Newsletter : 6fax1026.txt
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Argentina Calls for Arrests of Former Iranian Officials in 1994 Bombing
By VOA News
Argentine prosecutors have asked a judge to issue an arrest warrant against top Iranian
officials in connection with the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos
Aires. Chief prosecutor Alberto Nisman said Wednesday that Argentine officials had
determined senior Iranian authorities ordered the attack on the Argentina Israeli Mutual
Association. He said the attack was carried out by the Lebanese-based militant group
Hizbullah. The bombing killed 85 people and injured some 300 people. Iran has repeatedly
denied involvement in the bombing.
Olmert Persuades Labor to Accept Ultranationalist in Coalition
By VOA News
The office of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Labor Party leader Amir Peretz
has agreed to remain in the Cabinet despite Olmert's decision to include an
ultranationalist party in the ruling coalition.
Olmert's office announced Wednesday, that Peretz's left-center party has agreed to an
expanded coalition that includes far-right leader Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael
Beitenu (Israel Our Home) party.
The prime minister's office says Peretz was assured there will be no change in the
government's guidelines and that his role as defense minister would not be harmed.
Lieberman's party calls for annexing Israeli settlements in the West Bank and excluding
Israeli Arab towns from Israel's final borders. Labor objects to stripping Israeli Arabs
of their citizenship.
Under the coalition deal with Olmert, Lieberman would become a deputy prime minister in
charge of monitoring strategic threats facing Israel. Lieberman said he would focus on
Iran, which he calls the primary threat.
The addition of Lieberman's party would expand the ruling coalition from 67 to 78 seats
in the Israeli parliament. His party is mostly made up of Russian immigrants.
Germans Claim Israeli F-16s Fired at Warship Near Lebanon
An Israel Defense Forces spokesman on Wednesday confirmed that Israel Air Force jets
had been involved in an incident with a German vessel and helicopter, but denied reports
that the jets had fired shots over the ship.
The Germany daily Der Tagesspiegel earlier on Wednesday quoted a junior German defense
minister as telling a parliamentary committee that two Israeli F-16 fighters flew low over
the German ship and fired two shots.
The jets also activated infra-red countermeasures to ward off any rocket attack; the
paper quoted him as saying, in an advance release from Thursday's edition.
The IDF spokesman denied that the air force had attacked a ship or opened fire in the
vicinity, but said that IAF jets had been launched early Tuesday when a helicopter took
off from a German aircraft carrier in waters close to Rosh Hanikra without identifying
itself in accordance with United Nations regulations. The incident was quickly solved
without confrontation, the spokesman said, and only flares were fired.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz on Wednesday denied the reports in a call to his German
counterpart, Franz Jozef Jung, and said Israel had no reason to attack German forces. He
also said that Israel wanted to increase its coordination with UNIFIL forces in
preventative actions. UNIFIL told Channel Two Wednesday that it had received no complaint
of Israeli fire.
Germany assumed command of a United Nations naval force off Lebanon 10 days ago, and
has sent eight ships and 1,000 service personnel to join the international peace operation
in the region.
The naval force is charged with preventing the smuggling of weapons and helping
maintain a ceasefire between Israel and the Lebanese Islamic terrorist group
Peretz said earlier Wednesday that the IAF would continue to patrol Lebanese skies in
an effort to gather information and prevent terror groups from smuggling weapons from
Syria into Lebanon.
Peretz raised the issue on the Knesset plenum agenda, saying, "We see ourselves not
just as free, but as having the right to continue carrying out these necessary flights, as
part of our challenge against the flow of arms from the Syrian-Lebanese border."
The defense minister added that in light of Israel's desire to coordinate these efforts
with Lebanon, it had reduced the scope of the flights to a minimum. He said the flights
were being carried out with precision to avoid friction with United Nations troops and the
Lebanese army. He said the flights presented no threat to the peace or security of the
international forces deployed in Lebanon.
In response to threats by French forces to open fire on IAF over flights, Peretz said,
"We will in no way take these threats, and we've made that clear in conversations with all
The defense minister said that since the end of the war the Hizbullah has been involved
with the rehabilitation of the Lebanese infrastructure, has attempted to smuggle weapons
through the Lebanese-Syrian border, and has continued to try to harness aid from external
sources. Hizbullah had maintained its stronghold in southern Lebanese areas still closed
off to UNIFIL and Lebanese forces.
The Leica Freedom Train
I carry my Leica camera a bit more proudly these days. The reason? A
story I had never heard before - a tale of courage, integrity and humility that is only
now coming to light, some 70 years after the fact.
The Leica is the pioneer 35mm camera. From a nitpicking point of view, it wasn't the very
first still camera to use 35mm movie film, but it was the first to be widely publicized
and successfully marketed. It created the "candid camera" boom of the 1930s. It is a
German product - precise, minimalist, and utterly efficient.
Behind its worldwide acceptance as a creative tool was a family-owned, socially
oriented firm that, during thee Nazi era, acted with uncommon grace, generosity and
modesty. E. Leitz Inc., designer and manufacturer of Germany's most famous photographic
product, saved its Jews.
And Ernst Leitz II, the steely eyed Protestant patriarch who headed the closely held
firm as the Holocaust loomed across Europe, acted in such a way as to earn the title, "the
photography industry's Schindler."
As George Gilbert, a veteran writer on topics photographic, told the story at last
week's convention of the Leica Historical Society of America in Portland, Oregon, Leitz
Inc., founded in Wetzlar in 1869, had a tradition of enlightened behavior toward its
workers. Pensions, sick leave, health insurance - all were instituted early on at Leitz,
which depended for its work force upon generations of skilled employees - many of whom
As soon as Adolf Hitler was named chancellor of Germany in 1933, Ernst Leitz II began
receiving frantic calls from Jewish associates, asking for his help in getting them and
their families out of the country.
As Christians, Leitz and his family were immune to Nazi Germany's Nuremberg laws, which
restricted the movement of Jews and limited their professional activities.
To help his Jewish workers and colleagues, Leitz quietly established what has become
known among historians of the Holocaust as "the Leica Freedom Train," a covert means of
allowing Jews to leave Germany in the guise of Leitz employees being assigned
Employees, retailers, family members, even friends of family members were "assigned" to
Leitz sales offices in France, Britain, Hong Kong and the United States. Leitz's
activities intensified after the Kristallnacht of November 1938, during which synagogues
and Jewish shops were burned across Germany.
Before long, German "employees" were disembarking from the ocean liner Bremen at a New
York pier and making their way to the Manhattan office of Leitz Inc., where executives
quickly found them jobs in the photographic industry.
Each new arrival had around his or her neck the symbol of freedom - a new Leica.
The refugees were paid a stipend until they could find work. Out of this migration came
designers, repair technicians, salespeople, marketers and writers for the photographic
The "Leica Freedom Train" was at its height in 1938 and early 1939, delivering groups
of refugees to New York every few weeks. Then, with the invasion of Poland on Sept. 1,
1939, Germany closed its borders. By that time, hundreds of endangered Jews had escaped to
America, thanks to the Leitz's' efforts.
How did Ernst Leitz II and his staff get away with it? Leitz Inc. was an
internationally recognized brand that reflected credit on the newly resurgent Reich. The
company produced range-finders and other optical systems for the German military. Also,
the Nazi government desperately needed hard currency from abroad, and Leitz's single
biggest market for optical goods was the United States.
Even so, members of the Leitz family and firm suffered for their good works. A top
executive, Alfred Turk, was jailed for working to help Jews and freed only after the
payment of a large bribe.
Leitz's daughter, Elsie Kuhn-Leitz, was imprisoned by the Gestapo after she was caught
at the border, helping Jewish women cross into Switzerland. She eventually was freed but
endured rough treatment in the course of questioning.
She also fell under suspicion when she attempted to improve the living conditions of
700 to 800 Ukrainian slave laborers, all of them women, who had been assigned to work in
the plant during the 1940s. (After the war, Kuhn-Leitz received numerous honors for her
humanitarian efforts, among them the Officier d'honneur des Palms Academic from France in
1965 and the Aristide Briand Medal from the European Academy in the 1970s.)
Why has no one told this story until now? According to the late Norman Lipton, a
freelance writer and editor, the Leitz family wanted no publicity for its heroic efforts.
Only after the last member of the Leitz family was dead did the "Leica
Freedom Train" finally come to light.
It is now the subject of a book, "The Greatest Invention of the Leitz Family: The Leica
Freedom Train," by Frank Dabba Smith, a California- born rabbi currently living in
Study: Israelis and U.S. Jews No Longer Seen as One Nation
Two recent studies challenge the customary perception that Jews living in Israel and
the United States, which make up 80 percent of the world's Jewry belong to the same
One study indicates that Israel occupies a marginal place in the younger generation's
Jewish identity. The other finds that Israeli pupils' knowledge of American Jewry is
negligible. Both studies were conducted by the American Jewish Committee (AJC). The study
on Israeli pupils was conducted by the Levinsky College of Education among 150 history and
Only 13 percent of them said that the subject of U.S. Jewry had been studied at their
school "at least once." More than 60 percent said the subject had not been studied at all
and 25 percent could not answer the question.
Rabbi Edward Rettig of AJC, who coordinated the study, said he was not surprised by the
findings, which indicate to his mind "educational failure and slipping down the slope of
Rettig said senior Education Ministry officials had tried to sabotage the study and
forbade the researchers' direct access to teachers. The Knesset's Education Committee
chair, Rabbi Michael Melchior, initiated the debate held in the Knesset on Wednesday on
the studies' findings. He said Israeli education ministers' promises to expand Jewish
studies were mere lip service and that all the study programs on this subject had been
Education Minister Yuli Tamir promised recently to increase Jewish studies and said it
would "contribute significantly to mold the pupils' Jewish identity." But in Wednesday's
Knesset debate it transpired that the Education Ministry was not acting to implement new
Jewish studies programs, although they had been prepared long ago.
The implementation of a new history study program has recently been postponed by a
year, and a civics program is pending the minister's decision whether to expand civics
studies from one to two units. An additional ninth grade program
on Diaspora Jews has been taught for the past two years as a mere pilot.
The study held in the U.S. summed the findings of all the studies conducted among 1.5
million American Jews in their twenties and thirties. They all concluded that Israel was
not a central component in the young people's Jewish identity. For example, in a study
conducted in 2000, Israel was placed 11th out of 15 identity components presented to the
All the studies found that the younger the interviewees, the less sympathy they felt
for Israel. The sense of belonging to the Jewish nation also fell with age. For example, a
study from 2001 found that less than 30 percent of the young people felt they belonged to
"the Jewish nation" compared to 42 percent of the 65 year olds and older people.
Melchior, the only MK to sit throughout the Knesset debate on Wednesday, asked high
school pupils who were there by chance whether they could name any Jewish American figure.
Nobody could. The pupils said they had studied the subject of American Jewry between the
world wars in history classes, but said the lessons were not interesting and the material
was not included in the matriculation exams.
One pupil, Tamar Moshe, said the program could have been much more interesting and
relevant had it included meetings with Jewish Americans of her age group.
Dr. Rafi Sheniak, who founded the Jewish Studies center in Levinsky College, said the
debate did not deal with fundamental issues in the relations between Israel and the
Diaspora, such as "are the Jews still one nation." Sheniak said that in the U.S. Judaism
was becoming a "normal" religion, while in Israel Jews were becoming a "normal
American Jewish attitudes to Israel and Hebrew are like those of American Catholics to
the Vatican and Latin, he said. In Israel, however, Jewish identity becomes defined as
Hebrew language and culture.
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