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Jewish Journal

Letters

February 16, 2006 | 7:00 pm

Cartoons

Thank you for your thoughtful comments on the cartoon episode ("Drawn to Controversy," Feb. 10). My one area of disagreement is with the quote from Rabbi [Abraham] Cooper: "We live in a world based on freedom of expression."

No we don't. We live in a culture with those values. And therein lies the crux of the problem. Most Western cultures do value freedom of expression. But a theocratically structured culture that only values the "correct" interpretation of the Quran has no room for dissent or disagreement. After many centuries of being in the shadow of Western development it is time, as you stated, for the moderate branch of Islam to be heard from.

Saul Goldfarb
Oak Park

When you murder in the name of your religion, when your countries sponsor the blasphemy of other religions and make illegal the display of Christian or Jewish symbols, and when you use your religion to repress your women, you open yourself up to genuine criticism. In a free and open society, cartoons play a unique role in that criticism. Through wit, caricature and visual impact, cartoons do what 1,000 words can never do.

The provocative Danish cartoons did not dance around the subject. By depicting the Islamic prophet in ways that reflected an uncomfortable reality, they raised vexing questions on the subject of intolerance and terrorism in the name of Islam. The violent reaction in the Muslim world only confirms how relevant this subject is.

David Suissa
Los Angeles

Thank you for your excellent piece on the cartoon controversy.

You close your thoughtful piece with a challenge to the leaders of American Muslim groups to demonstrate peacefully against the rioters, and you offer the views of Salaam Al-Marayati of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC) in particular.

Unless he has changed over the past four years since I last had any contact with him, he always skirted the issue of the State of Israel's legitimate right to exist and insisted on distinguishing between Judaism and Jews on the one hand and Zionism and the State of Israel on the other. You might challenge him as well to clarify what he and MPAC mean by anti-Semitism, which he condemns. When I was part of the Muslim-Jewish Dialogue of Los Angeles with him, he would only acknowledge to me privately and to our group publicly that Israel exists, but he never argued for its moral legitimacy as a sovereign Jewish state. This was in contrast to those of us Jews in the now defunct dialogue who always argued for the national rights of the Palestinians to a state of their own.

To me, "moderate" American Muslim leaders implies that they accept the moral legitimacy of the Jewish people to the State of Israel. Until they do, they are not "moderate" in my book.

Rabbi John L. Rosove
Temple Israel of Hollywood

Editor's note: Salam Al-Marayati explains in his article on our website.

Marlborough

I am a senior at Marlborough and took Laura Rochette's AP introduction to Arabic literature course last semester ("Marlborough Defuses Anti-Israel Claim," Feb. 3). She spoke passionately about the subject and would often relate the literature in class to what she learned on her travels to Jordan, Egypt and Israel. She took this trip with a group of educators because she was interested in Arabic literature and knew she would gain greater insight by learning more about Arabic culture. She had an Arab tour guide, who naturally expressed the Palestinian point of view concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

However, she is not anti-Israel. I have found that she is always open and receptive to the pro-Israeli views I expressed in essays and projects throughout the semester, which I based on my own two recent trips to Israel (with family and United Synagogue Youth).

Marlborough prides itself on diversity of thought, and every voice has an opportunity to be heard.

Leah Loeterman
Marlborough School
Class of 2006

Jack Abramoff

David Klinghoffer's article, "In Defense of Jack Abramoff," subtitled, "The strange case of sinner-mensch Jack Abramoff and the Jewish community that abandoned Him" is utterly appalling ("Sympathy for the Devil?" Jan. 27). Abramoff is a mensch? Does a mensch, by his own admission, create a charity, accept donations and then use those donations for his own enrichment, to bribe politicians or for other political graft?

Klinghoffer's article offers nothing but ridiculous and insulting excuses and justifications for Abramoff's crimes. Abramoff and Klinghoffer should both know better. Abramoff enjoyed every privilege our society has to offer. Instead of using his opportunities to give back to our country a small percentage of what he gladly took, he gave only to himself and others in power. He was not caught stealing a loaf of bread or food for his family to survive. His crimes were motivated by power and greed.

As for forgiveness, it is not enough to say that Abramoff will serve a jail sentence and that alone should entitle him to forgiveness. Klinghoffer has no business guilting the Jewish community for "deserting" a man who thumbed his nose at every principle we stand for and hold dear. It remains to be seen what Abramoff will choose to do with the rest of his life once he is released from prison. Until then, it is up to him to prove to the Jewish community as well as the rest of the country, whom he has wronged, what path he will choose.

Leslie M.B. Cole
Encino

Correction

The Blue and White Fund detailed in "Taking -- and Giving -- Stock" (Jan. 13) has since closed to investors and is no longer providing free $18 investments.

Controversial Cartoons

Rob, yasher koach on your "cartoons" column ("Drawn to Controversy," Feb. 10). Thorough, thoughtful, valuable. Some good quotes from Rabbi Cooper, too. I was surprised at first to see you quote Al-Marayati, who sat in interfaith meetings with rabbis for months and then blamed the Jews for Sept. 11. But you deftly exposed his hypocrisy in the very next sentence. Yasher koach again.

You are right, of course, that moderate Islam is the major casualty, and that our war is not against a religion. What needs to be recognized -- by our government as well as by the media -- is that the moderates had no power before all this happened, before the Hamas election, and long before the made-for-TV cartoon frenzy. Those who are in power among our enemies recognize what this war is, and some of them say so, even in English. This is World War III, the Muslim world against the West. It's time for us to wake up.

Rabbi Baruch Cohon
Via e-mail

Rob Eshman's column on the Muhammad cartoons repeated a fantasy I've seen many times before: that there is a great contest in Islam between the "moderates" and the "extremists. I see no real evidence that there are moderates in the Islamic world, but I see much wishful thinking on the part of many in America and Europe. If there are such "moderates," their ideas and goals may be moderate only in comparison to their more radical brethren. As the wishful thinkers should know, those in the Islamic world who do not subscribe to the aims of Al Qaeda and its ilk are generally dead, in hiding, flee into exile, or are terrorized into silence. Even in the Western world, those who the "extremists" consider apostates are in hiding to stay alive. A final note to Eshman: slandering a religion is not "racism," since a religion is not a race, but I suppose calling someone a racist, even inaccurately, is the ultimate insult in the liberal vocabulary.

Chaim Sisman
Los Angeles

Munich

Now that the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has recognized "Munich" among its consideration of awards, perhaps it is time, once again, to comment upon this film. Notwithstanding the criticism of its moral relativism, strict adherence to truth, anti-Semitism and whatever, "Munich" stands as another tribute to Steven Spielberg's stature as a Jew, canny publicist and cinematic artist.

As a clever publicist mindful of today's hostile climate toward Israel, could it be that Spielberg was aware that a film blatantly placing total blame upon the Palestinian terrorists, would be dismissed and forgotten as "Jewish propaganda"? In other words, criticism from his own community, strange as it seems, amazingly lent the film credibility outside the Jewish community, hence, its nominations.

Some criticized that the film was hastily made in a short period of three months. Was it a matter of coincidence that the film was released just before the beginning of the 2006 Olympic season? I think not.

Had it not been for his films, "Munich" and "Schindler's List," the world would more easily forget the blatant atrocities that occurred during those times of horror. It is Spielberg, using the bully pulpit of his fame and brilliance as a filmmaker who has taken it upon himself to regularly remind our children, us, and the world of the monumental acts of hate carried out against our people in the last century. Without Spielberg, the phrase, "Never Again," would be rendered meaningless.

Stu Bernstein
Santa Monica

Klinghoffer writes as if he was a one-man parole board ready to release Abramoff from prison after serving no more than one year. He does not appreciate the enormity of misbehavior of his subject.

It is hard to believe that with all his exposure to all forms and aspects of Judaism, Abramoff did not hear or read about Dennis Prager's well-known and well-worn one-liner: Ethical monotheism. Religion based on money and rituals is not ethical monotheism. An ethical person need not and cannot be "squeezed" to plead guilty to conspiracy, tax evasion and fraud.

Kenneth Lautman
Los Angeles

Abramoff has yet to ask for our forgiveness. Abramoff has yet to redress his transgressions. Abramoff has yet to repay those he stole from.

Our tradition holds that it is neither justice nor charity to forgive transgressions before an individual repents. Before any conversation whether Abramoff deserves forgiveness can ensue, he needs to repent.

Richard L. Adlof
North Hollywood

Aging

I want to thank Rabbi Lisa Edwards for a beautifully written article about aging, along with the commentary on the Parshat Vaera ("Wisdom of the Ages," Jan. 27). Being in that age group myself and having many friends and family at this stage of life, I found her comments thoughtful, respectful and deeply felt.

Zita Gluskin
Sherman Oaks

Correction

The Blue and White Fund detailed in "Taking -- and Giving -- Stock" (Jan. 13) has since closed to investors and is no longer providing free $18 investments.

 

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