Du bow digest germany edition may 15, 2013


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An American Jewish - German Information & Opinion Newsletter

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Du bow digest germany edition may 15, 2013

  1. 1. 1AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINIONNEWSLETTERdubowdigest@optonline.netGERMANY EDITIONMay 15, 2013Dear Friends:Having returned from my trip to Germany wherein I staffed the American groupparticipating in the AJC - Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Exchange Program I am back at theEditor’s Desk. As usual the program formulated by Ingrid Garwels of the KAS staff wasterrific. A dozen American Jewish leaders went home more fully understanding life andpolitics in Germany. For many it was also their first taste of what Jewish life is like inHamburg and Berlin.Below you will find some of my personal impressions of what I saw and heard. Theywere also published in my American Edition which was e-mailed a day or two ago. Ifyouve already read them (some people get both editions) you can skip over them. Iwrote them mainly for my Jewish audience in the U.S. However, there is no reason whyyou shouldn’t see them as well. If nothing else, you will get some sort of idea of thoseissues that are of particular interest about Germany to American Jews. (Ed. Note: Ifyou’d like to get the American Edition just drop me a note at edubow@optonline.net ).One thing that impressed me that I did not mention in my impressions piece is theunbelievable pace of building going on in Berlin. Having lived there in the late 1990s asthe first wave of construction was underway, I thought that would bring it to an end andthat, perhaps, Berlin would be overbuilt with apartments and office space becomingempty. That, obviously, is not the case. The cranes have returned. It seems that everyinch of available space will have a new building. The German economy may be slow butthe construction industry hasnt gotten the message.I was saddened today to hear that Gerd Langguth had passed away. He was a greatintellect. I first got to know him when he became the Acting Chairman of the KAS. It wasthe wrong job for him. He went on to teach and became the biographer of AngelaMerkel and Horst Koehler. I am proud to say he was a regular reader of this newsletter.My sincerest condolences to his family.It is now time to get on with the news...
  2. 2. 2IN THIS EDITIONPERSONAL IMPRESSIONS – What I saw and what I thought about.JEWS & THE NEW POPE – Catholic Jewish relations. Vital to the Jewish community..ISRAEL & THE DIASPORA – The importance of Israel to Jews worldwide.EUROPEAN ANTI-SEMITISM – It remains a problem.THE PEACE PROCESS & “THE OLD COLLEGE TRY” – Secy. of State Kerry is thelatest to try his hand with Israel and the Palestinians.QATAR: ANOTHER OLD COLLEGE TRY – The Qataris get into the act.CLAIMS CONFERENCE DISGRACE – Fraud is fraud no matter who the perpetrator is.PERSONAL IMPRESSIONSI have recently returned from Germany where I staffed the American delegation thatparticipated in the 33rdannual Exchange program between AJC and the KonradAdenauer Foundation.I thought it might be useful if I shared some of my impressions – for whatever they’reworth. Please keep in mind that they are personal impressions and are not based onscientific research. To be crystal clear, they are mine alone. My Exchange colleaguesmay have different perceptions.Interestingly, one of the delegation members recently wrote, ―What struck me was thesense that we all unconsciously identified strongly as Jews and as Americans and thatthis was a common bond that informed our impressions of the Germans, both Jewishand non- Jewish. It is likely that the pervasive memory of the Holocaust that permeatedthe experience reinforced everyones Jewish identity.‖ I totally agree!Our delegation met with many German leaders and almost universally they felt thatwhile Israel’s security was one of the cardinal underpinnings of German governmentpolicy, it received much more support from the “political elite” than it did from the publicat large. Much of the public sees Israel as an aggressor and the Palestinians as victims.Events in the Israel – Palestinian area are seen through that filter.It was pointed out that German political decisions are frequently made by the politicalleadership without broad public support and that the public mostly catches up andsupports the decisions that have been made. That raised a question for me as to therole AJC should be playing in Germany. Should focus be on the leaders or the publicand in what sort of programmatic mode should it operate?
  3. 3. 3After thinking it over I concluded that Deidre Berger, AJC’s Berlin director, is exactlyfollowing the right course. She has established and maintained contacts with thepolitical leadership as a primary goal while at the same time, for example, promotingprograms for tolerance education and leadership in public schools.In a discussion I had with a German friend he told me that an American single-issuepro-Israel organization was planning to set up an office in Berlin. He indicated that itwould be a waste of money as “lobbying” doesn’t work in Germany. As I’ve pointed outpreviously in this newsletter it is the political party that is important in Germany notindividual legislators. I doubt that the Israel Embassy people would welcome any groupthat barges in and does not understand the delicate workings of German politics.On the other hand, occasionally public demonstrations are needed and it was generallyconcluded that the German Jewish community cannot rally many people to participate.Even in Berlin, the largest Jewish community in Germany, the turnout is almost alwayspaltry. They’re just not up to doing that yet.When considering the “political elite” Israel has no better friend than Chancellor AngelaMerkel. As far as her future as the leader of Germany is concerned, that will bedetermined in the September national election. There is no question that she is the mostpopular politician in Germany but whether she will be able to cobble together a coalitiongovernment remains a question.If there is one overarching political feeling prevailing in Germany it is pacificism. TheGermans have had enough of war and atrocities. It made them a pariah nationsomething they have been trying to overcome since the establishment of the FederalRepublic. Most are horrified by the fact that there was a neo-Nazi murder gang whokilled 10 innocent people. The last remaining member is on trial for that crime. However,there are very mixed emotions about the process of outlawing the neo-Nazi NPD Party.An attempt 10 years ago ran afoul of the courts. This time the legislative branch wants astrong case that will make it through this time. The fact that there are two statelegislatures that have seated NPD members, in my opinion, puts that horrified feelingsomewhat in question. I felt that most of those we discussed the matter with werestrongly opposed to the NPD but were not very clear about what to do to get rid of them.I have been working on the Exchange program since it began. In looking back over athird of a century, not surprisingly, I noticed a considerable change in the thinking of theAmerican participants. Back in the 1980’s and 1990’s the AJC participants came toGermany on edge, very suspicious and looking for signs of Nazism in almost everyonewe met. This year’s group, of course 20 or 30 years more removed from the Holocaustcame, I felt, with a much different point of view. AJC has now had its office in Berlin formore than 15 years and the organization itself has been steeped in American Jewish –German programing. I got the impression that our delegation members had open mindswilling to see the positives as well as the negatives. The fact that Germany’s democracyhas grown and developed has also been internalized with many more American Jewsseeing it in a more favorable light than they did 30 years ago.
  4. 4. 4We got a very mixed and somewhat confusing picture of how the Jewish community inGermany is progressing. In Hamburg, a city-state with about 8,000 Jews has a stablepopulation with a Jewish school plus one main synagogue and a couple of muchsmaller ones. They were without a “Land (Chief) Rabbi” for a couple of years but finallycame to terms with the Chabad rabbi who had been placed in Hamburg by thatorganization several years before. The lead Chabad rabbi in Berlin has now beenaccepted by the local government for funding. That is a major change.There is no question that the dedication and organizing abilities of Chabad have giventhem an important place in the development of Jewish life in Germany. However, thevast majority of Russian Jews who came to Germany in the last 20 years are still on theperiphery of Jewish life. Of the more than 200,000 (We heard as high as 300,000) Jewsnow in Germany 110,000 are “registered”. There are many more who either choose notto be organizationally affiliated or do not qualify because they do not fulfill the Halachicrequirement of having a Jewish mother.The delegation member who I quoted earlier also wrote, ―I was also struck by the verysmall size of the German Jewish community, and their own efforts to form a cohesivecommunity despite the usual differences of opinion (on matters which are really trivial inthe context, but seem to be important to them). I dont think the Jews from the FSU [Ed.Note: Former Soviet Union] will be a real part of that community for a long time, if at all,but may, rather, end up being something separate and different.‖Perhaps that person is correct. There is no question that as more of the former SovietJews come into leadership roles their agendas will be more front and center. I hope theywill not be “separate”. However, “different” is something else again. No doubt they canadd a lot of life to the community. Maybe “different” will be the factor that puts thecommunity in a position to survive and prosper.On the subject of “survival”, it appears to me that many of the smallest communities willnot survive. We have the same problem in the American South. There must be a solidenough base with enough infrastructure in order to continue on. Many of the small citiesin Germany don’t have it. What me may see is a smaller number but strongercommunities.One thing is for certain though. The sons and daughters of the Russian Jews inGermany will grow up as Germans. They will be educated in German schools and go toGerman universities. Some will leave Germany (Movement throughout the EU is verycommon) but many will stay and move into leadership positions in political andeconomic life. Their impact is yet to be seen – but it’s coming! It’s certainly happeningalready in the Berlin Jewish community where a party more oriented to the needs of theRussian Jews defeated the old line leadership in the communal election.JEWS & THE NEW POPEBack in March I wrote about the legacy Pope Benedict would leave. That is now in the
  5. 5. 5hands of “History”. The world Jewish community has begun to look toward the newCatholic leader, Pope Francis.It should be pretty obvious as to why Jews are interested and concerned about theposition(s) the new Pope has in terms of the Jewish people. The impact he has on onebillion Catholics would be enough. However, the difficult history the Church has inrelation to Jews has turned a corner but has not as yet been put to rest.Rabbi David Rosen, AJC’s International Director of Interreligious Affairs, is, perhaps, theprime expert on Jewish – Catholic Relations. Writing on the AJC website he noted,―Prior to the conclave, which chose Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the 266th head ofthe Catholic Church, a prominent commentator on Vatican affairs predicted that a majorshift in the priorities of the Catholic Church would be a move away from a preoccupationwith the Jews to a greater focus on Islam.Several other "experts" claimed that the next pope would not only have been born afterthe Shoah, but would, accordingly, lack a deeply felt sensitivity to its ramifications.Moreover, it was widely claimed that a pope from the southern hemisphere wouldinevitably have less interest in Jewry than a pope from Europe.All these "expert insights" proved not only wrong, but the very contrary of what hasactually happened. The conclave chose a Latin American with a profound backgroundin and commitment to Catholic-Jewish relations. Indeed, there has never been apopewho has had so much personal experience, engagement and involvement with acontemporary living Jewish community as Pope Francis.Pope Francis was archbishop in the city with the largest Jewish community in LatinAmerica, and his involvement with Buenos Aires Jewry was substantial. He regularlyvisited Jewish houses of worship, religious celebrations and commemorations. After the1994 terrorist bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in which 85 people were killed andhundreds injured, he expressed deep personal solidarity with the community. And in2005, he was the first public figure to sign a petition entitled "85 victims, 85 signatories,"demanding belated justice.His close friendships with leading rabbis in the city are well known and, appropriately,much has been made of the book he published together with the president of theBuenos Aires Rabbinical Seminary, Rabbi Abraham Skorka, which examines a range ofissues from Jewish and Catholic perspectives.On ascending the throne of St. Peter, he declared his commitment to continuing todeepen the Catholic-Jewish relationship. He sent letters to the Chief Rabbi of Rome andto the Chief Rabbis of Israel expressing this commitment. And he invited Jewish leadersto attend his inauguration ceremony.After thanking the representatives of the various Christian communities that were inattendance, the new pope expressed special appreciation for the presence of ―theJewish representatives and those from the other religions,‖ highlighting the former’sspecial importance. The following day, when he received us for an audience in the
  6. 6. 6Vatican, he quoted from the Second Vatican Council’s declaration ―Nostra Aetate,‖emphasizing that the Christian faith’s own self-understanding depends upon itsappreciation of its Jewish roots.…we have every reason to anticipate that Pope Francis will literally walk in the footstepsof his predecessors and visit the Holy Land – the State of Israel and the PalestinianTerritories – in the not-too-distant future. For him, this will provide another opportunity toreaffirm his sincere sense of a special bond between the Catholic Church and theJewish People.Obviously, Pope Francis has begun his papacy, as far as the Jews are concerned, on avery positive footing. My guess is that the closeness of the relationship will grow and the“difficult history” will turn into one of growing cooperation and understanding.ISRAEL & THE DIASPORAIn my continuing effort to give my readers in Germany who are not Jewish some insightinto the thinking, interests and activities of the Jewish community, I came across aninteresting article about the relationship between the Jews of Israel and those livingelsewhere (the diaspora), especially in North America.Donniel Hartman is a Jewish IsraeliModern Orthodoxrabbi and educator. He isPresident of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. Writing in Jewish Philanthropy,he opined, ――Next Year in Jerusalem; ―If I forget you Jerusalem;‖ ―And to JerusalemYour city may You return in compassion‖; May our eyes behold Your return to Zion.‖For close to 2,000 years these words gave expression to the Jewish people’s longingfor redemption and their dream to return to their homeland in Israel. With the rebirth ofthe State, its founders expected, and with good cause, that all Jews would move there.This movement in the Zionist lexicon was called aliyah (literally: ascent), rising from aninferior existence in the Diaspora to begin a new life in Israel – a life of greateropportunities and broader horizons made possible by the newfound reality of Jewishstatehood. In the eyes of the State’s founders, Israel was to be not merely the center ofJewish life, but was to become its exclusive location. The Zionist narrative did not leaveany place for a vibrant and ongoing Jewish community living outside of Israel and whichwould constitute a permanent and parallel center for Jewish life. In the Zionist narrative,within a few years of the rebirth of the State, Diaspora Jewish life, for all intents andpurposes, was to come to an end.Sixty years on, it seems the founding fathers both under- and over-estimated thepotential of the fledgling Jewish state. Israel of 2008 is stronger, abler and moresuccessful than the ’48 generation could have ever imagined. The same, however, canbe said of world Jewry. Rather than diminish and gradually disappear, Jewishcommunities around the world have grown and prospered. What has changed and overthe last two decades even diminished and become ever increasingly tenuous, is theirrelationship to Israel. As the holocaust has become more of a historical event rather
  7. 7. 7than an existential reality, and the threat or experience of anti-Semitism has decreased,at least in North America, the role of Israel as a ―safe haven,‖ a shelter of last resort forworld Jewry, has become less compelling. In fact, as will be discussed below, much ofworld Jewry are more ―worried‖ about the future viability of Israel than their own safety.In addition, together with their vitality and viability, world Jewry is increasingly reticent tosee Israel as their leader in shaping their Jewish spiritual, intellectual and collectiveagendas. Even their philanthropic enterprises, once so central in confirming Israel’scentrality, are in general being directed inwards, as the major percentage of tzedakahdollars are being funneled to local needs. When the United Jewish Communities – themain fundraising arm of American Jewry – created four allocation pillars, it tellinglyplaced Israel in its ―overseas allocation‖ pillar rather than the Jewish ―renewal‖ pillar. ForNorth American Jewry, Israel is an overseas allocation and not a local need,contributing to their Jewish identity and life.The article, of course, is very controversial. The centrality of Israel religiously is onething. Its role as a nation state is quite something else. If you are interested in thequestion of Israel – Diaspora relations you should read Hartman’s article (link below). Itwill give you some insight into one of the most important and difficult internal issuesfacing world Jewry. Read it by clicking here.http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/diaspora-jewry-and-israel-rethinking-the-partnership/EUROPEAN ANTI-SEMITISMI probably do not have to tell you that anti-Semitism is on the rise in Hungary. All thegeneral media have carried the story that Jobbik, an outrageously anti-Semitic politicalparty has been spreading its poison throughout the country. It is not an isolated matter.Anti-Semitism has been on the increase in Europe, though thankfully, not so much inGermany.Israel Hayom reported last month that the , ―Annual report by Tel Aviv UniversitysKantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry notes disconcertingincrease in violent incidents against Jews in 2012, especially in France, Greece,Hungary and Ukraine • "EU is not doing enough to combat this phenomenon," reportsays.‖A new report published Sunday, the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day inIsrael, noted a 30 percent increase in anti-Semitic violence and vandalism worldwide in2012.The report… said the past year had seen "an alarming rise in the number of terroristattacks and attempted attacks against Jewish targets, and an escalation in violentincidents against Jews worldwide."The report presented an extensive review of various anti-Semitic trends, including anti-Semitic discourse in the public and political spheres and similar expressions on theInternet, especially in social media. Facebook and Twitter, the report said, have becomea breeding ground for anti-Semitic and fascist groups promoting hatred against Jews.
  8. 8. 8The report said that 686 anti-Semitic incidents took place in 2012, compared with 526incidents in 2011. Some 273 cases involved physical assaults against Jews, and 50 ofthose involved firearms. Some 190 synagogues, Jewish monuments and tombstoneswere vandalized in 2012, as were 200 buildings in Jewish communities worldwide.According to the report, anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe, especially in France,Greece, Hungary and Ukraine, as well as in the U.S., Canada and Australia. "Themajority of the attacks across Europe were perpetrated by groups affiliated with radicalIslam and the extreme Right," the report said.France experienced the highest rise in reported cases of anti-Semitism, going from 177incidents in 2011 to 315 in 2012. An interim report published by the center in Octoberfound that the number of anti-Semitic incidents in France since the beginning of 2012was 45% higher than during the same period in 2011.The report further warned against the rise of radical political parties in Greece andUkraine: "Last year was marked by the strengthening of political parties with platformsthat combine anti-Semitic propaganda with incitement against Jews as part of internalpolitics."This rise in anti-Semitism in Europe was attributed to several factors, including theeconomic crisis, a rise in the radical Rights political power and a backlash againstIsraels November Gaza offensive, Operation Pillar of Defense."This situation in some countries in Europe — mostly Greece and Hungary — hasgotten so perilous that Jews are afraid to walk down the street," said Aryeh Zuckerman,a consultant with the Kantor Center. "The European Union is not doing enough tocombat this phenomenon, and if nothing is done the situation will only deterioratefurther."Dr. Moshe Kantor, who heads the research center, said: "As a Jewish leader, I can saythat the [Jewish communities] in Europe are in danger. People are afraid to go tosynagogue, to go to Jewish school — this is a new phenomenon and it is joined byseveral other trends we haven’t seen before, like the fact that neo-Nazi [parties] havenot only become legal in Europe, theyre already holding parliament seats in Hungary,Ukraine and Greece."While in Germany there are no NPD people in the Bundestag. However, they are in twoState parliaments. It’s all very depressing. Obviously anti-Semitism is a problem forJews, however, perhaps equally important is the fact that it is a sign that the virusremains dangerously near the surface in many European societies. It corrupts life andsociety wherever it emerges and finds sympathetic ears. People in Hungary, Ukraineand Greece should read their history books. Enough said!THE PEACE PROCESS & “THE OLD COLLEGE TRY”The seemingly impossible road to peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians is
  9. 9. 9being given, in American idiomatic parlance – “The Old College Try”. Wiktionary definesit as “A vigorous, committedattempt or effort.”The Urban Dictionary describes it inbaseball terms,―A wild and desperate attempt to make a play. Sometimes the termcarries a hint of showboating.‖Babe Ruth (_Babe Ruths Own Book of Baseball_, 1928) defined "giving it the oldcollege try" as "playing to the grandstand or making strenuous effort to field a ball thatobviously cannot be handled."The term was quickly applied to any effort with limited chances of success.O.K. now you have the idea. Well, our new Secy. of State, John Kerry has decided togive the Middle East peace process “the old college try”.Israel Hayom reported, ―U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday [May 8] hewould depart in two weeks on another trip to the Middle East to push peace betweenIsrael and the Palestinians.Speaking to reporters in Rome, alongside Israeli peace negotiator Justice Minister TzipiLivni, Kerry said he would depart on his fourth trip to the Jewish state as Americas topdiplomat around May 21 or 22. The trip will include meetings with Prime MinisterBenjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas."We are working through threshold questions," Kerry said, ahead of his private talkswith Livni in Rome. "Were doing it with a seriousness of purpose that I think ... has notbeen present in a while. And we all believe were working with a short time span."Kerry said officials must have "some sense of direction as fast as we can."The former Massachusetts senator, who visited the region twice in March and again lastmonth, has been trying to end a years-long stalemate between the two sides overissues ranging from Israeli settlement construction to Palestinian efforts to winstatehood recognition from international bodies.Over the last four and a half years, Israelis and Palestinians have hardly negotiatedpeace at all.Before arriving Wednesday in the Italian capital, Kerry spoke by telephone with QatariPrime Minister Sheik Hamad Bin Jassem Al Thani, who led an Arab delegation toWashington last week to try to aid the peace effort.Kerry and Livni praised the Arab League delegations decision last week to accept shiftsin Israels border as part of a long-standing offer of universal recognition for Israel in theArab world -- if Israel withdraws from territory it seized in the 1967 Six-Day War.Kerry said the Arabs "want to keep the process going" and have asked for moremeetings.
  10. 10. 10"We will have those ongoing meetings, but with a purpose," he said. "Were not going tohave meetings for the sake of a meeting."Livni, meanwhile, praised Kerry for "recreating hope" after years of stagnancy. Some ofus lost hope and this is something we need, not just as a vague idea, but somethingwhich is concrete," she told reporters."We had today quite a good conversation and dialogue with Secretary John Kerry herein Rome. The whole idea is to re-launch the negotiations between Israel and thePalestinians, Livni said.We believe that re-launching the negotiations and achieving an agreement betweenIsrael and the Palestinians is an Israeli interest but yet theres a need for Secretary JohnKerry, with all the enthusiasm and determination that he shows, in order to createsomething which is new after four years of stagnation and stalemate she added.We believe that this is the interest of Israel and the Palestinians, but hopefully we canmeet them in the negotiations room when the idea is to end the conflict in accordance tothe vision of two states for two peoples she also said.Asked why the meeting with the U.S. Secretary of State had lasted much longer thananticipated Livni did not deny the issues on the table were "complicated" and explainedthat real efforts to find solutions take time.Basically you know that Secretary Kerry just tries to make all the efforts in order to re-launch the negotiations. The Israeli- Palestinian conflict, as you know, is not somethingwhich is simple to solve, it is complicated, but I believe it is in our interests andSecretary john Kerry is doing the utmost to do so and we highly appreciate him fordoing so" she said."I would like to say something to make it clear. Its not like the United States putsomething and asks for an answer. We are discussing the mutual interests of Israel, theUnited States, the Palestinians. Not everything is a zero sum game, not even betweenus and the Palestinians, so we are trying to find a formula that re-launch thenegotiations" Livni said.Neither Kerry nor Livni addressed reports that Israel has put a hold on new constructionof settlements in lands the Palestinians hope to include in their state.American officials would see such a freeze as a positive step, but they dont want tohype any small steps in light of the Middle East peace process long history of falsestarts and collapses.Whatever else one thinks, you have to give Secy. Kerry a lot of credit. The situationbetween the Israeli and Palestinians seems not to have recently changed much butmany things in the Middle East have. The countries surrounding Israel are all on theverge of collapse or, in Syria’s case, have already come apart due to their civil war.Egypt is rife with internal dissension. The Iranian nuclear bomb situation is not resolvedand the Israelis are destroying (by air) missiles that Iran is sending to Hezbollah via
  11. 11. 11Syria. Turkey and Israel seem to be reestablishing relations though they remainstrained.Perhaps the most important factor is that Pres. Obama has been elected to a secondterm and is obviously backing Secy. Kerry’s peace attempts. While it is not confirmed,P.M. Netanyahu seems to be holding off on settlement expansion.What does it all mean? Time will tell the story. However, for the moment “the oldcolleges try”: is in effect and that is better than diplomatic silence and inertia.QATAR: ANOTHER OLD COLLEGE TRYOne would think (correctly) that the U.S. has considerable interest in trying to get thepeace process restarted. However, as the famed American comedian Jimmy Durantefrequently said, “Everyone wants to get into the act”. It now appears that Qatar isseeking a role.An article in JTA notes, ―When it comes to the latest Arab peace initiative, two questionsare circulating in Washington: Why Qatar? And why now?The three answers: Because Qatar is rich; it is scared, and why not?Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al Thani, the Qatari prime minister and foreignminister, in recent weeks has driven the revivification of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative,moderating it slightly to hew closer to the outlines touted by the Obama administrationsince 2011.There is something a bit new in their statement.The updated version, outlined by Hamad in remarks to reporters following his meetingApril 29 with Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden inWashington, pulls back from the 2002 demand that Israel withdraw to the 1967 bordersin exchange for comprehensive peace.Instead, Hamid proposed ―comparable and mutual agreed minor swaps of the land‖ — aformulation that opens the door to Israel’s retention of several major settlementblocs. Hamad also did not mention the Palestinian ―right of return‖ and the division ofJerusalem, elements of the original Arab initiative that had led to its rejection by theIsraeli government.The Palestinians did not seem thrilled by what Hamad proposed and Prime MinisterNetanyahu explained that the dispute is not over “real estate” but rather the failure toaccept Israel as a Jewish nation.Frankly, I don’t think the Qatari statement moves the situation in any meaningful way. Itmay have endeared them further to Secy. Kerry but that doesn’t mean much.
  12. 12. 12Sometimes “getting into the act” has some real meaning. In this case I do not believe ithas any. If an outside force is going to have an effect that force will have to be the U.S.CLAIMS CONFERENCE DISGRACEIn case you don’t know what the Claims Conference is, The Times of Israel explains itas ―The Claims Conference — formally known as the Conference on Jewish MaterialClaims Against Germany — represents world Jewry in negotiating for compensationand restitution for victims of Nazi persecution and their heirs. It administerscompensation funds, recovers unclaimed Jewish property, and allocates funds tovarious institutions, including some that provide social welfare services to survivors andothers that work to preserve the memory and lessons of the Holocaust.The fact that there was massive fraud taking place in the organization is a Jewishdisgrace. The TToI reports, ―The Claims Conference was alerted as early as 2001 to afraud scheme within the organization that ran unimpeded from 1993 to 2009 and cost$57 million. The warning to the Claims Conference came in the form of an unsignedletter that reached the organization’s then-director in Germany, Karl Brozik, in mid-2001.The letter identified five ineligible cases and accused Claims Conference employeeSemen Domnitser of approving restitution for them. Domnitser, who was found guiltylast week of spearheading the $57 million scheme, managed to deflect the blame awayfrom himself, and the fraud continued for nearly a decade more.The 2001 letter and subsequent internal review came up in Domnitser’s trial and firstappeared in a report this week by the Forward, which obtained the letter.At the time Brozik, who has since died, brought the letter to the attention of GregSchneider, who was then the COO of the Claims Conference and is now its chiefexecutive. Gideon Taylor, then the executive vice president of the Claims Conference,also was alerted.A Claims Conference staffer who conducted an internal review for the organizationexpressed serious concerns about Domnitser and other Claims Conference employeeswho reviewed and approved the fraudulent applications, but the organization failed totake action against Domnitser and the fraud continued.The scheme involved falsifying applications to the Hardship Fund, an accountestablished by the German government to provide one-time payments of approximately$3,360 to those who fled the Nazis as they moved east through Germany, and theArticle 2 Fund, through which the German government gives pension payments ofapproximately $411 per month to needy Nazi victims who spent significant time in aconcentration camp, in a Jewish ghetto in hiding or living under a false identity to avoidthe Nazis.By the time Claims Conference leaders realized in 2009 that a massive fraud was underway, more than $57 million had been defrauded from the two funds.
  13. 13. 13In all, 31 people were arrested in connection with the scheme. Twenty-eight pleadedguilty and the three who went to trial were found guilty last week.There is little one can offer in explanation. Perhaps the guilty felt that “taking a little offthe top” wouldn’t be missed or have to be accounted for. Every once in a while a KarlBrozik comes along and is not afraid to point the finger at colleagues. However, the factthat nothing got done, in my opinion, brings shame on the Claims Conferenceleadership that did nothing and certainly raises questions about how the ClaimsConference is operated.I hope that these revelations do not end the story. I have the feeling that there is a lotmore to it. If there is you will hear about it in future editions of this newsletter.*************************************************************************************************See you again in JuneDuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be contacted byclicking hereBoth the American and Germany editions are posted at www.dubowdigest.typepad.com