Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
Delray Beach, Fla.—Speaking on Friday at an event organized by the state’s Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) chapter, former House Speaker and Republican Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich struck a mostly professorial tone as he talked foreign policy to a friendly audience.
He may have been introduced as “the next president of the United States,” but Gingrich was still trying to convince the crowd of about 300, some of whom had already pledged their support to his Republican rivals, that he deserved their support in Florida’s primary election, being held on January 31.
“If, with your help, we carry this primary,” Gingrich said, “at that point, I believe, we’ll be a long way towards the nomination.” If nominated, he continued, “I believe that we can decisively defeat President Obama in a general election.”
Gene Goldberg, who has lived in Boca Raton for 30 years, was in the room. He’s supporting former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney because he doesn’t believe Gingrich can win in November.
“I think Gingrich is—” and then Goldberg turned to his wife of 27 years to ask for the word “—explosive. I think he’s a very intelligent man and knowledgeable. But he’s too explosive.”
“I’m not into cheating on your wives,” Goldberg added. “And he did it on both of them.”
Just one week after he decisively won the South Carolina primary, Gingrich is once again the underdog in the race for the Republican nomination.
A new Quinnipiac University poll showed him trailing former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney by nine points, likely the result of Romney’s campaign vastly outspending Gingrich’s in this large and important swing state. The attack ads targeting the former speaker being aired on Florida’s expensive airwaves, paid for by Super PACs affiliated with Romney, don’t help Gingrich’s chances, either.
At the RJC event, Gingrich did take a few shots at Romney, but his speech focused mostly on familiar territory: foreign policy, and specifically the Middle East.
If elected, Gingrich promised to enact a “very different strategy for the entire region.” He said that any efforts to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians had to wait until the Palestinians first accept Israel’s right to exist, relinquish any right of return, and “adequately quit teaching terrorism.”
“Until they do those three things, there is no peace process. This is a fraud,” Gingrich said. “And it’s a dangerous fraud because it always leads to one-sided pressure on Israel.”
When it came to Iran, Gingrich reiterated his belief that a nuclear Iran could endanger Israel. Talk of “a second Holocaust,” Gingrich said, wasn’t hyperbolic.
“If you’re going to go to Yad Vashem,” Gingrich said, referring to the Holocaust museum in Israel, “if you’re going to go around saying ‘Never again,’... then we had better act before it happens, not after it happens.”
That line, along with a few others, won a standing ovation from the audience, and there were certainly a number of Gingrich supporters in the crowd.
“I just think he’s a stronger person,” said Haley Joyce, a Gingrich backer who lives in nearby coastal town of Ocean Ridge. “He’s not a yes man.”
Joyce had just been interviewed by a journalist from another Jewish publication, and she said the conversation ended somewhat abruptly, when she told the interviewer that she wasn’t Jewish.
“This is why our country is so divided,” Joyce said, expressing frustration at those who describe themselves with hyphenated terms like Jewish-American or African-American. “Why can’t we all just be Americans?” she asked.
One Jewish-American, Peter Weisz, said he knew that many Jews were wary of supporting Gingrich, preferring to support Romney, for reasons that went beyond simple electability.
“They also feel that Romney is a little bit more, how shall I put it, acceptable taste-wise, for people that buy into a liberal agenda,” Weisz said. “He’s not as off-putting about abortion, etcetera. That’s why he’s gaining some support among Jews.”
But Weisz, who was holding a sketch of Gingrich he had made during the event (see photo), said that Jews voting for Romney should think twice about their choice.
“If you’re looking at a litmus test, which of these gentlemen is the most devoted Zionist,” Weisz said, “any investigation will tell you it’s got to be Gingrich.”
How Tuesday’s Republican primary will turn out is anyone’s guess. The first three states to vote turned up three different winners. The candidates have met for 19 televised debates. And yet the Republican party’s voters remain divided.
Romney is often referred to as the candidate of the Republican party’s establishment, and the endorsements he’s racked up are evidence of that. Arizona Sen. John McCain, who ran for President in 2008, has been stumping for Romney in Florida and Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, another surrogate, was actually present at Gingrich’s RJC event. I heard one Romney advertisement playing on a Spanish-language radio station that featured endorsements from prominent Latino elected officials, including Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
But Adam Hasner, a former majority leader in the Florida State Legislature who is running for U.S. Senate, was also in the room on Friday, and he said he was, like many Republican voters, “still uncommitted.”
“I am in good company,” Hasner said, “because [former Florida Governor] Jeb Bush and [Florida Sen.] Marco Rubio have also not publicly declared which Presidential candidate they’re supporting,”
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January 26, 2012 | 3:00 am
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
Imagine the following scenario: Your country is attacked. The attack comes suddenly, without much warning, a direct hit on the central seat of power. As fear and rage bubble just beneath the surface, a controversial political leader, who represents the preferred choice of maybe half of the country’s citizens, takes over the country’s most powerful office. The country’s very identity is under threat, the leader says, a threat from an enemy that must be defeated. This new leader declares a state of emergency.
You are a lawyer, and you watch as the leaders of your country enact new laws—the better to protect the people from this dangerous enemy, they say—and transform old ones, broadening and extending them in unprecedented ways. Police officers begin working more closely with the armed forces. In court, some people have lawyers; others are denied legal representation. For some unlucky defendants, detention can come at any time, without so much as an explanation of the charges against them.
This scenario describes the situation that faced attorneys and judges in Nazi Germany. On January 25, in his presentation “Law, Justice and the Holocaust,” historian William Meinecke, Jr., outlined the process by which, step by step, lawyers in Nazi Germany acquiesced to the policies set out by Adolf Hitler.
Forced to pledge allegiance to the Fuhrer, German defense attorneys turned on their clients, and pleaded for convictions. Low-level criminals—petty thieves, for instance—were given death sentences by obedient judges.
And some lawyers did even more to advance the Nazi agenda. In 1942, Meinecke said, a group of high-ranking Nazi officials met in Wannsee, where they devised the “Final Solution,” a regimented process that efficiently brought about the murder of millions of European Jews.
“Of the 15 who met at Wannsee,” Meinecke said, “nine had law degrees. Six had doctorates of law.” Why is it, the historian asked in a room full of lawyers, that the study of law is not a barrier to engaging in—or justifying—activities that are obviously illegal?
Meinecke has given this hour-long presentation countless times before, telling lawyers and judges around the world about how lawyers and judges in Nazi Germany engaged in gross miscarriages of justice in the name of protecting “the interests of the national community.”
At the University of California, Los Angeles Faculty Center, 150 people, most of them lawyers, listened to Meinecke recount the case of Jewish film director Henry Koster, who had the second half of his two-picture deal declared null and void on the basis of a clause that was intended to take effect if Koster died or became disabled.
Koster, whose name was then Hermann Kosterlitz, was very much alive and well in 1933, but with the Nazis in power, no film of his could ever be shown in Germany. The film company cancelled his contract, and three separate courts, including the country’s highest, found in their favor, against Koster.
Wednesday evening’s event was presented by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Bet Tzedek Legal Services and the School of Law at UCLA. In his introduction, Stan Levy, a founder of Bet Tzedek, said that now is an appropriate time to talk about law and the Holocaust, since the pro bono firm was set to present an award to the museum for its assistance with its largest single initiative, the Holocaust Survivors Justice Network, at its gala the following night. Furthermore, Levy pointed out, this Friday, Jan. 27 has been established by the United Nations as Holocaust Remembrance Day.
But the event’s second component—a panel discussion with three legal experts responding to Meinecke’s remarks—was appropriately timed as well. UCLA Law Professor David Kaye pointed out a present-day legal gray zone—the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, marking its 10th anniversary this month.
Each panelist began by assuring their fellow lawyers in the audience that the legal justifications of Germany’s genocidal war against the Jews is not comparable to the use and/or abuse of law in the United States’ post-9/11 War on Terror. (Despite parallels hinted at in the first two paragraphs of this post, the two situations are more different than they are similar.)
But then they all attempted to explore what lessons might be learned from the failures of lawyers and judges to hold their ground against the Nazi-reformulation of Germany’s laws.
Attorney Charles E. Patterson, a partner in the Los Angeles office of Morrison Foerster, represents one of the detainees being held at Guantanamo.
“Your access to your client is carefully controlled,” Patterson said. “You have to show to what’s called ‘a privilege team’ anything you want to take in.” Anything he wishes to take back with him must be given back to that team upon exit. It’s up to the team to decide whether or not to return those notes at a later time, Patterson said.
“He knows nothing,” Patterson said of his client, a 30 year-old Saudi Arabian who has been at Guantanamo for 10 years. “But because he has a graduate degree in electrical engineering, the government is convinced there must be something connected to something.”
Loyola Law School Professor Laurie L. Levenson, who worked as a federal prosecutor for a decade before becoming a professor, presented to the audience evidence of the transformation of the “material witness law,” a U.S. law she said was established in the 1700s and had long been used sparingly, if at all.
“It wasn’t a favored mechanism,” Levenson said, explaining that the law gives prosecutors the right to detain individuals, even United States citizens, for an unspecified amount of time without charging them with a crime if their testimony is considered essential to the prosecution of a criminal.
After 9/11, though, use of the material witness law exploded. Many of those detained under the law were held for at least a week without being charged. Half of all those so-called material witnesses were never called to testify in a court proceeding.
“From my perspective, oftentimes laws are very neutral on their face,” Levenson said. “They can be used for good, and they can be used for not good, and the most important thing is that the public pay attention.”
In Nazi Germany, the record of lawyers and jurists was abysmal. UCLA Law School Dean Rachel Moran made this clear from the very start, by quoting from a passage from Elie Wiesel’s memoir, “Night.”
In one section, a young boy is hanged in the concentration camp.
“Where is God now?” a prisoner cries out. Wiesel writes that he believed God was hanging on the gallows.
For Moran, it wasn’t only the divine that was absent.
“The question,” Moran asked, “might equally have been, where is law now? And how did it come to this?”
By comparison, the degree to which lawyers like Patterson and others are raising alarm about the legal limbo of the Guantanamo detainees is encouraging. Moreover, even though Guantanamo shows no signs of being closed down anytime soon, some 800 other terror subjects have been prosecuted in United States Courts, Patterson said. Ninety percent of those tried were convicted.
“We can deal with the threats to our security without denying the accused the basic rights provided by our Constitution,” Patterson said.
January 24, 2012 | 2:14 pm
Posted by Six Degrees No Bacon, JTA
The 2012 Academy Award nominations came out Tuesday and it seems like Billy Crystal will be hosting a big ol’ Jewish party, providing traction to those who advance the canard that Jews do indeed control Hollywood.
Three Jewish filmmakers are nominated for best picture—Steven Spielberg for “War Horse,” Rachael Horovitz for “Moneyball” and Stephen Tenenbaum and Letty Aronson for “Midnight in Paris.” Aronson, who happens to be Woody Allen’s sister, will probably be seeing a lot of her brother during the show because Woody is also nominated for an Academy Award as best director for the same film.
Jonah Hill is also nominated for an Oscar for his supporting role in “Moneyball.” And in foreign news, Israel is back with Joseph Cedar’s film “Footnote,” due for a March release in the United States. “Footnote” will go head to head with “In Darkness,” a Polish film from Jewish director Agnieszka Holland (“Europa, Europa”) about Jews who hid in the gutters of Lvov during the Holocaust.
The Oscars will take place Feb. 26. 6noBacon will be updating before, during and after the event.
Midnight in Paris
January 24, 2012 | 8:34 am
Posted by Tom Tugend
Veterans Steven Spielberg and Woody Allen and Israel’s “Footnote” are in the finals of the Oscar race as the 84th Academy Award nominations were announced early Jan. 24 in Los Angeles.
Spielberg’s “War Horse” and Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” are among the nine best picture nominees, while Allen also got nods for best director and best writing (original screenplay).
However, surprisingly, Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin,” which won a Golden Globe, did not qualify in the best animated film competition.
Israel’s hope for its first Oscar was kept alive with Joseph Cedar’s “Footnote” listed among the five finalists in the foreign-language film category. The story of the rivalry between two talmudic scholars, who are also father and son, marks Cedar’s second Oscar nod, following “Beaufort” in 2007.
Israel’s toughest competition for the Oscar will likely come from Iran’s entry “A Separation” and the Polish film “In Darkness.”
Agnieszka Holland (“Europa, Europa”), the half-Jewish director of “In Darkness,” tells the actual story of a dozen Jewish men, women and children, who hid in the underground sewers of Lvov for 14 months during the Nazi occupation of Poland.
Among other Jewish talent making the cut are:
Jonah Hill, the surprise hit of “Moneyball” after graduating from his shaggy boy roles in “Superbad” and “Cyrus,” who qualified in the best supporting actor category.
Aaron Sorkin (with Steven Zailian), whose “Moneyball” is vying for best adapted screenplay.
Oscar winners will be crowned Feb. 26 at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.
January 23, 2012 | 9:21 pm
Posted by Susan Freudenheim
The New York Times is reporting tonight that Dr. Miriam Adelson, wife of Sheldon Adelson, has donated $5 million to the Super Pac supporting Newt Gingrich’s Florida primary campaign; this is on top of the $5 million that Sheldon Adelson gave to Gingrich to support the same Super PAC Winning Our Future that was supporting (successfully, as it turned out) the Gingrich campaign in advance of the South Carolina primary.
The Adelsons, whom I met here in L.A. in September, when they made a relatively rare appearance to talk about their support for Birthright Israel, have virtually unlimited cash to support causes that they care about. Adelson told me there would be no limit to his support for Birthright, and similarly, he and his wife seem to have no limit to their support for Gingrich.
As I wrote in September, Adelson explained his philosophy of giving this way:
He described how he grew up poor, taunted by anti-Semites outside Boston, and how he was deeply influenced by his father, whom he repeatedly referred to, endearingly, as “Daddy.” Adelson’s father was a Lithuanian-born dirt-poor cab driver who, each evening, put all his spare change into the Jewish National Fund “pushke” (tzedakah box). The billionaire son remains bothered that this man, who ardently gave whatever he could to Israel, never got to visit the Jewish state, which is a part of why he believes in sending 18- to-26-year-olds there on free 10-day trips, to help, he said, ensure a Jewish future. Indeed, he has happily paid a lion’s share of Birthright’s costs, though the need has never been fully met, so now he wants more help. Still, he’s prepared to match, dollar for dollar, anyone’s gift.
He explained that “beside my current motto that It Feels Good to Do Good,” he believes in the Jewish obligation to give, whatever your situation. “My parents were too poor to own rags,” Adelson said, and yet, “Daddy told me, ‘No matter how poor you are, there’s always somebody poorer.’ ” The elder Adelson instructed his son to put one penny from every dollar he earned into the pushke, and it stuck.
“I don’t do it every day,” Adelson admitted, “but I make it up in bulk.”
Yes, of course, paying for kids to go to Israel isn’t the same as giving to a political campaign—there would seem to be far less self interest, naturally. But the aspect of giving BIG may be related.
At any rate, this time, we can concern ourselves with how much one man’s money can change not just a kid’s life—or how young Americans, by the thousands, relate to Israel. This is a moment to see how much one couple’s money can influence a whole election cycle. We all knew that in the wake of the Supreme Court’s “Citizen’s United” decision that corporations and unions could hold sway on campaign fundraising, but it was hard to imagine, back in the day,that one couple could singlehandedly tip the balance of a primary. Will Florida Republicans now go the way of South Carolina?
The Adelsons, who have made their fortune in casinos, are known for their generosity. But what else can generosity buy?
January 22, 2012 | 12:19 am
Posted by Tom Tugend
Last week was one of those times when it appeared that the human race is losing its collective marbles.
The Republican primary debates were weird enough, followed by the tragicomedy of Captain Francesco Schettino of the jolly cruise ship Costa Concordia, who reportedly and “accidentally” fell into a lifeboat, while his ship, with its panicked passengers, keeled over on its side.
But the final nudge into utter mindlessness came from Andrew B. (for Barrett) Adler, owner and publisher of the Atlanta Jewish Times.
A diligent Internet search of Mr. Adler’s resume yielded meager results, but apparently he has been active in Georgia Jewish journalism for some decades.
He is listed as the one-time editor and publisher of the Atlanta Maccabiah Press, which morphed into the Metro Jewish News. In 2009, he bought the Atlanta Jewish Times, which at the time had a staff of five and 3,500 subscribers.
Mr. Adler might have continued to labor in relative obscurity, but in the Jan. 13 issue of his weekly he staked a claim to his 15 minutes of international fame.
In a signed column, Adler suggested to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu three options, if and when Iran gets a workable nuclear bomb.
One would be a pre-emptive strike against the Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist groups, nurtured by Iran, or, secondly, a direct strike against Iran.
For the third option, Adler came up with a real mind-bender. “Give the go-ahead for U.S.-based Mossad agents to take out a president deemed unfriendly to Israel in order for the current vice president to take his place and forcefully dictate that the United States policy includes its helping the Jewish state obliterate its enemies,” Adler advised.
Story continues after the jump
Video courtesy of AIB TV
Just in case the reader missed the subtle point, Adler hammered it home by adding,” Yes, you read [the third option] correctly. Order a hit on a president in order to preserve Israel’s existence. Think about it. If I have thought of this Tom Clancy-type scenario, don’t you think that this almost unfathomable idea has been discussed in Israel’s most inner circles?”
Adler’s modest suggestion, with its implication that the Israeli government might be as deranged as the author, would be shrugged off as heavy-handed anti-Zionist propaganda if “revealed” by Ahmadinejad or his ilk.
For a couple of days the hare-brained scenario, which would consign Israel and the Jewish people to permanent pariah status if actually carried out, remained unnoticed. But then it was discovered by the Gawker.com website, passed on to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and the (expletive) hit the fan.
The Israeli consul-general in Atlanta and Jewish groups denounced the article, and, according to news reports, the U.S. Secret Service said it would look into the matter.
A suitably chastened Adler told JTA, “I very much regret it, I wish I hadn’t made reference to it at all.” Later, he asserted that the article, which appeared under the headline “What would you do?” merely meant to elicit reader reactions to his ideas.
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, released a statement which put the matter into a nutshell.
“There is absolutely no excuse, no justification, no rationalization for this kind of rhetoric. It doesn’t even belong in fiction. These are irresponsible and extremist words. It is outrageous and beyond the pale. An apology cannot possibly repair the damage,” Foxman wrote.
“Irresponsible rhetoric metastasizes into more dangerous rhetoric. The ideas expressed in Mr. Adler’s column reflect some of the extremist rhetoric that unfortunately exists… even in some segments of our community… that maliciously labels President Obama as an ‘enemy of the Jewish people.’”
In the Israel daily Haaretz, writer Chemi Shalev harkened back to the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin by a Jewish extremist to warn that suggestions such as Adler’s “need to trigger just one homicidal chemical reaction in just one fanatic’s brain for history to change forever.”
ADL’s Foxman concluded his statement with one apt observation. “Mr. Adler’s lack of judgment as a publisher, editor and columnist raises serious questions as to whether he’s fit to run a newspaper.”
January 20, 2012 | 11:30 am
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January 18, 2012 | 1:48 pm
Posted by Tom Tugend
“Footnote,” Israel’s Oscar entry for best foreign-language film, has qualified for the shortlist of nine semi-finalists, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Wednesday.
The nine selected films, culled from submissions by 63 countries, will be winnowed down to five when final nominations in all categories are announced Jan. 24.
“Footnote,” directed and written by Joseph Cedar, centers on the rivalry between a father and son, both famous Talmudic scholars in Jerusalem. In a phone call to his Tel Aviv home, the New York-born Cedar said, “I’m absolutely happy and relieved. Now I face another week of stress [until the five finalists are named], with all of Israel breathing down my neck.”
Cedar, 43, has made four feature movies in his 11-year career, and all were chosen as Israel’s entries in the Oscar competitions. In 2007, his war film “Beaufort” was among the five Academy Award finalists. His toughest competition this year is likely to come from Iran’s “A Separation,” the critical favorite so far, Germany’s “Pina,” and Poland’s “In Darkness.” The latter film, by Agnieszka Holland (“Europa, Europa”) follows the fate of a dozen Jewish men, women and children, who hid for 14 months in the underground sewers of Lvov during the Nazi occupation of Poland.
Also qualifying for the short list are Belgium’s “Bullhead,” Canada’s “Monsieur Lazhar,” Denmark’s “Superclasico,” Morocco’s “Omar Killed Me” and Taiwan’s “Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale.”
Some early favorites didn’t make the cut, among them China’s “The Flowers of War,” Finland’s “Le Havre,” Lebanon’s “Where Do We Go Now?” and Mexico’s “Miss Bala.”
Oscar winners will be crowned Feb. 26 at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.