July 19: Butt out

The objection of some American Jews to conducting an analysis of the legal status of the West Bank is incomprehensible.

(photo credit:)
(photo credit: )
Sir, – The objection of some American Jews to conducting an analysis of the legal status of the West Bank is incomprehensible (“40 US Jewish leaders condemn Levy report on legalizing outposts,” July 17).
The report in question was a study conducted by a team of highly respected jurists headed by a retired Supreme Court justice.
Had the protest been based on the document’s veracity the dissent might be understandable.
However, of the seven Jewish leaders cited, none was recognized as an expert in international jurisprudence.
Their opposition seems to be based on their concern that the findings might influence the Israeli government to opt for positions contrary to their political outlook. One may expect that, similarly, they would object to archeological investigations that might confirm the ancient and continuing Jewish connection to the Holy Land.
The motto of these American Jewish spokesmen may be summarized as, “Don’t confuse us with the facts.”
Sir, – The news story that 40 prominent US Jews have condemned the Levy report should be taken with a grain of salt, given the differing interests of American Jews and Israelis.
The primary concern of Israel is physical survival. This has always been true, and especially so now that extremist groups in the region are ascendant. American Jews, on the other hand, while sincere in their empathy and concern for Israel’s security, are nonetheless far-removed from the consequences of territorial largesse. Consciously or not, they are also influenced by their social standing in the Diaspora – and the greater their social status, the more crucial the societal ramifications of Israel’s actions.
It is no accident that the signatories to the letter of complaint are prominent figures in society and that the letter emphasizes the repercussions of Israel’s actions on international opinion.
Even during the Holocaust many prominent American Jews were afraid to speak out for fear of ruffling feathers.
Jericho, Vermont
Sir, – I would suggest to those Jewish leaders that by adopting the Levy report Israel would at last be sending the correct message to the world that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people. This would do more for our prestige than all the interfering busybodies.
It is not they who are surrounded by enemies sworn to their destruction. It is not their families that have to scurry like moles back and forth into shelters when the enemy attacks with missiles and rockets. The Palestinians have never altered their charter calling for our destruction, and openly teach their children to become “martyrs” and kill Israelis.
To the 40 US Jewish leaders I say go pedal your wares elsewhere and leave us to run our own affairs.
Looks of a settler
Sir, – Yaakov Katz reported in “Shin Bet thwarts plot to kidnap soldier as bargaining chip” (July 17) that “cell members spotted a female settler near Ma’aleh Adumim and considered abducting her.”
To the best of my knowledge, my four daughters are living, breathing and innocent Jewish Israelis, not abstract aliens. The same goes for tens of thousands other young women living in Ma’aleh Adumim (and in other settlements).
Since there are no external features distinguishing a female settler, it is even possible that a female Jerusalemite could have been abducted by mistake.
Ma’aleh Adumim
Sad, ironic contrast
Sir, – The irony and very sad contrast could not be more blatant: Haredi Jewish leaders and laymen demonstrating against any kind of national service in the Zionist state (“Eda Haredit protest against IDF draft draws thousands,” July 17) versus an Arab-Muslim citizen calling on her own community to do national service as an obligation of all citizens of Israel (“Time for the Arab community to do national service,” Comment & features, July 17).
Even more unfortunate is how both haredi leaders and Arab MKs, the ostensible political leaders of their constituencies, spare no words in denigrating the idea of being obligated to do any kind of national service, even for the benefit of their own communities.
One can only hope that a different parallel will win out in the end: that ordinary haredi citizens ignore their rabbis’ dramatic prohibitions against national service, and many Arab citizens actively seek national and even military service despite their leaders’ condemnations and protests.
Hatzor Haglilit
Sir, – I was impressed by and gratified to read Anet Haskia’s “Time for the Arab community to do national service.”
Many of us, including me, were not aware that there are Arab women who think this way. This is an encouraging attitude and I commend her for her bravery in expressing herself.
I hope her words make a favorable impression on our Arab citizens; they are so logical and a step in the right direction.
We can be comrades in arms and we can be good neighbors.
It’s so unfair
Sir, – In “Emulating immolation” (Editorial, July 16) you rightly contrast the system of social justice in Israel with the situation in Tunisia. Before we become too self-righteous, however, allow me to point out a couple of draconian measures I have observed over the course of several years operating a modest pro bono legal clinic at Rehovot’s public library.
The first is the idea of a tsav ma’asar, which to my mind is a form of debtor’s prison. The notion that a debtor can be taken off the street and incarcerated for failure to pay a debt is an antiquated, socially destructive measure that has been removed from systems of debt enforcement in enlightened countries the world over.
Why does this sword continue to hang over the heads of debtors in the modern State of Israel? To be sure, creditors need to be protected, but not at the expense of a law-abiding individual’s right to remain free.
The second is the notion of holding parents responsible and slapping liens on parental bank accounts if an adult son fails to pay alimony. Again, my heart goes out to divorced mothers who are denied the dignity of spousal support, but the arm of the law is simply too long if parents are targeted for their divorced son’s failures.
These are just two examples of a society and culture that does not tolerate failure and allows creditors and the state to run rampant in pursuit of their “pound of flesh.” If we are to alleviate the despair of those who feel “hunted” by the system, we need to figure out ways to encourage and re-build – even if we err on the side of being overtolerant – rather than isolate and liquidate lives.
The writer is a lawyer
Sir, – My family and I were recently privileged to spend a sabbatical in Israel. While money was no problem during our year’s stay, I was exposed firsthand to the country’s rapacious nature of pricing and the virtual absence of consumer protection.
The question begs: How long will the 15 or so tycoons who own and control so much of the Israeli economy continue to strangle the middle class? Would it be so bad if they earned a few billion dollars less so that the average Joe or Jane could earn a bit more and experience human dignity? Social justice was the key message for Jeremiah and Isaiah.
How many more Moshe Silmans does Israel require before change occurs?
West Hempstead, New York