March 24, 2005
Letters to the Editor
Professor Barry Steiner's claims that had I written more extensively about David Irving in "Denying the Holocaust" this lawsuit might have been avoided is completely unfounded (Letters, Mar. 11). He might have better served his argument by offering some proof, however paltry.
Secondly, his question suggests to me that he has neither read "History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving" nor the trial record. He asks: "Is it possible for a Nazi sympathizer or any other political extremist to be a good historian?" It may be, but in Irving's case, the answer is no.
Judge Gray's words to describe Irving's writings about the Holocaust were unambiguous: "perverts," "distorts," "misleading," "unjustified," "travesty" and "unreal."
Gray wrote: Irving's "falsification of the historical record was deliberate and ... motivated by a desire to present events in a manner consistent with his own ideological beliefs, even if that involved distortion and manipulation of historical evidence."
Steiner contends that Irving's earlier writings are not fraudulent. I urge him to look at the section of "History on Trial" devoted to Irving's distortions regarding the bombing of Dresden, about which Irving began writing in the 1960s.
He might also check www.hdot.org and read the sections of the trial devoted to the topic. Gray found Irving's treatment of the evidence about Dresden to be "absurd" and a "travesty."
Given Irving's distortions of both the Holocaust and Dresden, I believe any good historian would be skeptical about Irving's other work and would, before relying on his findings, do what my defense team and I did for this legal battle: follow his footnotes.
Finally, regarding Irving's ideological views, I again rely on Gray's words: Irving had "repeatedly crossed the divide between legitimate criticism and prejudiced vilification of the Jewish race and people."
If Steiner wishes to rely on Irving, that's his choice. I just worry about what he teaches his students.
Deborah E. Lipstadt
When Jews Lose
Joel Kotkin is on his Jewish liberal-bashing crusade ("When Jews Lose," Mar. 18). What Kotkin should understand is that most Jews are liberal and vote liberal. We support candidates for office because of their values. Joe Lieberman learned that last year.
His comments about "Jewish power" overlooks the fact that there are five Jewish members of Congress from L.A. County.
And finally, his comments that "there is little reason to expect that a Villaraigosa administration would revive ... the old Bradley multiracial coalition" is false, because the Villaraigosa coalition is already a broad coalition with a very strong Jewish component.
In bemoaning the electoral defeat of mayoral candidate Robert Hertzberg, Joel Kotkin outrageously implies that only a Jewish candidate – and only the "right" Jewish candidate at that (Steve Soboroff, not Joel Wachs, in 2001) – can represent Jewish interests.
Equally ludicrous is Kotkin's claim that Jewish voters must reflexively vote for a Jewish candidate, since any other choice is a "rejection" or "defection." Kotkin is so far out of the Jewish mainstream that he fails to even contemplate the possibility that Jews might believe their interests to be best served by a non-Jewish candidate, one who is able to form bonds with the multiplicity of other constituencies that populate our multicultural metropolis.
I would humbly suggest that this is a principal reason why prominent Jewish elected officials, such as U.S. Reps. Henry Waxman and Howard Berman and L.A. Councilmember Jack Weiss endorsed Antonio Villaraigosa in the March primary.
The fact is that Jews (who comprised only 14 percent of the March electorate, according to the Los Angeles Times' exit poll) cannot elect any candidate who is not also broadly popular outside our community. The same was true of Asian support for Mike Woo in 1993 and of African American backing for Bernard Parks this March.
Of course, the classic L.A. model of a winning multiethnic, multiracial and interreligious coalition is that which finally brought Tom Bradley to office in 1973, following his 1969 defeat at the hands of a fear-mongering Sam Yorty.
After the equally despicable 2001 scare-tactic campaign of James Hahn, many of us hope and believe that the same phenomenon will recur 32 years later with the election on May 17 of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
If I agreed with Joel Kotkin, I'd have to say that Jews "lost" when we helped elect the Catholic John F. Kennedy, when we supported the black Tom Bradley and when we voted for the Southern Baptist Bill Clinton. If those were "losses," I can't wait until we "win."
Jews do not lose if Antonio Villaraigosa wins. We only lose when we quit the game. Whether we're 20 percent of the voting populace, or 14, or even less, our vote matters. Every vote counts (or has Kotkin forgotten Florida 2000?). So does supporting the candidates who will do the best job of bringing all Angelenos to the table – not just candidates who look or cook or worship like us.
Kotkin is wrong to say that we are powerless unless we are in charge. His column reminded me of Hillel's declaration: "If I am not for myself, who will be? If I am for myself alone, what am I? And if not now, when?" Except, by focusing solely on statement No. 1, Kotkin does injustice to the fuller wisdom Hillel hoped to impart.
Joel Kotkin responds:
I was delighted that so many people read my column, although it's unfortunate so many people misconstrued my comments. First, I did not say Jews had to vote for Jewish candidates. I myself supported Linda Griego in 1993 in the first round and then voted for Riordan twice. The issue here is what I perceive to be the interests of a continuing strong Jewish presence in Los Angeles. I believe the Jewish community relies on a government that is efficient, protects the public and is dedicated to keeping a strong middle class. Hertzberg reflected those values.
As for the notion that we are on the verge of a second Bradley coalition, I think this is unlikely. Jews were central to Bradley's campaigns, not just for funding but as a voting bloc. Villaraigosa will be much less dependent on Jews for votes, and I believe, will win back union backing for his primary support.
What many in the liberal Jewish establishment fail to confront are the realities that continue to push Jews and middle-class people of all backgrounds out of the city. This starts with education, but also extends to business issues, since so many Jews are small businesspeople.
I find it odd that our so-called "progressives" seem unconcerned with what was the original mission of the progressive movement – to improve education and the public infrastructure so that more wealth can be created for the broad ranks of people.
In response to "Awareness Week at UCLA Hit by Apathy," by Rona Ram (March 18):
As an Orthodox student at UCLA, I am one of the most visibly Jewish people on campus, and yet in my two quarters here, I have not experienced so much as a hint of anti-Semitism. I can only assume that other Jewish students have experienced a similar level of non-hate, and that is why they did not attend any events of JSU's "Anti-Semitism Awareness Week."
It is unrealistic to expect students to attend events in opposition to a phenomenon that they have no reason to believe exists. And maybe this is a good thing.
Anti-Semitism has reared its ugly head at UCLA before, and it will do it again. But in the meantime, let's celebrate that I can devote all my worrying to midterms and not to my physical and social well-being.
I'm glad to hear that the concept of "second-language immersion" has finally found its way into our local Jewish day schools ("All Hebrew, All the Time," Mar. 18).
Why has it taken so long?
Over 35 years ago, right here in Culver City, the country's first language immersion program began. Its success spread nationwide, and tens of thousands of children have benefited. We absolutely should add Hebrew to the list of languages (Culver City offers Spanish and Japanese) being taught in this highly effective manner.
To those who fear that students' English skills will suffer, I can offer assurance that the contrary is true. Decades of research and anecdotal evidence, such as my own children's academic success, prove this. Furthermore, the standardized (English) test scores of Culver City's language immersion students are among the highest in California.
So, mazal tov to the schools and students embarking on this journey. Behatzlacha to all.
It is truly ironic and shameful that cruel animal slaughter methods are being undertaken in the name of Jewish law, as pointed out in your article, "PETA Renews Fight on Ritual Slaughter," (March 11) by Kelly Hartog.
It is truly a shonda, a shameful thing, that we endorse the massive abuse and suffering of billions of factory farmed creatures, many of which spend their entire lives in misery, fear and anguish, in addition to the cruel way they are killed.
Defending such conditions and practices by attacking PETA is akin to shooting the messenger. Indeed, many Jews are working to change these practices and relieve the suffering of these living creatures. There is no tradition of our faith that is older or more revered.
Dr. Temple Grandin, the animal welfare expert all sides support, has described the abuse at AgriProcessors as an "atrocious abomination" and argued that unannounced audits are needed to remedy its problems. This has still not occurred, and, thus, any notion that the abuses were addressed is misguided.
Announced audits at AgriProcessors are no solution and tell little. Would it be effective if police announced drug raids in advance?
As the president of the Rabbinical Assembly noted earlier this year, PETA's investigation has provided "a welcome, though unfortunate service to the Jewish community." (His statement and others are at www.HumaneKosher.com).
It is time we recognize the problems with kosher meat and address them; sadly, this has not yet happened.
Seven Days in the Arts (March 4), we incorrectly noted that Joe Mantegna and Dennis Franz were starring in the current production of the play "Cops." Mantegna and Franz were in the original production, but do not appear in the current show at the Steve Allen Theater.
Mark Miller's nostalgic piece on "woo love" courtship struck a chord with me ("Where Is the Woo," March 11).
Radio station KMZT (K-Mozart) broadcasts a weekly program of music and recitations of courtly love from a poet to his or her lover. It's called "The Romantic Loves," hosted by musician Mona Golabeck (Saturdays, 10 p.m.).
As an English major in college, I was exposed to this type of writing. I once sent a love letter to a girl in Connecticut who was back home for summer vacation.
When she got back to the University of Pennsylvania in September, she was quite cool to me. When we broke up, she said the poetic, gushy sentiments in my letter had scared her.
Tom Tugend wrote of the "Geneva accords with the Palestinians" ("Dovish Beilin 'Not So Lonely,'" Mar. 18). Did he mean the private agreement between Yossi Beilin, who was not authorized by Israel, and the nonrepresentatives of the Palestinian gang? Each party repudiated the "accord."
Beilin is a traitor. The World Affairs Council demeaned itself by granting him a platform and your journal by reporting this as significant news.