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Monday, February 29, 2016

So how did we get to the point that it was possible for Obama to be elected and for Trump to be a serious contender for the presidency?

Trump making fun of a disabled New York Times reporter in November 2015

How Did We Get Obama and Trump?

Many Americans shook their heads in 2008 wondering how in the world President Obama was elected when he had told us plainly that he wanted to “fundamentally transform” our country. Then, the perplexity increased when he was reelected in 2012 long after his radical policies and disdain for the Constitution were abundantly evident. 

Unbelievably, after suffering through the effrontery of the Obama Administration’s arrogance and his flaunting of executive actions instead of bipartisanship, the nation is now enthralled with Donald Trump’s bombastic, flamboyant, but empty promises – based solely on his ability to capitalize on the public’s anger and to manipulate people’s fears, rather than specific policy proposals or potential for effective constitutional governance -- to come in and liberate us from the overweening government bureaucrats with their endless thirst for control and restore America’s greatness. The Washington Post summarized the situation by claiming that Donald Trump is giving the establishment (on both Capitol Hill and K Street) the “middle finger” and “his supporters love it.” One analyst likened Trump to a parasite eating up the host; another called him America’s “Fatal Attraction.”

Clearly, Donald Trump is a brash, arrogant bully with a “yuuge” ego who sees things in black and white, winners and losers. Trump offends sensibilities with unpresidential behavior, crudities and bad manners, along with insults and accusations of lying against other candidates. Still, the more obnoxious he has become, the better his ratings. He has tapped into middle-America’s need for a “straight-up guy” who’ll “tell things like they are” without any consideration for how he offends the PC crowd. The public has had enough of politicians who talk out of “both sides of their mouths” to say one thing to the voters during election campaigns while planning to do another. At this point, the public doesn’t believe any politician; they want an outsider. They’ll take the crudity because it least it’s an authentic expression of their frustration and anger.

So how did we get to the point that it was possible for Obama to be elected and for Trump to be a serious contender for the presidency? 

Obviously, things are complicated, but generally root causes are fairly simple and foundational. I can think of three things that are fundamental problems that are endemic in our society.

Nebulous Faith: Despite President Obama’s claims to the contrary, America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles. It was founded to allow freedom of religion (as the saying goes, it was not founded to be free from religion). A significant majority of Americans identify as Christian; at the same time, church attendance is not keeping up with population increases. Established churches where orthodox beliefs are captured in doctrinal statements and taught in classes are being replaced by non-denominational churches that focus more on “worship” than on “doctrine.” The late author Henri Nouwen, who wrote Show Me the Way, noted that the church is increasingly seen as an “obstacle” rather than the “way”. The movie “Unbroken” chronicled an inspiring example of a shattered life that was restored ; at the societal level, however, gut reaction has shed the necessity for moral fidelity as well as the necessity for intellectual and rational conduct.

In this postmodern age of moral relativism, with truth, has come to be defined however anyone wants to define it, rather than determined by a life  through devoted consistency in living out moral principles. Sadly, today’s candidates can throw in a few buzz words and be acceptable to faithful believers without being bound by character and integrity, and supporting those who lived out immorality in action. Polling data indicates that almost 70 percent of voters, and almost 90 percent of Evangelicals, expect a presidential candidate to be “strongly religious.” Yet, in 2012, 42 percent of the Protestant Christian vote went for Obama as did 21% of the self-identified, white, born-again, evangelical Christian voters. Now, Evangelicals figure prominently among Trump supporters and high profile Evangelical leaders have endorsed Trump in spite of the lack of consistency between his actions and their principles and moral values.

PC Education: It is commonly recognized that there are major problems with public education in America and consequently the numbers of homeschooled students is up by nearly 62 percent in the last ten years. More and more people are questioning the value of a college education when students spend more time in drunken stupors, participating in demonstrations, and partying than in studying. Moreover, parents are alarmed that colleges and universities are being converted into centers of growing intolerance for differing points of view -- especially for conservative ideas. Ironically, civility and respectful debate are rare while diversity and inclusion are emphasized. Emotions and feelings are important and hard thinking is rarely taught or experienced. Politically Correct language is the norm; nothing can be allowed that offends the proliferating collection of victims on the Left.

No wonder the electorate responds emotionally and doesn’t bother to ask hard questions or probe into the ramifications of policy positions. No wonder voters choose which candidate to support based on likeability or personality regardless of whether they agree with the person’s positions on the issues.

Cultural Disintegration: There is no way to overstate the influence of the media and entertainment industries in shaping attitudes and values. In many respects both Obama and Trump are products of the media. President and Mrs. Obama have been media darlings since their earliest days on the national scene. With his ability to play to the crowd, Trump is always good for headlines. Neither man sees a distinction between politics and entertainment. Trump, in particular, knows how to “read” a situation and play it for maximum personal benefit. He accurately assessed the public anger and desire to shove the establishment aside; he is cold and calculating enough to push that all the way to the White House. The public wants something to talk about and they totally reject anything dull, boring, or routine. Their attitude is: Don’t bother me with facts; my mind is already made up.

Cynics tell us that we get the leaders we deserve. The phrase has become a cliché because so much experience seems to confirm it.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Good Riddance To A Very Bad Guy! The Community Has A Responsibility To Make Certain He Never Resurfaces As A Rabbi Anywhere!

After lengthy battle, ‘sauna rabbi’ Jonathan Rosenblatt steps down



Accused of inappropriate conduct with teenage boys, rabbi to leave after 30 years at helm of NY’s Riverdale Jewish Center

 

February 25, 2016

Senior Rabbi of Rivardale Jewish Center Jonathan Rosenblatt speaks at a solidarity interfaith gathering attended by clergy, politicians, community leaders and activists at the Riverdale Jewish Center in Bronx, NY, Friday, May 22, 2009. (AP Photo/David Karp)
Senior Rabbi of Rivardale Jewish Center Jonathan Rosenblatt speaks at a solidarity interfaith gathering attended by clergy, politicians, community leaders and activists at the Riverdale Jewish Center in Bronx, NY, Friday, May 22, 2009.

Following a tumultuous year of sexual misconduct allegations and a community effort to bring about his ouster, Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt told his New York synagogue Wednesday that he would step down as community rabbi.

The decision was announced in a letter sent to the members of the Riverdale Jewish Center by its president, Samson Fine.
“Rabbi Rosenblatt has today informed RJC’s leadership that he intends to step aside from the Senior Rabbinate of the RJC,” the email read. “The Shul’s Board of Trustees was informed at this evening Board meeting and we anticipate discussing transition details the Board in the next two weeks.”

The Riverdale Jewish Center had decided to keep Rosenblatt in place despite protests over reports of sauna chats with naked boys revealed in an exposé in The New York Times in May 2014.

Rosenblatt, who denied any criminal wrongdoing but apologized for inappropriate behavior, had been fighting efforts by some in his Orthodox congregation to buy out the remaining three years on his contract.

Despite the controversy stirred by the article about Rosenblatt’s practice for years of inviting teenage boys and young men for naked heart-to-hearts in the sauna after racquetball games, he retained the support of community leaders.

In a letter sent to congregants on August 13, the synagogue leadership said it had decided that Rosenblatt’s own plan for moving past the scandal was the best of various alternate scenarios for the New York shul, which has been led by Rosenblatt for the last 30 years.

“Rabbi Rosenblatt shared his vision and commitment to continue serving our membership and partnering with the RJC’s lay leaders, staff and community,” said the letter, which was signed by the synagogue’s board chairman, Donald Liss; and Fine, its president. “He described how we will strengthen communal bonds between and among our members, maintain the financial stability of our synagogue and enhance the spirit of collaboration that exists between the RJC and the community.”
No one cited in the Times story that prompted the firestorm accused Rosenblatt of sexual touching, but several expressed their discomfort with his practices and described his behavior as deeply inappropriate for a rabbi and mentor. At various times, Rosenblatt was told by his congregation’s board or the Rabbinical Council of America to limit his inappropriate activity.

After the Times published its story, the RJC’s board of directors voted 34-8 to seek a financial settlement to get Rosenblatt to resign his pulpit. But Rosenblatt vowed to stay on, saying that removing him from his position would be a “disproportionate” response. Hundreds of congregants signed a petition backing the rabbi, while some signed a competing petition calling on him to resign.

Rosenblatt’s determination to stay was bolstered by the warm reception he received after a dramatic public apology in front of hundreds of congregants at a synagogue gathering in late June 2015.
“This is a crisis created by my own lapses of judgment,” Rosenblatt said, according to a recording of the speech transcribed by a synagogue member and cited in the Times. “I have brought pain to people, shame to my family and I have caused a desecration of the divine name.”

Yehuda Kurtzer, the only man cited by name in The New York Times story who had experienced an invitation from Rosenblatt to join him in the sauna, said he had been outraged by the congregation’s lack of action against Rosenblatt.

“Rabbi Rosenblatt has shrewdly managed his way out of this crisis with the advice of counsel, clearly managing his communications along the way, demonizing his opponents, and avoiding any significant fallout,” Kurtzer said in a Facebook post after the letter from synagogue leaders was sent. “He has hurt his students, he has further alienated his accusers, and his continued presence on the pulpit at RJC insults the dignity of our community.”

Thursday, February 25, 2016

In 2013, Yoel Malik was charged with 28 criminal counts and shamelessly blamed his underage victims for trying to seduce him, police sources said...


EXCLUSIVE: Brooklyn rabbi charged with teen sex assault gets 60 days in jail; DA ripped for offering light plea deal

 
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Thursday, February 25, 2016, 5:32 PM


NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi

Yoel Malik got a generous plea deal after the victims declined to move forward with the case, officials said.

A Brooklyn rabbi charged with sexually abusing four teenage boys in a hotel was sentenced to 60 days in jail and six years of probation.

Yoel Malik, 33, a highly regarded member the Satmar Hasidic sect, was given the generous plea deal after the victims were extremely reluctant to testify publicly, according to a law enforcement source familiar with the case.

In 2013, Malik was charged with 28 criminal counts and shamelessly blamed his underage victims for trying to seduce him, police sources said.

The boys were all students at Ohr Hameir, a now-shuttered Satmar yeshiva in Borough Park. The alleged victims were between ages 13 and 16 when the incident occurred.

BROOKLYN RABBI CHARGED WITH HAVING SEX WITH TEENAGE BOY

The rabbi was accused of groping the genitals of all four boys inside motels, prosecutors said after his arrest.

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi 

In 2013, Yoel Malik was charged with 28 criminal counts and shamelessly blamed his underage victims for trying to seduce him, police sources said.

The twisted teacher also allegedly forced two of the boys to perform oral sex on him. One of the victims was also forced to perform oral sex on Malik inside his car parked near a cemetery on a separate occasion, according to prosecutors.

In 2014, he quietly pleaded guilty to a felony of luring a child and a misdemeanor of sexual misconduct, records show.

Over the past two years, he completed a series of probation requirements, including a sex offender class and staying away from children, court records show.

As part of the deal, the felony was dismissed upon completion of the intense probation supervision.
On Tuesday, he was sent to Rikers Island for 60 days for the misdemeanor offense.

Advocates for child sex-abuse victims questioned the deal that Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson (pictured) offered Malik. 
DA Ken Thompson

Advocates for child sex-abuse victims questioned the deal that Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson (pictured) offered Malik. 

Advocates for child sex-abuse victims questioned the deal.

"What DA [Ken] Thompson has done is inexplicable," said Ben Hirsch, a spokesman for Survivors for Justice, an organization that advocates and educates on issues related to child sex abuse. "Through unexplained plea deals such as this he has effectively quashed any willingness on the part of victims to come forward."

Malik's lawyer contended his client wasn't getting off easy.

"I will concede he wasn't burnt at the stake," he said sarcastically. "He wasn't stoned running through the village."

It’s a “significant” punishment when any first-time offender gets sentenced to jail, he added.
"Most people would be scared out of their minds," he said, referring to time on Rikers Island.

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/nyc-rabbi-60-days-jail-teen-sex-assault-charges-article-1.2544090?utm_content=bufferb671b&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=NYDailyNewsTw

The suspect's father is the principal of a yeshiva and his grandfather is an ‘influential rabbi.’

Attempted abduction case in Brooklyn falls apart after suspect, a man from a prominent Orthodox family, comes forward 

 
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
 
Wednesday, February 24, 2016, 12:10 PM
The suspect's father is the principal of a yeshiva and his grandfather is an ‘influential rabbi.’ DCPI

The suspect's father is the principal of a yeshiva and his grandfather is an ‘influential rabbi.’

An investigation into an attempted abduction of a 14-year-old girl in Brooklyn fell apart after it was learned that the suspect comes from a prominent Orthodox family, law enforcement sources said Wednesday.

The suspect, a 20-year-old Orthodox man, showed up at the 61st Precinct with his attorney Tuesday — a day after the NYPD released an enhanced photo of him as a suspect in the crime.
But when investigators contacted the victim after the suspect came forward the family "stopped cooperating with the cops," a police source said.
The victim was with her mother when the suspect — initially described as a white or Hispanic man — approached her on E. 7th St. in Midwood about 4:30 p.m. Feb. 16. 

The victim was with her mother when the suspect — initially described as a white or Hispanic man — approached her on E. 7th St. in Midwood about 4:30 p.m. Feb. 16.

A source with knowledge of the investigation said the girl changed her mind about talking to authorities after receiving pressure from the community.

The suspect's father is the principal of a yeshiva and his grandfather is an "influential rabbi," the source said.

The victim was with her mother when the suspect — initially described as a white or Hispanic man — approached her on E. 7th St. in Midwood about 4:30 p.m. Feb. 16.
 
"Come here," the man demanded of the teen.

When the girl refused, he grabbed her by the shoulder and wouldn't let go until the victim's former teacher intervened, officials said.

"The case and the investigation is closed," an NYPD spokesman said Wednesday. "No one is charged."

Detectives made their decision after conferring with the Brooklyn District Attorney's office, the spokesman said.

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/attempted-abduction-case-brooklyn-falls-article-1.2542345

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Former Leo Baeck Jewish Day School director David Prashker has now been charged in connection with child-pornography offences in California.

Former Toronto private school director facing child-porn charges in U.S.

Passing the trash...

 

The Catholic church is not the only institution that needs to confront, and deal with, sexual crimes against children.... 

 

David Prashker resigned from Toronto school in 2008 over sexual and sometimes violent poetry he wrote and posted on his website.

Former Leo Baeck Jewish Day School director David Prashker (seen in photo taken from school website in 2008) has now been charged in connection with child-pornography offences in California.
Former Leo Baeck Jewish Day School director David Prashker (seen in photo taken from school website in 2008) has now been charged in connection with child-pornography offences in California. 
A man who resigned as director of a Toronto private school in 2008 over graphic poems on his website is now facing child-pornography charges in California.

On Monday, the district attorney of Contra Costa County in the San Francisco Bay area charged David Prashker, 60, with possession of child pornography and attempting to destroy evidence.
County investigators went to search Prashker’s home in Lafayette, Calif. on Feb. 18. When they arrived, Prashker allegedly ran to the back of the house and threw a laptop out a second-storey window into the backyard. 

The district attorney’s office said that forensic examiners later found evidence of child pornography on the laptop. 

Prashker had recently worked as a substitute teacher at two private schools in Contra Costa, the district attorney said. He has also worked at schools in London and Miami. 

From 2004 to 2008, Prashker was director of Leo Baeck Jewish Day School, a kindergarten-to-Grade-8 private school with campuses in Thornhill and just west of Forest Hill. 

Prashker resigned in March 2008, after six poems he had written and posted to his personal website were circulated to parents in an anonymous email. 

The writings contained vivid sexual imagery and profane language, and one piece began with the line “The first act of killing is the hardest” and ended with “the second time is remarkably straightforward.”

Prashker is scheduled to appear in court in Martinez, Calif. on Tuesday morning. ***


 From the Economist, April 2002:

"Baruch Lanner, an Orthodox rabbi, went to trial in New Jersey for sexually abusing two teenage girls while he was the principal of a Jewish day school. Orthodox authorities stand accused of ignoring evidence that Rabbi Lanner sexually abused more than 20 teenage girls while he was in a position of authority in the Orthodox Union's National Conference of Synagogue Youth.

 In 1999, Sports Illustrated described American youth sports, in which millions of children are coached or supervised by unscreened male volunteers, as “a ready-made resource-pool for paedophiles”.

Why is it so hard to protect children? To begin with, adults are often looking for predators in the wrong places. Parents teach their children to fear strangers, yet abductions off the street are a small fraction of child sex-abuse cases. Counsellors and teachers are trained to recognise sexual abuse by family members. Yet a third group, so-called “acquaintance molesters”, is responsible for about 40% of sexual abuse cases—and a higher percentage of crimes against boys. 


 "When an allegation is made, the victim is often a troubled or delinquent young person. The accused adult, however, may be a pillar of the community—in many cases, because of his eagerness to do extra work with children. Communities desperately seek to convince themselves that a particular sex offender is different because of his other good deeds. “Adult human beings tend to believe what they need to believe, and the stronger the need, the stronger the tendency,” says Kenneth Lanning, a retired FBI behavioural analyst and an expert on the sexual victimisation of children.

 He points to a recent case in which 20 teachers testified in a trial on behalf of a convicted colleague, describing him—without irony—as a “child magnet”.  Such cases are so common that educators have coined the term “passing the trash”. A 1995 study of 225 cases in which pupils were sexually abused by teachers or other staff members found that in only 1% of the cases did the school-district superintendent attempt to revoke the culprit's teaching licence. 

That may be changing, in large part because the cost of covering up is rising. As cases of abuse receive more publicity, parents and victims have begun to win lawsuits against schools that either fail to sack teachers with a history of sexual abuse or ship known offenders elsewhere. Still, an awful lot of trash is being passed around.

What can be done? Any responsible institution ought to begin with a thorough background check of all potential volunteers or employees, checking their fingerprints against a national criminal database. Authorities should take note of seemingly innocuous past offences, Mr Lanning says, such as trespassing or disorderly conduct. 

Second, every institution should have a system of management and supervision that limits the time any adult spends alone with a child. Listen to rumours, says Ms Shakeshaft. Although only 6-7% of victims report the abuse to someone in authority, most will tell their friends. “The kids tend to know,” she says.... 

 READ IT ALL:

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The ultra Orthodox Jewish ritual of metzitzah b’peh requires a practitioner to orally suck the penis of baby to ‘cleanse’ the open wound following its circumcision, making them vulnerable to the virus...

 
Two more babies stricken with herpes after ritual ultra-orthodox Jewish oral blood sucking circumcision in New York City
Two more new born have been infected with herpes virus in the last three months after undergoing a controversial religious oral circumcision in New York City.

These latest cases bring the total count to 13 infants since 2000, two of which suffered brain damage and two died from the virus which can rapidly spread throughout its body.


The ultra Orthodox Jewish ritual of metzitzah b’peh requires a practitioner to orally suck the penis of baby to ‘cleanse’ the open wound following its circumcision, making them vulnerable to the virus.
 
The department of health says one of the latest infants to contract the virus developed a fever and a lesion on its scrotum, seven days after the procedure. The boy later tested positive for HSV-1. That virus differs from HSV-2, the genital herpes, which is contracted during sexual intercourse.

‘A herpes infection in a newborn baby has the risk of leading to severe illness and death,’ Jay Varma, deputy commissioner for disease control at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene told ABC News.

‘The reason is that the baby doesn’t have the same fully developed immune system as an adult. Instead of staying in the genital area, it extends throughout different organs in the body,’ he explained.

He said it’s too soon to tell whether the boys will suffer permanent effects.\

The identify of the rabbi who performed the circumcision is being withheld by the boys’ parents, preventing the health department to step in, they said.
Dangers: Since 2000 13 known cases of herpes have resulted from the practice, two of which suffered brain damage and two others died
Dangers: Since 2013 known cases of herpes have resulted from the practice, two of which suffered brain damage and two others died

Monday, February 22, 2016

Investigators have released a crystal clear photo of the suspect wanted in connection with attempted kidnapping of a 14-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl last week in the the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn.

NYPD Release New Photo of Suspect Wanted for Attempted Kidnapping of Brooklyn Jewish Girl


Investigators have released a crystal clear photo of the suspect wanted in connection with attempted kidnapping of a 14-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl last week in the the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn.

JP  first reported last week that investigators are eying a local, young Jewish man as the suspectOn Monday police released a photo of the man and are asking the public to help them catch him.

The attempted kidnapping occurred last Monday at 4:39 p.m. immediately after the girl left the B’Not Rachel High School at 1950 East 7th Street and was on her way home. An unidentified male approached her in front of 1852 East 7th Street and put his arm around her and tried to lure her.

“The suspect said, ‘Come here, come here,’” and didn’t let her go away, until a staffer from a nearby school passed by and witnessed the incident. The suspect then got scared and ran away, a NYPD Official told JP.

When the girl arrived home and told her parents what happened, her mother immediately contacted the police.

“I was afraid for my life. The man was wearing nice black dressy shoes and had a nice haircut,” the girl told investigators, according to the NYPD official.

The suspect is a white male, approximately 20 years old, 5’8″ tall, 150 lbs., with brown eyes, short black hair and medium complexion. He was last seen wearing a white-collared shirt, a black jacket, black pants and black shoes.
Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477)



http://jpupdates.com/2016/02/22/nypd-release-new-photo-of-suspect-wanted-for-attempted-kidnapping-in-brooklyn/

When the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement singles out Israel as the perpetrator of the world’s worst iniquities, notwithstanding its right of self defence, it is legitimate to ask why the left’s wrath does not extend, for example, to Russia which rains down destruction on civilian populations in Syria?

The left’s problem with Jews has a long and miserable history


Anti-Israel demonstrations are in danger of morphing into anti-Semitism, writes Simon Schama 
 
Illustration for FTWeekend comment article by Simon Schama
 
Much of the student left has “some kind of problem with Jews”, said the bravely decent Alex Chalmers last week in his resignation statement as co-chair of the Oxford University Labour Club following a vote in favour of Israeli Apartheid Week. 
 
Labour’s national student organisation is launching an inquiry but the “the problem with Jews” on the left is not going away. In January a meeting of the Kings College London Israel Society, gathered to hear from Ami Ayalon, a former head of Shin Bet, the Israeli domestic intelligence service, who now champions a two-state solution, was violently interrupted by a chair-hurling, window-smashing crowd.

Last summer the Guardian columnist Owen Jones made a courageous plea for the left to confront this demon head on. Since then, however, criticism of Israeli government policies has mutated into a rejection of Israel’s right to exist; the Fatah position replaced by Hamas and Hizbollah eliminationism. More darkly, support in the diaspora for Israel’s right to survive is seen by the likes of Labour’s Gerald Kaufman, who accused the government of being influenced in its Middle Eastern policy by “Jewish money”, as some sort of Jewish conspiracy. 

The charge that anti-Zionism is morphing into anti-Semitism is met with the retort that the former is being disingenuously conflated with the latter. But when George Galloway (in August 2014 during the last Gaza war) declared Bradford “an Israel-free zone”; when French Jews are unable to wear a yarmulke in public lest that invite assault, when Holocaust Memorial day posters are defaced, it is evident that what we are dealing with is, in Professor Alan Johnson’s accurate coinage, “anti-semitic anti-Zionism”. 

The fact is that the terrorists who slaughtered customers at the kosher supermarket in Paris did not ask their victims whether they were Israelis, much less supporters of Israeli government policies. They were murdered as Jews because in the attackers’ poisoned minds all Jews are indivisibly incriminated as persecutors of the Palestinians and thus fair game for murder.

When the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement singles out Israel as the perpetrator of the world’s worst iniquities, notwithstanding its right of self defence, it is legitimate to ask why the left’s wrath does not extend, for example, to Russia which rains down destruction on civilian populations in Syria? 

With the retreat of Marxist socialism, militant energies have needed somewhere to go

 Why is it somehow proper to boycott Israeli academics and cultural institutions, many of which are critical of government policy, but to remain passive in the face of Saudi Arabia’s brutal punishment of anyone whose exercise of freedom of conscience can be judged sacrilegious? Why is the rage so conspicuously selective? Or, to put it another way, why is it so much easier to hate the Jews? 

Growing up in London in the shadow of world war two my pals and I talked about who might be the bad guys, should evil come our way. We agreed the Jew-haters would not wear brown shirts and jackboots but would probably be like people on the bus. It is not the golf club nose-holders we have to worry about now; it is those who, in their indignation at the sufferings visited on the Palestinians, and their indifference to almost-daily stabbings in the streets of Israel, have discovered the excitement of saying the unspeakable, making hay with history, so Israel is the new reich, and a military attack on Gaza indistinguishable from the industrially processed incineration of millions.
Enter the historian. And history says this: anti-Semitism has not been caused by Zionism; it is precisely the other way round. Israel was caused by the centuries-long dehumanisation of the Jews. The blood libel which accused Jews of murdering Christian children in order to drain their blood for the baking of Passover matzo began in medieval England but never went away, reviving in 16th century Italy, 18th century Poland, 19th century Syria and Bohemia, and 20th century Russia.

In 1980s Syria, Mustafa Tlass, Hafez al-Assad’s minister of defence, made his contribution with The Matzo of Zion, and last year the Israeli-Palestinian Islamist Raed Salah, once invited to parliament by Jeremy Corbyn as an “honoured citizen”, declared that Jews used blood for the dough of their “bread”. 

In the 19th century virtual vampirism was added to the antisemitic canon. And the left made its contribution to this refreshment of old poison. Demonstrating that you do not have to be gentile to be an anti-Semite, Karl Marx characterised Judaism as nothing more than the cult of Mammon, and declared that the world needed emancipating from the Jews. Others on the left — the social philosophers Bruno Bauer, Charles Fourier and Pierre Prudhon and the anarchist Mikhail Bakunin — echoed the message: blood sucking, whether the physical or the economic kind, was what Jews did.

For the Jews, the modern world turned out to be a lose-lose proposition. Once reviled for obstinate traditionalism; their insistence on keeping walled off from the rest (notwithstanding that it had been Christians who had done the walling) they were now attacked for integrating too well, speaking, dressing and working no differently but always with the aim of global domination. 

What was a Jew to do? The communist Moses Hess, who had been Marx’s editor and friend, became persuaded, all too presciently, that the socialist revolution would do nothing to normalise Jewish existence, not least because so many socialists declared that emancipating the Jews had been a terrible mistake. Hess concluded that only self-determination could protect the Jews from the phobias of right and left alike. He became the first socialist Zionist. 

But that was to inflict an entirely colonial and alien enterprise upon a Palestinian population, so the hostile narrative goes, who were penalised for the sins of Europe. That the Palestinians did become tragic casualties of a Judeo-Arab civil war over the country is indisputable, just as the 700,000 Jews who were violently uprooted from their homes in the Islamic world is equally undeniable. But to characterise the country in which the language, the religion and the cultural identity of the Jews was formed as purely a colonial anomaly is the product of the kind of historical innocence which is oblivious of, say, Jewish kabbalistic communities in Galilee in the 16th century or the substantial native Jewish majority in Jerusalem in the late 19th century.

None of this unbroken history of Jews and Judaism in Palestine is likely to do much to cool the heat of the anti-colonial narrative of the alien intruder, especially on the left. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the retreat of Marxist socialism around the world, militant energies have needed somewhere to go.

The battle against inequalities under liberal capitalism has mobilised some of that passion, but postcolonial guilt has fired up the war against its prize whipping boy, Zionism, like no other cause. Every such crusade needs a villain along with its banners and I wonder who that could possibly be?


The writer is an FT contributing editor. He will be taking part in a debate on February 27 during Jewish Book Week
 
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/d6a75c3c-d6f3-11e5-829b-8564e7528e54.html#axzz40qmhRI5Z

Friday, February 19, 2016

"But sadly, there are rabbis and teachers still today who, with plenty of time and space to prepare, are still presenting themselves as God’s spokespeople, communicating with full confidence the reasons and causes for the world’s catastrophes, natural disasters, and human suffering."

I Don’t Believe in That God Either





by Rabbi Efrem Goldberg - Republished with permission from the author.

Last month marked thirty years since the tragic explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger. Seven crew members died after the shuttle broke apart 73 seconds after takeoff. As I’m sure is the case with many of you, I vividly remember exactly where I was when this catastrophic event occurred. Along with many American children, my middle school class was listening to a live broadcast of the launch over the class speaker because Christa McAullife, an “ordinary” teacher from New Hampshire was on the shuttle as the first person chosen to participate in NASA’s Teacher in Space Project.

Even as children, when the Challenger exploded we understood that something historically tragic had occurred. We were stunned and searching for a way to understand what we had just heard. Our poor teacher was thrust into an incredibly difficult position with no preparation time or ability to craft a nuanced, sensitive, and meaningful lesson plan.

His words that day were forever seared in my memory because of how much they disturbed me, even at that young age. Without having the chance to process what had just transpired, he turned to us, his students and explained that he thought the Challenger had exploded because man was getting too brazen and encroaching on God’s territory in the heavens. God had struck down the Challenger, he said, because we had violated the boundaries that separate us from Him.

In the town of Berditchev, there was a proud, self-proclaimed atheist who shared with anyone who would listen his problems with a cruel, uncaring God. The great Chassidic Master Rebbe Levi Yitzchak approached him. After the atheist vociferously explained why he doesn’t believe in God, Reb Levi Yitzchak turned to him and said, “You know, the God you don’t believe in, I don’t believe in him either.”

When I heard my teacher describe with full confidence why God blew up the Challenger, I didn’t yet know the story of Reb Levi Yitzchak, but I did intuitively know that I didn’t believe in the God my teacher was describing. Would God really kill seven innocent people in such horrific fashion because they were involved in space exploration? That made no sense to me and I wanted no part of such a God. Looking back, I am tremendously grateful that I didn’t accept his reason and rejected his acting as God’s spokesperson. I rejected it, but it confused me and upset me to the extent that I remember it until this day, thirty years later.

My middle school teacher didn’t have time to formulate his reaction, but sadly, there are rabbis and teachers still today who, with plenty of time and space to prepare, are still presenting themselves as God’s spokespeople, communicating with full confidence the reasons and causes for the world’s catastrophes, natural disasters, and human suffering. One popular outreach rabbi has explicitly claimed in his online classes to know why certain people were killed in the Holocaust and that “blind children are being punished for watching pornography in previous lives” and that “cancer is caused by sin in this life” and “Down syndrome and autism are a result of a sin in a previous life.”

His loyal followers point to his success in attracting students and cite his influence and impact on thousands of people as justification for his method. However, the Torah never measured truth and authenticity by popularity. By that measure, we should have folded to other religions and ways of life long ago.

In next week’s parsha, Moshe pleads to Hashem – hodi’eini na es derachecha, make Your ways known to me so that I know You, so that I may find favor in Your eyes.” Moshe continues, “har’eini na es kevodecha – “Show me now Your glory.” What was Moshe requesting? What was it that he wanted to know?

Even more mysterious is Hashem’s response. “You cannot see my face, for no human can see my face and live… you will see My back, but My face may not be seen.” What is Hashem responding to Moshe?

The Talmud (Berachos 7a) explains that Moshe was requesting from God a window into understanding the meaning and order of the universe. Moshe sought insight into how God runs the world and an understanding of His system of justice. In essence, by asking to see God’s face, Moshe is saying, “God, let me see what you see.” Show me Your perspective of the world and Your system for what happens.

Hashem responds, “Moshe, I cannot show you My face, you cannot see through My eyes, because you are human and you are finite. By definition you are incapable of fully comprehending My system of justice and of appreciating the ultimate meaning and order of the universe. However, you can see the back of My head. Once the event or experience is over, there will come a time, whether in this world or the next, that you will see retroactively why events unfolded the way they did and why ultimately there is meaning and order to everything.”

While this dialogue in particular and the question of why bad things happen to good people requires greater elucidation, one thing is clear from this conversation. We are not empowered or entitled to claim to understand how Hashem runs His world. Indeed, to assert that you know with confidence Hashem’s ways and that you have access to His thinking is an act of heresy.

It is understandable that people who are suffering would try to identify exactly why Hashem is visiting this misery upon them. However, it is an exercise in futility. Our mission is to reflect on our circumstances and be motivated to grow, improve, and find a way to become better as a result. But attempting to uncover exactly why Hashem placed us in the particular position is something unattainable and a poor use of energy and focus.

This week, hundreds of people gathered in Yerushalayim to pay tribute to Dafna Meir Hy”d, who was murdered by a terrorist in her home in Otniel a month ago. Her fifteen-year-old son Akiva spoke and ended by saying:

And now, when everything has been cut down, I stand across from Him, and I am silent. I stand across from the Infinite, and I know that He did this just like He does everything. And suddenly I see a picture that is a little bigger. Bigger than me. Bigger than all of us. Master of the Universe, I want to say one thing to you, just one: Thank You. Despite the difficulty. Thank you for fifteen and a half years of light. Thank You for being with me at the most difficult moments. And that You will be with me during even more difficult moments. And also for all the other miracles which You have performed for me. Thank You. You gave, and You took. May Your name be blessed forever.

Deracheha darchei noam – The Torah’s ways are pleasant.” Hashem wants us to be uplifted and inspired, not feel dejected and beaten down. He wants us to see others who are suffering and be filled with sympathy and support, not with condemnation and judgment. He wants us to bring our fellow Jews close to Torah with humility and intellectual modesty, not bombastic statements and outrageous proclamations.

Thirty years after the Challenger explosion, I continue to reject my teacher’s explanation and I refuse to believe in His God. While I know he meant well that day, our teacher failed us, his students. I implore you to insist on teachers for your children, and leaders for yourself, who understand and present that Hashem is in charge, we are incapable of having access to His secrets and His ways and that “divrei chachamim b’nachas nishmaim – the words of the wise are most effective when delivered with pleasantness.”*



http://rabbisblog.brsonline.org/1436-2/

Thursday, February 18, 2016

I am a signatory to a Change.org petition signed by more than 100 Rabbis and Jewish cultural leaders strongly warned people about our knowledge of activities of Marc Gafni, who has left a trail of decades of sexual abuse, lying, plagiarism, and betrayals of trust. More than 3000 others have joined us, many with direct testimonials you can read in the comments.

Petition update

Wilber and Gafni

David Ingber
New York, NY
Feb 18, 2016 — Dear Change.org signatories,

Thank you again for taking a strong public stand on Marc Gafni with our Change.org petition. The outpouring of support and particularly the stories shared in the comments section have been heartwarming.

The petition helped spark dozens of media pieces. Many leaders and organizations have disassociated from Marc. We are definitely making progress in preventing future harm!

However, Marc is still attracting followers, partly due to ongoing support from several key leaders, particularly Ken Wilber. Ken’s endorsements of Gafni and discrediting of the victims’s testimonies have given Gafni the credibility and prominence he’s needed to rise as a spiritual teacher despite his scandal-ridden history. Wilber needs to be motivated to break his silence and disavow his longtime alliance with Gafni, in order to help dismantle Gafni’s network of support and his ability to do future harm.

I'm writing today to ask for your help in putting pressure on Wilber, who remains one of the most prominent public defenders who has not broken with Marc.

Wilber is scheduled as a presenter at the Wisdom 2.0 conference Feb. 20-22 and we feel that conference producers should know that Wilber is enabling a serial abuser and thus should not be featured at this gathering of more than 3000 high tech and spiritual leaders.

Could you take a minute and forward the below note (personalized however you see fit) to the conference organizers at sgordhamer@gmail.com and cat@wisdom2conference.com

RE: Raising my concern about Ken Wilber as a presenter

Dear Wisdom 2.0 producers,

Please add my voice to the many raising grave concern about the damage you will do by featuring Ken Wilber as a presenter in your upcoming conference. I am asking that you please remove him as a presenter for his protection of serial abuser Marc Gafni. Protecting a serial abuser and enabling him to hurt more people is not the kind of conduct that is worthy of a Wisdom 2.0 presenter, much less a trusted spiritual leader. It is essential that we hold our spiritual leaders accountable and that Wilber is held accountable for his support of Gafni. Associating him with the quality of programming expected of Wisdom 2.0 cheapens and discredits your important work.

I am a signatory to a Change.org petition signed by more than 100 Rabbis and Jewish cultural leaders strongly warned people about our knowledge of activities of Marc Gafni, who has left a trail of decades of sexual abuse, lying, plagiarism, and betrayals of trust. More than 3000 others have joined us, many with direct testimonials you can read in the comments.

Gafni has recently been called a "New Age Cosby" in the Huffington Post. There have been more than 30 public articles about him in the last five weeks, including in the New York Times, HuffingtonPost, New York Daily News, Alternet, Forward, Tablet, Jewish Week, Times of Israel, Haaretz, and Religious News Service.

Several victims have also gone forward with their direct testimonials in recent weeks, including two who were underage when molested and his third wife, who is as yet anonymous. In addition, male spiritual leaders who were once friends and allies of Gafni have written about how they were manipulated by him, and why they no longer support him.

Here's a list of all the known pieces to date: http://integral-options.blogspot.com/2016/01/a-regularly-updated-list-of-current.html

Despite this extensive media coverage, Ken Wilber remains one of Gafni's most prominent defenders and enablers, as a co-founder of the Center for Integral Wisdom with him. Over the years he has issued several public statements such as this one, http://www.marcgafni.com/resp/on-controversy-by-sally-kempton-and-ken-wilber/, in which he praises Gafni and discredits the people brave enough to tell the truth about Gafni’s abuse.

Wilber claims to have researched Gafni's past and found nothing worse than him being an "insensitive boyfriend," a comment in the New York Times article that was devastating and infuriating to Gafni's many victims who have experienced severe trauma.

We understand that Wilber has actually been privy to many direct testimonies and in-depth allegations and seems to have chosen to minimize this history publicly to protect Gafni. I join with my fellow signatories in calling for you to investigate this matter and to dismiss Wilber from your program unless he makes a public disassociation and repudiation of Gafni.

We cannot risk having more lives traumatized.

Warmly,
X

Thank you all for your courage and for your commitment to ending ending this abuse, once and for all.

In solidarity and blessing,

Rabbi David Ingber

"But though the crimes committed by both Olmert and Katzav provide a not very attractive portrait of some members of the country’s leading politicians, Israel’s supporters should actually take some grim satisfaction from their humiliation...."

What the Rule of Law Looks Like
 
olmert
Ehud Olmert - The Ugly Face of Israeli Politicians

On Monday, Israelis were treated to the awful spectacle of a former prime minister starting a jail sentence. After a drawn out appeals process, Ehud Olmert, who served as Israel’s leader from 2006 to 2009, began serving a 19-month sentence on corruption charges. He’ll be housed in a special wing of one of the country’s largest prisons along with the other white-collar criminals that can be trusted to live with a man that was privy to the country’s national security secrets. Among the few prisoners who fit into that category is Moshe Katzav, who is serving out a sentence for rape.

The idea that a former prime minister and president are currently doing time is a discouraging one for the Jewish state and its friends. But though the crimes committed by both Olmert and Katzav provide a not very attractive portrait of some members of the country’s leading politicians, Israel’s supporters should actually take some grim satisfaction from their humiliation. Say what you want about the intemperate and sometimes downright crazy nature of Israeli politics, as well as the unfortunate tone of much of its discourse or the not particularly elevated nature of its popular culture. What happened to Olmert proves that, for all of its flaws, Israel is a country where the rule of law still reigns supreme.

Olmert is a product of the generation that came just after Israel’s founders and the contrast between his behavior and his predecessors speaks volumes. Whereas men like David Ben Gurion and Menachem Begin lived simply, if not as ascetics, Olmert always lived large. And in contrast to many of his colleagues who spent their formative years in senior military positions (or his successor Benjamin Netanyahu, who had been a commando as a young man and then served in diplomatic posts until getting elected to the Knesset), Olmert was a hotshot lawyer and political fixer. Like other American journalists who met and interviewed him, I always thought that unlike most top Israeli politicians, Olmert seemed to be a very familiar type and would have fit in nicely in any urban political machine in the United States.

It is interesting that, even as he entered jail, Olmert was not only still denying his guilt but also claiming that his downfall was a political conspiracy. His intention is to muddy the waters of public opinion to rebuild his tarnished legacy. That is, of course, nonsense. If anything, the pace of the investigation of his crimes while serving as mayor of Jerusalem was slowed by the fact that he was pushing ahead with the peace process and some in the judicial establishment were loath to disrupt his administration because of ethical lapses. Indeed, there were many in Israel that thought the investigations of Ariel Sharon’s sons’ dubious ethical behavior (which eventually led to a corruption conviction for one of them) was also held back because of his decision to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza as he began his journey from the right to the center.

Olmert’s claims that the corruption case unfairly ended his political career are also absurd. Though he entered office on the coat tails of the fallen Sharon after the former general was stricken by illness, Olmert was among Israel’s least popular prime ministers. His disastrous conduct of the 2006 Lebanon War sealed his political fate and, even a year later when I saw him in his office, he was in full bunker mode. At that point, his poll ratings were in the single digits — actually within the pollsters’ margin of error — leading some wags to question whether anybody, including the prime minister’s wife, actually approved of his conduct in office. But as a former Likudnik who joined the peace camp, Olmert remained popular with American liberals and is, no doubt, hoping he can resume getting lucrative speaking fees from credulous Jewish groups after he is eventually sprung from jail.

But the real lesson about Olmert is not so much about his future prospects as it is about the triumph of justice. Olmert’s attitude toward his transgressions was the same we hear from a lot of American politicians who are caught behaving badly: everybody does it. His routine corruption and confidence that he could bribe witnesses into silence (for which he was also convicted) are depressingly familiar. But despite all the factors that might have led Israeli prosecutors into giving him a pass, they pressed ahead and, despite the difficulties of nailing an influential and wealthy individual who could afford a top defense team, they won.

The contrast between Israeli law and what goes on in the Palestinian territories is instructive. The Palestinian Authority is a notorious kleptocracy as Fatah officials run the West Bank in a manner more befitting mafia chieftains than political leaders. PA President Mahmoud Abbas is, after all, currently serving the 11th year of the four-year term to which he was elected in 2005.

But we don’t have to compare Israel to the Palestinians or the corruption of other neighboring Arab countries where the rule of law is a myth. Americans need to remember how we give some of our leaders a pass when it comes to breaking the law. President Bill Clinton’s perjury under oath was excused as just being about sex. His wife Hillary’s blatant violations of U.S. security regulations for handling classified and top secret material would land any lesser being than the former secretary of state and likely Democratic Party presidential nominee in jail. Indeed, many in the security apparatus, even famous people, have been disgraced for less. Just ask former general and CIA director David Petraeus if you don’t believe me.

Yet there aren’t many who think the hold of the rule of law in this country is strong enough for the administration to give Mrs. Clinton the same treatment others receive. I don’t think Hillary Clinton must go to jail in order for Americans to be able to claim that their judicial system is as impartial as that of Israel. But if she gets a pass for law breaking, it will be a blot on the honor of the Justice Department.

American justice is generally the envy of the world, and we know that of Israel is imperfect. But the sight of Olmert heading to jail where he’ll share a cellblock with Katzav is a reminder of the Jewish state’s high standards and ability to treat the mighty as being just as accountable as the marginal. When the dust settles on the Clinton email scandal, let’s hope Americans can say as much of their justice system.

https://www.commentarymagazine.com/foreign-policy/middle-east/israel/rule-law-looks-like/

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Apple vs the FBI: Why is Apple so upset? Giving up our freedoms (Fourth Amendment), or keeping us safe?

Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment originally enforced the notion that “each man’s home is his castle”, secure from unreasonable searches and seizures of property by the government.  It protects against arbitrary arrests, and is the basis of the law regarding search warrants, stop-and-frisk, safety inspections, wiretaps, and other forms of surveillance, as well as being central to many other criminal law topics and to privacy law.



 

February 16, 2016 A Message to Our Customers 

 

The United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers. We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand. 

This moment calls for public discussion, and we want our customers and people around the country to understand what is at stake.

The Need for Encryption

Smartphones, led by iPhone, have become an essential part of our lives. People use them to store an incredible amount of personal information, from our private conversations to our photos, our music, our notes, our calendars and contacts, our financial information and health data, even where we have been and where we are going.

All that information needs to be protected from hackers and criminals who want to access it, steal it, and use it without our knowledge or permission. Customers expect Apple and other technology companies to do everything in our power to protect their personal information, and at Apple we are deeply committed to safeguarding their data.

Compromising the security of our personal information can ultimately put our personal safety at risk. That is why encryption has become so important to all of us.

For many years, we have used encryption to protect our customers’ personal data because we believe it’s the only way to keep their information safe. We have even put that data out of our own reach, because we believe the contents of your iPhone are none of our business.

The San Bernardino Case

We were shocked and outraged by the deadly act of terrorism in San Bernardino last December. We mourn the loss of life and want justice for all those whose lives were affected. The FBI asked us for help in the days following the attack, and we have worked hard to support the government’s efforts to solve this horrible crime. We have no sympathy for terrorists.

When the FBI has requested data that’s in our possession, we have provided it. Apple complies with valid subpoenas and search warrants, as we have in the San Bernardino case. We have also made Apple engineers available to advise the FBI, and we’ve offered our best ideas on a number of investigative options at their disposal.

We have great respect for the professionals at the FBI, and we believe their intentions are good. Up to this point, we have done everything that is both within our power and within the law to help them. But now the U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone.

Specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation. In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.

The FBI may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor. And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control.

The Threat to Data Security

Some would argue that building a backdoor for just one iPhone is a simple, clean-cut solution. But it ignores both the basics of digital security and the significance of what the government is demanding in this case.

In today’s digital world, the “key” to an encrypted system is a piece of information that unlocks the data, and it is only as secure as the protections around it. Once the information is known, or a way to bypass the code is revealed, the encryption can be defeated by anyone with that knowledge.
The government suggests this tool could only be used once, on one phone. But that’s simply not true. Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices. In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks — from restaurants and banks to stores and homes. No reasonable person would find that acceptable.

The government is asking Apple to hack our own users and undermine decades of security advancements that protect our customers — including tens of millions of American citizens — from sophisticated hackers and cybercriminals. The same engineers who built strong encryption into the iPhone to protect our users would, ironically, be ordered to weaken those protections and make our users less safe.

We can find no precedent for an American company being forced to expose its customers to a greater risk of attack. For years, cryptologists and national security experts have been warning against weakening encryption. Doing so would hurt only the well-meaning and law-abiding citizens who rely on companies like Apple to protect their data. Criminals and bad actors will still encrypt, using tools that are readily available to them.

A Dangerous Precedent

Rather than asking for legislative action through Congress, the FBI is proposing an unprecedented use of the All Writs Act of 1789 to justify an expansion of its authority.

The government would have us remove security features and add new capabilities to the operating system, allowing a passcode to be input electronically. This would make it easier to unlock an iPhone by “brute force,” trying thousands or millions of combinations with the speed of a modern computer.
The implications of the government’s demands are chilling. If the government can use the All Writs Act to make it easier to unlock your iPhone, it would have the power to reach into anyone’s device to capture their data. The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge.

Opposing this order is not something we take lightly. We feel we must speak up in the face of what we see as an overreach by the U.S. government.

We are challenging the FBI’s demands with the deepest respect for American democracy and a love of our country. We believe it would be in the best interest of everyone to step back and consider the implications.

While we believe the FBI’s intentions are good, it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products. And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.

Tim Cook

http://www.apple.com/customer-letter/

Apple vs the FBI: Why is Apple so upset?

by
AppleFBI
We take a closer look at Apple's clash with the FBI to see exactly what's got Tim Cook and co. so upset.

The ongoing fight between companies and authorities over encryption reached new heights this week as it was revealed that Apple has been asked by the FBI to essentially build a backdoor into iPhone software.

Apple CEO Tim Cook's open letter, published on the Apple website, lays out exactly what the firm has been ordered to do and calls for a public discussion on the matter of encryption.

But for many, especially those outside the tech community, this conversation can seem impenetrable, making a public discussion that much more difficult to foster.

It seems then, that we could all do with a bit of a refresher on the matter at hand, so as to prime ourselves for the impending discussion. Here's a rundown of the situation as it stands.


What exactly has Apple been ordered to do?

In December 2015, a married couple living in Redlands, California attacked a training event held by the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health. 14 people were killed and 22 were injured in the terrorist shooting.

Following the event, an FBI investigation turned up an iPhone belonging to Syed Farook, one of the perpetrators. A US Federal judge then ordered Apple to provide investigators with access to the phone's encrypted data, which according to the court papers, the firm 'declined to provide voluntarily'.

The court filing specifically refers to Farook's iCloud account. Prosecutors say he seems to have disabled the iCloud data feature a month and a half before the shooting, leaving investigators unable to access evidence that only resides on the phone and has not been backed up to the cloud.

After the court order was issued, Apple CEO Tim Cook posted an open letter explaining the company's opposition to the ruling. In it, he describes the government's demands as follows:



TimCookQuote1

One of these security features which the FBI wants disabled is one which deletes all the user data after a certain amount of failed passcode entries. Investigators risk losing all the information on Farook's phone if they continue to try to guess the passcode incorrectly, hence why they want that particular feature disabled.

If Apple is unable to disable the auto-erase function, the court order states that the firm should create software that enables them to do so.

Apple has been given five days to respond.

Why is this a big deal?

The debate over data encryption and when, or even if, authorities should have the right to order its removal, has been going for some time. Tensions have somewhat increased since the Edward Snowden revelations which exposed massive government surveillance in both the United States and UK.

Apple's latest run-in with the authorities therefore seems more salient than it would have even five or so years ago, especially as companies, including Apple, ramped up their security features in the wake of the Snowden leaks.

Read much more:
http://www.trustedreviews.com/opinions/apple-government-letter-san-bernardino-encryption