Is Suissa Blind?
According to reliable sociological research, such as that by Steven Cohen and Ari Kelman, American Jews feel ever weaker attachments to Israel ("Am I Blind?" Sept. 28). We can link this growing detachment to the growing detachment in general of American Jews from the organized Jewish community, a community which many feel does not represent them. Organizations like the Progressive Jewish Alliance, led by thoughtful Zionists like Daniel Sokatch, are working hard to counter that trend.
Suissa asks if he is blind. Well, love is blind. And Suissa so loves Israel that he seems able to search for solutions only by the light of his own, albeit commendable, commitments, not in the twilight in which too many American Jews find themselves today.
Let's give some credit -- and make some room for -- organizations and leaders who are working to turn that twilight into dawn.
It is certainly understandable and well-justified for David Suissa to be protective of our Jewish people in the face of a world that too often calls Israel out for its sins, while ignoring similar (and sometimes far more grievous) sins being perpetrated in other lands. This inconsistency cannot be explained as anything other than anti-Semitism, and any refusal on the part of America's Jews to treat it as such constitutes self-destructive foolishness.
The problem with Suissa's reasoning is that he errantly treats as mutually exclusive the goal of defending the safety and honor of Jews and of Israel and the goal of acknowledging and addressing the mistakes of Jews and of Israel.
It's a leap that he doesn't bother to explain. Why should the fulfillment of one automatically sacrifice the fulfillment of the other? My experience, both in my own life and in the lives of my congregants, is that each actually strengthens the other.
It is reprehensible that there are other occupations in the world that are being accepted with silent complicity. But that is no justification for placing Israel's occupation in quotes, as though it is some sort of fallacy. None less than Ariel Sharon, before his stroke, had begun using the term "occupation" (chibush) to describe the situation between Israelis and Palestinians.
While defending Israel's absolute right to be, I would prefer that we refrain from making it so very easy for the most virulent haters of Israel and Jews to make their case.
Rabbi Kenneth Chasen
Leo Baeck Temple
Kudos to David Suissa for his insightful rebuttal to Daniel Sokatch's article. There is one fact that perhaps neither Suissa nor Sokatch have considered. Is the flag burning not partially the fault of Israel, which does not prioritize putting the "injustices" against the Palestinians into any kind of perspective? Should not the disproportionate criticism of Israel be emphasized and dramatized to the point that most everyone is as familiar with this as with the "injustices" suffered by Palestinians? I know, easier said than done!
Rob Eshman's column ("Realists," Sept. 28) on the new (or not so new) "realists," those who do not find Israel worth American life or dollars and resent whatever influence might induce an administration to think otherwise, leaves out the crucial -- and I think dominant -- third option in its conclusion. It's neither that these realists find it safer and more cost effective to wait for existence-threatening conflict, nor would they celebrate with champagne Israel's obliteration. Rather, the truth is the banality of their evil is such that they find Israel an annoyance and an inconvenience.
The shine of its newness has waned; the reason for its existence has receded. The plucky Jews and their "blooming desert" experiment have bogged down in the real politik of a fight for existence that has extended far too long and exhausted their patience. They just basically don't care that much, wouldn't miss it if it was gone and don't see why they should.
John Mearsheimer, Michael Scheuer and Stephen Walt contend that American support of Israel is not in the best interest of the United States. They may well be wrong, as Rob Eshman insists.
But when 8 percent of total U.S. foreign aid (economic plus military) goes to Israel, a proportion that rises to 11 percent when expenditures for Iraq and Afghanistan are taken out of the picture (calculated from the USAID Greenbook, http://qesdb.usaid.gov/gbk/index.html), the question is totally pertinent.
As the economists remind us, there is no free lunch. Moreover, the scarce resources spent providing military and economic assistance to Israel (a country with a GDP per capita almost equal to Spain's) could also be used for something else, a view that doesn't automatically turn one into the equivalent of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Perhaps the current stream of U.S. foreign aid dollars heading to Israel should instead continue unchanged; if so, the argument needs to be made.
Maybe Bill Maher, not the brightest guy, will stop trashing Bush and Cheney on Larry King's show and realize that Israel has real enemies right here in the U.S.A. I have also seen the repulsive Michael Scheuer being fawned over many times on the Chris Matthews program.
I am surprised that you were so shocked. I suggest you listen to Dennis Prager every day to keep up to date.
Last month, Los Angeles received its dose of the Walt-Mearsheimer view of Israel, America, and the world. We experienced two well-dressed and well-spoken men present their academic and researched conclusions that the Israel lobby is bad for America and it is not in America's best interests to support Israel.
The evening was filled with falsehoods and unsupported claims, propaganda-like statements and statements of basic truths all directed at making Israel look extremely sinister. The convoluted discourse included the two academics claiming that the United States should only support Israel if she was at threat of being destroyed, but otherwise, support for Israel is against America's best interest. So, when in 60 years has Israel not been at threat of being destroyed? Clearly, Walt and Mearsheimer feel that America would be better off supporting Hezbollah, Hamas, Fatah, the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaeda and the many other like-minded organizations that really support America's best interests.
Green Technology Fund
Iran Divestment Bill
Israel stands on three pillars: the courage and self-sacrifice of its citizens; the zeal of its friends and supporters abroad; and the blessings of God ("Governor to Sign Iran Divestment Bill Into Law," Sept. 28).
Israel owes a deep debt of gratitude to its friends and supporters in California who pushed for the passage of AB 221, which requires California pension funds to divest from companies that trade with Iran.
Make no mistake, AB 221 strengthens Israel's security. Divestment limits Iran's economy and hurts its ability to build nuclear weapons. California's bipartisan message should lead other states to divest. California's actions could also be duplicated in Europe.
Israel's friends and supporters in California achieved something this week that little Israel could never have done. Thanks to that achievement, Iran's program to obtain nuclear weapons, extend its regional authority and radicalize the Middle East took a step backward.
Happy to read a positive article about the positive actions of Madonna ("In Defense of Madonna," Sept. 28). This woman deserves our admiration.
Independent B'nai Mitzvah
I invite the Shacket family, who haven't joined a synagogue because it's "a stretch on a social worker's salary" and who, instead, used a rented tutor for their son's bar mitzvah, to give us a call ("The Independent B'nai Mitzvah: Bane or Boon?" Sept. 28).
Never in our 26-year history have we turned people away because money was tight.
I suspect that if he were to call a number of our fellow congregations here on the Westside of Los Angeles, he would receive an identical response.
In that way, his son might learn and come to appreciate that being Jewish is not a solitary activity but a communal one. By continuing his Jewish education in our evening teens program (we go up to the 12th grade) he would learn the Jewish value of lifelong study. And by participating in our outreach programs to the community, he would learn that being Jewish is far more than just chanting a Torah portion; it's taking those values in the text and making them real in other people's lives.
Rabbi Jeffrey A. Marx
The Santa Monica Synagogue
Great article about Sukkot man; very funny and honest ("Sukkot Man," Sept. 21). If only my congregants could take your advice -- what a wonderful world it would be. If you ever erect a giant sukkah in the Los Angeles area, let me know. I'll be there.
Rabbi Stephen Wise
Shaarei Beth El Congregation
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