By Donald H. Harrison
MIDDLE EAST & SAN DIEGO — Congressman Bob Filner (Democrat-San Diego), on a J-Street sponsored tour of the Middle East with other members of Congress, met on Monday with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Prime Minister Samir Rafai. A statement from the delegation reported: “The King shared with us his deep concern over the critical need to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before we cross the line beyond which a two-state resolution is no longer feasible. He expressed real concern that the region cannot stand the impact of another cycle of violence. The King reiterated Jordan’s firm commitment to the Arab Peace Initiative and urged the United States to intensify its efforts toward a comprehensive peace based on the Arab Peace Initiative and other relevant terms of reference.We expressed appreciation to the King for the constructive role that he personally and Jordan nationally have played in advancing peace and security for the region. …” …. The Zionist Organization of America, a longtime critic of the University of California at Irvine chancellor Michael Drake for what it contends is inaction in the face of on-campus Muslim student bigotry, has called upon students to not apply for enrollment at the campus and contributors not to donate any funds to UC Irvine. The statement was prompted by heckling of Israel’s Ambassador Michael Oren during an on-campus appearance. Given that Oren was received courteously at UC San Diego that same week, perhaps ZOA will launch a fundraising appeal for UCSD?? …
Congregants from Congregation Beth Israel and Temple Emanu-El participated on Monday in an interfaith day to clean up Balboa Park. Leonel Sanchez told the story in the San Diego Union-Tribune.….Dr. Michael Musicant, who sponsored a ‘happiness initiative’ when he as chief of staff at Sharp Grossmont Hospital, has died. Anne Krueger wrote the obituary in the San Diego Union-Tribune. … City Heights has been the beneficiary of numerous philanthropic donations, most notably from the Price Charities created by the late Sol Price. Now the community wonders if it is equipped to handle more largesse from philanthropies. Adrian Florido reports in the Voice of San Diego.Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World
By Donald H. Harrison
POLITICS—The Republican candidacy of former Marine Gunnery Sergeant Nick Popaditch in the 51st Congressional District has prompted incumbent Bob Filner, chairman of the House Veteran Affairs Committee, to caution supporters that “there are no safe seats.” Popaditch, who once was pictured in a tank by the infamous statue of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, lost an eye in combat and has written a book, Once a Marine, about his experiences, clearly appealing to the same veterans constituency that Filner has so assiduously cultivated. “The candidate running against me has no credentials but his photograph trumps a centerfold,” Filner declares.
LINKS TO OTHER PUBLICATIONS—Nabucco, the Verdi opera exploring the life of the biblical Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, is being produced by the San Diego Opera. With it comes considerable commentary dealing both with the opera and its subject. Here is a link to a piece by John Lydon in the San Diego Union-Tribune. …. Texas has the largest budget in the nation to purchase school books, making textbook publishers responsive to the political demands of its conservative state school board. The New York Times Magazine takes an in-depth look at what this means for education throughout the United States. … Rabbi Ben Kamin reflects on Examiner.com on the souls of the American presidents from John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama. …. Also on Examiner.com, Cynthia Citron tells of two plays at the Geffen Theatre in Los Angeles: Wrecks starring Ed Harris and Female of the Species starring Annette Bening.
Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Press Release)–Congressman Bob Filner announced his co-sponsorship of H.R. 1074, a resolution that honors the life and courageous spirit of Miep Gies, who helped sustain Anne Frank’s family while they were in hiding and preserved her diary for future generations.
“Were it not for Miep Gies, the world would never have met Anne Frank,” says Congressman Filner. “The humanitarian actions of Gies more than fifty years ago in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam have had a special and enduring impact.”
Hermine “Miep” Gies was born to a German Catholic family in Vienna, Austria, on February 15, 1909, and moved to the Netherlands when she was 11. In 1933 she took a job as an office assistant to Otto Frank, owner of an Amsterdam pectin manufacturing company and father of Anne Frank. After the Nazis invaded the Netherlands, Mr. Frank, his wife Edith, and his daughters Margot and Anne went into hiding. For two years Miep, her husband Jan Gies, and three other employees of Otto Frank, risked their lives to supply the Franks with food and other provisions.
After the Gestapo captured the Franks, Miep found the pages of Anne’s diary and hid them for safekeeping. When Otto Frank, who survived the Auschwitz concentration camp and returned to Amsterdam, learned that his daughters died of typhus at Bergen-Belsen, Miep gave Anne’s diary to Mr. Frank.
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank is one of the world’s most widely read books and serves as an inspiration to countless people. For her courage during the occupation of the Netherlands and her dedication in keeping the memories of those times alive, Miep Gies received many honors including knighthood from Germany and the Netherlands.
Preceding provided by Congressman Bob Filner
By Gary Rotto
SAN DIEGO–The tensions around the Goldstone Report ( Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict) have died down for the moment. But hard feelings still remain in the community regarding the report and the resulting resolution in Congress. Congressman Filner clearly communicated his feelings and his thinking around the resolution. He has “mishpachah” in Israel with whom he consulted. His response to SDJW questions were fair and well thought out. And may be factually based. But politics is – especially geopolitical – are based on perception.
The Jewish community reaction to the Goldstone Report may not be so much about the actual information in the report, but the visceral feeling that the United Nations seems fixated on the Middle East, and in particular, the Arab-Israeli, or Palestinian-Israel conflict.
Back on October 2, 2006, as Kofi Annan’s term as the Secretary General of the United Nations was coming to a close, Human Rights Watch reflected on the tasks ahead for his successor. While praising Annan’s dedication to human rights and the creation of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), Human Rights Watch openly criticized the HRC. “The Human Rights Council has so far stumbled because of its relative fixation on Israel, while failing to take concrete steps to address other serious human rights situations as well. It has yet to show that it is willing to take firm, collective action against intransigent governments engaged in systemic rights violations.” The article on its website goes on to say that “The incoming secretary-general must work to ensure that the Human Rights Council is both more credible and more effective than its predecessor.”
One of the giants in the world of Human Rights monitoring, Felice Gaer, severely criticized the Goldstone Report. Her career in the human rights community has included membership on the Council on Foreign Relations, serving as chair of the steering committee for the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and as a member of the Carter Center’s International Human Rights Council since 1994. As reported in the New Jersey Jewish News, Gaer called the report “a biased mandate by a biased group of people.” The biased group of people is the HRC.
Jackson Diehl, Deputy Editorial Page Editor of the Washington Post noted after the HRC’s first year that “Genocide in Sudan, child slavery and religious persecution in China, mass repression in Zimbabwe and Burma, state-sponsored murder in Syria and Russia — and, for that matter, suicide bombings by Arab terrorist movements — will not receive systematic attention from the world body charged with monitoring human rights. That is reserved only for Israel, a democratic country that has been guilty of human rights violations but also has been under sustained assault from terrorists and governments openly committed to its extinction.” In that first year, Israel and Israel alone was the only government criticized by name – and to the tune of 11 resolutions.
Freedom House, one of the preeminent “peace and democracy” institutions since 1941, in its 2009 Worst of the Worst report, which cites the World’s Most Repressive Societies, lists Burma, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
While Israel is imperfect, clearly, other nations and hot spots around the world deserve far greater attention from the HRC. Only once a track record of tackling ongoing, regimented, government sponsored human rights violations in the areas around the world, will the Jewish community will feel that a Goldstone Report maybe even handed and fair and maybe justified.
Rotto is a freelance writer based in San Diego
Filner says other Jewish members of Congress feared to vote against measure condemning Goldstone report
By Donald H. Harrison
SAN DIEGO, November 7—U.S. Rep. Bob Filner (Democrat, San Diego) who was the only Jewish member of Congress to vote against condemning the Goldstone report in a 344-36 vote of the House of Representatives last week, says that he is as pro-Israel as any of the 29 other Jewish members of Congress who voted in favor of the resolution.
In fact, he added in a telephone interview on Friday, many of the Jewish Congress members who voted in favor of the resolution privately congratulated him for “having the guts” to stand up for his beliefs. He said there is so much misinformation about what the Goldstone report actually says that other Jewish members of Congress feared to vote against the condemnation resolution.
Filner said that had there been hearings on the resolution, the public would have better understood what the Goldstone report did and didn’t say. However, said Filner, because the intent was for the House of Representatives to take a position prior to the debate on the Goldstone report by the United Nations General Assembly, the measure was rushed through.
As was expected, the General Assembly by an overwhelming vote subsequently endorsed the Goldstone Report which calls on Israel and the Palestinians to investigate possible war crimes by their forces during Operation Cast Lead, refers the matter to the U.N. Security Council for possible further action, and seeks to convene a meeting of the High Contracting Parties of the Geneva Conventions to set up a fund to compensate war victims.
Filner said that he read most of the Goldstone report as well as a letter that its author, South African Justice Richard J. Goldstone, sent to the House of Representatives disputing the accuracy of many of the clauses in the resolution.
Along with a letter jointly signed by six Israeli Human Rights Organizations –B’Tselem, Gisha, Hamoked (Center for the Defence of the Individual), Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Rabbis for Human Rights and Yesh Din (Volunteers for Human Rights)–Goldstone’s arguments persuaded him to vote against the resolution (HR 867), Filner said.
Filner added that he has cousins in Israel who are evenly divided on the impact of the Goldstone report so it is not surprising that there are similar divisions in the United States.
The congressman rejected the contention that the Goldstone commission had decided upon anti-Israel findings before it even began its inquiry. “Before he (Goldstone) took charge, the U.N. had to change the original mandate,” Filner said. Even though Israel declined to cooperate with Goldstone inquiry, the report nevertheless “came down on both sides–so I don’t understand the hostility,” he said.
If there are pro-Israel facts missing from the report, “Goldstone makes it clear: ‘how can you complain when you wouldn’t talk to us.'”
The congressman faxed to San Diego Jewish World a copy of Goldstone’s Oct. 29 letter to the resolution’s principal co-authors, Congressmembers Howard Berman (Democrat, California) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Republican-Florida), respectively the chair and ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
A “whereas” clause contending the mandate only authorized an investigation of Israel and not Hamas “ignores the fact that I and others refused this mandate… The mandate given to and accepted by me and under which we worked and reported read as follows: “…to investigate all violations of international humanitarian law that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in “Gaza from 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, whether before, during or after.”
Another “whereas” clause in the House Resolution contended that the mandate made no mention of the constant rocket fire from Gaza that had rained down on Israel for eight years prior to the attack.
Goldstone responded that “the expanded mandate clearly included the rocket and mortar attacks. Moreover, Chapter XXIV of the Report considers in detail the relentless rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel and the terror they caused to the people living within their range. The resulting findings made in the report is that these attacks constituted serious war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity.”
The House adopted its resolution prior to roll call voting in the U.N. General Assembly on the Goldstone report. The tally was 114 to endorse the report and 18 against, with 44 abstentions and 16 countries not voting.
In their speeches, many of the U.N. delegates focused on alleged Israeli misconduct and either downplayed or made no mention of violations by Palestinians.
Typical of those supporting the report was Hamidon Ali, the delegate from Malaysia, who, according to the U.N. news summary of the proceedings, said “The Goldstone Report clearly showed the brutality of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, unleashed in Gaza for more than three weeks. The Report made ‘grim reading,’ as it had pointed out that Israel’s military operation fit into a continuum of policies based on or resulting in violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Operation Cast Lead was different from previous military actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, due to its unprecedented severity and long-lasting consequences. ‘Such actions, premised on a deliberate policy of disproportionate force, aimed not at a specific enemy but at the ‘supporting infrastructure,’ meaning the civilian population in Gaza. The operation had been carefully planned and executed, meaning that all killings must have been conducted in cold blood.
“Despite the gruesome situation, Malaysia had been struck by the courage of Palestinians, he said, noting that the ‘assiduous’ work of Palestinian non-governmental and civil society organizations, which provided support to people in extreme circumstances and gave voice to the suffering, deserved to be acknowledged. Also, Malaysia had noted with interest the dissenting voices in Israel against the operation, which understood that Israel could not ‘purchase’ peace and security with the blood of suffering Palestinians. The global community had failed to act to ensure the protection of civilians in Gaza and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The Report offered two options: take action to achieve peace for Palestinians or allow illegal Israeli actions to go unpunished. Malaysia had chosen the former and urged all States to implement the Report’s recommendations.”
Aware of criticisms that the report did not address violations by Hamas–or even mention Hamas by name–some voting in the majority offered what they considered justification.
According to the U.N. press summary, “Iran’s delegate said he had voted in favour of the resolution, but there was an imbalance in placing the occupying Power that had committed crimes in Gaza on equal footing with the Palestinian side. The Report reflected only partial dimensions of the war crimes committed by Israel in Gaza. In response to the baseless allegation made by the regime that occupied the Palestinian territories, he said that regime tried to distort facts and raise irrelevant issues to evade the important dilemma it faces: the lack of legitimacy, which emanated from more than 60 years of occupying lands.”
The United States was among the 18 countries opposing the resolution. Again, according to the U.N. press report, its representative said that the U.S. was “deeply concerned by the suffering of the Palestinian and Israeli peoples. The best way to achieve a comprehensive peace in the region was two States, Palestine and Israel, living side by side. The United States was fully committed to that goal. He urged the parties to begin talks. The United States supported accountability for human rights in the Gaza Conflict in a way that respected internal processes. He said the United States believed the Goldstone Report was deeply flawed and had an unbalanced focus on Israel. It did not give appropriate responsibility to Hamas for going into heavily populated areas. The United States had real concerns about the resolution. With the far-reaching recommendations and findings, it had serious implications and it was not appropriate to endorse the Report in its entirety. The resolution’s move to press the Security Council to consider the Report was unconstructive, he said. The Council was already seized of the situation the Middle East and held monthly meetings on the topic, the only subject discussed with such frequency. The appropriate discussion for this report was the Human Rights Council. The request for the meeting of the high contracting parties was also unnecessary and unproductive. Convening a conference for the purpose of spotlighting one issue could heighten division and could set back the talks. This and the failure to mention Hamas by name was another example of handling Arab-Israeli issues in an unbalanced manner.”
Israel’s delegate noted that the U.N. General Assembly vote came “two days after the revelation of Hamas’ newly improved Iranian-made rockets, and one day after the interception of a ship with rockets destined for Israeli population centres” and that “he had just complained to the Security Council. Today’s draft resolution mocked the reality faced by democratic States like Israel that confronted terrorist threats. It endorsed a one-sided, prejudice report of the discredited Human Rights Council. Further, he said, the text disregarded Israel’s inherent right to defend it citizens and demonstrated yet another pretext to bash Israel at the United Nations. It tried to export from Geneva to New York a campaign of de-legimization. Israel had been conducting credible and thorough investigations, irrespective of any United Nations report. The Fact Finding Mission’s Report tried to draw an equivalence between Israel and those who tried to target Israeli civilians …”