April 23, 2009
LETTERS: April 24-30, 2009
Israel’s Core Values
Rob Eshman, editor-in-chief of the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, suggests that Israel should maintain the bedrock of shared values with the United States in order to avoid “quickly put[ting] Israel at odds with the administration of Barack Obama” (“Two Words,” April 10) He adds: “For 61 years, Israel’s sales pitch to American Jews, and, by extension, to all Americans, can be summed up in two words: We’re you. Israel stands for the American ideals of democracy, peace, coexistence and justice.”
It seems that Eshman completely misses the point: The bedrock of shared values is solid as ever, unshakable, indestructible. President Obama and Israel’s leadership may find themselves on a collision course, irrespective of any statements or policies by the new Israeli government. There are much greater forces at play, and Israel has long lost its lure as America’s ally in the Middle East.
Moreover, Israel may find itself at odds with practically the entire world, simply because it exists as a Jewish homeland. Thus, Israel must be strong from within, know what drives it and maintain a course of self-reliance. Israel must be focused on its continued existence, on caring for its people and on continuing to bring to the world discoveries and developments that arise from its one and true treasure — the ingenuity of its people. Israel is a light onto the nations, bestowing good onto the world, making it a better place.
We indeed have an image crisis, and “on-going bias against Israel in the media and on campuses” is not a figment of one’s imagination (or what according to Eshman is “what many American Jewish organizations claim”). The image crisis begins right with us, as we have strayed off the path of self-respect. We no longer recognize our basic duty to first uphold our own truths, beliefs and axioms. We fail to defend Israel first before offering so easily to “give it away.” We have become too politically correct, too concerned with the welfare of others before that of our own and with how would things look or sound to others.
We cannot expect anyone else to respect us when we do not respect ourselves. Nor should we constantly blame others for our own failures. Former Secretary of State Rice was very clear to then-Prime Minister Olmert, essentially relating the same message. The criticism of our enemies is a reflection and magnification of what American and Israeli Jews say in the first place. So let us stop blaming others for the hatred that starts within the body of the Jewish People itself, and let us cleanse ourselves.
We blame a caricaturist for correctly portraying exactly what Israelis said on the front page of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. The caricature portrays a headless soldier walking the Star of David that is made to resemble a shark about to swallow or bite into the tiny, defenseless, innocent, starved Gaza. In response, the Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center top-paid executives in releases to the world cried “foul,” protested against the spread of “anti-Semitism” and called for action (i.e., asked for donations so that Abe Foxman and Rabbi Hier continued visibility would justify or overshadow their $700K+ a year salaries).
We, the Jewish People, must look inward, free ourselves from this disease of the great divide and return to unity. God, our common denominator, has given us the recipe: “Join them one to one, so that they become one.” Apparently, the divide existed also in the time of Ezekiel and God was going to make us one: “They shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more” (Ezekiel 37:22). It is not “left and right” or “‘extremist’ religious right and Peace Now.” We are all one people, the Jewish People, and we have the right to exist in one place, and only in that place — the Promised Land, the State of Israel.
Avigdor Liberman, Israel’s new Foreign Minister and head of the third-largest party in Israel, received 11.7 percent of those who voted to the 18th Knesset on Feb. 10; 394,577 eligible voters voted for Lieberman’s party, giving him 15 mandates, or one of every eight seats in the Knesset. Lieberman himself, single handedly, received an equivalent number of votes to all the Arab parties (Ra’am-Ta’al, Hadash, National Democratic Assembly-Balad) and the left-most party Meretz combined.
Eshman quotes unnamed “people who advocate on behalf of Israel” as telling him that “Their job got much, much harder. The reason can be explained in two words: Avigdor Lieberman [sic].” Eshman got it wrong: Our job is much, much more difficult exactly because of the failure of self-anointed advocates to recognize simple truths:
First, the so-called diplomatic stalemate with Palestinians will be easily resolved when the Palestinians decide they truly want peace and will be willing to pay the price for such peace (let them start by stopping all terrorist attacks and stopping to teach hatred in their school, on the PA TV and at the mosques). They do not.
Second, Israel giving land will not bring the peace we, the Jewish People, so crave. In a recent visit to Israel, I asked Hagit Ofran, an Israeli fulltime employee of Peace Now who directs “Settlement Watch,” if her job would be finished and if Peace Now would cease to exist if Israel were to give all of Judea and Samaria in return for a long-lasting peace. It was Hagit’s long hesitation that provided the real answer.
Third, Liberman calls are exactly the same “bedrock of values” Eshman references. Do we not recite the Pledge of Allegiance, a solemn oath of loyalty to the United States? Did President Obama not talk about service and giving back, stopping just short of a national draft? Were we not raised on the motto “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country?”
It was the very same Inaugural Address on January 20th, 1961, that President John F. Kennedy reminded us:
“We dare not tempt them with weakness. For only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed.”
So let us begin anew — remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.
Israel’s Foreign Minister said the very same things, but Eshman refuses to hear. This is not “right vs. left,” it is evil vs. good, and evil must show its sincerity while good must remain strong.
Be warned, Liberman is not the obstacle of peace. Liberman, the diplomat who lacks any diplomacy skills, is the child who shouts “the king is naked.” Let us listen to what he has to say — if we recognize the truth, we may find the way to protect Israel and ourselves and avoid a further deterioration of the “image crisis.”
“Rabbi” Capers Funnye has expressed that black Americans are the original Hebrews and Jews from Eastern Europe are descended from the khazars (“Obama’s Rabbi Visits L.A.,” April 17). That and other nonsense should not surprise us coming from the cousin of Michelle Obama. Please do a proper journalistic story on him instead of just swooning over what appears to be a black rabbi. You want a real black rabbi? Interview some great Ethiopian ones from Israel.
I am pleased to read “Early Signs: Netanyahu Shakes Things Up” (April 10). The present concept of retaliation against Hamas rocket launches into Israeli towns has had limited success. The rockets keep coming. Netanyahu is an engineer, graduated from MIT (my alma mater). Engineers are more adept than politicians at analyzing and then solving tough problems. He realizes that a paradigm shift is necessary. Here’s my suggestion to solve the problem of rockets fired into Israel.
Recognizing that Israel must avoid harming innocent people in the Gaza Strip when retaliating, Netanyahu’s government should issue a statement of policy to the world:
The next time a rocket is launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel, we give one-week’s notice to allow innocent people to leave an area of approximately one-mile in radius whence we deem the rocket was launched. And then we will fire back two rockets into that area. This policy will continue so long as rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel.
There seems to be a bewildering naiveté on the part of many Jews when it comes to the subject of peace (“Two Words,” April 10). Is there anyone who doubts the Islamists’ intention of destroying Israel and world Jewry? With regard to Eshman’s editorial, the policy of Lieberman states the obvious. In an ideal world, or in the world to come, sympathy for the Palestinians, such as providing land for a state or a reversal of JNF’s restriction on selling Israeli land to non-Jews, would be in order, but for the sake of the survival of Israel, 1/500th the size of the Arab territory, these concessions will not “gain respect and peace” but “will lead to more wars.” Anyone doubting this should recall the words of Santayana and Einstein.
Although Meir Kahane tried to warn us, make no mistake that as the Israeli Muslim population increases from their present 20 percent to a plurality in the near future, the Jewish state will be overthrown democratically. As has been said, Israel cannot remain both a democracy and a Jewish state. Lieberman’s ingenious idea of having all Israeli citizens take a loyalty oath is not only proper, it is necessary. Don’t we as Americans swear loyalty to the State every time we say the Pledge of Allegiance, and isn’t it a requirement for all naturalized citizens to take an oath of loyalty?
In Psalm 29 we pray for God to grant us strength and peace; we cannot expect peace unless we have the strength to maintain and protect it.
Rancho Palos Verdes
Rob Eshman’s article “Two Words” further reinforces my belief that the Jewish Journal’s obsession with Avigdor Lieberman is leading to angry opinions and abrupt lies. Lieberman is after political goals and votes, and tells people what they want to hear. He supports an Arab Jerusalem and a Palestinian state yet was labeled as far right by The Journal. The Journal even ran an ad in a past issue fervently criticizing Lieberman by Americans for Peace Now, a far-left wing, self-hating group dedicated to Arab causes. Lieberman is not Rabbi Meir Kahane HY’D ZT’L, but Eshman implies that he is a Kahanist. Lieberman pretends to grudge the Arabs in Israel to fake a hardline stance. Perhaps Eshman has fell into Lieberman’s trap and has won more right-wing votes for this dirty politician.
Tears of Joy
Reflecting on David Suissa’s seder and reading many references to that which I connected with, my tears began to fall (“Leaning Sideways,” April 17). Not the tears of slavery and bitterness, but of the heart space created at Passover seder, with David speaking with the 94-year-old Moroccan honorary uncle. They had both been present at the same seders for more than four decades (a lifetime in the desert) since the mid-1960s but had never had a real conversation. If David finally heard his story, maybe it is because David finally asked him real “questions.”
I think that what David “witnessed” hearing his uncle’s stories, was not only the uncle’s “liberation” but David’s own liberation. Maybe we can create a new seder ritual, similar to filling a Kos Miriam (which I love to do), which reminds us of the stories of the “women in whose merit we were redeemed” (Talmud). We can fill a shared cup with tears of joy from “dipping” into and listening to the personal stories told of what “slavery” and freedom mean individually today or what it did mean. Where is G-d in our life?
Yesterday, I “leaned sideways” while standing in Valley Beth Shalom’s kiddush oneg line and sitting at the lunch table. Sideways, saying “Tell me about you,” I personally asked Beit T’Shuvah residents, following their monthly awesome Shabbat service (held at VBS), about the real meaning for them of the Beit T’Shuvah Shabbat service we had experienced.
Rabbis Mark Borovitz and Ed Feinstein ask for personal redemption stories and offer Torah aliyahs (which are mamash / truly so uplifting). At this service, I always feel I am witnessing a Passover seder and I transcend and transform. (I was deeply moved by Rabbi Feinstein’s Torah drash at Beit T’Shuvah on “alien fire” eating our insides.)
Thank you, David, for your stories.
Plague of Plastic
Passover is over, but the trash that was generated will be around for at least 1,000 years. Garbage cans were overflowing with plastic bags stuffed full, much of which could have been recycled. But for those doing the Passover dinner, their impact on a landfill or the earth was not a priority. Passover dinner was the four questions or the reading of the plagues. The plague of plastic was not considered. The plague of waste was also not in many people’s minds.
There is a myth that technology will solve all our problems and that all we have to do is wait until the solutions are found. That’s like walking against a red light in traffic because cars have brakes.
Please, start thinking in terms of the four Rs= remember, reduce, reuse, recycle. Future generations will thank us. Each one of us has the ability to make a difference; it’s only the will to do so that holds one back.
What we leave is more important than what we take.
No More Hate
I am upset that I recently read two opinions preaching hatred (Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s “Remember the Victims, Hate Their Killers,” Dec. 5 and Marty Kaplan’s “The Virtue of Hate,” April 10). We should be striving to rid our hearts of hate, and yet your paper continues to publish the opinions of those who preach it as not only acceptable but necessary. Certainly the deeds committed by “the hated” were abhorrent. However, how does it benefit anyone to hate? On the contrary, Mr. Kaplan listed reasons to forgive — mainly, to nurture the healing process. So, why then did both authors insist that hatred is a good thing? Mr. Kaplan recounted instances of hatred, mostly from the Hebrew Bible. Should we blindly follow the Bible, right or wrong? Boteach reasoned that, “hating monsters, however, motivates us to fight them.” That may be how terrorists motivate themselves, but I think loving peace would be a much better motivator. Can your contributors think of nothing more constructive after a horrible tragedy than preaching hate — possibly the benefits and righteousness of forgiveness, the fight against ignorance and the struggle to teach the world’s children a higher morality that would prevent these tragedies in the first place?
Joshua Lewis Berg
Call to Lead
To my displeasure, The Jewish Journal continues to be consumed with documenting what non-Jews think about Jews instead of highlighting positive Jewish values and contribution (“Blaming the Jews ... Again,” April 10). Its cover article from last week’s edition, “Why Blame the Jews?” obviously demonstrates this obsession. A more troubling reflection of its lack of leadership in promoting values such as tzedek (justice), mishpat (law), and chesed (kindness) is seen in two opinion pieces on Israel’s recent incursion into Gaza (“Confronting Post-War Allegations” and “Israel Faces Soul-Searching Double Standard,” April 10). In both articles, readers are left with identical messages: Israel is judged too harshly.
If our collective commitment is for Israel to be “like all other nations” we can justify documented incidents of cold-blooded murder, the use of human shields, phosphorus bombs, the leveling of dozens of hospitals and schools, or IDF T-shirts boasting of killing babies and pregnant women. But if our commitment is to be a “light unto the nations” we cannot justify any acts of cruelty. No, our values would not permit such irresponsibility.
I call upon the editors of The Jewish Journal to be a light unto our eyes, a champion of justice, not a depository for the negative opinions of goyim (the nations).
Cantor Richard Schwartz