Jewish Journal

Shutting Jewish mouths; A civil tone of voice

Posted on Mar. 1, 2007 at 7:00 pm

A Civil Tone

Last week's Letters section offered a fascinating window on the views and feelings of our community (Letters, Feb. 23). Most of the letters were thoughtful, informative and passionate. Two stepped over the line.

One nasty note was directed at Rob Eshman personally, condemning him for once belonging to Peace Now, calling him a traitor and a pogrom, while besmirching all Jews who disagree with the writer as people who would "sell their soul for a fake peace." I'm afraid someone's been listening to too much talk radio.

And speaking of talk radio, the other letter lumps together Messrs. Prager, Medved (and David Klinghoffer for good measure) as "notorious Jewish hypocrites," while managing to disparage all evangelical Christians as people who "do not respect Judaism." Sad.

Be they on the left or the right, some folks don't seem to realize that it's indeed possible to debate with facts, rather than fanaticism. Mr. Rohde's letter proved it beautifully, with his clearly laid out rebuttal showing that our Founding Fathers did respect other faiths beyond the Judeo-Christian realm. So why tolerate the name calling?

While I congratulate you for having the guts and openness to publish even the most vitriolic letters, perhaps there's a better way.

The Journal already imposes some restrictions on writers, requesting that letters be of a certain length and contain a valid name and address. May I make a suggestion? How about also requiring a civil tone?

Want to get nasty and call names? Go someplace else.

It would be a small thing, true, but maybe it's a first step toward elevating the debate to at least a minimum level of respect.

Abe Rosenberg
via e-mail

Jewish Mouths

I thoroughly approve of your approach and point in this editorial ("Shutting Jewish Mouths," Feb. 16). Two Jews, three opinions has always characterized our tribe and always will. Even with the fear injected into the conditions of dissent from the Israel lobby line, still we rise. I hope we always will. I especially appreciate your point of the destruction of all but the most reactionary views of history and current events when the left is walled off and vilified.

Stuart M. Chandler
Mar Vista

Rob Eshman speaks proudly of having sought Jewish support for a Palestinian state 20 years ago, when it was a minority position in the American Jewish community, saying, "The moral of the story: Today's dissenters [like Tony Judt and Tony Kushner] might just be on to something."

Doesn't Eshman understand the danger of creating a Palestinian state today, which would have Hamas and Fatah running the show, whose charters call for Israel's destruction and use of terrorism, and who would continue to promote hatred and murder of Israelis in its media, mosques, textbooks and youth camps and refuse to arrest and jail terrorists?

We agree with the former head of the IDF, Gen. Moshe Yaalon, who has repeatedly stated that "a Palestinian state should not be created. It will only increase the likelihood of war."

Morton A. Klein
National President
Zionist Organization of America
New York

Absurd Assertion

I coordinated the recent Los Angeles Combatants for Peace (CFP) events ("Divided We Fall," Feb. 9).

StandWithUs' (SWU) assertion that CFP presentations are "one-sided" is false, and its categorization of CFP events as "anti-Israel" is cynical and absurd.

CFP is a joint Israeli and Palestinian peace group, and all CFP events in the UnNited States feature representatives from both peoples. CFP is comprised of former Palestinian militants and Israeli combat soldiers who have realized the futility of the violence they have perpetrated on each other, and now believe that there is no viable military solution to the conflict and that both sides are wrong to persist in armed hostilities against the other.

If SWU applies the "anti-Israel" label to any gathering that fails to promote the integrity of greater Israel, CFP events are properly categorized as such. Otherwise, SWU's labeling of CFP events as "anti-Israel" evidences a profound measure of political solipsism.

Further, I would be interested in learning what "unsubstantiated charges" and "misinformation" SWU claims CFP is disseminating. As a matter of policy and design, and out of a desire to discourage debate over ancillary matters, CFP makes no charges and takes no positions other than those expressed in its threefold mission.

Joel S. Farkas
Santa Monica

Azerbaijan Democratization

I was pleased to read one more article about Azerbaijan which stresses the tolerance of its population toward different religions and nations ("Borat, Meet Elin," Feb. 23).

However, I see a threat: Because of authoritarianism and pressure on political opposition, more and more people have started turning their faces toward radicalism. An ordinary citizen believes now that it is impossible to change the government in a democratic way.

According to OSCE reports, all elections since 1993 have been falsified by the former local KGB and Communist Party boss Heydar Aliyev and by his son, Ilham, after the father's death in 2003. Some experts have started warning about the danger of revolution in Azerbaijan. Yet, will it be "colored revolution" as in neighboring Ukraine and Georgia to democratize the country or Iranian-like path?

I do believe that only by urging authorities to cease the pressure on democratic opposition will we succeed in preventing Azerbaijan from falling into radicalism and finally starting democratization.

Elgun Taghiyev
Program Assistant
National Democratic Institute
Baku, Azerbaijan

'Curly Top' Arkin

To see Alan Arkin bald is so shocking to my system, considering here is a guy who, in a gentile high school environment, had the most glamorous and envious beautiful curly head of hair of any of us seven or eight gifted Jews who were literally his friends ("Alan Arkin: Not Just Another Kid From Brooklyn," Feb. 16).

When it came to having that suave, utterly curly head of hair, Alan had no equal. Perhaps Alan lost his curly hair on the way to becoming a successful showbiz celebrity. Or just maybe he shaved his head like so many of the people in his profession. Whatever the case may be, I think it would be a mitzvah for those followers of Alan to know that in younger days that he had the most beautiful of curly tops.

Allen L. Mitchell

Aleinu DUI Program

I want to thank Julie Fax for an excellent article on the Aleinu DUI program ("Peers Give Orthodox Teens Lesson in Drug Use, Abuse," Feb. 16).

I want to clarify that the DUI video was created by the boys as part of their recovery process. These boys empowered themselves to make a difference in the world. Their brave parents validated their children's courage and joined them in their mission.

Many of the boys have been clean and sober for almost a year and continue working on sobriety. The boys were applauded at the end of the video presentation.

I, too, want to publicly applaud the Aleinu Issues Anonymous group for their efforts to get their message across, as well as their success in achieving their path toward recovery. Kol Hakavod!

Debbie Fox, LCSW
Aleinu Family Resource Center

Kosher Food for Thought

Your article regarding the recent increase in fancy kosher cuisine by Amy Klein made my stomach churn ("L.A.'s Gourmet Kosher Makeover," Feb. 16). It didn't make me hungry, rather sick.

I enjoy a good steak and a bottle of fine wine just as much as anyone but to drop half a grand on a Tuesday night sounds a little absurd. Jews should have a sense of responsibility for each other.

The $450 that you are spending on dinner could be put to more noble causes, such as poverty-stricken families in Israel or the myriad Jewish causes starving for money.

Prime Grill sounds like a wonderful restaurant, but does the Orthodox community really need a top-of-the-line steak house. If the answer to this question is yes, then I think we need to re-examine our priorities.

So as you sip your third glass of French wine after devouring an $80 steak, I hope you sleep well knowing that most of us will be spending our hard earned money on more important causes.

Jacob Sculnik
Valley Village

Jewish Hypocrites

David Klinghoffer defends Dennis Prager and mentions Michael Medved, and there you have the three notorious Jewish hypocrites of the religious right ("Prager Shouldn't Lose His Museum Post," Feb. 16).

These Jewish counterparts of Hannity and O'Reilly support the evangelical Christians, even though they know that the evangelicals do not respect Judaism and consider our religion only a precursor to Christianity.

Martin J. Weisman
Westlake Village

The Jewish hypocrites (Prager, Medved, etc.) to some in the community are true heroes to the Orthodox and conservative -- valued Jews who certainly have more in common religiously and morally with evangelical Christians than with Jews who've never met a leftist they didn't like (Letters, Feb. 23). Those Jews either don't believe in teshuva, or believe conservatism is the unforgivable sin.

Saul Z. Newman
Los Angeles

Looking Into the Future

Bruce J. Schneider's letter in the Feb. 23 Jewish Journal troubles me. "It's three or four years down the road. Obama is president. Iran has developed nuclear weapons while continuing to talk about the genocide of Israel.... Israel nukes the heck out of Iran. What will Obama (or Hillary or John Edwards) do?...John McCain would stand with Israel."

If I understand the Schneider scenario, Iran wouldn't be throwing bombs. It's just throwing words - terribly ugly words but words nonetheless. Iran hasn't even escalated its words. According to this setup, it's been throwing around the same hot air for years but hasn't fired a single shot in Israel's direction. Nevertheless, Israel attacks Iran - not by sabotaging nuclear plants or using conventional weapons against military targets but by nuking the heck out of the country as a whole.

The attacks and the ensuing clouds of radiation would probably wipe out millions of Iranian civilians; sicken or kill Turks, Pakistanis, Iraqis and others, and plunge the United States and other countries into an energy crisis by rendering major oil-producing areas uninhabitable.

Like Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, a nuclear strike on Iran would invite retribution -- if not from Iran, then from the suddenly panicked leaders of other governments, including some that have their own nukes.

Under those circumstances, I don't know if a President McCain would stand with Israel or not. I do know that Iran's President Ahmadinejad runs for re-election in 2009. By the time we get three or four years down the road, Iran may have changed its rhetoric, just as it changed after Ahmadinejad took office in 2005. Even if Iran doesn't change, I don't think that committing unprovoked nuclear genocide would benefit Israel, the United States or anyone else.

David Seidman
West Hollywood

Stein's View of Carter

Regarding Peter L. Rothholz's report on Dr. Kenneth W. Stein's presentation at Sinai Temple ("Former Carter Fellow Addresses Sinai Temple," Jan. 19): Dr. Stein's compliments to President Carter's intelligence and memory and the belief that the former president is "not anti-Semitic" leaves him only one conclusion to explain Carter's memory lapses or his misrepresentations of experiences in the Middle East: Carter must dislike Israel.

Dr. Stein's conclusions serve well the president's purpose to provoke Jewish consternation so that he can qualify as an acceptable mediator in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. What appear to Stein to be flaws in the president's book are simply fictions (ala the fiction "Munich") to portray his understanding of the Palestinians' plight.

Even though both works have been accused of inaccuracies, both contain truths that escape Jewish readers. The negative outpouring (Imagine 14 Jews resigning en masse from the Carter Center Board. Some fatwa.) reflects the insecurity of Jews and our inability to consider the other hand that we have so carefully nourished in our cultural persona. Rabbi David Wolpe might instead have asked Dr. Stein whether Stein's fear of the other has skewed the acuity of Stein's partial interpretation of President Carter's book.

Bernard A. Goldberg

Civil Marriages, Divorces

The plight of the agunot (chained Orthodox wives) is caused by our beloved State of Israel not being a democracy ("Orthodox Feminists Find Little Progress on Agunot," Feb. 23). A Jewish republic is a more accurate description. It is impossible to have a true democracy when religious fundamentalists are allowed to write the laws of the land.

The first step toward fulfilling democratic criteria would be the establishment of legal civil marriage and divorce, as is the case in heavily Roman Catholic Ireland. This would negate the need for non-Orthodox Jews to leave Israel to be legally married, and it may then be possible for charedi wives to join more liberal Jewish congregations to gain their freedom.

Martin J. Weisman
Westlake Village

Persian Attendance

I appreciate Rabbi Wolpe's comments on the Persian community. I attend Hollywood Temple Beth El ("Let Community Healing Begin at Shul," Feb. 23). Hollywood Temple Beth El is sometimes referred to as the Iranian American Jewish Center.

Persians rarely come to Shabbat services in any large numbers to the Iranian American Jewish Center but come to Shabbat services at Sinai in large numbers. However, the reverse is true at High Holiday time, when over 600 Persians come to Hollywood Temple Beth El for High Holidays, and fewer Persians come to Sinai for the High Holidays.

Hollywood Temple Beth El has no membership dues and charges a mere $65 a ticket for High Holidays, but Sinai has both membership dues and much higher High Holiday ticket prices.

My conclusion, and the conclusion around me, is that the Persian community members who love Sinai for Shabbat services, attend Hollywood Temple Beth El, Iranian American Jewish Center, because of cost.

Via E-mail

StandWithUs Pamphlet

I have not read "Israel 101," but other pamphlets by StandWithUs have been disappointing ("StandWithUs Guide Puts Answers in Students' Hands," Feb. 23).

While they do an excellent job of countering all of the lies the other side spews about current history, they eschew any "Dershowitz arguments," that is arguments that put the whole conflict into perspective. One cannot counter the charge that "Jews control the world" unless one dramatizes the fact that Israel is the victim of absurdly disproportionate criticism.

Furthermore, StandWithUs, like other organizations, refuses to justify Zionism with the compelling arguments that the Zionists used. Until the '70s, they argued that Zionism is justifiable because the land was far more important to the Jews than to the Arabs because this land was a "tiny notch" of the Arab greater homeland. Instead, today many argue that Zionism is justifiable primarily because there always were some Jews in Palestine, a weak argument that would shock our early leaders.

Just because we have to acknowledge the fact that Palestinians have evolved into a people does not mean that that we can avoid explaining that they were not historically one.

Let us hope that this 44-page pamphlet contains the strongest of arguments necessary to defend Israel.

Ronnie Lampert
Los Angeles

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