February 16: Selective Racism

Jewish leaders should be trying to explain why nearly 400,000 Israelis exercising their democratic rights voted for Israel Beiteinu.

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Selective racism... Sir, - Rather than worrying about their perception of Israeli PR, former US administration officials, including ambassador Daniel Kurtzer, and Jewish leaders should be trying to explain to those concerned why nearly 400,000 Israelis exercising their democratic rights voted for Lieberman's Israel Beiteinu Party - and if they do not know, they should come to Israel to find out. Moreover, as they seem to find some of Lieberman's rhetoric racist, they should explain why they, and the US government itself, are not being racist in supporting a Palestinian state without Jews. If settlements are "an obstacle to peace," they are an obstacle only in the racist Palestinian state these leaders seem to support. Shouldn't they reassess their position? ("American Jews fear Lieberman could damage Israel's image in US," February 15.) PETER SIMPSON Jerusalem ...& the truth imperative Sir, - Hilary Leila Krieger's report contained an amazingly telling quote from an American Jewish leader: "What he's (Lieberman) saying might be true, but it's not the face we who are pushing for a strong US-Israel relationship and a positive attitude toward Israel in the American press want to put forward. It's bad for PR." We Israelis, whose existence is at stake, can definitely not ignore the truth, for PR or any other reason. We need a partner who can deliver on any deals and compromises made, not an image created in America of the partner America would like. Israel's well-meaning friends in America would help a lot more by telling the truth, however unpleasant, and working on PR efforts to advocate justified Israeli positions based on that truth. MATTHEW SCHEIN Jerusalem Sir, - Daniel Kurtzer has the right to disagree with Avigdor Lieberman's views. But his argument appears quite disingenuous: "If Israel expects the discourse from Arab countries to be within reasonable bounds, it should also expect that its own politicians be within bounds...." One wonders which planet Kurtzer is on in implying that the discourse from Arab countries in relating to Israel has ever been "within reasonable bounds." Were Lieberman to employ the "discourse" customary in those countries, he would likely be calling for the eradication of Israel's Arabs rather than just an oath of loyalty to the State of Israel, where they enjoy all citizenship rights. ZEV CHAMUDOT Petah Tikva Different... Sir, - In "Why Tzipi keeps running" (Analysis, February 13) Herb Keinon showed us that Tzipi Livni is finally learning to be a politician. The woman who walked away from being premier when she flubbed her negotiations with Shas a while back and inadvertently changed the face of Israeli politics by decimating Labor and Meretz has now signaled she has finally become a politician. Those who voted for her can now hope she will become prime minister, someday. P. YONAH Shoham Sir, - I am amazed at the Israeli electorate who again voted for Kadima, which failed them drastically and caused so much harm to the State of Israel. As a 73-year-old Holocaust survivor whose proudest moment was the creation of the State of Israel and its many achievements, I no longer understand. I have been to Israel seven times, working for the Sar-El program. But my pride in Israel is slowly evaporating. STEVE GURE Coconut Creek, Florida ...or the same? Sir, - If Tzipi Livni is really a "different" kind of politician and unwilling, because of her concern for clean government and the economy, to "pay off" Shas and other parties, one would think she would be clamoring for a government immediately. A responsible leader would make it clear that Binyamin Netanyahu is the only party leader with real options; that despite his one mandate less he will still be the one to form a government; and that he can therefore go back to the others with Kadima in his pocket. This would reduce concessions to the other, smaller coalition partners and be good for both our diplomatic position and our economy. This is asking a lot from a person who received more popular votes than Bibi, but weren't we told that Livni was "a different type of leader"? ("Kadima: 'We won't be fig leaf for a right-wing gov't,'" February 13.) SHLOMO LOSHINSKY Ma'aleh Adumim Win-win situation Sir, - The Likud and Kadima are virtually tied for leadership of Israel ("Consensus developing on Likud-led government with Kadima," February 12). What a chance to show the world what unity is. A Livni-Netanyahu pact could go a long way in bringing peace to Israel and its adversaries. HERB STARK Massapequa, NY Why Labor lost Sir, - In "Change radically or die" (February 12) Larry Derfner lamented that Israel's poor voted for Likud, Israel Beiteinu and Shas, three parties he said offer only mean-spiritedness toward the poor, hatred of Arabs, and, in the case of Shas, hatred of Arabs and religious nostalgia. If only the benighted poor understood what Labor could offer them... But in choosing the parties they did, over Labor, the voters were embracing reality over illusion. Derfner likes Labor because it is comforting to think that government can provide wealth and happiness to all, and that Arabs could be made to love us if only we were nicer. But the voters understood that we live in a sea of Arabs who want to kill us; that the Arab citizens of Israel largely cheer them on; and that only deterrence will keep us alive. They understood that while capitalism has its problems, it provides the most goods and services to the most people. That's why people leave socialist states and move to capitalist ones. And it's why Labor and its ideas are losing ground in the marketplace of Israeli democracy. LENNY STEINBACH Hashmonaim Disservice to truth Sir, - I was taken aback by the irresponsibility of "Benedict's plea" (Editorial, February 13). 1. Contrary to the misrepresentation that you just echo without checking the facts, the Vatican issued a number of statements condemning the killing of Israelis during the second intifada. 2. Benedict did not "move to canonize Pope Pius XII." This "move" began during the papacy of Paul VI. The responsible thing to ask is why the popes since then, including Benedict XVI, have not even authorized the document proclaiming the "holy virtues" of Pius XII (a stage well before beatification, which comes before canonization). 3. Permission to use the old Tridentine Latin liturgy was given already by Pope John Paul II. Pope Benedict XVI expanded it. However, even more significantly, in doing so he actually eliminated the phrase that had been there beforehand asking to "remove the veil" from the hearts of Jews and end their "blindness." In other words, you accuse him of introducing precisely what he eliminated! This matter of the Latin liturgy is still problematic, but we do ourselves no service by misrepresentation. 4. You mention Cardinal Martino's lamentable comment about Gaza as if this came from Pope Benedict. Far more significantly - and what you choose to ignore - was the rap over the knuckles to Cardinal Martino given by Vatican spokesman Father Frederico Lombardi, who publicly dissociated the Vatican from Martino's comment, saying that "he does not speak for the Pope" and that his comments were inappropriate. 5. Finally, you did not do your basic homework about what lifting an excommunication means in the Catholic Church. It does not mean that the person or persons concerned have been "readmitted" into the Church. Pope Benedict has made it clear that in order to be readmitted, the Society of Pius X (including Bishop Richard Williamson) will have to accept all the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, which include the Church's positive teachings on Jews and Judaism; and that Williamson will have to publicly repudiate his Holocaust denial and anti-Semitic views before he is allowed entry back into the Catholic Church. The Vatican, and perhaps even the Pope, deserve to be criticized on this occasion for the awful failure in internal consultation and public presentation of their actions; and for their failure to address earlier Williamson's terrible anti-Semitism, and the anti-Judaism in the Society of Pius X. However, they have now made it clear that none of this will be tolerated and the individuals concerned will not be readmitted into the Church until the aforementioned demands are fulfilled. RABBI DAVID ROSEN, KCSG International Director of Interreligious Affairs American Jewish Committee Jerusalem Pope Benedict: Set things right Sir, - As a Roman Catholic myself, I am hopeful that the Church can get back on the right track of making positive reforms as it did in the document Nostra Aetate, made at the Second Vatican Council in 1965. To do so will require that Pope Benedict XVI shed his isolationist advisers who shield him from today's world, seeking a return to the darkness and ignorance of an archaic world. To his credit, the late Pope John Paul II actually had friends who were Jewish, and from his papal chair he called Jews "our beloved elder brothers." This is the correct attitude. I want Pope Benedict to "set things right" by rectifying old injustices. To do so, he must get out of his secluded compound and mingle. He needs to extend a listening ear and a compassionate heart instead of just granting an audience to hand-picked individuals or issuing a one-sided communique. The current pontiff repeated John Paul II's prayer that Jews forgive the Christians who persecuted them over the centuries. I indeed hope that this prayer is answered, and that Judeo-Christian harmony can continue in the spirit of Nostra Aetate. Whether Benedict's plea is fulfilled depends mainly upon Benedict's inner attitude. JAMES A MARPLES Longview, Texas