October 30, 2003
The Case For Israel
Adam Rubin's screed against my book "The Case For Israel" is premised on the assumption that readers of his review will not actually read my book ("Israeli History the Dershowitz Way," Oct. 17). For any reader of my book will quickly see that he totally mischaracterizes my positions. His main example of my so-called "simplistic, black-and-white explanations," is my description of the cause of the Arab refugee problem. He claims that I place the responsibility squarely at the foot of the Palestinians. Here is what I actually say:
"The reasons why the Palestinians left are complex and not amenable to such a simple, singular cause." (p. 88)
I quote Benny Morris, who, unlike Noam Chomsky, "finds a shared responsibility for the creation of the refugee problem." He also willfully distorts the essence of my book by claiming that I describe Israel as "an impossibly virtuous country ... whose conduct is forever above reproach." Any reader of my book will quickly see that I am extremely critical of many of Israel's policies but that I always insist on a single standard of criticism equally applicable to all nations confronting comparable threats. Rubin is right that most Israeli scholars go out of their way to be hypercritical of Israel, and that may even be understandable in the domestic context. But when responding to outrageous canards about Israel, designed to delegitimate, demonize and single it out, it is important to present the issue in a comparative and contextual manner. I urge all readers of Rubin's review to read "The Case For Israel" and then to write him, and me, with their reactions.
Alan M. Dershowitz, Cambridge, Mass.
Adam Rubin's key criticism, which dominates the review, is that Alan Dershowitz portrays Israel as pure and faultless, while we all know that Israel has many flaws. There are two responses to this criticism. First, it isn't true. Dershowitz is a strong advocate for Israel, but also is a critic. On pages 98-99, for example, he criticizes the occupation of the West Bank, saying that Israel "could have and should have implemented the Alon plan..." which called for withdrawal from West Bank population centers. Dershowitz goes on to say that "the 28-year occupation of these population centers contributed to many of the factors that now make peace more difficult to achieve."
Second, aside from the fact that the book is, in places, critical of Israel, Rubin misses the essential point of the book, which is to give pro-Israel Americans, especially college students and professors, practical information with which to combat the many anti-Israel canards that fill general and campus newspapers daily. The book is a work of advocacy, and does not pretend to be an even-handed analysis of the issues. Dershowitz brilliantly attacks the anti-Israel camp and makes it easier for the rest of us to do so as well, while not denying its mistakes.
Shame on Rubin and The Jewish Journal for misleading Journal readers about the content of this excellent and highly useful book.
Joel and Fran Grossman, Los Angeles Anti-Israel Surge
I am surprised that The Jewish Journal would see fit to publish an article on anti-Israel expression on the UCLA campus this year -- in anticipation of actual anti-Israel expression ("Prepping Campuses for Anti-Israel Surge," Oct. 17). This kind of anticipatory anti-Semitism serves to alarm rather than to educate. Israel does not need alarmists-cum-advocates who produce misguided sound bites. It needs serious academic study, open to student and faculty alike, conducted in a free and open academic environment. Better to spend our time and effort creating this kind of environment -- by endowing centers and chairs of Israel studies on our college campuses -- than encouraging our young students to shout empty slogans guaranteed to fall on deaf ears.
David N. Myers, UCLA History Department Westwood
A Cold Wind
The situation in Israel is getting intolerable. Did Ariel Sharon deserve the standing ovation at the Sukkot celebration ("A Cold Wind Blows," Oct. 17)? While fighting terrorism naturally gets top priority, Israel's economy and infrastructure are suffering. Old people cannot afford needed medicines. Children do not have enough food. Christians, Yeshiva students and neo-conservatives are not doing Israel a favor by showing support through thick and thin. Better nudge their friend into more centrist-left policies to foster a more peaceful climate and turn the economy, and tourism, around.
Andrei Doran, via e-mail
Michael Tolkin hit the nail precisely on the head in his response to Gregg Easterbrook's assertion in The New Republic that Jewish executives in Hollywood "worship money above all else." Tolkin's column was a wonderfully effective analysis ("Unacceptable" Oct. 24).
I'm thrilled beyond description that Easterbrook eventually apologized, but one can only wonder precisely what he actually apologized for. Is he "sorry" that he's anti-Semitic? Or is it that he's "sorry" he slipped, and expressed his true beliefs in print for all to see? I would find it a little hard to swallow any other explanation, i.e., "I've suddenly and instantly seen the light, and no longer hold those opinions about Jews." Oh?
One thing is certain: regardless of the nature of his apology, we can at least rest assure that Easterbrook is continuing the grand tradition of mixing stupidity with anti-Semitism. Why else would he allow his deepest convictions to show up in print, as he did? Could he not predict the inevitable response? Next time, save it for your living room, Easterbrook.
I suppose the only silver lining in this cloud is that stupid anti-Semites are easier to bear than strategic ones.
Larry Garf , Topanga
Jews and Money
The Jewish Journal published a lead article titled "Is There A 'Docta' in the House?" (Sept. 5). The article went on and on about how the profession has changed and that there is no longer the kind of money in it that it used to be. The Jewish doctor is therefore disappearing. Now comes the lead article titled "Apology Not Accepted" (Oct. 24). The article quotes a claim by The New Republic that Jews are "...interested in money above all." It seems that a Jewish paper can state an opinion but no one else can even hint of the same opinion. Are we that insecure? Let's grow up and get with the 21st century.
Irwin Grossman, Los Angeles
The desire to score well on the SATs and the SAT IIs does put many of our children under incredible pressure ("Pencils Ready? Let the Stress Begin," Oct. 17). The fact is that we are living at a time when competition for admission to select colleges seems to be at an all-time high. That stress is felt by students in public and private schools, secular and religious schools, day and supplemental schools.
It is one reason why so many of us have taken advantage of a Jewish day school education, where students have the opportunity to think about God and their place in the universe in order to understand there is more to life than SATs.
Sari Beth Goodman, Director General Studies Adat Ari El Day School Valley Village
During my Friday afternoon ritual of reading The Jewish Journal, I came across Sharon Schatz Rosenthal's article titled, "Pencils Ready? Let the Stress Begin."
The article was very well written, and I could relate completely, yet I attend public school. It was interesting and somewhat hard to believe that students attending private Jewish day school feel that they have it "harder" than students like me who attend public school.
Just like them, I have a double course load, as I attend Hebrew High. Just like them, I have a rigorous schedule including a number of Advanced Placement classes. Just like them, I am very involved in extra curricular activities including student council, mock trial and I volunteer. Just like them I have the added stress of college entrance exams like the SAT, and the pressure to succeed in high school to move on to a prestigious university.
Granted, their private schools have a greater interest for their students to work hard and succeed, so that prospective students and parents will see an high admittance rate to top colleges and universities; nevertheless it is important to realize that no matter where we attend high school, we are all in the same boat in an ocean of stress and pressure.
Sammy Averbach, Agoura Hills
Generally, my kudos to you on having elevated The Jewish Journal to an outstanding publication. At this point, I get more of my news and commentary from The Journal than from any other single source.
But each week, I find myself irritated by the "Greenberg's View" cartoon, usually finding them totally devoid of any wit, charm, subtlety, insight, craft or much intelligence. Your Oct. 17 issue is filled with an extremely insightful, well-done piece about the new governor's transition team plus your usual excellent, balanced and fair-minded political coverage. But to get to those pieces, one first sees Steve Greenberg's opinion that Schwarzenegger's election reflects nothing more than the obsession that California voters have for celebrity worship.
This is simply a childish, cloddish and silly observation -- one forcefully dispelled by the latter point raised by Marc Ballon (p. 12) that 31 percent of Jewish votes went for Schwarzenegger, notwithstanding the negative issues he had to overcome with Jewish voters.
I urge you to find another cartoonist more in keeping with the rest of the paper.
Peter Levitan, Sherman Oaks
In the Up Front, "Restoration's Silver Lining" (Oct. 24) the name should have read: David Friedman of David Friedman & Co Silversmiths.
In Tommywood, "Making L.A. Real" (Oct. 24), the name should have read Larry Field.
We apologize for the errors.