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Iran sanctions will come, says Russian president

June 7, 2010 Leave a comment

(WJC)–Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said that new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program were certain unless Tehran comes into compliance with UN demands. Nobody wants sanctions,” Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told reporters on Saturday during a visit to Germany, where he met with Chancellor Angela Merkel. “But in some cases, it is necessary to agree on them. The situation is such that in practical terms, agreements on these sanctions exist.”

Medvedev said Moscow’s position on the Iran nuclear issue had moved closer to that of its Western partners. “I think that this is very important for the future of the international community and… for the future of our relations with European and other countries – with the United States and China,” he said.

“We hope that Iran’s leadership will listen to the voice of the international community. It is necessary to talk with partners within the international community, and that is the only way to solve the most difficult issues.”

These nations say Iran has been pursuing nuclear weapons development, but Iran says it is only interested in nuclear power for peaceful purposes, Medvedev said, stressing that decisions like sanctions should be made through international consensus and not “personal ambitions.”

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she expected Iran to “pull some stunt in the next couple of days” ahead of the UN vote on the sanctions package. Iran had in the past taken steps to “avoid being held accountable,” Clinton told reporters, adding: “I don’t think anybody should be surprised if they try to divert attention once again from the unity within the Security Council… They’ve consistently tried to avoid being held accountable.”

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.

No doubt about it: Netanyahu is inept as a leader

June 7, 2010 Leave a comment

By Gary Rotto

Gary Rotto

SAN DIEGO– Sixteen months since he created a coalition government, I can come to only one conclusion about Benyamin Netanyahu:  He is inept.

To be successful, a leader must have a grasp of three things: Time, a firm grasp on the levers of power and the ability to lead.  This is different than just maintaining a coalition, which is all that Netanyahu seems capable of doing. 

With two significant international incidents in a matter of months, the Netanyahu Administration seems  incompetent.  This is not a matter of policy, but whether Netanyahu has real control of his government.

First, the Prime Minister not only had no idea that his own Housing Minister Eli Yishai, was about to announce the development of new housing units in the Ramat Shlomo settlement during the visit of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.  Sure the Prime Minister admitted embarrassment, but why had he not controlled how and when policy announcements are made and sacked the minister who so undermined his authority? True, Yishai is from the Shas Party, not Netanyahu’s Likud.  But you either run the government or you don’t.  At the very least, you make Yishai wait until the visiting US Vice President leaves the country.  Why keep someone in a position of power who you can’t trust?

Next problem was the fiasco with the Mavi Marmara, one of the ships in the flotilla trying to break the blockade of Gaza.  The Israeli government has termed the attack on its soldiers premeditated and termed the passengers terrorists.  If so, Israeli intelligence was gravely deficient and put its own soldiers in a situation for which they were unprepared.  How do you put so few soldiers into a group of terrorists with the wrong equipment for the situation?  Or maybe this was not a case of encountering terrorists but rather terrorist sympathizers who were ready for a street fight.  Either way, the Defense Department got it wrong.  And the Israeli public is picking apart the operation.    

Again, the question of timing arises. After his embarrassment with Biden, why did  Netanyahu plan a military operation the same day he was meeting with Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and a day prior to his scheduled meeting with US President Barack Obama?  The risk of another embarrassment was too great. 

Luckily, the US response was  muted, from the cancellation of the meeting to the botched episode on the high seas.  Don’t get me wrong – I support the blockade as long as Hamas is in control of Gaza.  But you have to question the timing of the military operation and the intelligence behind the engagement.

Arguably, Netanyahu once was an excellent spokesperson for Israel and a fine Ambassador to the United Nations..  But as demonstrated by his second go-round as Prime Minister, he is in over his head trying to lead his nation.

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Rotto is a freelance writer based in San Diego

Krav Maga popularity rising in Los Angeles Dojo

June 7, 2010 4 comments
 

Roy Elghanayan

Joey Seymour

By Joey Seymour

LOS ANGELES  — Czechoslovakia in the late 1930s is being overrun by a Nazi invasion. The 15,000 Jewish inhabitants of Bratislava are being harassed daily by brutal acts of anti-Semitism and will soon find themselves being sent to concentration camps. One resident, Imi Lichtenfeld who had been proficient in boxing and wrestling, develops a new way of defending himself against the Germans. He calls his fighting style, Krav Maga. In Hebrew, Krav means “combat” and Maga stands for “contact” or “touching.” Lichtenfeld begins to teach this method to others in Bratislava. However, it is not until 1948 when Israel becomes a state, that Krav Maga is studied on a wide scale.

Israel is young in 1948 and begins to establish her military. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) are created to protect the state and Imi Lichtenfeld is named Chief Instructor of Physical Fitness and Krav Maga at the Israel Defense Forces School of Combat Fitness. Recruits begin to learn the survival tactic which focuses on four main objectives:

  1. Counter attacking as soon as possible.
  2. Targeting attacks to the opponents most vulnerable points.
  3. Neutralizing the opponent as quickly as possible.
  4. Maintaining awareness of surroundings while engaged in combat with the goal of developing an escape route, keeping an eye out for further attackers and objects that could be used to defend or help attack.

Lichtenfeld served in the IDF for fifteen years all the while refining and retooling the art of Krav Maga with the intention of making it the best system for self defense in the world. Today, the IDF continues to utilize Krav Maga, while always looking to improve it. The technique is also being utilized in America by the FBI, various police squads (including the NYPD), SWAT, United States Special Operations, as well as being taught to the general public by highly skilled instructors such as Roy Elghanayan, founder of Krav Maga Los Angeles.

Imi Lichtenfeld died at the age of 88 in Netanya, Israel on January 9, 1998. Of his legacy, Elghanayan said, “He made life easy in many ways. He showed us the way to a safe life by founding Krav Maga. Krav Maga is a way of life and we need to be tested when it comes to survival.” 

Roy served as a member of IDF and is the only two-time Israel Krav Maga National Champion. “I first started Krav Maga back in 1993 In Israel. The style of my dojo in Israel was not only Krav Maga, but also Israeli Ju-Jitsu. Israeli Ju-Jitsu is a combination of updated Krav Maga and modern Ju-Jitsu. It is great for multiple attackers,” mentions Elghanayan.

He was named both Israeli and United States Chief Instructor of Authentic Krav Maga. Elghanayan has earned the highest possible ranking in Krav Maga, Black Belt DAN 3. “It took me 10 years to become a 1st degree Black Belt and also an instructor. Today I am a 3rd degree black belt,” stated Roy.  

There are seven levels one can attain:

Level 1: Boot Camp Training (White Belt)

Level 2: Basic Training Part One (Yellow Belt)

Level 3: Basic Training Part Two (Orange Belt)

Level 4: Intermediate Training (Green Belt)

Level 5: Advance Training Part One (Blue Belt)

Level 6: Advance Training Part Two (Brown Belt)

Level 7: Black belt Training (Black Belt) 

Roy began teaching in Los Angeles three years ago and says, “My ultimate goal in teaching Krav Maga is helping people believe in themselves by teaching them the real authentic Krav Maga. If I can make a change in one student’s life, that change will be the beginning of a new way of life.” 

Not only is Krav Maga gaining popularity among fans of martial arts, but it is widely regarded as a great fitness exercise and thus, many people are discovering Imi Lichtenfeld’s style of defense as a remarkable tool for getting in shape. On a recent episode of The Simpsons, the family travels to Israel and Bart is taught a tough, but humorous lesson in Krav Maga by a local girl working on her military service. Bart calls out for his assailant to “quit going for my groin.” As she continues to kick, she states, “No groin, no Krav Maga.”    

Roy Elghanayan is finding great success in his dojo. His classes are almost always full of eager students wanting to learn from the master. Ages range from young children to older adults. Roy even believes that Krav Maga is a useful tool for athletes to either utilize while on the playing field or during preparation, “First, it would help the athlete become more alert and aware of the surroundings. Secondly, with Krav Maga athletes can prepare themselves to be aggressive and defensive both mentally and physically.” One such athlete that is planning on utilizing Krav Maga on the football field is San Diego Charger, Antonio Garay.

When asked if he plans to teach in San Diego, Roy says, “San Diego would be a great place to do a seminar, I have yet to visit but I am always willing to introduce people to Krav Maga everywhere.”

 Krav Maga may not have the storied history of Asian martial arts, but it is a defensive art form that was born from necessity for Jewish survival and continues to embrace its importance through usage by many facets both in Israel and aboard. For more information on Roy Elghanayan and his dojo, visit http://kravmagasantamonica.wordpress.com/  

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Joey Seymour is a  sports historian and Author of “San Diego’s Finest Athletes: Five Exceptional Lives.” His book is now available through Sunbelt Publications at www.sunbeltbooks.com.

Contact Joey Seymour at joeyseymour1@aol.com

Israel intercepts Gaza aid ship peacefully as more flotillas are being chartered

June 7, 2010 Leave a comment

(WJC)–Israel on Saturday peacefully intercepted a Gaza-bound aid ship with 19 pro-Palestinian activists on board and towed it into the Israeli port of Ashdod. Israeli Navy forces boarded the Irish-owned ship ‘Rachel Corrie’ (pictured) from the sea, rather than by helicopters. The activists on board, including Irish Nobel Peace laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire and a Malaysian parliamentarian, all agreed to be deported, according to the Israeli Interior Ministry.

The ship was carrying hundreds of tons of concrete, as well as tons of paper and wheelchairs. Israel began calling to the ship last Friday asking that it go to the Ashdod port and allow a non-governmental agency to inspect its contacts and take its cargo, including the cement, to Gaza. Cement has been barred from Gaza by Israel’s blockade out of fear that it would be used to build bunkers for Hamas terrorists.

“Yesterday, the entire world saw the difference between a humanitarian flotilla and a hate flotilla by violent, terrorism-supporting extremists,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday at the start of the Cabinet meeting.

The German organization ‘Jewish Voice for Peace in the Middle East’ is reportedly preparing a Jewish flotilla to the Gaza Strip. “We intend to leave around July,” a member of the organization, Kate Leitrer, told the Israeli news service ‘Ynet’. “We have one small craft so far, in which there will be between 12 and 16 people, mostly Jews.”

The Iranian Red Crescent humanitarian organization, which is part of the International Federation of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent, has announced that it is planning to send two ships with humanitarian aid to Gaza this week. The French news agency AFP quoted an Iranian Red Crescent director as saying: “One ship will carry donations made by the people, and the other will carry relief workers. The ships will be sent to Gaza by end of this week.”

Meanwhile, Egyptian authorities turned down a request by Arab physicians to bring aid into the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing. A leader of Hamas – which controls the territory since 2007 – said a delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross would not be permitted to visit the kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who is held in Gaza since June 2006.

The foreign ministers of Britain and France, William Hague and Bernard Kouchner, suggested that Europe take responsibility for oversight of materials entering Gaza arriving by sea. They also called on Israel to conduct a credible and transparent investigation into last week’s flotilla raid, in which nine people were killed. Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called on Israel to accept an international probe as proposed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “Otherwise it means that they have something to hide,” Davutoglu said.

Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, rejected an international commission. “We are discussing with the Obama administration a way in which our inquiry will take place,” he told the US television network ‘Fox News’. A formal decision by the Israeli government on an inquiry into the raid has yet to be taken.

Last week, two French activists who were aboard the Gaza-bound flotilla last week have filed legal complaints, charging Israel with “abduction”, “violence with weapons” and “rerouting a vessel” in international waters. The cases were filed in the two activists’ hometowns of Marseille and Evry, south of Paris. One of the two told journalists that filing in French courts would send a “politically significant” message and test France’s willingness to uncover what led to the deaths of nine pro-Palestinian militants on board last week’s Gaza-bound flotilla. Once a complaint is filed, French judges could then decide whether or not to seek arbitration from the International Criminal Court.

During a visit to Cyprus, Pope Benedict XVI called for “an urgent and concerted international effort to resolve the ongoing tensions in the Middle East, especially before such conflicts lead to greater bloodshed.”

Over the weekend, demonstrators in major cities across the US and other countries held rallies in support of Israel. In Los Angeles, California’s Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger attended a demonstration. He spoke on the phone to Gilad Shalit’s father Noam. Standing behind a giant banner with the words ‘LA Supports Israel’, Schwarzenegger spoke of his longtime support for Israel, “going way back into my bodybuilding and showbiz days.”

On Monday, four Palestinians were killed when Israeli naval commandos opened fire on what they said was a squad of terrorists in diving suits off the coast of Gaza. The Palestinians “were on their way to carry out an attack in Israel”, an IDF spokesman said. The Al-Aqsa Martys Brigade, a Fatah-linked terror group, said the men killed were members of its marine unit, who were training.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.

White House press corps doyen Helen Thomas apologizes for anti-Jewish comments

June 7, 2010 1 comment

(WJC)–Helen Thomas, at 89 the oldest active member of the White House Press Corps, has been forced to apologize for saying that the Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine” and go “back home to Poland, Germany, America and everywhere else.” The Hearst Newspapers columnist posted an apology on her website, stating: “I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians. They do not reflect my heartfelt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day come soon,” she wrote.

The daughter of Lebanese immigrants has covered the administrations of ten US presidents in a career spanning nearly 60 years. She made her controversial comments at a White House Jewish Heritage Celebration at the end of May. Questioned about the Palestinians for ‘RabbiLIVE.com’, Thomas said, “Remember, these people are occupied and it’s their land. It’s not Germany, not Poland.”

Thomas’s agency Nine Speakers announced that it had dropped her as a client due to her remarks, and Thomas was disinvited as a speaker for the graduation ceremony at a high school later this month.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.

Hugo Chávez calls Israel a “cursed terrorist and murderous state”

June 7, 2010 Leave a comment

(WJC)–In his latest diatribe, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez Frias has called Israel “genocidal” and a “cursed terrorist and murderous state”. In a speech broadcast on national television and amid shouts of “Long Live Palestine” Chávez also accused Israel of supporting the local opposition against his government. “Israel is financing the Venezuelan opposition. There are even groups of Israeli terrorists, of the Mossad, who are after me trying to kill me,” he said.

In the same speech, Chavez sent his “greetings and respect” to the local Jewish community. “They know they have our affection and respect,” he said, adding later that “I doubt very much that a Venezuelan Jew would support such an atrocity.”

The local Jewish community has had a strained relationship with the government following a spate of attacks against Jewish houses of worship last year, including an assault against the city’s main synagogue.

Other Latin American nations closely aligned with Chavez have also come out strongly against the Jewish state. Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa recalled his country’s ambassador from Tel Aviv, while Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said he was suspending diplomatic relations between the two nations. Venezuela severed its diplomatic ties with Israel last year, following the war in Gaza.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.

They had enough for a minyan at Sing Sing

June 7, 2010 Leave a comment

The Jews of Sing Sing: Gotham Gangsters and Gonovim, by Ron Arons. Barricade Books, Fort Lee, New Jersey, 2008, 352pages

By David Strom

David Strom

SAN DIEGO–I lived in a very small portion of the American Jewish world. As a child I thought all Jews were religious, kept kosher, and obeyed the laws. Like Ron Arons mentioned,  “My parents and Hebrew school teachers taught me that Jews not only believe in but also abide by a high moral system.” I was taught and believed that myth for much of my early life. How naïve I was.

Ron Arons writes in The Jews of Sing Sing about a chapter in American Jewish history never talked about or even mentioned in Hebrew school. After he studied his family genealogy, Arons learned that his great-grandfather served time in Sing Sing for bigamy. This made him curious to know about other Jews forced to spend time in prison.

The prison was built in the early 1820s. The New York State Archives records began in 1865. The archives clearly show that Jews were represented in the prison population from this early time period. One of the first, if not the first Jewish inmate, was Salomon Kohnstamm. Salomon was arrested on November 12, 1862 on charges of presenting false and fraudulent bills to the United States Government. He was found guilty in 1864 and was given a ten year sentence.

Kohnstamm did not serve his full sentence. President Andrew Johnson gave him an unconditional pardon on April 30, 1867. Kohnstamm returned to his native Germany and died in 1876.

The records of Sing Sing of the 1870’s list many Jews, the vast majority of them of German descent. There were sufficient numbers of them imprisoned that they made a minyan on the Jewish holidays.

Arons studied the records of those imprisoned at Sing Sing. Many served time for murder, arson, bigamy, selling illegal liquor or drugs, and engaging in the lucrative business of prostitution. We may know some of the people he studied today, but others have faded from our radar screen or slid down the “memory hole” of history. One such person was Isidore Fishbein.

Isidore Fishbein landed in Sing Sing for violating Section2460 of the New York Penal Code: Prostitution. Fishbein was convicted of raping Anna Ragovin, a sixteen-year-old daughter of immigrants in July 1913

According to Anna, “she went with a friend, Mr. Bernstein, to Coney Island.” Later, at about 6:00 p.m., “…the couple met up with Isidore Fishbein.” Bernstein asked Fishbein to ”take care of Anna” for “a half hour.” Fishbein and Anna strolled around for a while and then Fishbein asked Anna if she wanted to go for a drink. Anna responded by saying “she did not consume alcohol.” Sometime later that day, Anna agreed to go with him to a hotel room. Fishbein asked/demanded she spend the night with him. She refused. According to Anna’s testimony, Fishbein forced her onto the bed, “tore her undergarments and had his way with her.”

Anna maintained that she was a virgin prior to the rape and had demanded to go home. Fishbein refused and took her to the home of a  friend Hazel Jackson. Jackson and Fishbein talked privately. Hazel Jackson talked with Anna “showing off her wardrobe, lingerie, and “diamonds.” Fishbein and Jackson each told Anna she could have “anything” she wanted. She could be her own boss.

Jackson undressed Anna. She gave her a skirt and kimono. Anna began to cry and then three “fellows” entered the bedroom. Fishbein held Anna down while one of the other men “mounted her” and raped Anna again.

She was held captive for ten days. During that time four or five men had sex with her each day. She never tried to escape for fear someone would permanently harm her. “I felt that if I told anyone, I would be shot.”

Fishbein eventually went on trial for procuring women for prostitution and was found guilty. “In 1917, after serving less time than his minimum sentence to Sing Sing, Isidore married a woman by the name of Anna Lubin. This Anna was the same age as Anna Ragovin. Is it possible that the two are the same person? Did Isidore marry his former accuser?

Vice represented a small faction of Jewish criminals in Sing Sing. Other crimes like burglary, grand larceny and robbery represented a higher percentage of crimes committed by Jews. However, the most egregious in the eyes of the Jewish community was prostitution. Arons explains, “prostitution caused emotional and physical scars that lasted for years in the Jewish community, coloring the reputation of the community and affecting family life.”

The Fishbein story is not unique, then or now. Jewish prostitution existed in Europe in the 1870s. “In 1872, for example, 17 percent of all prostitutes in Warsaw were categorized as Jewish. In 1873 a higher number, 47 percent, was found in Vilna…. Of more concern was Liviv (formerly known as both Lvov and Lemberg) and Krakow, where the percentage of prostitutes who were Jewish fell just one point below the percentage of the respective cities’ populations that were Jewish.”

Arons book is a very interesting read. Our young Jewish students in high schools and colleges would like to learn about the “other side” of American Jewish history. They need to know more than the “miracle view” of Jewish history. They might enjoy learning of the struggles of our immigrant past and know that many Jews did not always take the “yellow brick road” to ”success.” Some chose a very “rocky” road instead and many paid the price for it serving out their sentences in Sing Sing prison.

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Strom is professor emeritus of education at San Diego State University