Newspaper Archive of
Heritage Florida Jewish News
Fern Park , Florida
October 10, 2003     Heritage Florida Jewish News
PAGE 32     (32 of 32 available)        PREVIOUS     NEXT      Full Size Image
PAGE 32     (32 of 32 available)        PREVIOUS     NEXT      Full Size Image
October 10, 2003

Newspaper Archive of Heritage Florida Jewish News produced by SmallTownPapers, Inc.
Website © 2020. All content copyrighted. Copyright Information.     Terms Of Use.     Request Content Removal.

- PAGE 32 HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS O(~TOBER By Matthew E. Berger WASHINGTON, D.C. (JTA)--Two years after the USA Patriot Act became law, Jewish groups are still search- ing for the balance between law enforcement and civil lib- erties. The passage of the legisla- tion in the aftermath of the Sept. 11,2001 terrorist attacks divided Jewish groups who we re ambivalent about the leg- islation from allies in the civil- rights community that imme- diately sought to have the law revoked. The central reason for the Jewish groups' hesitancy to defend civil liberties -- one of the causes Jews generally champion -- is that the act's provisions were designed to target groups viewed as hos- tile to Jews. "We can't ignore the fact that every Jewish community is threatened by terrorism," said Michael Lieberman, Washington counsel of the Anti-Defamation League. Now, however, Jews are among those behind new leg- islation that would curtail some of the expanded powers the Patriot Act granted law- enforcement authorities. On Sept. 24, Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.), who is Jewish, joined Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), other lawmakers and civil-rights groups to in- troduce a new bill called the "Benjamin Franklin True Pa- triot Act," which would repeal many of the Patriot Act's pro- visions. The new legislation, Kucinich said, balances lib- erty and safety. "There is a sentiment in Congress to move to challenge this idea that we have to for- sake the Bill of Rights in order to be safe," said Kucinich, a Democratic candidate for president. He is supported by many civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP and the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Kucinich alsowas joined by the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, one of the first Jewish groups to speak out against the Patriot Act. Mark Pelavin, the RAC's as- sociate director, said his orga- nization does not officially endorse every provision of the proposed legislation but agrees that the bill addresses con- cerns the Reform movement has raised about the Patriot Act. While Jewish law allows for the infringement of individual privacy when lives are at stake, those intrusions should be as limited as possible, Pelavin said. "We must be vigilant in en- suring that our effort to de- stroy terrorism does not un- dermine the very liberties that make this country worth cel- ebrating and protecting," he said. Privately, some Jewish ac- tivists admit that had law en. forcement used the tools in the original Patriot Act to tar- get a minority other than Ar- abs or Muslims, Jewish oppo- sition to the legislation might have been more pronounced. Provisions in the bill, such as the freezing of terrorist as- sets and new rules for border crossing, can be used by law- enforcement authorities to protect Jews, Lieberman said. "Every congregant who walks through a synagogue" in the Jewish holiday season '%viii walk past security guards and cameras," he said. "This has an impact on the analysis we do on tools we want law enforcement to have." The law updated procedures to allow police to track new technology, such as cellular phones and e-mail. It also re- moved barriers that prevented information sharing between local and national law-enforce- ment agencies. Post-Sept. 11, intelligence groups said those barriers hampered cooperation that might have helped anticipate the Sept. 11 attacks. Civil lib- ertarians say the barriers, which were in place since the 1970s, prevented spying on U.S. citizens. Proponents of the legisla- tion say the provisions in the Patriot Act are essential for staying ahead of present- day threats of terrorism and for updating law-enforcement tools that were crafted to fight the Mafia, not terrorist net- works. Critics say the new laws re- verse traditional American notions that a suspect is inno- cent until proven guilty and has a right to counsel. Rep. Filner said,"I have con- stituents in jail without charges, without their family officially knowing what's go- ing on." Pelavin says many of his constituents in the Reform movement are unsettled by a perceived threat to civil liber- ties. He hopes that Kucinich's legislation will start a dialogue about the Patriot Act and its effect on individual rights. "I think many people are concerned that some of the provisions this bill targets do not contribute to security," he said. Other Jewish groups are hearing the same thing. Some Jewish community relations photo b~ President Bush signs the Patriot Act in the White House in 2001. councils are backing referenda seeking to recall the legisla- tion. Some Jewish leaders support the repeal of individual provi- sions of the law but will not call the entire bill a failure. "It certainly has not been our position that the USA Pa- triot Act is a perfect docu- ment," said Richard Foltin, legislative director of the American Jewish Committee. "If we were not in the middle of a war on terrorism, there would be different judgments made." That led AJCommittee to back a sunset for the bill that would force Congress to re- examine the Patriot Act after several years. They also sup- port a bill that would repeal some specific Patriot Act pro- visions, such as the "sneak and peek" law, which allows de- layed notification for search warrants. Kucinich says the Patriot Act was rushed through Con- gress before members could take a full accounting of its implications. Jewish groups make the same argument, say- ing that time has allowed them to better understand the act and the way law enforcement uses the provisions. "The impact, both emotion- ally and security-wise, of 9/11 was so big thatArnerica needed time and needed to be able to sort out the pieces of it," said Reva Price, Washington rep- resentative of the Jewish Coun- cil for Public Affairs. Even with such reserva- tions, Jewish groups also are wary of Kucinich's strident tone. Jews may be frustrated with some actions of Attorney Gen- eral John Ashcroft, but they don't want to demonize him, because they believe he is sin- cere in wanting the bill purely because it is a helpful tool to guard against terrorism. Jewish groups also are ger to examine new tion Ashcroft wants, ing his Patriot Act II, would give law more tools for curityp ers say the approach is meal, separating what is essary for security is superfluous. What's clear say, is t opponents compare nese into detention during violations of civil now is that the threat is not perceived. "You have to start idea that terrorism is ent," he said. "You are. trying to find the criml because the criminal maY himse vent the crime." slow to By Matthew E. Berger WASHINGTON, D.C. (JTA)---Survivors are suing the commission on Nazi-era insurance claims, a commis- sioner has called for the resig- nation of its chief and Jewish officials handling the claims acknowledge serious prob- lems. But they also say there prob- ably isn't a better way to dole out the claims. The anger and frustration some lawmakers and survivors feel toward the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims peaked last week when several survivors filed suit, claiming the orga- nization was delaying pay- ments. California's insurance com- missioner, John Garamendi, a member of the commission, later joined the suit and called for the resignation of the commission's chairman, former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger. Survivors Jack Brauns, Manny Steinberg and Si Frumkin, all Los.Angeles area residents, charged that the ICHEIC improperly delayed or denied payments totaling more than $1 billion on poli- cies held by the survivors or heirs of those who perished under Nazi rule. "This is a commission that is supposed to help survivors," said William Shernoff, the plaintiffs' lawyer. "But from what we see, they are helping the insurance companies more than survi- vors." They also are seeking Eagleburger's resignation, saying his salary --which they estimate at over $300,000 - - is paid for by the insurance corn- Part-Time Jewish News has an opening for someone to help bundle newspapers on a once-a-month basis, must be able to lift 30 lbs. Please call Jeff at: 407-834-8787 panics. The plaintiffs believe Eagleburger is working in the insurance companies' inter- ests. "This is blood money stolen from survivors," said Frumkin, chair of the Southern Califor- nia Council for Soviet Jewry. For his part, Eagleburger says he has no intention of resigning. His aide, Anais Haase, told JTA that time and resources planned for investi- gating claims would be di- verted to defending against the lawsuit if the survivors persist in fighting them. "We don't believe we are mistreating survivors or their heirs," Haase said. "We offer the only option available at no cost to survivors and their heirs." The plaintiffs are asking the ICHEIC to place more pres- sure on Italian insurance com- panyAssicurazioni Generali to divulge more unpaid life in- surance policies. The ICHEIC has published 9,000 names of Generali policyholders, but the claimants suggest the list could exceed 100,000 policies. Shernoff said Holocaust survivors and their heirs should also maintain the right to use litigation to gain money owed them, rather than Work- ing through the ICHEIC. The suit was filed under California's Unfair Business Practices statue, but it's un- clear whether the ICHEIC can legally be defined as a business. A Generali official in New York the lawsuit base- less and misleading, saying that thousands of claimants "have and will continue to be paid and offered generous amounts through ICHEIC, which is supported by leading Jewish Holocaust restitution organizations and the State of Israel." Stuart Eizenstat, a special representative for Holocaust issues in the Clinton adminis- tration, said the lawsuits could wreck the ICHEIC system if the suit nullifies the agree- ments the commission has reached with the insurance agencies. "It continues to cast a cloud of debate over the exercise," he said. "It diverts energy and attention from filling claims." Eizenstat said he appreci- ates that the suit is an exPres- sion of frustration over the slow process of paying claims. But he and others contend that the insurance companies, not the ICHEIC, have made the process more difficult by with- holding names. Israel Singer, chairman of the World Jewish Congress, agreed. "There is no bad faith here," he said of the ICHEIC. "There is bad information after 50 years." Singer acknowledged that the organization has had trouble completing its mis- sion. "ICHEIC has a mammoth task, and it's bigger than we ever thought it was going to couldn't- have known it at the tit He suggested an man might be able to the gap between the and the The ICHEIC, fouJ 1998 by the National tion of Insurance sioners, has had some iems in the past two sign last year after securing Germaninst Congressional tised Eagleburger an commission for its ing the dwindling Holocaust The ICHEIC also criticized for million in five Eizenstat agreed ganization cannot ered a model But both Singerdefe "Larry has nickel and the Eizenstat said. undergo hell to ties together." California Gov. G issued a stateme: accusing the IC meeting "The system claims are not gated and being paid," Davis statement. Edwin Black Tugend