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Commentary: Inappropriate for U.S. State Department to send Muslim cleric to Arab countries

August 11, 2010 1 comment

By Shoshana Bryen

Shoshana Bryen

WASHINGTON, D.C. –The State Department has confirmed that Feisal Abdul Rauf – who wants to be the imam of a mosque at Ground Zero – is taking a State Department funded trip to the Middle East to foster “greater understanding” about Islam and Muslim communities in the United States.

“He is a distinguished Muslim cleric,” said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley. “I think we are in the process of arranging for him to travel as part of this program, and it is to foster a greater understanding about the region around the world among Muslim-majority communities.” Rauf is reportedly going to Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Qatar.
 
What a load of hooey.
 
We know a lot of rabbis, some ministers and a few priests. We would be appalled to have the government of the United States, which by law favors no religion, sending a rabbi to Israel – or the former Soviet Union or France or Argentina, where there are communities of Jews – to talk about how Jews live in the United States. Having a priest travel to the Vatican, Honduras, Ireland or the Philippines to describe the lives of American Catholics would be outrageous. Likewise, ministers to Sweden.
 
What business is it of the American government to send a Muslim to Muslim-majority countries to talk about Islam? How offensive is it to think that the American government is using American tax dollars to fly a non-government person around the world to promote the activities and lifestyle of a particular religion? Better to send a non-Muslim American government official to talk about American religious freedom, cultural diversity and the virtues of the secular, democratic state. 
 
To the speculation that Rauf will engage in fund raising for the proposed mosque at Ground Zero, Mr. Crowley said, “That would not be something he could do as part of our program,” he said. 
 
We’re so relieved. And we’re so sure he will do only as the American government desires.
 
But Debra Burlingame, a 9/11 family member told The New York Post, “‘We know he has a fund-raising association with Saudi Arabia,’ … noting that the Saudis have contributed money to underwrite programs by the American Society for Muslim Advancement, a not-for-profit that Abdul Rauf runs with his wife and that is one of the sponsors of the Ground Zero mosque. ‘He’s going to the well, and how can they say they do or don’t know what he’s doing?'”
 
To be entirely clear, JINSA believes Ground Zero is a battlefield cemetery – the site of a battle for the liberal democratic state. We oppose the building of a Muslim sectarian monument there because regardless of what its supporters say, it will be widely understood in the Muslim world as a battlefield monument in the name of Islam. 
 
Does the State Department really think Rauf (who said in English that the United States bears responsibility for 9-11) will tell the Saudis, Bahrainis and Qataris that he is building a monument to cultural understanding, interfaith relations and peace in New York because America is a good, safe and decent place for Muslims as long as they understand the secular, democratic nature of the United States? And that he doesn’t want their money because Americans will fund the mosque?
 
And how will the State Department know?

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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.

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Arab League backs direct talks between Palestinians and Israel

July 30, 2010 Leave a comment

CAIRO (WJC)–In a surprise decision the foreign ministers of the Arab League on Thursday authorized the Palestinian Authority to enter into direct negotiations with Israel, but left it up to President Mahmoud Abbas to decide on the timing. The Israeli government welcomed the decision, taken at a meeting in Cairo, with Prime Minister Netanyahu issuing a statement saying he was “prepared to begin direct and honest discussions with the Palestinian Authority in the coming days.”

The US, which has been urging Abbas to switch from the current “proximity” talks to direct talks, also praised the move, and said it would seek to convene the direct talks “as soon as possible.” Netanyahu added that it would be possible through direct negotiations to soon reach an accord “between the two peoples.”

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, currently in Washington, also welcome the Arab League’s decision, saying that only direct negotiations would lead to two states for two peoples. He added that the negotiations would require “difficult and courageous” decisions from both sides, and that he hoped the Palestinians “also realize that.”

The foreign minister of Qatar, Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, said his counterparts in the Arab League had decided to send a letter to US President Barack Obama explaining the Arab position on the peace process in the Middle East.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.

Glick warns that Iran believes creating nuclear force its religious duty

July 23, 2010 1 comment

By Norman Greene

Norman Greene

LA JOLLA, California — No matter what else is discussed, “Iran is the main issue in the Middle East…everything else is irrelevant,” stated Caroline Glick, Deputy Managing Editor of the Jerusalem Post before an audience of over 500 gathered at Congregation Beth El by the San Diego Chapter of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces.

Can a nuclear Iran be contained? “Absolutely not,” she stated because “we are dealing with a death cult” that fervently believes in a life beyond this one where Islam will rule. All Iran’s nuclear efforts are “to advance Iran’s messianic quest.” There is no parallel with the history of U.S./Russia’s nuclear competition or standoff, because the Soviet Union believed in nothing…no hereafter.

Glick, born in Chicago, received her B.A. from Columbia, her Masters from Harvard, made Aliyah in 1991 and served in the IDF for five years before embarking on a many faceted career that has seen her as an adviser to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, a member of the team negotiating with Yasser Arafat’s PLO, a Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C. and currently the lead columnist for Israel’s Makor Rishon newspaper, as well as her current Jerusalem Post position. She is a frequent speaker and TV commentator, as well as an author and syndicated columnist.

Her San Diego presentation Tuesday evening, July 20,  was both rapid fire, detailed and impassioned.

Glick reported three consequences of a nuclear Iran: Middle East de-stabilization, a political realignment of Middle East nations and a Middle East nuclear arms race (Turkey, Syria, Egypt, Jordan) that she stated had already begun. As a result, “Egypt and Jordan will abrogate their peace treaties with Israel. Fatah, which has no authority to make peace, will abandon any efforts. All of the U.S. Persian Gulf Sunni allies (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain) will move away from the U.S.”

In discussing sanctions against Iran, which she says has dominated U.S. discourse, Glick stated that they have been on the table since early 2000 and that “none will have the slightest effect on Iran’s nuclear program. Even if 70 million Iranians have to starve, the regime doesn’t care.”

As far as “regime change” is concerned, Glick says there is no chance of that happening in the foreseeable future. Still she feels: “It is good to keep the regime busy with the opposition, no matter the moral quality of that opposition.”

Drawing a bleak picture, Glick was very clear that “the only way to stop Iran’s nuclear program is the use of military force. She reiterated that “seven years have been wasted by feckless politicians without the guts to take action.” There has been a complete failure of U.S. policy beginning with the last two years of George Bush’s presidency (“when he seemingly lost his will”) and continuing with Barack Obama’s first year of appeasement efforts that have totally failed, said the Chicago native.

The U.S., she said, “has fallen asleep on its watch – a terrible thing.”

An attack on Iran’s nuclear capabilities “would not be to protect Israel” she bluntly stated. It is in the fundamental interest of the U.S. to protect the flow of Middle East oil. While noting that the U.S. military has the power, she stated that a U.S. attack on Iran was “not going to happen” even though the U.S. needs to project its power in the Middle East. She noted that Israel hasn’t attacked because of U.S. pressure.

 
Referring to anti-missile systems development, she said that such programs do not constitute a viable program. They are ” a failure of imagination” in the face of a threat to world security. She noted that Iran’s satellite launching long-range missiles endanger not only Israel, but also Europe and all other Arab nations.

Glick discussed Israel’s role in the equation and stated that Israel, which was founded to prevent another Holocaust, has the capacity to destroy Iran’s nuclear program, but is hampered by the U.S. threat to withhold re-supplying Israel should an attack occur. “Obama has not given Israel any assurances to resupply if war were to happen.”

As such, Glick was extremely critical of the Obama administration. Quoting Winston Churchill: “The U.S. always does the right thing after exhausting every other possibility,” Glick exhorted her audience to show their support for Israel and the Free World by contacting all their representatives and political candidates to openly stand behind Israel against Iran. The U.S.’s lack of meaningful action she attributed to the backlash against Bush’s Iraq war.

Glick warned that Israel has been “carrying the rest of the world for quite a while now and there is fatigue, a fear of making mistakes, the wearing effects of the condemnation of the rest of the world.” She said the distortions of Jew-hating groups attempting to delegitimize and isolate Israel is real and paralyzing. “There is need to hear the voices of reason in the U.S..”

Glick worries about the loss of young Jews in the Diaspora, which she blames on the emphasis in Jewish education since the 90’s on the Holocaust at the expense of teaching Zionism. “The Holocaust is a German story, not a Jewish Story,” Glick stated. ” It focuses on the Jews as victims, not as actors who are ‘doing’ things.”

“To be a Jew, you have to do something – to build and to ‘do’–instead of holding a whiny discourse” Glick stated. “If you are damned if you do or don’t, it’s far better to ‘do’ ” she added.

Glick was welcome to the podium by Julian Josephson, San Diego chair of the Friends of IDF, Executive Director Nir Ben Zvi and Charles Wax who made the formal guest speaker introduction. A brief IDF film showed that since the organization was founded in 1981, it has provided support for Israeli soldiers, veterans and their families through scholarships, recreation facilities as well as social welfare, spiritual and bereavement programs. The message delivered is that “soldiers know they have strong backing from Friends of the IDF worldwide.”

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Greene is a freelance writer based in San Diego

Roll call on Gaza flotilla portrays the values of international community

June 4, 2010 Leave a comment

By Shoshana Bryen

Shoshana Bryen

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Israel was victimized twice this week, first by terrorists hiding yet again among the civilian population (one Turkish-sponsored jihadi boat traveling with five more-or-less civilian boats) and second by a world all too ready to blame Israel for the violence engendered by those who sought a bloody death for themselves and any Jews they could take along. By the end of the week, things began to look more normal-those who are already against remained against; those who try to split the difference split it (consider the “abstain” list below); and a few stood honorably above the rest.   

1) Italy, Netherlands and the United States voted against resolution A/HRC/14/L.1, “Grave Attacks by Israeli Forces against the Humanitarian Boat Convoy” in the UN “Human Rights” Council. It is of note that the major Italian newspapers supported Israel editorially as well. In the United States, public opinion ran strongly in Israel’s favor, as usual. 
 
After a nasty and public denunciation of Israel by President Sarkozy and Foreign Minister Kouchner, France abstained, probably reminded that in 1985 French commandos sunk a Greenpeace ship in what was called Opération Satanique. (You know what a threat those satanic environmentalists pose to Paris.) France was joined by Belgium, Burkina Faso, Hungary, Japan, Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Ukraine and UK.
 
Voting in favor of the commission whose conclusion is in its title were Angola, Argentina, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Chile, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Mauritius, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Slovenia, South Africa, and Uruguay. 
 
Surprised?
 
2) President Obama: He almost got it right in a TV interview, but missed the essential point. “You’ve got a situation in which Israel has legitimate security concerns when they’ve got missiles raining down on cities along the Israel-Gaza border. I’ve been to those towns and seen the holes that were made by missiles coming through people’s bedrooms. Israel has a legitimate concern there.  On the other hand, you’ve got a blockage up that is preventing people in Palestinian Gaza from having job opportunities and being able to create businesses and engage in trade and have opportunity for the future.”
 
The President doesn’t know, or didn’t say, that Hamas is responsible both for the attacks on Israel and for the misery of the Palestinians in Gaza. Instead, he wanted to “work with all parties concerned-the Palestinian Authority, the Israelis, the Egyptians and others-and I think Turkey can have a positive voice in this whole process once we’ve worked through this tragedy. And bring everybody together…”
 
Aside from the fact that Turkey is fully complicit in the incident and thus should forfeit any seat at any future table, the Palestinian Authority has not represented Gaza Palestinians since Hamas evicted it in a bloody putsch in 2007. Instead of hoping to “bring everybody together…” the President should be working to evict Hamas from Gaza, for the sake of the Palestinians as much as anyone else.
 
3) The Czech Republic: Small countries that know what it means to disappear when others find them inconvenient stick together and we are grateful that they do. The President of the Czech Senate, Dr. Přemysl Sobotka, told Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, “As a doctor, I certainly regret any loss of life, but there is no doubt that this was a planned provocation designed to drag Israel into a trap… Many in the European community feel as I do, but they are afraid to speak out publicly… I support the position that views Hamas as a terrorist organization… It is too bad that European countries present an unbalanced position on this matter. Unfortunately, the positions of the international community are not always to my taste, particularly in Europe.”
 
We are reminded that 18 months ago, the Czech foreign minister issued this statement: “I consider it unacceptable that villages in which civilians live have been shelled. Therefore, Israel has an inalienable right to defend itself against such attacks. The shelling from the Hamas side makes it impossible to consider this organization as a partner for negotiations and to lead any political dialogue with it.”
 
And finally…
 
4) Mesheberach: During the Jewish Sabbath service, there is a prayer is for those who are ill or injured.   The “Mesheberach” includes the name of the person for whom the prayer is offered and, in an unusual practice, the name of the person’s mother rather than his or her father. Whether in the synagogue or not, we hope readers will remember the six soldiers injured while protecting the people of Israel:

Dean Ben (son of) Svetlana
Roee Ben (son of) Shulamit
Daniel Lazar Ben (son of) Tina Leah
Yotam Ben (son of) Dorit
Ido Ben (son of) Ilana
Boris Ben (son of) Eelaina

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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.

Napolitano meets with Arab ministers on aviation security

June 1, 2010 Leave a comment

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (Press Release)—Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano on Tuesday visited Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), at the invitation of UAE Minister of the Economy Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansouri, to meet with her counterparts from the Middle East region and officials from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to discuss ways to bolster global aviation security.

“The attempted terrorist attack on Dec. 25 demonstrated that international terrorist threats must be countered with a coordinated, global response,” said Secretary Napolitano. “My meetings today with partners from nations throughout the Middle East underscore our shared commitment to strengthening global aviation security to better protect the traveling public.”

In Abu Dhabi, Secretary Napolitano addressed UAE ministers and representatives from numerous Middle Eastern countries who attended the conference, including Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen, and met with officials from ICAO—stressing the need for collaborative international action to prevent terrorists from boarding commercial aircraft.

Secretary Napolitano underscored the Obama administration’s commitment to strengthening information sharing with international partners about terrorists and other dangerous individuals and emphasized the need for enhanced cooperation on technological development and deployment; stronger aviation security measures and standards; and coordinated international technical assistance.

This meeting marked the fifth in a series of major international summits—coordinated with ICAO—intended to build consensus around the world to strengthen global aviation security.  These meetings have resulted in joint declarations on aviation security with partners in Africa, the Asia/Pacific region, the Western Hemisphere, and Europe. 

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Preceding provided by U.S. Department of Homeland Security

While the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) does not conduct screening at foreign airports, Secretary Napolitano is committed to strengthening coordination with international partners to implement stronger and more effective measures to protect the integrity of the global aviation network. Since April, TSA has utilized new enhanced threat and risk-based security protocols—tailored to reflect the most current information available to the U.S. government—for all air carriers with international flights to the United States to strengthen the safety and security of all passengers.

A vision in a California olive grove of Mideast peace

May 16, 2010 1 comment
 

Clockwise from left: Oren Blonder of the Peres Peace Center; Thom Curry of Temecula OliveOil Company, Bonnie Stewart of the Hansen Institute for World Peace; Catherine Demuth-Pepe of the Temecula Olive Oil Company and Sam N. Husseini of the Palestinian consulting company Lion Heart confer in groves in Aguanga.

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

AGUANGA, California—The olive groves in this rural Riverside County community about 20 miles east of Temecula may become one of the growing grounds for Middle Eastern peace if Israeli, Palestinian and American visionaries are successful in promulgating the idea that entrepreneurship and business cooperation between the Middle Eastern neighbors can lead to enduring peaceful relations.

Two entrepreneurial families who own the Temecula Olive Oil Company recently hosted a delegation from San Diego State University’s College of Business Administration; the private Fred J. Hansen Foundation which has provided some funding for the project; and the Peres Peace Center in Israel.  The two-man delegation from the Middle East included Sam N.  Husseini, a Palestinian entrepreneur, and Oren Blonder, an Israeli staff member at the Peres Peace Center who oversees cooperative agricultural projects between Israelis and Palestinians.

Sanford Ehrlich, who heads the Entrepreneurial Management Center within SDSU’s College of Business Administration, and Bonnie Stewart, executive director of the Fred J. Hansen Institute for World Peace, which has become part of that center, have been working for years with the Peres Peace Center and the Palestinian Center for Research and Development to foster a new Palestinian-Israeli industry that would blend olives from both areas into a single peace product.  They call their multinational organization “Entrepreneurs for Peace.”

The organization plans to award 20 scholarships for Middle Eastern MBA students, agribusiness graduate students and young entrepreneurs – 10 from Israel and 10 from the Palestinian areas – to study together August 13-22 at a special institute sponsored by San Diego State University.  While class work will occur on the SDSU campus, at least one of the field trips will be to the Temecula Olive Oil company’s 26-acre farm here and to that company’s retail store in Old Town Temecula or in Old Town San Diego. Application forms now are online at http://emc.sdsu.edu.

The Temecula Olive Oil Company is a partnership of two married couples: Thom and Nancy Curry, and Catherine Demuth-Pepe and Ernie Pepe.  Thom Curry, who oversees the agricultural aspects of the company, serves on the California Olive Oil Council and is one of the judges on that body’s panel giving awards for the oil’s taste.  But besides as a food ingredient, olive oil and its byproducts have many other uses that can quicken the heart of an entrepreneur.

“We produce olive oils the way they have done it for thousands of years,” Thom Curry told the visitors on Friday, May 7.  “The olives are ground into a paste with seeds and everything.  It goes into a mixer, where it is mixed up a little bit, and then it goes into a centrifuge.  It spins about 5,000 revolutions per minute (rpm) and that spins the solids out.  Then you separate the oil from the water when you spin it at 8,000 rpm.  You can do all that continuously and you get oil out the other end, a very efficient process.”

Curry said that the Temecula Olive Oil Company’s operation differs from those occurring over the last several thousand years in that it manufactured its own olive press out of stainless steel, rather than stone. Stainless steel doesn’t absorb oil, and can be easily cleaned.  Thus a problem affecting other presses is eliminated: the tendency for the absorbed oil to turn rancid and to spoil the taste of the newly pressed olive oil.

During the tour and over a lunch of pizza, which guests garnished with different flavors of Temecula Olive Oils  including garlic, citrus and an herbal flavored Rotture di Oro, Curry engaged his guests in a discussion about what else can be done with the oil, water, and solids from pits.

Husseini mentioned that he has seen machines that compress the pits and other solid materials from the olive oil pressing into logs “that burn for hours.”   Blonder said he has witnessed operations in which the byproducts are dried out in a furnace and used for cattle feed.  “It is a pretty neat process, but it is expensive.  The machinery that is involved is a big investment.”

Curry said that water and oil can be separated from the olive oil paste.  “We use the oil for bio-diesel; we run our tractors and I run my truck on it.  The water we get is rather acidic—and there has been some research done on this in Italy and some at UC Davis – where if you spray it in the vineyards, it will act as a weed killer.  It also solidifies the soil a little bit and it increases your yields in the vineyard.   But you have to rotate though; you can’t constantly spray in the same place all the time.”

Husseini said that the olive oil coming from the northern portion of the Palestinian area, near Jenin, are said to contain the highest ratio of anti-oxidants of any fruit or vegetable.

Dr. Gail K. Naughton, a cellular biologist who serves as dean of the SDSU’s College of Business Administration, commented that olive water imbued with anti-oxidants can be sold in the anti-aging market to combat wrinkles.

Naugton, who was the founder of Advanced Tissue Sciences and inventor of some of its products, including skin grown in a test tube for burn victims, noted that a small bottle of anti-wrinkling oil sells for between $25 and $30 at stores. 

Curry said that olive water represents only a tiny portion of byproducts – perhaps 2 percent.  “We were actually talking with someone about this, and one of the ways to affect that (and increase the yield of olive water)  is if you pit the olives before you crush them, you won’t have pits being extracted into that water…. We have looked into buying the pitter.”   However, one of the problems is that when crushed without pits, “everything squirts out – the pits give it more texture.”

Naughton said the anti-oxidant content of olive water can be easily tested by laboratories, adding that the development of the byproduct into an anti-aging cream developed after people noticed that olive workers in Spain, who should look very weathered, somehow managed to have smooth skin.  “They were washing with the water,” she said.  Today, “you can see the little tiny bottles of it on-line.”

Catherine Demeth-Pepe, who oversees Temecula Olive Oil Company’s retail outlets, said, “we do have some ladies who come in for our citrus oil and they use it as a body oil.  We sell it for $17.99 for a large-sized bottle.  You can’t go to Estée Lauder for that!”

One of the women in the group laughingly shook some of the citrus olive oil that had been served with the pizza onto her hand and spread it onto her arms.  “Ooooh, wonderful!” she exclaimed, prompting general merriment.

Curry said that another possible use for olive oil is ice cream, explaining “ice cream is an emulsification product so you need the fat.  Even using the traditional olive oil, you can make ice cream out of that – with sea salt.”

And, commented, another guest, “It has no cholesterol.”

“Actually,” said Curry, “a lot of studies show that it can lower your bad cholesterol and raise the good cholesterol.”

Marvin Spira, a consultant to food industries and to SDSU, pantomimed drinking an  entire bottle of the olive oil to bring his cholesterol down.

Ehrlich said that he had been in Israel last summer and “I was sitting next to a biochemist who says that he takes two tablespoons of olive oil a day, and his cholesterol is at a theoretical zero. …  He said he puts it on his yogurt in the morning.”

The afternoon of brainstorming about possible entrepreneurial products illustrated the excitement that can be generated among creative people with common interests, even those who come from countries that are traditionally adversaries or even enemies.

Husseini acknowledged in an interview with San Diego Jewish World that the Husseinis are one of the well-known extended families who have played a part in Jerusalem history for centuries.  However, he cautioned, just because someone is named Husseini does not mean he is closely related to other Husseinis.  “It’s like the name ‘Cohen’,” among Jews, he explained.  While Cohens may trace their family branches to a common root, they do not automatically consider each other cousins.

Husseini said he is proud that his own family has a reputation for humanitarianism.  He said his father, Dr. Najah Husseini,  retired a few years ago as an orthopedic surgeon with Hadassah Hospital.  “He was a very prominent doctor there, very kind to his patients.  He loves his work, and even today, though he is retired from the hospital, he works a lot over the West Bank.  And, he added, “my mother is a genius: she builds houses.”

Husseini asked me, “Did you ever see the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding?   That is my family.  Everybody tells each other what to do, interferes with each other’s business, and I love that!”

In his own career, Husseini, 38, created Ivycon International, an Italian company specializing in software solutions, especially for high performance automobiles.   He subsequently was invited by USAID in Jerusalem to become a fellow of the Aspen Institute and the first meeting he attended, in Jordan, was eye opening.

At that meeting, “Palestinians, Israelis, Saudis, Lebanese, Syrians, Jordanians, Kuwaitis, Qataris, and other people from the Middle East came together.  These were not politicians, they were CEOs, general managers and directors of big organizations, and we came together and we talked about leadership.  They gave you a bunch of essays to read and then you have to discuss them as a group.  It was one of the most profound experiences that I have ever gone through.  Initially believing that as a Palestinian I was the odd man out, I found out that the Israelis also believe everyone hates them, and so do the Lebanese, and the Saudis.  So there was this leadership in the room and we got that  monkey on the table and we discussed it, and we realized that each of us is weak as one entity but we are very strong when we are united.  So the Aspen Institute changed my life by making me think outside the box more than I was doing.”

The Aspen Institute urges its participants to try to change the world for the better, not in a small way, but in a major way.   “They don’t demand it, but you feel an obligation to be part of this elite group to do so.   So I went back to Jerusalem and I am thinking to myself what can I do to really have an impact?  And I thought to myself, I can do something on the Palestinian side myself, but wouldn’t it be better to do a joint project?  So I go to the Peres Center – the Peres Center didn’t come to me – and I meet Oren there and I explain to him my vision of what I would like to do, and it seems that I hit it right on the nail because that is what they wanted to do.”

However, Husseini had been thinking along the lines of joint projects for water recycling, or bio-diesel generation from algae, whereas Blonder was pushing the concept of encouraging entrepreneurship, explaining “Sam, this project is to generate companies and creating employment.”

Agreeing with the concept, Husseini formed the  Lion Heart consulting company in Jerusalem as a vehicle for this work.

With relations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel so tense—particularly as the proximity talks are occurring under U.S. sponsorship—does Husseini ever worry about his safety as he promotes regional cooperation?

He responded:  “My wife told me, ‘Sam, I don’t want you to get involved with politics.’  I said, ‘I am not.  I am involved with leadership.’ She says, ‘you are involved with the Peres Center and that is a political entity.’   I will be very frank with you. There is a part of me that is worried.  Yes there is.  But I am also worried that nobody does something and that worries me even more. So I am inspired by the Aspen Institute to do something and I want to do something.  I really want to do something.  I am worried because of the Peres Center affiliation but my joy is overcoming my fear.”

And whereas Husseini cooperates with the Peres Center—in reaching out to other Palestinians—he does not always agree with the Peres Center’s philosophy. 

“Israelis and Palestinians are not different,” he said.  “The same characteristics  good and bad that exist with Israelis exist with the Palestinians.  Me and my friend Oren (Blonder), we argue all the time, and we argue how to solve the situation.  We argue on a positive note.  He believes that we should have a two-state solution and I really highly respect that. My opinion is that we should have a one-state solution.  I just cannot believe that we can divide the people up, the sons of Abraham. We have so much in common and we have one piece of land that is so tiny.  I just don’t believe we can divide it up. … The country is so tiny and I just believe we need to be united.  It is a crazy dream and I am going to try to live everyday with this dream until something happens.”

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Harrison is editor of

San Diego Jewish World
 

 

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