congress and to investigate the apparent criminal violations of law by Attorney General Gonzales and others, including President Bush, by initiating the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program. I hope, and urge, that the President now nominate an Attorney General who has fundamental respect for the rule of law and the oversight responsibilities of Congress so that both our civil liberties and personal safety are protected.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler represents New York’s 8th Congressional District, which includes parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, and is the Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

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 ..

Palestine and Israel

No to Israeli Historical Pandering and No to "Nakba"

August 26th 2007

Abraham Foxman Color cropped
Abraham H. Foxman

As a member of the executive committee of the Jewish community interagency task force on Israeli Arabs, the Anti-Defamation League believes that it is very much in the interest of Israel and the Jewish people to ensure full equality for Israel’s Arab citizens. This is for pragmatic, moral and diplomatic reasons. To get there requires leadership and responsibility on both sides, Jewish and Arab.

Thus Israel’s Or Commission to investigate the Intifada delineated many areas of practical discrimination, such as funding for the Arab sector, which needed attention by the Israeli government. On the other side, Israeli Arab intellectuals produced a document entitled “Future Vision” which reinforced many of the Or Commission findings but also, disturbingly, asserted that true equality could never exist without the state giving up its “Jewishness” in its symbols and other practical laws and regulations.

It is in this context that one needs to examine the recent decision of the Israeli Ministry of Education to include in the curriculum of Arab schools a reference to the belief in the Arab world that Israel’s founding was viewed as a “Nakba,” that is, “a catastrophe” for the Palestinians. Is this a legitimate recognition by the government of Israel as part of the effort to make Israel’s Arabs comfortable as equal citizens? Or is this self-destructive political correctness which rather than make Israeli Arabs more at home will reinforce beliefs that the future demands a distancing by the descendants of the founders of the state from its original meaning and purpose? Read more ..

Bad Arolsen Conflict

Holocaust Museum Must be Honest about Bad Arolsen Internet Records Offer

August 21st 2007

Edwin Black

A bitter, public war has erupted between grass-roots Holocaust survivor organizations and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) over some sixteen miles of Holocaust-era records held by the International Tracing Service (ITS) at Bad Arolsen, Germany. The Bad Arolsen archive contains some 42 million records of the incarceration and enslavement of 17 million Nazi victims, about 70 percent of which are digitized and in many cases scanned by sophisticated optical character readers. Until recently, the files were secret.

A 2006 special treaty among the eleven nations of the International Tracing Commission that control the records will distribute copies to each country once approved. However, France and Italy have yet to ratify the treaty. Italian sources have gone on record to declare that their domestic treaty ratification process may take an additional year or two. That delay is heartbreaking to hundreds of thousands of elderly Holocaust survivors dying daily of old age and desperate to trace the fate of their loved ones.

But Bad Arolsen’s files could be made Internet ready within three to four months, say senior ITS technology officials. However, the USHMM, the prime mover in the international release, is intent on sequestering the data to its own on-site terminals in Washington instead of making them available on the Internet or via remote secure database accessible to survivors in local libraries or their homes the way most government documents are accessible these days. The Museum’s physical transfer approach involves a complicated, costly, time-consuming process of data exports, system reintegration and a computer infrastructure built from scratch.

The idea outrages Holocaust survivors.

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 ..

Inside Israel

No wonder Olmert isn’t very well liked by Israelis

August 15th 2007

World Leaders - Ehud Olmert
Israeli Prime Minister Olmert

With Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s approval rating dropping to single digits, there’s a joke gaining popularity in Israel. Israelis say that when pollsters take into account a margin of error, Olmert’s approval ratings fall into the negative.

It doesn’t take long to see why Olmert’s popularity is virtually non-existent. It was evident in the first few minutes of a meeting he had with a group of American Jewish journalists, including this writer.

We were ushered last week into a conference room outside his office, where we were briefed on the rules. He can’t be quoted directly. In other words, we can report that the prime minister says that the sky is blue — we just can’t put quote marks around the remark. Of course, without quote marks, he has room for deniability by claiming he was misquoted. Read more ..

Palestine and Israel

The Unholy Trinity and the Oslo Redux

August 15th 2007

World Citizens - Isi Leibler headshot
Isi Leibler

Only a few weeks ago, the erratic Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was still assuring all that for the time being no further unilateral withdrawals were under consideration. Yet a recent report in the daily Haaretz has outlined a comprehensive new “peace” formula virtually indistinguishable from the 2002 Saudi plan, incorporating wide ranging concessions to the Palestinians which President Peres had submitted to Prime Minister Olmert immediately upon assuming office.Of course, in line with standard procedures related to trial balloons testing the waters, the Prime Minister’s office ritualistically denied that any such plan had ever been considered. However the office of the President not only confirmed the existence of the plan, but even expressed confidence that it would be endorsed by the Americans and Europeans.

Peres was the principal architect of the disastrous Oslo Accords, but his new proposal extends far beyond his original failed plan.  It recommends that Israel forego the Israeli interpretation of UN Resolution 242 and accept the bitterly contested Arab-Soviet-French interpretation which demands Israel’s total withdrawal from all the territories beyond the green line, effectively ceding to the Palestinians one hundred percent of the territories conquered in 1967.

The major settlement blocs amounting up to 5% of the area would be retained in “exchange” for equivalent territory agreed to by the Palestinians. Jerusalem would be divided with its holy sites being administered by all three faiths. The Peres plan also proposed that the Palestinian flag would fly over the Temple Mount. Read more ..

Middle East

Jewish Refugees From Arab Counties Forgotten Essential any Peace

August 12th 2007

Expelled Jews from Arab countries
Expelled Jews from Arab countries fly
to Israel circa 1950. ISRAEL GPO

Why, after more than 55 years, would 40 delegates, representing 20 countries on four continents, launch an International Rights and Redress Campaign on behalf of Jewish refugees from Arab countries? And why has the government of Israel announced new funding for a campaign to register minute details of events that occurred over a half a century ago? Because no Middle East peace can be reached without recognition of, and redress for, the uprooting of centuries-old Jewish communities by Islamic regimes hostile to the State of Israel. 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 ..

Human Rights

An Olympian Challenge in China

August 11th 2007

World Scenes - Olympic torch
Yao Ming with the olympic torch

The world was riveted by the photograph of a young man facing down a caravan of tanks on Tiananmen Square in June, 1989.
If people were unaware of human rights violations until then, this vivid illustration of protest left no doubt. The unknown “Tank Man” became an everlasting symbol of resistance to tyranny.

With the Beijing Olympics (“One World, One Dream”) less than a year away, attention once again focuses on The People’s Republic. Now that China ranks as chief trading partner of the US, fifth largest of Canada and crucial to the economy of many other nations, it is becoming more difficult for outsiders to remain ostriches about the Human Rights issue.

Stories abound of religious oppression, slave labor, harvesting organs of political prisoners, implementation of the one child policy through forced abortion, capital punishment for minor crimes, incarceration of journalists and political dissidents. Like the weather, everybody talks about it but nobody does anything about it. Well, not exactly nobody.

Tibet is a prominent human rights issue. Students for a Free Tibet, who recently unfurled a banner saying “Free Tibet” at the Great Wall, were expelled from China and received wide press coverage. The exiled Dalai Lama is a tour de force of publicity for the Tibetan issue.

The Chinese attempt to do away with Tibetan feudalism has resulted in a form of cultural genocide. Violence is not the only tool used to accomplish this end. The recent construction of a railway from Beijing to Lhasa encourages Han Chinese, the ethnic majority, to migrate to Tibet where they are given priority in employment and housing. Tibetans have become a minority in their own land, allegedly forbidden to be taught in their language and paying more for education than their Chinese “invaders.” Concern that the railway will be instrumental in ecological destruction weighs heavily on environmentalists. 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 ..

Palestine and Israel

Stop Appeasing Abu Mazan

August 8th 2007

World Citizens - Isi Leibler headshot
Isi Leibler

As events unfold in the wake of the Hamas Gaza takeover, there is a sense of deja vu. Despite the bloody consequences, Israel does not seem not to have learned any lessons from the bitter past.

Israel’s leaders mindlessly repeat drivel about Mahmoud Abbas being a man of peace and moderation. For his part, Abbas speaks with a forked tongue, heads a corrupt terrorist organization which is on the edge of unraveling.

Does our government believe that the Aksa Martyrs Brigades have become peaceful? That the PA-administered schools have ceased brainwashing children to become martyrs? That Abbas no longer sanctifies suicide bombers and ceases to pay pensions to their families?

President George W. Bush may be obliged to refer to Abbas as a “peace partner,” but must the prime minister of Israel be party to such a charade? More importantly, without receiving even a hint of assurance for the future, Israel has resumed paying the PA taxes and funds denied since the Hamas takeover.

Moreover, Israel is being urged to remove checkpoints to provide greater Palestinian freedom of movement inside the West Bank, despite Israel Defense Forces protestations that this will endanger Israelis.

And, if that were not enough, Israel and the West are now contemplating providing Abbas with additional weapons, including armored cars, despite knowing that arms previously provided to the Palestinians were ultimately employed to murder Israelis. Indeed only a few months ago, Abbas was appealing to Hamas to stop directing their weapons against fellow Palestinians and unite with Fatah against the Israelis.

To top this insanity, the PA announced that Abbas’s Aksa Brigades - which murdered more Israelis than Hamas and remains adamantly committed to promoting terrorism - will be absorbed into the Palestinian police force, which is already, per capita, the largest in the world. Read more ..

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