Monday, April 02, 2007
First They Came for the Jews
Is Tikkun's Michael Lerner an Orthodox Jew?
Ok, I admit, this is not the most important news item, but you may
nevertheless find it of interest.
You know how Michael Lerner, the editor of Tikkun Magazine, claims to be
an Orthodox Rabbi? And you know how we have been pointing out that he
never graduated from any Rabbinic seminary and was never ordained a Rabbi
at all, other than if you believe his claim that three hippies placed
their hands on his head and proclaimed him "rabbi", *domini domini
Well, put all that aside for the moment. The question I want to raise is
whether Lerner is Orthodox, as he always tells anyone willing to listen.
Well, I decided to put the matter to a test.
Let me explain.
Jewish holidays in Israel, such as Passover or Succot, last one day, but
last two days everywhere in the Diaspora under Jewish law. In addition,
there is a ten hour time zone gap between Israel and Berkeley, where
Lerner lives. I decided to conduct an experiment to see if Lerner is
religiously observant, or Orthodox.
On Passover, it was the evening after the holiday when I sent Lerner an
email inquiry from Israel under a fake name. Let me make this clear: it
was no longer holiday in Israel when I sent it out, but was still the
first day of the two-day holiday in California. My plan was to see if
Lerner would respond to the letter on the second day of the two-day
holiday. (Some Reform Jews in the Diaspora only celebrate the first of the
As it turns out, I was wrong. Lerner responded to the letter when it was
still the FIRST day of the two-day holiday! From the timing of the letter,
he wrote it even while it was still the first of the two days of "Yom
Now "Yom Tov" or the holiday of Passover is when all work (other than
cooking food) is prohibited by Judaism and - specifically - writing and
operating electronic equipment is prohibited, including computers. But
"Rabbi" Lerner was spending his holiday playing with his computer and
conducting correspondence. No doubt his sabbath is spent the same way.
Let me emphasize that it is not my place to tell non-religious or
non-Orthodox Jews how to spend their holidays or how to live their lives.
It is not my business if some Jew wishes to live his life as a secularist
and play with his computer on the sabbath or on holidays.
Indeed I only mention this matter simply because of the hypocritical gall
and outright dishonesty of this buffoon Lerner pretending to be an
In my letter to Lerner under the false name, I asked him if he would be
willing to silence all those questioning his "rabbinic" credentials by
agreeing to take a spot quiz in Bible and Talmud. Personally, I am of the
opinion that he has never read the Books of the Prophets in the Bible
whose "ethics" he likes to cite when he promotes his New Age pro-LSD
"liberation theology". He wrote back (while it was still Yom Tov) that he
would NOT agree to this and that he had no need to do so because he had
been admitted as a member of the California Board of Rabbis.
Here are his words:
>From : Rabbi Michael Lerner firstname.lastname@example.org
"Absolutely not. They are already sinners spreading *lashon hara
so there is no possible reason to believe that they would be satisfied by
anything. I am a member of the Board of Rabbis of Northern California,
which did its own careful assessment of my qualifications as it does with
Now, as a matter of fact, the California Board of Rabbis does NOT check
out anyone's credentials who applies for membership. Membership is
automatic and hardly constitutes proof that someone is a Rabbi. A few
years back, a friend of mine and I began to register his goldfish as a
"Rabbi" in the California Board of Rabbis, to prove the point. But we
decided it would tarnish the name of the Board and embarrass the actual
Rabbis who are members, so we called the prank off. The above statement by
Lerner however does show how thoroughly dishonest he is.
In short, Michael Lerner is neither Orthodox nor a Rabbi. We DO know that
he is an anti-Semite though, one who claims that Jews themselves are to
blame for anti-Semitism! (See this
<http://sf.indymedia.org/print.php?id=124531>for details and
2. First they Came for the Jews:
April 2, 2007
First They Came for the Jews
By DOROTHY RABINOWITZ
April 2, 2007; Page A17
Early in June 2004, an employee of the American Israel Pubic Affairs
Committee, AIPAC -- better known by its media tag, "the powerful Israeli
lobby" -- received an urgent phone call. Pentagon analyst Lawrence
Franklin, a specialist on Iran, informed AIPAC lobbyist Keith Weissman
that they had better meet because he had news of the most important kind
to disclose. Mr. Weissman not surprisingly agreed to the rendezvous, held
in Pentagon City, Va., where he was told about an imminent, Iran-directed
assault on American troops and Israeli agents in Iraq. First, though, Mr.
Franklin delivered a warning whose purpose would be clear only later. What
he was about to tell him was highly classified, "Agency stuff," and having
it could get him into trouble, he informed Mr. Weissman.
Impelled by the urgency of the message, the lobbyist nonetheless quickly
shared it with his senior colleague, Steve Rosen, director of foreign
policy issues for AIPAC. Hoping to raise the alarm about the imperiled
Americans and Israelis, the two then contacted a Washington Post reporter
(who filed no story on the matter) and an Israeli embassy officer.
Mr. Weissman didn't know for some time that his trusted Pentagon informant
-- a man he and his AIPAC colleague had met with several times before --
had, at this particular meeting, been wearing a wire for the FBI. Or that
his warning that he was sharing highly classified stuff had been spelled
out for the purpose of evidence gathering. Neither of the AIPAC lobbyists
knew, then, that they had been entrapped in a sting, to lead ultimately to
a remarkable legal show. Their trial, which begins this June, marks the
first ever attempt by government prosecutors to convict private citizens
under the 1919 Espionage Act. Nor did Larry Franklin have any idea,
either, of the trap in which he was himself now ensnared.
Mr. Franklin's problem began when he was spotted lunching with Steve
Rosen, for some time the object of FBI surveillance. The Iran specialist
had first met with Messrs. Rosen and Weissman in February 2003, meetings
repeated on at least three other occasions. The two AIPAC employees had
reason to see in Mr. Franklin, a reserve Colonel in the U.S Air Force, a
staunch patriot who held values and geopolitical views much like their
own. Mr. Franklin's driving concern -- the danger posed by a terrorist
Iran, and the need for vigorous countermeasures by the U.S. -- played no
small role in their discussions. The centerpiece of the indictment to come
concerned his disclosures to Steve Rosen about an internal policy document
on Iran, which, the government alleged, was classified.
The sympathetic bond (characterized as a conspiracy in the government's
indictment) between the Pentagon analyst and the AIPAC employees abruptly
unraveled when FBI agents paid Mr. Franklin a home visit on June 30, 2004.
Appealing to his patriotism, they persuaded him to cooperate, telling him
that the two lobbyists were up to no good, and might be endangering
American interests. Perhaps even more persuasive was the FBI's discovery
in his house of 83 classified documents -- material he had taken to work
on at home, as he had done repeatedly despite warnings from his Pentagon
supervisors that this was impermissible.
He was to enjoy nothing of the good fortune of Sandy Berger, former
National Security Adviser for President Clinton, who pleaded guilty in
2004 to making off with highly classified documents related to that
administration's policy on terrorism -- papers he was observed stuffing
into his pockets while sitting in the secure reading room of the National
Archives. Mr. Berger was charged with a misdemeanor and paid a $10,000
fine. Former CIA director John Deutch, who also faced charges of
mishandling government documents, was pardoned on Mr. Clinton's last day
Anguished, his wife ill, and faced with loss of his job -- now a likely
possibility, as the FBI informed him -- Mr. Franklin agreed to help gather
evidence on Messrs. Rosen and Weissman.
By Aug. 27, FBI agents apparently felt they'd gathered enough -- enough,
at least, to go public, via a leak to CBS's Lesley Stahl, about the
Pentagon mole they had succeeded in unmasking. FBI investigators soon
after informed a stunned Larry Franklin, who had cooperated with them
without receiving any promise of consideration about those classified
materials, that he now faced serious prison time. He would have been still
more stunned had he known of the elaborately detailed indictment to come,
charging him, among other allegations, with conspiracy to gather and
unlawfully transmit national defense information. He had yet to appreciate
what it meant that his alleged co-conspirators were lobbyists for AIPAC.
The tone of the CBS News story (Aug. 27, 2004) provided more than a few
clues on this point. In a higher than usual state of excitement, Ms. Stahl
announced that the FBI was, in agent terminology, about to "roll up" a
suspected spy who had given classified information to Israel, and "at the
heart of this, two people who work at AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israeli
lobby." The investigators had "concerns," we learned: "Did Israel also use
the analyst to try to influence U.S. policy on the war in Iraq?" The
analyst, furthermore, had "ties to top Pentagon officials Paul Wolfowitz
and Douglas Feith."
The entire investigation, with wiretaps, surveillance and photography, Ms.
Stahl announced, had been headed up by the FBI's David Szady. It was a
name she had reason to know well. This FBI luminary was the same agent who
had headed another investigation -- the subject, just two years earlier,
of her own scathing "60 Minutes" report about the FBI's obsessive,
confident, willfully blind pursuit of CIA counterintelligence agent Brian
Kelley, whom the bureau suspected of being a Soviet mole in the late '90s.
While Mr. Szady and his agents persisted in pursuing an innocent man for
three and a half years, solemnly citing evidence for their charges that
would have done Inspector Clouseau proud (a hand-drawn map supposedly of
the mole's site of operation turned out to be a map of Mr. Kelley's
jogging routes through a park), the real mole continued to turn vital
intelligence over to his KGB handlers. That mole was the FBI's very own
Robert Hanssen, who had gone undetected thanks to Mr. Szady's insistence
that his agents had the goods on Brian Kelley.
None of this history got a mention in Ms. Stahl's report on the new Szady
investigation she'd been privileged to disclose, unlike the innuendo about
the alleged spy's ties to those Pentagon officials, Messrs. Wolfowitz and
It was a mere hint of things to come. News of the spy story, it was clear,
had brought new life to the obsessed. From quarters of the left and right,
and not infrequently the mainstream media came, now, daily rumblings about
the spy for Israel, his ties to neoconservatives in the administration,
the influence and machinations of the neocons, their effort to push the
war in Iraq. More than a few of these meditations on Israel, AIPAC and the
power of the neocons bore a strong resemblance to a kind of letter that
occasionally shows up in journalists' mailboxes. The sort that bring
punctiliously drawn diagrams, cosmic in scope, with endless tiny boxes,
and tinier labels, handprinted with a concentration only the deranged can
summon, all intended to illustrate the sinister interconnectedness among
certain institutions and persons -- the president, the Pope, CIA, World
Bank, the Association for Dental Implants and so on.
Steven Rosen, 63 at the time of his indictment in August of 2005, and
Keith Weissman, age 53, both shortly thereafter lost their jobs at AIPAC,
whose leadership was clearly alert to the disastrous potential in this
case. AIPAC itself was not threatened with indictment, though suggestions
of the behavior it would do well to follow were plain enough, as when
government attorneys pointedly and repeatedly asked AIPAC's lawyer if the
lobbyists still were employed there, and if the agency was still paying
their health insurance and their legal fees. Not long after, the answer to
all three was no. Mr. Rosen's attorney, Abbe Lowell, and Mr. Weissman's --
John Nassikas and Baruch Weiss -- are carrying their clients, who have by
now racked up millions in legal fees.
In October 2005, with pro bono attorney Plato Cacheris at his side,
Lawrence Franklin pleaded guilty -- a decision he could not avoid making,
given the indisputable proof of offense -- to keeping classified documents
at his home. His indictment charged much more -- conspiring to communicate
national defense information to persons not entitled to receive it,
meetings with representatives of foreign nation A (Israel), and Messrs.
Rosen and Weissman, cited as furtherance of a conspiracy. The former desk
officer for Iran stood charged with conspiracy to "advance his own
personal foreign policy agenda" and influence people in government. One
Washington insider, hearing this, tartly noted that if all government
officials who leaked material to effect policy changes were charged and
convicted, the prisons would soon be packed.
The guilty plea brought a sentence of 12 years, seven months -- not a
light one. Mr. Franklin's hope for reducing it hinges on the cooperation
he gives government prosecutors in the trial of the lobbyists. The role
assigned him has from the beginning been noteworthy -- a reversal of
norms. Government officials don't normally get to take part in stings of
ordinary citizens. But Mr. Franklin, an official with top security
clearance, sworn to protect classified information, is the one asked to
wear a wire to amass evidence against the two men with whom he has
allegedly conspired. It usually goes the other way around. There is a
reason that the government official caught taking a bribe is the object of
the law's pursuit, rather than the citizen who has tried to pay him off --
and why it is the citizen, crooked as he may be, who wears the wire and
gets the possibility of a deal. That reason, of course, is the higher
standard expected of those sworn to uphold their offices. If nothing else,
the role assigned Mr. Franklin testifies to the government's singular
focus on nailing the AIPAC lobbyists.
Even so it remains to be seen what help Mr. Franklin will give the
prosecutors at the forthcoming trial of Messrs. Rosenvand Mr. Weissman. In
the course of his guilty plea, the otherwise respectful Mr. Franklin
forcefully objected to the government's characterization of the self-typed
paper about Iran he'd faxed to Mr. Rosen -- a document at the heart of one
of the significant charges against the lobbyist -- as "classified."
"It was unclassified," Lawrence Franklin told the court, "and it is
The government would "prove that it was classified," announced the U.S.
Mr. Franklin: "Not a chance."
What chance the defendants -- who asked no one for classified information
-- have of acquittal and the avoidance of prison remains to be seen.
Though Judge T. S. Ellis rejected defense motions to dismiss the charges
on constitutional grounds, his early rulings have so far shown a keen
appreciation of the meaning of this case. In this he stands in sharp
contrast to the nation's leading civil rights guardians, these days busy
filing lawsuits against the government and fulminating on behalf of the
rights of captured terrorists in Guantanamo and elsewhere, while accusing
the U.S. of failing to provide open trials and assurances that the accused
have the right to view the evidence against them. As of this day neither
the ACLU nor the Center for Constitutional Rights has shown the smallest
interest in this prosecution so bound up with First Amendment
implications. Nor has most of the media, whose daily work includes
receiving "leaks" from government officials far more damaging to national
security than anything alleged in this case. In this as in the Scooter
Libby matter, the desire to see Bush Administration officials nailed
apparently counts for more than First Amendment principle.
The government has also moved (in the interest of protecting classified
information) to impose strict limits during the trial, on the testimony
the public and press will be allowed to hear. If the proposal is allowed,
significant portions of the testimony will be available only in the form
of summaries. Witnesses, furthermore, would not be allowed to deliver
certain testimony directly to jurors, who would instead be told to look at
secret documents. It will be, as a member of the Reporters Committee For
Freedom of the Press, now opposing the government efforts, describes it,
"a secret trial within a public trial." (Dow Jones, publisher of this
newspaper, has joined the Reporters Committee in filing an objection.)
The prosecutors may in fact need all the help they can get in this trial,
which, the judge has noted, concerns actions that go to the heart of First
Amendment guarantees. Above all, the government will have to prove that
those charged with disseminating classified information "knew that its
disclosure could injure the national defense."
One of the charges against Mr. Rosen was that he enabled Mr. Franklin's
illegal transmission of classified material. This occurred, according to
the indictment, when Mr. Franklin said he wanted to fax a paper to Mr.
Rosen, and asked for his fax number. Mr. Rosen's crime, the charge
establishes, was in giving him that fax number. Such is the sort of crime
for which he could get upwards of 20 years, and Mr. Weissman, 10. The
document, whose classified status the government claimed it could prove,
was in fact a single sheet typed by Mr. Franklin, consisting of eight
bullet points stating the offenses of which Iran was allegedly guilty.
As Judge Ellis noted, the government didn't allege that the lobbyist ever
asked for the document, or that it had any classification markings, or
that Mr. Rosen ever even received or viewed the paper.
The consequences of this spectacle -- the indictment of two citizens for
activities that go on every day in Washington, and that are clearly
protected under the First Amendment -- far exceed any other in the now
long list of non-crimes from which government attorneys have constructed
major cases, or more precisely, show trials. A category in which we can
include the mad prosecutorial pursuit of Mr. Libby.
The government could succeed in this prosecution of two non-government
professionals doing what they had every reason to view as their jobs --
talking to government officials and reporters, and transmitting
information and opinions. If such activities can be charged, successfully,
as a "conspiracy," every professional, every business, every quarter of
society -- not to mention members of the press -- will have reason to
understand that this is a bell that tolls not just for two AIPAC
lobbyists, but also for countless others to face trials in the future, for
newly invented crimes unearthed by willing prosecutors.
Ms. Rabinowitz is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board.
URL for this article:
3. Daniel Pipes' Trench War:
4. Those Delicate Islamofascist Sensitivities again: