JEWISH PRIZES, JEWISH POLITICS, JEWISH MEMORY: NOBEL PRIZES, DRONES, POLLARD & HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE

REACHING FOR THE PRIZE
Eliezer Yaari
Jerusalem Report, December 20, 2011

I feel as if a helicopter has just dropped me off on the summit of Mount Everest, and now I am standing there, applauding those who climbed up on their own, those who for decades have fought their own intellectual and physical limitations to make it to the top.… They are the few, selected not only because they were able to push the envelope of their own existence, but primarily because they pushed the envelope that binds us all to reality, as we know it, and to our specific perceptions of time and space, life and death, illness and cure.…

These are the Nobel Prize Laureates.…

The Nobel Prize for Peace is awarded separately, in Oslo, Norway—because as common wisdom tells it, Alfred Nobel believed that Norway, the country that in modern times was rarely involved in war, should host the prize for peace.…

[In Stockholm], the prizes are awarded to the people who approach the secrets of the heavens through rigorous scientific scholarship. In the 110 years’ history of the prize, according to numerous sources, at least 170 of the 850 prizewinners in all categories—about 22 percent—have been Jews. Since the percentage of Jews in the world population is merely 0.2 percent, this justifiably provides us with great national pride.

The websites that do a Jewish headcount of Nobel laureates agree on some of the recipients of the 2011 prize. Bruce Beutler, one of the three laureates for medicine, they note, is Jewish. His father, Ernest Beutler, was a Jewish hematologist who fled from Germany just in time to resettle in California, where Bruce was born in 1957. The counters are also sure about Adam G. Riess, recipient of the prize for physics. He is, they tell us, the grandson of Curt Riess, the writer who fled from Germany on board the famous ‘Europe’ in 1936, and settled with his family in New Jersey, where Adam was born in 1969. They have also included Prof. Saul Perlmutter, Nobel laureate in medicine.… As for Ralph Steinman, [another] recipient of the prize for medicine…his grandfather was chairman of the hevre kadisha (burial society) in Montreal. And, of course, there’s Prof. Dan Schechtman, the sole recipient of the prize in chemistry, from the Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology.…

This year five of the nine laureates in science are Jews.… Isn’t this a reason for some national pride?…”

The press conference in Stockholm that opened Nobel Prize Week was…an opportunity to meet some of my media colleagues. One of them, a producer from New York who seemed to be about my age, identified my accent and approached me with the inevitable question: Do I know his cousin in Tel Aviv? I don’t, but we began to talk anyway.

When I asked him about the Jewish phenomenon (and what else can we call it?), he quickly shushed me down. “I don’t think that we should talk about this here. Isn’t it enough that they are blaming us for controlling Hollywood, the banks and the media? And now you want to bring up this question? They’ll end up blaming us for controlling the sciences as well.” Shah. Shah.… Just like in the good old days…[when] we were afraid. So now we Jews control science, too. Not bad for just over ten million Jews. If it were true, I wouldn’t mind being hated.

The meeting with the Nobel laureates in medicine takes place in the Karolinka Institute in northern Stockholm. Beutler and Jules Hoffman [the French recipient of the prize for medicine, whose grandfather was Jewish]…are recipients of the prize for…“their discoveries concerning the activation of innate immunity.” In a different language, that means that they may have discovered a way to harness the human immune system in extreme situations in order to overcome disease.

Beutler and Hoffman shared the prize with a third physician, Prof. Ralph Steinman, who received the prize for “his discovery of the dendritic cell and its role in adaptive immunity.” This means the same thing—Steinman took the world of medicine one step ahead towards finding a cure to cancer and other terminal diseases. But Steinman suffered from a particularly aggressive type of cancer that usually kills patients within less than a year from the time of diagnosis. He used his new medicine on himself and lived with his disease for five years.

He didn’t make it to the awards ceremony in Stockholm. Steinman died just a few hours before they announced the prize. For the first time in history, a Nobel Prize was awarded posthumously. Steinman’s widow, Claudia, and his three children were there in his stead.… At the awards ceremony, [as] Claudia…approaches the King of Sweden and receives the medal and the prize, the audience applauds for a particularly long, moving time.…

Shechtman arrives in Stockholm with a large entourage, including the leadership of the Technion, and representatives of all of the major media outlets in Israel. The prize ceremony is broadcast live in Israel on all the stations. Israelis feel a double pride—not only as Jews, but as Israelis who believe that this prize vindicates and validates our national rebirth. Here, in the State of Israel, we tell ourselves, we find the continuity of the Jewish traditions of excellence and investment in the individual. It is here that we will rebuild the world of study that was consumed by the fires in the crematoria of Auschwitz. And not only have we redeemed ourselves in our land, we are enjoying the recognition of the entire world.…

THE DO-IT-YOURSELF ORIGINS OF THE DRONE
Peter Finn

Washington Post, December 24, 2011

In 1980, Abraham Karem, an engineer who had emigrated from Israel, retreated into his three-car garage in Hacienda Heights outside Los Angeles and, to the bemusement of his tolerant wife, began to build an aircraft. The work eventually spilled into the guest room, and when Karem finished more than a year later, he wheeled into his driveway an odd, cigar-shaped craft that was destined to change the way the United States wages war.

The Albatross, as it was called, was transported to the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, where it demonstrated the ability to stay aloft safely for up to 56 hours—a very long time in what was then the crash-prone world of drones. Three iterations and more than a decade of development later, Karem’s modest-looking drone became the Predator, the lethal, remotely piloted machine that can circle above the enemy for nearly a day before controllers thousands of miles away in the southwestern United States launch Hellfire missiles toward targets they are watching on video screens.

The emergence of hunter-killer and surveillance drones as revolutionary new weapons in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in counterterrorism operations in places such as Pakistan and Yemen, has spawned a multi-billion-dollar industry, much of it centered in Southern California, once the engine of Cold War military aviation.

Over the next 10 years, the Pentagon plans to purchase more than 700 medium- and large-size drones at a cost of nearly $40 billion, according to a Congressional Budget Office study. Thousands more mini-drones will be fitted in the backpacks of soldiers so they can hand-launch them in minutes to look over the next hill or dive-bomb opposing forces.…

The companies that design and manufacture drones have experienced massive growth that shows no sign of slowing, even with the end of the war in Iraq and the planned drawdown in Afghanistan. The technology is significantly cheaper than traditional aircraft, and its potential uses increase as the craft become faster and stealthier. Teal Group, a Fairfax market analysis firm, estimates that nearly $100 billion will be spent globally on drones between now and 2019.…

Karem was born in Baghdad, the son of a Jewish merchant who moved the family to Israel in 1951. He developed an early fascination with building aircraft and gravitated toward drones in the early 1970s when Israeli aviation engineers tried to satisfy an operational need for real-time, front-line intelligence. “My preoccupation with UAVS continued for 30 years,” Karem said.

After leaving the Israeli air force and working for a defense contractor, Karem grew frustrated at his efforts to start his own business building drones in Israel and thought he would have more success in California.

The flight of the Albatross led Karem, with the support of DARPA, to develop the Amber drone, which was stocked with custom-built components, including a powerful flight control computer, and could be configured for surveillance or attack missions. He also developed a lower-technology, export version called the Gnat 750.…

Karem sold his company to Hughes Aircraft, which, in turn, sold it to General Atomics, a privately held firm that earns an estimated $600 million per year from defense contracts. Karem remained on as a consultant.…

[Karem] has [since] abandoned drones to pursue a new dream at his offices in Lake Forest: A Boeing 737-size passenger plane capable of taking off vertically and landing like a helicopter. Such an advance, Karem said, would scupper the need for high-speed rail and allow planes to commute between the downtowns of different cities. Karem calls it an “aerotrain,” and the 74-year-old wants it built before he retires. “I never fail,” he said.

FREE POLLARD NOW, IN THE NAME OF HIS LATE FATHER!
David Kirshenbaum

Jerusalem Post, December 26, 2011

During the past 22 years, I had the privilege of knowing Dr. Morris Pollard, the father of Jonathan Pollard. Earlier this year, Dr. Pollard passed away at the age of 95. One of the little known aspects of Jonathan Pollard’s case is how much his father contributed to the United States.

Dr. Pollard was a world class scientist and cancer researcher who continued his work until just a few weeks prior to his death. For nearly 50 years, Pollard oversaw Notre Dame University’s longest-running medical research program that resulted in major discoveries in the battle against cancer. He developed bone marrow transplants to treat leukemia and sarcomas, for which he was honored with the Hope Award from the American Cancer Society; pioneered discoveries for the suppression of colon carcinoma and related metastases and methods for dissolving blood clots; developed groundbreaking tests for Hepatitis A and discovered treatments for trachoma, a major cause of blindness around the world. In World War II while a member of the US Army, and under the orders of Gen. George Marshall, Pollard investigated and tested vaccines for exotic viruses then afflicting American soldiers in the Pacific. Working with these vaccines and viruses was fraught with potentially fatal health risks. Pollard was honored for his work with three presidential citations and an Army Commendation Medal.

Pollard published more than 300 scientific articles, and was world-renowned in his field for developing a unique breed of germ-free “Lobund-Wistar” rats to study the mechanisms of disease. Even at age 95, he was in his lab almost every day.…

Only after Jonathan’s arrest did Dr. Pollard fully understand some of the conversations he had had with Jonathan, who had seemed to be extremely troubled by things he had learned at work as a civilian analyst in Naval Intelligence. In private conversations, Dr. Pollard told me he regretted not having been more receptive to Jonathan’s veiled approaches for advice about how to deal with the fact that information was being withheld from Israel.

Ironically, those restrictions were imposed in response to Israel’s destruction of Iraq’s Osirak nuclear facility. Bobby Ray Inman, deputy CIA director at the time, has acknowledged that he was so disconcerted that American-supplied satellite photography had been used to carry out Israel’s operation that he ordered all intelligence data covering areas more than 400 km. from Israel’s borders to be withheld from Jerusalem.…

One of the questions that haunted Dr.Pollard was why Jonathan was singled out for punishment far beyond that meted to every other American caught spying for US allies or neutral countries and even exceeded the sentence imposed on over 90 percent of spies for US adversaries. That mistreatment started immediately after Pollard was arrested, when he was thrown into a hospital for the criminally insane for ten months, despite the fact that there was no indication he needed medical treatment. Only as a result of Dr. Pollard’s appeal to Congressman Lee Hamilton was the younger Pollard ultimately released from the psychiatric ward.…

Another aspect of Jonathan’s punishment that gave Dr. Pollard no rest was the influence on the sentencing judge of Caspar Weinberger’s still-classified memorandum and the ongoing reliance upon it as grounds for Jonathan’s continued imprisonment after a quarter of a century. Dr. Pollard strongly felt that the use of secret testimony in situations where, as in Jonathan’s case, neither the accused nor his counsel is afforded an adequate opportunity to challenge it, was anathema to core American values.

That indefensible procedural defect was magnified, in Dr. Pollard’s eyes, by questions about Weinberger’s general credibility. During the Iran-Contra investigation…Weinberger was indicted by a federal grand jury for perjury and obstruction of justice and was spared a trial and possible jail time only by a pardon granted by President George H.W. Bush.…

Today, a large and growing cadre of former intelligence, congressional, White House and cabinet-level personnel who are familiar with the classified documents are calling for Pollard’s release. These include Henry Kissinger, George Shulz, Dan Quayle, John McCain, former attorney-general Michael Mukasey and a bipartisan group of 18 former US senators, including four who served as chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Their calls are yet another indication that Pollard’s crime did not warrant the punishment he has served. In light of that fact, the holiday season—a traditional time for presidential pardons—is an appropriate time to honor his father’s memory. It is time for mercy. It is time at long last to free Jonathan Pollard.

A FORGOTTEN HOLOCAUST HISTORY—
THE STRUMA AND MEFKURE TRAGEDIES:
AN INDICTMENT OF INDIFFERENCE
Baruch Cohen

In memory of beloved Malca z’l

There is not a single page on our calendar that does not call to memory countless of our sisters and brothers who have perished simply for being Jewish: we will commemorate them for as long as we live, for in remembrance, they live on. To forget them would make us accomplices of those who write doctoral theses alleging that the Holocaust was imagined, or that the Struma and Mefkure stories are a lie.

In December 1941, 760 people, including children, boarded a cattle boat named the Struma. Likewise, in August 1944, 394 Jews boarded a boat called the Mefkure. The boats were unsafe, terribly overcrowded and lacking in sanitary facilities.

The passengers were Jewish citizens of Romania, who prior to boarding were abused, humiliated and tormented, spat up on and robbed. If not for boarding either the Struma or the Mefkure, they would have simply been killed. Yet the faint hope of reaching the Promised Land—the sea leading to Eretz Israel—compelled them to leave everything behind, to risk their lives, in hopes of reaching their National Home.

The Struma sank in the Black Sea on February 24, 1942, with all passengers drowning save for one. The Mefkure suffered a similar fate on August 5, 1944, leading to the deaths of all 394 passengers. It is suspected that both vessels sunk—whether by German, Soviet, or British submarines is still unclear.

The Struma tragedy is the subject of an excellent documentary by the well-known filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici, who has brought the story of the Struma to life, restoring the truth.

We owe it to ourselves to remember all Holocaust victims, including those aboard the Struma and Mefkure. We owe it to our children and children’s children not to forget those who perished in Europe’s ovens, as well as those who perished at sea, on their way to the Promised Land, our national home: Israel.

Never Forget!

The shared fate of both the Strumaand Mefkurecomprises an integral part of the Holocaust, a tragedy in which the world discarded its humanity.

Never Forget!

(Baruch Cohen is Research Chairman for the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.)