25 Years Without Justice: AJC’s AMIA Commemoration

Twenty-five years ago, on July 18, 1994, a suicide bomber drove a van loaded with over 600 pounds of nitrate fertilizer and explosives into the AMIA (Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina) building – the central meeting place of the Jewish community in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The explosion and resultant building collapse killed 85 people. The youngest was a 5 year old boy named Sebastian Barreiro, and the oldest was a 73 year old man named Faiwel “Pablo” Dyjament. An additional 300 people were injured.

Argentina has the world’s sixth largest Jewish community, numbering about 230,000. The AMIA bombing was the deadliest terrorist attack that has ever happened in Argentina. Initially, local Argentinian antisemites were suspected of planning this attack. They were found to be not guilty of any involvement.

Alberto Nisman and Marcelo Martinez Burgos, two Argentine prosecutors, were charged with conducting an investigation into the bombing. In 2006 they presented their formal accusation that the government of Iran directed the attack, and that Hezbollah, Iran’s military proxy in Lebanon, executed it.

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the president of Argentina from 2007 to 2015, was accused of covering up Iran’s involvement in the terrorist operation. Alberto Nisman was scheduled to testify against her in court. He was murdered in his home before he had the opportunity to reveal what he had discovered. Mrs. Kirchner is scheduled to be tried for her role in the coverup and abuse of power. No suspects have ever been convicted for the planning and execution of this terrorist attack.

Philadelphia’s Latino-Jewish Coalition of the American Jewish Committee presented a special program commemorating the 25th anniversary of the AMIA bombing. The keynote address was delivered by Jason Isaacson, AJC’s Chief Policy and Political Affairs Officer. Mr. Isaacson reflected on both his personal experiences being in Argentina two days after the bombing, and AJC’s continuing efforts to bring the alleged perpetrators, Including Iran and Hezbollah, to justice. The event concluded with a special candle-lighting ceremony where the victims’ names were read by several dignitaries, including Alicia Falkowski, Argentina’s consul in Philadelphia.

Candidates in the 4th Congressional District Offer Perspectives on Israel

With the primaries next week, candidates are crisscrossing the 18 newly drawn congressional districts in Pennsylvania, talking to voters about a host of issues, ranging from gun violence to education to healthcare to the environment. However, the issue of Israel is rarely discussed during candidate forums and speaking engagements. Since this issue is profoundly important to many of our readers, we have decided to ask some of the candidates about their views on Israel, starting with those in the 4th Congressional District, which now consists primarily of Montgomery County. [Read more…]

Nostalgic for Last Week’s America?

oathSo much of the America I had taken for granted as recently as last week has disappeared.

President Donald Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” feels increasingly appropriate, leading many Americans wonder if Trump will really remain President for four years of will one of the many scandals swirling around him lead to his impeachment, or if Trump’s erratic behavior and plummeting popularity will lead his cabinet to invoke Section 4 of the 25th Amendment.
[Read more…]

Vote for Presidential Debate Question: Torture

The Commission on Presidential Debates is asking people to vote on questions to ask Clinton and Trump. We have proposed a question relating to the limits on the kinds of orders which a president can issue as commander-in-chief.

When should the generals refuse a direct order from the president?
Can the military disobey an order from the president if they believed a preemptive strike requires Congressional authorization or an interrogation technique violates the Geneva convention?

Vote here.

We believe this question is especially relevant since Donald Trump insisted at the Fox News Debate last March that he can bully the generals into following illegal orders.

FOX HOST BRET BAIER: Mr. Trump, just yesterday, almost 100 foreign policy experts signed on to an open letter refusing to support you, saying your embracing expansive use of torture is inexcusable. General Michael Hayden, former CIA director, NSA director, and other experts have said that when you asked the U.S. military to carry out some of your campaign promises, specifically targeting terrorists’ families, and also the use of interrogation methods more extreme than waterboarding, the military will refuse because they’ve been trained to turn down and refuse illegal orders.

So what would you do, as commander-in-chief, if the U.S. military refused to carry out those orders?

DONALD TRUMP: They won’t refuse. They’re not going to refuse me. Believe me.

BAIER: But they’re illegal.

TRUMP: Let me just tell you, you look at the Middle East. They’re chopping off heads. They’re chopping off the heads of Christians and anybody else that happens to be in the way. They’re drowning people in steel cages. And he — now we’re talking about waterboarding.

This really started with Ted, a question was asked of Ted last — two debates ago about waterboarding. And Ted was, you know, having a hard time with that question, to be totally honest with you. They then came to me, what do you think of waterboarding? I said it’s fine. And if we want to go stronger, I’d go stronger, too, because, frankly that’s the way I feel. Can you imagine — can you imagine these people, these animals over in the Middle East, that chop off heads, sitting around talking and seeing that we’re having a hard problem with waterboarding? We should go for waterboarding and we should go tougher than waterboarding. That’s my opinion.

BAIER: But targeting terrorists’ families?

TRUMP: And — and — and — I’m a leader. I’m a leader. I’ve always been a leader. I’ve never had any problem leading people. If I say do it, they’re going to do it. That’s what leadership is all about.


Similarly, Trump promised to attack the Iranian navy if their soldiers make rude gestures.

And, by the way, with Iran, when they circle our beautiful destroyers with their little boats, and they make gestures at our people, that they shouldn’t be allowed to make, they will be shot out of the water.

Perhaps a reasoned discussion of the limits of presidential authority are in order before we get to a constitutional crisis where our military leaders have to choose to follow their commander-in-chief or the law. Heaven help us if they disagree on what to choose.

The moderators Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz have agreed to consider the most popular questions, so please vote. Consider it practice for November 8.

Pathways to an Iranian Nuclear Weapon Have Been Blocked

— by Dr. Ernest Moniz, US Secretary of Energy

After years of negotiation and months of preparation, we’ve reached a milestone.

Today, we are officially implementing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, a historic agreement to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful in nature. Before this agreement, Iran’s breakout time — or the time it would take for Iran to gather enough fissile material to build a weapon — was just two to three months. Today, because of the Iran deal, it would take them 12 months or more.

Thanks to American leadership, Iran’s four pathways to a nuclear weapon have now been blocked.
[Read more…]

Kerry: Iranian Nuclear Bomb Prohibited Forever

 Secretary Kerry gave a detailed analysis of the reasoning behind the Iran Nuclear Deal, as well as the concern for Israel's feelings about Iran.  He firmly stated frequently that Iran would be prohibited "forever" from creating a nuclear bomb. photo by Bonnie SquiresSecretary of State John Kerry spoke passionately and firmly in support of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran in a speech at Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center.

Secretary Kerry analyzed the reasons why the Congress and the U.S. must approve the deal. He gave a detailed analysis of the reasoning behind the deal, as well as the concern for Israel’s feelings about Iran. He stated frequently that Iran would be prohibited “forever” from creating a nuclear bomb.

Senators Bob Casey (PA) and Chris Coons (DE) had already gone public with their support of President Obama and Secretary Kerry. However, right before the speech began Jeffrey Rosen, the CEO of the National Constitution Center (NCC), had gotten word that Senator Barbara Mikulski (MD) had become the 34th Senator to indicate support, guaranteeing the failure of the Republicans to override the expected veto by President Obama for the projected negative vote by Senate Republicans.

Local Senators Ensure Approval of Iran Deal

Projected JCPOA Voting in the Senate as of September 2. (Washington Post)

JCPOA Voting in the Senate (Washington Post’s Sep. 2 projection).

Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland has announced her intention to support the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the “Iran Deal,” guaranteeing President Obama the 34 votes he needs to sustain a veto.

Short before, Senators Bob Casey (PA) and Chris Coons (DE) have announced that they will vote in favor of the Deal. (The full statement by Casey can be found below.)

On Tuesday, the Senate will return from its summer break, and its first order of business is a resolution to keep the U.S. out of the JCPOA.

Stop the Iran Deal Rally speakers: Donald Trump, Glenn Beck, Ted Cruz

“Stop the Iran Deal Rally” speakers: Donald Trump, Glenn Beck, Ted Cruz.

On Wednesday, the Tea Party Patriots, Center for Security Policy, and Zionist Organization of America will weigh in with their Stop the Iran Deal Rally with keynote speakers Glenn Beck, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

Eleven more Senators are either neutral or leaning toward supporting the deal:

  • Neutral: Senators Susan Collins (ME), Michael Bennet (CO), Benjamin Cardin (CO), Barbara Mikulski (MD), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Cory Booker (NJ), Mark Warner (VA), Maria Cantwell (WA) and Gary Peters (MI).
  • Leaning toward: Senators Richard Blumenthal (CT) and Joe Manchin (WV).

[Read more…]

Oppose Iran to Stand Up for Human Rights, Sideman Says

“The 23 kiloton “Badger” explosion at the Nevada Test Site. (Photo: National Nuclear Security Administration, April 18, 1953.)

In the recent hubbub surrounding the proposed Iran nuclear deal, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the deluge of differing opinions and perspectives. On the diplomatic level, Israel has been a clear and consistent opponent to any such détente.

I had the opportunity to discuss the Iran nuclear deal with the Israeli consul general to Philadelphia, Yaron Sideman. Sideman explained Israel’s position in a short and simple manner, so it would be easy for a layperson to understand:

Do you want the most dangerous regime in the world to obtain the most dangerous weapon?

The comprehensive nuclear deal that the United States, the United Kingdom, China, Russia, Germany, and the European Union are proposing with Iran will ultimately enable Iran to have a functioning nuclear weapon.

What does this mean for Israel? Israel takes Iran’s pronouncements very seriously. When Iran says that it wants to wipe Israel off the map, Israel believes it. Iran currently sponsors Hezbollah, militias in Iraq, and the Assad regime in Syria. Iran is making Syria and Iraq unstable. Iran has been designated by the U.S. State Department as an “active state sponsor of terrorism”, supplying arms, funds, training, and personnel to numerous known terror groups.

Like ISIL, Iran wants to impose its ideology on the world. How much more frightening will this be when the world is being threatened with a nuclear bomb, instead of the knives used by ISIL? If Iran is able to obtain the bomb, its proxies will be emboldened. Iran will swallow countries one by one. Iran does not respect the human rights of its own people. What do you think it will do with the human rights of others?

Iran is currently developing intercontinental ballistic missiles. As soon as it can arm them with nuclear heads, it can aim them at Israel; which it calls “The Little Satan”; and the U.S., which it calls “The Big Satan.”

Sideman spoke of a video that he had been shown, of a young Iranian woman accused of adultery. The video was smuggled out of Iran to show how she was stoned to death by a mob. The Iranian authorities are not pleased that this video is available for the world to see.

Sideman expressed hope that the agreement will be improved:

There is still time to delay this agreement. The U.S. can bring Iran back to the negotiating table. The U.S. can get a better deal — one that will not allow Iran to threaten the U.S. with utter destruction.