Jewish Journal

Letters to the Editor: Yeshivas and Settlements

Posted on Dec. 8, 2010 at 9:31 am

Are Settlements the Issue?

Surely, like other ideologues, historian David N. Myers means well when he claims that “settlements [on the West Bank] are the major impediment to Israel’s future as a Jewish state,” as he denigrates Dennis Prager for his thesis that the settlements are not the problem in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (“Settlements Are the Issue,” Dec. 3). Myers (conveniently?) overlooks the many facts that support Prager’s position.

Most significant, Myers states, “If settlements remain ... then the region between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea will become one political entity. And ... the majority of the residents ... will be Palestinian.” Therefore, he argues, as a democracy, Israel will have to grant all residents the right to vote; and then the Palestinian majority will vote a virtual end to the State of Israel.

Aside from the fact that Israel’s “occupation” of those territories is a myth, the Israeli settlements are located primarily near the current Israeli border. The rest of the West Bank (with or without the Gaza Strip) could easily be forged into a “Palestinian” state – independent of the State of Israel.

George Epstein
Los Angeles

The letter from Americans for Peace Now (Letters, Nov. 26) states that the settlements are an obstacle to Israel becoming a “full and legitimate member of the family of nations,” implying if not directly stating that Israel is not a “legitimate” nation. Thus, APN joins the “international campaign to deligitimize the Jewish state,” a clear demonstration that this organization not only contributes to the undermining of Israel but functions as a support to Palestinian and other anti-Israel propaganda. For shame.

Robert Friedman
via e-mail

It is time for Americans to be told the truth. Islamic states will not tolerate a non-Muslim state within [their] midst. It is an affront to their Muslim sensibilities as outlined in Quranic doctrine. To pretend, as Peace Now does, that it is a territorial dispute gives credence to the Islamic resistance movement, which has gained momentum by placing the onus on Israel, and it prevents Israel and the West from confronting the real issue — the lack of tolerance and acceptance of a non-Islamic state within its midst.

Kudos to Dennis Prager for his independent analysis and his courage to go against the tide of political correctness.

Shari Goodman
Chapter Leader
Calabasas-West Valley ACT!
For America

If professor David N. Myers were right that “[Israeli] settlements are the issue” preventing the progression of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, then Mahmoud Abbas would have been talking about settlements for the past 15 years, instead of the past 15 minutes. The reality is that only when President Obama started talking about settlements did the Palestinians suddenly turn a talking point into a reason for not talking.

Steve Meister
Sherman Oaks

Knowing Mr. David Myers’ qualifications, I was perplexed how he could come up with such a one-sided view on the subject of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank (“Settlements Are the Issue,” Dec. 3).

History, which is Mr. Myers’ raison d’etre for this article, shows us that most of his arguments are baseless and hold no merit. But first allow me to agree with his biggest concern that I do share —the effect of the occupation on Israel as a democratic country. For years I have decried the negative effect the occupation has had on Israel as a nation and on its citizens as humane human beings. As the saying goes, power corrupts, and it has had this effect on soldiers and policemen guarding and controlling Arab populations, it has had the same effect on the settlers themselves and on Israel’s population as a whole to some degree.

Another concern of Mr. Myers that I used to share is the changing demographic in favor of the Arab population if we do not separate the two peoples as the two-state solution dictates.

Now let me dispel the concerns and theory the learned professor has put forward.

1. Until very recently the settlement freeze was not an issue, negotiations came and went with no real results and any reason to believe a peace settlement is feasible. Neither Arafat nor Abu Mazen claims the continued construction was the only hurdle to the peace process. It was well understood that most of the settlements, including those surrounding Jerusalem, will stay on the Israeli side of the peace agreement. The freeze is the brainchild of president Obama as an effort to further appease the Arab countries and it has picked up momentum [faster] than a snowball.
2. Settlements were never an impediment to a peace treaty between Israel and its peaceful neighbors, unless we include Tel Aviv, Haifa, Beer Sheba, Jerusalem and every Israeli town, village and home in the framework of the above-mentioned settlements. Professor Myers has most likely been deprived of all that is being declared by the Palestinians, not only in Gaza but in Ramallah and around the Arab world. Or maybe he chooses not to believe what is being said.
3. Israel has proven in the not too distant past that it is a very determined country and will vacate its citizens for a real peace. The evacuation of the Gaza Strip and Gush Katif was not in return for peace, just a demonstration of our willingness and determination. It was a smaller scale experiment that failed, not because of Israel, as maybe you would be led to believe by the likes of professor Myers but because of those above mentioned peaceful neighbors who could not restrain their true nature more than a few days and started the rocket barrage on Israel immediately.
4. Not only are the settlements not the issue, the occupation is not the issue; Israel is the issue. Not wanting to delve on ancient pre-1948 history, let me remind the learned professor that terrorism from the Gaza Strip as from the West Bank and Syria was a staple of Israel life since 1948. Thousands of nightly attacks, hundreds of Jews massacred on buses, in their home and while working the fields was a way of life up to 1967. The first years after the war were the quietest days Israel enjoyed because the fight to control terrorism was conducted on occupied territory for a change, not in Israeli homes.
5. And finally, the professor’s great concern for Israel’s future if the status quo continues. Sir, had you had the chance to study some of the statistics in Israel you would have learned to your great dismay that the population balance that so concerns you has not changed in the past 20 years. This may be due to a variety of reasons, including Jewish immigration and a high birth rate in the Jewish population that offsets the declining birth rate among the Arab citizens in Israel and the West Bank. It may also be due to forced migration out of Arab neighborhoods of Arab Christians by their Muslim brothers. It may also be caused by a host of other reasons, including the inability of many able-bodied men to procreate while in jail for terrorism charges. That in itself may be an interesting research project.

I’m sure we will be innovative enough in the coming years to figure out a way to allow the Palestinians to continue their life in a semi-autonomous environment that will assure Israel a safe way of life while not depriving the Palestinians (those among them that are assured rights by their laws and exclude women, gays, Christians) of a free environment to define their destiny with a few limitations that include restriction on efforts associated with the destruction of Israel.

If we will not find that solution, we may have to settle for a not fully democratic system of law, a possibility that may shock many in this wonderful country. The Palestinians will still have a much better and prosperous life than under any Muslim regime and Israel will be able to continue to exist. Not perfect but it beats having to swim all the way to New York.

Ethan Teitler
Sherman Oaks

David Myers of the UCLA History Department believes that Dennis Prager is wrong in denying that “the settlements are the major impediment to Israel’s future as a Jewish state.” Then Prager slams the parasitic Israeli ultra-Orthodox who are strong supporters of the settlements due to their belief that the West Bank is part of biblical greater Israel.

Martin J. Weisman
Westlake Village

Contrasts Between Secular Universities, Charedi Yeshivas

Unlike virtually all of his other Jewish Journal screeds, Dennis Prager’s column (“Ultra-Orthodox Yeshivas and Secular Universities,” Dec. 3) is only half wrong. Prager correctly condemns the Israeli government’s policy of paying 65 percent of Charedi Jewish men to study Torah, rather than work. However, he goes spectacularly off the rails with this non sequitur: “Most secular left professors and most ultra-Orthodox yeshiva scholars are mirror images of one another.”

After quickly glossing over the obvious distinction that college professors are paid to work while Charedi “scholars” are paid not to do so, Prager embarks upon an anti-intellectual and anti-academic jeremiad whose bottom line is that American universities are a secular left “cocoon.”

As a graduate of Claremont Men’s (now McKenna) College, I wonder if Prager had in mind one of my alma mater’s icons — Harry Victor Jaffa, who authored Barry Goldwater’s 1964 GOP nomination acceptance speech? Could he have forgotten Milton Friedman and the University of Chicago? What about the Hoover Institution at Stanford University? Or Brigham Young University? Bob Jones University? All hotbeds of secular liberalism?

Prager’s mantra is clear: I hate all liberals; facts, logic and reason be damned. How sad that The Jewish Journal wastes valuable trees to publish such drivel.

Douglas Mirell
Los Angeles

Dennis Prager’s column is right on — until he compares liberal arts professors with the Charedi in Israel. He claims professors in the liberal arts are geared “to produce a secular leftist.” His analysis of the Charedi’s impact in Israel is well founded, and eventually the government will have to make serious adjustments to avoid an economic burden that can overwhelm the country. The ultra-Orthodox here in North America are also facing a similar issue of having so many “Torah scholars” in their productive years draining social welfare funds from actual needy families — not those who choose to have a dozen children without a breadwinner.

Sol Taylor
Former professor of education,
Chapman College, 1971-1982
Sherman Oaks

Dennis Prager devotes much of the first part of his column “Ultra-Orthodox Yeshivas and Secular Universities” (Dec. 3) passing along information written in a Wall Street Journal column by Evan R. Goldstein about ultra-Orthodox (Charedi) Jews in Israel who do not work but instead study the Torah while demanding increasing amounts of money from the taxes paid by Israelis who work for a living. This is like Prager getting paid by The Jewish Journal for this column by using the work of Goldstein. But then Prager compares these Israeli ultra-Orthodox men with the Western universities. Prager complains about the individuals who teach liberal arts while being paid from our taxes while only working a few hours a week and spending nearly their whole lives in a secular left cocoon, interacting almost only with people who live and think as they do.

As usual with Dennis Prager, he cites not one fact to back up his outrageous statements. He goes on with his rant of the “left” by saying these teachers devote their life to the study of increasingly irrelevant matters, with the results that lack wisdom and therefore too often produce nonsense, sometimes harmful nonsense.

I assume Mr. Prager concludes that conservative teachers never teach liberal arts. Prager should do at least a minimal amount of research before writing his columns. The dictionary defines liberal arts as “the studies (as language, philosophy, history, literature, abstract science) in a college or university intended to provide chiefly general knowledge and to develop the general intellectual capacities (as reason and judgment) as opposed to professional or vocational skills.” It is apparent that Mr. Prager is saying that he and the conservative right have no interest in developing the capacities of reason and judgment.

Leon M. Salter
Los Angeles

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