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March 27, 2009

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MARCH 27, 2009 PAGE 5A By Lyn Payne Associate Editor American International Group has posted armed guards at its doors, presum- ably to keep out the lynch mobs inflamed by the violent rhetoric sweeping airwaves and blogosphere over the enormous executive bonuses paid out in this massive economic meltdown. "It's a mob effect," one senior exec said of angry messages to his company, according to the Washington Post. "It's put- ting people's lives in danger." AIG's newly installed CEO Edward Lid@ told Congress his employees have received death threats, including one that said executives and their families should be "executed with piano wire around their necks." Right-wing radio personal- ity Rush Limbaugh blames the Obama administration for having "ginned up" populist wrath, even as he himself defends the AIG bonuses. Yet itwasn't the Whi[~e House, but columnists such as Charles Krauthammer and Morton Kondracke who rhetorically commended AIG execs to the guillotine and a boiling pot of oil, respectively. And most darkand terrible of all. Repub- lican Sen. Charles Grasstey saysAIG's execsshouldapolo- gize and commit suicide. And no. his aide couldn't explain the statement away. By all means, let loose the dogs of populist rhetorical wrath on the manifold sins of such heedless, greedy plu- tocrats, Use whatever legal means necessary to take away those bonuses, every red cent of "em. Take away their jobs: We the People are now their employers, and they have failed in their duties to us. I wish a judge could heap enough burning coals of community service hours on their heads to let them see the effects of cor- porate rapacity on the newly jobless, homeless, hopeless. Let justice roll down like waters... But: Despise their actions as any moral person must, these high-flying executives are (though the spark beneath the surface may be hard to see) fellow human beings, and we can only assume that at least a few of them were. like the rest of us, doing thebest they knew how at the time. more or less unreflectively, tempted or distracted by the easy lure of business as usual. Most of them have families, children who love them and who need their parents, and who, even for the worst of crimes, do not deserve to be strung up with piano wire for their parents' sins. And we live in dark and dangerous times. when we read too frequently of a father who kills his family and himself because he can't pay the bills; of marriages crumbling or being blown apart in violence; of children neglected: of desperate men and women taking desperate measures. (Any social service agency, such as our own Jew- ish Family Services, canverify this for you ten times over.) The mental health of our nation now filled with vet- erans of Iraq andAfghanistan who silently carry post-trau- matic stress disorder, aiqdwith more and more people about to lose the little they ever had is strained to breaking. Yes. we have the right and the duty to speak out against evils such as AIG perpetrated upon us. And yes. for me freedom of speech and the value of unfettered debate are pretty nearly absolutes: As that great sage of the Enlightenment, Dr. Samuel Johnson. said of political argument: "Every man has the right to utter what he thinks truth and "every other man has the right to knock him down for it." Harsh language and acerbic flights of verbal fancy are often the best ways to reflect on brutal truths. But those of us who enjoy any kind of public forum also have the duty to speak responsibly, to avoid shout- ing "Fire!" in a theater whose angry occupants are surely tending to swirl into a mob. The Jewish tradition views words as tangible, says Rabbi Joseph Telushkin in his book "Words That Hurt, Words That Heal." He points out that the Hebrew word "devarim" means not only "words" but "things." "Like God," writes Telushkin, "human beings also create with words." To suggest to a nation now teeming with financially and emotionally vulnerable people that violence against one's self or others is a solution, is the basest form of ~rrespon- sibility. If Senator Grassley's grotesque remarks cause even one person now living the long dark night of the soul--maybe wavering between "Should I_.?" and "Shouldn't I...?" to choose death over life, just who should bear the moral responsibility? If his words unleash hatred in someone who then decides to linger with intent outside the AIG offices after closing?... If they change a child's life forever by taking away a father or a mother?... And if another public figure then calls out Grassley for it and sets the lynch mob upon him... "Throughout history," Telushkin writes, "words used unfairly have promoted hatred and even murder. The medieval Crusaders didn't wake up one morning and begin randomly killing Jews. Rather, they and their ances- tors had been conditioned for centuries to think of Jews as 'Christ killers' and thus less than human. Once this verbal characterization took hold, it became easy to kill Jews." If there is anything we Jews understand, it's what it feels like to be on the wrong end of a mob. So where are the hateful words of today leading? To tumbrels and guillotines? To the war of all against all? Once you've dehumanized someone through words, the pogrom is easy. If there's ever been a time in which we needed these words of the ancient Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexan- dria, it is now: "Be kind. for everyone you meet is engaged in a great struggle." The cur- rent struggle demands every ounce of our humanity as we try to heal this wounded nation or assuredly after us will come the deluge. The opinions expressed in this column are those Of Associate Editor Lyn Payne and do not necessarily rep- resent the official position of the Heritage. Send her your comments at news@orlando- By Abraham H. Foxman So there it was, "per- fect proof" of what John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt were saying about the Israeli lobby: The pressure mounted and Charles Free- man, the designated Chair- man of the National Intel- ligence Council, decided to withdraw his name from consideration. Of course, the incident really has nothing to do with the kind of allegations against the Jewish community that Mearsheimer and Walt and others have been propagating. Their contention is that the Jews control the discussion and making of Middle East foreign policy in this country and won't allow for alternative viewpoints to be explored and flourish. That charge is absurd on its face, particularly when they cite example imtitu- tions such as the media and campuses. In both places, there are multitudes of ex- amples of expressions of views critical of Israel. The notion that there is no diversity of viewpoints is simply false. How then to view the Freeman saga? It is undoubt- edly true that many in the organized Jewish commu- nity were distressed about the pending appointment. The more his record was revealed--his blaming U. S. support for Israel for the 9/11 attacks; his demonizing of Israel as the responsible party for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict--the more concern there was about the central role he might play in intel- ligence affairs. Some on the right who were predicting the Obama Administration would be no friend of I rael saw this as evidence of their fears. For most, however, the Freeman appointment was disturbing on its own terms without generalizing about where U.S.-Israel relations were heading.. It must be said that to suggest there was anything illegitimate about American Jewish concern about Free- man or that it indicated in any way Jewish control of policy is pure fantasy. Freeman's views do not fall into the category of alternative perspectives on the conflict; those kinds of things surface all the time whether in criticism of Israeli settlements or judgments on how to deal with Humus, He- zbollah, Syria and Iran. Rather, his views fall far away from mainstream opin- ion in America vis-h-vis Israel and the region and enter into that area ofdemonizing Israel and its supporters in the U.S. Nothing better illustrates where Freeman is coming from than in his statement explaining his withdrawal. He articulates, in the guise of a victim, the essential conspiracy view of the Israel- supporting community that made his appointment so troubling in the first place. He sees the exposure of his troubling attitudes toward Israel as proof"that there is a powerful lobby determined to prevent any view other than its own from being aired." "The aim of this lobby, "he says, "is control of the policy process.., and the exclusion of any and all options for deci- sions?' And Freeman blames it all on "the inability of the American public to discuss, or the government to c0nsider any option for U.S, policies in the Middle East opposed by the ruling factor in Israel politics." These statements are part of a pattern, most notable being a 2006 comment by Freeman blaming the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America's close relationship with Israel: "We have paid heavily and often in treasure in the past for our unflinching support unstinting subsi.dies of Is- raers approach to managing relations with the Arabs," adding that as of Sept. 11, 2001, "We began to pay with the blood of our citizens here at home." So it turns out that Freeman is just another ver- sion of Mearsheimer and Walt, conjuring up demonic images .of Israel policymaking and creating fantasy views, of an America where no criticism of Israel is allowed, where American policy is controlled by Israel and its Jewish allies, where U, fi, administration policy never differs from Is- raeli policy. The real story here is not one of evidence of Jewish control, butratherthatwhen extremist views surface in mainstream government circles, there still are ways to make sure they don't become government policy. As the U.S. enters a critical period with regard to Middle East issues, and as in- telligence communityfindings on a range of issues from Iran to Hamas to Pakistan will be- come more critical than ever, we should be thankful that good sense has prevailed in thewithdrawal of the Freeman appointment at the National Intelligence Center. Abraham I-I. Poxman /s national director of the Anti- Defamation League and author of "The Deadliest Lies: The lsrael Lobby and the Myth of Jewish Control." By Steven B. Nasatir CHICAGO (JTA) "Trust. but verify," one of President Ronald Reagan's favorite maxims, has new meaning for America's not-for-profit community, which manages billions of dollars of contri- butions, endowments and grants. In this era of global fi- nancial crisis, philanthropic investors are suffering the same fallout from misman- agement, lax oversight and outright thievery that has impacted the private sector. Trust in the realm of resource management arguably is even more precious a currency for philanthropic organizations than it is for profit-making companies. Social welfare charities are the ones charged with translating the altruistic intentions of a concerned public into effective action on behalf of vulnerable popula- tions. The fraying of the cord of public confidence endan- gers the safety net for those ; who need it most. As the president of a major nonprofit, I know that-merit- ing public trust in our stew- ardship of resources requires no magic tricks. Applying fundamental principles of due diligence is the key. Those fundamentals in- clude having in place full-time professional staff, including a chief investment officer (my organization is virtually unique among Jewish philan- thropies in employing one); an investment committee composed of lay leaders with strong investment expertise who take seriously their fi- duciary responsibilities; and outside investment advisers with impeccable credentials. Before moving forward with any investment, all three par- ties must agree. The old-boy network (i.e., "I know a guy who knows a guy...") plays no part in the equation. Second, never put all your eggs in one basket. It's shock- ing how many philanthropies seemed to have violated that most elementary of prin- ciples and crashed along with Madoff. Given that even the most savvy investors sometimes experience losses, effective risk management is absolutely critical. Allocating assets across multiple dimensions (asset classes, industry sec- tors, countries, currencies. strategies and managers) is essential to ensure that no single factor can seriously damage the total portfolio (ours comprises more than 100 individual investments, each of which includes mul- tiple underlying Positions). On top of this extensive ii- versification, it's important to add an additional layer of risk control by limiting concentration. For example, we choose to limit any single hedge fund-type investment to no more than 1.5 percent of the total portfolio. Enforcing these policies paid off for my organization- in 2005 when a hedge fund in which we held a position committed fraud. Although we lost slightly more than half of our investment in that one fund, because the size of our investmentwas limited, the impact on our total portfolio was contained to only four- tenths of a percent. In that calendaryear, we still achieved a net total return of 9.8 per- cent--exactly double the 4.9 percent return of the S&P 500. (We currently manage about $600 million and our annualized return net of all fees and expenses--during the past 26 years, including 2008, has been 11.1 percent. which is 30 basis points, or 0.3 percent, better than that of the S&P 500). Verification is another cornerstone of a wise invest- ment policy. Every invest- ment in a pooled endowment portfolio should undergo an exhaustive screening process, which includes such critical elements as a meaningful degree 0ftransparency backed up by third-party verification; financial statements audited by a nationally recognized accounting firm; and a track record that can be rational- ized through rigorous, quan- titative analysis (i.e., the "too good to be true" test). N atlr on page 19A 15RAB. HAS EXPLOOEO IN AT HAAAAS RANSOM PE I S THE KIDF, JAPPD I A ,.I 50LOIER... AND MAY TAKE 2EVEN AGAII4/ST THE PALESTINIAN T RORISTS IN ITS P2 0NS. THE ISRAel CUTTING C, OVERNMBVI" IS OFF THEIR TO C-O AS PAR