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February 29, 2008     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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February 29, 2008

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PAGE 10A HERITAGE FLORIDA J EWlSH NEWS, FEBRUARY 29, 2008 roups voice By Ben Harris NEW YORK (JTA)--Jewish groups are expressing grow- ing concern that cable TV news programs are providing a platform to radical anti-il- legal immigration activists. including those who advocate that armed citizens patrol the U.S.-Mexico border. Activists also have de- scribed the presence of Mexi- can flags il~ the United States as acts of war. In a letter to the heads of major cable news networks last week, the American Jew- ish Committee said it was "inappropriate and offensive for major television news programs to provide a mi- crophone to individuals and organizations that promote hate, espouse vigilantism. white supremacy or even violence in the immigration debate." "We know the history of what hate speech can cause," said Jeffrey Sinensky, the AJC's general counsel, who drafted and signed the letter. "It's really just a precursor to violence." The Anti-Defamation League also has expressed concerns, and the issue is slated to be addressed at the upcoming plenum of the Jewish Council for Public Af- fairs, a public-policy umbrella organization that brings together several prominent national Jewish groups, the major synagogue movements and scores of local commu- nities. Among those singled out in the AJC's letter were the founders of the Minuteman Project, an organization cre- ated to patrol the U.S.-Mexi- can border and intercept those crossing illegally. Minute- man-related groups have been accused by Jewish organiza- tions of promoting hate and were described as "vigilantes" by President Bush. "As a Jewish American, I think it'sunfortunate that the American Jewish Committee would side with individuals seeking to violate the rule of law in the United States of America," said Bryan Rud- nick, national communica- tions director for the Minute- man Civil Defense Corps, an offshoot of the Minuteman Project. The group's leader, Chris Simcox. is frequently cited by the ADL and AJC for promoting hatred. "Chris Simcox is a patriotic citizen who is seeking, like millions of other Americans. to have our government se- cure the borders and enforce the rule of law." Rudnick said. "I believe the Torah teaches us to abide by the laws of the country in which we live." Jewish organizations have been increasingly vocal in recent months about what they perceive as the hostile and dehumanizing tone of the national conversation in the United States concerning illegal immigration. In addi- CNN CNN's Lou Dobbs, con- sidered by some the poster boy of anti-immigration advocacy. tion to the AJC's recent letter to cable companies, the ADL issued a report last October saying that anti-immigrant groups were increasingly using language that dehu- manized minorities, espe- cially Hispanics. The ADL warned that such rhetoric was infecting mainstream discourse. Both the AJC and the ADL have launched campaigns to promote awareness of America's ~mmigrant roots in an effort to counter what they see as growing hostility toward immigrants. In Janu- ary, the ADL re-released "A Nation of Immigrants," an 1958 monograph by then-U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy, who originally wrote it at the behest of the ADL. The AJC has partnered with the National Council of La Raza. a Latino community group, on its We Can Stop the Hate Program. Jim Gilchrist, another im- migration ~activist frequently cited by Jewish groups, reject- ed the criticisms out of hand. Gilchrist. founder and presi- dent of the Minuteman Proj- ect, noted that immigrants are members of his group and of his immediate family, and he accused the ADL of being "amateur propagandists" and "hate-mongers" for spreading lies about him. "I'm disappointed that groups like this keep targeting those that they disagree with with their wrath and their hate," Gilchrist told JTA. "I think it's part of a fund-rais- ing campaign. They certainly can generate a lot of fund raising." Jewish groups also have focused on CNN's Lou Dobbs. arguably the media person- ality most responsible for thrusting immigration into the country's consciousness. Dobbs, whose show features a mix of reporting and advo- cacy, frequently rails against liberal immigration laws on his program. "Lou Dobbs To- night," and has given airtime to both Gilchrist and Simcox. The ADL has accused Dobbs of spreading "false propa- ganda." "Lou Dobbs is the poster boy for going absolutely tremendously across the line in so many ways," said the JCPA's Hadar Susskind. "He obviously is one of these people who has taken ul~ this issue and decided he's going to build a name on it." Dobbs fired back earlier this month, calling the ADL "'a joke" in the course of a heated exchange on his program with a Latino civil rights actiVist. The activist. Janet Murguia of La Raza. had cited ADL research into anti-immigrant groups and called the league "a very well- respected voice." "Not by me," Dobbs snapped. "They are a joke." Earlier in the program. which aired Feb. 4 on CNN, Dobbs characterized the ADL and the Southern Poverty Law Center as "absolute advocate groups for open borders and amnesty for illegal aliens." Murgula countered that thatwasjustan opinion. "No." Dobbs said. "It's a fact." Neither the ADL nor Dobbs responded to JTA's requests for comment. But Keith O1- bermann of MSNBC, one of the three networks contacted by the AJC. responded on his program, "Countdown." In a feature called the "Worst Person in the World." Olber- mann quipped that Dobbs could launch a presidential campaign as the head of his own political party, the Pro- Defamation League. For his part. Gilchrist said he accepts that the immigra- tion debate has overheated and will take care to ensure his language doesn't stray into the inflammatory. "I'm not perfect." Gilchrist said. "I'm very, very aware that some persons can take what I say as smacking of elitism and racism and things like that." Beyond the concern over tone. Jewish organizations have a deep, substantive disagreement with Dobbs and the immigration activ- ists over U.S. immigration policy. The consensus Jewish position supports compre- hensive immigration reform. including improved border security and a path toward citizenship for those who are here illegally, as well as "'generous" policies on legal immigration. The Minuteman groups want to see millions of illegal immigrants deported. Gilchrist says the issue isn't immigration, but illegal im- migration-and, more point- edly, the failure of many immi- grants to properly assimilate into American society. "My intentions certainly never have been to create racial hatred." Gilchrist said. "It's to bring forward the fact that we have a lax concern for immigration enforcement. Multiculturalism and diver- sity are great concepts. But when they lack assimilation into the host country, they're very destructive and they create things like racism and segregation." By Toby Axelrod BERLIN (JTA)--In a case that may set a precedent for seizing funds from ter- rorist sponsors, attorneys are fighting to have Iranian assets in France confiscated and handed over to American victims of terrorism. A French appellate court was scheduled to consider on Feb. 25 whether to continue holding $117 million in Ira- nian funds that have been frozen in France's Natexis Banques Populaire. At issue is whether-these funds, part of the Central Bank of the Islamic Repub- lic of Iran, are state funds, which are immune from seizure, or commercial funds, which may be subject to seizure. The fight to obtain the mon- ey follows two U.S. court deci- sions, on Sept. 16, 2003 and March 24, 2006. inwhich U.S. district judges in Washington ordered Iran to pay damages and interest of $87.5 million to 12 U.S. citizens injured in terrorist attacks in Israel in 1995 and 1997. The courts in Washington determined that Iran was li- able for the damages due to its sponsorship of Hamas, which orchestrated the attacks. The incidents included the 1995 bombing of an Israeli bus in the Gaza Strip and a 1997 triple suicide bombing in downtown Jerusalem by Hamas terrorists who planted rat poison in their bombs to maximize damage. Iran never sent a represen- tative to the court to provide a defense. The lead plaintiff in the 1997 case is Jenny Rubin, who was injured in thatattack. The lead plaintiff in the 1995 case is Seth Klein Ben Haim. His was the same bombing that killed Alisa Flatow, whose fa- ther. New Jersey attorney Ste- phen Flatow, collected about $26 million of a separate $248 million judgment against Iran for its sponsorship of the Palestinian terrorists who perpetrated the attack. In the Rubin case, Judge Ricardo Urbina found in favor of the victims, noting that Iran's Ministry of Terrorism "spends between $50 mil- lion and $100 million a year sponsoring terrorist activities of various organizations such as Hamas." Unable to find qualifying Iranian assets in the United States from which to col- lect, the plaintiffs' attorneys turned their sights overseas. The question now is whether they can collect from Iranizin assets in France. "We have been seeking to enforce the judgment in many countries for several years," said attorney David Strach- man, a Rhode Island-based lawyer representing plaintiffs in the case. In the United States, plaintiffs have had some successes col- lecting on judgments against Treating patients in Central Florida for over 25 Years Steven Rosenberg, M.D. Carlos M. Jacinto, M.D. &LLEI~(~V & ASTHMA ASSOCIATES OF CENIRAL I:L()I?IDA Winter Park Orlando 407-678-4040 407-370-3705 Altamonte Springs 407-331-6244 liana Stone, ARNP-C Our physicians are Board Certified Allergy, Asthma & Immunology & Board Certified Pediatrics Our physicians hold faculty appointments at the Florida State University School of Medicine and the University of Central Florida School of Medicine and are members of Florida Hospital Kid's Doc's Iran for sponsoring terrorism. In perhaps the most famous of these cases. Flatow collected the compensatory portion of the judgment against Iran for his daughter's death. To pursue Iranian assets, attorneys in the cases stem- ming from the 1995 and 1997 bombings are relying in part on precedent set in the Fla- tow family's legal fight. One notable development of that fight was the passage in the U.S. Congress of the Flatow Amendment to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. That legislation removed sovereign immunity, which protects states from lawsuits in foreign courts, in cases of state-sponsored terrorism. Iran has responded harshly to efforts to freeze its assets overseas, Last fall. Iranian Central Bank Governor Tahmasb Mazaheri called such actions "psychological warfare." He was quoted by Reuters as saying, "The world is big and having no cooperation with one country does not stop Iran's banking activities." In December 2007. Chris- toph Martin Radtke, the Paris- based lawyer working with Strachman's firm, succeeded in having funds from the Central Bank of Iran frozen at Bank Melli and Natexis Banques Populaire. Today, only the funds at Natexis remain frozen. Radtke told JTA that bank- ing secrecy laws present a major obstacle in determining the nature of transactions and whether the assets in the bank qualify for seizure. He argues that the Central Bank of Iran's assets qualify because the bank is controlled by Iran's presidentand regime, does not have a floating currency, and exists merely to collect debts. receive payments and issue letters of credit to Iranian companies. The bank "is in reality not a central bank or a bank that has normal commercial operations." he said. Maintaining the current freeze on assets would bring "security for our clients that they will get paid once we have the U.S. judgment enforced in France," Radtke said. "Of course, if the money is unfrozen itwillprobably leave France and go back to Iran or somewhere else. And then it will be diffi- cult or even impossible for the victims to get paid." The Central Bank of Iran has demanded through French attorney Bertrand Moreau that the freeze be lifted. Moreau told JTA in an email he could not comment on the case. Radtke said this is the first time Iranian funds have been frozen in French banks for as long as several months. The case could become a precedent in Europe for holding a non- E.U. country accountable for terrorist acts, he said. In late December 2007, the French Ministry of Justice Min- istry argued on Iran's behalf-- the U.S. Justice Department has done the same in cases in which U.S. citizens have tried to seize Iranian assets in the United States--and on Jan. 24 the French court decided to lift the freeze, based on the argument that central bank funds are diplomatic assets and therefore entitled to immunity from civil lawsuits. But Radtke appealed the decision Jan. 27, and the next hearing in the case was scheduled for Feb. 25.