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February 22, 2008

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, FEBRUARY 22, 2008 PAGE 15A Lantos From page IA education, and a commit- ment to the State of Israel," U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D- Calif.), the speaker of the House of Representatives, said in a statement. Sallai Meridor, Israel's ambassador to Washington, said Israel "lost one of our greatest friends." The remembrances of Lantos, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, were a kaleido- scope of the human rights causes he championed since his election to the House in 1980. Wiesel remembered Lan- tos' contributions to the building of the U.S. Holo- caust Memorial Museum, which Wiesel helped found. "From the very beginning in Washington he was with us, involved in every step leading to the building of the museum, developing it into a source for archives, learning and teaching," he said. Mark Levin, the executive director of NCSJ: Advocates on behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States and Eurasia, focused on Lantos' role in the 1980s in pressing the Soviet Union to release its Jews. Lantos made several trips to Russia to meet with refuseniks and championed them in Congress. "He was forthright, com- passionate and deeply com- mitted to the cause of free- ing Jews from the former Soviet Union." Levin told JTA. In 2003 he would "found the House's Human Rights Caucus. Other encomiums came from The American Jewish World Service, which has led the Jewish community in pressing for an end to the genocide in Sudan; the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which praised his steadfast sup- port for Israel and his tough stance on iran; and the Jewish Council for Public Af- fairs, which commemorated his contributions to social welfare at home. "He has been a valiant voice demanding more action against the Darfur genocide and at the same time a valiant leader in the fight to stop the scourge of HIV/AIDS from devastating the developing world," AJWS President Ruth Messinger told JTA from Uganda, where she was touring AIDS relief projects. Lantos "blazed a trail in the United States Congress fighting for education, health care, human rights, and Israel," said JCPA, the public-policy umbrella body for several influential na- tional Jewish'organizations, the synagogue movements and more than 100 local Jewish communities. Adding their remem- brances were the United Jewish Communities, B'nai B'rith International, the Anti-Defamation League, the World Jewish Congress, the Reform movement's Religious Action Center, Hadassah and Americans for Peace Now. The Democratic National Committee remembered Lantos' service to his Silicon. Valley district. "In serving his constitu- ents and his country, Tom never forgot the Democratic Party's ideals of freedom, fairness and opportunity for all," the chairman of the DNC, Howard Dean, said in a statement. Lantos was not afraid to take on his allies. On the foreign affairs committee, he blasted Silicon Valley gi- ants like Google and Yahoo for colluding with China's government in censorship. He authored tough Iran sanctions legislation, but broke with pro-Israel or- thodoxy by offering to meet with the Islamic Republic's leaders. Pro-Israel groups also opposed a nonbinding reso- lution that recognized the Ottoman-era massacres of Armenians as a geno- cide, Worried that it would cause a rift between Israel and Turkey. Lantos pushed the measure through the committee, unwilling to countenance what he saw as genocide revisionism. His appeal crossed po- litical aisles: Both the Na- tional.Jewish Democratic Council and the Republi- can Jewish Coalition issued statements mourning his passing. Top Republicans on his committee recalled him fondly. "An unfailingly gracious and courageous man, Tom was recognized by friends and colleagues alike as a leader who left an enviable legacy Of service to his country," said Rep. Ileana Ros Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the committee's ranking mem- ber. The campaigns of the two Democrats left in the presidential field, U.S. Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) als0 released state- merits mourning his pass- ing. Lantos was 16 in 1944 when the Nazis invaded his native Hungary; his Web site tells of his fighting in the anti-Nazi underground. In 1947 he came to the United States to study. Lan- tos was a noted economist and consultant prior to his House election in 1980. Expressions of his love for his adopted country were as constant as his defenses of human rights. "It is only in the United States that a penniless survivor of the Holocaust and a fighter in the anti- Nazi underground could have received an education, raised a family and had the privilege of serving the last three decades of his life as a member of Congress," he said in-his statement last month announcing his retirement. "I will never be able to express fully my piofoundly felt gratitude to this great country." Lantos, said Wiesel, died too young---even at 80, even after serving nearly three decades in public office. He noted that Lantos only ascended to the commit- tee chairmanship in 2006 after Democrats regained Congress. "He had influence," Wiesel said. "He would have had more had he lived." Hezbollah From page 1A answer to the July 12, 2006 kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah--rather than the offensive Olmert ordered at the time, which turned into the 34-day Second Lebanon War. But Shelah also warned Is- raelis against gloating, given that Hezbollah blamed Israel for the killing and promised to avenge it. "Today, Hezbollah and the Islamic Resistance are ready to confront any pos- sible Israeli aggression on Lebanon," Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said last Thursday at Mughniyeh's funeral in Beirut, which was attended by more than 10,000 people, according to the New York Times. "You killed Imad outside the battleground. Our battle was inside the Lebanese territory. You crossed the borders. Zionists, if you wanted open war, let it be an open war anywhere." In response, the U.S. De- partment of Homeland Secu- rity issued awarning that was relayed to Jewish institutions in theUnited States. Jerusalem sources said Israel's new security alert could be in place for weeks or even months, given as- sessments that Hezbollah, still reeling from Israel's offensive against it in the 2006 Lebanon war, would bide its time before launch- ing a revenge strike. Was killing Mughniyeh, Shelah asked, "worth Hez- bollah's revenge?" There was little doubt over the 45-year-old fugitive's guilt. Mughniyeh was the mas- termind behind a slew of Hezbollah attacks, from southern Lebanon to Bue- nos Aires, the Argentinean capital where the bombings of the Israeli Embassy in 1992 and the AMIA Jewish community center in 1994 killed scores of people. Mughniyefa was named in connection with Hezbotlah's abduction of Israeli soldiers in 2000 and 2006, and even in the disappearance of Ron Arad, an Israeli airman who bailed out o eer Lebanon in 1986 and was subsequently captured and whose fate is still unknown. "For us, Mughniyehwas on the level of Osama bin Laden in terms of the threat he posed," Israeli analyst Ehud Yaari said. "It is impossible to overstate the blow that his death dealt toHezbollah." Israeli Environment Minister Gideon Ezra said whoever killed Mughniyeh "should be congratulated." Mughniyeh was no less a target for the United States, featuring high on the FBI's wanted list. He was believed to be behind the 1983 bomb- ing of the U.S. Marines bar- racks in Beirut, which killed 241 U.S. service members, and the 1985 hijacking of a TWA airliner. "The world is a better place without this man in it. He was a cold-blooded killer, a mass murderer and a terror- ist responsible for countless innocent lives lost," State Department spokesman Scan McCormack said. "One way or a/lother, he was brought to justice." Israeli intelligence buffs marveled at the skill that must have been required to pull offsuch a surgical strike in a vigilant place like the Syrian capital. But some pundits were circumspect about the im- pact on future Hezbollah activity. "Military activity---and Mughniyeh was one of its pillars--is not, in contrast to what is thought in Israel, Hezbollah's main role in the view of its followers," Jacky Hugi, Arab Affairs corre- spondent for Israel's daily Ma'ariv, said. "In the ongoing battle between Israel and Hez- bollah, Imad Mughniyeh's elimination will change almost nothing. His place will be taken by someone else, either more talented or less, but the ideology will remain as it was." Bill From page 2A B'nai Brith International and the World Jewish Congress oppose its adoption. So does the U.S. State Department and the German government, which expressed its displeasure late lastyear in a letter to the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Ca- lif.), who died last week. The Foreign Affairs Com- mittee approved the bill in October. "The legislation would restore the basic rights of survivors," said Israel Arbe- iter, a survivor from Boston who also testified before the committee. "It isn't asking Lawsuits From page 2A with her son and Ellis' parents, who live in Chicago. Representatives of the fami- lies said they did not want to reveal which congressional offices they were visiting because of the sensitivity of opposing the Bush adminis- tration. However, Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) are known to have pressed Mi- chael Mukasey, the U.S. attor- ney general, on the issue. Mark Sokolow, his wife and two daughters suffered injuries in a bomb blast not for very much, really. Is it too much for Holocaust survivors to have the right of access to American courts to sue insurance companies who cheated our families out of our insurance proceeds?" Though committee mem- bers generally didn't explic- itly convey support for the bill, it was evident there was significant sympathy for Arbeiter's position. "This is about greed," said U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), summing up what appeared to be a widespread sentiment among the hand- ful of committee members present. "This is about denial. This is another aspect of Holocaust denial." Wexler spoke twice, both times raising his voice and waving his arms. At one point, he wondered how Jewish organizational leaders could sleep at night knowing they were standing in the way of survivors pursuing remunera- tion for defaulted policies. Wexler noted that even by the lowest figures, ICHEIC paid out only 15 percent of the estimated value of pre- war policies, and time is running out for elderly sur- vivors to achieve a measure of justice. "If this bill does not pass," Wexler said, "game over." During the questioning, Frank inquired about Swit- zerland and Austria, which far from their hotel in west Jerusalem in 2002. The New York lawyer said government intervention was undue in- terference in the judicial system. "There's a system in Amer- ica for seeking monetary damages when someone has injured you," he told JTA. "If the funds are available and the judicial system says the plaintiffs are entitled, we should get them." Dr. Richard Blutstein, a physician in Harrisl~urg, Pa was taking patients last Tuesday afternoon and then driving with his wife, despite the forecast of snow, to make the meetings thatWednesday. His son, Benjamin, was killed in July 2002 in the Hebrew University cafeteria bomb blast. Blutstein noted that other nations have been compelled to make good on lawsuits that have not invited U.S. government intervention, citing Libya. "To side with the terrorists is not in the interests of our national security," he said. "The bottom line is there will not be peace in the Middle East until all the players agree that it's not OK to kill anyone anywhere not even in Israel." some have suggested have not been as responsive to claims against insurance companies. "Mr. Kent, did you want to respond to that, about Austria and Switzerland," Frank asked. "I would but first, with your permission Chairman Leach, to finish what you said I will " Kent said, confus- ing Frank with U.S. Rep. Jim Leach (R-Iowa), who chaired the Financial Services Com- mittee until 2007. Envoys From page not being fired into civil- ian targets whether from the north or the south," he said. "We're going to ensure Israel's qualitative military superiority in this difficult neighborhood." In his column, Ayalon as- serted that "Obama has yet to suggest specific measures he would enact regarding the Jewish State's Qualitative Military Edge that allows us to defend ourselves against our current and future en- emies." Two days after the column, Ha'aretz quoted Meridor as saying that while Israel is following the American elec- tions closely, it "has no in- tention of interfering in the course of these elections." And in a thinly veiled swipe Unfazed by the mix-up, the Massachusetts lawmaker grudgingly agreed--if Kent would keep it short. "If you can do it in 30 seconds, Mr. Kent," Frank replied. "You had over 10 minutes for a five minute period." Kent returned to his pre- pared statement, arguing that ongoing negotiations with European governments could be undermined if par- ticipants could notbe assured that, even once they paid up, they would be spared further action. It was a logical point, one made by Eizenstat, the Jewish groups and a representative from the State Department. But Frank had clearly heard enough. "No. I'm sorry Mr. Kent, that's enough," Frank said. "You're abusing, you'reabus- ing the privilege of the committee. You had over 10 minutes. I've listened a lot. I now want to get to the questions." at Ayalon, Meridor added, "Opinions to the contrary articulated by private Israeli citizens, including former Officials, do not represent in any way~ the policy of the Government of Israel." In his interview with JTA, Ayalon said that his com- ments were being miscon- strued by the critics. Ayalon maintains that he was nei- ther endorsing nor opposing Obamars candidacy, nor was he suggesting, as the e-mail smears implicitly do, that Obama was not being fully honest with his statements of support for Israel. Ayalon said he was merely encouraging the candidate t ~ be more specific in ex- plaining his attitudes toward the Jewish state and that his. criticisms were intended to be helpful. He added that he believes the Obama campaign will benefit from his op-ed, "as it already has." Ayalon also noted that Pinkas' laudatory article had not elicited criticism about Israeli interference in Ameri- can elections. The Pinkas op-ed defended Obama's record on Israel, which he called "impeccable," and blasted the Israeli reports of official concern over his candidacy. "There is no way in the world that anyone remotely involved in foreign policy or U.S. policy ever expressed any concerns," Pinkas wrote. "At worst, Obama may have been described as a question mark we know little about as were, before him, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush in 1992 and 2000 respectively."