At this week's Jewish Community Relations Council meeting, Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford (on right in photo) certified that, following a scan he initiated, the state's entire investment portfolio is devoid of any holdings in companies conducting business with Iran including, but not limited to, oil, petroleum, and mineral-extraction activities.
The treasurer, who is leading a JUF mission to Israel later this spring, was a co-sponsor, during his tenure in the Illinois Senate, of the Iran divestment bill that led the state to divest some $133 million from foreign companies assisting Iran's sector.
The Associated Press reported The Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago played a key role in the passage of [that] 2007 Iran divestment law in Illinois. Jay Tcath of the group says the law required the state's pension funds to divest from Iran, but there was no such obligation placed upon state funds managed by the treasurer's office [and he praised the state treasurer for voluntarily following the principles of the law].
Meanwhile, JUF's JCRC, in partnership with local elected officials, also is spearheading efforts to have both Cook County and the City of Chicago divest from Iran, as well.
Yesterday, the Cook County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution calling for the county's pension funds to divest from companies doing business with Iran's energy sector. Skip Schrayer, Chairman of the JUF/JF Board of Directors, testified on behalf of the resolution, which was introduced and championed by Commissioner Bridget Gainer, who chairs the county's Finance-Pension Committee.
On March 19, the Chicago City Council's Commission on Human Relations will take up its own resolution, calling for similar action at the city's largest pension fund. JUF Board member Jason Friedman and several non-Jewish allies will testify on behalf of the resolution. JUF also is working with City Treasurer Stephanie D. Neely.
Campuses around the nation, including Illinois, are confronting the 8th annual Israel Apartheid Week, arranged by anti-Israel organizations such as Students for Justice in Palestine.
Apartheid weeks have included mock check-points meant to hassle students, apartheid walls erected to misrepresent Israel's anti-terror barrier, and speakers touring campuses calling for boycotts, divestment, and international sanctions against the Jewish State.
To provide the necessary resources for students to address anti-Israel activities, JUF's Israel Education Center developed "The Playbook," a detailed step-by-step guide to effective responses. It also is a comprehensive tool designed to motivate students to take back the conversation about Israel with tenacity, perseverance and professionalism.
In an effort to pre-empt Israel Apartheid Week activities, pro-Israel activists on campuses across Illinois decided on a different approach. Instead of responding, reacting or countering the rhetoric, students produced Israel Peace Week, their own series of events highlighting the Israel they know, love and defend. At the University of Illinois at Chicago, for example (photo at left), members of the ROTC cadet corps heard former Israeli soldiers discuss "The Ethics of the Israeli Army."
Since fall, pro-Israel students have reached out to their peers, building coalitions with other student groups, including Latino Cultural Associations, ROTCs, disability centers and others. They have invited them to join as allies in promoting everything Israel does for peace, even in the face of countless obstacles.
On the eve of Monday's White House meeting between Benjamin Netanyahu and President Obama, and their separate appearances at AIPAC's Policy Conference, attention is overwhelmingly focused on whether the leaders can find common ground on how best to deter Iran's nuclear program.
In a lengthy interview with The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg, Obama again stresses that the United States "has Israel's back," and will do whatever is necessary to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Sanctions, he said, are creating a "world of hurt," and can impact Iran's actions. "Without in any way being under an illusion about Iranian intentions, without in any way being naive about the nature of that regime, they are self-interested."
In a commentary in The New Republic, Yossi Klein Halevi says the fundamental question underlying Monday's meeting is "Can Israel trust the United States when it comes to Iran?" Beyond the current dynamic between the two nations and their leaders, Halevi says that question of trust is rooted in Israel's memory of commitments unfulfilled in May 1967, just weeks before the 1967 War.
Mousa Abu Marzouk, deputy political bureau chief of Hamas, has apparently fled to Egypt from Syria to avoid mounting violence in the area, according to Haaretz.
The paper reported that Abu Marzouk admitted that "Hamas still has offices in Syria, but acknowledged that 'practically, we are no longer in Syria because we couldn't practice our duties there.'"
In 2003, Abu Marzouk and two other men were indicted in Chicago on federal charges related to involvement in terrorism. Politico reported this week that a "spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Chicago said Sunday he believes the indictment of Abu Marzouk is still pending," but did not disclose any information about the possibility of bringing Abu Marzouk to stand trial.
Israel's acclaimed Batsheva Dance Company brings its North American tour to the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago March 17-18.
The performances, at 7:30 pm Saturday and 2 pm Sunday, will feature two works by the company's artistic director, Ohad Naharin: MAX and B/olero.
Tickets are available online, or by calling 800-982-2787.
As this dance group and this performance in particular have been targetted for a boycott by anti-Israel activists, in addition to the pure pleasure of enjoying Israel's finest dance troupe, ensuring that their performance is sold out and receeives an enthusiastic reception are additional reasons to attend.
The mission of JUF News Express is to provide timely information about issues and events in Israel and the wider Jewish world. JUF News Express connects members of the Chicago Jewish community to these issues and mobilizes them to take action. JUF News Express is a product of JUF's Jewish Community Relations Council and JUF News, and is published as a service to the community by the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.
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