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Top U.S. Jews head to central Asia to meet - Haaretz, Israel

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  • Zafar Khan
    Top U.S. Jews head to central Asia to meet Islamic leaders By David Landau, Haaretz Correspondent http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/262323.html American
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 12, 2003
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      Top U.S. Jews head to central Asia to meet
      Islamic leaders By David Landau, Haaretz Correspondent

      http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/262323.html

      American Jewish leaders are to meet Thursday in
      Kazakhstan with leaders of that and neighboring
      central Asian republics.

      "This is the place to build a firewall between Islamic
      fundamentalism" and moderate Islam, said Malcolm
      Hoenlein, executive vice director of the Conference of
      Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

      Ronald Lauder, the former chairman of the Conference
      of Presidents and a prominent investor and
      philanthropist in the countries of the former Soviet
      Union, is leading the mission of some 50 American
      Jewish representatives.

      Among the regional statesmen they hope to meet with
      Thursday are Nursultan Nazarbayev, the president of
      Kazakhstan, the presidents of Tajikistan and Kajistan
      and senior ministers from Turkey, Azerbaijan and
      Afghanistan.

      The Jewish group will be bringing messages of support
      from U.S. President George W. Bush and Secretary of
      State Powell, as well as from Prime Minister Ariel
      Sharon.

      Hoenlein said that Bush had been personally involved
      and supportive in preparations for this mission.
      Sharon has sent two representatives to accompany the
      mission and Israeli diplomats serving in the region
      will attend the various meetings and briefings.

      "Many of these states have been encroached upon by
      Islamic fundamentalism operating out of Iran,
      Afghanistan and even China," Hoenlein said. "There is
      a domino threat in the region. If one state falls, its
      neighbors could go too."

      The central Asian republics were trying to fend off
      these influences, Hoenlein said, and they sought "not
      money but love and attention from the West."

      Hoenlein said the Conference of Presidents had begun
      its discreet diplomatic overtures towards central Asia
      back in the mid-90s.

      "I went first to Yitzhak Rabin to discuss this," the
      conference sent a mission to Uzbekistan in 1996 and it
      was in part thanks to the success of that venture,
      Hoenlein said, that Uzbekistan established diplomatic
      relations with Israel the following year. "Sometimes
      we can have access in places before the Israeli
      government."

      Hoenlein noted that there was "potentially more energy
      in the Caspian basin than in the Persian Gulf." This
      made the regional countries "juicy targets" for
      hostile takeovers. But it also offers them a bright
      future for modernization and democratization. "The
      money that will flow will change these countries."

      The Jewish leaders will be meeting Friday with senior
      executives of American energy companies active in
      central Asia and the Kazakh minister of energy
      Vladimir Shkolnik, himself Jewish.

      The four-day mission will also include dialogue
      between the Jewish leaders and Muslim clerics in the
      region. Hoenlein said that the purpose was to help
      head off the much feared "clash of civilizations" and
      rather to encourage "the beginning of dialogue between
      civilizations, as these Muslim clerics themselves call
      it."

      The American Jewish leaders will be hosted by the
      heads of the Eurasian Jewish Congress led by Alexander
      Mashkevitz, who heads the 20,000-strong Kazakh Jewish
      community. The presidents conference will present a
      sefer Torah to the local Jewish community which until
      now, according to Hoenlein, has had to make do with
      only one serviceable scroll.


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