James Edward Johnson

my thoughts from right to left

Posts Tagged ‘security

Gaza Flotilla Investigator at Iowa College of Law.

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Boyd Law Building

Former New Zealand Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer was at the University of Iowa College of Law today.  He is the lead investigator for the UN Secretary General ‘s inquiry into the Gaza flotilla incident and the Mavi Marmara boarding that left several militant activists dead.  His investigation should not be confused with the recently concluded one conducted by the UN Human Rights Commission that summarily claimed Israel had committed war crimes.  Unlike the UNHRC investigation, Israel is cooperating with Palmer’s investigation and it is done under the more credible auspices of the Secretary General.

When I had Palmer as a professor in Comparative Constitutional Law, he was always very fair.  His views were somewhat more paternalistic than mine, but he was practical and reasonable.  The only major dispute I remember having with him was over the wisdom of the Second Amendment to the US Constitution.

Today, he maintained his professionalism.  His report will not be released until March.  He made very clear that he would not be commenting on the flotilla and he stuck to his word.  Radical leftist Professor Adrien Wing tried to bait him with a question that assumed his work would cause him to become the target of a campaign to discredit him personally and professionally and might even make him the target of violence (presumably by Jewish perpetrators?).

Palmer refused to take the bait and said simply that a person in the public eye learns to become immune to criticism.  His comments were the kind of steady, calm, and fair comments I would expect of an impartial judge.  I am optimistic that his report will be fairer to Israel than is typical of the UN.  With former Columbian President Alvaro Uribe by his side, I am doubly optimistic.

Written by JamesEJ

Thursday, September 30, 2010 at 12:43 am

The Atlantic covers Persian Jews in America.

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Cyrus the Great allowing Hebrew pilgrims to return to and rebuild Jerusalem

Cyrus the Great allowing Hebrew pilgrims to return to and rebuild Jerusalem

Jews can trace their history in Persia back at least 2,500 years to the time of Cyrus the Great, who restored the Jews to Jerusalem from Babylonian exile.  Sadly, in the last several decades, the Jews in Persia have been reduced to one tenth their previous size.  Most Jews fled Iran because of the rising antisemitism and persecution that accompanied the Islamic Revolution and went to Israel.  A very large number also fled to the United States.

The Atlantic’s Elizabeth Weingarten has an amazing piece discussing the recent history of Persian Jews in the United States.  Here is what she reports on Persian Jewish thought on the possibility of a military strike on Iran:

“Its very difficult for us,” explains Hooshang Nemat, the executive vice president of the Iranian American Jewish Federation of New York. “You dont want to see your nation destroyed, and you dont want to see a conflict between your country of birth and the country that you sympathize with because of religion and because of shared history.” Nemat, a 67-year-old Mashadi Jew an small, ancient group from the Iranian city of Mashad, came to America in 1961 as a student at the University of Miami. He returned to Iran in 1972, and came back to the United States because of the revolution.

Like Nemat, most Iranian American Jews are against a military strike on Iran — whether it is from Israel or from the United States. But while theyd prefer a diplomatic solution, others say they would still support Israel in defending itself against a virulently anti-Semitic, and potentially dangerous, regime. Sam Kermanian, the former secretary general of the Iranian American Jewish Federation, believes that an Israeli strike “would be viewed as a justifiable act of defense,” adding that “the reaction of the Iranian American Jewish community wont be much different than the reaction of the majority of the people of Iran, who view the current regime as oppressive, and in conflict with the interests of the people of Iran.”

via Iranian Jews in America: Torn Between Homelands – International – The Atlantic.

This is just a small sample of what Weingarten shares.  The entire piece is worth reading and provides valuable insight on the views of religious minorities from Iran.

cross-posted at The View From Damavand

Written by JamesEJ

Wednesday, September 1, 2010 at 2:23 am

My column in the Press-Citizen: No valid objection to Park 51

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My column on the Park 51 project (the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque”) is in today’s Iowa City Press-Citizen.  Here is the opening:

The so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” is not planned for anywhere on the 16-acre World Trade Center site in Manhattan. It is in the Financial District, but it is at least two blocks from WTC 7 — the nearest part of the massive WTC site.

via No valid objection to Park 51 | press-citizen.com | Iowa City Press Citizen.

Read the whole thing.

Written by JamesEJ

Sunday, August 15, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Three hours in Ben Gurion … I know the experience …

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Anyone who has been through Ben Gurion Airport in Israel knows what real security looks like.  On one hand it is inconvenient, but on the other security personnel are doing their jobs well.  It is a far cry from the security theater we have here in the US.

Even so, the news of search and detention there is not always good.  Recent days brings us one such case:

[Donna] Shalala, the health and human services department secretary in the Clinton administration, said she was detained at the Tel Aviv-area airport in July for three hours for interrogation and a luggage check.

via Shalala says she was interrogated in Israel | JTA – Jewish & Israel News.

I know first-hand what Shalala experienced.  I experienced a very similar three-hour detention that included a thorough search of all my belongings and a series of interviews.  It was tiresome, but necessary.  Israel has faced “tourist” based terror threats from as far away as Britain and Japan in the past.

People who understand this do not take Israeli security procedures personally.  Shalala is a case in point:

“While I was inconvenienced, Israel’s security and the security of travelers is far more important,” Shalala said in a statement issued after returning to the United States. “I have been going in and out of Israel for many years and expect to visit again.”

And, I would agree.  Moreover, I was impressed at how well Israeli security operated.  It is not the pro forma security typical of the US.  It is real and investigative.  And, the officers tend to be particularly courteous and considerate.  Once they determine you are not a threat, they take you past all the usual security and baggage check lines and ensure you make your flight in spite of the delay.

Written by JamesEJ

Wednesday, August 11, 2010 at 7:48 pm

Wrapped tefillin in the airport.

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The earliest Shema meant I wrapped tefillin in the small Illinois airport in Moline. I wonder if the conspicuous Star of David helped me avoid unwanted attention – since I obviously was not a Muslim. Only one guy – on the left – greeted me after I was done. No questions.

Written by JamesEJ

Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 6:32 am

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From Mossad to Kurdistan …

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Point of No Return is an excellent blog that covers stories about Jews in the Middle East and North Africa.  It culls the news from an impressive array of sources and provides original pieces in what is a must-read source for all things Jewish in Arab countries.  Here is an excerpt of an interview of a Mossad agent, Jayzi-Ghazi, who helped the Kurds:

Aliayzar: In Mossad, we didn’t have ability to choose to where we could go. Sometimes, we would go to countries which we were against and we would go to their homes and they didn’t like to see us. You read their letters and listen to their talks without their consent. Sometimes you would face dictatorships. Anyway, you have no choice and you must obey. However, we were all happy to work in Kurdistan, because we knew that they were an oppressed nation.

via Point of no return: Mossadnik wants to become first Kurdish consul.

Israeli-Kurdish cooperation is an important start for what should be much broader Jewish support for our Kurdish friends.

Written by JamesEJ

Friday, July 23, 2010 at 7:28 pm

… and how to mitigate the risk. (2 of 2)

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Please note, this is the second of a two-part post. Read the first part here.

Kinnick Stadium at The University of Iowa (via HawkeyeSports).

So, you are sitting in a packed Kinnick Stadium with 70,000 of your closest friends …  A small single-engine plane flies low overhead and a fine powder begins falling from it.  What do you do?

The natural reaction is to panic and flee.  But why?  What do you accomplish by running?  You breathe more deeply, expose yourself to a wider area, endanger others with your panic, and gain nothing.   Imagine the powder is anthrax – how will this save you?  Anthrax, even in inhalational anthrax infections, does not kill quickly and is treatable.  You should stay still, avoid exposure in place by covering your mouth, and wait to find out what just happened.  You will be no worse off for doing so and you could very well be much better off.  By staying calm and reacting specifically to what you do know, you will help avoid causing harm to yourself and others.

The best solution to mitigating terror is not a top-down government solution.  It is public awareness and education.  Terrorism works because people improperly weigh risks and respond irrationally.  If people respond rationally – even if this were an anthrax attack – few would die at all and none would die because of mass hysteria.

Of course, as I noted in the prior post, a fake attack without any anthrax is easy.  Obtaining many pounds of anthrax spores, however, is many times more difficult.  Most likely, a terrorist making such an attack is relying on the response of people to his actions because he is likely not capable of an attack with the actual thing.  It is wise to remain cautious, but reasonable to presume that the attack is a hoax.

If we all responded to terrorism in the way we respond to auto accidents, terrorism would disappear tomorrow in most places.  Terrorism has a very low death count.  If it is worth your fear, then dozens of ordinary things deserve your fear too.  Never get in a car; in fact, stay at home.  Never meet new people.  Rarely use electricity or gas. Don’t even think of ever getting a pool in your backyard.  Become a recluse.  You should be crippled by fear of every ordinary risk if terrorism scares you.   It is not worthy of your fear because you will almost certainly die of causes other than terrorism.

Even at a small airport, the government should do little more.  Small airplanes are not, in themselves, very lethal.  You can kill as many people with one as you could with an SUV.  It is not worth hardening or securing.  If the government should secure small planes, then it should secure every gasoline semi-trailer, every fertilizer inventory, every gun store … every theater where someone might shout “fire!”  Even in these places, it is the diligence of the local people, and not the government, that will flag people for further examination by the authorities.

Persistence by pilots and staff in a municipal airport – by securing aircraft, noting and responding to suspicious people, raising alertness, … – will probably do far more to thwart my described potential attack than any government action.  This is, in large part, because terrorists adapt and exploit security holes.  The only practical response is to develop a cultural attitude wherein people adapt and change their behavior when they see potential criminal planning.  Remember, America mitigated the harm of one of the attacks on September 11.  Untied 93 was brought down prematurely, saving untold numbers of people, because ordinary people did something that the terrorists did not expect them to do – implement a response directly based on the specific actions of the terrorists.

Only that kind of ordinary vigilance will thwart these sorts of attacks.  More importantly, only this response will thwart attacks in a manner consistent with our nation’s commitment to a liberal, tolerant, and open society.  We need to be reasonably alert, remain in control when we sense heightened danger, respond with appropriate action when we see suspicious activity, and most of all, not respond with the irrational fear upon which terrorists rely for their efficacy.

Written by JamesEJ

Monday, July 19, 2010 at 5:45 pm