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October 3, 2014
 

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PAGE 4A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, OCTOBER 3, 2014 By David Bornstein We can be better Space-time compression. Globalization. Expansion diffusion. These are terms my son just had to define and learn in his ninth grade human geography course. Though each has a different meaning, they all have an underlying connection. As technology improves, as travel is made easier, and ideas and culture and products are exported with greater ease, while the database we share may grow, the world shrinks. It is the rare individual now who is not connected. It is the unique community that does not have a link to the rest of the world. And as we all become closer, as borders and boundaries fall, we lose a part of ourselves that, at this time of year, as Jews, we must hold onto with fervor and passion. We lose a bit of what makes us OO or unique, what makes us sensitive. As we ask forgiveness and look at ourselves through God's lens, as we admit our mistakes and face our sins, we must do more than simply shrug away the past by saying we did wrong. We must do better. We are inundated with images of life's frailty, the ephemeral nature of peace, the brevity of success, the violence of war. We see countries ravaged by the ebola virus. We watch refugees flee their homes as terrorists approach. We witness children being orphaned, women being beaten, towns being razed, climates changing, forests burning, cities crumbling as poverty becomes overwhelming. And what happens to us -- to the vast majority of us-- is not what you'd expect. While there may be a call to action, fewer and fewer of us respond. Where there is a need, more often than not it goes unanswered, half-met. We don't become active. We grow numb. I hear the lines again and again. "I've done my share." "I've put in my time." "It's some- one else's turn." "It's not my fault/' "It's not something I'm interested in." "I don't care." And I must admit, some of those have come from my mouth as well. But none of them carry any weight. It's always our turn. Our time is never up. We have to care, because if we don't, who will? There is something wonderfully proactive about the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It's not enough to go to synagogue and pray for God to write our names in the book of life. It's not enough to ask that our sins be expiated as a community. We are expected to go to those we have hurt and wronged and directly ask for their forgiveness. To look our family, our friends, even our enemies in the eye and acknowledge our mistakes and confess our transgressions and then hope that they are generous enough to forgive. It's a lesson we were all taught in Sunday school when we were six and seven years old. But I think we may have missed the point. During the 10 days ofat0nement, two things hopefully occur. We take responsibility and action without any thought or expectation of someone else doing it for us, and we rely on the kindness and generosity of others to renew our lease on life. Isn't that what we want? On the one hand, for people everywhere to take responsibility for themselves and their actions, and on the other, for others to be kind and generous. And if it's how we want others to act, then why not us? Why not this year? Why not now? It's not enough to have good intent, to hope others get the message, and it's too easy to remain passive. We are swamped with the ills of the world, and we can't cure them all. But we can't use the flood of problems as an excuse to sit back and do nothing. It's not enough to say the right things, to beat our chests and wish we had done things differently. It's time to do things right. As Jews we hold ourselves to a higher standard. And we should. We can all do a little more this year. We can foster a homeless puppy. We can help an elderly person across the street. We can donate excess cans of food to the hungry. We can see the faces of pain across the world and make a pledge of any size to help. We can do more. We can be more. May we all be written in the book of life, and this year make the world, and ourselves, better. And that's the good word. Send your thoughts, comments, and critiques to the Heritage or email dsb328@ gmail.com. Letter from Israel By Ben Cohen JNS.org I will confess that I felt more anxious than I'd anticipated about the outcome of the Scottish independence referendum. In case it's not clear why, I'm a British citizen who has lived in the United States for the past decade. Over that period, as with many arriwls to these shores, my attention has been corsumed far more by domestic issues here, just as my concern with the finer details of politics in my native land has faded. Yet the spectacle of Scots voting on whether to leave the United Kingdom stirred something in me. I couldn't observe it with the same dispassionate mindset that I might bring to a similar referendum in say, Quebec, or in the Catalan or Basqu~ regions of Spain, and I found myself spendhg more and more time reading and worryin about it. That, I suppose, is what happens when iden- tity meets politics--one's judgments become less clinical and more emotional. I became impatient with the Scottish nationalist asser- tion that independence was justified because a majority of Scots didn't ~ote for the current Conservative-led coalition government, and the related (not unjustified) complaint that London's politicians were ignoring Scotland's needs. After all, large parts of England --the country where I grew up--as well as Wales and Northern Ireland could say much the same, and they weren't agitating to dismantle the 307-year-old union. Similarly, when I learned that the (just now resigned) Scottish nationalist leader Alex Salmond had rounded on 2014 as the year for the referendum on the grounds that it marks the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Ban- nockburn -- when the forces of the Scottish King Robert the Bruce vanquished the English army of King Edward II -- I experienced a spark of anger. That anger was compounded by the sight of pro-independence campaigners mocking political leaders campaigning for a "no" vote as "our imperial masters." I thought to myself, "The Scots haven't even thought through key practical consequences of inde- pendence, like which currency to use or the prospects for European Union membership, and here they are summoning the spirit of a medieval military skirmish." On the day of the referendum, though, it was clear that practical considerations were of greater importance in deciding which way to vote than any nationalist impulses. The Scots opted, by a clear majority of 55 percent, against independence, and the union was saved. That doesn't mean all the underlying questions around the referendum have been resolved--a fundamental transformation of how power is distributed among the nations and regions of Britain wiU surely be forthcoming--but the United Kingdom as a political unit will survive. When I heard the result, I was flooded with relief. Again~ those emotions are intimately connected to identity. For immigrant com- munities in the U.K., Jews among them, the idea of "Britishness" always seemed more ex- pansive and generous than "Englishness" and "Scottishness." The two latter categories are tied up with notions of ethnicity and belong- ing to the land, whereas the former is more civic in orientation,lmplying that one's ethnic background or religious beliefs should not be a barrier to participating fully in national life. I therefore found myself pleased, on Friday morning, as both a citizen of the U.K. and as a member of its Jewish community. Let's face it: Jews in Europe have rarely thrived under nationalist leaders. In the last century, nationalists across the continent reminded us constantly that we were an alien presence that didn't belong. In this one, there's been a shift in that narrative. The left- wing populism that underlies the nationalist movement in Scotland and elsewhere in western Europe is distinctly unfriendly to Israel, seeing the Jewish state as an outpost of the same "imperial" system that they themselves are fighting against. That was why Alex Salmond, while advocating for an independent Scotland, still,found the time to compare Israel to the genocidal thugs of the so-called "Islamic State," and to call for an arms embargo against Israel. Cohen on page 15A [THE VIEWS EXPRESSED ON THIS PAGE ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE VIEWS OF HERITAGE MANAGEMENT. CENTRAL FLORIDA'S ISSN 0199-0721 Winner of 43 Press Awards H NEWS HERITAGE Florida Jewish News (ISN 0199-0721) is published weekly for $37.95 per year to Florida ad- dresses ($46.95 for the rest of the U.S.) by HERITAGE Central Florida Jewish News, Inc., 207 O'Brien Road, Suite 101, Fern Park, FL 327~0. Periodicals postage paid at Fern Park and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes and other correspondence to: HERITAGE, P.O. Box 300742, Fern Park, FL 32730. INDEPENDENT JEWISHVOICE Editor/Publisher Je~ey Gaeser Editor Emeritus Associate Editor Assistant Editor Gene Starn Kim FischerChristine DeSouza MAILING ADDRESS PHONE NUMBER P.O. Box 300742 (407) 834-8787 Fern Park, FL 32730 FAX (407) 831-0507 email: news@orlandoheritage.com " Society Editor Bookkeeping Gloria Yousha Paulette Alfonso Account Executives Loft Apple Marci Gaeser Contributing Columnists Jim Shipley Ira Sharkansky David Bornstein Ed Ziegler Production Department David Lehman Gil Dornbrosky Joyce Gore By Ira Sharkansky Does something smell especially bad? Or is it just the normal smell of political infighting and mutual accusation? Front and center is Martin Indyk, his past and present roles as a leading figure in the Brookings Institution, Qatar' multi-million dollar gifts to Brookings, the failure of Indyk to broker a deal between Israel and Palestinians, and the blame that Indyk has directed against Prime Minister Netanyahu. Qatar has received headlines for its finan- cial support of Hamas, the desire of Indyk's bosses to include Qatar and Turkey among the mediators between Israel and Hamas over the recent operation in Gaza, and the refusal of the Israeli government (along with the Egyptians) to accept Qatar or Turkey. The New York Times has recently published a long article probing foreign government contributions to American research insti- tutes, and what the donors receive by way of so-called objective analyses of public issues tilted in their favor. The headline leaves nothing to doubt, "For- eign Powers Buy Influence at Think Tanks." The text mentions a hos of countries, giving prominent attention to Norway. Its reputation for having a squeaky clean government and enough oil to give it a high enough score on lists of the richest countries per capita sug- gests it needs no outside help on anything. Yet it wants support from the U.S. on Arctic drilling and environmental policy. Also on the list of donors are Japan and Germany with their better than average reputations, and a number of Muslim countries which, along with Qatar, are likely to be using their money for tess than Utopian purposes. The article notes that Brookings and its cousins insist on scholarly independence, but also cites scholars who admit that "dona- tions have led to implicit agreements that the research groups would refrain from criticiz- ing the donor governments... 'If a member of Congress is using the Brookings reports, they should be aware -- they are not getting the full story,' said Saleem All, who served as a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar and who said he had been told dur- ing his job interview that he could not take positions critical of the Qatari government in papers. 'They may not be getting a false story, but they are not getting the full story.'" The Times article does not mention Israel among the donors. If that means Israel does not play in this game, the reason is obvious. Why spend our tax dollars when American Jews are shelling out their money for AIPAC and no end of other channels to those who make policy. Sheldon Adelson's $100 million in the 2012 presidential campaign dwarfed anything going from Qatar to Brookings. The Jerusalem Post published an article focused even more narrowly than the New York Times on the Indyk-Qatar-Brookings linkage. The Post's article is headlined "Je- rusalem doubts Indyk's institute after Qatar funding reports." It notes that Qatar's $14.8 million makes it the largest foreign donor to Brookings. The Post's article goes on to summarize Indyk's criticism of Netan ahu. "After stepping down as Middle East envoy, Indyk- in speeches and interviews -was highly critical of Prime Minister Binyamin Netan- yahu, and placed a large share of the blame for the breakdown of the talks on the prime minister's shoulders. In a recent interview with Foreign Policy magazine about the Gaza con- flict, Indyk said US President Barack Obama became "enraged" with Israeli criticism of US Secretary of State John Kerry. Indyk said Gaza has had a "very negative" impact on the US- Israel relationship. (Indyk also said) "There's a lot of strain in the relationship now. The personal relationship between the president and the prime minister has been fraught for some time and it's become more complicated by recent events." The same article notes that American-Israel film and television producer Haim Saban, known for a stridently pro-Israel posture, donated only slightly less than Qatar to Brookings, "...some $13 million to the institute to set up the Saban Center for Middle East Policy. In July the Saban name was dropped from the title, with the direc- tor - Tamara Coffman Wittes - writing on the center's website that the Brookings partnership with the Saban Family Foundation was enter- ing a "new phase." The Saban Foundation and Brookings, she wrote, would continue to work together on the annual Saban Forum dealing with the US-Israel relationship." There was a time when I knew several of the top scholars of Brookings and other Wash- ington think tanks well enough to call one of them and inquire about the internal politics beyond that change in name. However, those years, and my friends, are long gone. Other sources note that Saban ranks as one of the biggest individual donors to the Democratic Party, and recruited Martin Indyk to head the Brookings' Center that he funded. Money may affect what research institutes publish and neglect to publish. As the New York Times article makes explicit, there is a thin line, often breached, between research institutes claiming objective scholarship and lobbyists for hire. While holding our noses against the likeli- hood of stink, we should also remember that information does not control policy. It may influence policymakers, but not likely all of them in the same direction. For this we can thank the multitude of policymakers, policymaking institutions (i.e., the executive branch with its many quasi- autonomous agencies, plus the plurality of houses, committees, and high-ego members of Congress), as well as the multitude of research institutes, the donors who support them, and Sharkansky on page 15A