November 28, 2012
Letters to the Editor: Gaza war, “Lincoln” and Special Needs
Hope for Peace With Hamas
When David Suissa wonders “If Hamas had the ability to murder thousands of Jews, wouldn’t they?” he is letting stereotypes get in the way of helpful analysis (“Pogroms Interrupted,” Nov. 23). He is also, in effect, arguing that Hamas is not an organization with which peace and order can be reached.
I believe he is wrong on both counts. Hamas gets much more political mileage from holding Israelis hostage than from killing them. The Gilad Shalit kidnapping is an indication of this. It is both a tragedy and a very big opportunity for peace that Israel and the Palestinians keep each other hostage. Their rising and reliable ability to kill each other — although on different scales — is precisely what ought to motivate leaders to negotiate peace, so that the killing does not recur.
Barry H. Steiner
Professor of political science
California State University, Long Beach
David Suissa Responds:
That's right, professor. The 12,000 missiles that Hamas has sent into Israel were not intended to kill humans, but to capture hostages. Is that a serious comment? If you want to talk about hostages, just look at the Palestinians in Gaza who are forced to live in misery under the oppressive rule of Hamas despots and Jew-haters."
Israeli Efforts Reduce Casualties
Israel spends $90,000 per Tamir rocket to shoot down a projectile (sometimes two) fired by Hamas toward Israeli civilian areas (“What Now?” Nov. 23). The projectiles may cost $200 to $5,000 to produce.
It would be quite simple to use Iron Dome to send a $200 mortar shell or shells right back to that originating point. However, Israel chooses instead to attempt pinpoint strikes on Hamas with airplanes, drones, etc. at a much higher cost and risk.
I know of no other country in history that has gone to this extent to avoid its own civilian casualties, reducing the likelihood of all-out war and its consequences on both sides, and the casualties on the other side’s civilians.
‘Lincoln’ Twists History
Tom Teicholz perpetuates a number of errors and myths in his recent article “Lincoln, in the Abrahamic Tradition” (Nov. 16). He comes up with a fanciful theory that Lincoln had Jewish ancestry — something that has eluded great Lincoln biographers like Carl Sandburg and David Donald. It’s entirely based on unreliable, unprovable anecdotes.
Teicholz is mistaken when he states that Lincoln “lobbied the House of Representatives to pass the 13th Amendment.” In truth, as Lerone Bennett Jr., author of “Forced Into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream” (Johnson Publishing Co.: 2000), states: “There is a pleasant fiction that Lincoln ... became a flaming advocate of the amendment and used the power of his office to ensure its passage. There is no evidence, as Donald has noted, to support that fiction.”
Bennett was executive editor of Ebony magazine for several decades, and spent more than 20 years researching and writing his book. Bennett argues that it was Lincoln who was literally forced into supporting the amendment by other politicians, not the other way around as portrayed in the Spielberg film.
The scriptwriter, Tony Kushner, along with director Steven Spielberg, are spinning the same sort of mythology in their movie — and distorting the historical record in the process — as in the days of the Hollywood studio system, when the moguls Teicholz so admires twisted historical facts into pretzels in period movies.
Special-Needs Inclusion Exists
I would disagree with Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi’s assertion that little to nothing has been accomplished to include children and adults with disabilities into our Jewish community (“The Sound of the Breaking Dam,” Nov. 23). Since I was a bar mitzvah, I volunteered every Sunday for six years at Valley Beth Shalom’s Shaare Tikvah program, which is designed to give kids with special needs a chance to engage their Jewish identities as they learn about Jewish holidays, study the Hebrew language, sing Jewish songs and develop strong bonds with other kids, thus establishing their permanence and acceptance in the wider Los Angeles Jewish community.
There is certainly a public awareness of this program, as KABC 7’s “Eyewitness News” recognized the amazing accomplishments of Shaare Tikvah and singled me out for my volunteer work. The news crew interviewed me at Camp Ramah in California, where I was working as a counselor, because Camp Ramah contains another amazing program for special-needs kids called Tikvah, in which many of my students were enrolled from the VBS Sunday school. The program gives an opportunity for these kids to engage in all of the typical summer camp activities and actually be a part of the sleep-away environment. Some of the older kids actually have various jobs throughout the camp. I can speak from personal experience that going to Jewish camp was a huge part of solidifying my role in the Jewish community, and that is exactly what these kids are getting as they, too, became a part of Camp Ramah.
The Los Angeles Jewish community, of which I am a proud partner, creates an accessible environment for children with special needs to grow into their Jewish identity and make themselves an integral part of the Jewish community as a whole.
USC sophomore, neuroscience major
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