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Ben Harris
 
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U.S., Israel escalate war of words over Iran

WorldPublished: 09 April 2015

Israel and the Obama administration have stepped up their war of words over the framework agreement that aims to limit Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for a gradual rollback of sanctions.

President Barack Obama made his most detailed effort yet to persuade skeptics of the accord reached last week in Switzerland in a weekend interview with the New York Times, asserting that the deal is the “best bet” to prevent Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon and promising to “stand by” Israel in the event of Iranian aggression.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his skepticism about the deal undiminished, made the rounds of American talk shows on Sunday morning to denounce a deal that he said gives Iran a “free path” to the bomb. And on Monday, Israel’s minister of strategic affairs, Yuval Steinitz, in an effort to rebut claims that Israel had offered no alternative to a military campaign against Iran, presented reporters in Jerusalem with a list of modifications he said would make the agreement “more reasonable.”

 
 

‘U.N. Me’ documentary makes Borat-style attack on world body

FilmPublished: 01 June 2012

Call it Michael Moore meets Sacha Baron Cohen.

A pro-Israel activist is hoping that his documentary on the United Nations — to be released nationwide on June 1 — brings focus to what he says is the world body’s global ineffectiveness.

One of the more powerful scenes from “U.N. Me” comes from a lull in deliberations at the controversial 2009 Durban Review Conference in Geneva, a parley headlined by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and boycotted by Israel, the United States, and others because of its obsessive focus on the Jewish state.

 
 

Shabbat conflict sidelines Orthodox hoops squad

WorldPublished: 02 March 2012

Chris Cole, the coach of the boys’ basketball team at the Robert M. Beren Academy in Houston, says his squad is peaking, coming off its 27-point victory in the state tournament quarterfinals.

Apparently the Stars, who with a record of 24-5 are having the best season in school history, will not be able to show off their game in the rest of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) 2A tournament.

The semifinals are being held on Friday night and the finals on Saturday afternoon, conflicting with Shabbat. Beren’s appeal to change the starting times was rejected Monday by the association. Beren thus was forced to forfeit.

 
 

To frack or not to frack?

Two Jewish concerns clash in environmental debate

WorldPublished: 10 February 2012

As concerns mount over the environmental and public health consequences of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, Jewish groups are coalescing around a strategy that supports efforts to extract natural gas from shale rock while seeking to mitigate its worst effects.

In May, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), the community’s main public policy umbrella group, will consider a draft resolution on fracking that in its current form acknowledges the potential benefits of a major new source of natural gas while urging greater oversight and government regulation of the practice.

 
 

From the Sanhedrin to Alan Greenspan, strategies to avoid the perils of groupthink

WorldPublished: 26 August 2011

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. – When Alan Greenspan was chairman of the Federal Reserve, he reportedly conducted meetings of the Fed’s Open Market Committee by going around the table and asking the 17 members for their opinions. Only after the others had spoken would Greenspan, a towering figure in American economic policy, render his own judgment.

With the U.S. economy currently in shambles, one can easily question the wisdom of the decisions Greenspan presided over during his 19 years at the Fed. But his practice of having junior group members speak before their seniors is an excellent way to avoid the sort of myopia to which elite groups, operating under high pressure, often succumb.

 
 

Meet Bulgaria’s Alex Oscar

A Jewish community president who can’t be called to the Torah

WorldPublished: 08 April 2011

Under a cloudless blue sky, in a square wedged between the National Assembly and the Rectorate of the University of Sofia, Alexander Oscar, the young president of Sofia’s Jewish community, issued a blunt message to his countrymen.

The occasion was Bulgaria’s Holocaust remembrance ceremony on March 10, a day meant to celebrate the country’s heroic rescue of its 50,000 Jews during World War II, a feat unequalled in any Nazi-allied country and a rightful mark of pride here.

But Oscar was determined not to let his fellow Bulgarians revel too much in their self-congratulation. He reminded them of the deportation of 11,000 Jews — most of whom perished — from Thrace and Macedonia, territories then administered from Sofia. He recalled the 1941 law that forced Jews to wear a yellow star and prohibited them from occupying public positions. And he noted that of the Jews deported from Sofia, all of the men were dispatched to labor camps.

As one local put it, Bulgarian Jews were raped but not killed.

 
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As Spain builds monuments to its Jewish past, critics question motives

WorldPublished: 07 April 2011

GIRONA, Spain – Hidden among the maze of alleyways east of the Onyar River, the Museum of Jewish History stands as testament — if an inadvertent one — to the completeness of Spain’s destruction of its once-thriving Jewish population.

Inside the museum, set in what is said to be Girona’s last known synagogue, designers have layered the ancient architecture with all the flourishes of a contemporary museum, complete with glass-lit cases, multimedia displays and an audio tour in several languages.

In one case sits the signet ring belonging to Girona’s most famous Jewish son, Rabbi Moses Ben Nahman Girondi, the legendary Judaic scholar known as the Ramban or Nahmanides.

 
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Polls showing rise of France’s Marine Le Pen stir debate among Jews about talking to her

WorldPublished: 25 March 2011

PARIS – On the second floor of the town hall in Paris’ third Arrondissement, leaders of France’s major Jewish institutions gathered to denounce the leader of the far-right National Front party and to assert that she remains unworthy of dialogue with the Jewish community.

Last week’s gathering was precipitated by two developments that the community found alarming, though for very different reasons.

The first was an online poll, published in early March in Le Parisien, that found that National Front leader Marine Le Pen was outpacing both major party candidates, President Nicolas Sarkozy of the UMP and the Socialist Party’s Martine Aubry.

 
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U.S. supports Israel’s security, Obama tells Jewish leaders

WorldPublished: 04 March 2011

President Obama reportedly urged Jewish communal leaders on Tuesday to speak to their friends and colleagues in Israel and to “search your souls” over Israel’s seriousness about making peace.

In an hour-long meeting Tuesday with about 50 representatives from the Jewish community’s chief foreign policy umbrella group, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Obama reiterated the U.S. commitment to Israel, according to statements from both the White House and Conference of Presidents.

 
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New Pollard clemency campaign

WorldPublished: 25 February 2011

NEW YORK – A new campaign for clemency for convicted spy Jonathan Pollard has racked up a series of big name politicos in the last few weeks: former Vice President Dan Quayle, former U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter and Chicago Rabbi Capers Funnye, a cousin of first lady Michelle Obama.

The recent successes can be traced not to Washington lobbyists or a New York boardroom, but to a small team of four activists whose doggedness, rather than political connections, has yielded results.

The four men, spread across America, have managed to generate more momentum on the Pollard issue — or at least more expressions of support for clemency from public figures — than any public campaign in recent years.

 
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