October 12: Not too civilized

Rifkin bequeaths us this breathtakingly new definition of double standards in the name of appeasement and capitulation to forces attacking Western civilization and its values.

Letters 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Handout )
Letters 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Handout )
Sir, – I am writing to express my dismay at the outrageous, shocking and inflammatory “Support the civilized man” (A View from Israel, September 28).
I am astonished that you even published such an outlandish article, whose main purpose was to lend support to the horrific hate ads of an irrelevant and largely unknown organization that is doing a great job of increasing misunderstanding and hatred in the world.
The extreme right-wing group called the American Freedom Defense Initiative is headed by a Jewish woman named Pamela Geller. I had never heard of her or her organization until a friend of mine who works for the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York alerted me to her defamatory anti-Muslim ads, which are causing the Jewish community in New York much embarrassment and great harm (and hopefully will not lead to anti-Jewish or anti- Israel violence).
Jewish leaders in the US are correctly distancing themselves from such hateful rhetoric, as my friend and colleague Rabbi Rick Jacobs did in an excellent op-ed in The New York Times on September 25, in which he wrote: “These ads are lawful but they are wrong and repugnant. What other purpose can they have but to incite hatred against Muslims?” These ads should be condemned by any thoughtful and reasonable person, not cheered on from Israel, as Israel Kasnett did in his opinion piece.
The writer is a rabbi and director of the Interreligious Coordinating Council and Jerusalem Center for Jewish Christian Relations
Sir, – At first sight, the message seems incontrovertible: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man.” But on second thought, maybe this slogan needs further scrutiny.
Jihad has been shown by Andrew Bostom in his encyclopedic compilation, The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic holy war and the fate of non-Muslims, to be a destructive war against all non-Muslim civilizations.
But who is to say who in fact is “civilized”? After all, weren’t native Americans or “first people” in Canada civilized? Didn’t they have their own civilization, although it was no match for the European civilization that overwhelmed them and destroyed their culture? The theme of Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is precisely that – technological civilization, with all its advances, is not necessarily morally superior to the savage, and perhaps even less so.
Let us defeat jihad, but let us spare a thought for the “noble savage.”
Asleep at the wheel
Sir, – In an otherwise rich and interesting issue, The Jerusalem Post Magazine of September 28 – apropos nothing at all – published a vapid interview with someone who announces baseball scores in New York (“The man behind the voice”).
Adding the insipid to the banal, it even made this piece its cover story! Was someone asleep at the editorial wheel?

Few Maltese falcons
Sir, – I enjoyed very much the lively description of Malta by Irving Spitz (“New horizons in Malta,” Travel, September 28).
Unfortunately, there is one fact that discourages me from visiting these very attractive islands.
Malta is an important rest stop for migrating birds. But it is a tradition there to shoot birds, big and small, protected or not, thousands of them, just for fun. The authorities seem to be almost powerless to stop it.
Your readers can check it out for themselves on Google or by contacting Shai Agmon, an activist from Israel, on Facebook.
Breathtaking definition
Sir, – The bottom line in Lawrence Rifkin’s “Looking for trouble” (Grumpy Old Man, September 28) is that the vilest anti- Semitic drivel is wrong but nevertheless legitimate. In fact, it might even be protected by universal free speech principles because Jews will not organize retaliatory mobs in reaction! At the same time, simple depictions of the prophet of Islam (let alone with a bomb in his turban) are unlawful incitement because hundreds of thousands of bloodthirsty Muslims are prepared to pillage, burn and kill those with the temerity to insult their religion of “peace.”
Rifkin bequeaths us this breathtakingly new definition of double standards in the name of appeasement and capitulation to forces attacking Western civilization and its values.
Is Bibi meddling?
Sir, – Daniel Gordis is an astute political observer. However, his contention that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s “decision” to “meddle” in the American election would somehow turn President Barack Obama against him and Israel (“Abortion, gay marriage, gun control... and Israel,” A Dose of Nuance, September 28) unaccountably assumes that there was goodwill or neutrality in Obama’s preexisting disposition.
Perhaps Bibi correctly surmised that a second Obama term would be a cringe-athon at best for Israel, and decided to take a chance, however small it might be, to help defeat him. In this regard, what Gordis calls a Hail Mary attempt might be more aptly referred to as a page from the Nahshon ben Aminadav playbook: faithfully undertaking a high-risk maneuver with the confidence that He will make things work out for the best.
Rosh Pina
Sir, – I was disappointed by the ambivalent column by Daniel Gordis. While he is usually quite clear and consistent in his arguments, this time he only confuses the reader.
Gordis writes: “This Israeli administration has done everything short of explicitly endorsing Romney.” Yet he claims in another paragraph that “our prime minister is quite right to be desperately concerned about America’s pathetic response to Iran.”
Nowhere is Netanyahu quoted as endorsing any presidential candidate.
He has, on the contrary, been scrupulously sensitive to staying out of the US electoral process, and rightly so. If members of his administration are more candid and publicly announce their preference, that is the price of an open and free political democracy.
In the event of an Obama victory, the article warns of retribution on Israel for a pro-Romney tilt.
That may be but it will not be because of a statement by Netanyahu. It will be as a result of President Barack Obama’s pro- Arab policy.
It seems obvious to this reader that Gordis, as well as most Israelis, wants to have and eat the cake here. The issue of Iran’s nuclear threat to Israel is of such a magnitude that it may have to override all normal diplomatic and political niceties of international ethics.
In this looming existential conflict, our prime minister is walking a fine line between appropriate, respectful behavior and national, perhaps apocalyptic, leadership.
Sir, – Daniel Gordis writes that Prime Minister Netanyahu “now figures centrally in a new TV ad” used to influence voters in the coming American presidential elections. He does not say who is promoting the ad.
Whether it is produced by the Republicans or the Democrats, or by others, do they require the prime minister’s permission to include him? If so, he should immediately forbid this. If not, he should use all his influence and power and insist he not be used in any campaign ad whatsoever for any party.
The last thing this country needs is to be perceived as interfering in the American elections.
Ramat Hasharon
Sir, – Unfortunately, my search for nuance in Daniel Gordis’s writing once again has come up empty.
To promote nuance in our public discourse regarding Israel and the upcoming US elections, one would certainly have to raise some of the following questions:
• Is injecting Israel into the presidential race morally wrong, imprudent, neither or both? Why?
• Should Prime Minister Netanyahu refrain from publicly promoting Israeli positions with which President Obama disagrees? If not, how can he prevent them from being used by the Republicans?
• Are the complaints about Netanyahu’s interference in the election overwhelmingly partisan? If so, is there anything he could do short of keeping silent on vital national issues?
• What authority can and should Netanyahu exercise over public statements made by members of his party or government – whether MK Danny Danon, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman or Defense Minister Ehud Barak?
Rather than deal with any of the above, Gordis contents himself with snarky comments like “Netanyahu is probably too busy preparing for his next appearance in a thinly-disguised Romney video....” That may secure the writer’s bona fides with certain groups of intellectuals, but it does nothing for the reader.
Alon Shvut