February 17: A self-respecting Jew

Prior to the present government, self-respecting Jews have been overshadowed.

A self-respecting Jew
Sir, – In the words of the venerable Jacky Mason,”What profiteth a man if he lose his soul? Thirty pieces of silver, that’s no bargain, if you ask me. Any self-respecting Jew could have gotten 60, maybe 70. This man, he is no Jew.”
Prior to the present government, self-respecting Jews have been overshadowed. For all of his accorded crudeness, Avigdor Lieberman is the only minister to put aside purely personal political interests and say what needs to be said  (“Can Israel survive this coalition?,” February 16). His courage is gaining ground. The winds of change show all the signs of transforming into a gale. At long last we shall have the beginnings of a truly Jewish state.
Controversy at the Wall...
Sir, – Not that I agree with the type of service that the Women of the Wall hold, but for worshipers on the men’s side to begin verbally attacking group members and calling them Nazis was terrible (“Women of the Wall called ‘Nazis’ during Rosh Hodesh prayers,” February 16). They held their monthly Torah readings at the Robinson’s Arch and were just praying (true, some wore prayer shawls) at the Western Wall. But calling them Nazis for that and shouting, “You caused the Holocaust!” was inexcusable.
Why were the men looking, anyway? They should have been paying attention to their own prayers, not watching the women. It was not the women who turned the Western Wall into a place of argument and conflict (as Rabbi Rabinovich wrote), it was the men.
Sir, – “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” is a maxim usually honored by most Western civilizations. The Western Wall is recognized as the holiest of Jewish sites in Israel. It therefore behooves all visitors, whether tourists or those who wish to pray, to behave in a way that has been accepted by most people for generations.
For the Women of the Wall to deliberately defy accepted normal behavior is the height of chutzpa. To offend other people when they are often pouring out their hearts in supplication or anguish is unforgivable.
I am sure that none of these participants would, for example, enter Rome’s holy places unsuitably dressed or otherwise deliberately offend Catholic sensitivities. They most certainly would not offend Muslims by insisting on entering a mosque without removing their shoes, or go so shod into a Japanese home, for that matter. Why, then, when the courts have recognized their desire to pray in public and have designated an alternative place for them, do they insist on causing a commotion by turning up and acting as they do at the Kotel?
... and the universities
Sir, – As a former president of universities in the UK, I sympathize greatly with the dilemma Prof. Joseph Klafter, the new President of Tel Aviv University, faces in navigating a path between radical academics calling for boycotts and irate funders calling for their dismissal (“The double boycott challenge,” February 16).
Klafter needs to be less tolerant of both sides. To the academics, he should make it clear that academic freedom consists of the right to pursue research and teach their chosen subject with integrity, in whatever direction academic inquiry takes them, without fear of retribution. Academic freedom does not give a license to academics to make whatever comment they like on any subject they wish. Normal freedom of speech provides that, but equally does not offer protection against any possible consequences of such action.
Klafter argues that some boycott advocates seek to delegitimize Israel. That may or may not be the case. What they certainly do is seek to delegitimize their own university by asking others to boycott it. This is where the red lines of academic freedom are breached. An academic, acting with integrity, cannot call on other academics to end their relationship with his or her university, while maintaining their own relationship with that university. That is why I believe any Israeli academic who calls for a boycott of their own university should, by that act, be assumed to have resigned. This is nothing to do with pressure from donors, but is a consequence of the internal logic of their position.
As for the funders, they should be told that their influence on the university relates to its overall strategies, development and finances. They have no input on academic or staff issues, which are the sole prerogative of the university leadership and staff. The recent disgraceful attack by a funder of Ben-Gurion University on Prof. David Newman should have been answered much more vigorously by the university leadership.
As Klafter indicated, these are testing times for Israeli universities, buffeted as they are from all sides. They will survive them if they adopt and apply a robust, principled definition of academic freedom, and make it clear to outside funders where their influence on the universities’ affairs finish.
‘I prefer Palin’
Sir, – Gershon Harris implies that American Jews are running scared of Sarah Palin and in favor of Barack Obama (“Palin and American Jewry,” Letters, February 16).
That choice, for non-Americans such as myself, has always been baffling. The Obama administration wants to impose on Americans where, when and if they can get healthcare. It would also direct the work force into governmental jobs. If that is what America wants for itself, so be it.
I tend to believe that the majority of Americans share Palin’s demand that government get out of the way and let people enjoy the liberty and freedom to make their own choices. Palin stood up against special interest groups in her home state of Alaska. She is like a breath of fresh air. This scares the liberal Left in America.
She aims to protect the US Constitution. The new Marxist czars appointed by Obama openly declare that they wish to “tweak” the Constitution in the name of progress. If that is the freedom and liberty that Harris wants for America, God help them.
I much prefer Sarah Palin.
What about the grandparents?
Sir, – The article “Bill would fine divorced parents who don’t visit children” (February 14) begins, “The Ministerial Committee on Legislation is due on Sunday to decide whether the government will support a private member’s bill that calls for compensatory and punitive measures... against a divorced parent who does not uphold visitation obligations regarding his children.” But I wonder when the powers that be in these matters will give serious thought to passing legislation on the rights of grandparents, who are so often forgotten in these sad family disputes and, through no fault of their own, are deprived of seeing their grandchildren.
Virtual MKs
Sir, – Liat Collins’s article on why emigrant Israelis don’t deserve to vote was a masterpiece (“Polls apart,” February 14).
Ifby some misfortune, our expatriate brethren do win the right to vote, Iwould encourage them to set up a Yordim (Emigrant) Party. The party’selected representatives could virtually attend Knesset proceedings fromthe comfort of their living rooms or swimming pools in New York and LosAngeles. This would save the taxpayers money, and provide thebest-behaved members of Knesset this country has ever seen.