Posted by Tom Tugend
Ever wish that you could round up some top scientists and put them to work researching one of your particular interests in medicine, energy or the cosmos?
Well, the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF) has heard you and has come up with a mechanism to put the general idea into practice.
The BSF is one of those government initiatives that rarely breaks into the news, but which has done a great deal to stimulate scientific research and, incidentally, strengthen relations between Israel and the United States.
Since its beginning in 1972, BSF has allotted $480 million, contributed equally by the governments of the two nations, to support some 4,000 research projects at 190 universities.
Each project teams up Israeli with American scientists, who over the years have collaborated on numerous important projects. Current studies include research in cancer diagnosis, stem cell therapy, search for life in the universe, and protection against chemical warfare and insecticide poisoning.
“A BSF grant is highly prestigious in the scientific community,” said Art Ellis, UC San Diego vice chancellor for research. “There are many examples of successful projects conducted by collaborating U.S. and Israeli scholars that were facilitated by BSF funding. This partnership is path-breaking.”
BSF gets its funds from the interest derived from a $100 million endowment, but the annual yield has dropped with the shaky economy.
To compensate, Gary Leo, BSF’s national director of development, has initiated a program to support a BSF project between a scientist from a local American university and an Israeli researcher at, for instance, the Technion, Tel Aviv University, Weizmann Institute of Science, or Hebrew University.
The program is called the Multiplier Research Grants Fund and the University of California, San Diego has been chosen as the initial American participant.
In practice that means that San Diego residents will be asked to supplement the BSF grant of a UC San Diego scientist, and his or her Israeli partner, in the area of the donor’s interest.
Leo said he hopes to expand the program nationwide and expects private support in the next two years to total between $3 to $5 million.
For more information on the new program, contact Gary Leo at (310) 264-1606, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
To find out more the binational science foundation, visit www.bsf.org.il.
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September 8, 2010 | 10:48 am
Posted by Tom Tugend
The Israel Divestment Campaign, a little-known and recently formed organization, has submitted a ballot initiative to force California’s huge public retirement systems to withdraw investments from companies that “support Israeli settlement or supply military products to the government of Israel.”
The group was scheduled to hold a demonstration Wednesday in front of the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles, according to an e-mail announcement.
The proposed initiative was submitted earlier this year to the California Attorney General by the “Israel Divestiture Forum – IDF: Committed to End Israeli Occupation.”
Author of the ballot initiative—claimed to be the first of its kind in the United States—and founder of the group is Chris Yatooma, identified by the Los Angeles Times as head of fiscal policy for the California Community College’s chancellor’s office in Sacramento.
In an interview with Yatooma by pro-Israel activist Paul Kujawsky, reported on examiner.com, Yatooma is described as a 45-year-old Arab American, who said that he had previously worked in a number of congressional offices, including that of vice president, and then senator, Joe Biden.
To qualify an initiative for next year’s ballot, it must collect the signatures of 434,000 registered California voters, a very complex and expensive undertaking.
However, California’s two retirement systems, one for public employees and the other for teachers, present a tempting target, with a total investment portfolio of around $300 billion.
Among American companies in Yatooma’s crosshairs are Caterpillar, Motorola, Northrop Grumman, General Electric and ITT.
Among the group’s activist supporters are a number of Arab Americans, retired Christian clergymen, and a scattering of veteran Jewish American and Israeli backers of Palestinian causes.
One is group’s campaign organizer, Yael Korin, a native of Israel and long prominent in pro-Palestinian protests and co-founder of the Women in Black’s Los Angeles chapter.
More recognizable names claimed as the group’s supporters are Nobel Peace laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and Belfast peace activist Mairead Maguire, linguist Noam Chomsky and political scientist Norman Finkelstein.
Best known among listed Los Angeles names is Stanley K. Sheinbaum, a veteran peace activist, former University of California Regent and former president of he Los Angeles Police Commission. An assistant to Sheinbaum confirmed that he had endorsed the group’s petition.
In the interview on examiner.com, Yatooma acknowledged that he had chosen Israel Divestiture Forum as the initiative’s official sponsor, because its acronym, IDF, is generally identified with the Israel Defense Forces.
“That’s just me having some fun,” Yatooma told interviewer Kujawsky. He also said he hoped to draw support from the Jewish community’s “peace camp,” African Americans, Latinos and “progressive” Democrats.
Should the petition get the required number of signatories, the initiative could appear on the state ballot in the summer or fall of next year.
September 7, 2010 | 11:17 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
I hate to be the bee in the honey, but I fear Israel’s supporters are winding themselves up into an umbrage so high, they might actually fall down and hurt themselves.
The cause: Time magazine.
Yes, only in the Jewish world do people still get worked up over the cover a weekly magazine. Most of the rest of America forgot they exist. Yet another reason to love Jews.
The cover in question is of a Jewish star composed of daisies, and the words: Why Israelis Don’t Care About Peace.
The article, as Danny Gordis points out accurately, is full of sloppy perceptions, generalizations and cheap shots. For one, it describes Jerusalem on Shabbat as a “mausoleum.” Gordis, a former LA rabbi, takes exception at the death imagery to describe such a holy day. I just think it’s lazy journalism by someone who doesn’t see how vibrant the Friday night life is in so many parts of the city.
But what has Gordis so upset, and a phalanx of Jews ready to march behind him, is the impression the cover gives that Israel doesn’t care about peace.
How dare the writer say such a thing?
Well, maybe he spoke to Israelis. Yossi Klein Halevi has been saying and writing the same thing for a while now. Most Israelis I speak with are at least jaded, at most completely turned off to, the peace process. They want peace, they just don’t care about the peace process—because caring doesn’t pay off, caring gets their hopes up, caring leaves them, like Charlie Brown and the football, flat on their backs. The Guardian newspaper reported the same story the week before.
By the way, many Palestinians feel just as jaded and defeated.
Here’s Yossi in The Los Angeles Times a few weeks back:
“The peace process is back,” my friend said with bitter sarcasm, after four Israelis were killed in a terror attack just before Palestinian-Israeli negotiations got underway this week. The irony may have been lost on outsiders but not on Israelis. The Oslo peace process of the 1990s was accompanied by waves of attacks by Hamas jihadists, which Israelis believe were tacitly orchestrated by their negotiating partner at the time, Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. Then, in September 2000, just as Israel accepted a Palestinian state and the re-division of Jerusalem, Arafat responded by launching a four-year terror war.
But there is one crucial difference between this week’s deadly terrorism and the terror assaults of those years. Today, when leaders of the Palestinian Authority condemn violence against Israeli civilians, they mean it. Where Arafat used Hamas terrorism as psychological pressure against the Israeli public, his successor, Mahmoud Abbas, is himself a target of Hamas.
For Israel, facing a negotiating partner who isn’t instigating terrorism while feigning moderation is already significant progress.
Still, the mood among Israelis is anything but hopeful….
That essay was called, “Israelis Don’ have High Hopes for the Peace Process.” Okay, a more felicitous choice of words. But Time is (desperately) trying to sell magazines. And with only a slight, if sloppy, semantic adjustment, “aren’t concerned” can translate into “don’t care.” The more accurate diagnosis—maybe the most—came from our own David Suissa, who just returned from a month in Israel.
Time could easily have said on its cover: Why Israel Has Forgotten About Peace, or Why Israel Has Stopped Believing in Peace, or even, Why Israel Has Chosen Life Over Peace, or even still, Why Israel Cares About Peace (But Not the Peace Process). Any of those would have done justice to a new reality of Israeli society that the story was trying to tap into.
This is the reality: Most Israelis have been so burned by previous attempts at peace—from a terror war that killed 1,000 Israelis after Israel’s peace offer at Camp David in 2000; to the terror wars that followed the evacuations of Lebanon and Gaza; to the PA’s refusal to even make a counter offer to Ehud Olmert’s generous offer two years ago—that they’ve tuned out to the “peace process” and have decided, instead, to live their lives.
And yes, I can tell you, after spending a month there this summer, Israelis know how to live their lives. They fill the cafes and restaurants late into the night. On a hot summer night in Tel Aviv, I saw hundreds of people having barbeques on the beach. Everywhere I went, I saw people living life with a vengeance.
Does this mean these people “don’t care about peace”? Of course not. What it means is that Israelis would rather worry about real life than fake peace. After 20 years of seeing their hopes for peace lead to one disappointment after another, why waste their time worrying about something they don’t think they can get?
David focuses on the incendiary cover, which really just should have added the word process to peace. But David’s reaction is not ohmyGodthey’regonnakillustheyhateusHELP!!! hysterical. It slaps Time on the wrist for a cheap shot.
But Danny Gordis goes a bit postal, which only helps Time go viral.
But does anybody know what the effect will be? Is Time really helping to delegitimize Israel? Can anyone prove it?
Here’s what I find so interesting. Peter Beinert wrote a now famous essay saying young Jewish Americans were losing their affection for Israel, but a recent poll proved him wrong. As Gal Beckerman wrote in the Forward:
Researchers at Brandeis University’s Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies released a study in late August that claims to find nothing unusually depressing or alarming about the current younger generation’s level of attachment to Israel. “The findings of the present study challenge the view of a widening schism between American Jews and Israel,” it concludes. “A majority of American Jews feel attached to Israel and the overall level of attachment has remained stable for nearly a quarter of a century.”
To my mind, the same poll proves Gordis wrong. The war of images and words in the American press, whether aimed at Israel’s heart or aimed to sell dead trees, doesn’t seem to have moved the needle in a way that confirms Israel’s critics hopes or proves Israel’s supporters fears. We worry without proof. I think that has to be a definition of neuroses.
So take a breath, people. The Time cover image itself—a Jewish star made of daisies— presents an image of Israel that is so unthreatening, non-belligerent and peaceful, at the very least you have to admit the cover sends a mixed message. In fact, the same cover with a just the word “Israel” could grace a tourist brochure.
So let’s react but not over-react. Time is not the enemy. Israelis aren’t painted as some monsters—quite the opposite. Anybody whose opinion of Israel is shaped by passing a magazine cover in an airport is likely someone whose mind was already made up.
September 6, 2010 | 3:59 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
Umar Cheema was a 2008 Daniel Pearl Fellow who spoke, during his visit to Los Angeles that year, with conviction and insight about how America could improve its relation to the Muslim world and about his country’s own challenges.
Now there’s news that the News International journalist was abducted by thugs outside Islamabad, striped, hung upside down, shaved and tortured, before ultimately being released.
Our heart goes out to this fine man for the agony he must have endured, and we call on the government of Pakistan to find the perpetrators and hold them accountable. At a time when the international community extends a hand to Pakistan to relieve the flood tragedy unfolding there, it is even more important for the country to uphold standards of law, order, and decency.
More on the kidnapping:
According to the news portal, a group of men covered his face and took him to a building 45 to 50 minutes drive while he was returning home after meeting his friends.
“A few unknown men wearing uniforms of Elite Force came up to me, saying I crushed a man at Zero Point and drove off and then these men forcibly took me along with them,” Umar Cheema said. “I was held in illegal captivity for 6 hours during which I was continuously tortured and humiliated in nude. They stripped me out of my clothes, hanged me upside down and shaved off my head and moustaches,” the senior reporter of the country’s leading English daily recounted.
Café Pyala, a blog that follows the news from Pakistan and Pakistani media wrote that Cheema was “stripped naked, hung upside down and beaten severely before his head and moustache were shaved off.” According to the blog, Cheema, who is an investigative reporter for The News International, was “taken and dumped on the Islamabad Motorway with warnings not to make the incident public.” The captors had also warned Cheema to stop writing against the government.
Deepak Adhikari, a Kathmandu-based Nepali journalist, who met Cheema during the 2008 Alfred Friendly Press Fellowships in the US, said he “condemns the act and urge the authorities to punish the perpetrators.” “At a time when Pakistan is grappling with the crises at multiple fronts—-war on terror, the flood and the dysfunctional state—it’s unfortunate that the regime, instead of empowering the journos, is indulging on silencing and torturing them,” Adhikari told SAJA.
But this isn’t the first time that Cheema was attacked. In the 2008 SAJA interview, Cheema said he was hit by a car in Dec. 2004, which he believes was “purposeful.” “It [the reporting environment] is hostile. But, we have the nerve to resist. We cannot be intimidated,” he said.
Below is a video of a conversation I moderated with Umar:
September 3, 2010 | 1:59 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
It certainly wasn’t the primary conclusion of the study published in the New York Times today, but it was there, deep in the 12th paragraph: When it comes to building the hotly contested Islamic Center near the former World Trade Center site, “Protestants are evenly divided, while most Catholic and Jewish New Yorkers oppose the center.”
The Times also found that the younger and wealthier and more familiar with Islam a person was, the more likely they were to support the center’s being built in the proposed location, two blocks from Ground Zero. (Read the entire article here.)
In other news, the New York Jewish Week found that some rabbis plan to devote part of their Rosh Hashana sermons to a discussion of the controversy surrounding the center, known as Park5—while others plan to conscientiously avoid the topic. (Read the entire article here.)
September 3, 2010 | 12:19 pm
Posted by JewishJournal
Sure, at least two of the cast members of Glee are Jewish (Lea Michele and Dianna Agron)... but what if they all were?
The show might look and sound like what you’ll see by watching the video below: The rabbi, cantor, staff and leaders of Temple Judea in Tarzana singing a Alan Sherman-esque version of “Don’t Stop Believing.”
Our favorite line:
Just a City Jew, born and raised in Sherman Oaks
Can’t believe the holidays are finally here
And the shofars—you haven’t seen that in Glee… yet.