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Stuart Eisenstat To Speak At Micah On December 9

"There has never been a time when it is better to be Jewish."So writes Stuart Eisenstat in his new book, The Future of the Jews: How Global Forces are Impacting the Jewish People, Israel, and Its Relationship with the United States. Eisenstat will be speaking at Temple Micah on Sunday, December 9th at 10 a.m. about his latest work and to answer questions about the wide range of topics featured in his book.

Eisenstat, a partner in the Covington & Burling law firm in Washington, served in the 1990s as President Clinton's Special Envoy investigating Holocaust property claims in Central and Eastern Europe. He also served as the United States Ambassador to the European Union, and as President Clinton's Deputy Secretary of the Treasury and Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade.

"I lost relatives of my own in the Holocaust, and I have strong identification with the Jewish community," explains Eisenstat in the Harvard Law Bulletin. "I felt if the U.S. government wanted to initiate a historic effort to do justice, however belated, in the area and I was being asked to take a leadership role, I could not turn down the opportunity."His efforts culminated in hundreds of millions of dollars in restitution to Holocaust survivors and their heirs throughout the world.

Rather than continuing his focus on the past as he did in his first book, Imperfect Justice: Looted Assets, Slave Labor, and the Unfinished Business of World War II, Eisenstat looks ahead in his current work to the most important forces shaping twenty-first century Jewry. His major theme is globalization: vast amounts of capital goods, services, data and people moving across national boundaries at speeds unrivaled in history. In Eisenstat's view, Jews in Israel and the Diaspora are confronting the daunting global challenges from positions of strength. For the first time in two millennia, Jews are no longer isolated from the family of nations.

Israel, asserts Eisenstat, is an example of how a free-market economy can flourish, relying on entrepreneurial activity, an educated public, and high-tech research. It is a major regional power, and the dominant economic, military and technological force in the Middle East today. Israel's success is a product of market reforms and careful monetary leadership that has propelled the Jewish state in one generation from a sleepy, state-dominated economy to its status as one of the world's thirty-four wealthiest democratic nations, fully integrated into the global economy. A more integrated world, he claims in his book, is ultimately a safer world, including, of course, for Israel and the Jewish people.

And yet there are risks of globalization. One of the clearest examples is the financial crisis that began in the United States in 2008 and then spread, claiming both nations and individuals as victims. Job losses have been truly global with some 50 million people laid off worldwide. Anti-immigration demonstrations have spread throughout Europe in response to the economic hardships. Eisenstat asserts that at a superficial level, European Jews can feel relieved that it is Muslims, not Jews, who are the prime subjects of this public discontent. But at a more profound level, the growth of far-right, populist fervor can only make Jews a potential target. Jewish leaders should speak out against attacks on any other minority, urges Eisenstat, following so many centuries in which Jews were the targets of persecution for being "different."

Eisenstat goes on to warn that the most immediate and dangerous global challenge is the spread of nuclear weapons technology. And by far the greatest threat to the world in general, and to Israel in particular, would be for nuclear arms to get into the hands of Iran. Iran's drive for nuclear weapons is not only the paramount threat to the security of Israel, but poses an equal danger to the U.S. and Europe, as well as the west's moderate Arab allies. Armed with nuclear weapons, Iran might embolden the more radical Middle Eastern nations and their terrorist clients, Hezbollah and Hamas.

The principle question remaining, writes Eisenstat, is whether Iranian scientists and engineers have the technological sophistication to design and build a bomb.

He believes the answer is yes. He also believes that Iran wants to master all the steps to build a nuclear weapon, including the ability to pack a nuclear device on top of a missile that can reach Israel and parts of Europe and the Gulf States. But he believes Iran will stop just short of actively building and testing a nuclear device. "At this point," Eisenstat believes, "the Iranian goal is `nuclear capability,' not a nuclear bomb."

"When I met with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad at the 2012 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, he seemed resigned that the Iranian nuclear crisis had sidelined the Israeli-Palestinian peace process," Eisenstat writes. Though this indeed seems to be the case, he believes that a constant conversation related to policies on key issues between the U.S. and Israel must continue. For Israel, peace is a national security imperative. The major obstacle to a final Israeli-Palestinian agreement remains the unwillingness of the Palestinians and others in the Arab world to finally and fully come to terms with the reality of a Jewish state in their midst--within any boundaries.

As for Israel, according to Eisenstat, permanent control of too much territory with a hostile population is futile and self-defeating, leading to increasingly repressive measures to maintain control. And inside Israel's borders, a demographic nightmare threatens the democratic Jewish character of the state. A negotiated settlement with the Palestinians is in Israel's national security, he writes. Without a two-state peace settlement, Israel's status as a democracy with a substantial Jewish majority could be at risk.

Eisenstat remains optimistic regarding the future of the Jews. While historically, change has been threatening to world Jewry, Eisenstat views the age of globalization and digital revolution as a net positive for Israel, America, and the Jewish people. An interconnected and interdependent world can make the Jewish state and Jewish people safer. What is unique today, when compared to any other time in Jewish history, is a combination of a Jewish Diaspora firmly entrenched in the mainstream of their countries and protected by a rule of law, and a strong Jewish sovereign nation able to defend itself against all foes. Eisenstat writes that along with these political realities is an almost mystical sense of Jewish peoplehood that attaches Jews to each other in whatever place or circumstance they meet.

by Ed Grossman last modified 11-09-2012 12:35 AM — expired
Contributors: [By Francie Schwartz; from November-December 2012 Vine]

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