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Dismayed by Bernie Sanders’ Comments

Dear Editor;

The American Jewish Congress is dismayed and deeply perplexed by Senator Bernie Sanders’ comments at the J Street Conference. Senator Sanders not only reiterated his pledge to use the US security aid to Israel as “leverage” to pressure our ally, but he also showed a concerning lack of understanding of the real impediments to peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While Senator Sanders surrounds himself with individuals that have publicly expressed anti-Israel bias and rhetoric, he seems more inclined to embrace positions that are uninformed, misguided, and that disregard the viewpoints of the majority of the American people.

Senator Sanders referred to Israel in his speech and stated that “if you want military aid, you are going to have to fundamentally change your relationship with the people of Gaza.” He also added that he believes “it is fair to think that some of that $3.8 billion [US aid to Israel] should go to humanitarian aid to Gaza.”

In his position, Senator Sanders diverges from the overwhelming bipartisan and bicameral majority in Congress, as well as the overwhelming majority of Americans that have historically favored a robust security aid to Israel. The aid helps our close ally to defend itself against multiple threats in the Middle East and to remain a point of stability in the turbulent region. Aid to Israel, which supports Israel’s missile defense system, contributes to protecting the lives of innocent civilians from rockets fired into Israel from Gaza. At the same time, this aid serves the interest of the United States. As the US presence in Syria is diminishing, a safe and strong Israel is key in containing Iran and preventing its further entrenchment and expansionism in the country. Israel is also pivotal in keeping in check other malevolent actors in the region, including Hezbollah, the Assad regime, and the remnants of ISIS.

In his speech, Senator Sanders fails to mention and condemn the destructive role of Hamas, the US-designated terrorist organization, which governs Gaza. Hamas denies Israel’s right to exist and is responsible for firing thousands of rockets at Israel. Hamas’ record with the Palestinians is not much better. In fact, Hamas represses dissent and beats protestors and the Palestinians that it claims to represent, all while instigating riots and violence toward Israelis.

The situation in Gaza should be improved, but humanitarian aid has been previously squandered by Hamas. Assistance provided to the Gaza Strip to improve the life and wellbeing of Palestinians has been continuously directed by Hamas towards the acquisition of rockets used against innocent Israelis, and towards building terror tunnels that infiltrate into Israeli territory. Our elected officials should criticize and be vigilant against human rights violations, including from our allies. But this zealousness in criticizing Israel for the situation, while neglecting the actual rulers of Gaza, is not justifiable.

Sincerely,

Jack Rosen
President
American Jewish Congress


NYC Subways Celebrate 115th Anniversary

Dear Editor:

Riding the old 1904 subway cars between Times Square and 96th Street was a great way to celebrate the 115th Anniversary NYC Subway System! On October 27, 1904, the Interborough Rapid Transit company opened the first subway line. It ran 9 miles from City Hall uptown on the eastside across 42nd Street (today’s 42nd Street Shuttle) to Times Square and proceeded uptown to 145th Street and included 28 stations. Over 150,000 riders payed a five cent fare. The original BMT (Brooklyn Manhattan Rapid Transit – today’s B,D,J,M, N,Q, R, W & Z lines) and IRT (Interboro Rapid Transit–1,2,3,4,5,6,7, Franklin Ave and Times Square shuttles) subway systems were constructed and managed by the private sector with no government operating subsidies.

Financial viability was 100% dependent upon farebox revenues. They supported both development and economic growth of neighborhoods in the boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx and Queens. As part of the franchise agreement which owners had to sign, City Hall had direct control over the fare structure. For a time, owners actually make a profit with a five cent fare. After two decades passed, the costs of salaries, maintenance, power, supplies and equipment would pressure owners to ask City Hall for permission to raise the fares.

This additional revenue was needed to keep up with maintaining a good state of repair, increase the frequency of service, purchase new subway cars, pay employee salary increases and support planned system expansion. Politicians more interested in the next reelection ( and subscribing to the old Roman philosophy of free bread and circuses) refused this request for over a decade. Owners of both systems looked elsewhere to reduce costs and stay in business. They started curtailing basic maintenance, delayed purchases of new subway cars, postponed employee salary increases, canceled planned system expansion and cut corners to survive. (Does any of this sound familiar from the present?)

In 1932, NYC began building and financing construction of the new IND (Independent Subway – today’s A,C,E,F & G lines). This new municipal system subsidized by taxpayers dollars would provide direct competition to both the IRT and BMT. Municipal government forced them into economic ruin by denying them fare increases that would have provided access to additional needed revenues.

Big Brother, just like the Godfather, made them an offer they couldn’t refuse. The owners folded in 1940 and sold out to City Hall.

Sincerely.

Larry Penner

(Larry Penner is a transportation historian, writer and advocate who previously worked 31 years for the United States Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for billions in capital projects and programs for the MTA, NYC Transit, Long Island Rail Road, Metro North Rail Road MTA Bus along with 30 other transit agencies in NY & NJ).


Wants Swedish Conference on Anti-Semitism Cancelled

Dear Editor:

Upon learning that the Swedish government permitted a recent neo-Nazi rally in Raoul Wallenberg Square, near the city’s Great Synagogue, The Simon Wiesenthal Center (“SWC”), a leading Jewish Human Rights NGO dedicated to sharing the lessons of the Nazi Holocaust, is calling on Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven to cancel his country’s plans to host an international conference against anti-Semitism next year in Malmo, Sweden.

“The signals that Sweden’s politicians and police are consistently sending to the country’s tiny Jewish community is that inaction, apathy, and worse will continue unabated”, charged Rabbi Abraham Cooper, SWC Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda.

“When neo-Nazis forced the closure of a Jewish community center in Umea, authorities did nothing,” Cooper added. “For nearly a decade, the City of Malmo failed to prosecute a single case of anti-Semitism despite hundreds of incidents targeting the local Rabbi. Sweden’s respected Karolinska Hospital has failed to protect Jewish doctors from discrimination. Now, Nazis are permitted to gather and protest near Stockholm’s historic synagogue in a square named in honor of Raoul Wallenberg, the hero who saved tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews during the Nazi Holocaust.

“Synagogues continue to face violent attacks and threats in Europe and U.S., yet Swedish authorities continue to permit Nazis to gather in sight of the main Jewish house of prayer in the capital of its country. So the world knows that Sweden protects the rights of its neo-Nazis to gather, march, and threaten. Until it shows that it respects and protects its Jewish citizens and institutions – under grave threat from neo-Nazis and Islamist extremists — Sweden has no right to score cheap PR points by convening a conference ‘bemoaning’ anti-Semitism.”

Sincerely

The Simon Wiesenthal Center

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