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Jewish Journal

James D. Besser

  • Cooling down the the Iran rhetoric can help get real results

    June 7, 2007 | 8:00 pm

    The Jewish community is just as concerned as ever about the menace of a nuclear Iran, but it is starting to temper its red-hot rhetoric on the issue.

    The reason: a growing sense that calling Iran the new Nazi Germany, its madman leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Hitler reborn, is hurting...
  • Too-bright spotlight on religion marks Presidential bids

    May 31, 2007 | 8:00 pm

    Should candidates for the White House have to pass a religious test? The Constitution says no, but increasingly American political culture says otherwise.

    The excessive focus on religion is already evident in the early days of the 2008 presidential race. That's bad news for the...
  • Correcting the tilt in Jewish politics—it’s not just Israel, stupid

    May 17, 2007 | 8:00 pm

    What will it take to convince politicians that Jewish voters care about a wide range of issues, not just Israel?

    The creative folks at the Jewish Funds for Justice (JFSJ) think they have an answer.

    This week the group is conducting an online survey of domestic priorities, with the...

  • Notes from the campaign trail: Israel and the Dems; Mitt Romney; GOP faves

    May 3, 2007 | 8:00 pm

    Presidential campaigns keep getting longer and uglier, but the candidates, at least, are volunteers. Hapless voters are a kind of captive audience -- bombarded by attack ads and money, pummeled by the ever-shifting conventional wisdom and dizzily spun by candidates whose views change...
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  • Evangelical leader’s speech backing Israel alarms some

    March 29, 2007 | 8:00 pm

    The tent-revival pro-Israel speech by the Rev. John Hagee thrilled many delegates at the recent policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

    However, others were alarmed. It was not by Hagee's message, which was hardly new, but by the reaction of a...

  • Faith-based foreign policy faces perils ahead

    March 1, 2007 | 7:00 pm

    Ideology is fine for campaigners, bloggers and talk show hosts, but it often wreaks havoc in the real world, where effective policy requires flexibility, not rules dreamed up in think tanks and advocacy groups.

    That lesson has defined Israeli policy for decades, but it is being...

  • Analysis: Jewish silence on Iraq continues

    January 25, 2007 | 7:00 pm

    Congressional Democrats and President Bush are on a collision course over plans to increase the number of U.S. troops in the conflict, an issue that will dominate the 110th Congress and the early days of the 2008 presidential race.

    But don't look for much of a response from the...

  • Is turnabout fair play for 110th Congress?

    November 30, 2006 | 6:59 pm

    Last month's electoral earthquake means the 110th Congress, which convenes in January, will look very different from its do-nothing predecessor. But gridlock, the dubious hallmark of the past few sessions, will continue unless leaders in both parties decide to start working across...
  • Latest poll bad news for Jewish Republicans

    October 26, 2006 | 8:00 pm

    The Republican Party continues to lavish money on Jewish voters, arguing that only their candidates are reliable on critical questions like support for Israel and terrorism. Jewish Democrats are firing back, blasting their GOP counterparts for undermining the longstanding...
  • Lieberman War View Triggers Backlash

    January 19, 2006 | 7:00 pm

    Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) has earned the appreciation of a Republican administration he has resolutely defended on the issue of the Iraq War. One prominent Jewish activist described Lieberman's "powerful sense of mission" in supporting the war.

    But that steadfastness also has...

  • Poor, Darfur Lose in Budget, Israel Gains

    January 5, 2006 | 7:00 pm

    Jewish agencies around the country could have to ante up tens of millions of dollars in the next five years, thanks to a year-end budget package approved by Congress.

    That assessment from a top Jewish activist here could be just the tip of the fiscal iceberg, as activists try to...

  • Names to Watch on Way Up, Down in ‘06

    December 29, 2005 | 7:00 pm

    Here are a handful of people to watch in the coming 12 months -- some on the way up; some on the way down.

    Jack Abramoff: The once-high-flying Republican lobbyist, Jewish benefactor and GOP best buddy has become the most radioactive man in Washington, thanks to controversial deals...

  • Reform Body Rejects Science Distortion

    December 1, 2005 | 7:00 pm

    The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), the largest body of religious Jews in the nation, has forcefully come out against the "politicization" of science at a time when the issue is boiling over in state legislatures, churches and classrooms.

    The strong statement came as delegates to...

  • Tax Cuts Bring Shameful Silence

    November 3, 2005 | 7:00 pm

    "Listen, we're broke. Let's face it," said Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) last week, according to the Washington Post. Boehner, the chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, spoke as congressional Republicans haggled over big spending cuts for critical health and...

  • Abbas Gets Warm, Cold Reception

    October 27, 2005 | 8:00 pm

    Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas got a warm White House reception last week, but got a colder shoulder from Congress and few top items on his Washington wish list, starting with a commitment by President Bush to move forward aggressively with the stalled Mideast "road map" peace...

  • Katrina Touches Off School Voucher War

    September 29, 2005 | 8:00 pm

    The Hurricane Katrina recovery effort is turning into the latest front in the bitter war over government aid to parochial schools. And that fight is already putting Jewish church-state groups in an awkward position.

    "On its face, what the administration is proposing is an outrage,"...

  • The Darfur Genocide Is Still on

    September 22, 2005 | 8:00 pm

    Jews aren't among those being killed, raped and displaced in the Darfur region of Sudan, but the situation there is nonetheless a Jewish disaster.

    The slogan, "never again," the redeeming lesson of the Holocaust, is turning into a farce in the African nation, as world leaders...

  • Disaster Exposes Government Failures

    September 8, 2005 | 8:00 pm

    President Bush and Congress talk a good game when it comes to homeland security, but the tragic truth is that the country is less able to cope with disasters than before Sept. 11, 2001. The proof is on the flood-ravaged streets of New Orleans, where an unprecedented natural disaster...

  • Links to Christian Zionists Pose Peril

    September 1, 2005 | 8:00 pm

    People are judged by the friends they keep. And for the Jewish right, some friends are unsavory, indeed.

    Take the Rev. Pat Robertson, who was back in the news last week for statements that were both buffoonish and chilling. For some on the Jewish right, the...

  • Sucker Punched on Divestment

    July 14, 2005 | 8:00 pm

    Jewish groups were sucker punched last week when the United Church of Christ (UCC) abandoned a carefully crafted compromise and instead voted to support "divestment" from Israel.

    Some outraged Jewish leaders publicly suggested anti-Semitism as a motive. Others were uncomfortable...

  • Jews Face Awkward Court Fight Position

    July 7, 2005 | 8:00 pm

    The political brawl over the replacement for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who announced her resignation last week, could be the most bitter since Justice Clarence Thomas' 1991 confirmation battle.

    And that free-for-all, which liberals and conservatives alike predict...

  • U.S. Acts Cautiously on Mideast Issues

    June 16, 2005 | 8:00 pm

    It may be the most ideological presidency in recent memory, but on at least one issue, the Bush administration is pure pragmatism.

    As Israel gets set for its summer of disengagement discontent, the administration has responded with a cautious, practical approach that has angered...

  • AIPAC—Let the Sun Shine In

    June 2, 2005 | 8:00 pm

    By most measures, last week's policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was a success.

    The sessions were substantive and well-led; the speakers top-rank. The large number of under-40 delegates suggested the organization's future is strong.

    Despite...

  • Washington Watch

    June 2, 2005 | 8:00 pm

    Air Force Fight Moves to the Hill

    The issue of religious coercion at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs is starting to reverberate on Capitol Hill -- with what one Jewish legislator said are ugly overtones.

    And a chaplain who was fired for raising the issue of...

  • The Faith Wars Heat Up

    May 19, 2005 | 8:00 pm

    It's nothing less than a revolution; in states across the country, an empowered Christian right is changing laws, rewriting textbooks, transforming the judiciary and even redefining science.

    The nation's culture wars have taken another leap in intensity. Since the 2004 elections,...

  • Presbyterians Won’t Budge on Divesting

    April 14, 2005 | 8:00 pm

     

    You have to hand it to those Presbyterians. Their leaders know what they want, and they won't be deflected by things like logic, fairness or the well-being of people in the Middle East.

    Church leaders in Louisville, Ky., appear determined to single out Israel for corporate...

  • Gaza Strife and American Jews

    March 17, 2005 | 7:00 pm

     

    Civil strife in Israel over Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Gaza disengagement plan could cause new strains in the American Jewish community and accelerate the turning away from the pro-Israel cause, especially among younger Jews.

    The mounting strife, which includes death threats...

  • The Golden Rule of Jewish Leadership

    March 10, 2005 | 7:00 pm

     

    The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) has long provided one of precious few forums for Jews from across the political and religious spectrum to come together and debate the great issues of the day. But at last week's JCPA plenum in Washington, there was a palpable chill when...

  • Torture, Genocide and Jewish Silence

    February 17, 2005 | 7:00 pm

     

    Jews around the world have worked hard to give life to the slogan "never again," but there are painfully abundant signs the world isn't listening. And, worse, a number of our own organizations have been reluctant to speak out on some of the moral rationalizations that contribute to...

  • Jewish Groups Stay Silent on Tax Cuts

    February 3, 2005 | 7:00 pm

     

    For many Jewish activists, the dilemma is excruciating: Congress and the administration are debating a revolution in American life, but Jewish organizations, with rare exceptions, have been struck dumb.

    For a variety of reasons, including a lack of consensus within key...

  • Rice Promises More Mideast Presence

    January 20, 2005 | 7:00 pm

     

    U.S. Mideast policy during the second Bush administration will be even more focused on the White House, with a new secretary of state who will be more directly involved in implementing the president's policies.

    That was one message Condoleezza Rice, the president's choice to...

  • U.S. Faces Tough Policy Challenges

    January 14, 2005 | 7:00 pm

     

    With Sunday's elections, the Bush administration got something it demanded from the Palestinians: the beginnings of a democracy. Whether that produces a real, functional democracy remains to be seen -- and as that drama plays out, the administration faces some tough decisions and...

  • Battles Shaping Up in New Congress

    January 6, 2005 | 7:00 pm

     

    With the holidays and the congressional interregnum, Washington has been a quiet place in recent weeks. But that quiet belies feverish behind-the-scenes planning as political partisans and advocacy groups get set for a particularly contentious legislative session.

    Despite high...

  • 2004 Takes Some Unexpected Turns

    December 30, 2004 | 6:59 pm

     

    There's nothing as risky as end-of-year predictions, as 2004 so painfully demonstrated.

    Twelve months ago, otherwise sober analysts were predicting a political upheaval among Jewish voters and that Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor, was a cinch to win the 2004 Democratic...

  • U.S. Wavering on Mideast Democracy

    December 9, 2004 | 7:00 pm

     

    Last week, President Bush said it plainer than ever before: Palestinian democracy, not just an end to terrorism, is the essential precondition for any new U.S. peace efforts in the region.

    With Palestinian elections only a month away, the Bush administration hopes the vote will...

  • Israel Can’t Ignore Divestment Threats

    December 2, 2004 | 7:00 pm

     

    American Jewish leaders see it as a dire threat, but in Jerusalem, the current push for divestment by mainline Protestant groups eager to punish the Jewish state is a nonissue -- so much so that at a recent conference, Israel's foreign minister admitted he didn't have a clue about...

  • Gay Marriage: A Real Threat?

    November 25, 2004 | 7:00 pm

     

    The intersection of religion and politics became a talk show hit after Nov. 2, when the religious right played a huge, and perhaps pivotal, role in the re-election of President Bush.

    Jews are not of one mind about the new focus on faith in politics, but many in the large...

  • Peace Opportunity Requires U.S. Action

    November 18, 2004 | 7:00 pm

    With Yasser Arafat in his Ramallah grave and President Bush promising to renew efforts to create a Palestinian state, speculation is mounting about exactly what the administration's next Mideast moves might be.

    There's plenty of talk about what the Palestinians need to do to curb...

  • Stakes Loom Big in Future of High Court

    November 11, 2004 | 7:00 pm

    The National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) gets it and so does the Religious Action Center (RAC) of Reform Judaism. Both groups have made careful scrutiny of the Bush administration's judicial nominations a top priority in the past year.

    Groups on the religious right get it, as...

  • Mixed News for GOP Jews

    November 4, 2004 | 7:00 pm

    Republican hopes for a big Jewish surge in this year's presidential contest were dashed on Tuesday when President George W. Bush, in his successful bid for a second term, claimed only about 24 percent of the Jewish vote nationally, according to exit polls published by major news...

  • ELECTION 2004

    October 28, 2004 | 8:00 pm

    In some ways, it's political business as usual in the Jewish community as a critical national election approaches.

    The Democrats will win the lion's share of Jewish votes Nov. 2, but the Republicans are poised to make important gains. When the votes are counted, both sides will work...

  • Candidates Blow Campaign Smoke

    October 21, 2004 | 8:00 pm

    It's crunch time in the presidential campaigns. With less than two weeks to go and most polls pointing to a photo finish, both President Bush and Sen. John Kerry are pulling out all the stops -- as long as those stops are in a tiny handful of swing states.

    The spin machines are in...

  • Should Jews Oppose Evangelical Help?

    October 7, 2004 | 8:00 pm

    In Israel this week, televangelist Pat Robertson inveighed against giving territory to the Palestinians, claiming that the goal of Islam is to "destroy Israel and take the land from the Jews and give East Jerusalem to Yasser Arafat. I see that as Satan's plan to prevent the return of...

  • Should Jews Oppose Evangelical Help?

    October 7, 2004 | 8:00 pm

    In Israel this week, televangelist Pat Robertson inveighed against giving territory to the Palestinians, claiming that the goal of Islam is to "destroy Israel and take the land from the Jews and give East Jerusalem to Yasser Arafat. I see that as Satan's plan to prevent the return of...

  • Jewish Senators

    September 30, 2004 | 8:00 pm

    With control of the Senate hanging in the balance, 34 seats are up for grabs on Nov. 2. And while a few races feature intense campaigns with too-close-to-call outcomes, most resemble the reelection effort of Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who is so far in front of his Republican...

  • Is Israel Spy Claim a Neocon Backlash?

    September 2, 2004 | 8:00 pm

    Hours after CBS News first reported that federal officials were investigating a possible Israeli "mole" at the Pentagon, the first analysis hit the wires claiming that the emerging scandal wouldn't damage U.S.-Israel relations.

    It was quick journalistic work, but it wasn't worth the...

  • Study Points to Big Church-State Shift

    August 26, 2004 | 8:00 pm

    A new study reveals that the Bush administration is succeeding beyond the most optimistic projections of supporters -- and the most pessimistic fears of critics -- in funneling government social service dollars to religious groups, despite the refusal of Congress to pass most of its...

  • Kerry Must Walk Mideast Tightrope

    August 5, 2004 | 8:00 pm

    Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass), who claimed the Democratic presidential nomination at the party's convention in Boston last week, is almost certain to win a substantial majority of Jewish votes on Nov. 2. But that doesn't mean he doesn't have Jewish problems.

    Paramount among them: how to...

  • U.N. Failing in Conflict-Resolution Role

    July 22, 2004 | 8:00 pm

    In Indiana in the 1960s, billboards proclaimed a central message of the John Birch Society: "U.S. Out of the U.N."

    The United Nations, the right-wing crusaders believed, was part of a communist plot to undermine our sovereignty. Soon, Americans would be slaves to the puppet masters...

  • Left, Right Playing Blame-Israel Game

    July 1, 2004 | 8:00 pm

    Conspiracy theories unite the political extremes, a fact that stands out starkly as the fruitcake left and loony right converge around theories blaming Jewish neoconservatives for an Iraq War they despise.

    The blame-Israel surge, which erupted on the Senate floor recently when Sen....