September 2nd, 2015

What America will offer Israel after the Iran deal

President Barack Obama seems ready to offer an array of security enhancements to reassure Israel and other regional allies

By RON KAMPEAS

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The moment the Iran nuclear deal becomes law, as seems increasingly likely given growing congressional support for the agreement, the focus of the U.S.-Israel conversation will shift to the question of what’s next.

What more will Washington do to mitigate the Iranian threat and reassure Israel and other regional allies?

For starters, President Barack Obama seems ready to offer an array of security enhancements. Among them are accelerating and increasing defense assistance to Israel over the next decade; increasing the U.S. military presence in the Middle East; stepping up the enforcement of non-nuclear related Iran sanctions; enhancing U.S. interdiction against disruptive Iranian activity in the region; and increasing cooperation on missile defense.

There also will be an emphasis on keeping any of the tens of billions of dollars to which Iran will gain unfettered access through the sanctions relief from reaching Iran’s proxies.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter (left) shaking hands with his Israeli counterpart, Moshe Yaalon, before boarding a military aircraft at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv on July 21. (Photo: Carolyn Kaster/Pool/AP Images)

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter (left) shaking hands with his Israeli counterpart, Moshe Yaalon, before boarding a military aircraft at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv on July 21. (Photo: Carolyn Kaster/Pool/AP Images)

Adam Szubin, the U.S. Treasury undersecretary charged with enforcing sanctions, made targeting Hezbollah a focus of his meetings with Israeli officials last week, JTA has learned.

Once some nuclear-related sanctions on Iran are lifted — should Iran meet the requirements in the deal on nuclear restrictions — Washington will allocate greater resources to focusing on other sanctions unaffected by the agreement, including those related to backing terrorism, a senior U.S. official told JTA.

“We have a lot of that same personnel and resources we can devote to U.S.-specific sanctions on Iran — and not only Iran,” the official said.

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September 2nd, 2015

Obama gets enough votes to sustain Iran deal

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Sen. Barbara Mikulski said she will support the Iran nuclear deal, effectively ensuring that the agreement will survive attempts in Congress to overturn it.

Mikulski, D-Md., who issued her statement Wednesday morning, becomes the 34th senator to back the agreement reached in mid-July between Iran and the six world powers led by the United States. Her support denies opponents the necessary 67 votes they would require to override President Barack Obama’s pledged veto of any vote to kill the agreement.

“No deal is perfect, especially one negotiated with the Iranian regime,” Mikulski said in a 1,500-word statement enumerating the difficult choices she faced – a length and anguished tone typical of many of the statements in favor of the deal published by Democratic lawmakers.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski speaking at a news conference in Baltimore, March 2, 2015. (Photo: Steve Ruark / AP Images)

Sen. Barbara Mikulski speaking at a news conference in Baltimore, March 2, 2015. (Photo: Steve Ruark / AP Images)

“I have concluded that this Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is the best option available to block Iran from having a nuclear bomb,” she said. “For these reasons, I will vote in favor of this deal. However, Congress must also reaffirm our commitment to the safety and security of Israel.”

Mikulski, who is retiring next year, has been close to her state’s Jewish and pro-Israel communities.

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September 2nd, 2015

Lynx host Jewish Heritage Night

MN-Lynx-Jewish-Heritage-Night

The Minnesota Lynx will play the Seattle Storm on Tuesday, Sept. 8 — and it will be Jewish Heritage Night at Target Center in downtown Minneapolis.

For this game the Lynx offer a discounted lower level ticket for $35. The ticket price includes a post-game Q&A with WNBA star and Olympic gold medalist Sue Bird, which will take place in the hospitality room C&D on the suite level immediately following the game and will last about 30 minutes.

Sue Bird

Sue Bird

Regarding Sue Bird, the star guard with the Seattle Storm won Olympic gold medals with the U.S. in Athens in 2004, Beijing in 2008, and  London in 2012 (which was the fifth straight gold medal finish for the U.S. women’s basketball team).

Bird, the daughter of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother, has held dual citizenship with Israel since 2006. She played college ball at UConn; and her record at UConn in games she played is a remarkable 114–4. The Seattle Storm selected Bird with the first overall pick of the 2002 WNBA Draft. In addition to her WNBA career, Bird has played in Russia for the past eight seasons, the last six for Spartak Moscow Area.

To purchase discounted tickets for Jewish Heritage Night on Sept 8, click HERE.

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September 2nd, 2015

Old City photography exhibited

The Old City of Jerusalem, Its Stones and Its People, an exhibit of photography by Alex Lupu, is on display through Nov. 3 in the Gallery Walk at the St. Paul JCC, 1375 St. Paul Ave.

Lupu tells the stories of the stones in Jerusalem’s Old City, brought to life by the people that walk the streets. His journey from the external walls of the Old City, through its narrow alleys to the Western Wall, captures these stories and the spirit of the holy city.

Lupu-Jerusalem-photo

The exhibit is free and open to the general public. For information, visit: www.stpauljcc.org or contact Marley Richman, Jewish arts and culture coordinator, at: marleyr@stpauljcc.org or 651-255-4757.

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August 26th, 2015

‘Phoenix’ builds a fable of identity, memory

German director Christian Petzold’s film is a riveting drama that neatly raises profound existential questions in the guise of a small-bore thriller

By MICHAEL FOX

Battered by the camps, the female protagonist of German director Christian Petzold’s Phoenix returns to Berlin after the war like a ghost back from the dead.

I’m speaking metaphorically, of course, but the film purposely depicts Nelly (played by the filmmaker’s regular muse, Nina Hoss) as a specter not entirely of this world. She’s ephemeral and almost invisible, her presence sensed and acknowledged only by a blind street musician.

Even her (non-Jewish) husband Johnny fails to recognize her, a jarring confirmation of Nelly’s non-existence that punctures her dubious and frankly delusional hopes of returning to the life she had.

Nina Kunzendorf (Lene) and Nina Hoss (Nelly) in Christian Petzold’s Phoenix. (Courtesy of Schramm Film. A Sundance Selects Release.)

Nina Kunzendorf (Lene) and Nina Hoss (Nelly) in Christian Petzold’s Phoenix. (Courtesy of Schramm Film. A Sundance Selects Release.)

With economy and understatement, Petzold has evoked the absence of the thousands of Jews snatched from German cities, never to return. He expresses another hard truth with those same few brush strokes: Living Jews have no place in Berlin, either.

A riveting drama that neatly raises profound existential questions in the guise of a small-bore thriller, Phoenix is now playing in an exclusive engagement at the Landmark Edina Cinema. Keep reading →

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August 26th, 2015

Memories of a Persian widow

The Girl from the Garden, by Parnaz Foroutan, Ecco, 271 pages, $26.99

Reviewed by NEAL GENDLER

Being born female in Persia a century ago did not portend an easy future, even if you could afford household help.

As depicted in Parnaz Foroutan’s novel The Girl from the Garden, your parents could marry you to a man who could consider you his possession, beat you and take additional wives. Your purpose was to bear a son and to run the household when you were old enough.

The latter could take a while. Girl’s central character is sharp-witted, tart-tongued Rakhel, pitied and derided for being without child after three years of marriage. She’s 15!

Arranged marriages of girls barely into puberty — as seen in a public bath with a humiliating virginity check — is but one of this book’s shocks to our modern sensibilities.

Girl-from-Garden-cover

Girl is immediately engaging and almost unremittingly sad, every member of its large family seeming to have some source of continuing unhappiness. Yet somehow, the book isn’t depressing, perhaps because the story and its depiction of life in that time and place are so interesting.

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August 26th, 2015

Editorial: Preventing the spread of nuclear weapons

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak has caused a stir with his revelations that Israel planned to attack Iran on four occasions, from 2009 to 2012.

The Times of Israel, an online site, reported Tuesday that Barak told biographers Ilan Kfir and Danny Dor “that he and Netanyahu wanted to attack Iran in 2010, but that then-IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi indicated that there was no viable plan for such an operation. In 2011, the plan was thwarted by fellow [Cabinet] ministers Moshe Ya’alon [Israel’s current defense minister] and Yuval Steinitz; a planned 2012 strike was aborted because it happened to coincide with a joint Israel-U.S. military exercise and Israel did not want to drag the U.S. into the fray.”

The goal of the aborted attacks, of course, was to damage Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities and set back that nation’s work on a nuclear weapon.

According to JTA, Kfir, who co-wrote the Barak biography with Dor, “gave over 100 hours of the interview footage to Israeli media outlets after he said Barak reneged on a promise to give the writers the English-language rights.”

Apparently, Israeli military censors approved the broadcast of the material last Friday by Israel’s Channel 2 TV.

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