Letters to the Editor August 28, 2023: Legitimacy questioned

Readers of The Jerusalem Post have their say.

 Letters (photo credit: PIXABAY)
(photo credit: PIXABAY)

Legitimacy questioned

Regarding “Netanyahu defends Ben-Gvir after US slams ‘racist rhetoric’” (August 27): Our political issues here are echoing loudly around the world and our reputation as the Start-Up Nation and the only democracy in the Middle East is having its legitimacy questioned in many other seats of government, as well as receiving negative critiques via numerous foreign media.

What others say about us has normally been brushed off as either jealousy toward a little nation able to stand up for itself and to beat off all detractors, or has been viewed as blatant antisemitism in an abundance of guises.

However, the current outbursts by members of the extreme elements of this country’s coalition government leave very little to the imagination for their dislike of the other, which includes vast swathes of secular Jewish society along with, of course, Arab citizens of Israel.

While it’s very early in this government’s tenure to predict the long-term consequences for democracy here, if its initial period is anything to go by, the future appears bleak in the extreme. It’s not a matter of can the brakes be applied, but rather that it is paramount that they are, and the only one who is in a position to do so is the prime minister.

The nation is crying out for steadfast leadership and is questioning whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can steer a calmer course. Only time will tell, but unless he takes the appropriate action, the negative impact will not only reverberate here but the effects on our democracy will further diminish our standing and reputation abroad.


Tel Aviv

The cloak of antisemitism

Cherryl Smith shows the unmistakable connection between antisemitism and anti-Israel attitude; the latter the cloak of antisemitism (“Responding to 21st century antisemitism,” August 25). As the writer states in the opening of her op-ed, “for more than two decades, it has been clear to those who study antisemitism that its most prevalent current form is anti-Zionism.”

The forms differ. But whether it is a blatant anti-Israel report from a UN committee or a violent attack by an Islamist or pro-Palestine thugs, there is the plain anti-Zionism/antisemitic interchange.

Two things are clear. As the author avers, “it is our responsibility to accept reality. Anti-Israelism/antisemitism is not going away.” More than likely, it never will. The need to hate and scapegoat is deeply embedded in the mind. Second, while the usual efforts to eliminate this form of hatred are appropriate, if not very successful – as modern history shows – declarations, plans, speeches, and legislation need to be joined with immediate deterrent and defensive action.

The author suggests: “We must protect ourselves. Krav Maga, legal weapons training, and neighborhood watch are important. Every synagogue, Jewish school, and Jewish-owned business must have security. We cannot depend on police arriving in time.”

This, unfortunately, is reality.



Political bias

Regarding “The next steps in Trump’s Georgia criminal case” (August 25): The assertion that there is no evidence of political bias in this prosecution is easily refuted.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, a staunch Democrat, ran for office on the promise that she would prosecute Trump. Since taking office, she has focused her efforts on investigating the leading Republican presidential candidate for actions that took place outside her jurisdiction. She is now using this “success” to collect contributions for her next political campaign.

The indictment alleges actions that occurred over two and-a-half years ago, yet Willis waited until just before the primary season to bring charges. She seeks to start the trial in just two months. The constitutional guarantee of a speedy trial is meant to protect the accused. The guarantee does not apply to the prosecution, especially if, as in this case, undue haste would disadvantage the defendant.

The indictment is based on Trump’s efforts to overturn his apparent defeat in the 2020 election. Challenges to election results are a common part of the US political process. These are not crimes.

For example, members of Congress now gleefully supporting Willis’s onslaught objected strenuously to Trump’s victory in 2016, seeking recounts and pressuring members of the Electoral College to “vote their conscience” rather than vote for Trump. Hillary Clinton has made a new career out of calling Trump an “illegitimate president,” claiming that he colluded with Russia to steal the election when she knows those charges to be false. Democrat Stacey Abrams continues to deny that she lost the 2016 gubernatorial election in Willis’s own state of Georgia.

Concerning the 2000 presidential election, Alan Dershowitz has observed: “We challenged the election, and we did much of the things [representing Democratic candidate Al Gore] that are being done today and people praised us.”

Criminalizing political expression is a clear violation of the First Amendment. Trump’s lawyers have been arrested, making a mockery of the promise of due process and equal treatment under the law.

This election interference is political revenge for Trump’s daring to confront the entrenched power structure. It is also a warning to anyone who supports Trump: “We can and will destroy you.”

Imprisoning political opponents is characteristic of totalitarian regimes.  If this local county prosecutor succeeds – free, fair, and accurate elections in the US may become a thing of the past.


Zichron Ya’acov

Highly questionable

Regarding “NY research finds a way to reduce bias in kids” (August 24): Your columnist’s synopsis is true to the actual article by Rhodes and Leshin. What is wanting is some comment on its conclusions.

According to their research, children’s biases can be mitigated by teaching them that inequality is due to structural inequality instituted by “high-status groups.” That may mitigate their biases, but only by giving them a highly questionable explanation for inequality in society.

Might the spread in natural aptitudes have some role in producing inequality? Or perhaps cultural differences?

An Internet search of articles by Rhodes and Leshin reveals the authors’ own woke biases. I suggest that they themselves believe that inequality is due to structural inequality instituted by high-status groups, very much in line with critical race theory. It is left to us to guess who these so-called high-status groups might be, busily manipulating the structure of society behind the scenes.



Become a hero

Regarding “Stop the legislation, save the economy” (August 22): Yet another diatribe against the legal reforms misses the whole point of what is wrong with the present situation. Our electoral and government system in general is not fit for purpose. The present government’s attempt to limit the virtually unlimited power of the judicial branch is a necessary but insufficient step.

We need a functional constitution. This cannot be achieved by force, but only by consensus. At present, Israel has a legislature without teeth, a judicial branch without control, and an executive subject to the whims and demands of minor parties. The only solution is to scrap the whole system and start from scratch.

First the government must agree that a new constitution must be forged in consultation with the opposition, and will only be put into effect when approved in whole by a super majority of the present Knesset, and subsequently confirmed by a majority of the population via a special referendum. Secondly the opposition must stop organizing all protests. We can then agree to discuss things like rational adults.

I suggest as a reasonable basis for discussion that we should adopt a bicameral system with one house elected proportionately as the present Knesset is, and a second house with equal power, elected on a constituency basis as is done in many democracies. The prime minister, the chief executive, should be elected by popular vote of all the populace as is done in the United States. Finally we need a bill of rights to protect individuals from the government and the civil service.

This outline should be one that we could all agree on. The hard work will be filling in all the details; this will be the job of the present Knesset and judiciary. Ultimately the objective should be a system in which the executive, judicial, and legislative branches are balanced in such a way that each is controlled to some extent by the other branches, so that none can become dictatorial.

Prime Minister Netanyahu could become a hero by leading this process and agreeing to a term limit on the chief executive. He would then go down in history as the founder of a truly democratic Israel.


Ma’aleh Adumim

Conflict of interests

In “The court should punt” (August 23), David M. Ricci writes that the legislature would be wrong to limit the judges’ power to rule on legislative reasonableness because “no one... should be the judge in his or her own case.”

But by the same token, the Supreme Court itself should not be the judge in the case of whether the Supreme Court is or is not entitled to overrule government decisions on the vague grounds of reasonableness.

Maybe the judges, even more than the legislators, should be expected to notice a conflict of interests when it involves themselves.



Woefully unrealistic

Tehila Wenger’s “Gazafication without disengagement” (August 22) was well written, coherent, and honestly expressed but naive and woefully unrealistic. Just where is the “pragmatic Palestinian leadership,” with whom she is so keen for Israel to speak?

Did the withdrawal from Gaza not set the template for what happens when Israel withdraws from territory? Wenger cites Oslo as a successful negotiation but it was followed by an Intifada!

Nothing will ever stop the Palestinians giving up on self determination, and why should it? They believe we stole their land “from the river to the sea,” and it is patronizing to think that they will give up their claim on it for “a bowl of lentils.”

Sadly, the one thing that will ensure this conflict continues is weakness and a lack of conviction that Israel is the home of the Jewish people, and others are welcome to live in peace here, but not to steal it

Well-meaning people like Wenger only continue the conflict.


Zichron Ya’acov

Spurious moral equivalence

Regarding “Washington equates Palestinian terrorism with settler violence” (August 22): While the US government makes sure to condemn Palestinian terrorist attacks on Israelis, it also maintains a moral equivalence between the two sides as if Hamas and the Palestinian Authority whose charters call for the murder of Jews is morally equivalent to Israel that has no such policy toward the Palestinians; or unlike Palestinian society, does not teach its children to hate the other.

The reason the US maintains this spurious moral equivalence is to placate the progressive wing of the Democratic Party that is highly anti-Israel, and the Gulf oil states that one by one are signing normalization agreements with Israel at the cost of getting the US to support the Palestinian cause even if it includes the delegitimization of Israel.

Equating Israel with terrorist regimes is the price the US and Israel pay to protect American oil investments. All parties understand this and by now are experienced at dealing with this unstable situation that all understand leads nowhere.



Compassionate children

Kudos to Rabbi Yitz Greenberg for his series of articles extolling and promoting basic Jewish values, especially his most recent one, “A distorted version of Judaism leads the assault on democracy” (August 22). At a time of great division and polarization in Israel, the views of this distinguished Orthodox rabbi, who has recently made aliyah after many important contributions to Jewish life in the US, is a breath of fresh air, a voice of reason.

Jews are to be a “light unto the nations,” compassionate children of compassionate ancestors, partners with God in healing and improving the world with powerful teachings on peace, justice, environmental sustainability, sharing, and much more. But this is not the image that most people have about Judaism today, largely because of the statements and actions of many Israeli religious political leaders.

 As Rabbi Greenberg eloquently points out, “religious parties have led the attack on democracy,” using their control of government institutions to pursue “unjust and discriminatory policies.” Among the many things he properly criticizes are the desire of haredi politicians to pass legislation exempting all haredi students from any military service, the use of a “religious” lens by some religious politicians to excuse the “shooting at villagers, smashing cars [and] burning houses of innocent Arabs;” and the yeshiva students who, in the name of Judaism, abuse Christians, spit at clergy, and vandalize churches. Some of these and other actions are examples of desecrations of God’s name and need to be changed.

I hope that many additional rabbis and other Jewish leaders will join him in his efforts, as he stated in a previous article, to launch a 21st century renewal movement within Judaism to restore the observance of the whole Torah and to place building of a just society at the center of Jewish life.