August 20: Misrepresenting comments

Leibler says that I claimed that Chavez was not an anti-Semite. In that he is misrepresenting my comments. I reported that Chavez, rather than I, had declared that he was not an anti-Semite.

letters 88 (photo credit: )
letters 88
(photo credit: )
Misrepresenting comments Sir, - Isi Leibler has harsh words to say about the recent World Jewish Congress meeting with Hugo Chavez in Caracas ("WJC embraces an anti-Semite," August 19). For that visit, we confined our agenda to three specific goals: We came to show solidarity with an anxious Jewish community wishing to establish an official line to the Venezuelan government; to press Chavez to denounce anti-Semitism; and to urge him to upgrade his diplomatic relations with Israel. Leibler says that I claimed that Chavez was not an anti-Semite. In that he is misrepresenting my comments. I reported that Chavez, rather than I, had declared that he was not an anti-Semite. Within the limits of our modest aims I believe that the meeting was successful. MICHAEL SCHNEIDER Secretary-General World Jewish Congress New York Exercise in futility Sir, - "Palestinian who killed student to be released" (August 19) explains very well and thoroughly what an exercise in futility the release of these 199 convicted prisoners is. Played out Ehud Olmert also doesn't need to please played out George Bush (Condoleezza Rice) or played out Mahmoud Abbas. Even something that is absent can draw attention. So therefore the question is why is this being done? Let's look for the most plausible answer. This whole giveaway is being done for the sole purpose to set these two murderers free as a precedent to release Marwan Barghuti for Gilad Schalit. The release of the other 197 is just camouflage. And this not even for Schalit's sake. For politicians, Barghuti is not a murderer - he's a colleague. They are all in the same game and often help each other. This is my guess. Any better hunch? MOSHE-MORDECHAI VAN ZUIDEN Jerusalem Wait a minute Sir, - In his op-ed plea for holiness in eating (Every breath we take, every bite we eat...," August 18), Andrew Silow-Carroll takes me to task, accusing me of engaging in an "odd gambit." He charges that I imply "that if the principle of judging a factory's kashrut according to the treatment of its workers was not established by a 19th-century rabbi, it can't possibly be an operable criterion." Hold it one minute! It was Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, not I, who invoked the 19th-century rabbi, Reb Yisroel Salanter, as a "precedent" - a gambit that The New York Times found quaint enough to accord his piece the scarce space of its Op-Ed page. I only burst Herzfeld's bubble by noting that he has no respectable source for his Salanter story, and that scholars who have studied Salanter's life have never heard of his "precedent." And it's too bad that Silow-Carroll stopped reading my response to Herzfeld (which was neither imitated nor suggested by my client) after its Salanter section. I also demonstrated that Herzfeld (for whom I otherwise have affection and admiration) deceived his readers with two other justifications he cited for distrusting the kashrut of Agriprocessors' product. NATHAN LEWIN Washington Kashrut supervision Sir, - Columnists, reporters and rabbis are up in arms about the Agriprocessors scandal in Postville, Iowa. Every commentator is busy pontificating about how Orthodox Jews should consider health and labor standards when checking on the kashrut of a food product. Lip service is given to the argument that health and labor standards are the prerogative of governmental agencies. Nobody seems to realize that if a supervisor (person or agency) is involved in something other than checking if a product is kosher, he could be (and would be) sued for overstepping the separation of church and state provisions of the US Constitution. Also, as a private company, a kosher supervision authority has no right or authority to act as a law enforcement agency. The only place where this "separation" may not be relevant is in Israel because the religious (Orthodox) establishment is a public and semi-governmental body. Even here, though, the civil authorities and non-Orthodox organizations have fought kashrut certification that includes standards of behavior not directly connected to the production of food. A.I. GOLDBERG Hatzor Haglilit Consistency Sir, - A generation ago many of us bought clothes with a garment workers union label in the USA or a "made in the UK" label in Britain. We wanted to protect workers who were paid properly and worked to a high standard. Today some of the same people rush to discount stores whose goods are made by children in Third World countries who are paid a dollar a week. We are proud of our savings, yet when a kosher plant breaks the same rules of proper employees paid a proper salary, we rush to condemn it. If we really believe in fair pay for a fair day's work, we must apply our belief consistently. JOSEPH FELD London Disturbing eulogy Sir, - I found it fascinating, and seriously disturbing, to read Mahmoud Abbas eulogize Mahmoud Darwish with the words "you represent everything that unites us" ("PA holds state funeral for poet Darwish," August 14), while in the next column Jonathan Spyer quotes a Darwish poem: "Take your portion from our blood and just leave… because we have in this land what you do not have - a motherland" ("An uncompromising voice for Israel's transience"). As Spyer notes, this rejection of any legitimate claim by the Jews to this land suffuses Palestinian leaders' mind-set; in fact, it permeates Palestinian culture - via music videos, TV, radio, sports events, summer camps and throughout the educational system - with no distinction between Fatah and Hamas. The absurdity of our looking to this leadership as partners in any sort of peace was driven home by Abbas himself, when in calling Jerusalem the "eternal capital of our Palestinian state" in the same eulogy, he expressed hope that the Palestinian flag would "hover high over the minarets, churches and walls" of the city... as if the many and ancient synagogues there simply do not exist. There are some Palestinian leaders - few and courageous advocates of civil society and of coexistence with Jews and Israel, like PA foreign minister Riad Malki and Prof. Muhammad Dajani of the "Wasatia" moderate Islamic Palestinian party - who reject the kind of "unity" promoted by the two Mahmouds. They - and only they - need and deserve our support, encouragement and partnership; it's time for their voice, poetry and speeches to unify the Palestinians. Only when Palestinian leaders believe - and state categorically and teach their children - that Israel has a legitimate, historical, moral and legal right to exist in this land as Jewish state will we be able to achieve any real peace between us. ARYEH GREEN Beit Shemesh Great coverage Sir, -With all the bad news everywhere I would like to say how much I am enjoying the coverage of the Olympics on Channel 1. The introductory graphics are beautiful. Congratulations to those involved. SARA SHAW Kfar Saba Correction In the article "Families of Munich 11 appeal for permanent commemoration" (August 19), Ankie Spitzer, the widow of Andre Spitzer, was incorrectly identified as the widow of Yakov Springer. We regret the error.