By Rabbi Ben Kamin
SAN DIEGO–An alarming image is appearing across the Internet showing young Islamic protestors, in Muslim and Arab garb, marching British streets, shouting hate slogans and bearing signs that clearly declaim the grimmest intentions for Westerners, including: “Britain, Your 9/11 is Coming.”
This is what we are dealing with: An entire generation of brain-washed, extremist young people, dangerously radicalized, drained of their dreams and creativity, who (in this case) were photographed again marching the streets of London and taunting the British people:
“Be prepared for the REAL Holocaust”
“Behead those who Insult Islam”
“ISLAM will dominate the world”
It is now a year since the tragically failed revolution of extraordinarily brave-hearted protestors in the streets of Teheran and other crushed pathways of the Koranic dictatorship that rules Iran with cold-blooded fury and dispassion. Untold anonymous suffering continues to take place there and elsewhere in the name of an old and proud faith that has been seized by medieval and misogynous men given to wholesale terror and extermination.
The destruction of our towers in New York and the genocide of three thousand civilians that day really hasn’t seemed to awaken us to the reality of radical Islam’s clearly announced intention to take the West by force and place it under sharia.
Hundreds and hundreds of subsequent attacks upon hotels, railroads, airplanes, schools, busses, directly upon people, in Spain, Indonesia, Canada, the UK, Israel of course, India, the USA, and on and on…what will it take for so many of us to get it that this an international war against our way of life, our children—as ominous, if not more so, due to the proliferation of nuclear sources, as the threat to world peace represented by the Nazis?
They have shamelessly declared that their first national goals are to convert Great Britain to Islamic practice and to return Spain to its former Muslim regality. Right now, we are shaking our heads about how our soon-to-be former pal and NATO ally Turkey has gone their way.
And some of us are just conveniently blaming Israel,
Israel, however, will never wake up one morning and find itself being something other than itself.
Rabbi Kamin is a freelance writer based in San Diego
WASHINGTON, D.C (Press Release)–Following is a speech that Daniel Benjamin, coordinator of the counter-terrorism office in the U.S. State Department, gave on Friday to members of the Washington Institute:
Good afternoon. It is a great pleasure to be back at the Washington Institute and see so many familiar faces in the room. Thanks to Matt Levitt for inviting me. A few weeks ago Matt and I shared a panel at the Anti-Defamation League. For 25 years now, the Washington Institute has been putting out quality scholarship on the Middle East – work that I read regularly when I was in the think tank world, but is perhaps even more valuable for me now as a senior U.S. government policymaker. Rob Satloff’s fascinating book and the follow on documentary on the Muslims in North Africa who helped save Jews during the Holocaust shed new light on the events of that era, and has relevance for today as well.
I’m also pleased to be participating in the Washington Institute’s counterterrorism lecture series, which my predecessor Ambassador Dell Dailey kicked off in December 2007, and I know you’ve had at least 20 of the USG’s top counterterrorism officials. I’m particularly glad to have the chance to be here today because as I think most people in this room recognize, there have been some important changes in the nature of the threat in recent months. So I want to discuss with you what those changes are and on how the Obama administration is adapting and re-shaping the way the U.S. combats terrorism both in the short- and in the long-term.
Let me begin with the baseline: Over the last year, al-Qa’ida has suffered a number of important setbacks. As you’ve heard from the leaders of our intelligence community recently, the group remained under pressure in Pakistan due to Pakistani military operations aimed at eliminating militant strongholds in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, the FATA. It’s had a number of leadership losses and is finding it more difficult to raise money, train recruits, and plan attacks outside of the region. As my friend and colleague Treasury Assistant Secretary David Cohen noted here last month that AQ is now in the “worst financial shape it has been in for years.”
Of course, this by no means suggests that we can signal the all clear on conspiracies driven by al-Qa’ida’s senior leadership – we know full well that they are still a highly capable, highly innovative and very determined group. But even outside the FATA, the environment is becoming more challenging. Al-Qa’ida has also suffered from popular Muslim disaffection due to recent and past indiscriminate targeting of Muslims by its operatives and allies in Algeria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Indonesia, and any number of other countries. The number of conservative clerics and former militants speaking out against the organization increased and that’s very good news indeed.
Despite these setbacks to the core leadership, the broader AQ threat is becoming more widely distributed and more geographically and ethnically diversified among affiliates and among those who are inspired by the AQ message. We saw this most dramatically with the attempted December 25th bombing of a U.S. commercial airliner. This incident demonstrated that at least one affiliate – al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula – has not just the will but also the capability to launch a strike targeting the United States at home. We have every expectation that we will hear more from AQAP.
We’ve learned something else important this year: The assumption that Americans have some special immunity to al-Qa’ida’s ideology has been dispelled. While our overall domestic radicalization problem remains significantly less than in many Western nations, several high profile cases demonstrate that we must remain vigilant. As you all know, five Americans from nearby Virginia were arrested in Pakistan on suspicion of terrorist ties. We also have seen Americans traveling to Somalia, ones who ultimately ended up joining al-Shabaab.
We have seen U.S. citizens rise in prominence as proponents of violent extremism. The native Californian Adam Gadahn has become an AQ spokesman, enabling the group to increasingly target its propaganda to Western audiences. Another individual, Omar Hammami, an American citizen who grew up in Alabama, has become an important al-Shabaab voice on the internet. The most notable is Yemeni-American Anwar al-Awlaqi, who has become the most influential voice of Islamist radicalism among English-speaking extremists and has catalyzed a pool of potential recruits that others had failed to reach. The alleged Ft. Hood attacker Nidal Hasan sought him out for guidance, and the December 25 bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, visited him at least twice in Yemen. We should make no mistake about the nature of Awlaqi: As his recent video declaration of allegiance to al Qa’ida suggests, this is not just an ideologue but someone who incites acts of mass violence against Americans and others, and someone who is at the heart of a group plotting such action.
Another domestic dimension of the changing threat: In the last few months we’ve seen two high-profile law-enforcement cases, individuals who appear to have been trained and handled from the FATA, operating within our borders. Najibullah Zazi, a U.S. lawful permanent resident and airport shuttle driver, trained in Pakistan and recently pleaded guilty to charges that he was planning to set off several bombs in the United States. An American citizen, David Headley, has pleaded guilty in a U.S. court to crimes relating to his role in the November 2008 Lashkar e-Tayyiba attacks in Mumbai, which killed more than 160 people – including six Americans. Yes, it’s important to note that we found these people and that our intelligence and law enforcement tripwires worked. But that is not reason enough for complacency. The threat we face is dynamic and evolving.
Now we have the Times Square incident to add to the list. You’ve seen the public remarks from Attorney General Holder about Faisal Shahzad and his links to the Pakistani Taliban, and reports of search warrants that have been executed in several locations in the Northeast in connection with this investigation. Because this is an ongoing investigation I can’t say more but what I can say is that the significance of this case cannot be ignored.
Obviously, these changes that we have seen in the threat challenge us in important ways. A Nigerian suicide bomber – someone with virtually no prior record of involvement in terrorism who can be effectively launched at us from Yemen – this presents a real intelligence and security challenge; and, so too does the appearance of operatives in the U.S. who are legal residents or citizens but are connected with AQ or another radical group in South Asia.
Clearly, there is a requirement to improve our intelligence, and without going into details here, I can assure you that the Intelligence Community is working hard on this. And there are challenges for our defenses – especially our aviation security, since aviation remains at the top of the list of al-Qa’ida’s targets – as they have demonstrated recently through both successful and unsuccessful plots directed at aircraft. The United States has taken steps, both on its own and with international partners to bolster aviation security in the wake of the failed bombing on Christmas Day.
Under Secretary Napolitano’s leadership, we have been working closely with the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization, the G8, and other multilateral fora to lead a global initiative to strengthen the international aviation system against the evolving threats posed by terrorists. Over the past several months, the USG has signed joint declarations with numerous foreign partners on improving information sharing, strengthening aviation security measures and standards, and working together to develop and deploy new security technologies to airports around the world. We have also strengthened the watchlisting system and developed new, more flexible security protocols based on real-time, threat-based intelligence. These measures consist of multiple layers of security, seen and unseen, which are tailored to intelligence about potential threats.
Defenses, of course, are an essential part of the equation. But another equally vital part of the equation is engaging with the other countries that are being used as platforms by terrorists and working with them to contain, reduce, and eliminate these threats. Given what we have seen over the last year and the years before, Pakistan and Yemen are today the countries of greatest concern. So let me turn to our efforts with them.
First Pakistan: Pakistan, we should all remember, is a front-line partner in fighting extremists. We provide a spectrum of assistance to Pakistani counterterrorism campaigns which range from police training to anti-money laundering efforts. Undoubtedly the hundreds of millions of dollars directed to Pakistani counterterrorism efforts have saved American lives and we shouldn’t forget that Pakistan has put out-of-business more al-Qa’ida operatives than any other country.
Over the past year, the U.S. government has seen very encouraging signs that Pakistan not only recognizes the severity of the threat from violent extremists, but is actively working to counter and constrain it. Pakistani military operations in Swat and Waziristan have eliminated militant strongholds and damaged the operational abilities of extremist groups. Moreover, we are seeing increasing cross-border cooperation with Afghanistan and ISAF forces, which is instrumental in the reduction of key militant safe havens. And in the wake of the operation in Swat, we have seen public opinion turn more decisively against the militants.
In late March, with the beginning of the Strategic Dialogue with Pakistan, we started a new phase in our partnership; with a new focus and a renewed commitment to work together to achieve the goals we share: stability, prosperity, and opportunity for the people of both Pakistan and the United States. While this wasn’t the first Strategic Dialogue between our countries, it was the first at the ministerial level, and it reflects the Administration’s commitment to its success. Under the Kerry-Lugar legislation we will be providing Pakistan with $1.5 billion a year for 5 years to address key developmental issues.
The discussions in the Strategic Dialogue generated new momentum and mutual trust to jointly tackle the extremist groups who threaten both Pakistan’s security and the U.S.’s security. And I should mention that under this new Dialogue, I will travel to Islamabad for the second time in three months with an interagency team in June to discuss terrorism with the Pakistanis. During the trip, both countries will discuss how to better use non-military capabilities to fight extremism.
We have seen tangible evidence of Pakistan’s commitment to clamping down on extremist networks operating within its borders. As you know, several top Afghan Taliban leaders – including Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar – have been apprehended, and we are grateful to the Pakistani authorities for this.
Immediately after the Times Square incident, we also began working closely with the Government of Pakistan on the investigation and they’ve been cooperative in assisting our efforts and we will continue to work with Islamabad on this important prosecution.
Let me turn to Yemen. It’s important to remember that Yemen did not turn into an al-Qa’ida safe haven overnight. In fact, Yemen was arguably the very first front, since the December 1992 al-Qa’ida attempt to bomb U.S. troops was probably the first genuine al-Qa’ida attack in Aden. Those troops, you may recall, were en route to Somalia to support the UN mission there – almost eight years before the USS Cole attack in 2000. Al-Qa’ida has had a foothold in Yemen since the organization’s earliest days and it’s always been a major concern for the United States.
When the Obama administration came into office, it was clear that the Government of Yemen was distracted by other domestic security concerns, and our bilateral cooperation had experienced real setbacks and al Qa’ida was on the rise. In the spring of 2009, the administration initiated a full-scale review of our Yemen policy. The review has led to a new, whole-of-government approach to Yemen.
To advance this strategy, we’ve engaged consistently and intensively with our Yemeni counterparts. Senior administration civilian and military officials – including Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, General Petraeus, and myself –visited Yemen to discuss how we can jointly confront the threat of al-Qa’ida. The result has been a significant – and we hope enduring – turn by the government in taking on al-Qa’ida consistently. Those actions, it is important to emphasize, began before the December 25th plot, and have continued ever since.
Now, Yemen has conducted multiple operations designed to disrupt AQAP’s operational planning and to deprive its leadership of safe haven within Yemeni territory.
We recognize that al-Qa’ida has taken advantage of insecurity in various regions of Yemen that have been worsened by internal conflicts. We also know that Yemen is grappling with serious poverty – it is the poorest country in the Arab world. This lack of resources inhibits good governance, the delivery of services, and the effectiveness of the security that is needed to deal with terrorism. So to have any chance of success, U.S. counterterrorism policy has to be conceived in strategic and not merely tactical terms and timelines. That’s why the administration has adopted a two-pronged strategy for Yemen – helping the government confront the immediate security concern of al-Qa’ida and mitigating the serious political, economic, and governance issues that the country faces over the long term. Not only are we working to constrict the space in which al-Qa’ida can operate in Yemen by building up the Yemeni capacity to deal with the security threats within their borders, we are also working to develop government capacity to deliver basic services and economic growth.
This dual strategy will help Yemen confront the immediate security concern of al-Qa’ida, but also to mitigate the serious political and economic issues that the country faces in the longer term. It is a strategy that requires full Yemeni partnership. It is a strategy that requires working closely with regional partners and allies. It is a strategy that requires hard work and American resources. The challenges are great, and they are many; but the risk of doing nothing is far too grave.
What we are doing in Yemen, what we are doing in Pakistan, is what we are doing in many other countries: building capacity. Consistent diplomatic engagement with counterparts and senior leaders helps build political will for common counterterrorism objectives. When there is that political will, we can address the nuts and bolts aspect of capacity building. We are working to make the training of police, prosecutors, border officials, and members of the judiciary more systematic, more innovative, and more far-reaching. Capacity building also includes counterterrorist finance training; it represents a whole-of-government approach. This is both good counterterrorism and good statecraft. We are addressing the state insufficiencies that terrorism thrives on, and we are helping invest our partners more effectively in confronting the threat–rather than have them look thousands of miles away for help or simply look away altogether.
Ok, I’ve focused on the some of the diplomat’s traditional tools – engagement, building political will, and capacity building. I think we’re deploying these tools well. But the diversification of the threat I’ve described means that we can’t stop there. We need to both use all of the tools in our toolbox, and to innovate and create new ones, to continue to stay ahead of the threat and to maintain and strengthen our defenses.
For example, we need to advance our agenda of building international security cooperation against the terrorist threat. Our allies in Europe have become central partners in the counterterrorism arena, as a number of the plots in recent years illustrate dramatically just how intertwined U.S. and European security interests have grown.
With American and European fates so closely linked, it is essential that we work together even more closely to prevent al-Qa’ida and its affiliates from carrying out a successful attack. The Treasury’s Terrorist Finance Tracking Program and DHS’s Passenger Name Record program are both critically important tools in this effort, and have proven instrumental in protecting the security of both Americans and Europeans alike.
Given the importance of these programs to both U.S. and European security, we and the Europeans have a longstanding partnership to protect both the security of our citizens and their personal data. We know our two approaches to protecting privacy have more in common than divides them and we both share a strong commitment to protecting human rights. The challenge is to reach agreement on the proper balance between security and privacy without impeding the operation of vital programs and creating security gaps that have the potential to harm not only American citizens, but individuals from Europe and beyond as well.
There is one more key area in which we need to innovate. In the past eight years, the United States has made great strides in what might be called tactical counterterrorism – taking individual terrorists off the street, and disrupting cells and their operations. But an effective counterterrorism strategy must go beyond efforts to thwart those who seek to harm the United States and its citizens, allies, and interests. Military power, intelligence operations, and law enforcement efforts alone will not solve the long-term challenge that we face – the threat of violent extremism. Instead, we must look as well to the political, economic, and social factors that terrorist organizations exploit and to the ideology that is their key instrument in pushing vulnerable individuals down the path toward violence. As President Obama succinctly put it, “A campaign against extremism will not succeed with bullets or bombs alone.”
Quite simply, we need to do a better job to reduce the recruitment of terrorists. To combat terrorism successfully, we have to isolate violent extremists from the people they pretend to serve. In the government, we refer to this as Countering Violent Extremism, or CVE. Many have attempted CVE efforts over a number of years from a number of different agencies but without sufficient focus. Now we have an administration that is committed to cutting down on radicalization and recruitment.
The indiscriminate targeting of Muslim civilians by violent extremists that I mentioned before in Iraq, Pakistan, and elsewhere has alienated populations, led to a decline of support for al-Qa’ida’s political program, and outraged influential clerics and former allies – who in many cases have spoken publicly against terrorism.
But we cannot count on al-Qa’ida to put itself out of business. So we are also focusing our efforts on undermining the narrative and preventing the radicalization of vulnerable or alienated individuals.
We are working to develop a better understanding of the dynamics of the communities in which violent extremism has taken root. Every at-risk community possesses unique political, economic, and social factors that contribute to the radicalization process. For this reason, we know that one-size-fits-all programs have limited appeal. Instead, programs need to be tailored to fit the characteristics of the audience. “Micro-strategies” need to be customized for specific communities – and even neighborhoods – and they will have a better chance of succeeding and enduring.
We also know that credible, local voices have to take the lead in their own communities. They are the ones best placed to convey counter-narratives capable of discrediting violent extremism. The U.S. government is simply not going to be the most credible interlocutor in this conversation so we are working to identify reliable partners and amplify legitimate voices. The United States can help empower these local actors through programmatic assistance, funding, or by simply providing them with space – physical or electronic – to challenge violent extremist views. Non-traditional actors such as NGOs, foundations, public-private partnerships, and private businesses are some of the most capable and credible partners in local communities. The U.S. government and partner nations are also seeking to develop greater understanding of the linkages between Diaspora communities and ancestral homelands. Through familial and business networks, events that affect one community have an impact on the other.
With the aid of credible messengers, the United States is trying to make the use of terrorist violence taboo and to trump the radical narrative, and also hope to offer something more hopeful. President Obama’s effort to create partnerships with Muslim communities on the basis of mutual interest and mutual respect, as he outlined in speeches in Ankara and Cairo, provides an opportunity to promote a more positive story than the negative one promulgated by al-Qa’ida.
Clearly, we have not figured it all out. Al-Qa’ida is a nimble adversary, and we have a never-ending race to protect our country and stay one step ahead. Because of the flatness of their organization, a high-level of inspiration, and ingenuity, we need to be on top of our game all the time. We need to keep mind the words of the 9/11 Commission Report, which in this respect got it precisely right: “It is crucial”, they wrote “to find ways of routinizing and even bureaucratizing the exercise of the imagination.” This is really the paramount and enduring challenge we face. Staying sharp, innovating our defensive systems and maintaining our intellectual edge – these are all essential.
Well, I know a speech at the Washington Institute would be incomplete without some discussion of the other side of the terrorism coin, the state sponsors of terrorism. And they are among the USG’s highest priorities as well. Together with Matt Levitt, I spoke at length on this exact subject recently at the ADL conference, and I’d refer you to my remarks from that event, which are posted on the State Department website.
It’s important not to forget that Iran remains the foremost state sponsor of terrorism, supporting Hizballah, HAMAS, and other terrorist Palestinian groups. And Syria has also provided political and material support to Hizballah in Lebanon and allowed Iran to resupply it with weapons. In early April, we reiterated our grave concerns and alarm to the Syrians over reports that they may have provided SCUD missiles to Hizballah.
We have spoken out forcefully about the grave dangers of Syria’s transfer of weapons to that group. We condemn this in the strongest possible terms and have expressed our concerns directly to the Syrian government. Transferring weapons to Hizballah – especially longer-range missiles – poses a serious threat to the security of Israel. It would have a profoundly destabilizing effect on the region. And if such weapons cross into Lebanon, it would absolutely violate UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which bans the unauthorized importation of any weapons into Lebanon.
We do not accept such provocative and destabilizing behavior – nor should the international community. President Assad is making decisions that could mean war or peace for the region. We know he’s hearing from Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas. It is crucial that he also hear from us directly, so that the potential consequences of his actions are clear. That’s why we are sending an ambassador back to Syria. There should be no mistake, either in Damascus or anywhere else: The United States is not reengaging with Syria as a reward or as a concession. Engagement is a tool that can give us added leverage and insight, and a greater ability to convey strong and unmistakably clear messages aimed at Syria’s leadership.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. I look forward to your questions.
Preceding transcript provided by the U.S. State Department
By 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.
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
Compiled by Garry Fabian
The Zentai saga rolls on
PERTH 13 April – The Federal Court in Western Australia will next month begin hearing an appeal from Perth man Charles Zentai against his
extradition to Hungary to face war crimes charges.
The court has postponed the start of a judicial review into the case to April 27; it was supposed to begin last month. A review favourable to
Zentai is widely seen as his final opportunity to avoid extradition.
Earlier this month, lawyers representing Zentai and Home Affairs Minister Brendan O’Connor met inFederal Court over the defendant’s right to see a full version of the documents used by O’Connor in reaching his decision to green-light the extradition.
Zentai is accused of playing a role in the murder of Peter Balazs, a young Budapest Jew who was beaten to death in November 1944.
Zentai, who was arrested in 2005 on a Hungarian warrant, denies the charges.
Remembering Six Million
MELBOURNE, 12 April – Commemorations for Yom Hashoah, Holocaust remembrance day, were held around Australia on Sunday, April 11 and Monday, April 12.
In Melbourne, survivors from the “Buchenwald boys” lit memorial candles at a memorial at
Monash University’s Robert Blackwood Hall.
Sydney’s Jewish community hosted a number of functions, including a name reading ceremony at
the Sydney Jewish Museum in Darlinghurst. More than 300 people, including consul generals from
Germany, Austria, Poland, Lithuania, Costa Rica, Britain, Croatia and Romania, joined school
children, many of them from non-Jewish schools, at Sunday’s moving commemoration.
Moriah College hosted a Yom Hashoah event, with a keynote speech from Israel Embassy deputy Eli Yerushalmi, while Masada College had scheduled its own commemoration for Monday night.
Yom Hashoah memorials were also held in Perth, where Associate Professor Mark Baker was keynotespeaker, and in Canberra, where diplomats,politicians and representatives of various faiths
came together to remember the Holocaust.
Goodby to politics but not Jewish Community
SYDNEY, 12 April – After years of involvement, Malcolm Turnbull said his resignation as
Wentworth MP will not see him cut ties with the Jewish community.
Speaking the day after announcing he would not contest the next election, the former Liberal
leader called the local Jewish community “the heart and soul” of his electorate.
“I don’t intend to stop my association with the Jewish community just because I am out of
Parliament. I’ve loved my involvement at so many communal events and just having so many friends in the Jewish community.”
Using the new social medium Twitter, Turnbull announced on Tuesday he would not recontest the
inner-eastern Sydney seat come the next election.
The decision was made, he said, following his loss of the Liberal Party leadership to Tony
Abbott by one vote in December last year. The catalyst for that vote was the emissions trading
Bill, which Turnbull continues to strongly support, but which much of the Coalition opposes.
But he never had trouble keeping the Jewish community on his side even those who weren’t
Liberal voters held Turnbull in high esteem because of his commitment to the community.
It was Chanukah parties that Turnbull highlighted as some of the best memories during his time in
office. “I really enjoyed Chanukah celebrations, whether it was the event at Double Bay that Yanky
Berger does, or the Russian ceremony,” he said, adding he once gave a memorised speech in
Russian, which “amused some of the older attendees”.
One organisation that Turnbull has had a strong involvement with for the past three years is
Sydney’s Montefiore Home, where he is the ambassador.
This week, Montefiore vice-president Gary Inberg said he hoped Turnbull’s role as the home’s
“ambassador, supporter and friend” would continue. “Our residents are always delighted to
see Malcolm and we have enjoyed hosting him at the home on numerous occasions. It is a pleasure
and an honour to be associated with him,” Inberg said.
Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Robert Goot also paid tribute to the politician.
“We regret, but understand, Mr Turnbull’s decision. He was a most effective advocate for a
variety of matters of concern for the Jewish community,” Goot said.
In terms of a successor, the Liberal Party has opened nominations for a new candidate to contest
the increasingly marginal seat.
A number of Jewish names have been suggested including party bigwigs Richard Shields and
Julian Leeser, as well as former Turnbull staffer Anthony Orkin and current local councillor
Anthony Boskovitz. The vote is expected to be held within a month.
Turnbull weighed in on the speculation of his successor, but in a non-partisan way.
“People often assume, in a somewhat patronising way, that the Jewish community will always vote
for a Jewish candidate. I think there are a lot of people in the Jewish community who would make
great candidates for Parliament, but ultimately it is the quality of the candidate that matters,” he said
Push for closer diplomatic ties
CANBERRA, 13 April – Ronen Plot, director-general of Israel’s Ministry of Public Diplomacy and
Diaspora Affairs, was in Australia this week in what is seen as part of a larger effort to
cultivate a better relationship between the local community and the Jewish State.
The director-general, who also spent time liaising with Jewish community leaders in Hong
Kong and New Zealand as part of his regional sweep, said that his trip had a dual purpose: as
a fact-finding mission to learn more about Diaspora communities and develop a working
relationship with their leadership, while also looking for opportunities for new collaborative
projects in education and other spheres.
Speaking in Hebrew, Plot said that his visit was considered essential in order to carry out the mission of his department.
“You can’t have a situation where you have an office of Diaspora affairs and run it exclusively
from Israel,” Plot said. “It’s extremely important to meet and get to know people in the
Diaspora communities themselves.”
Dr Ron Weiser, past president of the Zionist Federation of Australia and current committee
member of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency, was one of the many communal officials
who met with Plot during his Pesach visit.
Dr Weiser said that Plot’s visit represents the beginning of a long-term process to change the
relationship between Jerusalem and the Diaspora. He recalled the words of former prime minister Ehud Olmert in a speech to the Jewish Agency Board of Governors. “[Olmert] said, for the past
60 years, Israel has been the project of the Jewish people. For the next 60 years, the Jewish
people will need to be the joint project of Israel and Jewish communities around the world.”
The current visit is the latest step in that process, Dr Weiser said.Plot dismissed speculation that his trip had any connection to recent allegations that Israel had forged Australian passports.
His visit, he said, was planned well in advance of the scandal and had very clear objectives far
removed from such controversies.
Plot added that, at any rate, there has been no proven link between Israel and the forgeries.
In related news, Plot could not confirm the accuracy of a report in The Jerusalem Post last
Thursday that PM Binyamin Netanyahu’s former bureau chief Ari Harow may accept the position of
deputy director-general of the Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry.
Passport report in, but no action to date
CANBERRA, 15 April – Foreign Minister Stephen Smith has said he will not rush his response to
an Australian Federal Police (AFP) report into the alleged misuse of four Australian passports
in the assassination of Hamas terror chief Mahmoud al-Mabhouh .
The AFP investigation, which saw three officers travel to Israel, was completed recently, with
Smith receiving the findings last Friday. The Foreign Minister said he had looked at the
report, but was not ready to make any decisions.
“I haven’t yet had the opportunity of very carefully considering that, but it’s clear from a
preliminary assessment of that report that I need to get further advice and see further work and
have further discussion with other agencies,” he told Channel Nine.
He said he would be discussing the report with Australia’s two premier security agencies the
Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and the Australian Secret Intelligence Service before making any decisions.
“When that work has been done, and I’ve had the chance to fully consider, not just the AFP
report, but also that further work and advice from other agencies, then I’ll make the detail of
the government’s deliberations about this matter public.”
Responding to whether the Australian investigation was taking too long, Smith said he
wanted to be sure of the facts.
“I need further work done by our intelligence agencies and I’m going to get this right rather
than rush it in any way. It’s a very important issue. It has very significant ramifications for
use of passports and our relationships with a number of countries, and I’m not proposing to be
rushed. I want the exhaustive work to be done carefully and properly.”
The investigation was launched in late February after forged passports in the names of
Australian-born Israelis were discovered by Dubai police. Fingers were pointed at Israel’s Mossad
secret service, with Smith calling Israel’s Ambassador to Australia Yuval Rotem to Parliament
for an explanation and asking for his cooperation.
Last month, Britain expelled an Israeli diplomat after completing its own investigation into
forged passports in the names of British-born Israelis
Rabbis reach out to youth
MELBOURNE, 15 April – Local Orthodox rabbis are this week launching a range of programs in a bid
to relate better to younger Jews and to become more professional.
Tonight (Thursday), the Rabbinical Council of Victoria (RCV) will unveil a number of projects
at a gala reception in the presence of Victorian Government ministers, community dignitaries and young people.
Speaking in the lead-up to the event, RCV president Rabbi Yaakov Glasman said the rabbis
are hoping to offer their expertise to the community in different ways.
“The RCV hopes to work in collaboration with other communal organisations and believes the
Victorian rabbinate has a wealth of knowledge and experience to offer the Jewish, and indeed, wider community,” the North Eastern Jewish Centre rabbi said.
One way it hopes to do this is through the “Mashpia” or mentoring program, which will link rabbis with young Jews.
“The purpose of this initiative is to encourage young Jewish adults, particularly in their latter
formative teenage years, to feel comfortable thinking and speaking about matters relating to
spirituality and religion, which some may feel naturally inhibited to do because of societal norms and expectations,” he said.
Those older than school age will also be catered for, with Rabbi Glasman hinting at a program that
will help young adults entering the workforce find a place in their busy lives for religion.
Some of the community’s most prominent businessmen are being engaged to assist.
The other area the RCV is pushing into is professional development. “We want to be
professional, we don’t want rabbis to deal with crises en route,” the president said.
These initiatives are currently being sponsored by the Victorian Multicultural Commission, but
Rabbi Glasman said the community will also be called upon to assist.
“We want communal donors to recognise that investing in the rabbinate is worthwhile.”
Limmud Oz back for another year
MELBOURNE, 15 April – Planning for Limmud Oz, the festival of Jewish learning and culture, is
currently underway, with the conference returning to Melbourne for the Queen’s Birthday long weekend in June.
Held annually this year over three days Limmud Oz gives participants an opportunity to
engage with and learn topics of Jewish interest.
“It will take you another step further in your Jewish journey,” Limmud Oz committee member
Sylvia Urbach said. “It will have some appeal to all people regarding any aspect of Jewish life
and Jewish thought ever considered.”
A host of international presenters are already on board, including executive director of the Israel
Religious Action Centre and Women of the Wall participant Anat Hoffman, Israeli professor of
political studies Efraim Inbar and Dr Aaron Rosen, a research fellow in Jewish history and culture at Oxford University.
Diverse local speakers will also feature on a broad range of topics including Adam Goodvach’s
analysis of Australia’s closest neighbour Indonesia, Victor Majzner talking about art and a
discussion with Lionel Sharpe, one of the community’s foremost genealogists.
“There is a wide array of Jewish topics and speakers from religious to secular in every way,
shape or form,” Urbach said. “What’s important is that it is non-denominational and inclusive, with
subjects and speakers relevant to all Jews.”
Artistic memlories of a bleak place
Detail from the Jewish Museum of Australia’s newest exhibition.
Detail from the Jewish Museum of Australia’s
newest exhibition. Photo: Peter Haskin
MELBOURNE’– Jewish Museum of Australia launched its latest exhibition, titled Theresienstadt:
Drawn From the Inside, last week in the presence of MPs including Victorian Arts Minister Peter Batchelor.
More than 20 years ago, Holocaust survivor Regina Schwarz donated a battered suitcase containing 142 watercolours and drawings created in the Nazi concentration camp at Theresienstadt by her husband Paul and fellow artist Leo Lowit.
The rare collection of artworks was exhibited at the Jewish Museum of Australia in 1990, but has
remained in the museum archives since then.
A year ago curator Mera Brooks started sorting through the collection to select 90 works for the museum’s latest exhibition.
Paul and Regina Schwarz and Leo and Jindriska Lowit arrived in Theresienstadt in December 1941,
among 6000 Jews who arrived at the camp by rail transport from Prague that month. Paul, Leo and Jindriska were killed in Auschwitz in October 1944. Regina survived Auschwitz and settled in
Melbourne after World War II where she died in 1987.
The Theresienstadt: Drawn From the Inside exhibition is at the Jewish Museum of Australia
from April 11 until March 13, 2011.
Nonagenarian still an active athlete
MELBOURNE, 19 April–90 years young and still as active as ever – Simon Shinberg, you are an inspiration! When ‘Friend of Maccabi’, Simon Shinberg called the office this week to RSVP to the upcoming Friends of Maccabi Luncheon, he told me that he was very much looking forward to hearing motivational Special Guest Speaker, Brian Rabinowitz, as Brian was Simon’s Spinning
instructor! I had to find out more…..
Simon Shinberg not only takes 45 minute Spinning classes 4 days a week, he also does a couple of
hours of gym 4 times a week too!
Simon has been involved in sport for as long as he can remember. He was a member of the first
AJAX Athletics Club, focussing on sprints, high jump and shotput. He represented Victoria at both
the 1937/38 Carnival in Melbourne and the 1938/39 Carnival in Sydney, where he won the High
Jump. He also played soccer for Hakoah when he was 18 years old.
During the many years of running his successful clothing manufacturing business, Simon went for a
run at 6am every morning, keeping him energised for the remainder of the day.
And Simon has no plans to slow down now, saying that keeping active and his wonderful friends
both from Maccabi & other walks of life is what keeps him going each day. Simon Shinberg, you are an inspiration!
Agitating for change at Yeshivah
MELBOURNE, 19 April – Yeshivah Centre members in Melbourne have called for more democracy in the 52-year-old organisation after accusations the facility’s dayan, Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Telsner, censored their newsletter.
The Pesach edition of the publication included three articles discussing the value of removing
or retaining the controversial “Yechi” sign on the wall of the main shul. But by the end of
Pesach, the two pieces calling for a vote on its presence had been deleted from electronic and paper copies. When asked for confirmation, Rabbi Telsner said he knew “nothing about it”.
However, in a letter to Rabbi Telsner, congregant David Werdiger claims that during a discussion
they had had, the dayan admitted that he had instructed their removal.
Werdiger said he objected to the censorship and would, after 40 years, stop praying at the main
Yeshivah shul. “It is sad and ironic that this has happened in our community, many of whose
founders lived under an oppressive regime in Soviet Russia where there was a standard method
for dealing with dissent,” Werdiger said.
The sign, according to an article by YeshivahGedolah head Rabbi Binyomin Cohen, implies that
the late Lubavitcher Rebbe is the messiah and that he never really passed away.
Despite the sign being up for some years, its presence came to the fore in January when Rabbi
Telsner excised a small group of people – the “Moshiach Men” – from the community.
A number of Yeshivah members called for the sign to be removed, claiming it was divisive and
promoted disharmony. Despite securing more than 100 signatures, Rabbi Telsner and the va’ad
ruchni, or committee, ignored the request.
Articles in the recent newsletter continued the debate about the Yechi sign. In the piece that
was retained, Rabbi Cohen argued in favour of leaving the sign because that is what the late
Yeshivah director, Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid Groner, wanted.
“There should be enough room for all of us, and no-one should feel that his emunah [faith] is
going to be somehow compromised by davvening [praying] together with another Jew who sees
things very differently,” Rabbi Cohen wrote.
Another congregant and one of the organisers of the petition, Yudi New, argued in the original
newsletter that the shul was alienating members of the Jewish community, against its own
philosophy. He called the sign a “slogan” and said there was no room for slogans in a place of
worship, adding its benefits had not been made clear.
On a more general note, New implored the centre’s leadership to welcome mature debate among
members. “Whatever course the leadership and community charters, we must concede that Yeshivah has become a shell of its former self.”
Another member, Pinchas Henenberg, also had his say before the newsletter was censored. “The
issue is not going to go away by itself – responding ‘no comment’ to the public and
instructing mispallelim [congregants] to ‘listen to your leaders and put aside your own thoughts
and concerns’ simply exacerbates the issue,” he wrote, before calling for a public members vote.
Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World
PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti (Press Release) – EL AL, Israel’s National Airline, landed in Haiti this past Thursday with dozens of medical teams and tons of emergency supplies to assist with rescue and salvage efforts. Two EL AL aircraft, a jumbo 747-400 and one 777, carried more than 80 tons of supplies along with 229 passengers consisting of medical personnel, search-and-rescue teams as well as a K9 rescue squad. The medical teams are prepared to spend at least two weeks in Haiti to care for thousands of earthquake victims. The Israel Ministry of Defense initiated this humanitarian mission.
EL AL CEO Elyezer Shkedy commented, “EL AL immediately responded to the request of the Israeli government and will do anything necessary to assist in this time of tragedy. In our view, as the national airline, it is of top national importance to help these earthquake victims.”
As the national airline of Israel, EL AL proudly and consistently provides support anywhere in the world during times of need, as evidenced by assistance to victims of Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami relief efforts in Indonesia and the rescue mission during the war between Georgia and Russia.
Preceding provided by El Al