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March 29, 2013

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MARCH 29, 2013 PAGE 5A Jews obliged to intervene on behalf of WIC program By Abby Leibman and Steve Gutow WASHINGTON (JTA)--One act, more than any other, is indispensible from the Pass- over story: If God had not intervened, we would still be slaves. There would have been no Exodus, no Sinai, no bright future for the Jewish people. For the sake of a future nation, 13od intervened to save 600,000 warriors of Israel. Remember that number. It's about the same number of mothers and children who will be cut off from nutrition assistance if nothing is done to stop the sequester's bulldozer- like roll toward the Special Supplemental Nutrition Pro- gram for Women, Children and Infants (WIC). Once again, an intervention is needed for the sake of a nation. Without freedom from Egypt, the descendants of Jacob could never grow, could never receive the Torah and could never live as they wanted. Likewise, without the benefit of prenatal and pediatric health care, nutrition education and access to healthy food, our children will be vulnerable to adverse birth outcomes, dental problems, anemia, obesity and hunger. The future of our nation-- built by a healthy generation of children--is at risk if we do not intervene. Due to political gridlock and myopic opposition to government services, WIC faces a 5.1 percent hatchet. As the sequester's implementa- tion was delayed, the impact because of the compressed timeline will be closer to a 9 percent chop. More than 600,000 low- income women, infants and children will lose this vital lifeline ifthearbitrary sequester is not replaced with a thought- ful, long-run deficit reduction strategy. That is why our o'ganiza- tions are again mobilizing Jewish communities around the country to hold Hunger Seders and raise awareness not only of the ongoing op- pression of hunger, but of the tools we have to end it. On March 20, we kicked off the campaign at the U.S. Capitol with'a special National Hunger Seder attended by members of Congress, Obama administra- tion officials, schoolchildren, and faith and anti-poverty advocates. Our message to Congress and the country is a simple one: We must protect the WIC program because WIC protects our children. WIC is available exclusively to impoverished women (WIC participants have an average annual income of a meager $16,449) and their children. tn 2009, WIC served an average of 8.9 million partici- pants each month, providing education about the benefits of breastfeeding, access to ma- ternal, prenatal, and pediatric health care services, or finan- cial support to purchase nutri- tious groceries. According to the National WIC Association, for $759 a year per participant, WIC saves tens of thousands of dollars in health care costs by preventingbirth complications and infant hospitalization. Even if the investmentin WIC just saved us money on health care, we would say day- enu it would be enough--to spare the program from painful reductions. But the benefits of WIC far exceed financial savings. Children benefiting from WIC--more than half of all infants born in the United States--not only are b)rn healthier but live healthier lives. Compared to those not in the program, WIC children are less likely to be hungry, more likely to be immunized and better prepared to perform in school for years to come. Replacing the sequester is an important step, but this single move will correct a mistaken plan never intended to go into effect in the first place. Moving forward, we must strengthen WIC so that it can effectively reach the millions of pregnant woman and mothers who lack proper education on breasffeed- ing or nutrition. More than 3,000 years ago, God wanted the children of Jacob to grow and prosper as a people, so God intervened on behalf of 600,000 to ensure they were on the right path. Today we want the same for our children--to set them on the path to a healthy and pros- perous future. If we allow WIC to be arbitrarily hacked by the sequester, fewer children will realize the healthy practices that would help them reach their full God-given potential, and our society will be poorer and weaker because of it. So we are called on by our faith, our humanity and our obligation to future genera- tions to intervene on behalf of 600,000--for the sake of our nation. Abby Leibmun is the presi- dent and CEO of Mazon. Rabbi Steve Gutow is the president and CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. By Jeremy Ben-Ami J Street's positions are squarely in the mainstream tion. Arab. Oren, citing Prime ity. But Sergio DellaPergola of Ms. Rothstein makes much versaries.Asaresult, itishardfor state solution. Israeli ambas- sador Michael Oren, in an NPR interview March 15, said he agreed with our view that the current situation is unsustain- able. "I think it's preferable to replace it with a two-state solution based on recognition of the Palestinian people and their unassailable right to self-determination to live in their own state and their own homeland and the recognition of the Jewish people and its unassailable right to self-deter- mination and our right to live in an independent state in our ancestral homeland. That is the only way to end the conflict and bring about a permanent and" legitimate peace," said Oren. Ms. Rothstein argues that Israel has no Palestinian part- ner with whom to negotia- WASHINGTON--Oppo- nents of J Street consistently argue that our positions are somehow radical, strange and way out of the Israeli or American-Jewish mainstream. The opposite is true: when it comes to Israeli-Palestinian peace, the two-state solution and the inexorable demograph- ic threat to Israel's future as a democratic state that remains the homeland for the Jewish people, our position is the same as that of the Israeli govern- ment, the Obama administra- tion and the vast bulk of the American Jewish community. It is right-wing critics like StanWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein who are out of step. Take for example the two- Minister Benjamin Netanyahu disagreed: "He says we have someone to negotiate with. It's President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority." On the demographic threat to Israel's Jewish character, this is how Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak framed it in his speech to AIPAC: "We need a daring peace initiative vis-a-vis the Palestinians. A two-state solution is the only viable long-term solution. It is a compelling imperative for us, in order to secure our identity and our future as a Jewish and democratic state; it's not a favor for the Palestinians." Ms. Rothstein contends that if we take the Palestinian popu- lation of Gaza out of the equa- tion, there is no demographic threat to Israel's Jewish major- the Hebrew University, who is the foremost expert on the subject disagrees. Right now, the total number of Jews and Arabs living under Israeli rule in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza is just under 12 million people. Already, under 50 percent of the population is Jewish, Those figures will continue to worsen over time because Palestinian birthrates outstrip Jewish birthrates. Contrary to Rothstein'sview, DeilaPergola's figures show that taking Gaza out of the equation does not buy Israel much time. If Israel continues to occupy the West Bank alone (without Gaza), Jews will constitute only 54 percent of the population by 2030 and 45 percent by 2048 when it celebrates its 100th anniversary. out of my contention that for negotiations to succeed, an ac- tive and leading U.S. role will be required. My view is based on commonsense and informed by the views of experts in conflict resolution like professorAUen S. Weiner of Stanford University. In a Feb. 28 op-ed in the International Herald IYibune, Weiner argued that, "direct talks between implacable foes, without active mediation, may be the worst possible way to try to settle the conflict. Facing one's adversary directly across the table heightens psychologi- cal barriers even to a mutually beneficial deal." Weiner argued: "The parties to the conflict are prisoners to beliefs based on their history, which color the way they see both themselves and their ad- them to interpret information, evaluate risk and set priorities in apurely rationalway. Evenwhen an advantageous deal is on the table, they are psychologically disposed to reject it." At the end of the day, J Street exists to help Israel reach the deal it needs and wants so much and which is so central to its future as a Jewish state and as a democracy. It's also a crucial U.S. national strategic interest. As citizens of this democracy, we have an obligation to state our views and the right to be active in the political arena. Wework for a strongAmerica and all that it represents in the world. And we work for a safe, secure, democratic Israel living at peace with its neighbors. Jeremy Ben-Ami is the ex- ecutive director of J Street. My conversation with J Street's Jeremy Ben-Ami By Roz Rothstein On Monday evening, March 11, Ihadapublic discussionwith Jeremy Ben-Ami, founder and president of J Street, at Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles. The topics included how American Jews should approach pro-Israel advocacy, whether peace is cur- rently attainable between Israel and Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, and what American Jews can do to help the two sides reach an agreement. We agreed that the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) mvement is dangerous and harmful to Israel. We agreed that the Palestinian teaching of hate, incitement, and terrorism is an impediment to peace, and we both professed a desire for a peaceful resolution to the conflict. We strongly disagreed, how- ever, on some critical issues. J Street argued that American Jews should lobby the U.S. government to pressure Israel into changing some of its poli- cies. Referring to a statement from J Street's website, I read aloud that,"J Streetwas formed to change the conversation on Israel and to give voice to American Jews who believe that they have a responsibility tovo- cally oppose Israeli government policies that threaten Israel's future." While Mr. Ben-Ami claimed he did not recognize "this statement from hiswebsite, I was troubled that J Street felt it had a right to lobby the American government in or- der to pressure Israel--and its democratically elected govern- ment--into pursuing J Street's agenda. We also disagreed about whether Abbas is a reliable partner for peace. Wl-ie Mr. Ben-Ami assured the audience that "this is the time, andAbbas is the man," I noted that just two months ago, in January 2013,Abbas honored past Pales- tinian terrorist leaders, includ- ing the Mufti of Jerusalem who collaborated with Adolf Hitler to bring the Holocaust to the Middle East. I questioned how Mr. Ben-Ami couldtrustIsrael's security in the hands of Abbas, who promotes one set of values to his Arabic constituency and quite another to Western audiences. Likewise, Mr. Ben-Ami and I differed on how he character- ized certain facts. For instance: Beitar soccer games: Mr. Ben-Ami suggested that Is- raeli incitement and Palestin- ian incitement are similar. I expressed that I felt this was an unreasonable comparison. For evidence, he pointed out that Israeli crowds at Jerusalem soccer matches shout, "Death to Arabs" so much that former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud OImert said he could no longer root for his team. In response, I noted that this is a critical point: Olmert represented the state of Israel and he condemned such views. I said that you can judge a society by the way its leadership responds when its people say or do hateful things. Mr. Ben-Ami then implied that there was a lack of an official Israeli government response to the hateful soccer rhetoric because Olmert is now a private citizen. In fact Prime Minister Benjamin Netan- yahu strongly condemned the racist comments of Beitar fans. Monument for Baruch Gold- stein: When I cited Baruch Gold- stein as an example of how Israel denounces acts of viotence by Israelis against Palestinian civilians, he stated that Israel ffunded a monument [to Ba- ruch Goldstein]. See the public memorial!" In fact, Israel never funded a monument to Baruch Goldstein. There was indeed a monument erected by some Goldstein supporters, but the Israeli army demolished it after the Knesset passed a law in 1999 forbidding memorials to terrorists. My pointwas that the Israeli government condemned Goldstein as a terrorist while the PA. government glorifies terrorists. Demographic threat: Mr. Ben-Ami repeated his oft-made declaration that Israel must be pressured into making peace now because demographics are suchthatJewswillbeaminority in Israel within a generation and "will be ruling over a majority thatdoesn'thave rights." Icalled this fear-mongering and asked Mr. Ben-Ami if he includes the Palestinian population of 1.5 million people living in Gaza in his accounting of Israeli demographic concerns. This is a critical point because Israel no longer has administrative or political control over the Gaza population. Mr. Ben-Ami admitted he includes the popu- lation of Gaza. Interestingly, if we remove Gaza from these calculations, Mr. Ben-Ami's demographic numbers are reduced by 50 percent and no longer make the case for the demographic threat being an emergency. Humanitarian blockade on Gaza: Mr. Ben-Ami asserted that Israel caused a humanitar- ian crisis in Gazain the 2008war through its blockade and that the blockade was lifted in part because of J Street's lobbying. I pointed out that Israel has consistently allowed food and medical supplies into Gaza, even during wars and blockades. At the time, the United Nations ReliefandWorksAgency, which provides aid to Palestinian refugees, said that the agency received 15 trucks of aid a day and had two months of stock in Gaza to aid recipients. Mediation techniques:While I agreed with Mr. Ben-Ami's statements that we need an active American role in facili- tating Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, I disagreed with his desire to impose specific details about what the peace agreement should be. AS an honest broker, I would hope that the American role would be to mediate a plan arrived at by the parties themselves, rather than pressuring the parties into preexisting ex- pectations. President Barack Obama himself echoed this sentiment when he recently said that his role should be to listen to both sides and help them work out compromises. Looking back at the evening's discussion, I am saddened that Mr. Ben-Ami insists that he and J Street are helping Israel, when in reality the actions of his organization are only hurting Israel and the advancement of peace. While we all wish for a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, J Street's work only emboldens Palestin- ians to continue their history of rejectionism and incitement. J Street encourages Palestinian refusa! to return to negotiations because it does not require any accountability from them and does notseek to charge hateful attitudes towards Israel--both of which are prerequisites for a lasting peace. Roz Rothstein is the CEO of StandWithUs. Dry Bones ,,,,, hAVE/00 ] Ik003PREO SPEECH 01::/ IN R-t00J00EEJ