May 12: Background check

Why is it legitimate to make judgments about Elena Kagan based on her background and upbringing, and not legitimate to make judgments about Obama based on his?

May 11, 2010 21:29
May 12: Background check

letters thumb. (photo credit: )

Background check

Sir, – According to the article “Obama picks Jewish woman for US Supreme Court” (May 11), this is some of what President Barack Obama said about his choice:

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“Obama... cited Kagan’s immigrant roots and the values her parents instilled as key to her success and life path... ‘Given Elena’s upbringing, it’s a choice that probably came naturally,’ Obama said, referring to her being raised by a public school teacher and a tenant lawyer who were the children of immigrants and both the first in their families to go to college.”

And Abner Mikva, “who hired Kagan as his clerk when he was an appellate judge in the 1980s and then later when he was legal counsel for the Clinton White House,” said the following: “that her closeness to the immigrant experience influenced her approach to the law. ‘I think she did identify with people who are friendless and powerless, and that the law is there to protect them, not impose further burdens on them.’”

Mikva also noted that “her yiddishkeit, as I call it, informs her views on social justice and compassion and understanding what law is about... We the Jews invented the law, and it’s only fitting that someone of Jewish heritage would fall in love with the law and make it a career.”

I don’t think anyone in the Jewish community is complaining about this.

So why is it legitimate to make judgments about Elena Kagan based on her background and upbringing, and not legitimate to make judgments about Obama based on his background and upbringing? Why is it okay to say that Kagan’s immigrant experience will make her more sympathetic to the friendless and powerless, but it’s not okay to say that Obama’s close association with Muslims throughout his life might make him more sympathetic to their concerns?


Donors have free choice

Sir, – The interview with David Newman clearly shows how certain academics, primarily those on the Left, are out of touch with how the real world works (“How to make the next Buber,” May 11). In discussing his colleague, Neve Gordon, who openly supports boycotting Israel despite receiving a salary from its taxpayers, Newman decries those donors who will no longer give to BGU, as supporters of their own kind of boycott of an Israeli academic institution. He thinks that they should continue to fund BGU even though they find Gordon’s positions repugnant.

Sorry. Donors are wealthy people who have many options as to how to spend their money. If BGU turns them off, for whatever reason, or for no reason at all, they can choose to spend their money elsewhere. No one has a claim on their funds. If Gordon so turns off donors that BGU does not build another lab, then that is BGU’s choice. Just as Gordon has the free speech to vilify Israel, the donors have free choice as to where they spend their money.


Reply to ‘humane solutions’...

Sir, – What an interesting idea David J. Balan of Washington has (“Addressing the threat to Zionism,” Letters, May 10). He suggests that “one million or more non-Jewish immigrants” is an “obvious and humane solution to the rapid growth of the haredi and Arab populations relative to the secular Jewish one.”

After all, who needs a Jewish state when we can be like any other state? All those silly people who prayed for thousands of years to return to the Land of Israel and kept their covenant with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob through centuries of persecution...

We need this solution like we need a hole in the head.


...and ‘irrelevant connections’

Sir, – I found Michael Brunert’s letter, wherein he castigates Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon for making irrelevant connections between two episodes of Goldstone’s life, and his further accusation that Ayalon insults our intelligence by doing so, to be infused with an overdosage of casuistry (“An irrelevant connection,” Letters, May 10).

Suggesting that Goldstone’s having sentenced 28 black people to death under the viciously racist apartheid laws is more morally justified than the Nazi soldier’s claim of “following orders” is contemptible. The common Nazi conscript did not enjoy the prestige or the rewards that Goldstone did in voluntarily choosing to be a proactive participant in the apartheid judiciary.

    Petah Tikva

What Elie Wiesel didn’t say

Sir, – I hope the diplomats of the world will parse the language of Elie Wiesel very carefully, regarding the statement he issued upon his emergence from his private lunch with President Barack Obama (Axelrod to ‘Post’: Jerusalem likely to be last item on agenda,” May 5)

The two Nobel laureates discussed Prof. Wiesel’s ad about Jerusalem and President Obama’s positions about Jerusalem and Israel. Wiesel, a master of the English language, said, very specifically, “the tension I think is gone.”

Note what Wiesel did not say: that the differences of opinion about the issues are gone, most notably the remaining significant differences between most Israelis and Obama regarding Jerusalem, settlements, retaliatory responses, actions to be taken against Iran, exchanges of top-secret intelligence information, and agendas for proximity and final-status talks.

Unfortunately we have a long way to go. I hope that all people of good will who care about the survival of Israel will not relax their efforts at persuasion just because Elie Wiesel, in the presence of his powerful host, politely made the limited observation that he thought the tension was gone. The need to continue educating and persuading the world is definitely not gone.

    Kew Gardens, New York

Living with terror

Sir, –When I was in Israel in the 1990s, I became accustomed to the army always taking everything so seriously. We in the West see an empty milk carton or pop can in the bush and ignore it; Israel calls the bomb squad. This is not excessive behavior; rather, it has grown from experiences in the past, when it was not just litter in the bush – or a coat left on a rock outside an airport while the luggage was being unloaded, which ended up in the bomb-proof vault (that actually happened to me and my dad).

I’m sharing this because yes, thank God in heaven, it was just a lunch box and water bottle in New York City’s latest bomb scare, though in Israel, this would have been secured and examined anyway and possibly destroyed. I’m happy we can live in peace here in the West, for now, at least (“Times Square bomb suspect US citizen Faisal Shahzad nabbed aboard plane bound for Dubai,” May 5).

In 1995, when I was in Israel for four months volunteering, I nearly stepped on a bomb while going out for some food. To this day, I owe my life to an Israeli police officer for preventing me from taking what very well could have been my last steps. I witnessed the military bomb squad robot blow up the device where I had almost been standing two minutes before.

My heart constantly goes out to my loved ones in Israel; I truly understand living with the threat of terror, from my experiences. I pray for all who live in such fear for protection.

    Owen Sound, Ontario

The rules of humous war

Sir, – The prospect of humous wars is most intriguing (“Make humous, not war: Lebanese better Israeli record,” May 10). Will we need to develop new methods of delivery – e.g., refrigerated rockets? Will the rules of war be changed to permit the use of parsley and paprika? Will there be an embargo on the sale of chickpeas to Israel? Might it not be found that kubeh or some other delicacy is more efficient?

    Kiryat Ono

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