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ADL hosts key Iran players at centennial meeting

Bergen County’s Abe Foxman leads discussion on foreign policy, anti-Semitism

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Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, the ADL’s Abe Foxman, and former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta all spoke at the ADL’s centennial. ADL/David Karp

NEW YORK — The United States is testing Iran’s diplomatic intentions, but remains “clear-eyed” on Iran’s role as a state-sponsor of terror and exporter of extremism, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said.

“But foreign policy is not a zero-sum game,” he said. “If we can find ways to resolve disputes peacefully, we are wise to explore them.”

Secretary Hagel’s comments on Iranian nuclear negotiations came last week at the Anti-Defamation League’s centennial meeting in Manhattan, which attracted some 600 people. It also attracted American policy heavyweights as speakers, including Mr. Hagel, U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power, and former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Discussion centered on Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Mr. Hagel used the opportunity to announce that the United States is providing Israel with six new V-22 Osprey aircraft in an “historic agreement” that will enhance the range of Israel’s military.

“The Israeli and American defense relationship is stronger than ever, and it will continue to strengthen,” he said, noting that he ordered the shipment be expedited.

Mr. Hagel went on to introduce his predecessor, Mr. Panetta, who received the ADL’s William & Naomi Gorowitz Service Award. Mr. Panetta, also a former CIA director, called for negotiations to determine Iran’s seriousness, while maintaining “healthy skepticism.” The Iranians are unlikely to give up on uranium enrichment so the United States must be ready to use military force to ensure Iran does not develop nuclear weapons, he said.

Mr. Panetta urged caution not only toward Iran, but also toward such rising powers as China; he also warned about the possible re-emergence of Russia. He also predicted that cyber warfare could be the “Pearl Harbor of the future.”

“This is a time when we must maintain our military strength and our role in the world as a world leader,” he said. “We cannot retreat from the responsibilities the United States has in the world today.”

Political gridlock in Washington, however, is the biggest threat to U.S. security today, Mr. Panetta added. Government shutdowns send messages of weakness to the rest of the world, creating “self-inflicted wounds” that can be avoided.

“Our leaders have to be willing to take risks,” he said. “The real strength of America lies in the American people; it lies in those men and women in uniform who are willing to put their lives on the line in order to protect us.”

Ms. Power, speaking earlier in the day, praised the ADL’s mission, calling National Director Abe Foxman, who lives in Bergen County, “a fearless advocate of fairness and an outspoken defender of truth — and by outspoken, I mean breaking-the-sound-barrier outspoken.

“When most leaders speak, people listen. When Abe Foxman speaks — what other choice do we have?”

Turning to the crisis in Syria, Ms. Power said that the United States seeks an end to the killings and a new Syria that is representative of all religions, opinions, and political affiliations.

She emphasized that President Obama is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. She credited the international support the president has garnered for multilateral sanctions on Iran for pressuring Iran to change its tactics about nuclear negotiations.

The level of mistrust between America and Iran is deep, she said, and she understands skepticism of diplomatic efforts. America is not “engaging Iran for the sake of engaging Iran,” she said, and “no deal is better than a bad deal.”

“By engaging, by probing, by negotiating, we are striving to secure an unambiguous and verifiable guarantee that Iran’s nuclear program is a peaceful one and that its government will not build or acquire a nuclear weapon,” Ms. Power said. “We must get this done and, if we do, the world will be safer and prospects for stability throughout the region will improve.”

The ADL released its latest poll on anti-Semitic attitudes in America, which showed that 12 percent of Americans harbor anti-Semitic feelings. That is down 3 percent from the 2011 poll. The poll measured Americans’ agreement with various statements of anti-Semitic rhetoric, from Jewish responsibility for the death of Jesus to how much control Jews have of the media. When the ADL began its poll in 1964, it found that 29 percent of Americans held anti-Semitic views.

“It is heartening that attitudes toward Jews have improved over the last few years,” Mr. Foxman said. “The poll shows that while we have made great progress in promoting understanding in American society, the most enduring anti-Semitic canards continue to hold sway among some segments of the American public.”

Modern anti-Semitism has transformed from Nazis and Skinheads to the demonization of Israel, said Ira Forman, the U.S. State Department’s special envoy tasked with monitoring and combating anti-Semitism, during a session on global anti-Semitism. The U.S. government does not believe Israel is above criticism, and it should be treated like any other state, Mr. Forman said.

“When that criticism goes to the three Ds: delegitimization, demonization or double standards on Israel — that’s when that criticism crosses the line from a U.S. government perspective,” he added.

The U.S. Jewish community has to mobilize against anti-Semitism as it did for Soviet Jewry in the 1980s, Mr. Forman said, but this fight doesn’t have visible, concrete results, as that one did.

The U.S. government has to be involved as well, he said; that is why the position he now holds was created in 2004. Finally, he urged the Jewish community to be open to allies in the Christian and Muslim communities.

“These voices are important allies we will need to mobilize if we’re going to fight anti-Semitism,” Mr. Forman said.

Anti-Semitism: Behind the numbers

The Anti-Defamation League survey of the American people found that 12 percent of Americans harbor deeply entrenched anti-Semitic attitudes. Specifically:

14% — agreed with the statement “Jews have too much power in the U.S. today.”

15% — believe Jews are “more willing to use shady practices.”

17% — say Jews have too much control on Wall Street.

18% — say Jews have too much influence over American news media.

19% — believe Jews have too much power in the business world.

24% — agreed the movie and television industries are run by Jews.

26% — believe “Jews were responsible for the death of Christ.”

30% — continue to say American Jews are “more loyal to Israel” than to their own country.

Overall, the poll found a 3 percent decline in anti-Semitic attitudes since the ADL’s last survey in 2011.

Source: Anti-Defamation League

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Praying while female at the Kotel

Women of the Wall representative to speak locally

What’s going on with the Women of the Wall now?

What’s happening with gender equality and pluralism in Israel, now that the Israeli election is over?

Women of the Wall, made up of women from across the Jewish spectrum, has fought for the right to pray at the Kotel — Jerusalem’s Western Wall, the symbolic center of Jewish life, the magnet that draws observant and non-observant Jews, non-Jews, poets, and often even skeptics, close to it, as if they were pure iron filings.

The group, which was formed in the late 1980s, has been bolstered by legal wins. Its most important recent victory was the April 2013 decision by Judge Moshe Sobel of the Jerusalem District Court, who ruled that the city police were wrong when they arrested five women for the crime of wearing tallitot at the women’s section of the Kotel.


‘Oy vey, my child is gay’

Orthodox parents seek shared connection in upcoming retreat

Eshel, a group that works to bridge the divide that often separates lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Jews from their Orthodox communities, is holding its third annual retreat for Orthodox parents of those LGBT Jews next month.

Although most of its work is done with Orthodox LGBT Jews — who may or may not be the children of the parents at the retreat — the retreat offers parents community, immediate understanding, the freedom to speak that comes with that understanding, the chance to learn, and the opportunity to model healthy acceptance.

“There are particular issues to being Orthodox and having a gay child, although it varies a lot from community to community,” Naomi Oppenheim of Teaneck said. “You worry about what the community is thinking about you. Someone — I don’t remember who — said, ‘When my kid came out, I went into the closet.’”


Twenty years later

Stephen Flatow remembers his murdered daughter Alisa

When you ask attorney Stephen Flatow of West Orange how many children he has, his answer is immediate.

“I have five children,” he says.

Not surprising. What father doesn’t know how many children he has?

And how are they doing?

Four of them are flourishing; they are all married and all parents. Mr. Flatow and his wife, Rosalyn, have 13 grandchildren, and another one’s on the way. (And three of the Flatows’ children live in Bergen County.)

But the fifth, his oldest, Alisa, was murdered by terrorists when she was 20; her 20th yahrzeit was last week. She has been dead as long as she was alive.

“Just because she isn’t there now, that doesn’t mean I’m not her father,” he said. “I just don’t have any recent pictures of her to show.”



Israel launching drive to void Goldstone Report

WASHINGTON – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would launch an international campaign to cancel the Goldstone Report after its author, ex-South African Judge Richard Goldstone, wrote in an Op-Ed in the Washington Post that Israel did not intentionally target civilians as a policy during the Gaza War, withdrawing a critical allegation in the report.

Netanyahu said he had asked his security adviser, Ya’akov Amidror, to establish a committee focused on “minimizing the damage caused” by the report.


Facebook and Zuckerberg does an about-face and deletes Palestinian page calling for a Third Intifada

Following widespread criticism, a Facebook page calling for a third Palestinian intifada against Israel was removed on March 29. On the Facebook page, Palestinians were urged to launch street protests following Friday May 15 and begin an uprising as modelled by similar uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, and Jordan. Killing Jews en masse was emphasized.

According to the Facebook page, “Judgment Day will be brought upon us only once the Muslims have killed all of the Jews.” The page had more than 340,000 fans. However, even while the page was removed, a new page now exists in its place with the same name,  “Third Palestinian Intifada.”


Did heated rhetoric play role in shooting of Giffords?

WASHINGTON – The 8th District in southern Arizona represented by U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords comprises liberal Tucson and its rural hinterlands, which means moderation is a must. But it also means that spirits and tensions run high.

Giffords’ office in Tucson was ransacked in March following her vote for health care reform — a vote the Democrat told reporters that she would cast even if it meant her career. She refused to be cowed, but she also took aim at the hyped rhetoric. She cast the back-and-forth as part of the democratic process.

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