Wednesday, December 23, 2015

When Orientation is Normal in the Military

The following obituary was announced by the Department of Defense for this past week. May her memory be a blessing for those who knew and loved her, and may we all take pride in both her service and her sacrifice.  This is the support and love that an open policy on orientation makes possible in the U.S. Military today.

Maj. Adrianna M. Vorderbruggen, USAF, 36 of Minnesota died December 21 in Afghanistan
Maj. Vorderbruggen was a 1998 graduate of Wayzata High School in Minnesota where she was a talented athlete and a three year starter on the women's soccer team. She graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2002 and later earned a Master's degree in forensic sciences at George Washington University. Her father, Joseph Vorderbruggen said that his daughter "loved life" and "loved the military. "Whatever goal she had, she found a way. "Maj. Vorderbruggen was assigned to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, 9th Field Investigations Squadron, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.

 Maj. Vorderbruggen is survived by her wife, Heather Lamb, her four year old son Jacob and her father Joseph Voderbruggen.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Jewish Groups Universally Defend Muslim's Rights against Donald Trump

From the JTA.

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Jewish groups blasted Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for his proposal to block all Muslims from entering the United States.
“A plan that singles out Muslims and denies them entry to the U.S. based on their religion is deeply offensive and runs contrary to our nation’s deepest values,” the Anti-Defamation League said in a statement Monday evening hours after Trump, a real estate billionaire and reality TV star, issued his call.
“In the Jewish community, we know all too well what can happen when a particular religious group is singled out for stereotyping and scapegoating,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL’s CEO. “We also know that this country must not give into fear by turning its back on its fundamental values, even at a time of great crisis.”
The American Jewish Committee’s director of policy, Jason Isaacson,noted the timing of Trump’s statement, which called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” coincident with the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.
“As Jews who are now observing Hanukkah, a holiday that celebrates a small religious minority’s right to live unmolested, we are deeply disturbed by the nativist racism inherent in the candidate’s latest remarks,” Isaacson said. “You don’t need to go back to the Hanukkah story to see the horrific results of religious persecution; religious stereotyping of this sort has been tried often, inevitably with disastrous results.”
Trump in his news release alluded to the massacre in San Bernardino, California, last week of 14 people by a couple apparently radicalized by the Islamic State terrorist group.
“Without looking at the various polling data, it is obvious to anybody the hatred is beyond comprehension,” he said. “Where this hatred comes from and why we will have to determine. Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life.”
Other Jewish groups condemning the comments included J Street, Bend the Arc, the National Jewish Democratic Council, the Israel Policy Forum, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and JAC, a Jewish political action committee.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Patience in the Face of Terror

With the attack on a county program center in San Bernadino this week, we have been shown the combination of a "sleeper" terrorist and a "soft" target.  It is devastating.  With 14 dead and more wounded, the professionals are now working on identifying the circle around the dead terrorists. But there are many lessons to be learned.

First, there were immediate attempts to react to the attack and label it. Was it a disgruntled employee?  Was it domestic terrorism? Was it international terrorism? It had elements of each.

The first question was, is this a disgruntled employee, and therefore "just" a violent mass murder?  Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27, fired as many as 150 bullets inside the San Bernadino County Inland Regional Center where he had worked. In retrospect, his employee status was merely part of the long play to identify a target and its weakest moment - the holiday party. He was not disgruntled, in conflict, or identified as a threat in any way.

The second thought was, is this an "anti government" domestic terror attack, like Oklahoma City?  After all, it was a county building.  But this also didn't make sense, as it was not a "government" office, and its purpose was to provide services to the special needs community.  Hardly a focal point for anti-government sentiment.

Finally, the truth starts to emerge.  They had thousands of rounds stockpiled at home. They had built pipe bombs and purchased military equipment and clothing. They had been deleting their computers and destroying their phones in the last few days before the attack. They purposefully dropped off their six month old baby (!) with her grandmother.  They attended the holiday party to case the location one last time, and then returned armed for war and began shooting.

At some point in the last few years, Syed made a change in his understanding of Islam and of America.  Born and raised in Chicago as a first generation American, he had no criminal record.  He had the right to travel to the Middle East, which he did.  He had the right to apply for immigration for his fiancee and co-terrorist.  And he did.  He had the right to pass a criminal background check and screening in California to purchase guns, which he did.  He had all of the rights and privileges that you and I have.  They were employed, and welcomed in their neighborhood.  America had done nothing wrong, and until they pulled the trigger neither had they.

This is the most difficult form of terrorism to prevent.  At best, you hope to stumble across them as they slowly stockpile materials to be used in bombs.  If you are lucky, someone will become aware and turn them in, but they were perfect in how they laid low. But this is a country of freedoms, and Syed was a born citizen like you or me.  What level of government intrusion into personal freedoms would have revealed this plot in advance? Certainly not one that you or I would tolerate.

The only way to stop them would have been to have had secured doors at the facility, and trained armed people in the building to respond during the shooting.  The truth is that only armed guards, or trained and armed citizens, can stop a shooter like this.  They are not on watch lists, no-fly lists, nor are they persons of interest in any crime.  They were known in the building and had the right to enter.  People like this can always start the shooting.  The question is, how fast can we stop it once it starts?

Once again, the response to the shooting by some has been to try to ban guns on the one side, or to scapegoat Islam on the other.  

Terrorists and criminals will always have access to guns, and will always be able to make bombs. The more pragmatic answer to these scenarios, though many are afraid of its stark reality, is to allow regular folks to become trained and licensed in the handling of firearms for defense. In Paris, in San Bernadino, in Charleston... no one in the room had a chance. The training should be a high bar and the vetting for a public concealed carry should be a high standard, but the only other solution is to hide and hope that the shooter misses you for the next 10-15 minutes while the police scramble to get to you.

And yes, there is a strong and determined voice in Islam to murder the enemies of their brand of Islam.  The enemies of ISIS include other muslims, westerners, Jews and whoever gets in their way. Those of us on the outside of Islam looking in continue to assert that Islam itself has to reject the terror and the truth is most of Islam does, unless you start talking about Israel.  

The FBI and Homeland Security are on the case.  The back story will be known, and new leads in the war on terror will be found and followed. The Islamic community in this country will continue to be supportive and cooperative to pursue and prevent this kind of murder, as they have proven to be since 9/11.

In the meantime, patience. No new stereotypes.  No new legislation.  Let the professionals do their job, and know that on a day to day basis in this country you really are entirely safe (unless you drive on I-95 in rush hour!).

Monday, November 16, 2015

Applaud the Muslims Who Condemn Terrorism

Too often all muslims are lumped into one neolithic stereotype of hatred and violence. At times like this, those who are frustrated by the perceived lack of Muslim voices for peace in general must applaud and reinforce statements like this:


               ISLAMIC ASSOCIATION OF LONG ISLAND – THE SELDEN MOSQUE ( The Oldest Mosque of Long Island ) . The Board of Trustees , The Executive committee , and  thousands of Peaceful and Law abiding Muslins of Long Island , New York – along with Muslim leaders are horrified by the terrorist attacks on Friday 13, 2015 in Paris , resulting in massive killing and serious injuries to innocent people . We condemn in strongest terms , all forms of terrorist acts , which are against humanity and Islamic norms . The Noble Law of Islam forbids all acts of aggressions and violence.  We all are united against those who terrorize the innocent civilians , anywhere in the world – Islam has declared  (for those who understand) , the spilling of blood and the destruction of property an absolute prohibition , until the Day of Judgment … It is necessary to apprehend
the perpetrators of these horrible and in humane crimes against humanity , as well as those who aid and abet them through incitement or by other means . Muslims stand in solidarity with the people of the France , we are absolutely saddened  and shaken by the attacks that have taken place in
Paris . Any attack on innocent people is unlawful and contrary to Islamic Law … Muslims are ordered by the Prophetic Traditions for the safeguard
of lives , honor , and property of Christian and Jews and all other human beings , no matter what  faith they belong , Islam shows generosity
toward one and all – as Universal brotherhood of mankind .

            A common complaint among non- Muslims is that Muslim religious authorities do not condemn terrorist attacks – the complain often surface in letter to the editor of newspapers , on phone-in radio shows , on internet forum and other media outlets , possibly because the so called Muslim terrorist keep killing innocent people . Contrary to the claim most major Muslim organizations, Scholars, Imams, and religious leaders have always
spoken against all forms of terrorism and terrorist attacks in general.

           Professor John Andrew Morrow , a Canadian Muslim scholar of International fame writes in his book , “ THE COVENANTS OF THE PROPHET MUHAMMED WITH THE CHRISTIANS OF THE WORLD “ :  “ … The similarities between Islam , Christianity , and Judaism , far out weight any
differences . To disrespect Christianity is to disrespect Christ in the same fashion that disrespecting Judaism is to disrespect Moses . Muslims do not have to denigrate divinity revealed religions and then cry bloody murder when Islam is attacked. Jew, Christians, and Muslims must defend each other from the onslaught of the secular New World Order , which is deeply committed to destroying them all . May the publication of The Covenants
of The Prophet Muhammed ( pbuh ) with The Christians of The World , be an occasion for a new alliance between those of the Abrahamic Faiths who are dedicated to preserving The Divine Revelations entrusted to them both from traitors within their mist and from unrelenting attacks of the modern world. Ameen .

Yousuf U. Syed, MD.MPH.
Board Member Islamic Association of Long Island
The Selden Mosque ( The Oldest Mosque of L.I. )
Global Interfaith Peace Mission, Inc
Council Member
Global Health Development Initiatives ,Inc
Board Member

Long Island Multifaith Forum/ Long Island Council of Churches.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Why the U.N. is Important and Good.

It has become a doctrine in many Jewish political circles that the U.N. is an ineffective and antisemitic organization.  I do not agree.  The U.N. is both important and good.  There are many reasons why I have held this conviction for my entire life.  

What does the U.N. do? Well, first let’s admit that it’s primary concern and function are not the state of Israel or the question of Palestine. We in the Jewish community are understandably neurotic about our past, our present and our future. The world does not share our neurosis, nor our preoccupation with Jews and Judaism.  That is not to say that there isn’t a lot of Israel focused activity out there, or even that it isn’t out of proportion with reality, but the perception that we are the center of everything good and evil in the world’s imagination is simply wrong. The amount of time spent on Israel and the Palestinians is a tiny fraction of what the U.N. is involved in. Judging the U.N. by its effectiveness or accuracy in our troubles would be an inaccurate lens for the organization as a whole.

The U.N. exists to maintain international peace and security, to promote sustainable development, to protect human rights, to uphold international law, and to deliver humanitarian aid.  The U.N. has several bodies:  The General Assembly, The Security Council, The Economic and Social Council, The International Court of Justice and the Secretariat.  Each has a positive role to play in making our world a better place.

In its political body, the General Assembly of 193 member states exists as the main deliberative and representative body of the U.N. Anything can be said or proposed here as a statement of policy, requiring merely a majority of nations (97) to be passed. Questions of membership, peace and security, budget, and other important matters require a 2/3 majority (129) to pass.  Here everyone must be heard. While we may be appalled at an anti-semitic diatribe from those who both oppose Israel in the U.N., that same freedom of expression gives us a voice there that we did not have in 1939. The safe place to express and debate is a tremendous foundation for International Peace and Security.

In its security arm, the Security Council, The Security Council takes the lead in determining the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression. It calls upon the parties to a dispute to settle it by peaceful means and recommends methods of adjustment or terms of settlement. In some cases, the Security Council can resort to imposing sanctions or even authorize the use of force to maintain or restore international peace and security.  The 5 permanent members (USA, Russia, UK, France & China) each have a veto power in any vote. The 10 other members are elected by the 193 members, according to a regional allocation. Contrary to Israel’s umbrage of unique exclusion from the Security Council, 60 of the 193 nations have never been elected to the council, and never one that is party to a dispute which the council is considering. The Security Council’s resolutions, unlike any other body of the U.N. are absolutely binding on all member states, and the Security Council has the power to assess threats to peace, name them, and if necessary deploy troops to hold the peace. Without the Security Council, the U.N. would be a toothless tiger.

The International Court of Justice’s role is to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by States and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by authorized United Nations organs and specialized agencies.  The ICJ does not try war crimes, as these fall under the completely separate purview of the treaty-based International Criminal Court in the Hague. Without the ICJ, the world would be left to “might makes right.” Most of its cases are territorial in nature, but some are economic, environmental or military.

The Secretariat is the civil servant arm of the entire U.N. and is led by the Secretary General, at this time Ban Ki-Moon. As he entered his second year in office, he outlined 5 priorities for his work:

  1. Sustainable development
  2. Prevention
  3. Building a safer and more secure world by innovating and building on our core business
  4. Supporting nations in transition
  5. Working with and for women and young people
Perhaps most important for the U.N.’s good work and reputation, however, is The Economic and Social Council - the principal body for coordination, policy review, policy dialogue and recommendations on economic, social and environmental issues, as well as implementation of internationally agreed development goals. It serves as the central mechanism for activities of the UN system and its specialized agencies in the economic, social and environmental fields, supervising subsidiary and expert bodies.  It has 54 Members, elected by the General Assembly for overlapping three-year terms. It is the United Nations’ central platform for reflection, debate, and innovative thinking on sustainable development.

It is in the ECOSOC that the U.N. makes the greatest impact on the largest number of lives.  Humanitarian assistance, agricultural development, regional economic councils, standing commissions for the status of women, standards of transport, labeling of chemicals, controlling narcotics, protecting forests, and a broad and constant series of forums and plenums among nations, academics and economic entities all provide dynamic interchange in a fast developing world.  

Within any of these areas are scores of commissions and countless committees and forums held on regional sites around the globe. Since the 54 nations of the ECOSOC, and the 193 nations of the GA all have their own political slants, the more political an activity is - such as human rights - the less often it will follow some “objective” view of the topic.  And since most decisions are arrived at by a vote, Israel is often vilified and voted on in some of these forums. When Malaysia was the president of the ECOSOC in 2010, many such examples occurred.  With Republic of Korea ambassador Oh Joon at the helm today, many fewer such things have occurred.

The truth is that the world needs the U.N. areas of expertise, as in matters of territorial dispute, human rights, women’s equality, hunger, sustainable agriculture, clean water and more. These all demand an international forum of cooperation, and the U.N. is good at this.  Never before in human history has such a large percentage of the planet had representation in a common forum, and the reasonable right to expect care and concern from the international community - especially in matters that are larger than one’s own national borders.

Israel and the Palestinians both will use, and have used the political process of the U.N. when it suits us/them. And when the politics go against us we cry out how biased and unjust the organization is. The truth is, most of the U.N. really isn't about us - and most of it is really, really good.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Murderers are Murderers - There is no defense for this.

Thursday night, July 30, 2015.

4 masked Israelis physically attack two Palestinian homes in the town of Dama.  Both have windows smashed, and fire bombs thrown inside. At least one has the word, Nekama, "Revenge," spray painted on the side of the house. One is empty, while the other contains a family of four asleep in their beds. The father, mother and one child are brutally burned and now in the hospital with 2nd and 3rd degree burns over 60-90% of their bodies.  The 18 month old baby, Ali Saad Daobasa, is killed by the smoke and flame. The parents are on life support.

Murderers.  Terrorists. Animals.

There is no defense for this act.  There is no political or religious justification that will hold up in the heavenly court of Justice or any just court on earth. This is why we have laws, police, courts and executioners. Saving ourselves as victims from this kind of pogrom is why we have Israel.  These killers have become what Israel deplores at its deepest levels.

The four fled to a nearby Jewish settlement, where they have not been identified or located by police.  They must be found, reported, turned in - whatever it takes.

Israel has an ideal to which it must live.  Israel must not use the tools of blood on blood between citizens. Revenge is not for the individual to dole out.

In the past several years, a creeping criminality has found support in the anti-Palestinian side of the political spectrum.  The "tag machir movement" is the clearest example. "Tag machir" is Hebrew for "price tag." Throughout Israel, unknown hoodlums have taken to spray painting Palestinian or Arab Israel property - most commonly cars - with those Hebrew words.  Sometimes there is more. But mostly it is a defacing of property to make the claim that a price must be paid for Jewish blood or for violence against Israelis.  Did anyone think it would stop there?

Vigilante criminals come in many sizes. On one side, they are the terrorists who drive a car onto the sidewalk to kill Israelis.  On the other side, it is tag machir or the murderers of Ali Saad Daobasa. Palestinian vigilantes almost always seek blood and murder. If you hate that, don't become it. Don't support it.  Don't justify it with even a half of an apologetic sentence for its motivation.

Israeli believes in better. Israel is better.  Israel must prove its values once again: justice for the family of Ali Saad Daobasa. The murderers must be found, arrested, and suffer the full abilities of the law as terrorists.

The real "price tag" if this crime is not prosecuted is the loss of the Israeli heart and its Jewish soul to barbarism and crime in the name of righteousness.

The protests have flared up. More violence is happening in the name of the murdered baby. The army must come out... the murderers on both sides are being rewarded.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Hateful, Murderous Prejudice against Gay Rights in Israel

Posted on Jul 30, 2015
NEW YORK – Today, six marchers were stabbed during Jerusalem’s annual gay pride parade, allegedly by a Haredi Orthodox man released from prison two weeks ago after stabbing people at the same event in 2005. The Rabbinical Assembly, the international association for Conservative/Masorti rabbis, condemned the attack; calling for acceptance of and equality for the LGBTQ community and an end to violence against the LGBTQ community. The organization’s president, Rabbi William Gershon; and executive vice president, Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, issued the following statement:
Jews around the world are saddened and appalled that an event in the holy city of Jerusalem, designed to celebrate that all of humanity is created b’tzelem Elohim, in the divine image, was marred by a senseless hate crime. The horror of an attack on these innocent marchers is made more painful by recalling the passages we read from Eicha on Tisha B’Av, lamenting the shedding of innocent blood in the midst of Jerusalem (4:13). We wish the victims a refuah shlemah, a quick and speedy recovery, and our prayers remain with their families. This incident further highlights the ongoing need for Israeli law enforcement and government officials to vigorously police and prosecute crimes motivated by religious extremism. We appreciate that many prominent rabbis across the spectrum have condemned this act of violence.
In 1990, the Rabbinical Assembly passed a resolution calling on the community to ‘work for full and equal civil rights for gays and lesbians in our national life, deplore violence against gays and lesbians, encourage inclusion of gay and lesbian Jews in our congregations, and increase our awareness of issues facing gay and lesbian Jews.’ We continue to follow these principles in hopes of guaranteeing a safe space in our synagogues and our wider communities.