Radovan Karadzic: ein nützlicher Sündenbock für das Versagen des Westens in den Balkan?

July 31, 2008

Diese Frage stellt zu Recht FAZ-Leser Benedikt Gresser auf einen ziemlich einseitigen Artikel von Reinhard Müller (war nicht anders zu erwarten, da die deutsche Presse aus historichen Gründen vorwiegend pro-kroatisch und anti-serbisch eingestellt ist; einzige nennenswerte Ausnahme: die einzige lesbare Tageszeitung Deutschlands, Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, dank ihrem Leiter Innenpolitik Dr. Heribert Prantl, die im damaligen Medien-Propaganda-Krieg um die NATO-Bombardierung Serbiens, die einzige deutsche Zeitung war, die Scharping-Lügen in Zweifel zog; Anmerkung der Redaktion):

“Radovan Karadzic wird es dem Tribunal nicht leicht machen. Es kann zu unangenehmen Enthüllungen kommen. Wer ist für den Bombenhagel auf die unschuldige serbische Bevölkerung verantwortlich? Wer hat die Serben in Bosnien und im Kosovo und… ermordert? Wer hat uralte Kirchen und Klöster im Kosovo geplündert und zerstört? Wer wird für maltraitierte Jugendliche in Kroatien zur Verantwortung gezogen?… und.. und. Solange solche Fragen nicht gestellt werden, bleibt die Glaubwürdigkeit jeder Rechtsprechung vor der Tür.”

Zum Artikel.

UK chief rabbi says religion important for society

July 31, 2008
archbishop & chief-rabbi
The Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams during their visit to Auschwitz

The collapse of religion could lead to a breakdown of social structure, Britain’s chief rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks has told 670 Anglican bishops gathered in Canterbury, England. Sir Jonathan, speaking to the bishops of the worldwide Anglican Communion meeting, appealed to Christians, Jews and people of other faiths to work together.

He said the decline of religious belief had led to the spread of depression, stress, eating disorders, and drug and alcohol abuse. Sacks was the first Orthodox Jewish leader to be invited to speak to the Anglican conference in Canterbury, which only takes place once in a decade.

“Relationships break down, marriage grows weak, families become fragile, communities atrophy,” the chief rabbi said, “and the result is that people feel vulnerable and alone.” Sacks said that since the foundation of the Council of Christians and Jews by the Church of England and the chief rabbi in the 1940s, members of the two faiths met as “beloved friends.”

He called for the extension of the same friendship to Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims. “Though we do not share a faith, we surely share a fate,” he said. “Religions should not fight each other but work together to face the challenges of poverty, hunger, disease and environmental disaster.”

United States presidential election, 2008: Henry Kissinger on Iraq

July 31, 2008

In a Washington Post op-ed, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who advises John McCain, assesses the changing conditions in Iraq and says a withdrawal from Iraq is not necessary to free forces for the Afghanistan battlefield.

“The inherent contradictions of the proposed withdrawal schedule compound the difficulties. Under the fixed withdrawal scheme, combat troops are to be withdrawn, but sufficient forces would remain to protect the U.S. Embassy, fight a resumption of al-Qaeda and contribute to defense against outside intervention. But such tasks require combat, not support, forces, and the foreseeable controversy about the elusive distinction will distract from the overall diplomatic goal. Nor is withdrawal from Iraq necessary to free forces for operations in Afghanistan. There is no need to risk the effort in Iraq to send two or three additional brigades to Afghanistan; those troops will become available even in the absence of a deadline.”

Read full story.

Pakistan’s Intelligence Service connection to radical Islamism

July 30, 2008

The New York Times reports U.S. intelligence officials presented senior Pakistani officials in Islamabad with evidence showing links between the country’s powerful intelligence service and Islamists.

Read full story.

Atheism and Evil

July 29, 2008

In an article in the newspaper for religion and culture FIRST THINGS, Michael Novak, author of No One Sees God: The Dark Night of Atheists and Believers, exposes the atheistic fundamentalism, and offers a Judeo-Christian view of good and evil.

“Few atheists seem to be as rigorously honest as Friedrich Nietzsche, who warned that if God is dead, it is wishful thinking to hold that reason alone can confer ‘meaning’ on life. Reason has been outmoded by chance.

There are, of course, ‘secular saints,’ such as the heroic Dr. Rieux whose story Albert Camus tells in The Plague. Many atheists today toil in hospitals, clinics, and laboratories, attempting to reduce the suffering that humans endure from dread diseases, auto crashes, horrific storms, and other physical vulnerabilities. Other atheists labor to reduce the pains of the psyche. Thus, not a few atheists practice a form of saintliness.

And yet, as Camus also pointed out, many of these secular saints look very much like those religious saints who have throughout the ages worked to ease suffering, to bring healing and comfort, and to make this world a bit more loving, truthful, just, and sane. What do secular humanists lack but synagogues and churches, he asks, to distinguish them from Jews or Christians?”

Read full story.

New report calls for ‘multi-speed’ Europe on defence

July 29, 2008
The Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty has cast doubt over institutional reform within the European Union, but EU governments cannot afford to move at the speed of the slowest on defence, and should push for a ‘multi-speed’ Europe – according to a new report by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).

Nick Witney, former Chief Executive of the European Defence Agency, issues a stark warning about the state of European defence, arguing that “inertia and resistance in the defence machinery” are thwarting the European Union’s declared aim to make a real contribution to global security. 

The report argues that Europeans will punch their weight – and be worthwhile partners for the US – only if they pool their resources and cooperate more closely. Reviewing the widely differing performances of the Member States (on defence spending, investment per soldier, participation record in operations), the report urges the formation of “pioneer groups” of the most willing and able. 

The idea could be operationalised within the European Defence Agency through the creation of a number of overlapping pioneer groups, which each specialize in areas such as research and technology, armaments cooperation, defence industry cooperation, and the pooling of civilian and military capabilities.  

The countries most active in various pioneer groups would constitute a European “core group” on defence – similarly to the “permanent structured cooperation” mechanism, envisaged by the Lisbon Treaty. Countries that do not meet some basic qualifying criteria (such as a minimum 1% of GDP spending on defence, and a 1% minimum level of personnel deployments in operations) should either commit to catch up, or leave the Agency altogether.  

Read full report.

Report on the Saudi Interfaith Conference in Madrid

July 25, 2008

by Rabbi David Rosen
AJC’s International Director of Interreligious Affairs

When King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia announced his intention some three months ago to reach out to the leaders of the main religions of the world to convene an interfaith dialogue and to work together to address major global challenges, there was understandably no shortage of skepticism.

Saudi Arabia is the heartland of Islam and arguably the most conservative of Muslim countries. Freedom of worship is not granted to other religions in Saudi Arabia, where the dominant brand of Islam is Wahhabism (or, more precisely, Salafism), which has a far more insular approach than other forms of Islam.

However, there appeared to be some obvious reasons why the king would want to take such an initiative. Aside from the need to improve the image of Islam in the West and that of his country in particular, there are the regional strategic factors at stake. The instability caused by the ongoing conflict in Iraq; the increased power and influence of Iran; the dangers posed to Sunni Islam and Saudi interests by a “Shiite crescent”-all contribute to Saudi Arabia’s sense that it needs to assert what it sees as its leadership role in the Muslim world.

In pursuit of this initiative, King Abdullah enlisted the World Muslim League (WML). While the king claims the title of guardian of the two holiest shrines of Islam, his position is, in fact, not one of religious authority. While the WML is an arm of the Saudi regime, it nevertheless has the religious standing in Saudi Arabia and throughout the Muslim world to give the “cover” that the king needed for his initiative.

In typically cautious fashion, Abdullah first convened a pan-Islamic conference to discuss this venture, and while there were criticisms, he received widespread backing. However, there were those who did not attend the conference who expressed strong opposition to the whole idea of interfaith dialogue and especially to inviting members of other faiths to Saudi Arabia.

Probably for this reason, or at least in order to proceed in as much of a tactically secure fashion as possible, the decision was taken to hold the multifaith gathering in Spain, while indicating that this was the first such conference and hinting at future gatherings in Saudi Arabia itself.

There were important arguments against cooperating with this Saudi initiative. Why be party to advancing the public relations of a regime that is hardly an exemplar of religious toleration? Why cooperate with WML, which promotes a brand of Islam that does not by any means serve the interests of Muslim integration into Western democracy and pluralism? Moreover, a number of the names that appeared on an initial list of invitees were problematic, and even the secretary-general of the WML himself was implicated in supporting organizations that had served nefarious elements working abroad.

The counterargument was that a Jewish rejection of this invitation would not, in fact, serve the interests of Jewry, Israel, and the Free World-on the contrary. This was an opportunity to begin to break through barriers of hostility and bigotry, and perhaps this move (for whatever reasons of self-interest) would herald an opening up in the Muslim world to greater understanding of and even cooperation with others. In addition to the welcome AJC gave to this initiative, this was also the position taken by Israel’s political and diplomatic leadership.

However, it became patently clear that for the WML, these were uncharted waters. The preparations, list of invitees, invitations, and even the program itself all betrayed the lack of familiarity with the interfaith territory at large and with specific religious communities in particular.

The invitation I received as one of the few initial Jewish invitees was sent deliberately to AJC’s Jacob Blaustein Building in New York. Indeed, even though the list of invitees on the website set up for the conference included many names who never received invitations as well as others who had immediately declined, it was clear that the hosts had decided to deliberately avoid inviting any official Israeli or Palestinian representatives.

Nevertheless, the fact that I am an Israeli was widely covered in the media. Moreover, I emphasized that without official Israeli religious representation, this could not be considered a real dialogue with Jewry. It was further reported that this had greatly ruffled the organizers’ feathers.

Further invitations went out, and a conference program appeared on the website. At the conference in Madrid, a Saudi journalist told me that I had been on the original program as a preliminary speaker, but was removed as a result of this publicity.

Most disturbing was the fact that when the tentative program (subsequently changed half a dozen times) appeared on the conference website, the name of Yisroel Dovid Weiss of Neturei Karta was listed on the opening plenary! Had Weiss in fact remained in this representative role, we would have withdrawn from the conference in protest-and this was very much the position that the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs had recommended as well. However, together with other Jewish figures who had accepted invitations to attend, an effective campaign was launched on our part enlisting various religious and political contacts in the U.S. and around the world. The result was that Weiss was taken off the program and did not attend at all.

The opening session on March 16 was hosted by King Juan Carlos in the Spanish Royal El Prado Palace. There was an impressive array of Arab princes (including most of the Saudi government) and Muslim clerics, together with representatives of the world’s major faiths-not least among these Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the Vatican prelate responsible for relations with other faiths.

King Abdullah welcomed the attendees, and in his opening speech emphasized his conviction that authentic religion is expressed in a spirit of moderation and tolerance and requires that concord must replace conflict. He called for cooperation and collaboration between the different religions to that end, in order to address the global challenges of our time.

At the end of the opening, he greeted the guests individually. When my turn came, I introduced myself to him saying in (my limited) Arabic, “I am Rabbi Rosen from Jerusalem, Israel,” and he replied “Ahalan w’asalan” (i.e., welcome), but I could see that those around him almost had heart attacks on the spot.

While the king’s message was hardly earth-shattering in itself, the fact that he had given the green light for encounter, dialogue, and collaboration with the other faith communities appeared to open the gates for many who were most curious but might have been wary or even fearful of such encounters beforehand. The Jewish delegation of some fifteen rabbis and scholars was most affected by this “permission.” We were interviewed incessantly by the Arab media, and many Arab figures, in particular, came up to us and said that they had never met a Jew, let alone a rabbi, and would like to ask us questions. Many of these questions reflected stunning prejudice, distortions, and misconceptions, but the very fact that they could vent them to us-almost innocently-presented opportunities to address these misrepresentations and to try to overcome them. The fact that I was not only the representative of a leading American Jewish organization but also an Israeli only increased the media interest, and I must have been interviewed, primarily by Arab media in general, but also by Saudi media in particular (as well as by Western media) some thirty times, on TV, radio, and the press.

Naturally, as is the case more often than not at conferences, conversations outside of the formal proceedings and especially at mealtimes offered far greater opportunity for meaningful exchange. In parenthesis, I might point out that kosher food had been ordered specially by the Muslim organizers for the Jewish participants. The fact that it was quite inedible and that we made do with fresh salads and fruits does not diminish from the consideration and respect shown by our hosts.

At one mealtime I was sitting next to a prominent Saudi personality who informed us that the gathering was the outcome of the process that King Abdullah had embarked upon since his accession to the throne. The king’s desire, he said, was not only for Saudi Arabia to play a more engaged role with the world at large and with the world’s religions in particular, but was also part of his desire to open up Saudi Arabia itself to the world.

Our Saudi interlocutors were also at pains to emphasize the courage of the eighty-five-year-old king in taking this course, evidenced by the strong criticism that had been leveled against him for doing so in his own country.

While one might raise an eyebrow at the claims of exclusively noble motives behind the initiative, enlightened self-interest is probably as good a motive as any.

In the highly choreographed format of the proceedings, there was a moment of some passion and heat. It came in the wake of the almost inevitable mantra expressed by a panelist in the penultimate session that while dialogue with Jews was permissible (and perhaps even desirable), dialogue with Israel and those who supported it was not.

I was given the floor to respond, pointing out that genuine dialogue is not one in which one side defines the character of the other, but rather seeks genuinely to understand others as they see themselves. Judaism has always been inextricably connected to the Land of Israel, and while this should not be used to justify any action or policy that is in conflict with the morality and ethics that are at the foundation of religion, to deny or try to separate this bond is to fail to acknowledge, let alone respect, Jewish self-definition.

While there was a minimal negative reaction, alleging that the irenic discussion had now been politicized, there were also constructive Muslim responses in return.

Arguably most notable of all was the respectful spirit in which the discussion took place. Many noted that it had actually served as something of a release.

As already mentioned, the Saudis had avoided inviting any official Israeli and any Palestinian representatives, assumedly to avoid any possible polemic or potentially disruptive element in the proceedings of this initial foray into the interreligious arena. (This absence might itself paradoxically point to an intention to address specifically the challenges of the conflict in the future.)

However, in a way, the absence of any mention of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict created the feeling that the “elephant in the room” was being ignored. The opportunity to refer to it in the context of respectful debate actually helped clear the air.

While the concluding statement was the anticipated pious declaration, it does nevertheless reflect the expressed Saudi intention to continue the process that has been embarked upon. This is something that should not be underestimated. The highest authority in the very heartland of Islam has taken a lead in interfaith outreach (whatever his motives might be) with the declared intention of addressing contemporary challenges and resolving conflict. This offers us a significant opportunity, and AJC is uniquely positioned to contribute to this process.

United States presidential election, 2008: What the next US President means for Europe

July 25, 2008

You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else. (Winston Churchill)

In The Guardian,  James Goldgeier and Derek Chollet analyze European response to Barack Obama’s visit and the upcoming U.S. election.

“One of the more unusual aspects of the 2008 US presidential campaign is that Europeans seem to be just as engaged and excited as Americans—and in some cases, even more so. Looking ahead to next year, Europeans believe there’s one thing they can be certain about: things are going to get better.

There’s good reason to expect that whether it is Barack Obama or John McCain in the White House, America’s approach toward many of the most divisive issues in transatlantic relations will shift favourably. The Guantánamo Bay prison will be shuttered, the US will reject torture and a new administration will make a serious effort to combat climate change. Both McCain and Obama have already proven that close relations with Europe will be a high priority. They have taken valuable time away from the campaign trail to visit key European capitals – the first time that the two major party candidates have done so this late in the political season.”

Read full story.

China is changing – in many ways for the better

July 25, 2008

In the Chinese newspaper China Daily, former director of Policy Planning in the US State Department Richard Nathan Haass writes that those boycotting the Olympics are ignoring China’s accomplishments.

“Of course, China merits criticism in many areas of its domestic and foreign policy. But snubbing China is misguided. It ignores what the country has accomplished, and it risks consequences that are inconsistent with what the critics themselves want to see.

Some perspective is called for. Modern China is only some six decades old. Its economic growth has been and is truly astounding. Hundreds of millions of Chinese have been lifted out of poverty. Indeed, Chinese economic growth must be acknowledged as one of history’s great achievements in poverty reduction.”

Read full story.

Bombing Iran or Living with Iran’s Bomb?

July 24, 2008

The Transatlantic Institute issued a report commissioned from defence and Middle East affairs analyst, Kassem Ja’afar. The report looks into the two scenarios described by French President Nicolas Sarkozy in a speech last August 2007: bombing Iran or living with Iran’s bomb.

To read the report, please click here.

From Good to Great: On being an effective leader

July 22, 2008

Mom with a View: On being an effective leader
by Emuna Braverman

New books on leadership seem to be published daily in the business world. Some of the sales are fueled by a desperate desire for a get-rich-quick scheme. But the rest, I assume, appeal to those who want to rise to positions of leadership but don’t know how, or those who are in leadership positions but can’t seem to exercise it effectively.

Although I believe in general that “great leaders aren’t made, they’re born” – that the drive, ambition, people skills and integrity of character required to be a top quality leader are most often innate – there is some fine tuning we can do.

Perhaps one of the most important traits of a true leader is the ability both to listen to others and to make them feel heard. If people feel heard they will follow you anywhere, even at great self-sacrifice. A recent study demonstrated that the majority of us are willing to accept a lower income if we feel appreciated at work. A leader makes his or her employees feel that way, by valuing their input and ideas.

A frequent complaint voiced about presidents and prime ministers is that they don’t listen to anyone else’s opinion. We’re willing to accept many other moral and character flaws – but not this.

Good leaders need to listen – and respond. I was once invited to a meeting of a non-profit organization to plan their upcoming fundraiser. Many creative and thoughtful ideas were proposed and discussed. Subsequently we discovered that the event had actually already been planned. The meeting was to give those involved with the organization a “sense of involvement”. I guess they were going for the “sense” and not the “involvement”. All attendees felt used and discontinued further active participation in the organization.

Effective leaders implement the ideas of others – and credit them for it. This gives everyone a stake in the success of the business or cause. It also enhances the popularity of the leader.

Some (not very good) leaders labor under an illusion that everything has to come from them. Yet they are more revered and loved when they truly listen to others. And of course the institution thrives more. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that one individual can’t possibly think of all the ideas and innovations. In making space for others, everyone benefits.

This is true in our personal and spiritual lives as well. In allowing room for other people, we benefit the most. In listening to others, we create real relationships. In responding to others we make them feel heard and deepen the connection. And we may even learn some new/better ways of being, get some help parenting or some marriage tools – maybe even a cooking, shopping or business tip.

It’s valuable to focus on this essential leadership skill in all aspects of our lives. Of course we can only grow spiritually when we open ourselves up to the experience and knowledge of others, to insights outside our own and ultimately to the wisdom of the Almighty Himself.

Business books are not about good leaders, they’re about great ones. To achieve greatness, the focus needs to be on others, not ourselves. To run a successful company may only require a good leader. But someone who listens to others, whatever their status, who in his humility is receptive to the words of others, and consequently the teachings of the Almighty is a great leader. Now that would be a book worth reading.

Author Biography: Emuna Braverman has a law degree from the University of Toronto and a Masters in Psychology from Pepperdine University. She lives with her husband and nine children in Los Angeles where they both work for Aish HaTorah International.

Reprinted with kindly permission of Aish HaTorah International.

Nazi propaganda film ‘Jud Süß’ screened in Budapest

July 22, 2008

In the Hungarian capital Budapest, the public screening of the anti-Semitic Nazi film ‘Jud Süß’ (1940) by a neo-Nazi organization has led to protests. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a lawyer told the newspaper ‘Népszabadság’ that he would initiate legal proceedings against the organizers.

The lawyer, who said many of his family were victims of Nazism, said the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty, signed by Hungary amongst other countries, contained a provision banning the dissemination of fascist ideology.

Meanwhile, a local chapter of the Hungarian Free Democratic Party said it would file a complaint to the authorities over ‘Jud Süß’ as the film can only be screened in Europe with permission from the German Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation which holds the screening rights. The foundation said it was unaware of the screening and wants to take legal action itself. Approval for the screening of ‘Jud Süß’ and other Nazi propaganda movies is granted by the foundation under certain conditions, including an introduction about the propagandistic aims of film the before the screening.

The infamous German movie adaptation made by Veit Harlan under the supervision of Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels is considered one of the most hateful depictions of Jews on film. The 1940 film about 18th century Jewish finance Joseph Süß Oppenheimer, who is greedy and sexually abuses women, was shown to concentration camp guards, to SS units about to round up Jews, as well as to non-Jewish populations of areas where Jews were about to be deported.

Should cultural assimilation be a requirement for citizenship?

July 21, 2008

PostGlobal‘s panel of experts debates whether cultural assimilation should be taken into consideration when granting citizenship. The discussion follows France’s decision to reject the citizenship application of a burqa-wearing Moroccan woman on the grounds that she didn’t “assimilate” sufficiently.

Read full story.

Japan to host 23rd World Scout Jamboree in 2015

July 20, 2008

Japan has just won the bid to host the 23rd World Scout Jamboree in 2015.

Announced in the Plenary Hall at ICC Jeju on Jeju Island at the 38th World Scout Conference, Japan was ecstatic to hear the results with the Chairman of the bidding committee, Mr. Osamu Hirose saying: “We are very happy and we are sure that the Jamboree will be a very good opportunity to educate young people, and also very good chance to show how Scouts around the world are creating a better world.”

The Jamboree will be located on Kirarahama or Kirara Beach in Yamaguchi Prefecture. The Japanese word “kirara” means mica: Kirara Beach offers a beautiful landscape in front of which the Seto Inland Sea glitters in the sunlight just like mica.

To get more informations about the World Scout Movement, please click here.

Traces du Sacré im Pariser Centre Pompidou: Mystisches, Transzendentes, Psychedelisches und mehr

July 20, 2008

In der Neuen Zürcher Zeitung bespricht Marc Zitzmann die große Ausstellung “Traces du Sacré” im Pariser Centre Pompidou.

Traces du Sacré: Wie das wohl zu übersetzen ist? «Spuren des Sakralen»? «Spuren des Heiligen»? Oder, ungenauer, aber umfassender: «Spuren von etwas Höherem»? Letztgenannte Übertragung umreisst den Inhalt der jüngsten Grossausstellung im Pariser Centre Pompidou so scharf, wie es bei einem derart ausufernden (und an den Rändern auch ausfransenden) Thema überhaupt möglich ist. «Spuren von etwas Höherem» – das meint gewiss: Spuren des Religiösen. Aber auch: Spuren des Mystischen. Des Transzendenten. Des Metaphysischen. Des Psychedelischen. Des Parapsychologischen. Und so weiter und so fort.”

Zum Artikel.

How do we respond when terrorist and child murderer Samir Kuntar goes free?

July 20, 2008

Heroes on the Border
by Rabbi Shraga Simmons

Emotions peaked last week as Hezbollah handed over the bodies of the two Israeli soldiers whose kidnapping touched off the 2006 Lebanon War, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, in exchange for Israel’s release of Samir Kuntar, the unrepentant terrorist and child murderer.

The reaction in Israel was of somber national mourning.

In Lebanon, it was a day of national celebration. Government offices and banks were closed, and Kuntar was accorded a hero’s welcome amidst huge rallies and fireworks.

With his military garb and arm proudly thrust forward in a Nazi salute, Kuntar vowed to murder more innocent Jews.

Throughout most of the civilized world, the reaction to this scene was revulsion and disdain.

My reaction was sorrow, mixed with humble gratitude, as I recalled this story from the Holocaust:

Rabbi Yekusiel Yehudah Halberstam, the revered Klausenberger Rebbe, was savagely beaten by a Nazi with crushing, deadly blows. As the rabbi was sprawled on the ground, bleeding from his head, the Nazi thrust his jackboot into the rabbi’s chest and mockingly sneered: “So tell me, how does it now feel to be a Jew?”

Rabbi Halberstam looked up calmly and said, “I’d much rather be a Jew on the receiving end of this torture, than to be a German administering it.”

Last week’s prisoner exchange evoked tremendous pain. Yet it evoked as well as sense of pride at the vast gulf between how Israel and its enemies view the world.

The same Lebanese Arabs who glorify Kuntar for crushing a 4-year-old girl’s skull with his rifle butt also danced in the streets at the destruction of the Twin Towers. Two summers ago, Hezbollah fired 4,000 rockets from Lebanon that displaced nearly 20 percent of the Israeli population. And it was a group of Lebanese terrorists who launched the 1978 terror attack that left 36 Israeli civilians dead, including 13 children – led by Dalal Mughrabi, whose body was returned to Lebanon last week, also amidst heroic celebration.

On the other side of the border was Israel, making concessions that jeopardize its national security, in order to safeguard its commitment to the preciousness of every Jewish soul. Whether you agree with Israel’s decision or not, one can appreciate the valor of Smadar Haran: Having lost her entire family – husband and two young children – on the night of Kuntar’s attack, she did not oppose his release, rising above her personal pain to support whatever action would be in Israel’s best interests.

Those are their heroes, and these are ours.

An ancient Jewish teaching says: “A person is known by his praise.” One is known not only by how he is praised by others, but also by that which he chooses to praise – i.e. his heroes.

Last week, the heroes on each side of the border so starkly revealed the core values that are driving each society. And as I watched the despicable display of inhumanity in Lebanon, I humbly thanked God for making me a Jew.

Jewish National Mission

So where do we go from here? How do we pick up the pieces of this crushing national tragedy and – as Jews have always sought to do – turn it into a vehicle for good?

When Rabbi Halberstam emerged from the Holocaust, he discovered that his wife and 10 children had been murdered. Yet rather than complain or become embittered, he immersed in a rigorous campaign to reach out to others – founding schools, orphanages, relief organizations, and what is today the largest hospital in Netanya.

We, too, need to respond by strengthening our Jewish national mission.

Which begs the question: What is the special mission of the State of Israel, the ideology holding it all together?

What makes us different is the moral doctrine that Judaism brought to the world – that every human being is created in the image of God, and that peace is our highest value. And if there was ever a time this needs to be embraced, it is now, with the Western world facing off against radical Islam – an ideology that feels no remorse over blowing up commuters in European capitals or chopping off the heads of infidels; an ideology fueled by Saudi petro dollars and emboldened by the burgeoning Iranian nuclear program.

There are many more Kuntars out there yearning for the chance to murder, hoping to see all of Western civilization dead, gone, wiped off the face of the earth. Defeating this evil will not come by being passive, or by maintaining the status quo. We have to wake up and do something.

Three Weeks

We are now entering the period of the Three Weeks, the time of the Jewish year that commemorates the destruction of the Temple Jerusalem at the hands of Romans in 70 CE, and the Babylonians 500 years earlier. The Temple was the central source for exporting Jewish values to the world, as Isaiah famously said, “From Zion, the Torah will go forth, and the word of God from Jerusalem.”

These three weeks are traditionally a time to look inward, to examine what is holding the Temple back from being rebuilt. Where have we fallen short, and how we might strengthen our personal commitment to the cause?

The answer seems clear. If Jewish values are the target of Islamic barbarism, then Jewish values are the solution. Studying Torah and teaching it to others will help bring the world to a point where there will be no more terror attacks, no more wars, no more Holocausts.

Today, each of us is on the battlefront for Jewish values that celebrate life, not death.

Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser heroically served on the front lines and died for it. With their graves still fresh, now is the time for us to commit to live for it.

About the author:
Rabbi Shraga Simmons spent his childhood trekking through snow in Buffalo, New York. He earned a degree in journalism from the University of Texas, and went on to serve as a reporter for newspapers and magazines, specializing in politics. In 1994, after receiving rabbinic ordination from the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, he served for three years as Director of Outreach for Aish HaTorah in Los Angeles. Simmons is an expert on media bias relating to the Middle East conflict, and was the founding editor of HonestReporting.com, the pro-Israel media watch group. He lives with his wife Keren and children in the Modi’in region of Israel.

Reprinted with kindly permission of Aish HaTorah International.

India Nuclear Plans

July 18, 2008

The BBC previews meetings at which Indian nuclear officials will brief the United Nations on steps the country is taking to safeguard its nuclear facilities.

Read full story.

Israel finances irrigation project in Senegal

July 18, 2008

A major new irrigation project developed by the Israeli embassy in Senegal is proving a boon for Senegalese farmers, The Christian Science Monitor reports.

“Mamadou Diouf says he hopes to expand drip irrigation in his village. ‘If this project works,’ he says, ‘we’ll have money to buy rice and vegetables. That’s why it’s so important.”

Read full story.

Hugo Chavez ready to cooperate with the U.S. on war against Drugs

July 18, 2008

For the first time in years, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez has expressed willingness to work with the U.S. to jointly confront Latin American drug trafficking.

McClatchy News Service reports Hugo Chavez’s apparent about-face comes with the Venezuelan leader facing an increasingly tenuous regional political situation.

Read full story.

Ireland reacts to Nicolas Sarkozy Ultimatum

July 16, 2008

The Irish Times reports the country’s leaders have attempted to play down comments by French President Nicolas Sarkozy that Ireland should hold another referendum vote on the Lisbon Treaty to reform the EU constitution.

Read full story.

United Nations to Name Next Human Rights Czar

July 15, 2008

Any day now, the world’s highest human rights official will be appointed. According to latest information, obtained from UN insiders in New York and Geneva, leading contenders include Navanethem Pillay, a South African judge on the International Criminal Court; Argentina’s Juan Mendez, a former UN adviser on genocide prevention; and Hina Jilani, the UN’s designated champion for human rights defenders, herself a heroic activist who suffered brutal arrest in her native Pakistan. Other mentioned candidates include individuals with questionable records. Two of these are addressed in the following op-ed by UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer, which appears in the Jerusalem Post.

Who Will Guard Human Rights at the UN?

The Jerusalem Post Op-Ed Page, July 14, 2008

by Hillel Neuer

Word from the 38th floor of United Nations headquarters in New York is that Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon is in the final stages of filling the newly vacant — and globally influential — post of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. To find the right person, Ban must ask his candidates tough questions.

More than anything, the UN rights chief must be a person of moral clarity, courage and principle, ready to take on powerful political forces in defending victims of gross violations around the world. He or she must guard the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — the dream of Eleanor Roosevelt that now marks its 60th anniversary — from those who trample them in places like Harare, Teheran or Pyongyang. It’s a tall order.

Who’s in the running? According to The New York Times, Luis Alfonso de Alba, Mexico’s envoy to the UN in Geneva, is a leading candidate. UN insiders report that, among others, Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey is also vigorously campaigning.

While Mexico and Switzerland have the right to nominate diplomats and politicians of their choice, Ban has the duty to question their records.

To seal a $28 billion gas deal, Calmy-Rey recently visited with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. As world leaders attempt to shun the fanatical regime — the head of which denies the Holocaust, incites to the elimination of a UN member state and illegally pursues the nuclear capability to carry this out — Calmy-Rey chose to pose smilingly with Ahmadinejad, while wearing the Islamic headscarf.

“What disappointed me was Calmy-Rey’s attitude during her visit,” said Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate and women’s rights advocate. “She knew about the human rights situation in Iran; I even had the chance to speak to her about it beforehand. But once there she never mentioned the human rights situation in Iran, nor met any human rights defenders, not even myself. The only thing of interest to her was the business deal.”

Calmy-Rey’s strongest endorser is her longtime political confidante from Geneva, Jean Ziegler, the 1989 co-founder of the Muammar Gaddafi Human Rights Prize, whom she recently named as a senior adviser to the UN’s discredited Human Rights Council.

Is she to be the world’s designated champion of human rights?

THEN THERE is De Alba. He invokes his qualifications as the inaugural president of the Human Rights Council in 2006-2007. Yet this was a period of unprecedented decline. Reform turned into regression.

While the chair is not responsible for the votes of member states, Ban must probe the Mexican diplomat’s actions in the areas under his discretion.

What did De Alba do to check the council’s dark inclinations, as opposed to appeasing them? The record shows that on De Alba’s watch, the new council gave a pass, time and again, to the world’s worst abusers. Its resolutions praised Sudan — despite the unrelenting atrocities in Darfur — for “cooperation.” When De Alba named an “independent” inquiry panel on Darfur in 2007, why did he defer to the powerful Arab, Islamic and African alliances that support the Khartoum regime, picking government representatives of sympathetic allies, instead of an all-expert panel?

“We were surprised by the method employed by [De Alba],” French UN Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert said at the time. “We missed a good chance to send independent personalities… This is not a good message.”

And on what basis did De Alba give assurances that Sudan would cooperate with this Darfur mission — when in fact the regime blocked its entry and attacked its report?

History will record that under De Alba’s tenure, the council granted effective impunity to all of the world’s worst human rights violators. Instead, it targeted Israel in every single one its condemnatory resolutions –10 in one year. From July to November 2006, the council called three special sessions against Israel, legitimizing terrorism committed by Hamas and Hizbullah. The Arab-initiated exercises were so extreme and one-sided that even frequent critics of Israel, both among member states and organizations such as Amnesty International, decried their bias. So why did De Alba defend the sessions as “completely justified”?

The culmination of De Alba’s term was his negotiated reform proposal of June 2007, which he labeled “a great diplomatic success… a decision of historic dimensions.” In fact, his package eliminated the council’s protective mandates for human rights victims in Belarus and Cuba, and instituted a “review” of remaining mandates, which has already resulted in ending the investigation of abuses in the Congo, where four million have died. De Alba’s package also included an Algerian-sponsored “Code of Conduct” for independent human rights experts, designed solely to intimidate them from criticizing repressive regimes.

Why did De Alba defend this package, saying, “The end result was highly positive”? In the words of The Wall Street Journal, “Council president Luis Alfonso de Alba of Mexico drafted a set of rules that mock the institution’s very mission.” How he adopted these rules was even worse. De Alba trampled basic due process by pushing his package through in the middle of the night, in the wee hours of June 19, 2007, famously denying Canada its right to vote and challenge the package.

I TOO experienced the Mexican representative’s justice when taking the council floor, on behalf of UN Watch, to challenge the council’s record. De Alba’s response was simply to reject my speech as “inadmissible.” He threatened to strike any similar remarks from the record. The episode, seen 300,000 times on YouTube, earned him the rebuke of leading newspapers and blogs around the world.

Though De Alba did not initiate the council’s worst distortions of the language and idea of human rights, he gave it cover, repeatedly hailing the council, among other things, as “very open.” By contrast, his successor, Ambassador Doru Costea of Romania, publicly questioned the forum’s balance and credibility.

As the council continues its downward spiral, imposing, in the name of Islamic sensitivities, ominous restrictions on freedom of speech within council debates as well as around the world, an independent, principled and courageous voice in Geneva’s inner sanctum is more necessary than ever.Copyright 2008, The Jerusalem Post.

Russia punishes Czech Republic for hosting U.S. Missile Defense Shield

July 15, 2008

The Moscow Times reports Czech leaders have questioned Moscow’s assertion that oil exports to the Czech Republic have dipped due to technical reasons.

They accuse Russia of using oil punitively following a decision by the Czech Republic to back plans for a U.S. missile defense shield.

Read full story.

United States presidential election, 2008: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream

July 14, 2008

In The New York Times Sunday Book Review, Norman J. Ornstein reviews the new political bestseller written by two editors of The Atlantic Monthly, Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam: GRAND NEW PARTY How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream.

Ornstein argues that a conservatism of reflexive tax cuts and sink-or-swim economics will never resonate with the huge core of working class voters.

“The core thesis of their book Grand New Party is that the working class in America – the non-college-educated half of the electorate – continues to ping-pong between the parties and is there for the taking by any group that can seriously and directly address its concerns. The authors note: ‘Since 1968, these voters have provided the ‘silent majority’ that elected Nixon, the ‘Reagan Democrats’ who gave the Gipper his landslides and the ‘angry white men’ who put the Gingrich G.O.P. over the top in 1994. . . . Yet after each Republican triumph, this working-class constituency . . . has become disillusioned with conservative governance and returned to the Democratic column.” 

Read full story.

The Roots of the Mortgage Crisis

July 14, 2008

The following series of New York Times graphics seeks to elucidate how the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac work, and why they are currently embattled.

The Wall Street Journal explains how the mortgage lenders’ problems have led to a “vicious cycle” for housing and financial markets.

Europe and the United States after the Irish No to Lisbon Treaty

July 13, 2008

Former US Ambassador to the UN and Senior Vice President for Public Policy Research at the American Enterprise Institute John R. Bolton wrote in the Italian newspaper Liberal on June 25, 2008, on the future of transatlantic relations after the Treaty of Lisbon.

“Although the future shape of the EU is an obsession in Europe, very few in the United States pay any attention to it. Europe is consumed with Ireland’s recent referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon, but European integration is a nonissue in the American presidential campaign. These two attitudes are unfortunate for both sides of the Atlantic: pro-EU leaders in Europe are pushing headlong into nondemocratic – perhaps even antidemocratic – territory, and Americans are missing a very real threat to the transatlantic alliance.

I was in Dublin just a few days before the Irish referendum. To a U.S. observer, it seemed hard to believe that the result could have been anything other than a resounding ‘yes’ to the Treaty of Lisbon. Ireland’s entire political establishment supported it, including all but one of the major political parties; advertising in favor of a ‘yes’ vote far exceeded expenditures for the ‘no’ side; and media coverage stressed the shame and embarrassment that would come Ireland’s way if it rejected Lisbon.”

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United States presidential election, 2008: Debating the War Powers Act

July 13, 2008

In an op-ed in U.S. News & World Report, Michael Barone wrote on replacing the War Powers Act with the War Powers Consultation Act:

“I tend to be cynical about proposals advanced by bipartisan panels of the great and the good. But I’ll make an exception for the National War Powers Commission sponsored by the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia. The commission was chaired by former Secretaries of State James Baker and Warren Christopher and included former Democratic members of Congress Lee Hamilton, John Marsh, and Abner Mikva and former Republican Sen. Slade Gorton (Marsh presumably counts as a Republican, since he served in the Ford White House and was secretary of the Army in the Reagan administration). Other members: Republicans Carla Hills, Edwin Meese, and Brent Scowcroft; Democrats Anne-Marie Slaughter and Strobe Talbott; and retired Adm. J. Paul Reason.

In its admirably brief and well-written report, the commission calls for repealing the War Powers Act of 1973 and replacing it with a War Powers Consultation Act that would require the president to consult with a new bipartisan, bicameral Joint Congressional Consultation Committee.”

Read full story.

Also in a November 2005 article for the Atlantic Monthly, foreign policy experts Leslie Gelb and Anne-Marie Slaughter argued for an overhaul of the War Powers Act that would give more oversight to Congress than the one proposed on July 8, 2008, by a 12-member commission sponsored by the University of Virginia:

“Much that has gone wrong in Iraq could have been foreseen—and was. But Iraq is only the latest in a long line of ill-considered and ill-planned American military adventures. Time and again in recent decades the United States has made military commitments after little real debate, with hazy goals and no appetite for the inevitable setbacks.”

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Sudan Genocide Charges

July 13, 2008

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court says the court will seek an arrest warrant for Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. UN officials say they are concerned the proceedings could hamper peace efforts in Darfur.

“The action by the prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo of Argentina, will mark the first time that the tribunal in The Hague charges a sitting head of state with such crimes, and represents a major step by the court to implicate the highest levels of the Sudanese government for the atrocities in Darfur.

Some U.N. officials raised concerns Thursday that the decision would complicate the peace process in Darfur, possibly triggering a military response by Sudanese forces or proxies against the nearly 10,000 U.N. and African Union peacekeepers located there. At least seven peacekeepers were killed and 22 were injured Tuesday during an ambush by a well-organized and unidentified armed group.”

Read full story.