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Archive for January 2008


Palestinians Are Not The Only Refugees

January 28th 2008

For the very first time, President George Bush raised the issue of Jews from Arab countries. He did this while on his official visit to Israel. In an article headlined, "Bush aware of Jewish Refugee' Plight," The Jerusalem Post said the U.S. President was "very conscious" that Jewish refugees fled to Israel from Arab lands after the 1947-49 war, and that one of the points that came up in Bush's discussion was the number of Jewish refugees that were created in the period after 1948.
 
This report of President Bush's interest in the plight of Jews from Arab countries, comes after the December visit to the White House by Maurice Shohet, a long time member of Justice for Jews from Arab Countries’ (JJAC), International Steering Committee. Joining Mr. Shohet at the White House were Professor Judea Pearl and Ruth Pearl, parents of slain Wall Street Journal correspondent Daniel Pearl, all of whom spoke to President Bush on the plight of Jewish refugees from Arab counties. This followed the recent Annapolis Peace Conference, where JJAC issued a declaration which stated, inter alia: "The exclusion and denial of rights and redress to Jewish refugees from Arab and Muslim countries will prejudice authentic negotiations between the parties and undermine the justice and legitimacy of any agreement." In preparation for Annapolis, JJAC sent a letter to President Bush asking that the issue of Jews from Arab countries be discussed in the context of Middle East refugees.
 
JJAC was grateful that the President had become cognizant of this important narrative - the violations of rights, and the displacement, of up to one million Jews from Arab countries. President Bush's words came at the opening of the 2008 Congressional session, at which consideration was being given to two bi-partisanship resolutions which called attention to the fact that Jews living in Arab countries suffered human rights violations, were uprooted from their homes, and were made refugees.
 
The Resolutions, Senate Res. 85 and House Res. 185, signify that, "it would be inappropriate and unjust for the United States to recognize rights for Palestinian refugees without recognizing equal rights for former Jewish, Christian, and other refugees from Arab countries." Far-reaching and comprehensive, these Resolutions instruct the President to ensure that in all international forums, when the issue of 'Middle East refugees'is discussed, representatives of the United States must ensure that any explicit reference to Palestinian refugees is matched by a similar explicit reference to Jewish and other refugees, as a matter of law and equity.
 
Over the next several months, JJAC will be working with Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA) on promoting the Resolutions. JJAC is a coalition of Jewish communal organizations operating under the auspices of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the American Sephardi Federation in partnership with the American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress, Anti-Defamation League, B'nai Brith International, the Jewish Public Council for Public Affairs and the World Sephardic Congress.
 
Stanley A. Urman is the Executive Director of Justice for Jews from Arab Countries


Probing Palestine

Solutions to Gaza Hopeless

January 28th 2008

Shoshana Bryen
Shoshana Bryen

Gaza looks just about hopeless these days, and indeed, President Bush basically wrote it off while he was in the region. But the problem of Gaza cannot be wished away and no one is comfortable consigning the Palestinians to life behind bars while Hamas takes Iranian money and works on bigger and more precise missiles with which to destroy Israel. Nor is anyone comfortable with ongoing military incursions and the social service "squeeze" that Israel has been forced into - even though we know the Israelis are doing their very best to limit the humanitarian crisis.

Many believe the time has come for drastic action and even President George Bush noted the need for "new international institutions" to deal with the problem.

Three leading options present themselves above the rest:

First, increase the size of Gaza with long-term land leases in northern Sinai, now by Egypt. This is only a few miles west of the present border. We know from Israel's experience with its former Sinai settlement Yamit that there is water and arable land. If part of the problem were density and the lack of room for productive enterprise, this would help. It would also give Egypt a stake in the area's stability and future economic growth. An Israeli politician suggested this some time ago as a humanitarian gesture, but Egypt rejected it out of hand—preferring to leave Israel with responsibility for the whole problem. If one believes that radicalism stems from poverty (many social observers understand that in most poor societies in which children are not turned into human bombs), this idea should have merit and the U.S. government should use its leverage with Egypt to pursue it. Read more ..


Petropolitics

Bush Begs the Saudis

January 28th 2008

Gal Luft 1
Gal Luft

President Bush’s appeal to the Saudis to increase oil production is more pitiful than understandable. At $100 a barrel, the United States bleeds over a billion dollars per day in order to finance its petroleum import needs. The result: ballooning trade deficits, growing unemployment, a weakened dollar and crumbling financial institutions like Citigroup and Merrill Lynch now forced to beg Persian Gulf monarchies for cash infusions. At current oil prices, the U.S. economy is melting faster than the ice caps.
But despite the president’s sweet-talk, his ridiculous appearance in a traditional Arab robe, his hand-holding with the Saudi monarchs, and even his gift of 900 precision-guided bombs, the Saudis were quick to respond with a slap in the face. Within one hour, the kingdom’s oil minister announced that oil prices would remain tied to market forces and the Saudis would not open the spigot.

This is hardly a surprise to me. The Saudis—despite their claims that oil high prices are the doing of Wall Street speculators and American SUV-driving soccer moms—are the first to blame for the current oil crisis. Their reluctance to invest in new production, their lack of transparency on reserve data and their anti-market practices, which prevent international oil companies from operating in their midst in any meaningful way, are the real reason for the quadrupling of prices in the past six years. Read more ..


Getting Off Oil

New Dehli Considers Banning non-CNG Heavy Vehicles

January 28th 2008

CNG

CNG could become a mandatory alt fuel in the New Dehli region in the coming years if officials follow through with a new policy now under coinsideration. Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit recently stated: “While CNG has benefited Delhi immensely, the effect of CNG gets mitigated when vehicles from other states not using CNG enter the city.” This in mind, the Delhi government will ask its National Capital Region Planning Board to implement mandatory CNG usage in the region. “If vehicles in other states don’t start converting their commercial and public transport vehicles to CNG, then we will have no option but to prevent them from entering the state and this will affect inter-state trade. Therefore this is not a road we want to go down,” said the chief minister. In that vein, the Delhi Cabinet decided on Monday to prohibit light duty vehicles--up to 6,600 lbs--froms enter its city from other Indian states unless they are operating on CNG. The new rule saeemed to be designed to reinforce an existing policy. “While this is a policy that already exists, these vehicles [non-CNG] have been entering the city. Now the government will strictly implement the rule and ensure that such vehicles are not allowed to ply here,” said a government official.


The Bad Arolsen Conflict

USHMM Bad Arolsen program does not go far enough

January 28th 2008

Washington Jewish Week logo

For more than five decades, the International Committee for the Red Cross maintained millions of Holocaust records—detailed information that would allow people to find out what happened to family members during that dark period of history. In some cases, it would help them verify memories of their own horrific stories. But, those records were in Bad Arolsen, Germany, inaccessible to both historians and individuals. The backlog plaguing the Red Cross' International Tracing Service was unbearable for those seeking information.

 

Finally, documents 68 million digital images of invaluable material, with nearly another 40 million images expected have been released to the 11 nations that run the ITC, with each nation entitled to a single repository. In the United States, that repository is the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.  The museum recently announced that it has dedicated 20 on-site computer terminals to the tracing service, and has trained 25 researchers to do searches. It is a remarkable and welcome step, but does go not far enough.

Read more ..

Author's Own Story

Thugs--How I Selected the Worst of the Worst

January 27th 2008

Micah Halpern headshot

Thugs is a popular history. It is about legacy and continuity. It is about the horrors that shaped history and the perpetrators of those horrors. It is an accessible entrée into the lives and careers of some of the world’s most powerful leaders.

Who was despotic enough, demonizing enough, ruthless, barbaric, merciless enough to make the cut and be included in this book?

My guiding principle was that these be leaders who cared not a whit about the values and ideals that I and my world—the free and democratic world—hold dear. These are leaders who used their power for the purpose of furthering their own personal and political goals. Thugs is a peek into the private lives of the rich and infamous. It is a glimpse into the political aspirations of the biggest and most notorious of egos.

There are many despots, dead and alive, to choose from. I chose to write about leaders not because they were necessarily worse than others but because of the way they impacted history. I chose people for the roles they played, not merely for the barbaric acts they performed. Brutality alone was not enough to warrant a place in Thugs. I wanted characters about whom there was controversy. Controversy centering on their place in history. Controversy about the role they played during their own historical period and in their own country. I chose people who arouse controversy in academic circles and around the dinner table, I chose men and women who are the subjects of popular debate. Read more ..


Bad Arolsen Media Analysis

USHMM’s Bloomfield Media Misinformation Muddies Survivor Quest for Bad Arolsen Remote Access

January 21st 2008

Sara Bloomfield headshot
Sara Bloomfield

When probing the Holocaust, the horrific experiences of survivors, the listener melts. We all melt at the enormity of the horror. Tattoos always trump the arcane questions of technology. But professionals who study the Holocaust beyond the blood and bones of mass murder know information technology was an indispensable behind-the-scenes factor in the original crime. Seventy-five years after Adolf Hitler came to power, information technology is again an indispensable behind-the-scenes factor, this time in exposing the crime.

This brings the Holocaust community to the continuing controversy over providing survivors remote secure access terminals to the Bad Arolsen archives instead of making them travel to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. to obtain details of their incarceration and enslavement. The USHMM is refusing to share access with other Holocaust institutions and now claims it will begin “individualized research” for the estimated 150,000 survivors in America and perhaps many among a million worldwide, all of whom want answers today not tomorrow, and do so with an initial staff of 24 trained researchers. The Museum refuses to budge and is increasingly defensive on the persistent demands of Holocaust survivors and media inquiries about a seemingly obvious question.

During and after the January 17, 2008 USHMM press conference on the topic of the Bad Arolsen archival transfers, Museum executive director Sara Bloomfield made statements about the archival technology to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), the 85-year-old, war-tested Jewish communal news service, known for its precision as well as its diligent, respected correspondents. Bloomfield’s remarks to the JTA reporter about why the Bad Arolsen files could not shared, it seems, amounted to a calculated misinformation effort to pretend such sharing was impossible. The opposite is true. Her remarks were implausible on their face, and completely contrary to the published facts. Read more ..


Poll Results

88% favor strong federal intervention in housing crisis

Poll Vote

The overwhelming majority of respondents to an unscientific Cutting Edge Reader Poll voted to see strong and immediate federal intervention in the housing crisis.

In response to the question: "To help the mortgage and housing crisis, should the federal government re-enable assumable mortgages and create an agency to guarantee them and prosecute past lender misconduct? the results were:

 

 

  • 88 percent "Yes"
  • 8 percent "Not Sure
  •  4 percent "No"


During the poll period in December 2007, The Cutting Edge News recorded 19,408 hits.


Bad Arolsen Conflict

USHMM Launches Promising if Daunting Individualized Bad Arolsen Search Program

January 17th 2008

Archive  International Tracing in Bad Arolsen
ITS files at Bad Arolsen

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum today launched an ambitious and daunting new program of “individualized research” to help Holocaust survivors obtain precious documentation about their Nazi enslavement.

This new program “begins right now,” said Arthur Berger, USHMM Director of External Communications, in a Museum corridor just moments after a closed-door briefing with survivors, details of which were provided first to The Cutting Edge News.

The “individualized research” will probe a triad of major archival collections. These include some 46 million documents derived from several countries in the existing USHMM collections, the first central names index and related documentation just transferred from the International Tracing Service at Bad Arolsen, and finally, the bulk of 35 million Bad Arolsen files scheduled to be transferred between 2010 and 2011.

The important feature of individualized “give and take” with survivors will be a hallmark of the new program. About two dozen polyglot researchers have already been trained by the USHMM to undertake the sensitive searches. Each search is roughly guesstimated to take six to eight weeks, and will include providing the survivor with gratis physical copies of the discovered documents. Read more ..


Bad Arolsen Archive Conflict

Some Survivor Groups Talk of Confronting Shapiro at USHMM Closed Door Briefing

January 16th 2008

World Citizens - Paul Shapiro headshot
Paul Shapiro

Several angry, independent Holocaust survivor groups are planning to confront United States Holocaust Memorial Museum point man Paul Shapiro tomorrow January 17, 2008 to demand answers to long festering questions over controversial plans by the USHMM to sequester the Bad Arolsen databases to Museum property. The occasion will be a joint Red Cross-USHMM briefing for Holocaust survivors on the question.

 

Thousands of frail, aging survivors eager to access their files, live far from Washington in New York, South Florida, Southern California and elsewhere in the United States. For them, travel is difficult and expensive. Since many of the complex data searches of Bad Arolsen files will require the physical presence of the survivor, this will in essence place the precious records of their own enslavement beyond their geographic reach. Survivors say they prefer to have local specialists and helpers from Jewish federations, Jewish Community Centers, Holocaust centers and academic institutions help them remotely access the files.

 

Some survivor groups say they no longer believe the USHMM’s explanations. One member who plans to travel to Washington called the event “another dog and pony show” on the subject. Another, fearing the type of subtle communal reprisals Museum stalwarts have been able to arrange for their critics, asserted on condition of anonymity, “I am ready to say goodbye to all these people. Intimidation is nothing new to the Museum.” Read more ..


Inside the Islamic World

Turkey Imperils Religious Freedom for Christians, Greek Orthodox and Others

January 11th 2008

Joe Griebowski headshot
Joseph Griebowski

Turkish President Abdullah Gul met President George W. Bush on January 8, marking Gul's first visit to Washington as president.

The official agenda included a laundry list of issues central to US-Turkish relations: joint efforts to counter the Kurdish rebel group PKK; to promote stability in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and the broader Middle East; and to advance Turkey's European Union accession goals.

In his second inaugural address, President Bush stated that, “The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.”

While each of the issues that is currently on the agenda is a priority issue, each also touches on a broader question which remains off the agenda: freedom of religion and belief in Turkey itself.

A significant problem facing religious groups in Turkey is the nation’s biased religious registration laws. Registration is required for religious leaders and institutions to serve the spiritual needs of their constituents. Currently, the Sunni branch of Islam is the only “state-sanctioned” form of religion. Read more ..


Inside the Media

Ms Magazine Rejects Ad About Israeli Women

January 11th 2008

AJC Ad for MS
AJ Congress Ad Rejected by Ms.

Ms. magazine rejected a pro-Israel advertisement from the American Jewish Congress.

The ad highlights successful women in Israel. It shows photographs of three prominent Israelis -- Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik, Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni and the president of the Supreme Court, Dorit Beinish -- above the words “This is Israel.”

Harriet Kurlander, the director of the AJCongress Commission for Women’s Empowerment, said in a news release that she was told when she tried to place the ad that it “would set off a firestorm” and that “there are very strong opinions” on the subject, which she believed to mean Israel.

“What other conclusion can we reach except that the publishers -- and if the publishers are right, a significant number of Ms. magazine readers -- are so hostile to Israel that they do not even want to see an ad that says something positive about Israel?” AJCongress President Richard Gordon asked.

Ms. magazine's executive editor, Kathy Spillar, disputes that version, telling JTA the ad showed political support for one of Israel's parties and thus violated magazine standards.

"We only take mission-driven ads," Spillar said. "Because two of the women in this ad were from the same political party," that showed favoritism, and the magazine's policy is not to get involved in the domestic politics of another country.

Gordon noted that the magazine in its Fall 2003 issue ran a cover story on Jordan’s Queen Noor, and the Winter 2004 issue contained an article on the Ramallah Film Festival called “Images of Palestine.”

Spillar responded that "ironically" this month's issue, just coming to newsstands now, has a two-page spread profiling Livni.

From the JTA, www.jta.org. Also see Letters


Does Ms Magazine Believes Israeli Women are Too Hot to Handle

January 11th 2008

Ms. Magazine has long been in the forefront of the fight for equal rights and equal opportunities for women.  Apparently that is not the case if the women happen to be Israeli.

The magazine has turned down an AJCongress advertisement that did nothing more controversial than call attention to the fact that women currently occupy three of the most significant positions of power in Israeli public life.  The proposed ad (The Ad Ms. Didn't Want You To See) included a text that merely said, “This is Israel,” under photographs of President of the Supreme Court Dorit Beinish, Vice Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni and Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik.

What other conclusion can we reach except that the publishers - and if the publishers are right, a significant number of Ms. Magazine readers - are so hostile to Israel that they do not even want to see an ad that says something positive about Israel?

When Director of AJCongress’ Commission for Women’s Empowerment Harriet Kurlander tried to place the ad, she was told that publishing the ad “will set off a firestorm” and that “there are very strong opinions” on the subject - the subject presumably being whether or not one can say anything positive about Israel.  Ms. Magazine publisher Eleanor Smeal failed to respond to a signed-for certified letter with a copy of the ad as well as numerous calls over a period of weeks. Read more ..


Author's Own Story

Will Israel Survive? Author Bets "Yes"

January 11th 2008

World Citizens - Mitchell Bard
Mitch Bard

I gave my new book the provocative title “Will Israel Survive?” because Israel faces so many challenges today that it is a legitimate question. In fact, a little more than a year ago, nearly one-fourth of Israelis said they were not certain if Israel would exist in the long run and 54% feared for the existence of the state.

Israelis have good reason to be concerned. Consider the threat of Islamic jihadism that appears to be gaining strength along its borders following the Hamas takeover of Gaza, and also the war with Hezbollah. Radical Islamists cannot accept Jews ruling over Muslims or any territory that belongs to the past or perceived future Islamic empires. They will wage war so long as Israel exists so it does not matter where the borders are drawn.

Israel can live with terrorism, but what happens if Iran acquires a nuclear bomb? Can Israel risk the threat of annihilation? If not, what can it do? Should it rely on the international community or the United States to prevent Iran from acquiring the bomb or deterring it from using one? Does it have the capability to act unilaterally to stop Iran and what are the consequences of a military strike? Read more ..


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