Power of ideas
The article by Yaron Schwartz headlined “Israel passed the ‘banana republic’ test” (August 4) defies reality. The author claims that by ignoring mass protests against diminishing the powers of the Supreme Court, the Knesset has demonstrated that it didn’t bow to blackmail and that this is great news for democracy. Nothing could be further from the truth.
It is obvious that in order to become prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu was willing to resort to using the treasury to hand out billions of shekels, and to offer ministries to those who would support him. Blackmail and extortion are the pillars upon which the present government has been concocted.
I doubt that the majority of Israeli citizens support any of the following: The demand of the haredim to be permanently exempt from military service; the appointment of Arye Deri as deputy prime minister and future finance minister; the appointment of Itamar Ben-Gvir as national security minister, the appointment of Bezalel Smotrich as finance minister or the appointment of Yariv Levin as justice minister. All of the above are the result of an Israeli election process that has totally distorted the concept of democracy.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks points out that Judaism is about the power of ideas and not the idea of power. It is time for the leaders of the minority political parties in the government to carefully consider these words and to contemplate what they are doing.
The claim that diminishing the power of the Supreme Court will promote democracy clearly shows no understanding of what democracy is all about. Without checks and balances, there is no democracy; there is only dictatorship.
Unless there is a political change of policy, “banana republic” might be the very words that will accurately describe Israel in the future. The majority of Israelis will not allow this to happen.
Not fighting for democracy
Whoever gave the sub-headline “A strategy to uphold Israeli democracy” to Yitz Greenberg’s op-ed “From demonstrations to dialogue” (August 6) must have a really great sense of humor.
Even though it contains the word “democracy” in various forms about 15 times, his strategy for winning an election is to nullify the votes of those he deems “antidemocratic.” That is the antithesis of democracy. And he thereby unwittingly confirms the essential arguments of the coalition against the protests, which really have nothing to do with judicial reform.
First, the opposition is protesting the recent change in the demography of the Israeli electorate, not fighting for democracy in any understandable way. As Greenberg says, “The top priority is to stop the panic... that the coming demographic tsunami of haredi and settler large families will seal the end of democratic Israel.”
No matter what the election results are, he says, they must keep fighting against electoral “setbacks,” until they get the results that “the majority of Israelis” want, in whatever way that can possibly be measured if not by election results.
Second, their primary aim is to forever unseat Bibi, which again has nothing to do with judicial reform. Greenberg states explicitly that one issue which “must be dealt with to uphold Israeli democracy… is how to deal with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”
Third, and probably most important, is the issue of who is financing these enormously expensive demonstrations. We have all heard rumors about non-Israeli organizations and wealthy individuals who are supplying the funding. But Greenberg refers to them directly, and defines their next task. “The umbrella organizations running the demonstrations must turn toward generating a universal national coming together” and so on.
Please, Rabbi Greenberg, tell us authoritatively about these organizations and individuals who are paying for the flags, the buses, the publicity, and probably the salaries of those who demonstrate during working hours. Who and what are they? Where are they located? How does the money get to Israel? Which Israeli organizations are involved? And who is doing the planning of the protests?
The Israeli public deserves to know. Transparency is always good in a democracy, don’t you think?
The same message
Gershon Baskin writes in his weekly rant, “The Saudi price tag” (August 3), that “Israeli-Saudi peace is a good thing, but only when it also includes ending the occupation and reaching Israeli-Palestinian peace.”
Regardless of how often he has been writing his opinion pieces and regardless of the subject he is addressing, he’s basically always sending the same message – what Israel has to do and how far Israel has to bend over and give in for peace with the Palestinians. I think that it is high time that we hear from Gershon Baskin what the Palestinians need to do in order to attain the state they claim to want and to make peace with Israel.
So little publicity
Regarding: “Not fit to print: ‘The New York Times’ and the Holocaust” (August 2), Eli Kavon paints a sad picture of the lack of reporting about the horrors of the Holocaust during the years of WWII. As he points out, even though the whole picture was not known yet, whatever eyewitness reports did come through were delegated to the back pages of the newspaper.
That is not so different from the reporting today by The New York Times, which often ignores Arab terrorist attacks on Israelis and only reports casualties incurred by the IDF seeking to root out the perpetrators.
Regarding the Holocaust, I would like to add that even in Jewish publications from 1940-1944, including synagogue bulletins, Jewish organization newsletters, and even Jewish school magazines, there was almost nothing written about what was happening to the Jews in Europe. It would be hard to find any mention of the ghettos, camps or killing fields among the myriad of articles about picnics, dinners, and other community events.
It wasn’t until the Rabbis’ March in 1943, which in itself received so little publicity in the Jewish world, that the subject was even broached in the press. And when US president Franklin Delano Roosevelt asked whether this was something significant, he was told that the Jewish organizations at large did not seem to be expressing much support.
Of course, this all changed when the atrocities of the camps were publicized by the victorious Allied armies.
Since, as Kavon points out, there was already evidence circulating before 1944, it is hard to understand the lack of general outcry not only by The New York Times, but by the entire American Jewish community at the time.
Jews as invaders
I applaud your editorial board for exposing the attempts by Palestinian leaders and the UN to paint Jews as invaders of Palestine who, they claim, have no historic or religious ties to Zion (“Erasing Jewish history,” editorial, August 2).
In light of The New York Times recently reporting, in error, that the Western Wall is Judaism’s holiest site, I applaud you as well for stating clearly that the Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism while the Western Wall, a portion of the Temple Mount’s retaining wall, is revered by Jews around the world because of its connection to the Temple Mount.
When Israel liberated the Temple Mount from two decades of Jordanian occupation (while defending her people from the genocidal intentions of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan), Israel graciously allowed the Jordanian Wakf religious authorities to administer the Muslim holy sites built in the area of Judaism’s holiest site.
Not only has the Wakf denied Jews the right to pray on the Temple Mount, it has accused Jews who exercise their right to visit Judaism’s holiest site of being invaders and aggressors. All the while, the Wakf allows Palestinians to desecrate al-Aqsa Mosque by turning it into a storage place for rocks and weapons used to attack Jews present at the Western Wall, where Jews are allowed to pray.
The first step toward peace between Israel and the Palestinians will have been achieved when both Jews and Muslims can pray on the Temple Mount and no one is assaulted.
TOBY F. BLOCK
Sense of fear
Regarding “Rabbi Thau calls to ‘wage war’ on Israel’s LGBTQ community” (August 8): Rabbis raising objections to the “other” is nothing new and has been part of the religious scene for millennia.
However, the 21st century sees these outcries being taken to megaphone levels and with many of such a persuasion sitting in vaulted positions. As such, there is rightly a sense of fear being experienced by those at the end of these fiery tirades.
Like all citizens, the LGBTQ community must be allowed to feel not only safe but must be permitted to live their chosen lives as they see fit, within the relevant laws of the land.
The above situation finds us at a point where we are nearing a precipice, being told by certain sections of society how we (must) live as opposed to being able to live life by our own set of beliefs and lifestyle.
George Orwell’s Thought Police in his book 1984 might have been somewhat premature but unfortunately, they appear to have found fertile ground in 2023 Israel.
Not the diet
As president emeritus of Jewish Veg and author of Vegan Revolution: Saving Our World, Revitalizing Judaism, I want to respond to ”Vegetarianism may raise danger of breaking hip bones, study finds” (August 6).
As the article points out and as many peer-reviewed articles in respected medical journals affirm, ”The health benefits of a vegetarian diet [and even more so, vegan diets], including a lower risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease, may still outweigh any increases in hip fracture risk.”
Further, the article points out that it may be the lower body mass index (BMI) that vegetarians generally have that may be a key factor in why the risk for vegetarians is greater. So, it might be the extra padding that heavier meat eaters have, reducing the impact of falls, and not the diet, that explains why vegetarians are at greater risk for hip fractures.
In choosing one’s diet, it should also be considered that animal-based diets and agriculture contribute significantly to widespread animal abuses, climate change, and other environmental threats to humanity, as well as the very inefficient use of land, water, fuel, and other resources, and widespread hunger, thus being inconsistent with basic Jewish teachings.
RICHARD H. SCHWARTZ
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the latest of the ongoing, fatal terror attacks against Israelis (“TA guard killed in terrorist attack,” August 6) with his usual pompous and totally meaningless jargon that “our security forces will bring to account those who want to kill us,” as though that will, in any way, help the bereaved family of a wife and three children.
He insults the family by condescendingly telling them that their husband and father “stopped a greater terrorist attack from taking place with his own body and saved many lives,” when in fact it is the responsibility of the government, led by Netanyahu, to stop those attacks, by being proactive and not waiting for the next murder.
Netanyahu made promises to the people when he was looking for reelection that he would stop the terrorist attacks and make the country safe. The opposite of course has happened and will continue unabated while he insists on not destroying our enemies and instead, actually supporting and strengthening them. Netanyahu is not known for keeping promises and certainly not those to strengthen the land and our people.
We have a prime minister afraid to declare sovereignty over the Jewish land, so what hope can there be for an end to terrorism. Whoever rules over the Temple Mount rules the land.
Guess who doesn’t rule over the Temple Mount. Until that question can be answered with Israel, our future is not secure.