JACblog! is moving. We will be housed on the new JAC website at www.jacpac.org and we hope you will follow us there.

We will continue to have this blogspot location up, but new postings will be seen on the new site. Please join us there.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Storm Ahead

Instead of trying to convince ourselves that it’s not really raining and that there are only a few clouds in the sky, we should be asking a few basic questions on the relationship between Israel and young American Jews.

In October 1994, several days after kidnapped IDF soldier Nachshon Wachsman was killed in a failed attempt to save him from his terrorist captors, I was scheduled to teach my weekly graduate seminar at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles. But given the horror of what had just transpired, I couldn’t even imagine simply teaching as planned. I no longer recall what had been scheduled for that day. But what I do remember is that I decided to scrap the usual fare and that I taught a text in memory of Wachsman.

As the seminar drew to a close, it was obviously quiet in the room. But just as the students were preparing to disperse, one looked at me and asked, “What does any of this have to do with us?”

More than 15 years later, I can still picture that moment, frozen in time. I remember exactly where she was sitting. I recall the looks of discomfort on the faces of some of the other students, but the nods of agreement with her question from others. And I remember that I had no idea what to say.

And I remember feeling unbearably lonely and wholly out of place. Lonely because it was clear that she was not the only one wondering why in the world we were thinking about Nachshon Wachsman, when my own heart was breaking, and out of place because I had no idea how to engage those students in a conversation about why he mattered to me. I didn’t know where to begin.

What I didn’t know then, of course, was that a question that seemed to me an aberration would soon become the norm.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Behind the Headlines: The Israeli humanitarian lifeline to Gaza

There is much rhetoric and rumor that Israel does not allow any aid into the Gaza Strip, repeatedly referring to an all-out embargo.  Below is what is actually going on, coordinated by the Israelis with international aid agencies including the UN and Red Cross, to ensure that there is no food shortage in Gaza.

Despite attacks by Hamas, Israel maintains an ongoing humanitarian corridor for the transfer of perishable and staple food items to Gaza. This conduit is used by internationally recognized organizations including the United Nations and the Red Cross.

Well over a million tons of humanitarian supplies entered Gaza from Israel over the last 18 months equaling nearly a ton of aid for every man, woman and child in Gaza. Millions of dollars worth of international food aid continually flows through the Israeli humanitarian apparatus, ensuring that there is no food shortage in Gaza.

Food and supplies are shipped from Israel to Gaza six days a week. These items were channeled through aid organizations or via Gaza's private sector.

Large quantities of essential food items like baby formula, wheat, meat, dairy products and other perishables are transferred daily and weekly to Gaza. Fertilizers that cannot be used to make explosives are shipped into the Strip regularly, as are potato seeds, eggs for reproduction, bees, and equipment for the flower industry.

In 2009 alone, more than 738,000 tons of food and supplies entered Gaza. Pictures in local newspapers show local markets aplenty with fruit, vegetables, cheese, spices, bread and meat to feed 1.4 million Gazans.

In the first quarter of 2010 (January-March), 94,500 tons of supplies were transferred in 3,676 trucks to the Strip: 48,000 tons of food products; 40,000 tons of wheat; 2,760 tons of rice; 1,987 tons of clothes and footwear; 553 tons of milk powder and baby food.  Read more.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Oklahoma Senate Overrides Abortion Info Veto

The Oklahoma Senate on Tuesday completed an override of Gov. Brad Henry’s veto of a controversial abortion bill.

The Senate action came after the House voted Monday to override Henry’s veto of House Bill 3284.

The measure requires women seeking abortions to provide a host of personal information that will be reported statistically on a public web site without identifying the women. The Senate vote was 33-15. The House vote was 84-13.

“It is disappointing because every veto override just triggers more lawsuits and legal bills for taxpayers,” said Paul Sund, a Henry spokesman. “Similar abortion laws passed by the Legislature were challenged and thrown out by the courts last year, and the latest versions are probably headed for the same fate.”

The GOP-controlled Legislature has now overridden three abortion bill vetoes by the Democratic governor this session.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Oklahoma: Close to Outlawing Abortion

The name Oklahoma used to mean the classic Rogers and Hammerstein musical about the legendary ranchers and farmers – the men and women who created the state with their back – breaking work and optimistic spirit. The show began with Curly singing “Oh, what a beautiful morning . . .”

That sunny, expansive vision crashed with a thud for millions of people in Oklahoma on April 27 when the legislature overrode the governor’s vetoes of two abortion measures – the most restrictive and onerous in the nation. Both laws had been passed before, in 2008, as part of an omnibus bill along with several other anti-abortion measures. But the state courts struck them down on a technicality, violation of a clause in the Oklahoma Constitution requiring bills to deal with a single subject. This time, the Republican majorities in both houses of the legislature avoided that pitfall and broke the omnibus bill into separate measures. Governor Brad Henry, a Democrat, did sign two into law: one requires clinics to post signs stating that a woman cannot be forced to have an abortion; the other makes it illegal to choose to have an abortion because of the sex of a child.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Statement by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on Iran

We acknowledge the efforts that have been made by Turkey and Brazil.  The proposal announced in Tehran must now be conveyed clearly and authoritatively to the IAEA before it can be considered by the international community. Given Iran’s repeated failure to live up to its own commitments, and the need to address fundamental issues related to Iran’s nuclear program, the United States and international community continue to have serious concerns.  While it would be a positive step for Iran to transfer low-enriched uranium off of its soil as it agreed to do last October, Iran said today that it would continue its 20% enrichment, which is a direct violation of UN Security Council resolutions and which the Iranian government originally justified by pointing to the need for fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor. Furthermore, the Joint Declaration issued in Tehran is vague about Iran’s willingness to meet with the P5+1 countries to address international concerns about its nuclear program, as it also agreed to do last October. 
The United States will continue to work with our international partners, and through the United Nations Security Council, to make it clear to the Iranian government that it must demonstrate through deeds – and not simply words – its willingness to live up to international obligations or face consequences, including sanctions. Iran must take the steps necessary to assure the international community that its nuclear program is intended exclusively for peaceful purposes, including by complying with U.N. Security Council resolutions and cooperating fully with the IAEA.  We remain committed to a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear program, as part of the P5+1 dual track approach, and will be consulting closely with our partners on these developments going forward.  

Friday, May 14, 2010

S.D. candidate urges pastors to endorse candidates

Republican gubernatorial candidate Gordon Howie on Friday urged South Dakota churches and their pastors Friday to defy federal law by endorsing candidates.

By law, churches that endorse or oppose candidates or parties risk losing their tax-exempt status.
Howie, a state senator from Rapid City, said he believes the 50-year-old tax law is an unconstitutional violation of freedom of speech.

"Pastors have a constitutional right to speak freely. When you look at our history, you see the people who led the charge for independence, the people who led the charge in civil rights, those were spiritual leaders, those were pastors," Howie said.

Howie faces four other candidates in the June 8 primary to determine the Republican Party's candidate for governor in the fall election.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cross at Center of Legal Dispute Disappears

A seven-foot-tall Latin cross in the middle of both the Mojave Desert and a Supreme Court case on the separation of church and state has been stolen, federal officials said Tuesday.

The cross, made of metal tubing reinforced with concrete and bolted to a base on a rock, about 200 miles east of here, was discovered missing Monday.

A large plywood box had covered the top of the cross for several years, making it look like a big wooden lollipop, while a lawsuit over whether a religious symbol could stand on public land made its way through the courts. That box disappeared Saturday, said Linda Slater, a spokeswoman for the Mojave National Preserve, where the cross is, or was, located.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Does the National Day of Prayer Violate Church-State Separation?

Today, in cities across the country, public events will mark the National Day of Prayer 2010.

There is no problem when Americans -- including public officials -- gather to pray. In fact, for people of faith, every day should be a day of prayer. Questions properly arise, however, when the government, by an official act of Congress, urges citizens to engage in a religious exercise.

As citizens, Americans share a long history and proud tradition of religious liberty. As individuals with diverse beliefs, however, Americans do not share a common religion or participate in the same religious practices. A day of prayer might be appropriately encouraged by our country's various religious leaders -- but it should not be called for by civil magistrates, Congress, or even the president.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

White House charm offensive pays off: Wiesel says tension is ‘gone’

When Elie Wiesel says it's all kosher, it's good.
For now, anyway.
President Obama capped an intensive two weeks of administration make-nice with Israeli officials and the American Jewish community by hosting Wiesel, the Nobel peace laureate and Holocaust memoirist, for lunch at the White House.
"It was a good kosher lunch," was the first thing Wiesel pronounced, emerging from the White House to a gaggle of reporters.
And not just the food.
"There were moments of tension,” Wiesel said. “But the tension I think is gone, which is good.”
That echoed Ehud Barak, the Israeli defense minister, who a few days earlier told leaders of the American Jewish Committee that the "slight disagreements are behind us."

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

New Okla. anti-abortion law temporarily blocked

Oklahoma's attorney general agreed Monday to temporarily block enforcement of a controversial new state law that requires pregnant women to get an ultrasound and hear a detailed description of the fetus before they get an abortion.
The Center for Reproductive Rights was set to argue for a temporary restraining order Monday, but attorneys for both sides agreed to accept the order before the court hearing, Oklahoma County District Judge Noma Gurich said. She signed the order Monday afternoon.