Archive for June, 2011

Moishe House: An Exciting New Weapon In the Battle To Keep Young Jews Within The Tribe

June 23, 2011 Comments off

JTA reports about a relatively new program called Moishe House which
subsidizes rent for Jewish young people in return for them living together and holding a couple of Jewish events each month.

“Moishe House is a national organization that provides rent subsidies and a programming budget for groups of three to five Jews in their 20s who agree to live in downtown neighborhoods with large numbers of 20-something Jews. They must turn their home into a hub of regularly scheduled Jewish activities for their peers.”

Events can include things like Shabbos dinner, readings, or even yoga. All of the housing is in urban areas. The idea is to create new neighborhoods with a Jewish flavor and make it attractive for young Jews to stay in their mostly mid-size home cities like St. Louis or Detroit which are losing young Jews. Moishe Houses were originally funded by private foundations, but are increasingly involving local Federations.

In many ways, this is a new twist on Mordecai Kaplan’s Civilizational Judaism, and it seems like a wonderfully creative and innovative way to retain and reinforce Jewish identity. The best thing is, it seems to be working.

The full article can be read here:

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Categories: Israel

Breaking News: Salam Fayyed Says He Is Going To Remain As Palestinian Prime Minister

June 22, 2011 Comments off
Salam Fayyad - World Economic Forum Annual Mee...

Image by World Economic Forum via Flickr

Bloomberg News has reported that Salam Fayyad plans to remain as Palestinian Prime Minister.  The significance of this is that Hamas has previously stated that Fayyad is unacceptable, so if this holds up it almost certainly means that the unification deal between Hamas and Fatah will fall apart (as has happened before – and therefore was predicted by many).  Fayyad is very well liked and respected in the West because he has a PhD in Economics from the University of Texas, he has cleaned up a tremendous amount of corruption, he has administered the country such that the current economic growth rate is claimed to be about 7%, and finally, his Palestinian police force has worked so well with US General Dayton and the IDF that many checkpoints were able to be eliminated.

Come to think of it – those are probably the same reasons that Hamas rejected him.

From the Bloomberg report:

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said he will resist pressure to resign and aims to continue in office while the rival Hamas and Fatah factions try to form a joint government.

Fayyad, speaking to reporters today in the West Bank city of Ramallah, said he wants to at least complete his two-year plan to build the institutions for Palestinian statehood that are supposed to be ready in August.

Is The Campaign To Delegitimize Global Warming Really About Melting The Polar Icecaps To Be Able To Drill For Oil?

June 21, 2011 Comments off
Photo credit: dsearls via Flickr/CC BY

For several years, I have been trying to figure out why there has been such a vigorous campaign by the right-wing to discredit Global Warming.  Well, today I found out why.  An Alternet posting on June 7 by Rania Khalek outlined five critical nuggets of information gleaned from the Wikileaks documents that have significant global implications – but which the Main Stream Media have virtually ignored.  The most eye opening for me was evidence that there are potentially some very lucrative side effects to global warming1) The opening up of a tremendous amount of oil and gas resources that are currently unexploitable because they lie beneath the Arctic ice cap, and 2) the very real possibility of having an actual “Northwest Passage” – allowing shipping to move from Europe and Asia to North America over the poles – open up to twelve months per year.  Other reports have indicated that these polar routes may become navigable for a few months as early as next year!

The Alternet report states the following:

WikiLeaks, with impeccable timing, published a new trove of cables highlighting a race to carve up the Arctic for resource exploitation. Nations battling to poison the arctic with oil drilling include Canada, the US, Russia, Norway, Denmark, and perhaps even China, which all have competing claims to the Arctic.  The leaks illustrate a frightening reality, where world leaders are greedily awaiting the opportunity to exploit the oil and natural gas that lie beneath the melting Arctic ice, even arming themselves for possible resource wars…A 2009 cable suggests US paranoia about Russia: ‘Behind Russia’s policy are two potential benefits accruing from global warming, the prospect for an [even seasonally] ice-free shipping route from Europe to Asia, and the estimated oil and gas wealth hidden beneath the Arctic sea floor.'”

The full article can be found here:

Related articles

More Evidence That Obama Support Among Jewish Dems Is Holding Up

June 21, 2011 Comments off

As indicated shortly after President Obama’s and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speeches, the Republican spin that Obama’s Jewish support from major donors was in free fall, it appears that those rumors were wishful thinking.  While there is no doubt that there will be some high-profile defections, the majority of support will most likely stay in place.  I wish that I could say that it was because American Jews are willing to pay attention to the facts of both this Administration’s relations with Israel and Obama’s positions, but presumably the most important reason is:  Who Else Are They Going To Support?

Anyhow, today in Ben Smith’s Politico blog, he published the following:

Official: Good turnout for pro-Israel fundraiser

President Obama is headed tonight to a top-dollar fundraiser aimed at the Jewish community, and despite recent angst over Israel, the mega-donors seem to be coming through for the dinner whose official theme is “in support of a strong US-Israel Relationship.”

A Democratic Party official said 80 people are expected at the dinner, for which tickets range from $25,000 to $38,500 $35,800. The official said the event is 50% “over goal.”

DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz will aslo appear at the event at the Mandarin Oriental in Washington, D.C.

Categories: Israel

Tomdispatch Presents A Compelling Essay by Lt.Col.(Ret) William Astore About “The Militarization of America”

June 21, 2011 Comments off

TomDispatch, Tom Engelhart’s excellent blog of critical analysis of America’s global political and military activities, published Lt.Col. Astore’s essay which contrasts the founding principles of the United States – the Constitution, the Founding Fathers, and their concerns about the allure of military power – with the casual acceptance of military thinking within the political context in our current society.  His points can be summarized by the following passage:

It’s both sensible and logical to argue that our president and elected representatives must serve as a check on the military establishment, rather than issuing blank checks to them. It’s both sensible and logical to argue that all wars, as required by the Constitution, must have a Congressional declaration before American troops and treasure are committed. It’s both sensible and logical to argue that, as good as our military is, it ultimately can’t win someone else’s civil war (Iraq) or nation-build in a place where the concept of “nation” is little more than notional (Afghanistan).

Sensible and logical, yes, but such arguments have been made — and roundly ignored. They aren’t given the time of day among serious policy types in Washington, where to question the efficacy and legitimacy of the forces and tactics being used is simply not acceptable. Sharing one brain and one ethos means being incapable of grasping one’s own militarized rigidity or truly recognizing the perils that have been unleashed on this nation.”  [Emphasis added]

Obviously, this concept of the unacceptability of questions permeates American politics – on both sides of the aisle.  One’s opponents’ ideas not only aren’t worth the time of day – but they must be shouted down.  That in itself says something very telling about one’s own ideas.  If your ideas are good, you should not only allow them to be questioned – you should encourage the toughest of questions.  The conclusion has to be that those who fear opposing ideas, must have little faith in their own

Sadly, this concept can also be applied to most of the Major American Jewish Organizations who vehemently oppose debate when it comes to the topic of Israel.   The argument is that disagreements will give fuel to the enemies of Israel.  Undoubtedly, there is some truth that opponents of Israel will try to use whatever they can to delegitimize Israel.  But, there is a larger, more dangerous, truth:  lack of debate leads to bad (and in the case of Israel, perhaps fatal) decisions.

The Militarization of America: How the Military Mindset Is Permeating Our Political Culture and Society | | AlterNet.

More Disturbing Mid-East News: New Hezbollah-Majority Cabinet Approved In Lebanon

June 14, 2011 2 comments
-/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Druze Protests from NYT via Reuters

New York Times via Reuters has just reported that after five months a new cabinet has been proposed in Lebanon.  Not only does it contain a majority of Hezbollah ministers, but also contains more Sunnis than Shiites.  In a related development, Druze minister Talal Arslan, who was nominated to be Minister of State, resigned the government – leading to street protests by local Druze.

To get an idea of what is likely to come out of this government, Prime Minister Najib Mikati made the following statement:

“Let us go to work immediately according to the principles … (of) defending Lebanon’s sovereignty and its independence and liberating land that remains under the occupation of the Israeli enemy.”

If that weren’t scary enough, he also openly supports President Assad in Syria.

Critical Meeting Between Fatah and Hamas Tomorrow re: Unification Government

June 14, 2011 2 comments

According to previous reports, Hamas has rejected Fatah‘s nomination of Salam Fayyad as the Prime Minister of the unified government.  His selection would almost certainly be viewed favorably by both Israel and the United States.  Whether Hamas can be convinced otherwise may be decided tomorrow.

According to the Palestinian News Network:

Dr Mahmoud al Zahar, member of the political office of Hamas, told newspapers on Monday that the Hamas-Fatah meeting in Cairo on Tuesday will tackle all unsolved issues.

It will be interesting to hear the results.

Former AIPAC-er Keith Weissman Talks About AIPAC’s Influence on U.S. Policy for PBS’ Frontline

June 12, 2011 Comments off
American Israel Public Affairs Committee logo

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In a just released interview by Robert Dreyfuss for Frontline’s Tehran Bureau, Keith Weissman talks about his stint at AIPAC.  Weissman and fellow staffer Steve Rosen were indicted for espionage for allegedly passing documents to Israeli intelligence officers.  These charges were eventually dropped – and the whole incident appears to be nothing more than the usual Inside The Beltway exchange of information that goes on 24 hours a day.

In the interview, Weissman paints a very flattering picture of himself and his influence within AIPAC.  The most interesting details concern Iran – his personal point of view along with AIPAC’s: 

The reason why I want to tell this story now is, we may be going down a path, helped along by the American Jewish community, and maybe even Israel, that is going to be worse even than the one we’re on now – some sort of military confrontation with Iran. That worries me. Because they will be able to blame [it] on the Jews, to a great extent,” says Weissman, who worked at AIPAC from 1993 until 2005, much of that time as the group’s deputy director of foreign policy. Though Weissman disagrees sharply with those who say that AIPAC played a critical role in pushing for the 2003 U.S. decision to invade Iraq, he believes a war with Iran — which he says “would be the stupidest thing I ever heard of” — might well be blamed on AIPAC’s leaders and their constituents. “What the Jews’ war will be is Iran,” he says. “Not Iraq.”:

Most of the rest of the information that he reveals isn’t necessary anything new – but does  lend credence to what many observers have already presumed.  One of the most interesting assertions is that following the Oslo peace process, AIPAC moved away from the Rabin government because they did not agree with his movement towards peace:

“Because of AIPAC, with the assistance of the right-wing in Israel, who — even though they weren’t the majority in Israel then — they’d come over and have very close contacts with AIPAC’s leaders, prominent financiers, and donors, in order to influence policy…. It was all because of the money that would go from the American Jewish community to politicians in the United States. The pro-Israel bloc in Congress has nothing to do with parties. It had to do with friendship and loyalty. I learned this over time. This is the secret of AIPAC’s power, its ability to fund campaigns. When people got together, they’d find ways, even if they’d given a ton of money to AIPAC, they’d still find ways to get money to candidates, Republican or Democrat.”

Though the advent of Oslo raised hopes among Israelis and Palestinians alike that a peace accord might work, inside AIPAC there was strong discontent with Oslo and its implications, and a lot of sympathy for hardliners in Israel, including Benjamin Netanyahu, the bitterest opponent of Oslo and its backers, including Yitzhak Rabin, the prime minister. As M. J. Rosenberg, a former AIPAC official, has documented, AIPAC moved steadily to the right from the 1980s onward. According to Weissman, that happened mostly because the group’s biggest donors were right-wing American Jews who identified with Likud rather than the Labor Party and other liberal Israelis. Many of its donors and some its staff split from AIPAC during the Rabin-Oslo era to work with more right-wing groups such as the Zionist Organization of America, says Weissman. After Rabin was assassinated by an Israeli extremist opposed to giving up the occupied territories, an increasingly right-leaning Israel and AIPAC moved more and more into sync. As Weissman tells the story:

“So Rabin is shot. I mean, he won Oslo in the Knesset by one vote! You could imagine that in America there was similar opposition [to Oslo]…. AIPAC had spent the last 15 years helping the Likud, so you’ve got people there that were sucking at the teat of Likud, that was how they viewed things. That’s why so many people left AIPAC. A lot of them went to join ZOA and a lot of them also contributed to the work of Daniel Pipes. When Rabin came in, they had taken their money and left, and there was a lot of turmoil. At the time, I remember, they’d send me around the country, to fundraisers, with a lot of older people, and I would be yelled and screamed at, ‘I can’t believe you’re doing this!’ Donors were leaving, taking the money, and that’s really their bread and butter, the lay leadership. AIPAC’s donors were very active in the organization. Very. They were major elements in making policy, in determining the agenda, who the leadership was.


“I tried my best to sell the peace process. But I tried to sell it in the context of what AIPAC was, that this was the way that Israel could become a permanent Middle East country. But the ideological war inside the Israel lobby, collectively, was extremely bitter — and very close, you know, the tally of votes was very close. I would argue that while most American Jews are probably center-left, the rich ones, the ones who give to organizations, the ones who are involved in politics, tend to be more to the right. Those are the ones who were close to the Israeli government when it was run by the Likud.”

Rabin, in his last years, was angry at AIPAC’s obstructionism, says Weissman. (According to M. J. Rosenberg, in New York Rabin met with liberal Jewish donors and asked them to help finance what become the Israel Policy Forum as a very small but not ineffective counterweight to AIPAC.)

“Because of AIPAC, with the assistance of the right-wing in Israel, who — even though they weren’t the majority in Israel then — they’d come over and have very close contacts with AIPAC’s leaders, prominent financiers, and donors, in order to influence policy…. It was all because of the money that would go from the American Jewish community to politicians in the United States. The pro-Israel bloc in Congress has nothing to do with parties. It had to do with friendship and loyalty. I learned this over time. This is the secret of AIPAC’s power, its ability to fund campaigns. When people got together, they’d find ways, even if they’d given a ton of money to AIPAC, they’d still find ways to get money to candidates, Republican or Democrat.”

Read the entire story:

This One Too Good To Miss – Ahmadinejad and Staff May Be Under Sorcerer’s Spell!

June 10, 2011 1 comment
President of Iran @ Columbia University.

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Wall Street Journal reports that Ahmadinejad and his staff may be under a sorcerer’s spell! 

From “Rough Spell for Iranian Politics:  President’s Staff Accused of Sorcery“:

Mr. Ahmadinejad’s detractors have accused the president and his advisers, including the Presidential Palace’s top imam, of belonging to a cult-like ring that promotes superstition and mystical fanaticism. Some have said that Mr. Ahmadinejad is under a spell cooked up by his chief of staff, Esfanidar Rahim Mashaie. Mr. Mashaie is already a controversial figure for promoting nationalism over religion, and for his alleged affinity for astrology and mysticism.

Two More Iran Stories – Sanctions and Nuclear Program

June 10, 2011 Comments off
Nuclear program of Iran

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Two other pieces of breaking news regarding Iran:

  1. New Sanctions:


2. Report on the tripling of nuclear program:


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