I have always held an open mind regarding religious plurality and never once expressed – publicly or privately – disrespect for Reform Judaism. Which is why I am deeply troubled by Rabbi Rick Jacobs’s astonishing comparison between Itamar Ben-Gvir and David Duke (“Senior Reform rabbi: ‘Ben-Gvir as minister is like head of KKK as attorney-general,” November 22).
What your article on his interview with Ynet did not specifically make clear is whether the rabbi was speaking for himself or on behalf of the many members of the Reform movement in the United States. If it is the former, Jacobs should urgently apologize to the newly-elected member of the Knesset for what is nothing short of a slanderous personal opinion. If, however, he was speaking with the approval and consent of the Reform community, well, some serious rethinking on my part will be necessary.
While I’ll readily agree that the volatile Ben-Gvir’s appointment to a position responsible for Israel’s internal security is understandably controversial, likening him to the director of the KKK (whether it be Duke or someone else) displays a flagrant disregard of the legislator’s stated mission and objectives. Ben-Gvir has been democratically elected as a representative of the Israeli people, many of whom, obviously, share his vision. His primary concern, which he has often repeated, is the protection of the people he now serves.
That he advocates dealing harshly with terrorism should, if anything, be applauded by Jews throughout the world. He has never advocated herding Israeli Arabs into cattle cars for transport out of the country, or proposed denying them the basic civil rights to which all Israeli citizens – Jew and non-Jew – are entitled. His focus is on those who engage in or support the intentional harm to Israeli citizens or property. Rabbi Jacobs and the Reform movement must surely feel no differently.
Don’t misunderstand; I appreciate Rabbi Jacobs’s concern for Israel and am not unaware that his remarks were not intended to be confrontational. His future statements, however, should studiously avoid missing, overlooking, or ignoring the context upon which his opinions are based. True leaders cannot afford a myopic view of the world.
Regarding “Palestinians, Jordan join to stop Temple Mount change” (November 21): This is another iteration of the 100-year-old Temple Mount libel – the lie that the Jews were planning to destroy al-Aqsa and build a third Temple.
Nothing has changed since Israel regained Judea, Samaria and Gaza from the illegal Jordanian and Egyptian occupation in 1967. Israel generously, and foolishly gave Jordan control over the Islamic Wakf.
The Wakf restricts access to the mosque to Muslims, which is their right, as all religions now control their own holy sites. The Temple Mount, however, is public. It is a huge plaza. Millions of people visit annually, generating income for Jerusalem’s Muslim, Christian and Jewish businesses. Arab kids play soccer while their families picnic there.
The Biden administration, like Obama’s, is Islamist-prone. The PA is taking advantage to falsely accuse Israel of planning something nefarious. They have no knowledge of what the new Israeli government will do, but that’s no impediment for lambasting Israel.
Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Muhammad Ahmad Hussein won’t even address Israel by name, calling it “the occupation.” That is slander. It is Islamic regimes who have no respect for infidel religions and their properties.
It would be uncharacteristically decent of American and EU leaders to treat these accusations with the contempt they deserve, but I would not hold my breath.
A basic question
Martin Oliner’s naivete in setting up a simple one-one equation in support of naming Religious Zionist Party head Bezalel Smotrich as our next defense minister is disturbing to say the least (“Bibi must choose Smotrich over Biden,” November 21). It is far from a simplistic linear comparison of what Biden wants or doesn’t want.
Quite possibly, this is only a smokescreen excuse being put forward by the Likud in order to appease Smotrich so that he can get the message more gently, and get off his tree.
Nowhere does Oliner even address the qualifications of Smotrich to be defense minister; he has effectively none. Isn’t that a basic question to ask and weigh? He has no military or security experience, is a known hothead, and possesses outrageous extreme nationalistic and quasi-messianic attitudes.
It isn’t only a political question.
I am observant and cherish the holiness of the Land of Israel, but I also understand that there are limitations in a state that is Jewish, yet also democratic. While, due to political considerations, it is correct and expected that Smotrich be appointed a minister, defense should absolutely not be one of them, neither should finance.
According to Martin Oliner, Netanyahu must choose Smotrich over Biden. Bibi should name Bezalel Smotrich to be the minister of either defense or finance because his party won almost 11% of the votes cast in the latest election.
In my opinion, that achievement does entitle him to be a minister, but it is not sufficient to make him either the finance minister or, especially not, the defense minister. There are ministries which do not require experience or expertise or a record of following the advice of people who do. Neither of these two ministries fall in that category, and Smotrich does not have the experience, expertise or the necessary record.
Netanyahu has a number of considerations to bear in mind when allocating ministries. First and foremost among them should be the qualifications of each candidate for the specific ministry.
I agree with Mr. Oliner that the US should respect the democratic process which resulted in certain people being candidates for positions in the incoming government, and not poke its nose in where it isn’t wanted.
While on the subject of suitability of people for particular ministries, the mere mention of Arye Deri, a convicted violator of financial crimes, as requesting the finance ministry is not only absurd, it is also repugnant.
I personally did not support Netanyahu, but I recognize that he has been selected to form the next government. I hope that he will do so with the primary consideration being what is best for the State of Israel and its citizens.
HAIM SHALOM SNYDER
Painted as villains
As Susan Hattis Rolef writes (“No new government just yet,” November 21), Bezalel Smotrich, and not Naftali Bennett as the Likud and opposition constantly stated over the last year, was the reason that Netanyahu was not the prime minister after the previous election.
As level-headed and clear-minded voters of the Right know, the Likud, Shas, United Torah Judaism and Yamina all agreed to a coalition led by the Likud and Netanyahu along with Mansour Abbas and his Ra’am faction.
Netanyahu had 59 seats and needed Smotrich to form a coalition, but the latter did not compromise. Somehow Bennett and Ayelet Shaked were painted as the villains when in reality it was Smotrich who wouldn’t bend.
Why does Bibi think it is different now? Ideologues like Smotrich will not compromise, and so despite the initial euphoria of the Likud and the Right, this supposed natural 64-seat coalition will not survive, even if it does manage to govern for a short time.
Disorderly and noisy
Avinoam Bar-Yosef comments (“How do you stop Smotrich and Touma-Suleiman?” November 20) that “a vast majority of Jewish voters decided to hold their noses and vote for their own fanatics.” I believe that he and those who think like him would be enlightened to see the results of the nonprofessional but reliable survey that I undertook among the people who are the most typical and genuine representatives of the Israeli man-in-the street voter.
I refer, of course, to taxi drivers and vendors in the Jerusalem shuk who will provide their opinions quite loudly and vociferously even when not asked.
And my conclusion is that the single most important issue upon which they voted in this latest election – and most had been voting Likud for their entire lives – was personal and public safety.
Itamar Ben-Gvir, alone among all the politicians, has responded to almost all the terrorist attacks by showing up at the scenes. The fact that he is disorderly and noisy is immaterial to these voters. On the contrary, he expresses their feelings in a way they understand and with which they empathize. Like it or not, these are the facts.
And although many of the comments by Mark Freedman (“Ben-Gvir threatens the Jewish people’s unity,” November 20) are correct and on target, his question “how do you defend the Jewish people without serving all Jewish people” is totally irrelevant. The first responsibility of the Israeli government is to defend the physical safety of the Jewish people here in the homeland. Everything else follows from this basic fact.
As far as Ben-Gvir as a member of the government, history has shown that, with a few glaring exceptions, authority brings with it responsibility and restraint, especially as part of a government composed of many different and often opposing opinions. I suggest that the cries of anguish be restrained until we see how Ben-Gvir handles his ministerial position, whatever that be.
Beyond a doubt
I really must protest in the strongest of terms about David Weinberg’s piece, “Sacks, Carlebach and Kahane” (November 18.) The very fact of mentioning Rabbi Sacks in the same sentence as the other two was shocking enough.
But Weinberg’s reverence of Shlomo Carlebach is on another plain entirely. In the almost 30 years since his death, Carlebach’s reputation as a sexual predator has been established beyond a doubt and his victims are abused over and over again every time reference is made to the continued reverence of the man and his music.
The fact that Weinberg nonchalantly referred to his “philandering” results in the victims yet again being sidestepped and ignored.
Either Weinberg doesn’t know the facts about Carlebach’s “philandering,” or he knows and doesn’t care. I don’t know which is worse.
Empowering with falsehoods
The latest article by Gershon Baskin, “Jewish or Israeli” (November 17), left me bewildered and confused. How does one who made aliyah, some 44 years ago, consider themselves less Israeli or less Jewish? How does one consider themselves either or?
We made aliyah from America almost 15 years ago, coming because we are Jewish and wanted Israel to be our new home. I feel more Israeli now than 15 years ago, but that has only enhanced my Judaism.
I can feel free in a country that does not single me out as Jewish, religious or not (and I strongly believe that), and know that we Israelis are all striving for the same thing: peace, health, and the right place to raise a family. I also strongly believe you can not separate being Jewish from anywhere on earth you may live.
I am always Jewish first, no matter where I live, and came to Israel with the same ideology. My children, and now grandchildren, have been brought up the same way.
Baskin equates his Jewishness with the so-called Palestinian-Arab “conflict.” I would venture a guess that’s due to his relentless pursuit of the Arabist within him. He does his so-called Arab friends a disservice by continuing to empower them with falsehoods.
We won back our God-given land with many bodies and souls. We were recognized as a state by international bodies and we have grown this land from nothing.
Show us, Mr. Baskin, or better yet, ask the Palestinian Arabs to show you what infrastructure they’ve developed, what science, and how they’ve managed their millions of donations, except to fill their own coffers.
When and if that happens, we will be ready to make peace with them, not before.