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Ron Kampeas
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Security’s best practices

European officials convene in Newark to discuss protection of Jewish areas

WorldPublished: 14 November 2014

NEWARK — European Jewish institutions increasingly find themselves potential terror targets.

But attempts to ramp up security at synagogues, day schools, museums, and community centers from Paris to Copenhagen have been stymied both by a lingering distrust of the police among some communities and by law enforcement’s reluctance to single out any ethnic minority for special treatment .

Those challenges, among others, brought top European security officials to Rutgers University’s Newark Campus on October 31, where they met with their American counterparts and learned about a new initiative — backed jointly by Rutgers and the Jewish Federations of North America — to help European Jewish communities work with police to prevent attacks.

About 40 people attended — representatives of Jewish umbrella groups in the United States and Europe as well as police officials from both continents. Sessions addressed the current threat in Europe and how to share “best practices” from U.S. law enforcement with European police.


U.S., Israel present a united front at D.C. assembly

WorldPublished: 14 November 2014

WASHINGTON — Joe and Bibi? Still buddies. U.S. and Israel? Still allies. Agreement on Iran and the Palestinians?


The governments of President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were back on joshing terms this week, but the deep differences that led to recent name-calling exchanges still percolated.

Netanyahu and Vice President Joe Biden, as well as top aides in both governments, used back-to-back conferences this weekend to get the message across loud and clear: We love one another.

“Ron, you’d better damn well report to Bibi that we’re still buddies. You got it, right?” Biden said Monday, picking out Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, known for his closeness to Netanyahu, from the crowd at the annual Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly, taking place this year outside Washington in Oxon Hill, Md.


Where is Jerusalem?

Supreme Court considers congressional role in foreign policy

WorldPublished: 07 November 2014

WASHINGTON — A lawyer for a boy born in Jerusalem whose parents want Israel listed as the birthplace on his U.S. passport tried mightily this week to make a Supreme Court hearing mainly about their wish, but the justices kept upping the ante.

That might mean bad news not just for 12-year-old Menachem Zivotofsky and his folks. It also could present a problem for the prospects of U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital should the court defer to the Obama administration’s argument that a 2002 law allowing the Israel listing infringes on the president’s prerogative to set foreign policy.

Alyza Lewin, the lawyer who represented Zivotofsky in oral arguments at the court Monday, acknowledged that the tenor of questioning indicated support among the justices for the idea that the case hinges on the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches.


Is Iran deal close at hand?

WorldPublished: 31 October 2014

WASHINGTON — Is the Obama administration preparing the ground for an Iran nuclear deal — one in which both sides can claim victory?

In an unusually detailed and optimistic speech on October 23, Wendy Sherman, the top U.S. negotiator, for the first time suggested that the pieces of a deal were in place, and all that was needed was Iranian willingness to wrap it up by the November 24 deadline.

“I can tell you that all the components of a plan that should be acceptable to both sides are on the table,” Sherman, an undersecretary of state, said at a Center for Strategic and International Studies symposium here on the talks. “We have made impressive progress on issues that originally seemed intractable. We have cleared up misunderstandings and held exhaustive discussions on every element of a possible text.”


Challenge from the left

New NIF campaign adopts right’s tools

WorldPublished: 05 October 2014

WASHINGTON — In a strategic shift, the New Israel Fund is arming itself with a set of sharp political tools and picking a fight.

Its target: Israel’s political right.

Its weapons: Opposition research, media monitoring, and staking its claims to patriotism and Zionism.

If NIF’s dramatic language, outlined in a September 18 press release, and its tough new posture seem familiar, it’s because the funder is adopting tactics used by the right to marginalize NIF and its clients.

“Over the past decade, Israel has endured an assault on liberal democratic values and a growing defiance of democratic norms, endangering freedom of speech and conscience as well as minority rights,” the release said. “Overt racism, ultra-nationalism and xenophobia are on the rise.”


What killed the peace talks?

Indyk describes America’s no-win dilemma

WorldPublished: 28 September 2014

“I don’t think that during those nine months we faced any backlash on the Hill,” he said, acknowledging his surprise at that. “I spent a lot of time on the Hill and got very strong support from the appropriators, Republicans and Democrats.”

After Abbas refused to commit, Kerry and Indyk failed to get the sides to extend the talks beyond the April deadline. Abbas’ Fatah party later joined Hamas in backing a government of technocrats, leading Netanyahu to threaten to isolate the Palestinian Authority.

Then in June, there was the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers. The next month brought the revenge murder of a Palestinian teenager and the launch of Israel’s military operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which lasted into late August.

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Threat from ISIS-inspired lone wolves

Terrorists seen as posing ‘significant’ threat to Jews

WorldPublished: 19 September 2014

WASHINGTON — Jewish institutions, which have faced attacks in recent years by lone wolves — extremists who draw their inspiration from the like-minded but act on their own — now must be wary of returnees from the Iraq-Syria arena who are trained and indoctrinated by the jihadist group ISIS, top security consultants said.

ISIS has “not only stated intentions to form a caliphate, but named U.S. and Jewish people as targets specifically,” said John Cohen, who until earlier this year was an undersecretary for intelligence and analysis at the Department of Homeland Security. “There’s a significant threat to Jewish communities.”

The threat became evident when the world learned that Mehdi Nemmouche, the suspect in the May 24 shooting attack on the Jewish museum in Brussels that killed four people, allegedly had been active with ISIS in Syria.

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70 years on, missing private comes home

WorldPublished: 19 September 2014

ARLINGTON, Va. — The scene at Arlington National Cemetery last Friday was not quite routine, but nor was it unusual: A clergyman said a prayer, an army NCO handed Bernard Gavrin’s closest living relative a folded U.S. flag, and a volunteer — one of the “Arlington Ladies” who attend to the needs of grieving military families — offered words of comfort.

Mr. Gavrin stood out for two reasons: The clergyman, Marvin Bash, was a rabbi, and David Rogers, Mr. Gavrin’s nephew, who received the flag, last saw his uncle more than 70 years ago in Brooklyn, when he kissed him goodnight.

Mr. Gavrin, a U.S. Army private first class, was part of an invasion force in the Pacific island of Saipan, then occupied by Japan, in June 1944. The Japanese subjected the forces to suicide attacks, killing and injuring more than 900 U.S. soldiers. But Mr. Gavrin’s remains were only found recently in Saipan. Then they were returned stateside.

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Jewish caucus in Congress dwindles

Concerns over communal influence grow

WorldPublished: 12 September 2014

WASHINGTON — From 31 in 2009 to a likely 19 in January, the unofficial Jewish caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives is shrinking fast.

Jewish lawmakers have traditionally been the first stop for Jewish lobbyists seeking inroads for their issues, including Israel, preserving the social safety net, and keeping church and state separate. Additionally, lawmakers generally seek guidance from colleagues most invested in an issue.

Fewer Jewish lawmakers means the community could lose influence in areas where its voice has been preeminent.

“The Jewish community is going to have to work harder,” said one veteran official who has worked both as a professional in the Jewish community and a staffer for a Jewish lawmaker.

The 31 figure was the highest Jewish representation ever in the House, matched only in the early 1990s. The numbers dropped in part because of victories by the Tea Party wave of conservative Republicans in 2010 and a spate of retirements by veteran lawmakers elected in the 1970s and ‘80s.

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Playing not Jewish

How reporters in Muslim lands hide their identity

WorldPublished: 12 September 2014

WASHINGTON — Don’t bring it up.

If it comes up, change the subject. If that doesn’t work, consider an outright denial.

Those are some of the strategies Jewish reporters working in the Arab and Muslim Middle East use to conceal their religious heritage.

The dangers facing Jewish journalists in the region became evident this week after the beheading of a dual American-Israeli citizen, Steven Sotloff, by the jihadist group Islamic State, or ISIS.

It’s not known whether ISIS knew that Sotloff was Jewish. Colleagues believe that his 2013 kidnapping by ISIS-affiliated terrorists in Syria was one of opportunity, not a deliberate targeting. James Foley, another journalist kidnapped by ISIS and beheaded by the terror group last month, was Catholic.

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