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April 16, 2004 - Image 25

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-04-16

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Editorials are posted and archived
on JN Online:


Thinking About Plan B


srael needs to start thinking hard about what it
will do if the United States ultimately leaves
Iraq without achieving the announced goal of
building a rock-solid foundation for a secular demo-
cratic nation.
The goal seems to be even more distant than a
year ago when it was offered as an alternative ration-
ale for deposing Saddam Hussein and destroying his
putative stashes of weapons of mass destruction.
While the U.S. military may be able to suppress
the current insurrection by Moqtada al-Sadr and his
Medhi army in the short run, it is unlikely to be
able to restrain Shiite clerical forces, who are aching
to use their 60 percent majority to dominate the
political process in the longer run.
One of their immediate goals would be
to build strong ties with their counterparts
in the Islamic republic of neighboring
Iran. Such an alliance could mean significant new
terrorist dangers for Israel because the Shiite clerical
leadership in both countries is apparently commit-
ted to Hamas and its hopes of eradicating the
Jewish state.
Increasingly worrisome reports in the Arab press
describe an active Iranian role in training Medhi
fighters, in financing local-level Shiite clerics and in
brokering unity between al-Sadr and Ayatollah Ali
Sistani, another symbol of Iraqi resistance to the
American presence.
President George W. Bush has said the political
changes he wants for Iraq can become a catalyst for

Greenberg's View

democratic • reform
in other states. But
even the most mod-
est progress toward
those sorts of
changes was shelved
with the collapse of
the scheduled Arab
League meeting in
Tunisia three weeks
While Israel
would be better off
if its Arab neigh-
bors man-
aged to
, ize their
economic, social
and political sys-
tems, the Jewish
state faces a signifi-
cant risk in that the
shift away from historic monarchy — as in Saudi
Arabia and Jordan, for example — or the more
common secular despotism (think Syria and Libya
as well as Iraq) could lead to theocratic rule, Iran-
style, rather than secular democracy.
Israel has been largely silent about America's poli-
cy goals and its occupation of Iraq. Israel has not,
for example, spoken openly about the consequences



for it from the American rush toward a June 30
deadline for handing power back to an Iraqi govern-
With the prospective need for a strong interna-
tional force to maintain restrictions on an allied Iraq
and Iran, Israel and its supporters in America need
to start speaking up about the consequences of fail-

Synagogues And Homeland Security

hould synagogues and Jewish day schools get
federal tax dollars to help them beef up security
to meet the rising terror threat?
That debate is playing out in congressional offices
in Washington and communal boardrooms in New
York as lawmakers begin work on a measure that
would provide up to $100 million to help "vulnera-
ble" non-profit organizations cope with the expensive
quest for security.
The issue raises thorny church-state and practical
concerns. And it represents a huge public relations
challenge for the Jewish organizations that played a
major role in the bill's introduction.
The threat is real and the money is needed, but it
will take more than need to convince Congress, beset
by budget woes that may leave many priori-
ties under funded, to sign on the dotted line.
For Jewish institutions, the threat is obvi-
ous. They are among the "soft targets" that
U.S. intelligence officials say are on AI Qaeda's hit list.
In case anybody needed reminding, the apparent
arson at a Montreal Jewish day school last week punc-
mated the point.
As the war in Iraq gets messier and Islamic rage


cation, another to bar the money needed to
protect houses of worship against suicide
bombings. An unfavorable decision by the
high court could transform the church-state
debate in America, the separationists worried.
The separation issue was mostly solved
when Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., worked
out a compromise that would require the
Department of Homeland Security to deal
directly with contractors so no funds would
go directly to religious groups. But the Senate
Commentary bill was disrupted when a lead GOP sponsor,
Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kans., balked at the
Church Versus State
church-state compromise.
Harder to deal with are some of the political and
But that effort quickly produced the inevitable
public relations issues. For all the increase in home-
church-state debate. Some Jewish groups worried that
land security funding, there are growing concerns that
providing government payments to overtly
basic services, including "first responders" like police,
religious groups like churches and syna-
fire and rescue departments, are still woefully under
gogues would set a precedent that advocates
of religious school funding would drive
Congress is facing mushrooming deficits exacerbated
through with a truck.
the tremendous costs of wars in Iraq and
Strict church-state separationists also worried that
Afghanistan; overall, the level of funding for homeland
funding for security upgrades would be challenged in
security has not come near the level of pious rhetoric
court, providing a particularly unfavorable test case
coming from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.
that could make it easier for a divided Supreme Court
There is growing conflict over how that money is
to rule in favor of direct funding for religious groups.
It's one thing to bar funds for parochial-school edu-
BESSER on page 26

grows, there are indications other terror groups
could get in on the act, directing their dement-
ed armies of martyrs to U.S. cities. At the top
of the list: Hezbollah, which has already
demonstrated a willingness to go beyond the
Middle East in seeking Jewish targets.
Jewish leaders face a staggering financial
burden as anxious communities across the
country struggle to meet the security chal-
lenge. And with federal homeland security
funding soaring, Washington was the obvious
place to look.


James D. Besser is a Washington-based writer.
His e-mail address is jbesser@attnet




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