Posted by Tom Tugend
A Knesset member visiting Los Angeles has accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of buckling under intense pressure from President Barack Obama, who wants to prevent any Israeli retaliation against the Palestinian Authority in its bid to win recognition as a state from the United Nations.
Dr. Aryeh Eldad, a member of the self-described “right-wing” Hatikvah faction of the National Union party, charged that Obama was holding Netanyahu “at gunpoint” – the gun being the U.S. threat to go back on its promise to veto the Palestinian statehood bid in the UN Security Council.
Specifically, Obama has demanded that Netanyahu and Israel’s supporters in the United States pressure Congress to abort two pending resolutions to penalize the Palestinian Authority (PA) if it pursues its bid, Eldad claimed.
One would shut off U.S. aid funds to the Palestinians and a second would support Israel’s right to annex the West Bank. The legal justification for such actions, cited by many Israeli officials, would be that the unilateral statehood request would be a direct violation of the 1993 Oslo Accords.
Eldad said he was certain of the accuracy of his information, but declined to name his sources.
The PA bid is scheduled to be presented to the United Nations on Friday, and Obama and Netanyahu are to meet the same day.
“Netanyahu is the first Israeli prime minister who hasn’t threatened sanctions if the PA seeks unilateral statehood,” Eldad said during a phone interview.
Asked what he would do if he were prime minister, Eldad replied, “I would immediately annex Judea and Samaria (West Bank). There will be some riots, as in the two intifadas, but this will happen in any case, because the expectations of the Palestinians can never be met. They think the sun will rise in the west the day after independence.”
Eldad’s National Union has four Knesset seats and is in the opposition, but he asserts that a total of 42 members, many belonging to the government coalition, share his viewpoint.
As to his stand on an eventual negotiated two-state solution, Eldad, a prominent physician before he turned to politics, said he was enthusiastically in favor – as long as the Palestinian state was Jordan.
He predicted that when the Arab Spring uprisings reached Jordan, Palestinians, who make up the majority of the population, would take over and turn the country into their own state.
If this happens, Eldad said, he would oppose a forcible transfer of Palestinians from the West Bank to Jordan.
Eldad is nearing the end of his 15-day stay in the United States, during which he lobbied Congress members in Washington, D.C., met with Jewish organizations in New York, and on Sunday addressed some 2,000 evangelical Christians at the Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa.
Based on his various meetings, he described the American Jewish community as largely confused, with even strong lobbies such as AIPAC sidelined “as long as Netanyahu is not strong enough to lead.”
Will there ever be peace? “Maybe in four generations,” Eldad responded, Israel and its neighbors will find equilibrium “like Europe after its religious wars.”
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September 16, 2011 | 9:00 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
On Sept. 16, just hours after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced he would take the bid for official recognition of statehood directly to the United Nations Security Council, a group of about 30 pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered in front of the Federal Building in Westwood to urge the United States government not to veto the motion.
Plans for the demonstration had been in the works for a month, Jeff Warner, action coordinator for LA Jews for Peace, said, and the day-to-day shifts in what the Palestinians might or might not do when the U.N.’s General Assembly opened on Sept. 20 hadn’t changed the plans for the demonstration at all.
“We want to support their right for self-determination,” Warner said.
Even as European countries were still trying to achieve unanimity, Estee Chandler, the organizer of Jewish Voice for Peace-LA (JVP-LA) was convinced that the momentum was on the Palestinian side.
“Every day, there’s new ones coming on. It’s not moving in the other direction,” she said.
Chandler said she wants to see two homelands for two peoples — Palestine for Palestinians and Israel for Israelis. “I find the idea that Israel is the homeland for the Jewish people to be disingenuous.”
Kristen Ess, the organizer of CODEPINK-LA, was also at the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Veteran Avenue on Sept. 16, sporting a scarf of the antiwar group’s signature color. She, like many, acknowledged that there is some disagreement among activists — as there is among Palestinians and among Arabs — about whether the U.N. bid for statehood would ultimately advance the Palestinian cause.
“Within our own community there’s a great deal of discontent and discussion around whether we wanted to support this particular bid,” Ess said. “In Los Angeles, what everyone could agree on is that we don’t want the United States to continue to pay for the Israeli occupation. That we don’t want the United States to use its veto no matter what, when it comes to Palestine.”
JVP-LA’s Chandler said that some local Palestinian groups had been invited to the rally but declined to take part.
Indeed, although the demonstration was co-sponsored by the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Los Angeles and Orange County chapters of Friends of Sabeel, neither group’s leaders were in evidence. Jews, meanwhile, were disproportionately represented.
Passing cars honked in support, and one projectile was thrown from a passing vehicle, a small paper cup from the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. It hit the sidewalk without striking anyone or spilling any of its contents.
September 15, 2011 | 7:34 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
In a letter sent on Sept. 15, a group of House Democrats urged the heads of 40 “key European countries” to join the United States in opposing the Palestinian effort to unilaterally declare statehood at the upcoming United Nations General Assembly meeting.
The letter was signed by 58 House Democrats, including California Reps. Howard Berman, Janice Hahn, Adam Schiff, and Brad Sherman. The effort was led by Minority Whip Steny Hoyer and supported by Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader.
“We believe that the only way to achieve a two-state solution is through direct negotiations leading to a peace treaty fully accepted by both governments and by both peoples,” the letter said.
“An inflammatory UN resolution, particularly one that unleashes international legal action against Israel, will put Middle East peace prospects on hold for years, if not decades,” Berman said in an emailed statement.
Meanwhile, in the flurry of activity aimed at demonstrating American opposition to the Palestinian effort, individual congressmen from both parties sent their own letters to diplomats from other countries.
On Sept. 13, Sherman sent a similarly themed letter to the ambassadors from 81 countries to the United Nations.
“I am appealing to you not to support this pending resolution,” Sherman wrote, “but to cast a vote instead for the principle of peace through negotiations.”
September 15, 2011 | 12:45 pm
Posted by JewishJournal.com
Jonathan Greenblatt, who served as chief executive of the company that oversees Good magazine and helped create All for Good, an online volunteer database, has been named the new director of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation.
A longtime Jewish community activist, Greenblatt was the subject of a 2010 profile in Tribe magazine:
Greenblatt said he owes much of his humanitarian concern to how he views the world as a practicing Jew.
“All these things are informed, in part, by my own Jewish identity and the values that I think are intrinsic to our Jewish tradition,” he said. “I think there’s this longtime commitment to tikkun olam. I try to live those values as much as I can.”
Greenblatt and his wife keep a kosher home and celebrate Shabbat dinner every Friday night with their three young sons. Except for when a sporadic soccer practice pops up, the family attends Saturday morning services at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.
While enjoying his active home life, Greenblatt keeps working toward increasing the popularization of ethical consumer products and the innovative people who create them. He hopes that by making these people and products as accessible as possible, consumers will be inspired to take further action. When this ideal can’t be reached, he’s happy to know that even single bottles of Ethos bought out of, well, thirst, can help heal the world.
Mr. Greenblatt replaces Sonal Shah, who stepped down in August after heading the office since it was created in 2009.
Mr. Greenblatt started his new position today, said Shannon Gilson, a White House spokeswoman.
Mr. Greenblatt was a lecturer at the Anderson School of Management at the University of California at Los Angeles and director of the Impact Economy Initiative, a program of the Aspen Institute that explores ways to encourage social enterprise.
He formerly served as chief executive of Good Worldwide, a media company. He also co-founded Ethos Brands, a business that started Ethos Water, a company now owned by Starbucks that pays for projects to help children around the world get clean water.
The social-innovation office works closely with the Social Innovation Fund, a grants program of the Corporation for National and Community Service that seeks to help nonprofits expand effective programs.
It also houses the White House Council for Community Solutions, a panel of nonprofit leaders and others who are advising the federal government on ways to promote innovative social projects and get people more involved in civic affairs.
September 15, 2011 | 11:54 am
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
Two 17-year-old boys admitted in juvenile court on Wednesday to vandalizing the Calabasas High School campus in April, according to a statement from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office.
The boys were ordered by Sylmar Juvenile Court Referee Mark Frazin to complete 100 hours of community service, pay $6,000 in restitution, attend counseling and attend a program at the Museum of Tolerance.
The graffiti, which was largely anti-Semitic in nature and included the names of a handful of students at the school and two faculty members, also included racist slurs against other ethnic groups.
A third boy, also 17, is scheduled to return to court for trial in November.
The identities of the teens are not being released.
September 13, 2011 | 11:35 pm
Posted by Ryan E. Smith
No one knows exactly how things will play out next week when Palestinian leaders make a bid for statehood at the United Nations, but Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, believes the impact will be more rhetorical than practical and that it represents no threat to Israel.
“I think it’s unfortunate. I don’t think it’s as tragic as some people try and present it,” the former Soviet dissident and prisoner said. “The only real consequence, then, is it will be much more difficult for both sides to come to direct negotiations.”
Sharansky’s comments came during a brief visit with reporters Sept. 13 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley prior to a lecture he gave on faith and America’s 40th president. The event was co-sponsored by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation Centennial Celebration and Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy.
Sharansky explained that peace will not come unilaterally and that it must be a grassroots effort.
“I believe that peace cannot be … imposed,” he said. “Nobody can be forced. Peace can be brought from the bottom up.”
Part of that, he said, must be democracy, including a Palestinian society that is built with a free economy, education, open political discussion, and security forces that fight terrorism.
Sharansky, the author of several books, including The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom, believes this can be achieved.
“I believe that democracy can come to the Arab world,” he said. “There are enough Palestinians who are interested to do it.”
Then Sharansky pointed to the Israeli model and how it didn’t happen overnight.
“Israel was created because for 30 years Jewish leaders of the community living in Palestine were building their democratic state. They were building the institutions of the state,” he said.
“We must have patience,” he concluded.
That’s something Sharansky knows something about. A human rights activist who was born in Ukraine, Sharansky was accused in 1977 of collaborating with the CIA and sentenced to 13 years in prison.
In 1986, he became the first political prisoner ever released by Mikhail Gorbachev, thanks to intense political pressure from Reagan. (Sharansky is featured at the president’s Simi Valley museum as part of its “Voices of Freedom” display.)
He has credited Reagan’s faith and moral clarity in helping Russian immigrants flee to Israel, where Sharansky founded the political party Yisrael B’Aliya and served as deputy prime minister, among other positions. He received the Congressional Gold Medal in 1986 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2006.
September 13, 2011 | 5:17 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
The Israeli flag that flew for three years in front of the office of the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles was taken down on Sept. 8.
According to the Israeli Consulate, the office is preparing to move to a new location in early 2012. The contract with the landlord that allowed the consulate to fly the Israeli, American and California flags in front of its current home, a multistory office building on Wilshire Boulevard, had been renewed twice before. It was allowed to expire this year.
The building, at 6380 Wilshire Blvd., is listed on the Web site of Jamison Services Inc., a Los Angeles-based real estate investment and management firm.
In 2008, with help from Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the Israeli Consulate won permission from the building’s landlord to fly an Israeli flag in front of the building. Then-Consul General Jacob Dayan organized a blowout event to celebrate the achievement.
The Israeli Consulate, which has just welcomed a new consul general, David Siegel, to Los Angeles is planning to move to a building in West Los Angeles that houses a number of other consular offices. The consulate would not say whether an Israeli flag would be installed outside the new location.
September 13, 2011 | 2:30 am
Posted by Ryan Torok
Families and friends of all ages boxed cans of tuna and beans and boxes of cereal. A former Red Cross volunteer drew a picture of someone inside the rubble of the Twin Towers following the attacks.
They were volunteers at Big Sunday’s food drive and community breakfast, which took place on Sunday, September 11 and commemorated the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The food drive collected goods for SOVA in Van Nuys, and volunteers wrote letters to U.S. military soldiers in hostile regions overseas.
The idea being to do something good out of something bad, said David Levinson, Big Sunday’s founder and executive director.
Approximately 500 people turned out throughout the day, coming to Big Sunday’s headquarters on Melrose Ave.
“Doing things like this makes me not think about it,” said Diane Gross, a Disney employee. A former New York resident, she lived there at the time of the attacks and attended Big Sunday’s event on Sunday.
“Everyone is finding a way of remembering and memorializing,” Gross said. “Everyone is finding a way that works for them.”
Chatsworth resident Gayle Jacobs volunteered with her husband.
“We’ve watched all of the different stories about people who were killed—it’s the least we could do to come out today,” she said. “And we’re meeting cool people.”
The event started at 6 a.m., since the West Coast heard about the attacks at 6:30 a.m., and wrapped up at noon. It was one of dozens of events happening as part of the L.A. Remembers Coalition, a group of agencies, nonprofits and community organizations that hosted community service projects last Sunday as a tribute to the victims of 9/11.
City Year, Habitat for Humanity and the Muslim Public Affairs Council were among the L.A. Remembers Coalition groups.
“There’s so much focus on what divides us, said Levinson to KCAL 9 News, prior to the event. “I think people want to know what unites us.”
Big Sunday is known for Big Sunday Weekend, an annual service weekend that draws thousands of people to community service projects.
All photos by Joel Lipton.