Jewish Journal

Should Israel care what we think? Should we care what Israel thinks? If not now, when?

Posted on Jan. 31, 2008 at 7:00 pm

Should Israel Care?

The four pieces addressing the cover story have missed one aspect of the debate ("Why Should Israel Care What We Think About Jerusalem?" Jan. 25). The government of Israel, in making decisions on the fate of Jerusalem, is not operating in a vacuum. It is subject to enormous pressures by the international community that is acting in its own interest.

Almost every Arab country attended the Annapolis conference last November to influence and voice their interest in the ultimate outcome of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and on the issue of Jerusalem. Thus, decisions on the fate of Jerusalem are influenced by a large group of players whose considerations are not always aligned with Israel's.

Under these one-sided interests and multiple other considerations, the decision the government of Israel would make becomes a compromise of the pushes and pulls, rather than what is best for Israel. The Jewish voice can serve as the counterbalance that the Israeli government needs.

The Jewish people of all countries should take an active position in voicing their interest on Jerusalem. International Jewish voices are not less important than international Arab and Muslim voices, or the EU, or the U.N, or Russia or the even the United States. This may balance the adverse pressures on Israel and may allow the government of Israel to make compromises and right decisions that reflect all views.

Nahum Gat
Manhattan Beach

The controversy about who should decide Jerusalem's fate reminds me about medieval Christian theologians who debated how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. No matter what concessions Israel makes, its enemies will want more, because they do not want a Jewish state in the Middle East.

Mahmoud Abbas refuses to acknowledge that Israel is a Jewish state. Saudi Arabia said it might make peace but only with an Arab Palestinian country in which Jews are allowed to live. This attitude is among the more moderate opinions in the Islamic world.

Let's take our heads out of the sand and acknowledge that Jerusalem is a sideshow. The Palestinians are more devoted to their struggle than they are to achieving a homeland. Let's get used to it.

Larry Shapiro
Rancho Mirage

As a citizen of America and Israel, I agree with Alan Dershowitz and Michael Berenbaum, Diaspora Jews should have a voice but not a vote when it comes to deciding the future of Jerusalem or anything else in Israel for that matter. If Jerusalem is as holy and important to some Diaspora Jews as they claim, then why aren't they willing to live there and make the same sacrifices that Israelis do?
Come on. Fight for what you believe in. Make aliyah. Pay astronomical taxes.

Earn ridiculously low wages. Send your children to the Israeli army to defend your homeland. Maybe then, Israelis will take what you have to say seriously.

Kathy Hallgren
Via e-mail

The Orthodox Union has never claimed that Diaspora Jewry should posses a veto over Israeli policy. But we do believe, as most Israelis and American Jews believe, that Jerusalem's fate is exceptional.

Every Jew has a stake in the future of our capital and, therefore, a right to be heard when there is talk of its fate. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has supported this notion himself, saying that he welcomes the input of Diaspora Jewry as the Israelis move forward with peace negotiations.

It is under this rubric that the Orthodox Union has taken the position that Jerusalem, as the eternal center of Jewish spiritual life, should not be divided.

Nathan J. Diament
Institute for Public Affairs,
Orthodox Union

Butt Out

I read Rob Eshman's editorial about Sabeel and Naim Ateek, and to say I am shocked, as he waxed poetic about this organization, would be an understatement ("Butt Out," Jan. 25).

First of all, I have been to hear Naim Ateek and listened to the speeches about the IDF using special gas to make Palestinians run slowly, so that the IDF sharpshooters can kill them with more ease.

If you consider the ISM, the PSM and Fatah peace partners, then I would prefer that Eshman butt out and let CAMERA and the local Jewish advocates do their due diligence. I welcome CAMERA with open arms.

Allyson Rowen Taylor
Valley Glen

Unfortunately, The Jewish Journal's good intentions are misdirected. While the Sabeel Center says it accepts a two-state solution, they actually endorse "One state for two nations and three religions."

Moreover, Sabeel has been a driving force behind the campaign by Mainline Protestant churches to divest from Israel -- openly expressed by Sabeel's director, the Rev. Naim Ateek in commentaries in The Seattle Post-Intelligencer and elsewhere.

The Sabeel Center claims to advocate non-violence, but fails to condemn suicide bombings in any meaningful way. A July 2002 article by Ateek, shifts accountability for suicide bombings from the terrorists who perpetrate violence, and places blame squarely on Israel. Moreover, he never calls for an end to such attacks.

But what is most troubling about the Sabeel Center or Palestinian Liberation Theology is how it casts the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in theological terms.
As stated recently in the Jerusalem Post, "...Ateek has figuratively blamed Israel for trying to kill the infant Jesus, crucifying Jesus the prophet and blocking the resurrection of Christ the Savior."

Hatred of Jews (directed against Israel) and masked as theology is not new and is not the language of a peacemaker. There certainly are Palestinian moderates to engage in dialogue; sadly, they do not include Rev. Ateek and the Sabeel Center.

Seth Brysk
Executive Director
American Jewish Committee

We are Jews who live and work in the Pasadena area. While we share Rob Eshman's concerns about Jews who "ride in from out of town to try to save us from the bad guys," we are grateful for CAMERA's efforts to educate us on the Rev. Naim Ateek. We live in the area, and we have seen the brochure (http://www.fosna.org/conferences_and_trips/documents/PasadenaBrochure.pdf.)

Rev. Ateek will speak at a two-day "Friends of Sabeel Conference and Workshop" at All Saints Church, which is dedicated to "commemorating the 60th anniversary of al-nakba." "Nakba," of course, means "catastrophe," and "al-nakba" is the Arabic idiom for the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. That title, plus a workshop titled "Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions," seem unusual for [an] organization that purportedly seeks peaceful coexistence.

We are not surprised to see an anti-Israel program out here in the Diaspora, away from the Westside mainstream. Jimmy Carter kicked off his book tour at a Pasadena bookstore. It's predictable that All Saints would agree to host an al-nakba commemoration conference. But we are surprised that Eshman would criticize CAMERA for informing us, the locals, thus enabling us to voice our legitimate concerns.

B. Martin and Jacqueline Levine, Arcadia; Anita Susan Brenner, Pasadena; Josef and Patricia Ulloa, San Dimas; Lawrence Scherr, Altadena; Peter and Nurith Brier, Altadena; Ahuva Einstein, Pasadena

Pro-Israel Candidates

Gershom Gorenberg asks the right question. ("What Does It Mean to Be a Pro-Israel Candidate?" Jan. 25.) But his answer -- in essence, to be a "peace processor" -- is unsatisfying.

It's based on a fundamental mistake: that "Israel's most basic strategic interest is a peace agreement and withdrawal." A mere peace agreement with an untrustworthy, authoritarian adversary, whose people are educated to hate, won't bring genuine, lasting peace. In these circumstances, withdrawal only increases the dangers Israel faces.

Gorenberg raises the issue of support for the "whole Land of Israel." This is a red herring. The majority of Israelis support a two-state solution and don't need to be pushed. The problem is that too many Palestinians and other Arabs still support a one-state solution -- that is, "peace" defined as "no Jewish state."

The pro-Israel candidate -- and pro-Arab candidate -- would advocate applying political and economic pressures on the Arabs to liberalize their governments. When the Arabs live in decent societies, extremism will have little appeal and Israel will be able to negotiate with some confidence in the results. Until then, Israel must be strong, project strength and enjoy the full backing of the United States.

Paul Kujawsky
Valley Village

Wilshire Subway

Thanks for Bill Boyarsky's nice words about me ("What Makes a Good Politico," Jan. 25). But he was wrong to charge me with the delay of the Wilshire subway.
Because of safety concerns, I prohibited tunneling at Wilshire and Fairfax in the mid- 1980s. Because of cost overruns and the voter rejection of an increase in sales tax to pay, the subway was delayed.

I offered to reopen the tunneling issue for determination of safety by an independent panel in the mid 1990s, but the MTA was not interested, because they did not have enough money to move beyond Vermont Avenue. It wasn't until Mayor [Antonio] Villaraigosa raised the issue when he took office, that I agreed to an independent evaluation to see if new technology was available to tunnel safely.

In the 1980s some experts feared an explosion and a wall of fire might occur.

The panel unanimously agreed that it could be done safely now, but even some on the panel of experts indicated that it was wise not to have tried tunneling there in the '80s, because it might not have been safe then.

The money to pay for the subway continues to be a problem, but we did pass a bond issue for infrastructure expenditures, which is supposed to help.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles)
Via e-mail

Eye on Obama

Regarding "Israelis Keep a Close Eye on U.S. Elections" (Jan. 25), it should be noted that Zbigniew Brzezinski is now a senior adviser to [Sen. Barack] Obama per John Mearsheimer and Stephan M. Walt (L.A. Times Opinion Section, 1/6/08).

Brzezinski, like [Jimmy] Carter, frequently criticizes Israel's moral stance without acknowledging the long, ongoing Palestinian goal of eliminating Israel.

Also, Obama joined the Trinity United Church of Christ, which afterward bestowed in December 2007 its highest social achievement award to Louis Farrakhan. While I hardly believe Obama supports Farrakhan's anti-Semitism, I would be guilty of a double standard if I did not feel uncomfortable with Obama's lack of aggressive responses to unfair treatment of Jews from his associates.

Charles S. Berdiansky
Los Angeles

Abe Cooper

The article about [Rabbi] Abe Cooper ("The Bloods, The Crips and The Rabbi," Jan. 18) omits one other controversial decision for which he has escaped criticism: the proposed expansion of the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center is proposing to replace the Memorial Garden behind the museum, dedicated to the Six Million, with a large banquet and event facility that will be rented out for parties six days a week from 7 a.m. until midnight (Jewish Journal, Oct. 19, 2007).

It is ironic that a Museum of Tolerance is attempting to force two intolerable projects simultaneously, one in Jerusalem and one here in Los Angeles. Just as in Israel, where the project has been stalled in the courts for three years, this hometown controversy, pitting Abe Cooper's controversial boss [Rabbi] Marvin Hier against his predominantly Jewish neighbors, may end up in court, as well.

Susan Gans and Daniel Fink
Roxbury Beverwil Homeowners Association

Spinka Coverage

The Journal was spot on in bringing to light the alleged crimes the Spinka organization was indicted for ("Dirty Laundry," Jan. 11). These alleged crimes include money-laundering and tax fraud and involve untold millions of dollars.

The harsh judgment given to The Journal for choosing to report this story and how it was reported (Letters, Jan. 25) is uncalled for and should instead be thrown at those facing a judge in U.S. District court in the coming months.

Those allegedly involved are solely responsible for the content of the article, not The Journal.

Shame on The Journal? No, shame on those who wish to bury their heads and not face the realities of a modern world.

Milton Zweig
Newbury Park

Marrying Out

Please tell Amy Klein not to suffer ("On Marrying Out," Jan. 25). If she finds the right person in a gentile, she should marry out. She was not put on this earth to be alone. We're all dealing with intermarriage; the Orthodox will have to get a grip. Intermarriage will not make us less Jewish, and who knows, it may lead to something good that our grandparents could not have envisioned.

It may very well be what God intended. No one knows, including those who arrogantly think they do.

Dena Silver (Jewish mother over 50)
via -e-mail

Gandhi's Grandson

Gandhi's grandson said nothing wrong (Gandhi Grandson Resigns in Wake of Anti-Semitic Web Article," Jan. 25). The State of Israel is a state of military brutality, just like the Bush regime. The fact that Gandhi's grandson had to resign for making statements that your people thought was insensitive is part of the reason more and more people around the world are resenting the Jews.

Anytime anybody says anything marginal about a Jew they face intense backlash. Jews need to learn the meaning of tolerance.

Jews and Blacks are exactly the same when it comes to extreme sensitivity and overreaction to comments. Christians are the brunt of many ill comments, but we ignore it and go on with our lives. It is called tolerance of free speech and thoughts.

Craig Miller
Via E-mail

In "Riverside Jewish Family Service to Close" (Jan. 25) the allocation from the Jewish Federation of Palm Springs and Desert Area for Jewish Family Service of the Desert was listed as almost $1 million. The 2007-08 allocation to JFS of the Desert is $247,000.

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