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Is East Jerusalem part of Israel’s capital?

March 31, 2010 Leave a comment

 By J. Zel Lurie

DELRAY BEACH, Florida– Secretaryof State Hillary Rodham Clinton knows she’s right. The Israeli-Palestinian status quo is unsustainable, she told the large audience, greeted by some cheers, at the recent AIPAC conference in Washington. “New construction in East Jerusalem,” she continued, “undermines America’s unique ability to play a role — an essential role, I might add — in the peace process.” Scattered applause from part of the audience.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can’t admit she’s right. He knows that if he agrees completely he will lose his right-wing government. So he spars with Clinton for 43 minutes on the phone from Israel followed a few days later by 75 minutes at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington and a face to face talk with President Obama the next day.

Netanyahu sticks to a false demagogic slogan: “A Jew can build in Jerusalem as in Tel Aviv.” He knows that the major portion of East Jerusalem consists of a score of rural West Bank villages which we annexed to the Holy City in 1967. Looking at East Jerusalem from the sky you see a town of two story houses sprawling over hill and valley. It is surrounded on the East by the walled Old City and to the North and South by hi-rise apartment houses on wide streets. These Jewish neighborhoods were built on Palestinian-owned land. To continue to build on them, as Netanyahu demands, would, in Clinton’s opnion, be a provocation that would harm the proximity talks.

To the West is the large Jewish city of Jerusalem, the true capital of Israel, which Netanyahu talked about at the AIPAC conference.The aura of the capital does not cover East Jerusalem where the Palestinians are NOT citizens of Israel. Netanyahu says that a Jew can build in (East) Jerusalem like in Tel Aviv. The reality is that a Palestinian can build legally in Tel Aviv but he can’t get a permit to enlarge his house for his married son in his native village of Beit Hanina or Umm Tuba or Issawiya which are among the many villages that were annexed to East Jerusalem in 1967.

In the forty-odd years since 1967 no zoning plan was established for the rural villages in East Jerusalem which were suddenly urbanized. Very few building permits were handed out so thousands of two-story homes were built illegally. Right wing Mayor Nir Barkat threatend to demolish all illegally built homes. Clinton called Netanyahu and this threat against thousands of Palestinian homes was scotched. Netanyahu’s reining in the Jerusalem mayor under American pressure proves that Bibi gives in up to a point.

Let’s look at the record. Under pressure, Netanyahu reluctantly accepted the two-state solution. Under constant pressure to stop new Jewishsetttlement construction on the West Bank and Jerusalem he finally agreed on a ten month settlement freeze on the West Bamk excluding Jerusalem. Who knows how far he will go in the proximity talks without losing his government.

I do know that the right wing ministers enjoy the money and privileges of government so they tolerate Bibi’s concessions to Clinton but they won’t let him go all the way. Still, Clinton has definitely ended the George Bush era of a tolerant bystander. “We can’t want peace more than the parties do,” is no longer our policy. We want peace. The lack of peace is harming both Arabs and Jews and is responsible for the killing of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan say American generals. The status quo is unsustainable. Therefore, says Hillary Clinton, we will take an active role in the proximity talks.

Four out of five American Jews support this policy according to a J Street poll. A good portion of the AIPAC crowd also supports it. AIPAC was scheduled to choose as its new president last week a 53 year old wealthy Chicagoan who served on Obama’s Finance Committee. The pro-settlement people who have run AIPAC for years are now quiescent. Israel is divided between the pro-settlemnt government and the majority of the population. A poll published two weeks ago by Yediot Ahronot, Israel’s largest daily, found that 64 percent of the people say that the government does not represent them.

When this column appears in print I will be part of that Israeli majority. I will have celebrated the Seder with both my daughters, my four grandkids, including my seven month pregnant Israeli granddaughter, my 6-year-old great grandson. I’m returning to Delray Beach in mid-April.

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Lurie is a freelance writer based in Florida.  His articles appear in the Jewish Times of Southern Florida

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Filner denounces aid proposal for Saudi Arabia

March 31, 2010 Leave a comment

WASHINGTON, DC (Press Release) – U.S. Congressman Bob Filner recently joined his colleagues on a letter to the House Appropriations Committee calling for text in the Fiscal Year 2010 State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations bill that would block aid to Saudi Arabia.

“I don’t understand why we are giving aid to Saudi Arabia when they are one of the richest nations in the world,” said Filner. “This is a country that continues to train terrorists, fund terrorism and export hate.  We need to stop sending aid to Saudi Arabia and use that money to invest in creating jobs here at home!”

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Preceding provided by Congressman Bob Filner

Remembering the songs of Hal Wingard, z”l

March 30, 2010 Leave a comment

SAN DIEGO–A language teacher, wit and troubador, the late Hal Wingard composed some 325 songs, most of them on flights between San Diego and other parts of California, where he consulted on language programs for school.  To hear Hal singing his songs, please follow this link, then pick the song by number.  We think today’s selection fits in well with upcoming April Fool’s Day jokes and pranks.

#309 Security Guard

I work as guard, a private guard,

To keep the public peace,

Without romance of Scotland Yard

Or regular police.

When I’m on hand folks feel secure,

Relieved that I am there.

They say my presence helps assure

That criminals take care.

And yet, I have a deep-felt fear–

Which good guards never should–

That my endowments don’t come near

What makes a good guard good.

I know when all is said and done

I have to show I’m tough,

But since I never wear a gun,

Will “tough” be good enough?

I’m insecure.

I’m so unsure

I’m an insecure security guard.

My uniform is just for show.

My badge is tin, not steel.

A common crook will surely know

How insecure I feel.

I’m plagued by doubt; I’m insecure.

It must be plain to see.

The only trait I know for sure

Is insecurity.

I’m insecure.

I’m so unsure

I’m an insecure security guard.

I work as guard, a private guard,

To keep the public peace,

Without romance of Scotland Yard

Or regular police.

When I’m on hand folks feel secure,

Relieved that I am there.

They say my presence helps assure

That criminals take care.

But I’m insecure.

I’m so unsure

I’m an insecure security guard.

 (c) Estate of Hal Wingard; dedicated to Eli Meltzer, who at Art for Ohr Shalom, joked about the insecure security guard, January 13, 2003 (309)

Words completed March 15, 2000, on flights from San Diego to Sacramento via Los Angeles

#317 Freeway

I was camping on the free. . .way,                                                                        

Roasting chestnuts on my free. . .day,

When an ostrich came a flying,

Landed near me loudly crying,

With no clue where he might be.

So I took out my Thesaur. . .us                                                                            

To acquire directions for. . .us.

But the content had no humor,

And the ostrich spread the rumor       

That his feet were feeling sore.

He declined my invita. . .tion                                                                                    

For a freeway fun vaca. . .tion.

Though the offer was exciting,

And the chestnuts quite inviting       

He would soon be on his way.

Freeway nests are no way sui. . .ted

For an ostrich so uproo. . .ted.

And each human freeway lover

Surely will in time discover

That the freeway’s not a zoo

(Well, not all the time)

 (c) Estate of Hal Wingard, January 17, 2006. Words written January 16, 2006, at home, to fit a melody running through my head. In crafting the words, this melody got lost.  So the text is set to a different melody.

#296 They’re Lovers

      They’re lovers!

      Don’t ask me how I know.

      They’re lovers!

      It’s little signs that show.

Perhaps it’s how they share their food,

      While dining side by side,

The way she savors offerings,

      When he says, “Open wide!”

Perhaps it’s how she reaches out

      As if to touch his curls,

Or how he has a dreamy look

      When staring at her pearls.

      They’re lovers!

Don’t ask me how I know.

      They’re lovers!

      It’s little signs that show.

Perhaps it’s how he strokes her wrist

      With gentle finger tips,

Or how she beams when he tells jokes,

      A smile upon her lips.

Perhaps it’s just their giddiness,

      While drinking champagne fizz.

Perhaps it’s how his foot finds hers,

      Or her knee brushes his.

      They’re lovers!

      Don’t ask me how I know.

      They’re lovers!

      It’s little signs that show.

Perhaps it’s how she looks at him

      With wide admiring eye,

Or how he often takes her hand

      And holds it on his thigh.

I’ll never know just how I know,

      But nonetheless I trust

That little signs can show it’s love. . .

      Unless, of course, it’s lust.

      They’re lovers!

(c) Estate of Hal Wingard, December 12, 1991. Words begun December 11, 1991, on a flight from San Diego to San Francisco and completed on the return flight the next day.

 

#296 Hear the Iconoclast

Beliefs that we hold to be true

Are often perverse bugaboo.

     We’re locked in detention

     Of social convention

That regulates all that we do,

                  . . . . all that we do.

So, hear the iconoclast,

Ideas that he has amassed!

     With simple suggestion

     He’ll help us to question

Beliefs we have held in the past,

                     . . . . held in the past.

.

Applying both reason and fact,

With logic that others have lacked,

     We’ll soon be debasing

     And quickly replacing

Beliefs that are rightly attacked,

                    . . . . rightly attacked.

So, heed the iconoclast who

Can help us debunk bugaboo.

     Beliefs we’re attacking

     We’ll throw out as lacking

And dream up beliefs that are new,

                       . . . . beliefs that are new.

No doubt that iconoclast doubt

Can change what believing’s about.

     By always updating

     We’ll end up creating

Beliefs we need never throw out,

                                 . . . . never throw out,

Never, never, never. . . .throw out.

(c) Estate of Hal Wingard, February 10, 2002.   Words begun February 4, 2002, on flight from San Diego to LAX on way to San Jose and expanded in Salinas while working at Gavilan View Middle School for 3 days.  Final verse added April 13, 2002, at home.

President Obama continues new White House seder tradition

March 30, 2010 Leave a comment

By Gary Rotto

SAN DIEGO–I picked up my brisket for my Seder and little didn’t realize that I would be in good company.  While the White House chef was not in the Kosher section at Ralphs, apparently the First Cook had a brisket ordered for the first night of Passover.  According to the White House, brisket will be the main course for the now annual Seder.

This is the third year in a row that the Obamas have hosted or participated in a seder.  As widely reported, the tradition began in 2008 in the basement of a Pennsylvania hotel, during the time of the Democratic Primary election.  As the story goes, after the “Next Year in Jerusalem” phrase was said, Senator Obama added, “Next Year in the White House!”  And while not a true promise, now President Obama kept this wish by hosting the first White House Seder on record.

The tradition continues this year with what the New York Times calls, “one of the newest, most intimate and least likely of White House traditions”.  According to Shin Inouye with the White House Press Office, the President and the First Lady hosted the event for key staffers.   And the official menu included:

Gelfilte Fish

Charoses

Chicken Soup with Matzo Balls

Braised Beef Brisket

Chicken Roast

Sweet Potato-Carrot Tzimmes

Carrot Soufflé

Kugel

Spring Asparagus

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Golden Apricot Cake

Brown Sugar Macaroons

 It is impressive that heads of state, machers of the Jewish community or even Jewish congressional representatives were not on the guest list.  Rather, an intimate collection of the First Family and close staff – Jews and Gentiles, Anglos and African-Americans participated. Other than the fact that the Maxwell House Haggadah was the guide of choice and that the Seder took place in the Old Family Dining Room, the White House did not release very much information.  And that is because this was a private and very intimate function.   As much as a President’s life is very public, this private event has to have a public component – that being the confirmation of the event by the White House and the official photo.  Do the guests bring a special tradition from their own past Seders?  What about a unique prayer for freedom like those added during the age of the Soviet Refusnik movement?  We do not know.

There have been a few conservative critics who question Obama’s motives because the seder is not kosher.  But as I checked around town, I found many seders, such as the Urban Seder at the Urban Solace Restaurant that are kosher “style” rather than kosher.  Some have said that this insensitive, not serving a kosher meal.  But I don’t know that any of the guests kept kosher or wanted to do so.  Rather, they were delighted to continue their legitimate practice with close colleagues as a way to celebrate freedom as Jews and as Americans. 

Inasmuch as I do keep kosher, I guess I can wait until I’m invited to the seder at some future date to worry about the level of kashrut in the White House.  Oh, Mr. President, can you save one of those brown sugar macaroons for me? 

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Rotto is a freelance writer and political activist in San Diego.

Stay awake for ‘The Wake’

March 30, 2010 Leave a comment
Heidi Schreck and Deirdre O'Connell (Craig Schwartz photo)
Heidi Schreck and Deirdre O’Connell (Craig Schwartz photo)


By Cynthia Citron

Cynthia Citron

CULVER CITY, California – The Wake is a play with a lot of p’s in it:  politics, philosophy, polemics, passion, and pathos.  And enough plot for two plays.  In fact, “The Wake” is two plays.  One is the love story: boy loves girl, girl thinks she loves boy, girl loves girl, boy waits it out, girl chooses, everybody loses.  

The other story is the political one that started in 2000 with the arrival of George W. Bush.  Headlines and images adroitly projected on a proscenium arch chronicle the march to war, the belligerent rhetoric, and the disintegration of democracy (both American and Iraqi), mirrored by the anti-war marches, political tirades, and emotional disintegration of our heroine, Ellen (an earnestly passionate Heidi Schreck).

Ellen is aware that she “has it all”: a loving live-in boyfriend (a beautifully low-key Carson Elrod), his sister and her wife (Andrea Frankle and Danielle Skraastad) just two floors away, and a job she enjoys.  But still she yearns for something more… 

As she broods in periodic monologues about the “blind spot” in our lives that none of us ever foresees, she also engages in fervent discussions with her cynical, disillusioned friend Judy (Deirdre O’Connell), newly returned from helping out at a refugee camp in Guinea.  Judy has given up on Ellen’s world: she doesn’t vote, doesn’t follow current events, doesn’t participate.  In fact, she spends most of her time out on Ellen’s fire escape, smoking and avoiding the chaotic discussions going on inside the apartment. 

 Contrary to what you might assume, The Wake has nothing to do with Irish funerals or narrative by James Joyce.  It refers to the path we make and the upheaval and debris we leave behind us as we maneuver our way through life.  It’s a perfect title for this provocative, overly long-winded journey. 

Lisa Kron, who wrote this play, is a founding member of the Obie Award-winning theater company The Five Lesbian Brothers and is the author of the much-acclaimed and Tony-nominated play “Well”.  She currently teaches playwriting at the Yale School of Drama. 

Leigh Silverman, who directed Kron’s play Well on Broadway, also directs The Wake during its world premiere run here in Los Angeles and for its upcoming run at New York’s Public Theater.  Silverman manages to keep the audience’s attention through the very long introspective speeches—but just barely.  At 2 ½ hours, the play is way too long and could really use a judicious wielding of scissors.  Especially in the first act, which takes so long to get into gear that you almost lose hope—and interest. 

The production qualities are first-rate, however.  David Korins has designed a fully functional East Village apartment, Alexander V. Nichols has organized the lighting and projection design superbly, and  Cricket S. Myers has done her usual expert job on sound. 

This play is not for those who are uncomfortable contemplating their own navel, but for those who are, and who have the patience to stick with it, The Wake provides much food for thought.  And a lot of debris. 

The Wake will continue at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd. in Culver City Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. through April 18th.  Call (213) 628-2772 for tickets.

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Drama critic Citron is Los Angeles bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World.

Feingold biography a timely resource

March 30, 2010 Leave a comment
By Donald H. Harrison 

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO— It has taken awhile to read the books presented to me by family members for Chanukah, but as it turned out, my grandson Shor’s selection of Feingold: A New Democratic Party couldn’t have been more timely.  As I finished reading the biography written by Sanford D. Horwitt,  I found the news wires currently  filled with speculation that former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson is likely to seek the GOP nomination to oppose U.S. Senator Russ Feingold’s bid for a fourth term.

Thomson, who also served as Health and Human Services Secretary under President George W. Bush, would be likely to make the health care bill recently passed by congressional Democrats and signed into law by President Barack Obama a major campaign issue, potentially providing a Wisconsin-wide referendum on that controversial measure.

Feingold, who is one of more than a minyan of Jewish senators, is a Democrat with a reputation for being a political maverick.  Along with Senator John McCain (Republican-Arizona), he successfully pushed for a campaign finance reform bill that brought both men national recognition and fueled McCain’s successful bid for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.  

Although he’s a Democrat, Feingold grew up idolizing “Fighting Bob” LaFollette, who shaped the Progressive Republican movement in the early 20th century.  In high school, Feingold was a star debater.  At the University of Wisconsin, he missed a straight A average because of one ‘B+,’ for which he apologized to his professor, but even so, his grades were sufficient for admission to Phi Beta Kappa.   He was selected as a Rhodes Scholar, spending two years in Great Britain, and later earned a law degree from Harvard Law School.  He practiced a short while as an attorney in Wisconsin before feeling the pull of elective politics, winning an upset victory in 1982 against incumbent Cy Bidwell in a bid for a state Senate seat. 

In his decade in the Legislature,  Feingold developed a reputation as an advocate for senior citizens and for small dairy farmers.  His campaign to label milk of genetically altered cows stirred the opposition of Monsanto Company and other bioengineering companies  but notwithstanding large amounts of lobbying money they put into defeating the bill, Feingold prevailed.  

Feingold was considered a long shot in the 1992 Democratic primary race for the U.S. Senate, in which two wealthy opponents, businessman Joe Checota and Congressman Jim Moody, had the financial resources and the name recognition.  But Checota’s and Moody’s campaigns degenerated into a series of negative commercials slamming each other, while Feingold stayed out of the fray.  Instead Feingold promoted his own candidacy with humorous, folksy ‘home movies’ in which he burnished his populist credentials by showing his modest home and the exteriors of the more elaborate homes of his ‘big-money’ opponents. 

Unhappy with Checota’s and Moody’s feuding, Wisconsin Democrats chose Feingold to oppose U.S. Sen. Robert Kasten in an all-Jewish runoff.  Staying true to his upbeat campaign style, Feingold survived a barrage of negative commercials aimed against him by Kasten and his allies and, at 39, entered the U.S. Senate as its youngest member.

Almost immediately, Feingold directed his staff not to allow anyone to purchase their meals for them, nor to accept any other gifts, setting a standard for propriety in the nation’s Capitol.  

Besides by the McCain-Feingold Bill on campaign financing, Feingold’s reputation as a maverick was further enhanced in 1999 when Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia moved to dismiss the impeachment charges against President Bill Clinton.  Feingold was the only Democrat to vote to keep the trial going, joining 55 Republicans.   He said that he believed the trial needed to continue to a conclusion.  Yet, when the final vote came—on conviction or acquittal—Feingold voted for acquittal with his fellow Democrats.

On two other important votes, Feingold also developed a reputation as an independent thinker.  One was his vote against the Patriot Act, which he considered to be a constitutional infringement on the rights of Americans under the guise of protecting the country against terrorism.  The other was a vote against authorization of the War in Iraq.

Whether a liberal independent like Feingold will be able to survive a challenge in the middle of President Obama’s first term obviously was beyond the scope of this biography, which was published at the end of 2007. But as background for any Wisconsin voters who do not already know Feingold—or for those of us in other parts of the country—this book is well worth reading.

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Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World

Shimon Peres speaks out on Jerusalem crisis

March 29, 2010 Leave a comment

By Rabbi Dow Marmur

JERUSALEM–One of the arguments against electing Shimon Peres as President of the State of Israel was that he wouldn’t be above the fray, as is expected of a titular Head of State, but deep in it. However, after the embarrassment of his predecessor having to leave office before his time was up in ignominy because of the charges of rape and similar offences against him, a majority of the members of the Knesset, the body that elects a President, rightly decided that the country needed someone greatly respected in the international community who could be a worthy spokesman and dignified exponent of the Jewish state.

There is no individual who fits that description better than Shimon Peres. He has indeed been the best face Israel can have. But he has continued to play a part – or, as some would say, meddle – in foreign policy. This has been particularly necessary in the light of Yvet Lieberman being Foreign Minister.

But now Peres is reported to have things to say to and about the Prime Minister, too. In the light of the latter’s current bout of ominous and dangerous intransigence over Jerusalem (to paraphrase the Book of Genesis, “the voice is the voice of Bibi but the hands are the hands of Yvet”), the President has intervened.

 He’s said to have made the wholesome distinction between the East Jerusalem of largely uninhabited publicly owned land, where new Jewish neighborhoods have been established since 1967 and where now more than 40% of Jewish Jerusalemites live, and Arab villages that now form part of the city and where the American millionaire Irving Moscowitz has bought land so that Jewish extremists can settle there. It’s to this unconscionable intrusion by fanatics that Peres seems to object. He knows, of course, that every Israeli government, irrespective of political color, has authorized building in the empty spaces but refrained from doing so in Arab neighborhoods.

The gang of which Netanyahu seems to have become the spokesman wants to build in Arab neighborhoods in order to preclude the possibility of that part of Jerusalem becoming the capital of the Palestinian state in a negotiated settlement. Peres, like most Israelis I know, realize that such a concession will be necessary if peace is to come. And like perhaps most Israelis, he seems to believe that it’s worth the sacrifice.

After all the politicians’ rhetoric it’s difficult for any of them to give up the idea of the “undivided and eternal capital of Israel,” but that’s one of the things they’ll have to do if they’re to return to the good books of the American administration. Peres may want to push them in that direction, even though formally his office is neither equipped nor entitled to do so. He may be breaking with protocol to help heal the country.

Though even I, critical of the right-wing government as I am, normally find the hard-hitting and sometimes outrageous columns by Gideon Levy of Ha’aretz difficult to take, he may have a point when he describes President Obama as Israel’s great friend, not the foe that he’s generally depicted in the media and in the street. For it’s only the kind of tough love that Obama is administering that can go beyond the rhetoric and move the politicians to act, even if they’ll have to limp to the finishing line.

Therefore, though we have good reason to raise our eyebrows at the President of Israel exceeding his mandate, we have every reason to be grateful to him, perhaps also to the President of the United States for creating the situation.

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Rabbi Marmur is spiritual leader emeritus of Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto.  He divides his time between Canada and Israel