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November 6, 2009     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, NOVEMBER 06, 2009 PAGE 21A By Ron Kampeas and Eric Fingerhut WASHINGTON (JTA)-- Israel's ambassador turned down an invitation to speak last week at the inaugural J Street conference shortly after his spokesman was quoted as saying that some of the group's positions would "impair" Israel's interest. The Obama admin- istration seemed to have a different message for the group: We have your back. On Oct. 25, before tl~e official launch of the con- ference, the White House's top outreach official urged Jewish an d Arab leaders to change their communities' "hearts and minds" about President Obama's peace push at a joint session con- vened by J Street and the Arab American Institute. "We need to build sup- port" for Obama's efforts to restart Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, Tina Tchen said. "There are hearts and minds in the United States that need to be changed." On Oct. 27. another Obama administration of- ficial--James Jones, t~e White House national curity adviser -hammered home the point to the 1,500-plus attendees at the Grand Hyatt Washington. His message from the White House to the J Street confer- ence was one of inevitability: of peace, of a strong U.S.- Israel relationship and of J Street. "You can be sure this J Street J Street founder Jeremy Ben-Ami speaking at the group's first conference in Washington oh Oct. 26 as Rabbi Eric Yoffie looks on. administration will be rep- resented at all future confer- ences," Jones said. Jones' message was oth- erwise boilerplate--Israel. the Palestinians and the, Arab states need to do more to achieve peace, President Obama is committed to a two-state solution. Iran must stop enriching ura- nium. He did, however, add a new wrinkle to the Iran equation, making it clear that the United States expects Iran to give up all, not just some, of its low- enriched uranium. But the "I'll be back" as- surance earned an extended round of applause and meant a great deal to an organiza- tion that struggled to attract mainstream and right-wing speakers. A behind-the- scenes campaign from some other pro-Israel groups and conservative pundits had warned away establishment figures. (Among the critics' complaints: J Street backs U.S. pressure on Israel and the Palestinians, it slammed Israel's invasion of Gaza and it has criticized other Jewish groups.) Jones' message was echoed by U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), who int.ro- duced the Obarna admin- istration official. Until his recent announcement that he was quitting Congress to head aMiddle East peace think tank, Wexler was about as mainstream as it gets in Congress' unofficial Jewish caucus. He was very strongly pro-Israel, and his wife works for the American Jewish Committee. Wexler, who was candi- date Obama's lead Jewish outreach, remains loyal to the president's insistence on broadening the dialogue. ""As Americans, we are among the most fortunate people in the world," he told the crowd. "I applaud your political energy; we need more of it." Boos, cheers for Yoffie Rabbi Eric Yoffie drew cheers from the crowd on Oct. 26 during a discussion with Ben-Ami when he said that too many Jewish com- munal leaders have their "heads in the sand" when it comes to Israeli settlements. "You cannot convince Americans that it rhakes sense for an Israel that supports a Palestinian state to maintain a large settler population in the heart of the West Bank where that state must come into being," said Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism. "The simple fact is that it makes no sense at all and Americans, being a sensible people, know that." Later, however, Yoffie was booed when he criticized Richard Goldstone, the South African jurist who chaired the United Nations commission that issued a report stating that Israel and Hamas might be guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. "Richard Goldstone should be ashamed of himself," Yof- fie said, "for working under the auspices of the U.N. Hu- man Rights Council." Yoffie, a longtime backer of a two-state solution and critic of Iscaeli settlement expan- sion, welcomed the creation of J Street. But he ended up harshly condemning the organization for criticizing Israel's invasion of Gaza. Debating pro-Israel money It's not every day that two Jewish congressmen politely debate whether Jewish political contribu- tions control U.S. policy in the Middle East. Or one of those members gets a major applause after saying he voted against a resolution that condemned a Nation of Islam leader. But that's what happened Oct. 26 at the J Street con- ference. It all started when Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.) told the story of voting against a 1994 resolution condemn- ing the hateful and anti- Semitic speech of Khalid Abdul Muhammad, at the time a top lieutenant of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Filner said he couldn't condemn the speech because of the First Amendment "How can Jews survive without the-First Amendment?" he askedmand was the only Jewish member of Congress to vote against it. Filner said the vote hurt him among Jewish supporters, costing him $250,000 in con- tributions per election cycle. "That kind of money is an intimidating factor. I raised a lot less money in succeeding years, but my conscience was cleared." he said to huge applat~e. As the discussion among Filner and Reps. Jan Scha- kowsky (D-Ill.), Jared Po- lis (D-Colo.) and Charles Boustany (R-La.) contin- ued. Polis cautioned that "we need to be careful to not give cover" to those "who think there is a Jew- ish conspiracy" to controt U.S. foreign policy. Filner retorted by citing two mem- bers of the Congressional BlackCaucus EarlHilliard of Alabama and Cynthia McKinney of Georgia--who were defeated with the help of pro-Israel donors. "That intimidates peo- ple," Filner said. Polis responded by saying that the pro-Israel lobby is no different than any other single-issue interest group in American politics, from labor unions to low-tax proponents like the Club for Growth to supporters of gun rights. "This is not unique to American politics," Polis said about the pro-Israel lobby. "Nor is this even one of the most influential groups in either of the parties." But Filner persisted, arguing as an example that labor unions were at least providing health benefits for the members but on Israel, members of Con- gress "are taking positions that can lead to war" based only on how it affects their campaign coffers. "The Republican Party doesn't give a damn about Israel," he said, but only sup- port it on political grounds. That finally led Boustany to chime in, suggesting that Filner not"generalize about Republicans." TEL AVIV, Israel One small step for mankind is now a leap for averting natural and man-made disasters on earth. New Tel Aviv University technology combines so- phisticated sensors in orbit with sensors on the ground and in the air to create a "Hyperspectral Remote Sensor." It can give advance warnings about water con- tamination after a forest fire, alert authorities of a pollution spill long before a red flag is raised on earth or tell people in China where a monsoon will strike. Professor Eyal Ben-Dor of Tel Aviv University's Department of Geography describes his team's HRS technology as a combina- tion of physical, chemical and optical disciplines. "When a devastating for- est fire hits the Hollywood Hills, for example, we can see from space how the mineralogy of the soil has changed," he explains. "Because of these Changes, the next rainstorm may wash out all the buildings or leach contaminants into the soil. With our new tool. we can advise on how to contain the pollutants after the fire, and warn if there is a risk for landslides." Details on new applica- tions of this technology were presented recently in several leading journals including Soil Science Society of Ameri- can Journals, Soil Science Journal and the International Journal of Remote Sensing. HRS provides informa- tion useful to property developers as well. It can offer a soil profile map with detailed information for contractors, farmers or vintners interested in making major land pur- chase deals or managing existing ones. It can also indicate where water runoff should be directed and what minerals may be lacking in a given parcel-of land. "Water is an expeflsive commodity today," says Ben-Dor. "Knowing how to better manage water resources is a top priority for states like California, and our new tool could help them" do that." Today, it can take years before authorities can detect chemicals that can compromise our health. For example, about 90 percent of all gas stations leak contaminants into the soil, says Ben-Dot. His new HRS can monitor gas stations and identify problematic areas. "Our space sensors combined with ground measurements and GPS data will be able to detect and map hydrocarbon con- tamination in real time. Within a year, we'll be able to identify these problem- atic areas far more quickly than with traditional meth- ods," he says. The HRS simultaneously acquires hundreds of opti- cal images, each from a different frequency, that enable a "spectral assess- ment" from distances high in the air via airplanes and in orbit using satellites. This raw data is then pro- cessed by Ben-Dor and his team to yield sophisticated thematic maps. "These are not regular maps at all," says Ben-Dor. "We are combining properties from the physical, chemical and optical worlds, using all the latest technolo- gies available from these fields. Ours is one of a few leading teams in the world exploring this novel way of mapping earth." These "soil maps" sup- ply a bigger picture~ Water bodies and sediment run- off in California. A small soil patch in a California forest after a fire. Impend- ing monsoons and floods in China. Contaminants surrounding a factory. All these can literally be "seen" from space with the HRS. Previous research by Ben-Dor, which focused on mapping urban heat islands from space, is now regularly used by cities and urban planners to develop projects such as "green" roof~ or new parks. An image from TAU's orbi~'ng Hyperspectrai Remote Sensor. There's a difference in our service.You'll see it in your yard @ Maintenance Landscaping "Irrigation ma u rice la wn ca re@yahoo, co m