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May 8, 2009

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PAGE 2A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MAY 8, 2009 Jewish groups want answers in ex-AIPAC staffers' case By Eric Fingerhut WASHINGTON (JTA)--U. S. Jewish leaders are praising the move to drop criminal charges against two former AIPAC officials, but say serious questions must be answered about why Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman were targeted for investigation in the first place."I'm relieved and happy" for Rosen and Weissman and "happy for the community," said Malcolm Hoenlein, ex- ecutive vice chairman of the Conference of President of MajorAmerican Jewish Orga- nizations, but "I think there are a lot of questions that need to be addressed" Hoenlein questioned "the justification" for the case and the decision to bring charges under a law that had barely been used in more than 90 years. "You don't want to reopen the whole case, but you have to look at the damage that was done," Hoenlein said. Rabbi David Saperstein, di- rector of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said, "I think there are bona fide questions that need to be asked here." In addition to raising ques- tions about the substance of the charges, Jewish commu- nal leaders also criticized the waves of government leaks in the case that they say were aimed at discrediting the de- fendants and other pro-Israel figures. Hoenlein pointed to last week's revelation of the wire- tap of U. S. Rep. Jane Har- man (D-Calif.) as part of the government's investigation, saying it was just another example of the unfair "be- smirching" of those who were involved. Saperstein said informa- tion that has been revealed in the pre-trial process has "raised grave concerns that a serious injustice and abuse of power was involved in this case." Rabbi Shrnuel Herzfeld, vice president of AMCHA-The Coalition for Jewish Concerns, says his organization will file a Freedom of Information Act on Monday in an effort to "get some answers" to questions such as "who approved the investigation." "We are very, very happy this has been dismissed, "said Herzfeld, but"for us this is not over, this is the beginning." "The government should not be able to get away with this," he said. AMCHAwas the only Jewish group that filed an amicus, or friend of the court, brief in the case. The 2007 submission, in response to a government requestthatthe trial be closed - to the public, argued that it was in the interest of the U. S. Jewish community for the trial to be open and compared the case to the Dreyfus affair. Herzfeld called the failure of many in the Jewish com- munity to speak out on Rosen and Weissman's behalf until recently "disappointing," but said the focus should now be on the government. Saperstein raised questions about the government's pros- ecution in media interviews, but his organization did not put out a formal statement on the case. He said it is difficult for organizations to publicly take a position on a case like this one, particularly when the charges were initially brought, because they don't know all the facts and thus are naturally going to be cautious. In recent months, as more about the case became known, organizations became more willing to publicly criticize the prosecution. Both the Anti-Defamation League, last fall, and the American Jewish Committee, in March, urged the Justice Department in let- ters to review the prosecution of the case. Both organiza- tions applauded the news of its pending dismissal. The ADL in a statement said the case "should never have been brought." The group said it "endangered core FirstAmendment protections not just for AIPAC, but for the media and anyone, who in the course of their work, discusses with government officials something that a prosecutor later decides was protected national defense information." The AJC's executive direc- tor, David Harris, said the "Department of Justice has now reaffirmed that the law of the United States protects citizens who engage in the everyday and essential work of political advocacy." Hoenlein lamented that even though the case has been dropped, the government "can't give back" Rosen and Weissman the four years of their lives they lost or "repair the damage" their reputations suffered. Saperstein hoped, though, that the two men could return to their careers of serving the Jewish community. "Both of them made sig- nificant contributions to the security and well-being of Israel," said Saperstein, who added that while he sometimes had "respectful differences" with Rosen over policy, "I always had real re- spect for him." Both Rosen and Weissman, he said, "certainly have exper- tise that will benefit Jewish organizations." In recent months Rosen has been writing for the Middle East Forum think tank, playing a lead role in sinking the effort to install Charles "Chas" Freeman, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia who has been critical of Israel and supportive of the kingdom, in a top U. S. intelligence post. Rosen has filed a multimil- lion-dollar lawsuit against AIPAC, claiming the organiza- tion defamed him by accusing him of violating the organiza- tion's rule. AIPAC has denied the allegations. The Jewish conspiracy against Durban II (No, seriously) By Michael J. Jordan GENEVA (JTA)--It's no secret who was behind the effort to discredit the 2009 Durban Review Conference in Geneva. For nearly a year before the anti-racism confab, Jewish and pro-Israel groups lobbied hard to get Western countries to boycott the gathering, which they said was certain to treat Israel unfairly, just as the first Durban conference had done in 2001. Indeed, during the months leading up to the conference, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pil- lay, noted several times that an orchestrated campaign was behind Western threats to boycott the conference, dubbed Durban II. "The conference process has been the subject of fero- cious and often distorted criti- cism by certain lobby groups focused on single issues," she said on Sept. 8, 2008. Yet Pillay--and many oth- ers-refused to name the forces behind the campaign. "If you Google 'Durban and racism,' you see who's behind 90 percent of the efforts," Jan Lonn, Swedish coordinator of the Civil So- ciety Forum, said here last week. "It's not a secret, and everybody knows." Asked by JTA if he was referring to Jewish groups and pro-Israel commentators, Lonn replied, "You know this very well, as your media has been frequently reporting on criticism." It was an ironic twist to the common storyline of anti-Semites naming Jews as the perpetrators of shad- owy worldwide conspiracies. Those conspiracies typically are as true as the "The Pro- tocols of the Elders of Zion"-- that is, to say, not at all. This time, however, the Jews actually did conspire, albeit openly, to sabotage the conference. The World Jewish Congress met with officials from 17 U.N. member states to push for a boycott. Hudson Insti- tute scholar Anne Bayefsky banged the anti-Durban drum for months in the U.S. mdia, including theNational Review, the New York Daily News and Forbes. And Israeli officials pressed their allies that intended to participate in the conference not to tolerate any anti-Israel resolutions. But for the most part, Durban II's organizers and participants did not want to point the finger at the Jews for the anti-Durban effort for fear of being labeled anti-Semites. "I can't tell you exactly who the lobby is," Pillay said in a March 12 interview with Australia's "I can just pick out that it seems to be one source putting out this wrong information and label- ing this review conference as 'hate fest.'" Use of the loaded term "lobby," however, appeared to be too much for some Jewish groups. UN Watch, a monitoring organization, sent Pillay a letter asking her "to avoid using certain well-known stereotypes." Hillel Neuer, ex- ecutive director of UN Watch, said the term"fostered images of a mysterious, unnamed, powerful" lobby. "Some media asked me about 'single-issue lobby gmups'--a term no one would ever use for nongovernmental advocacy groups that protest unfair treatment of blacks, gays, women, Muslims, etc.," Neuer said. Pillay's spokesman, Rupert Colville, told JTA her office "has no objection to lobby- ing per se. Lobbying is the lifeblood of the human rights movement and a key compo- nent of democracy. What we object to is blatantly dishonest lobbying." Colville added, "We have never characterized the dis- honest methods used to try to sink the Durban Review Con- ference as being exclusively employed by one particular country or one racially defined group." Others were a little more forthcoming about who they believed was responsible for the anti-Durban II campaign. A staffer from a major non- governmental organization said there was just one reason why a European country like Germany would help draft the conference's resolution on the Friday before the conference, only to decide to boycott it that very weekend. "The Jewish lobby," said the staffer, who refused to be identified by name or orga- nization. "What I'm afraid of is if you put that in my mouth, it will sound like a conspiracy theory, and then readers will say we're anti-Semitic," said the staffer. Malaak Shabazz, the daughter of black rights ac- tivist Malcolm X, had no such qualms. She blamed "Zionist agitators" for being disruptive and aggressive toward her in Geneva, and she filed a letter of protest with Pillay's office. "People confuse Zionism with Judaism, and that's com- pletely unfortunate," she said. "The Zionists here are mak- ing people hate Jews," Shabazz said. "I was unfamiliar with the tactics of Zionists. But I got a crash course on it here." Eclectic Australian billionaire and philanthropist dies at 74 By Dan Goldberg SYDNEY, Australia (JTA)-- Richard Pratt, who fled Poland as a child on the eve of the Holocaust and went on to become one of Australia's richest men and biggest Jew- ish philanthropists, diedApril 28 at age 74. The cause was cancer. Pratt was to be buried April 30 in a traditional Jewish ceremony in Melbourne. Called the "Cardboard King" for building a global packaging and recycling empire, Pratt was Australia's fourth richest man, according to Business Review Weekly, with an estimated fortune of more than $3.8 billion. His Visy Industries employs more than 8,500 people worldwide, including some 3,000 people in the United States through the company's American arm, the Georgia-based Pratt USA. In 1978 Pratt and his wife, Jeanne, established The Pratt Foundation, which has given away some $140 million to charities, many of them Jew- ish, in Australia, Israel and the United States. The foundation's most recent major project was the construction of the Park of the Australian Soldier in Beersheva, Israel, which was opened last year in a ceremony including Israeli President Shimon Peres and his Australian counterpart, Michael Jeffery. "Australia gave us and many like us a refuge. Australia has been good to us andwe've been fortunate," Pratt said in his speech at the dedication of the park, which honorsAustralian soldiers who fought in the Middle East. "In contribut- ing to the development of this park and all it stands for, I wanted to demonstrate my pride as an Australian, a Jew and a friend to Israel." Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd hailed Pratt as "one of Australia's leading philanthropists over a long period of time." Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "Richard Pratt left his mark on countless Israeli lives." Born Ryszard Przecicki in Danzig (now Gdansk), Poland, in 1934, Pratt immigrated to Australia with his parents, Leon and Paula, in 1938. An Australian Rules foot- bailer in the 1950s, Pratt later became an actor, performing on Broadway in New York City and on London's West End in the late 1950s and '60s. He reportedly rejected a Hollywood contract by Burt Lancaster's company. Pratt also was an amateur boxer in his youth, and he helped bring Muhammad Ali to Australia. When his father died in 1969, Pratt took over his packaging company. A former publisher of The Australian Jewish News and The Jerusalem Report, Pratt also received honorary doc- torates from the Hebrew University and Bar-llan Uni- versity. He was awarded the Woodrow Wilson award for Corporate Citizenship in 2007. In 2000, Australian media revealed that Pratt had had a child, Paula, with his former lover Shari-Lea Hitchcock in 1997. His reputation was further sullied in 2007 when his company was fined a record $25 million for collusion in a price-fixing scare with its rival, Amcor. Pratt later was courtesy Pratt Foundation Richard Pratt (1), with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Australian Governor-General Michael Jeffery, at the opening of the Pratt-funded Park of the Australian Soldier in Beer- sheba, Israel, in 2008. accused of giving false or misleading evidence to Aus- tralia's consumer watchdog, but prosecutors dropped their case on April 27, saying it was no longer in the public interest because of Pratt's ill health. One member of his legal team, Mark Leibler, told ABC after the ruling, "I think he'll at least pass into the next world knowing that he has been vindicated and that he is innocent." Last year Pratt sent back his Companion of the Order of Australia, the highest honor Australia bestows on its citizens, because of the controversy. Along with Jeanne, whom he married in 1959, Pratt is survived by a son, Anthony, who will take over the running of Visy, and daughters Heloise, Fiona and Paula.