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March 29, 2013

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PAGE 2A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MARCH 29, 2013 Pollard's 10,000th day in prison approaches New York--Thirty national Jewish organizations that are members of the Conference of Presidents joined in a pre- Passover appeal to President Obama led by Conference leaders Richard Stone, chair- man, and Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman, requesting that President Obama release Pollard prior to his reaching his 10,000th day of imprisonment, which will fall on April 8, 2013. After wishing the president a successful trip to the Middle East, the leaders respectfully and urgently requested that the president "act on the commutation of his sentence to time served before this milestone is reached. Pollard, whose health has deterio- rated, has expressed remorse and regret repeatedly." They also noted, "Many leading American citizens of every faith and position have spoken publicly, includ- ing those that were involved in his prosecution. Among those who have called for his release are former director of the CIA, James Woolsey, former undersecretary of defense, Lawrence Korb, former secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, and former secretary of state, George Schultz. We add our voice to theirs, as we have in the past, to ask that you take the steps necessary to expedite the review process you have mentioned and to facilitate the release of Mr. Pollard in an act of both justice and humanity," said Stone and Hoenlein. Among the signatory or- ganizations are: Ameinu, American Friends of Likud, American Gathering of Jew- ish Holocaust Survivors, America-Israel Friendship League, American Sephardi Federation, American Zionist Movement, AMIT, Anti-Defa- mation League, ARZA, B'nai B'rith International, Bnai Zion, Emunah of America, Hadassah, Women's Zionist Organization of America, Jewish Community Centers Association, Jewish National Fund, Mercaz USA, NA'AMAT USA, NCSJ Advocates on behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States & Eurasia, National Council of Young Israel, Rabbinical As- sembly, Rabbinical Council of America, Religious Zionists of America, Union for Reform Judaism, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, WIZO, Women's League for Conservative Judaism, Work- men's Circle, World ORT USA, and Zionist Organization of America. More are expected to add their names. With Islamic groups re00lacing traditional foes, Israel faces long-term iT00stability on its borders Yonatan Sindel/Flash90/JTA Members of the newly sworn Israeli government taking their traditional group photo with Israeli President Shimon Peres in his Jerusalem residence, March 18. By Ben Sales HERZLIYA, Israel (JTA)-- Four weeks ago, militants in Gaza landed a rocket near the Israeli city of Ashkelon. Three weeks ago, Egypt raised its state of emergency in the Sinai Peninsula, warn- ing of an increase in jihadist activity there. Two weeks ago, a rock thrown by a West Bank Pal- estinian critically wounded a 3-year-old Israeli girl. And last week, Israel plans to ask the United States for support should it strike Syrian weapons convoys en route to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Along both its northern and southern frontiers, Israel faces more political instability than it has in decades--conditions that some security experts fear could open a door to greater terrorism. The upheavals of the Arab Spring may have reduced the threat of a conventional war with a neighboring state, but the prospects for peace- ful borders--let alone full normalization with the Arab world--have dimmed, forcing Israeli military planners to pre- By Ben Cohen Christianity is the world's largest religion. And with more than I billion members, the Roman Catholic Church is its largest denomination. Any- one who watched the recent installation of Pope Francis I, attended by luminaries from 132 nations, would have taken away the enduring impression of a powerful, influential faith that commands respect even from its detractors. But in other parts of the world, it's a very different story. In the dusty alleyways of Lahore in Pakistan, or in the choked streets of northern Ni- geria's cities, Christians lead a fragile, endangered existence, never quite certain that their next visit to church isn't go- ing to end in the carnage of a bomb, never quite confident that their homes won't be targeted by baying, angry mobs as night falls. Herein lies the paradox: the world's largest religion is also the world's most-persecuted faith. Advocacy groups work- ing on behalf of the persecuted church estimate that from 1-200 million Christians live with varying degrees of op- pression. Just as astonishing as that number is the sheer variety of countries where Mahfouz Abu Turk/Flash90/JTA Palestinians protesting against the Assad regime and waving Free Syrian Army flags at pare for long-term uncertainty. "For the first time in de- cades, we have four active borders that have terror ac- tivities: Lebanon, Syria, Sinai and Gaza," said Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, the director of military intelligence for the Israel Defense Forces. "The change that's happening is deep and foundational. The central characteristic of this the A1-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, Feb. 1. change, even if it seems banal, is instability and uncertainty." Kochavi was speaking at the Herzliya Conference, an elite policy and security gathering dominated this year by con- cerns about terrorist activity on Israel's frontiers. Kochavi said terrorists are "filling the vacuum" of unstable states. While the consequences have been minimal, officials say the danger of an attack is growing. "Not a week goes by, not to say hardly a day, when I don't have to deal with an issue that you didn't even hear about, that could have resulted in a strategic threat," IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz told the conference. Of particular concern to Borders on page 19A Will Pope Francis I become the savior of l:lle persecuted church? expressing Christian faith can be, literally, life threatening. These include Turkey, which is commonly, if erroneously, regarded as a western-style democracy, North Korea, the world's largest concentration camp, and Muslim countries like Egypt and Iran. Islamists, ultranationalists, commu- nists-all these and more have declared themselves enemies of the Christian religion. I would readily submit that there is no graver human rights emergency in the world today than the persecution of Christians. And yet getting that simple point across can be extraordinarily frustrating. Particularly among liber- als, in many ways the most promising constituency when it comes to promoting a hu- man rights agenda, there is a good deal of skepticism. In part, that's based on the sense that an institution that can mount the kind of pomp and circumstance display we saw at The Vatican cannot possibly be a victim. It also reflects the fact that many churches adopt extremely conservative positions on matters dear to enlightened western hearts, like the use of contraception or gay rights. I don't agree with those positions either. But I fail to see why that means we should turn a blind eye to the appalling bigotry, and conse- quent violence, that defines the experience of too many Christians today. How, then, can we get the reality of Christian persecu- tion across--a state of affairs that brings to mind some of the ugliest episodes of human history, like the enslavement of Africans or the legally- enshrined persecution of the Jews by Nazi Germany on the eve of the Holocaust? One might reasonably as- sume that the inauguration of a new pope will give this issue both new momentum and an undoubtedly fresh, kind face to make sense of it for the rest of us. Will Pope Francis I become the pontiff who made the persecuted church emblematic of his reign, in much the same way that the late John Paul II highlighted the vulnerability of the church in his native Poland, and in other eastern European countries suffering from the yoke of communism? Keith Roderick, the newly appointed Provost of the Epis- copal Cathedral in Spring- field, Ill., who is also a storied activist on behalf of perse- cuted Christians, pointed out in an email to me that this is very much an open question. the persecution of Christians has become. Still, Keith Roderick doesn't draw any absolute conclusions from that episode. "His wit- ness of humility and concern for the most vulnerable is important," Roderick told me. "I hope that witness will in- clude an equally powerful and courageous stand for Chris- tians who are persecuted." Meanwhile, Jeff Sellers, the editor of Morning Star News, a media outlet that diligently reports on Christian persecu- tion throughout the world, is cautiously optimistic. "[Pope Francis] places great importance on personal conversion to Jesus Christ, and, as persecution is the in- creasingly common response of the narrow-minded to evangelizing and new con- verts, the new pope will have no choice but to place equal importance on defending against persecution," Sell- ers told me. "Secondly, he is a pastor first and foremost rather than an academic, so concern for the persecuted should naturally follow." Nevertheless, for Christian persecution to be taken seri- ously, we need more than concern. A cursory survey of the events of the last month suggests that the crisis is now reaching unprecedented Roderick reminded me of the 2005 spat between Francis (who was then Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio) and his predeces- sor, Benedict XVI, after the latter delivered an unusually sharp rebuke to the Muslim world for its treatment of Christians during a speech to the University of Regensburg in Germany. In the course of his remarks, Benedict de- scribed the Prophet Muham- mad as "evil and inhuman." That phrasing rang alarm bells with many senior mem- bers of the Catholic hierarchy, including Bergoglio, who de- clared, "Pope Benedict's state- ment doesn't reflect my own opinions. These statements will serve to destroy in 20 sec- onds the careful construction of a relationship with Islam that Pope John Paul II built over the last 20 years." While it's true that there's no need for such provocative language, Bergoglio's reac- tion served to further obscure the real issue: that Chris- tians can no longer expect to lead peaceful lives under Islamic rule. It also pushed the imperatives of interfaith dialogue--which too often descends into a meaningless kumbaya exercise involving clerics of all faithsIabove the more pressing matter of telling the world just how bad proportions. In Pakistan, the Christian inhabitants of the Joseph Colony neighborhood in Lahore experienced what can only be described as a pogrom. Pakistan is also the country that imprisoned Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five who is facing the death penalty under that country's blasphemy laws. In Iran, Mus- lim converts to Christianity are being incarcerated, and couldvery like face execution. In Middle Eastern countries like Egypt and Iraq, Christian communities that are thou- sands of years old are slowly being extinguished because of Islamist fanaticism. Perhaps Pope Francis will act decisively if he knows that he can count on allies in doing so. In that sense, the U.S., which passed the Inter- national Religious Freedom Act in 1998, has a critical role to play. And American Jews should be pushing the State Department and the White Housewith appropriate vigor; our own history requires nothing less. Ben Cohen is the Shill- man Analyst for His writings on Jewish affairs and Middle Eastern politics have been published in Com- mentary, the New York Post, Ha'aretz, Jewish Ideas Daily and many other publications.