Jewish Journal

Letters to the Editor: GOP candidates, Christopher Hitchens, religion

Posted on Jan. 4, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Israel Needs Evangelical Support

Bill Boyarsky engages in character assassination when he implies that the real reason so many Evangelical Christians support Israel is out of a sick desire to see the Jews killed or converted at the end-of-times (“Taking the Pro-Israel Pulse of GOP Candidates,” Dec. 23). I too could assert that the real reason Boyarsky makes this suggestion is because he disagrees with Evangelicals on a number of domestic policy issues and wants to discredit them, but that wouldn’t be fair because I can’t really know what is motivating him. Boyarsky should afford the same benefit of the doubt to Evangelicals. I’m sure Boyarsky does not question the motives of the righteous Gentiles who sought to save Jews from the Holocaust. Still, when in a 2002 Tarrance Group poll Evangelicals were asked to identify their primary theological reason for supporting Israel, a majority said it was to bless Israel and the Jewish people, not usher in the end-of-times. A 2006 Pew poll found similar results. In the spirit of hakarat hatov — showing gratitude for the good that is done for you — Jews should reach out to Christians and show gratitude for their strong support of Israel.

Jonathan Hermel
YULA High School Student
Sherman Oaks

Iranians Must Fight for
Own Freedom

Iranians citizens today, the majority of them being Muslim, claim that they cannot overthrow their Islamic leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, because the United States will not offer them help in hand (“Are We Hearing Voices?” Dec. 23). Although America’s political and military forces could help Iranian activists in achieving their goal, isn’t it ultimately up to Iranian citizens to fight for freedom on their own, rather than relying on other countries to do the dirty work for them? After all, no one understands the torture a leader inflicts on their citizens more than the citizens themselves. In addition, American intervention on Iranian policy has proven unsuccessful in the past.

Muhammad Ali, the well-respected Muslim prophet, states, “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” Thus, if Iranian citizens do not take the risk of fighting for democratic change on their own, then they may never accomplish their goal.

Jessica Behmanesh
Beverly Hills

Can We All Get Along?

Thank you for the excellent and inspiring article about Rabbi Miriam Hamrell and Ahavat Torah Congregation in Brentwood sharing a sacred space with a Lutheran group and a Muslim group (“Under One Roof,” Dec. 23). What was most moving about the article is hearing the rabbi describe how she manages to keep her heart open even when challenged by new and uncomfortable situations. It’s a crucial teaching we will probably need throughout 2012, not only in discussions about the Middle East but in our family and career dilemmas as well.  

Leonard Felder
West Los Angeles

Hitchens Was No Fan of Chanukah

How ironic — or perhaps tragic — that the Chanukah issue of The Jewish Journal features two eulogies for Christopher Hitchens (“The Shtarker,” “Christopher Hitchens, 62,” Dec. 23). Fresh out of our celebrations of what we call our “Festival of Lights and Freedom,” here is a sampling of Mr. Hitchens’ own comments on Chanukah: “If one could nominate an absolutely tragic day in human history, it would be the occasion that is now commemorated by the vapid and annoying holiday known as Hanukkah … to celebrate Hanukkah is to celebrate not just the triumph of tribal Jewish backwardness, but also the accidental birth of Judaism’s bastard child in the shape of Christianity … when the fanatics of Palestine won that victory, and when Judaism repudiated Athens for Jerusalem, the development of the whole of humanity was terribly retarded.” I guess I am living in Hitchens’ self-described world of Jewish darkness, so can someone please enlighten me as to why some in the Jewish community choose to celebrate the life of someone whose words sound like they are pulled straight off of a trashy anti-Semitic Web site? 

Rabbi Daniel Bouskila
Director, Sephardic Educational Center

Vote for What’s Best for America, Not Israel

It is beyond my comprehension how any American Jew would choose to vote for a president based on the opinions of The Israel Factor panel (“The Israel Factor Project: Romney vs. Gingrich vs. Obama,” Dec. 23). Unless you are opting to make aliyah, I would hope that your major interest would be to elect the best person for Americans. We may love the concept of a democratic Jewish state, but, in reality, Herzl’s and Ben-Gurion’s dream nation has become a Jewish Republic. I personally believe that Israel will never know peace without a two-state resolution. All Jews can worry, but the important choices lie with the Israeli Jews, and not the Diaspora.

Martin J. Weisman
Westlake Village

Which Republican Candidate Loves Israel the Most?

In “Taking the Pro-Israel Pulse of GOP Candidates” (Dec. 23), about candidates in the upcoming presidential election talking about Israel, I applaud the American public for making the race for “Who loves Israel most” one of the top priorities in the presidential campaign. I agree with the fact that standing with or against Israel is a crucial matter for the United States. It means a lot of money being spent on Israel and this relationship. It means, perhaps, not having the best relationship with Palestinian nations, which means that oil and gasoline prices soar. However, it also means standing for exactly what the United States believes in. It means standing with the one democratic country in the entire Middle East. It means standing with a country that understands what it is like to be dealing with terrorism, a country that is constantly fighting terrorism. So, yes, standing with Israel could hurt the United States’ economy, however, and I think that the United States is starting to understand this, when push comes to shove, Israel is an amazingly helpful ally.

Bethia Gindi
Los Angeles

Bill Boyarsky belies his reputation as an astute political commentator in his column, “Taking the Pro-Israel Pulse of GOP Candidates.” Neither of the GOP frontrunners as of the date Mr. Boyarsky wrote his column — Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich — is a Protestant Evangelical, so what is the relevance of the beliefs of Rev. John Hagee regarding Israel? Moreover, apparently unlike Mr. Boyarsky, I have actually spoken with many Evangelical Christians about their support of Israel, and none of them has ever mentioned the Rapture or Armageddon or any of the other apocalyptic beliefs that the Jewish left claims is the reason for Evangelical Christian support of Israel and the Jewish people. Rather, they nearly always cite the blessing God gives to Abram: “And I will make of you a great nation ... And I will bless him that blesses you, and him that curses you I will curse” (Genesis 12:2-3). That’s Jewish belief too, by the way. Indeed, that is also the reason stated by John Hagee, as quoted by Mr. Boyarsky in the column before Mr. Boyarsky incoherently segues into a discussion of the Rapture. Even Mr. Boyarsky’s understanding of the Christian concept of the Rapture is flawed — those Christians who believe in it do not believe that everyone left behind dies in the tribulations that follow. Finally, while it is true that normative Christianity — and not just Protestant Evangelicals — holds that no person, Jew or gentile, can be saved in the hereafter without a belief in the Christian savior, why should any Jew, secular or religious, base his vote on a Christian candidate’s beliefs concerning spiritual salvation? The religious Jew believes that one’s portion in the world to come is determined by one’s deeds in this life, while to the Jew who does not believe in a soul or afterlife, Christian salvation dogma should be irrelevant.

Ralph Kostant
via e-mail

Bill Boyarsky wrote, “Netanyahu’s hawkish policies toward Iran and Palestinians.” Iran poses an existential threat to Israel, given their systematic rhetoric of not recognizing Israel, rather, the “Zionist Entity.”

Therefore, Israel has to weigh what the wise option is: to do a pre-emptive strike on Iran that will trigger war with Hezbollah and Hamas (and possibly Syria), or to not act militarily and preemptively and allow Iran to attain a nuclear weapon whereby it can certainly wipe out Israel. Iran’s policies are hawkish, Israel’s policies are defensive, in guarding its citizens. Regarding Palestinians: The Gaza strip is run entirely by Hamas, a militant Islamist organization (deemed a terrorist organization by the U.S., EU, UK, etc.), and was born out of the infamous Muslim Brotherhood of Hassan Bana.

Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 with assurance that it would be a step toward peace, but the antithesis has occurred. Hamas has allowed thus far for 17,000 rockets launched into southern Israel. Because of security concerns, Israel has a legal blockade around the coastal enclave (legal, UN Palmer Report 2011). If Israel bombing Hamas tunnels used for attaining weapons is “hawkish,” then you are asking Israel to destruct.

Shira Ben-Shushan
Los Angeles

As the Republican primary elections near, the remaining candidates are racing to win over the groups that are still up for grabs. Currently a lot of the attention has been directed at the Jewish population. In your Dec. 23 issue, this topic was covered rather carelessly. It was mentioned in this article that there hadn’t been a recent time where the administration gave more support to the security of Israel than now. This does not sit well with me considering how we are less than a decade removed from George W. Bush’s administration where maintaining a strong bond with Israel, our strongest ally in the Middle East, was one of our top foreign affair priorities. Later on in the article it was mentioned that 13 percent more of the Jewish population than the entire population of America approve of the Obama Administration. This can possibly mislead your readers into thinking that Jews are satisfied with the job done in the Middle East with foreign affairs, while this is certainly not true. These things should be well thought out before published in your publication.

Zvulun Zeffren
YULA Boys School
Los Angeles

The Israel Factor Project released a survey that was taken by the panel (“The Israel Factor Project: Romney vs. Gingrich vs. Obama,” Dec. 23). They voted on which candidate running for the Republicans would be the best for Israel.

But what is going to happen if one of the candidates that was voted the worst for Israel becomes President? The president will feel hostile towards the State of Israel, and will not want to even have the usually courtesies. Israel and the Jews of America will also be in a state of panic because the candidate that is “good for them” wasn’t picked. Therefore, it doesn’t sound like a good idea to get involved in politics that you can’t help in any way.

Chava Glass
Los Angeles

Proper Comparison Would Strengthen Argument

It is always with regret that I read in your pages from university students who have turned from their former attachment to Judaism and to Israel, and, after a thorough indoctrination from their predominantly leftist professors, become “critical” of Israel. Such is the case with Rebecca Powell (“You Taught Us Well—Now It’s Our Turn,” Dec. 9).

She writes, as others do, that, “Israel is not perfect.” To whom, may I ask, is she comparing Israel? — To Mother Theresa? To the angels in heaven? Perfection is not ours to have here on earth. The comparison should be made with respect to the barbaric medieval Islamist countries surrounding Israel. In comparison Israel shines as a light unto the nations regarding ethics and morality. Internally, Israel, to be sure, has its share of problems, as do all nations. Ms. Powell would be more effective and supportable if, when exposing Israel’s deficiencies, she would make a proper comparison.

Israel is a tiny country surrounded and threatened by its neighbors. She needs all the help and support she can get. particularly from her brethren. Surely Ms. Powell in her comments does not mean harm to Israel; but she causes precisely that when she singles out Israel for criticism.

C.P. Lefkowitz
Rancho Palos Verdes

Pros and Cons of Sharing Sacred Space

Thank-you for your wonderful article on the loving coexistence of the three congregations of Village Church, Ahavat Torah and Musasllah Talhid (“The Big Tent,” Dec. 23). Speaking as one of the members of Ahavat Torah, we take great pride in these relationships and the courageous leadership of our rabbi into them. Our interfaith connections are fundamentally spiritual rather than political. I was already committed to mutual Jewish-Muslim understanding but I had not paid the same attention to Christian-Jewish bonds. On Christmas Eve, several Ahavat Torah members and the rabbi herself, attended Candlelight services. We came out of respect and admiration for Reverend Janet Bregar. We left with a far deeper appreciation of this essence of this Christian High Holy Day.

Ellen Carol DuBois
Professor of History, UCLA

Sharing “space” and goodwill with Muslims is a noble endeavor but it comes with a great price; the constant threat of violence. Muslim Christmas terror predates Sept. 11, the War on Terror, the War in Iraq, or any of the other excuses used to justify Muslim violence. The problem is the Koran itself.

This Christmas, Muslims bombed Churches in five Nigerian cities. Two years ago on Northwest Airlines Flight 253, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a devout Muslim, had a packet of explosives sewn into his underwear. At his trial he said, “The Koran obliges every able Muslim to participate in jihad and fight in the way of Allah and kill them wherever you find them.”

At a Christmas celebration in Portland, Oregon, Mohamed Osman Mohamud tried to detonate an explosive device. He said, “What makes me happy is seeing the enemy of Allah and their torn bodies everywhere.”

On a Christmas day in Indonesia the Congregation of Islam detonated 38 bombs in Cathedrals, convents, schools and churches, wounding over 100 people and killing 19. Its leading Muslim cleric explained, “Islam must win and Westerners will be destroyed … peace means they must be governed by Islam.”

Around the world, the wounded moan, the dead are silent, and the cry of “Allahu Akbar” comes from the mouths of the murderers. True peace requires honesty. We are witnessing the ancient religious war written in blood in the pages of the Koran.

Asher Norman
via e-mail

Hitchens’ Atheism Was His Folly

I am neither dismayed nor disappointed at the demise of the celebrated journalist, debater and rabid atheistic wit Christopher Hitchens (“The Shtarker,” Dec. 23).

I appreciated his neoconservative conversion, a conviction that prompted him to support the United States’ war with Islamo-Fascism. His erudition in subjects literary and political was stirring and enervating, refreshing and riveting.

I especially welcomed his biting criticism of the faux-faithful Mother Teresa, a charity charlatan whose efforts in Calcutta will forever be undermined by her dedication to poverty, not the poor; her crass pandering to dictators and media elites for quick cash donations; and her bold forays into California medical clinics while her many convents to India’s down-and-out suffered the most despicable deprivation. His penetrating indictment of this secularized icon was effervescent and effective.

Nevertheless, to claim that this half-Jewish journalist was a “shtarker” is hollow praise at best. Hitchens’ unrepentant atheism exposed the fundamental folly of this otherwise brilliant man.

Beloved King David denounces Hitchens and the world for the true wisdom which they sorely lack: “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1) .

His wise son King Solomon concurred: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7) .

These two eternal truths have withstood and surpassed the human wisdom of the ages. Therefore, we can only declare that Christopher Hitchens was just one more tipsh (“fool” in Yiddish), although a very acerbic and informative one.

Arthur Christopher Schaper

Negotiations, Not UN Action, Key to Peace

In Sept. 2011, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas submitted his request for U.N. Security Council recognition of Palestine as a full member state. Rob Eshman spun this story as an opportunity for peace, rather than the clear evasion of peace it is (“You and the UN,” Oct. 14).

Eshman implores Israel supporters to “ensure that the U.N. resolution for Palestinian statehood protects Israel’s security, recognizes Israel’s Jewish character and enshrines the two-state solution” by reaching out to their government. I urge Mr. Eshman to comprehend that such a resolution may end up including those criteria, but the antithesis would unfold on the ground. Eshman seems to forget that real, concrete peace treaties Israel has earned were fruits of intense, long direct negotiations — such as the Israeli peace treaties with Egypt, Jordan, and even the Oslo Accords. Not to mention, such unilateral actions are prohibited under the Oslo Accords that the PLO signed.

Moreover, I beg to differ with Eshman’s claim that UN recognition of Palestine would “effectively undermine the power of Hamas.” A Palestinian state imposed today would most definitely feature Hamas violently usurping full control of it, as we saw happening in 2006 after elections in Gaza. What would “undermine the power of Hamas,” however, would be Mahmoud Abbas letting go of his unprecedented, illogical precondition of a freeze to all settlement construction (a.k.a. pre-negotiating what should be negotiated in direct negotiations), and simply to start talking peace with the Israelis.

On another note, Palestinian elections are coming up, and Mahmoud Abbas needs to be strategic so that he does not lose to the revitalized Hamas after the Shalit swap. The wisest thing for Abbas to do is to advance in direct negotiations, therefore getting in more money from the U.S. Congress for campaigning and for internal security, and to show the people that Palestine is on its way. Should Abbas engage in direct talks with the PA, I maintain that Fatah will surge in the elections.

Leron Rayn
Los Angeles

Hadassah Medical Center Needs Support

I am a Jewish 17-year-old living in Los Angeles, and I currently attend YULA High School. I love the fact that you put the article [online about] The Hadassah Medical Center in Israel (“Report: Hadassah Medical Center can’t meet payments,” jewishjournal.com, Dec. 22).

I disagree with the Israeli government [decision] that they aren’t supporting the Hadassah Medical Center, and I appreciate it that you have informed the American Jewish community about this conflict. We should advertise the conflict in schools, synagogues, and community centers. The Hadassah Medical Center needs our support, and I will do everything in my power to help advertise about this.

Jacob Weinblut
Sherman Oaks

Israel Should Enforce Behavior Standards

I agree with the fact that a segregated city is not a Jewish ideal, and I also believe that the Charedi community is getting out of hand; although, I think you could have had a stronger argument if you added that it is Chilul Hashem to make people feel uncomfortable just by doing a simple thing, like sitting on a bus or walking down the street (”Israel Takes Gender Fight to Buses, Billboards,” Nov. 18). The Charedim need to be told that they will be prosecuted if they do not stop acting this way — it is completely unacceptable and is creating a bad image for the entire Jewish community.

Benjamin Krombach
Los Angeles

Evolution of U.S. Air Force Nomenclature

In the Dec. 23 issue of The Journal, reference was twice made to men having served in the “Army Air Corps” during World War II. For what it’s worth, the Air Corps became known as the U.S. Army Air Forces in June, 1941. The USAAF kept this designation until September, 1947, when the armed forces were reorganized and a separate U.S. Air Force came into being.

Chaim Sisman
Los Angeles

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