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The Jews Down Under~Roundup of Australian Jewish News

August 8, 2010 Leave a comment

Garry Fabian

Compiled by Garry Fabian

Jewish community alarm expresses alarm over terrorist affiliate

MELBOURNE, 5 August – The Victorian Jewish community has expressed concern that an extremist Islamic organisation with a history of incitement and antisemitism has begun holding meetings in Melbourne. Hizb ut-Tahrir is banned in the US, Germany,  Russia and many Muslim countries including Pakistan and Egypt because it is defined as a terrorist  group. Terrorists involved in 9/11 and the London bombings have been linked to the group.

In Australia the group has been meeting in Sydney since 2007 but over the past year has begun holding events in Melbourne. Jewish leaders are
concerned that the group held a meeting in theBrunswick Town Hall on Sunday, with the  permission of the Moreland City Council.
They will be writing to council to ensure it is  aware of Hizb ut-Tahrir’s history of incitement, rejection of democracy and race hatred.

The chairman of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria Mr John Searle said he was sure the Moreland Council would not wish to support a group that preaches violence and runs counter to the spirit of multiculturalism.

“This is an issue that anyone who respects democracy and the rule of law should be concerned aboutas this a group that rejects Australian values.
“Hizb ut-Tahrir in Sydney describes Israel as ‘a dagger in Muslim lands’ and argues that democracyis not for Muslims. We don’t want that kind of
divisiveness undermining multicultural Melbourne.”

A Jewish community organisation which monitors  antisemitism says internationally Hizb ut-Tahrir hasan appalling record of spreading hate against Jews, The chairman of the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation
Commission Mr Tony Levy said Hizb ut-Tahrir’s ideology of destroying democracy and replacing itwith an Islamic Caliphate was partially
responsible for terrorist attacks like 9/11 and 7/7. In Britain Hizb ut-Tahrir disseminated material claiming Jews were “a people of slander” and in Denmark aHizb ut-Tahrir leader was convicted of inciting racial hatred after telling Muslims to kill Jews.

“Australians would be foolish to ignore the violence and hatred this group has expressed in othercountries. We have a wonderful tolerant multicultural society and we have to be vigilant in protectingit,” he said.

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Jewish school runs into resident objections

MELBOURNE, 4 August – While its new Minimbah  Campus on Orrong Road is set for completion within weeks, The King David School has been left
in limbo over the usage of its new multimillion-dollar facility.

The City of Stonnington issued a notice of decision to grant a permit for King David to use  the new classrooms and theatre earlier this year, but objectors quickly applied to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) to have the decision reviewed.

Local residents are concerned about the opening times, the number of people permitted to use the new building and a lack of parking.

With the VCAT hearing only set for mid-October and the August completion date of the facility looming, school president Michael Lawrence sought
advice from local member Tony Lupton before  requesting an intervention from Victoria’s Planning Minister.

“Last time we had a VCAT hearing scheduled for October and we didn’t receive a response until March,” Lawrence said. “We are nearing completion
of the building and part of the Federal Government’s conditions for use of the site under the Building the Education Revolution initiative, under which we received funding, is for the site to be available for community use within a specific timeframe.”

Despite concerns from residents, a spokesperson for Planning Minister Justin Madden said it is in fact common practice for the minister to call in matters on the basis of land use, particularly when the site is to be used for educational purposes.

“With building works due to finish shortly it is common sense to address the matter of the building’s use quickly,” she said this week. “Calling the matter in from VCAT means a decision can be reached more quickly, while still considering the differing views.”

The spokesperson also confirmed a meeting had been held last month between residents, the school, council representatives and the minister’s staff. The department is currently reviewing the information and is expected to make
a recommendation to the minister shortly.

She said the matter is of state significance as it is a multimillion-dollar development, has an educational usage, was part of the Building the
Education Revolution stimulus package and was partly funded by the Federal Government.

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Film Festival threatened over Israel link

MELBOURNE, 5 August – The Melbourne International Film Festival has been threatened with legal action for refusing to withdraw a film at the
request of its makers, who objected to the  festival receiving funding from Israel. Feature film Son of Babylon, which is set in Iraq, screened on July 26 and July 28 as scheduled, despite demands it be withdrawn in protest at
funding from the Israeli government. The funding  amounted to a return economy-class airfare for an Israeli director.

”The festival was informed in enough time to stop the screening . therefore if you have knowingly disregarded our wishes and screened the film, we will of course be left with little alternative than to take appropriate action
against the festival,” producer Isabelle Stead wrote to festival executive director Richard Moore last week in an email exchange leaked to crikey.com.au.

”You should not underestimate our resolve to ensure that our film is not associated with thestate of Israel as long as it continues itsillegal crimes against humanity,” she wrote.

There is, in the filmmakers’ stance, a distinct echo of Ken Loach’s decision to withdraw his film Looking For Eric from last year’s festival on the
same grounds. On July 18 last year, The Age broke the story that the veteran English filmmaker hadsaid ”if it did not reconsider the sponsorship,
he would not allow the festival to screen his film”. Mr Loach cited ”illegal occupation of Palestinian land, destruction of homes and livelihoods” and ”the massacres in Gaza” as reasons for the boycott.

Mr Moore said acceding to Mr Loach’s demand would be ”like submitting to blackmail”. That put him and the festival at odds with the Edinburgh Film
Festival, which had done precisely that. In acknowledgment of its stand and its response to pressure by the Chinese government over the
documentary, “The 10 Conditions of Love,” about Uighur independence leader Rebiya Kadeer,Victorian civil liberties group Liberty lastmonth gave this year’s Voltaire award to the Melbourne festival.

This year’s flare-up is a little more complicated, however.

Mohamed Al-Daradji, director and co-producer of “Son of Babylon,” wrote to the festival about 14 hours before his film’s first festival screening,
requesting that the festival cancel it and the second scheduled screening.

Within two hours, Mr Moore replied. ”To request a withdrawal of the film on the day of the screening is simply not acceptable and shows a lack of respect for our organisation,” he wrote.

”We are not able to replace the film at short notice and we will screen it today. I am prepared to consider other options for the second screening but I will also need to consider the financial ramifications.”

However, the July 28 screening went ahead, prompting an angry email from Ms Stead, who did not return calls or emails from The Age.

”When we grant a festival permission to screen a film that took us years to make along withdanger, blood, sweat and tears we do so with trust. I would have thought a festival would morally recognise the need to tell a Palestinian
co-production that it was funded by the state of Israel,” Ms Stead wrote.

The Zionist Federation of Australia president Philip Chester meanwhile wrote to festival director Richard Moore, and the film’s director Mohamed Al-Daradji and producers Isabelle Stead and Atia Al-Daradji saying “The request by the makers was completely inappropriate … “[The boycott] is part of a worldwide attempt to isolate Israel, to boycott Israeli products, creativity, programs
and culture. We’re seeing it everywhere and that’s the real worry.”

Chester praised Moore, whose wife and children are Jewish and lived in Israel for several years, for refusing to yield.

“Richard Moore has been very courageous in saying, ‘this is inappropriate. You don’t have to like every film we show, but that’s what art and
festivals are all about, don’t try and censor me’.”

Following the screening, the film’s producers again contacted Moore requesting the proceeds from ticket sales be donated to a charity of
their choice. The request was denied.

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Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World

Music of hope and resistance featured at Melbourne concert

July 26, 2010 Leave a comment

By Joseph Toltz

MELBOURNE,  26 July – A special performance of the music of  the Theresienstadt Ghetto (Terezin) was presented in Melbourne on Sunday, July 25.

Terezin, a small garrison town built in 1780 by Emperor Franz-Josef II, lies peacefully among
meadows and gardens, 38 miles northwest of Prague. To us, its German name is well known:
Theresienstadt, one of the most infamous Nazi ghettos, a place where 148,000 people lived.
Eighty-eight thousand passed through on their way to Auschwitz-Birkenau and other death and labour camps, while 33,000 died of disease and malnutrition in the camp. On May 8, 1945, the Soviet army liberated 17,247 people on the verge of starvation.

Terezín was the holding camp for Bohemian and Moravian Jews ­ proud, sophisticated communities who had existed in the Czech lands for more than 800 years, embracing full emancipation under the enlightened rule of President Tomás Masaryk’s First Czechoslovak Republic. Joining the Czech Jews in Terezín were 57,000 ‘privileged’ German and Austrian Jews ­ the elderly, decorated war veterans, prominent Jewish intellectuals, community leaders and famous musicians.

In time, Jews from Holland, Luxembourg and Denmark arrived to add to the mix. The intensity of artistic ability that came to Terezín was harnessed by the inmates, for the inmates,
through the organisation of ‘leisure time activities’ ­ music, theatre, cabaret, sports,
art classes, lectures by academic experts. The cream of Central European intellectual life,
those who could not escape the Nazi talons did not sit idly by in this ghetto ­ they created,
formed and breathed life into the most unique and amazing creations.

On July 25, I directed and performed in a concert presented by the Jewish Museum of
Australia that was inspired by the cultural life of Terezín; it complemented the museum’s current exhibition “Theresienstadt: Drawn from the Inside,” a series of intimate artworks by Paul Schwarz and Leo Lowit bequeathed to the museum in 1980 by Regina Schwarz. What made the concert unique was that it was not just a presentation of the music created in Terezín, but it provided a diverse journey into the musical lives of survivors, discussing the importance of music to maintaining hope, providing distraction and entertainment,
offering an opportunity for spiritual resistance, as well as providing an outlet for processing
what was happening to them at the time.

For the past four years, my doctoral dissertation has involved interviewing survivors of the
Holocaust about musical experiences in ghettos and camps. My journey began 12 years ago, with survivors of Terezín, who discussed the place of Brundibár ­ a children’s opera composed by Hans Krasa, a Czech Jew ­ in their hearts and minds. They referred me to other survivors ­ from soloists from the children’s opera all the way to the two most esteemed pianists in the camp, the 96-year-old Edith Steiner-Kraus (in Jerusalem) and the 104-year-old Alice Herz-Sommer. Two years after our interview, Alice is still playing piano three hours a day, living independently in London. Over the course of four years, 25 Terezín survivors spoke to me of their incredible journeys in music in those years of hardship and trial, and their observations coloured our concert.

SO what was music in Terezín? It was an entire world of creativity, from the Jazz of Coco
Schumann and the Ghetto Swingers, to everyday pub songs and work songs. The first musical revues in 1941 were directed by the choral conductor Rafael Schächter and the Czech cabaret artist, Karel Svenk; in time they were joined by German cabaret artists such as Kurt Gerron (co-star in the 1920s with Marlene Dietrich in The Blue Angel), Willi Rosen and others who had escaped Berlin to Holland in 1938  ­ sadly, not far enough away from Germany. Our concert featured some of these cabaret and jazz works.

There were four orchestras, including a famous Terezín string orchestra conducted by Karel An erl. An erl survived Auschwitz and other camps, and following liberation, rose to become
conductor of the Czech Philharmonic until his escape to Toronto in 1968. The concert featured a recorded performance by An erl’s orchestra, filmed as part of the 1944 propaganda
film made by the Czech Aktualita company.

Music became an essential part of children’s pedagogy through the opera Brundibár, the musical play Brou ci (the Fireflies) and participation in the children’s choirs. Adults also formed choirs ­ all male, all female and mixed. Such choirs were devoted to Zionist or Socialist songs,
others sang Yiddish lider (many of the residents singing the language of their grandparents for
the first time) or Jewish liturgical works, and the larger choirs undertook the great oratorios
of the repertoire. At our concert, the King David School Chamber Choir presented excerpts of some of this choral repertoire, including a small section of Brundibár.

There were hundreds of chamber music recitals, from baroque and rococo repertoire, all the way to completely new music composed and performed in the ghetto by students of Janá ek and Schönberg, and former members of the Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic, Concert­ge­bouw (a concert hall in Amsterdam) and other orchestras. The
brightest stars of new Czech composition ­ Gideon Klein, Pavel Haas, Hans Krása and Viktor Ullmann ­ all were featured in our concert, performed by Anne Gilby, Eidit Golder and the A La Corda Quartet.

Music was not enough to help one survive though. If you were lucky enough to be in demand, then you could avoid resettlement (i.e. transport to Auschwitz), but by September 1944 this protection had evaporated and the vast majority of Terezín’s musicians were deported and murdered in the months of September and October.

In my discussions with survivors from Terezín here, in the UK, in Israel and the USA, I have
learnt one very important fact: music was an aspect that preserved the humanity for many
living in the appalling, conditions of the ghetto. Even if you weren’t a performer, music
provided an outlet, be it escape, hope, anger, and helped you process and adapt to the
conditions. It played a vital role for some in keeping their humanity alive, and it was the
preservation of that humanity that they carried throughout such terrible times, clinging to it, in order to remain sane.

Our concert was not just some missing link, providing the continuity in Jewish artistry and creativity in middle Europe. Nor was it a dry academic exercise, presenting an odd set of compositions that survived beyond all probability. Instead, it brought back to life the
humanity that existed in Terezín, against all odds. A humanity that we rarely think of when
considering life in the camps and ghettos, but a humanity that must have existed in order for our parents and grandparents, our uncles, aunts and cousins to have survived, to be able to build new lives and contribute so much of their own, rich musical culture to a place 12,000 miles away from the land of their birth.

This concert brought back to life the voices of the composers of Terezín. For the first time
in Australia, the Terezín polka sounded, forgotten by all except those interned in the camp, but notated by the sister of the composer who migrated to Tasmania after the war. The heritage of Czech Jewry lives in our Australian musical experience. Rudolf Pekarek, one-time
conductor of the Prague Radio Orchestra migrated to Australia with his wife after the war and
became the first conductor of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, and later the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. Coco Schumann moved to Melbourne in 1950, where for four years he played successfully with Leo Rosner and his Gypsy Band. Karel An erl toured the Czech Philharmonic to Australia in the 1970s, to great acclaim. Hundreds of Czech survivors made their home in Australia, ordinary people who brought with them a love and devotion to music and the arts. This concert was dedicated to them and their memory and
also as a legacy to those who died, whose music carries a unique voice for future generations to hear.

*

Joseph Toltz is a professional singer and academic.

Educational and patriotic thoughts about American music

July 22, 2010 Leave a comment

By David Amos

David Amos

SAN DIEGO–Earlier this month we celebrated our Independence Day. My thoughts brought me to the importance of American music, and the shameful neglect we have allowed music education to be. Part of this was stimulated by an article in the editorial section of the San Diego Union-Tribune by John M. Eger, on July 8.

But first, let me share with you a sensitive, meaningful poem by an anonymous music teacher, circa, well….anytime:

WHY I TEACH MUSIC:

Not because I expect you to major in music.

Not because I expect you to play or sing all your life.

Not so you can relax or have fun.

But…

So you will be human,

So you will recognize beauty,

So you will be closer to an infinite beyond this world, So you will have something to cling to, So you will have more love, compassion, more gentleness,

 More good….in short, more life!

Of what value will it be to make a prosperous living

Unless you know how to live?

On American and modern music: We have been conditioned to believe that if it is called “modern music”, or if the name of the composer is unknown to us, it is probably ugly and not worth our attention. Yes, there is a natural tendency to dislike the unknown, but in music, sadly, we do not even give it a chance to redeem itself. Even the late Karl Haas (from the enormously popular radio program “Adventures in Good Music”) told me that he sometimes received fan letters which warned him that if he as much as mentions the fact that he was about to play music from the Twentieth Century, the radio would be turned off immediately. This is tragic; it is cultural suicide.

I remember sadly an evening of music played by the San Diego Symphony, maybe fifteen years ago. In the first half was music by Robert Schumann, and after intermission, the conductor programmed the fabulous Concerto for Orchestra by Béla Bartók. The latter is to me one of the greatest compositions ever. Period. You can imagine my disappointment, pain, and frustration to see more than half of the audience trampling its way to Symphony Hall’s exits, just to avoid listening to Bartók in the second half! In retrospect, the program order should have been reversed.

The fact is, that there is a vast amount of modern music, a lot of it composed by Americans, which is accessible, enjoyable, even at a first hearing, and very melodious. In other words, it is what I call “listener friendly”.

After being so involved with the subject of American orchestral music (I gave a lecture on the subject to the music faculty of Hebrew University in Jerusalem), I have had many a talk with musicians, critics, and music lovers. One salient fact stands out: The American public has an inferiority complex about its own music. We tend to believe that if it originated in Europe, it is probably better, and if it is from the U.S., it will be lacking in depth and lasting value. Only history will eventually resolve this, but I have noticed in my various travels and conversations that most natives from other countries support and proudly believe in their own heritage, whether it be historic or contemporary. Audiences and musicians alike enthusiastically program and attend concerts of their own composers in Canada, Poland, Denmark, England, Mexico, and the former Soviet republics. I am sure that it is the same in many other places; but don’t get me started on Israel!

Curiously, when I was invited to guest conduct in Lithuania in 1992, when working out the repertory to be performed at the concerts, I was politely asked to “please not bring any Copland, Gershwin, or Bernstein”. At first, I was surprised and a bit annoyed, already thinking of several hidden implications from that request. But after directly asking the director of the Lithuanian Philharmonic as to “why”, the answer was surprising: “We don’t want you to bring us music from these composers, because we program them too frequently, and they are very popular here. We want you to bring to us some different American music”. So, I brought them Paul Creston, Alan Hovhaness, Norman Dello-Joio, Gian Carlo Menotti, and Ernest Bloch. After the fact, the musicians told me how much they enjoyed playing the music of these composers, and the audiences seemed responsive and enthusiastic, in both Vilnius and Kaunas.

As an aside, I was told by a cellist of the Vilnius orchestra, “We are glad that you brought us the music of Bloch. During the Soviet regime, we were not allowed to perform his music, just because he was Jewish”. He also proudly showed me a printed program for later in the month, where he was performing Bloch’s Schelomo, the Hebraic Rhapsody for Cello and Orchestra.

Getting back to our American heritage, it is best to quote the words and spirit of one of our greatest composers, Charles Ives. He not only preached, but practiced the concept of “Wake up, America! The culture and traditions of Europe are fine, but stand up, support, and enjoy your own wonderful music”.

I fully endorse that. Let us strive to discover and enjoy totally unknown and lesser known treasures of our past and present. Be careful, you may enjoy what you hear.

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Amos is conductor of the Tifereth Israel Community Orchestra and a guest conductor of professional orchestras around the world

Ranking State Department official describes U.S. efforts to preserve Israel’s ‘Qualitative Military Edge’

July 16, 2010 Leave a comment
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Press Release)–Following is a transcript of comments on Israel by Andrew J. Shapiro, assistant secretary of State for political-military affairs as prepared for delivery Friday at the Brookings Saban Center for Middle East Policy:

Good morning. I am particularly pleased to be here at the Saban Center to address the Obama Administration’s enduring commitment to Israel’s security. And I am proud to say that as a result of this commitment, our security relationship with Israel is broader, deeper and more intense than ever before.

Just last week, President Obama met with Prime Minister Netanyahu and stated that “Israel has unique security requirements.” President Obama has ensured that his Administration fully recognizes those requirements, and we have redoubled our commitment to meeting them. Indeed, as Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs, one of my primary responsibilities is to preserve Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge, or QME.

Today, I’d like to tell you about how we’re preserving Israel’s QME through an unprecedented increase in U.S. security assistance, stepped up security consultations, support for Israel’s new Iron Dome defensive system, and other initiatives.

We recognize that today Israel is facing some of the toughest challenges in its history. This Administration is particularly focused on Israel’s security precisely because of the increasingly complex and severe threats that it faces in the region. Israel is a vital ally and a cornerstone of our regional security commitments.

When talking about the threat assessment in the region, one must start with the Iranian nuclear program. As Secretary Clinton said in March, “For Israel, there is no greater strategic threat than the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran.”

While the most grave, the Iranian nuclear program is one of many serious security threats in the region. Iran and Syria both pose significant conventional challenges. And these conventional challenges intersect with the asymmetrical threats posed by Hezbollah and Hamas, whose rockets indiscriminately target Israeli population centers, and whose extensive arms smuggling operations, many of which originate in Tehran and Damascus, weaken regional security and disrupt efforts to establish lasting peace between Israel and its neighbors.

We must recognize that the ever-evolving technology of war is making it harder to guarantee Israel’s security. For six decades, Israelis have guarded their borders vigilantly. But advances in rocket technology require new levels of U.S.-Israel cooperation. Despite efforts at containment, rockets with better guidance systems, greater range, and more destructive power are spreading across the region. Hezbollah has amassed tens of thousands of short- and medium-range rockets on Israel’s northern border. Hamas has a substantial number in Gaza. And even if some of these are still crude, they all pose a serious danger.

These and other threats to Israel’s security and civilian population are real, they are growing, and they must be addressed. And we are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our Israeli partners to do so.

Coming to my current job after eight years as Secretary Clinton’s primary foreign affairs and defense policy advisor in the Senate, I can personally attest to her deep sense of pride in being a strong voice for Israel. I travelled to Israel with then-Senator Clinton in 2005 (to attend a Saban Center conference) and joined her on her first visit to Israel as Secretary of State in March 2009.

When it comes to the U.S.-Israel relationship, the policy guidance Secretary Clinton has given me for my current position is no different from the guidance she gave me when I worked for her in the Senate. As the Secretary mentioned in a recent speech, the management of our security relationship with Israel and preserving Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge must be one of my top priorities.

The unique relationship between the United States and Israel is rooted in common values, interwoven cultures, and mutual interests. U.S. support for the idea of a Jewish homeland dates back to John Adams and John Quincy Adams, and can be traced through the letters of Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin Roosevelt. Indeed, when Israel was founded in 1948, the United States was ready to embrace its new partner. President Truman famously extended official, diplomatic recognition to the State of Israel in just 11 minutes.

America’s commitment to Israel’s security and prosperity has extended over many decades and across Democratic and Republican Administrations alike. Our leaders have long understood that a robust United States-Israel security relationship is good for us, good for Israel and good for regional stability.

President Nixon paid the first official visit to Israel to begin direct U.S. diplomatic engagement to help bring peace to the region. This began a long, bipartisan effort to work toward peace and, in doing so, to further bolster Israel’s security as a sovereign state. President Nixon’s effort was continued by President Carter with the Camp David Accords, George H.W. Bush at the Madrid Conference, President Clinton’s stewardship of the Oslo Accords and the Wye River Conference – in which Brookings’ own Martin Indyk played such a central role – and the previous administration’s engagement at the Annapolis Conference.

President Obama has also made achieving peace and recognized secure borders for Israel a top Administration priority. Secretary Clinton, in her speech to AIPAC earlier this year, explained the imperative of pushing the peace process forward because the status quo is unacceptable. In addition to a nuclear-armed Iran, Israel’s future as a secure, Jewish, and democratic state is under threat from the dynamics of demography, ideology, and technology. The Obama Administration is working assiduously with the parties to restart direct negotiations toward a comprehensive peace as soon as possible.

We believe that through good faith negotiations, the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements.

Hand in hand with this commitment to peace has been the Administration’s unwavering dedication to ensuring that Israel is prepared to defend itself against the multitude of threats it faces. As the President said just last week, “the United States is committed to Israel’s security. We are committed to that special bond, and we are going to do what’s required to back that up, not just with words but with actions.”

Since day one, President Obama and Secretary Clinton have not only honored and re-energized America’s enduring commitment to Israel’s security, but have taken action to expand it to an unprecedented level. Our work is rooted in knowledge shared across the decades by presidents and policymakers on both sides of the aisle that a strong and secure Israel – and an Israel at peace with its neighbors – is critical not only to the interests of Israelis and Palestinians, but also to America’s strategic interests.

Peace and Security

As Secretary Clinton has often said, the status quo is unsustainable. Without a comprehensive regional peace, the Middle East will never unlock its full potential, and Israel will never be truly secure.

The dynamics of ideology, technology, and demography in the region mean that this continuing conflict poses serious challenges to Israel’s long-term security and its future as a Jewish and democratic state. This Administration believes that pursuing peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and Israel and its neighbors can be a mutually reinforcing process. Today, it is more essential than ever to make progress on all tracks.

Regional peace must begin with the recognition by every party that the United States will always stand behind Israel’s security. As President Obama put it, “no wedge will be driven between us.”

Israel’s right to exist, and to defend itself, is not negotiable. No lasting peace will be possible unless that fact is accepted. It is our hope that the Administration’s expanded commitment to Israel’s security will advance the process by helping the Israeli people seize this opportunity and take the tough decisions necessary for a comprehensive peace.

Maintaining Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge

For decades, the cornerstone of our security commitment to Israel has been an assurance that the United States would help Israel uphold its qualitative military edge – a commitment that was written into law in 2008. Israel’s QME is its ability to counter and defeat credible military threats from any individual state, coalition of states, or non-state actor, while sustaining minimal damages or casualties. The Obama Administration has demonstrated its commitment to Israel’s QME by not only sustaining and building upon practices established by prior administrations, but also undertaking new initiatives to make our security relationship more intimate than ever before.

Each and every security assistance request from the Israeli Government is evaluated in light of our policy to uphold Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge. At the same time, QME considerations extend to our decisions on defense cooperation with all other governments in the region. This means that as a matter of policy, we will not proceed with any release of military equipment or services that may pose a risk to allies or contribute to regional insecurity in the Middle East.

The primary tool that the United States uses to ensure Israel’s qualitative military edge is security assistance. For some three decades, Israel has been the leading beneficiary of U.S. security assistance through the Foreign Military Financing program, or FMF. Currently, Israel receives almost $3 billion per year in U.S. funding for training and equipment under FMF. The total FMF account is $5 billion annually and is distributed among some 70 countries. So it is a testament to our special security relationship that each year Israel accounts for just over 50 percent of U.S. security assistance funding distributed through FMF.

The Obama Administration is proud to carry on the legacy of robust U.S. security assistance for Israel. Indeed, we are carrying this legacy to new heights at a time when Israel needs our support to address the multifaceted threats it faces.

For Fiscal Year 2010, the Administration requested $2.775 billion in security assistance funding specifically for Israel, the largest such request in U.S. history. Congress fully funded our request for FY 2010, and we have requested even more – $3.0 billion – for FY 2011. These requests fulfill the Administration’s commitment to implementing the 2007 memorandum of understanding with Israel to provide $30 billion in security assistance over 10 years.

This commitment directly supports Israel’s security, as it allows Israel to purchase the sophisticated defense equipment it needs to protect itself, deter aggressors, and maintain its qualitative military edge. Today, I can assure you that – even in challenging budgetary times – this Administration will continue to honor this 10-year, $30 billion commitment in future fiscal years.

But our unique security assistance relationship with Israel extends beyond raw numbers. Unlike other beneficiaries of Foreign Military Financing, which are legally required to spend funds in the United States, Israel is the only country authorized to set aside one-quarter of its FMF funding for off-shore procurements. This exception provides a significant boost for Israel’s domestic defense industry, helps them to develop indigenous production capacity, and is one of many ways we demonstrate our commitment to meeting Israel’s unique security requirements.

A second way we build Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge is through training and joint military exercises, such as last fall’s JUNIPER COBRA 2010 ballistic missile defense exercises. More than 1,000 U.S. troops participated in JUNIPER COBRA, which was the largest U.S.-Israeli exercise in history. U.S. and Israeli forces take part in numerous exercises each year to test operational concepts, improve interoperability, and focus on urban terrain and counter-terrorism operations. These collaborative efforts enhance Israel’s military capabilities and improve our own military’s understanding of and relationship with the Israeli Defense Forces.

In addition, many Israeli officers and enlisted personnel attend U.S. military schools such as the National War College, where they can acquire essential professional skills and build life-long relationships with their U.S. military and other foreign counterparts.

Third, the United States supports Israel’s defense needs through both our government-to-government Foreign Military Sales program and Direct Commercial Sales, including releasing advanced products restricted to only the closest of allies and partners. In the past few years, we have notified Congress of a number of significant sales aimed at preserving Israel’s qualitative military edge, most notably the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The F-35’s advanced capabilities will prove a key contribution to upholding Israel’s QME for many years to come.

Israel further benefits from a War Reserve Stockpile, which is maintained in Israel by U.S. European Command and used to boost Israeli defenses in case of a significant military emergency. And like many of our partners overseas, Israel is also able to access millions of dollars in free or discounted military equipment each year through the Department of Defense’s Excess Defense Articles program.

Fourth, the United States and Israel have long cooperated in research and development of military equipment. Given the threat Israel faces from short- and medium-range missiles, Israeli air and missile defense systems are an area of particular focus, including the Arrow Weapon System to counter long-range ballistic missile threats and David’s Sling to defend against short-range ballistic missiles. For our part, we are working with Israel to upgrade its Patriot Air and Missile Defense System, which was first deployed during the Gulf War, and have installed advanced radar systems to provide Israel early warning of incoming missiles.

Israeli-origin equipment deployed on Iraqi and Afghan battlefields are protecting American troops every day. This includes armor plating technology for U.S. military vehicles and unique medical solutions such as the “Israeli bandage” – a specially designed antibiotic-treated dressing that has been used widely by our men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also includes sensors, surveillance equipment, unmanned aerial vehicle technology, and detection devices to seek out IED’s. Many such partnerships and investments between our two governments and U.S. and Israeli defense firms have yielded important groundbreaking innovations that ultimately make us all safer.

What I have laid out here represents the core pillars of U.S.-Israeli security cooperation. But given the breadth of our relationship, I have only really begun to scratch the surface. The United States and Israel are also working closely in a series of other activities to enhance our shared security, from efforts to shut down the vast network of tunnels being used to rearm Hamas to tracking and combating terrorist financing, to countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, their delivery systems, and related materials through the Proliferation Security Initiative.

A prime example can be found in our joint effort to prevent and interdict the illicit trafficking of arms, ammunition and weapons components into Gaza. In 2009, the United States and Israel began intensive consultations to address this threat, a top agenda item whenever we meet for bilateral security talks. These efforts have since expanded into a wider international effort under the Gaza Counter Arms Smuggling Initiative – or GCASI. Under this multi-national partnership, the United States joins Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Norway and the UK – along with Israel and Egypt – to employ a broad range of diplomatic, military, intelligence and law enforcement tools to block the shipment of arms – including rockets, missiles and related components – into Gaza, safeguarding neighboring Israeli communities and promoting regional security.

A New Level of Security Cooperation

But what I really want to emphasize is that this Administration’s commitment to Israel’s security is more than just a continuation and strengthening of existing policies. Rather, we have been cultivating new ways to ensure Israel’s security and enhance our bilateral political-military relationship.

During the past year, there has been an unprecedented reinvigoration of bilateral defense consultations through nearly continuous high-level discussions and visits. We have re-energized structured dialogues such as the U.S.-Israel Joint Political-Military Group and the Defense Policy Advisory Group, among others. I lead the U.S. government’s discussions within the Joint Political-Military Group (JPMG), which includes representatives from both the State Department and Pentagon on the U.S. side and the Foreign and Defense Ministries on the Israeli side. The JPMG discussions cover a wide range of political-military topics, including first and foremost maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge. Meanwhile, the DoD-led Defense Policy Advisory Group provides a high-level forum dedicated to enhancing defense policy coordination.

This only reflects what we have been doing publicly with our Israeli partners. Just as important as this public cooperation and collaboration is what you don’t see. For instance, our regular and well-established meetings have recently been supplemented by an unprecedented number of intimate consultations at senior levels of our governments. These small, private sessions allow us to frankly discuss a wide range of current security concerns ranging from defense procurement to regional security. These consultations provide an opportunity for our governments to share perspectives on policies, address mutual concerns, explain threat perceptions, and identify new areas for cooperation. Our constant communication with the Government of Israel over the past year has helped us to more fully understand and appreciate the many unique security challenges that Israel must live with each and every day.

Let me now turn to another area where we are deepening our security relationship with Israel. The rocket threats from Hezbollah and Hamas represent the most immediate challenge. This is a very real daily concern for ordinary Israelis living in border towns such as Sderot, who know that a rocket fired from Gaza may come crashing down at any moment. As a Senator, President Obama travelled to Israel and met with families whose homes had been destroyed by rockets. So the President understands this threat. Secretary Clinton understands it. And I understand it.

That is why earlier this spring, the President asked Congress to authorize $205 million to support the production of an Israeli-developed short range rocket defense system called Iron Dome. This $205 million for Iron Dome, which has been authorized by the House, is above and beyond the $3 billion in Foreign Military Financing that the Administration requested for Israel in FY 2011. One of my colleagues in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs recently had a chance to see the Iron Dome training battery while in Israel for bilateral consultations, and was able to witness a simulation of the system’s promising new capabilities.

Iron Dome will be part of comprehensive layered defense against the threat of short range rockets fired at the Israeli population. This funding will allow Israel to expand and accelerate Iron Dome production and deployment to provide timely improvements to their multi-tiered defense. This step is one in a series that demonstrates the strength of our mutual defense relationship and shows how serious we are about ensuring that our enhanced security dialogues translate into action.

Iron Dome fills a gap in Israel’s multi-tiered defense system. Israel has conducted thorough tests of Iron Dome components and we’ve conducted an evaluation of our own. We are confident that Iron Dome will provide improved defense for the people of Israel.

Helping to make Israel’s population more secure from the short range rocket and missile threat its border towns face is not only the right thing to do, but it is the type of strategic step that is good for Israel’s security and for the United States’ interests in the region.

Bolstering Israel’s security against the rocket threat will not by itself facilitate a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Conversely, a two-state solution will not in and of itself bring an end to these threats. But our support for Iron Dome and similar efforts do provide Israel with the capabilities and the confidence that it needs to take the tough decisions ahead for a comprehensive peace.

U.S. support for Israel’s security is much more than a simple act of friendship. We are fully committed to Israel’s security because it enhances our own national security and because it helps Israel to take the steps necessary for peace. As Secretary Clinton has suggested, we cannot entrust Israel’s future to the status quo. And the most certain way to ensure Israel’s future as a democratic state is through a sustainable regional peace.

We will also continue to support our words with concrete actions. The U.S.-Israel security relationship is too important to be anything less than a top priority. As surely as the bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable, our commitment to Israel’s qualitative military edge has never been greater. And I can assure you that under the leadership of President Obama and Secretary Clinton, our relationship will always receive the time, attention and focus that it deserves.

Thank you for your time and attention this morning. I look forward to your questions.

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Preceding provided by U.S. State Department

European Jewish Congress wants Turkish Islamist group IHH banned in Europe

June 4, 2010 Leave a comment

(WJC)–The European Jewish Congress (EJC) has called on the European Union and European governments to immediately ban the Turkish group IHH, which led one of the six Gaza Flotilla ships, and similar groups. “Organizations affiliated with and used as a front for terrorist groups like Hamas and al-Qaeda have to be outlawed with immediate effect,” said EJC President Moshe Kantor in a statement.

According to a report issued in 2006 by the Danish Institute for International Studies, the IHH maintained links with al-Qaida and a number of “global jihad networks.” The report also said that the Turkish government had launched an investigation into the IHH which began in December 1997 after receiving intelligence that the IHH had bought automatic weapons from Islamist terrorists. Following the revelation, the Turkish government launched a raid on the organization’s Istanbul offices, where they found weapons, explosives, and instructions for bomb-making. The report added that an examination of documents found at the IHH office indicated that the group was planning to take part in terrorist activities in Afghanistan, Chechnya, and Bosnia.

According to the study, a French intelligence report found that in the mid-1990s IHH leader Bülent Yildirim recruited soldiers for jihad [Muslim Holy War] activities in a number of Islamic countries, and that the IHH transferred money, firearms, and explosives to jihadists in said countries. “It is evident that the IHH has been an organization long associated with terror and global Jihad” Kantor continued.  “Such organizations need to be immediately exposed so Europeans will not be deceived into believing that they are a legitimate humanitarian organization.”

It had become clear that this flotilla did not have a humanitarian goal when its organizers rejected repeated calls to pass their aid through Egypt or Israel, the EJC said in a statement.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.

ADL lauds walkout on Ahmadinejad’s nuclear speech at U.N. conference

May 3, 2010 Leave a comment
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Press Release)–The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on Monday praised the countries whose delegates walked out on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech at a United Nations conference after he accused the U.S., Israel and an unspecified European country of threatening Iran with nuclear weapons.
The Iranian president was delivering remarks to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review conference.

Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director issued the following statement:
 
While there may be legal and diplomatic obligations to grant Ahmadinejad the UN podium, there is also a moral obligation to condemn his words, his actions and what he stands for. Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust, denies there are homosexuals in Iran, and denies the existence of Iran’s nuclear weapons program. To this list of lies he added another – that the U.S. and Israel pose a nuclear threat to Iran, when in fact the opposite is true.
 
“We appreciate the gesture made by those states that walked out, for it sends a strong personal message to Ahmadinejad that his rants do not deserve the respect of an audience. We also appreciate UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s preemptive and public declaration that ‘the onus is on Iran’ to resolve this crisis.
 
“Ahmadinejad’s presence at the NPT conference is a perfect opportunity for the international community to send him the message that he needs to hear: If Iran doesn’t shut down its nuclear weapons program, there will be severe consequences.”
 
Representatives from the United States, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Morocco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and the United Kingdom left the room as Ahmadinejad opened his remarks. Canada reportedly boycotted the speech from the outset.

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Preceding provided by the Anti-Defamation League

 

Why would U.S. want Afghan pilots trained in Lebanon or Syria?

April 23, 2010 Leave a comment

By Shoshana Bryen

Shoshana Bryen

WASHINGTON, D.C — The U.S. Department of the Army put out a request for information on “Afghanistan National Army Air Corps English and Pilot Training.”

The Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training & Instrumentation (PEO STRI) is conducting market research by seeking sources with innovative business solutions to (1) train and certify up to 67 Afghani student pilots to an International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) English level 4 in the English language; and (2) provide basic rotary wing or fixed wing Commercial Pilot Training to the European Joint Aviation Authority (JAA) standards.

It is desired that the English language and basic pilot training take place within South West Asia. PEO STRI requests information on sources available to perform training in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, U.A.E, Uzbekistan, Yemen or other locations in Southwest Asia with the capability to provide requested training.

How is it possible that Syria, a charter and current member of the U.S. State Department list of terrorism-supporting countries, is considered an acceptable place to train Afghan pilots? Or Lebanon, which has Hezbollah as a member of the governing cabinet in Beirut? Hezbollah is a charter and current member of the U.S. State Department list of terrorist organizations, and until September 11, 2001, had killed more Americans than any other terrorist group. Didn’t Kyrgyzstan just have a coup inspired/financed by Russia? Wouldn’t training pro-Western Afghan pilots in Pakistan send those people from the frying pan into the fire? Isn’t Yemen home to some of the most virulently anti-American, anti-Western al Qaeda operatives and preachers, including Anwar al-Awlakiwho was talking to U.S. Army Major Nidal Hassan before he killed 13 Americans at Ft. Hood?
 
Aside from the fact that some of the countries listed are not in South West Asia, as the request for information requires, not one is remotely democratic. OK, we’ll give Jordan a few points and some to Iraq, but that’s it. 
 
What would possess the United States Army to expose Afghani pilots, who are supposed to secure a functional and consensual state in Afghanistan, to countries where the governments are almost uniformly totalitarian, functionally repressive, less than hospitable to reform or dissent, and have women in positions of legal inferiority? Saudi Arabia is the financier of a particularly repressive, homophobic, misogynistic and anti-Semitic form of Islam exported around the world.
 
We did not expect to see Israel on the list, although Israel certainly is capable of training pilots to the European Joint Aviation Authority standards, and a few months in Israel would impart some Western governmental, judicial and social norms, including religious and political tolerance.
 
But if not Israel, why not Britain or Italy or France or Spain or Portugal? Why not Denmark or Colombia or Mali or Uruguay? Why not India or Indonesia or Taiwan or Japan?
 
The list is clearly weighted toward the part of the world to which President Obama wishes to show American comity. Unfortunately, it is also a part of the world in which neither American policies nor American values are particularly welcome items on the agenda. The list and the thinking behind it are political mistakes that should be corrected. Certainly, they should be corrected before we give the Afghanis the idea that the norms of Syria and Lebanon are ones we want them to adopt.

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Bryen is senior director of security policy of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.  Her column is sponsored by Waxie Sanitary Supply in memory of Morris Wax, longtime JINSA supporter and national board member