Secret Agency?

In "Giving 'Til It Hurts" (Oct.), Barry Chamish exposes, with devastating effect, the scam that the UJA has become—a scam especially painful to watch as the peoples of Eastern Europe cast off the socialist tyrannies that destroyed their economies. How long will it be until Israel is forced to follow the Polish model of shock therapy?

Arnon Siegel
Washington, DC

There is no resemblance between the organization described in Barry Chamish's article and the Jewish Agency.

Mr. Chamish asserts that "rarely does anyone take a close look at what happens once [UJA money] gets to Israel." The Jewish Agency budget is open to public audit and controlled by a staff of nonpaid laymen and professionals from throughout the world, as well as by the Jewish Agency comptroller. Jewish Agency policy and practice is to have balanced budgets.

Mr. Chamish's allegations regarding "high personnel costs" are inaccurate. In the current fiscal year, $49 million of the $877 million budget was for salaries—less than 6 percent. Jewish Agency salaries are far from "generous" or even "good."

Mr. Chamish writes that the Jewish Agency employs "more than 700 emissaries sent to cities around the world to convince Jews to immigrate to Israel" who are paid by "American donors to the UJA and other organizations." The World Zionist Organization (not the Jewish Agency) maintains a total of 540 emissaries (shlichim) throughout the Western world, but over 90 percent of these are teachers in formal and informal Jewish education. None is paid by American money. Most Jewish Agency immigration emissaries are in the Soviet Union, Ethiopia, and transit stations in Eastern Europe, and the vast majority of the Jewish Agency's immigration budget is invested in Soviet immigrants.

We challenge Mr. Chamish to substantiate his claim regarding an emissary in Glasgow "who dealt with no more than 12 immigrants and was making spare cash on the side through speaking engagements."

We know of no war-hero general kept at an unwanted post with a secretary because of labor laws. There is a general who occupies an essential position as head of the WZO Information Department. Surely Mr. Chamish cannot be referring to this individual. Likewise, there is no editor in the Jewish Agency who earns a salary for a journal that has ceased publication. There is a full-time editor employed for the Jewish house publication who formerly edited another Jewish Agency publication.

There is no truth to the claim that the Israel government borrows aid money from the UJA in order to cover its debts.

Mr. Chamish asserts that "not one penny [of the $1.2 billion collected by the UJA] will be used to create jobs.…A lot of the money will be used to build homes for immigrants. This work will be supervised by Housing Minister Ariel Sharon." No money which the Jewish Agency receives is spent by the government or on government functions. It is a grave misrepresentation to suggest that UJA or Jewish Agency money ends up in government coffers or projects.

Moreover, the assertion that money will not create jobs is false. Though the main mission of the Jewish Agency is to bring immigrants to Israel, the Jewish Agency also supports vocational training and programs that help create jobs for new immigrants and disadvantaged Israelis. Training and employment programs have been set up for new immigrants with many of Israel's leading firms.

Mr. Chamish criticizes certain Project Renewal undertakings, such as the construction of a community center in Gan Yavne by the Winnipeg community. Mr. Chamish remarks that Gan Yavne "resembles Scarsdale" and that "it is the least deserving recipient of foreign aid imaginable." When the Gan Yavne project began in 1980, the area was truly deprived. The "community center" at that time was housed in an abandoned Arab building, all of 150 square meters, situated in a slum. If years later, at the time of the dedication ceremony for the new community center, Gan Yavne's houses looked nice because they were spruced up as part of the project and happened to be situated in rural surroundings, then this just attests to the success of the project.

Yehuda Weintraub
Director of Foreign Press Relations
Jewish Agency for Israel

Jenni Rothfield
Director of Public Information
Jewish Agency for Israel
New York, NY

Mr. Chamish replies: Rothfield and Weintraub claim that the finances of the Jewish Agency are open, and they imply that the organization has nothing to hide. Others disagree. Charles Hoffman, who covered the agency for years as a Jerusalem Post reporter, is one of the few outside observers to actually plow through hundreds of pages of Jewish Agency obfuscation. In his 1989 book, The Smoke Screen, he writes that he discovered "inefficiency, waste, duplication, mismanagement, political patronage and corruption, fiscal irresponsibility, incompetence, distorted priorities." Gideon Samet, a senior editor at Haaretz, describes the agency as "superfluous, wasteful, bloated and cut off from reality."

My article acknowledged that most agency personnel are poorly paid; my complaint is about the cushy jobs of some officials.

Balanced budgets may be the Jewish Agency's policy, but they are not its practice. In 1988, the agency debt was $450 million; in 1991, another $100 million was added to the debt.

My figure for the number of emissaries worldwide came from Hoffman's book, and the number may have changed somewhat since 1989. But it matters little whether they are employed by the WZO or the Jewish Agency, since these are essentially the same organization, funded by donations from Jews throughout the world. Similarly, I do not understand Rothfield and Weintraub's emphasis on the absence of American money. Is it OK to waste non-American money? In 1987, the Katz Report, commissioned by the Jewish Agency, concluded that shlichim cost more than they're worth.

My source for the information on the emissary in Glasgow was the emissary himself.

I never said that the ex-general and the editor do not have impressive titles, only that their jobs are unnecessary.

Weintraub and Rothfield claim the Jewish Agency is separate from the government and none of its money helps cover the national debt. In a June 1991 study for the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, Yakir Plessner writes: "The public sector comprises the government and the Jewish Agency. Here infusion occurs either because of deficits not financed by borrowing or because of debt retirement not financed by reborrowing. Foreign exchange transactions affect the monetary base because most of them involve eventually the Bank of Israel, which prints high-powered money." UJA money is counted as foreign income, allowing the government to print more currency.

In February 1991, $750 million of UJA funds aimed at Soviet absorption were turned from a grant into collateral for loans at Israeli banks. Since the government owns 90 percent of Israeli banking, the interest on the loans will be used to cover the national debt. One member of the Knesset quoted in The Jerusalem Post called this arrangement "borrowing from the UJA."

Rothfield and Weintraub say the Jewish Agency places immigrants with existing companies. But these firms are usually enticed with salary subsidies, and, as Joel Bainerman notes in The Jerusalem Post, "once the subsidy ends, so often does the job."

I agree that the Jewish Agency does some good work, and bringing Soviet and Ethiopian immigrants to Israel falls into that category. It's what happens to them when they arrive in Israel that concerns me. In 1991, 400,000 to 600,000 Soviet Jews were expected, but only a third of that number actually immigrated. The other two-thirds canceled their plans after reading letters from relatives and friends already in Israel. They were warned that there is nothing but menial work available and that housing is shoddy and far from centers of employment.

As for the Ethiopians, Ran Kislev recently wrote a series of articles in Haaretz criticizing the Jewish Agency for policies that have led to the destruction of the Ethiopian social and spiritual fabric and the creation of black ghettos within a number of Israeli cities. Neither immigrant group needs Jewish Agency patronage or paternalism. They need jobs.

Chemical Dependency

Peter Huber performs a valuable service in revealing the unscrupulous liability claims made by some litigants ("Quack Attack," Oct.). Certainly we do not want persons or corporations blamed for effects which they did not cause.

We do know, however, from chaos theory (the butterfly effect) that small causes can have unexpectedly large consequences. The fact that absolutely any two events are somehow connected must be considered axiomatic. It is only the degree of connection which can be a matter of dispute. Law, which decides guilt or innocence, reflects this reality poorly.

Articles that poke derision at the suffering of the people who are chemically sensitive also reflect this reality poorly. Did we not protest, mostly on their behalf, the indiscriminate spraying of malathion by the government over the city of Los Angeles? There are causes, there are connections, there are symptoms, and there should be at least some liabilities—or else responsibility has lost its meaning.

The chemically sensitive, though derided as charlatans and neurotics by Mr. Huber, actually do suffer. Are we naively to take the word of the medical establishment, itself in the pocket of the drug companies, to the contrary? What kind of authority is that?

Drug companies and conventional doctors want people to be dependent on overpriced prescription drugs and invasive surgery. They have an institutionally vested interest in keeping people from knowing about cheap but safe and effective remedies like garlic and exercise to lower cholesterol and marijuana to alleviate glaucoma and asthma. They are among the forces on the wrong side of the drug war, which is in many ways a civil war between government-administered drugs and self-administered drugs. And they are certainly not capable of an impartial judgment as to whether they have made the citizenry healthier or sicker. Yet Mr. Huber relies upon their judgment.

What puzzles me is this: What does this cheering for government-entwined big business and establishment medicine have to do with "free minds and free markets"?

Neal Donner
Los Angeles, CA

Though I haven't read Galileo's Revenge, I've read the excerpts you published and attended a recent talk Peter Huber gave in New York. As an advocate of fully informed juries and a scientist often on the unorthodox side of issues, I'm disappointed by his conclusions. Judge-chosen expert advice is a good idea, but should be in addition to, not instead of, partisan expert testimony—and the latter ought not be screened by law.

Today's official science is far from the neutral fact forum promoted by K. Eric Drexler and Arthur Kantrowitz. Readers of REASON should be well aware of how politics has corrupted science conducted or funded by government, entrenching phony ideas supporting fear of chemicals and addiction. Even in independent science journals, there's a sort of "politics" affecting what gets in print.

Refereed journals also, just like newspapers, have a bias toward publishing "Man Bites Dog," the sensational instead of the mundane. So I can't abide a recommendation of privilege for the "scientifically correct."

We need to uncorrupt both science and society in general. We need substantive tort reforms and procedural reforms. We need to pay attention to critics such as Walter Olson ("No Secrets," Feb. 1991).

But even all these won't prevent some juries from being swung by some loopy scientific testimony as to causation, and I recognize that the cost can be enormous. Still, I'd rather have a quack and an opposing "hired gun" argue it out than have the jury hear only from the Food and Drug Administration.

Robert Goodman
Bronx, NY

Mr. Huber replies: Some people—allergics, for example—really do suffer more than others from chemical exposures. And I agree wholeheartedly that liability, properly placed, is an essential part of free markets. What we need is a process that steers us reliably toward the real causes of real symptoms. It is very doubtful, however, that we can improve on the science of the American Academy of Allergy and Immunology, imperfect though that science surely is, by rounding up groups of 12 stout citizens to vote on whether carpet fumes cause "chemically induced AIDS."

A courtroom is not a market, jurors don't have their own money on the table when they vote, and when they vote against you what arrives next at your doorstep is the sheriff, not a catalog from Land's End. A government willing to levy fines, penalties, liabilities, or anything else on the strength of pseudoscience is a threat to free minds and free markets alike. Even if it calls itself a court.

Codes of Silence?

I was surprised that Nat Hentoff missed the free-market answer to the problem of political correctness ("The New Jacobins," Nov.). If the employees and customers (students) of the offensive universities were to take their skills and purchasing power elsewhere and demand free-speech universities, the market would create such institutions.

Other solutions create other problems. Does the Constitution require the Dallas Theological Seminary to provide on-campus recruiting opportunities to the Church of Satan (or vice versa)?

My right to unrestricted freedom of speech ends at the front door to your home or (if you own one) your university. The confusing problem is who owns a public university. The answer is everyone and therefore, in practice, no one. Those most skilled at manipulating "the system" end up in charge.

The real answer to political correctness requires courage, sacrifice, and a free market.

Jim Ober
Baton Rouge, LA

P.C. supporters claim that they only intend to ban hate speech. However, their real intent is to cram left-wing ideology down students' throats while outlawing the expression of contrary views by calling it "hate speech." After all, they realize that most of their "ideas" cannot withstand scrutiny, let alone criticism.

Arguing that the Dartmouth Review and other targets of the P.C. crowd should be protected even if they are bigoted and advocate racial violence is counterproductive, since it implies that the critics of political correctness are bigoted and advocate racial violence.

Quite the reverse is true. You could easily argue that the P.C. crowd advocates racial hatred and violence when they tell black people that they are entitled to privileged treatment now to make up for discrimination against their ancestors.

The best way to deal with this is to apply a "reasonable person" standard. Colleges should be allowed to ban speech that a reasonable person (not some P.C. professor) would consider harassment (racial epithets, threats, etc.), but they absolutely should not inhibit the discussion of important and controversial issues like affirmative action.

Frank E. Espohl
Cincinnati, OH

Nat Hentoff described the Stanford students who were on the panel at the seminar about safe speech as "bright, articulate, and firmly in favor of punishing speech for the greater good of civility on campus."

Bright? Articulate? Perhaps, but certainly not well-informed or very deep thinkers. I would call them semi-intellectual barbarians.

The world has been plagued for centuries by those who know they are right and will impose their beliefs on others. Unfortunately, they wouldn't know a fact or a principle if they fell over one.

If the do-gooders of this world were truly interested in solving problems, they wouldn't take these myopic, single-minded approaches. They seem far more interested in power or vengeance. Mr. Hentoff was too kind.

Dan Duffer
West Chester, PA

Choice Corrections

Your article in the October 1991 issue on parental choice in education ("Choice Challenges") was comprehensive and insightful. However, my affiliation in defending the Milwaukee and Epsom, New Hampshire, choice programs was misidentified. My work on those cases is for Landmark Legal Foundation, with which I was affiliated from 1988 to 1991 and remain so for these cases.

Clint Bolick
Vice President & Director of Litigation
Institute for Justice
Washington, DC