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Volume 12, Number 26
July 20, 2009

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In This Issue
Iran Initiative
JCPA/UJC Israel Advocacy Initiative
Save Darfur
This Week in Washington
Congratulations
Condolences

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JCPA speaks to you each week, alerting you to what the community relations field is doing to safeguard the rights of Jews here, in Israel, and around the world and to protect, preserve and promote a just, democratic and pluralistic American society. For three generations, we have brought together diverse voices in the Jewish community to unite a strong Jewish public policy force.

We hope you will continue to enjoy our three weekly emails.


About Us
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) is the united voice of the organized Jewish community.  For over half a century, the JCPA has served as an effective mechanism to identify issues, formulate policy, develop strategies and programs, and has given expression to a strongly united Jewish communal voice. By virtue of the JCPA's unique position and structure, our ability to reach out and motivate Jews and non-Jews alike to action is unparalleled. Through our network of 14 national and 125 local equal and independent partner agencies, the JCPA serves as a catalyst that heightens community awareness, encourages civic and social involvement, and deliberates key issues of importance to the Jewish community.

JCPA was formally established as National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council (NJCRAC) in 1944 by the Council of Jewish Federations to be the public affairs branch of the organized Jewish community.  The name was changed to the Jewish Council for Public Affairs in 1997 to reflect more accurately the mission of the agency..

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Iran Initiative

Iranian Leader Warns Detractors. Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned political leaders on Monday to be cautious in addressing the country's recent unrest, in an apparent rebuke to two former presidents who have openly criticized the government's handling of the disputed June 12 presidential election. Mr. Khamenei, in a meeting with government officials that was broadcast by state television, kept his remarks vague, warning against "a hand that wishes to strike at the system," and saying the political elite could "collapse" if it does not adequately meet the challenge it now faces. But his remarks made clear that the country's ruling elite is not backing down in the face of an emboldened opposition movement that has rejected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's landslide election as fraudulent. Ayatollah Khamenei's comments appeared to be aimed at two former presidents who have taken up the mantle of Iran's opposition in recent days: Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Muhammad Khatami. Mr. Rafsanjani, the powerful cleric who heads two important state institutions, said on Friday that the government had lost the trust of many Iranians and called for the release of the protesters arrested in the street demonstrations of recent weeks. Mr. Khatami expanded on those comments Sunday, calling for a referendum on the government's legitimacy.  Click here to read the article from the New York Times.


And if Iran Doesn't Want to Talk?
Six weeks before Iran's descent into electoral chaos, the hardline Iranian cleric Ahmad Khatami rebuked the United States in his Friday sermon, stating, "You do not want talks!" Ayatollah Khatami (no relation to former president Mohammad Khatami) is clearly not a keen observer of the Washington scene. Given the persistence of American efforts to engage the Iranian regime in dialogue over the last 30 years, and the resilience of the Obama administration's own commitment to engagement, the one constant in American policy toward Iran seems to be that we do indeed want talks. Hence, as the violence has subsided, attention has turned to whether President Obama still intends to talk to Iran, and if so how. But this question misses the point. It is a bit like me wondering whether I should invite Angelina Jolie over for dinner: The question isn't really whether I should ask, but how on earth I would get her show up. When it comes to Iran, the question isn't so much whether to engage, but how to get Iran's leaders to want to engage earnestly with us. Click here to read the op-ed from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

JCPA/UJC Israel Advocacy Initiative

Inquiry on 1994 Blast at Argentina Jewish Center Gets New Life. In the 15 years since the bombing of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Aid Association here, the deadliest terrorist attack in this country's history, the case has become a symbol of the failings of Argentina's judicial system.Despite all the international attention, despite investigative help from Israel and the United States, no one has been convicted for the July 18, 1994, bombing of the community center, in which 85 people died and more than 300 were injured."This was clearly a test case," said José Miguel Vivanco, the Americas director for Human Rights Watch. "And so far it really has not helped to establish any credibility for the justice system in Argentina."But suddenly, an investigation that former President Néstor Kirchner called a national disgrace has received new urgency and is again raising hopes among Jewish groups, though significant concerns about the inquiry remain. Read the article from the New York Times here.


A Case Study in UN Hypocrisy. Last week, not for the first time, the world witnessed state-sanctioned violence against protesters in Iran and China. Yet the United Nations was instead focused on Israel, due to unprecedented hearings held by a UN inquiry into the Gaza conflict of six months ago. This was precisely the goal of the body that organized the inquiry, the discredited UN Human Rights Council. The inquiry's lead investigator is former international prosecutor Justice Richard Goldstone. From the beginning, the terms of his mandate have been unclear. The original council resolution in January began by finding Israel guilty of "massive violations," and then created a "fact-finding mission" to support its pre-determined conclusion. At the Human Rights Council, where tyrannies are the majority, such upside-down justice is the norm. Read the opinion piece from UN Watch here.

Save Darfur

White House Boosts Effort to Salvage North-South Peace in Sudan.  The Obama administration stepped up its efforts yesterday to salvage a four-year-old peace accord for Sudan, convening officials from 32 countries and international organizations amid fears that Africa's longest-running civil war could resume. The conference came after years in which the world's attention was focused on a separate Sudanese conflict, in the western region of Darfur. In the meantime, implementation of the agreement ending the country's north-south fight has lagged.  To read the entire article from the Washington Post, please click here.

Rally for Justice and Peace.  On Wednesday July 22nd, Darfuris will be joined by other Sudanese and Americans to publicly voice their concern about the ongoing crimes against humanity in Sudan and Darfur.  Participants will gather at Lafayette Square and walk to the State Department to deliver a letter to the Administration.  The letter calls for International cooperation with the ICC and its indictments of Omar al-Bashir, the immediate deployment of the 26,000 UNAMID Peace Forces to Darfur with a full Chapter VII mandate,  and calls for President Obama to pressure the Government of Sudan to allow all expelled humanitarian organizations back into Darfur.  The rally is sponsored by the Damanga Coalition for Freedom and Democracy in cooperation with American Darfur activist organizations from across the country.  Co-sponsors include the Massachusetts Coalition to Save Darfur, The San Francisco Bay Area Coalition to Save Darfur, the Darfur Community of Texas and Stop Genocide Now of Los Angeles, among others.

This Week in Washington

This Week in Washington.  This week, Congress is in session and will consider several important pieces of legislation.  The House and Senate will both continue their work on Healthcare reform.  The President will also focus on healthcare reform this week.  He will hold a televised press conference and visit Cleveland this week.  The Supreme Court has recessed for the summer. 

Hate Crimes.  Last week, the Senate voted to add the Mathew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act to the Department of Defense Authorization Bill.  This legislation has been a top priority of the JCPA and the broader Jewish community for the past decade.  The bipartisan Senate vote, 63-28,  to end debate on this measure is a testament to the strong support for this legislation.  The House companion bill, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, was approved by the House of Representatives in April by 249-175. The Anti-Defamation League, a JCPA national member agency, has led the advocacy efforts for this bill. 

Healthcare Reform. Last week, the House of Representatives continued moving forward with healthcare reform legislation. The three committees of jurisdiction (Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Education and Labor) all began marking up their joint bill, "The Affordable Health Choices Act" (HR 3200). On Friday, July 17th, the Ways and Means and Education and Labor Committees passed the bill out of committee, while the Energy and Commerce Committee is continuing its mark-up this week in the face of some concerns from a group of moderate, "Blue-Dog" Democrats over cost and equity for rural communities. Another group that is raising concerns is freshman House Democrats, who have indicated their disagreement with using $544 billion of tax increases passed by the Ways and Means Committee as the mechanism to keep the bill deficit-neutral.

In the Senate, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee passed its bill, "The Affordable Health Choices Act," out of committee on July 15th. However, the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over such issues as financing, Medicare and Medicaid, has not yet released a bill. Negotiations are ongoing, and the committee is expected to release a bill this week, which would then have to be marked up and combined with the HELP bill before going to the Senate floor. Sticking points include how to finance healthcare reform, and whether or not to include a public option. While the HELP bill includes the creation of a public insurance plan, the Finance Committee is still exploring alternative options such as non-profit insurance cooperatives that would be seeded with federal money.

President Obama has indicated his preference to have bills passed out of both chambers before August recess, but that timeline may be fluid. The Administration has been deeply engaged in advocating for Healthcare Reform.  Recently, JCPA's Hadar Susskind, Vice President and Washington Director, met with Vice President Joe Biden and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to discuss this important issue. 

On Friday, July 17th, six Senators - Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) - wrote a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) asking that the August deadline be abandoned in order to create more space for a bipartisan deal.  In the meantime, President Obama is hitting the road this week, holding a series of town halls and other meetings to build support for healthcare reform this year.

Congratulations

Batya Abramson-Goldstein.  Congratulations to Batya Abramson-Goldstein, JCRC Director in St. Louis, who was presented with the Eden Theological Seminary 2009 Interfaith Service Award.  The award was presented during a special interfaith program featuring JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow, National Council of Churches General Secretary Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, and and Islamic Society of North America National Director Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed.

Condolences

Florence Friedman z"l.  The JCPA sends condolences to Marlene Gorin, director of the Dallas JCRC, on the recent passing of her mother, Florence Friedman.  Condolences can be sent to Marlene at 14332 Montfort (#4111), Dallas, Texas 75254.  Anyone wishing to make a contribution may do so to the Dallas JCRC, 7800 Northaven Rd., Dallas, TX 75230.

Contribute to JCPA

JCPA speaks to you each week, alerting you to what the community relations field is doing to safeguard the rights of Jews here, in Israel, and around the world and to protect, preserve and promote a just, democratic and pluralistic American society. For three generations, we have brought together diverse voices in the Jewish community to unite a strong Jewish public policy force.

We hope you will continue to enjoy our three weekly emails.

Contribute Now!

Please consider a gift of $500, $100, or any other amount that you can, so that JCPA can enhance our efforts to provide information and resources to your community, and to mobilize our national network in support of Israel and of all the public issues we care about so dearly. Click here to make a contribution to the JCPA. Contributions can also be sent to JCPA, 116 E. 27th, 10th Floor, New York, NY 10016.

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