July 21: Gandhi no prophet

Has [Peres] forgotten that when Gandhi heard about Jews being gassed in Europe he voiced no protest?

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Gandhi no prophet
Sir, – I was shocked to read that President Shimon Peres had been lavish in his praise of Mahatma Gandhi during a meeting with Indian parliamentarians (“Peres to receptive Indian delegation: Gandhi was like a biblical prophet,” July 20).
Peres was an adult during the Second World War. Has he forgotten that when Gandhi heard about Jews being gassed in Europe he voiced no protest? Instead, he advised the Jews to march quietly into the gas chambers as a testimony to passive resistance.
Our Bible places the highest value on human life. No biblical prophet would have taken Gandhi’s position.
Schism over conversions
Sir, – In light of the controversy about conversions in Israel (“Amar tells haredim to bolt gov’t if conversion bill stalls,” July 19), I would like to state the following: The basis of Judaism is the divine revelation at Mount Sinai regarding the belief that the written and oral Torah was given to the Jewish people by God.
The appellations “Reform” and “Conservative” Judaism are a misnomer, as adherents of these streams do not believe in the divine revelation. Imagine one million Christians proclaiming their belief that Christ was a prophet and not the son of God, thereby negating belief in the Trinity: Nobody would claim that this is Reform Christianity and that it accurately reflects the beliefs of Christianity.
It is true that the followers of Reform and Conservative Judaism are Jews – but then the first Christians were also Jews.
Sir, – Prime Minister Netanyahu should stop all the cackle and tell us precisely what aspect of MK David Rotem’s conversion bill he objects to, and describe it in specific terms – and not just that American Conservative and Reform Jewry object and it will cause a schism.
If this bill resolves the conversion issue for olim from the former Soviet Union – which presumably must be the intention of Israel Beiteinu Party leader Avigdor Lieberman – why should it not resolve the issue for American Conservative and Reform Jews (if and when they decide to make aliya)?
Sir, – Our founding fathers were not personally religious people, but they recognized the importance that Torah Judaism has had to our survival over the centuries. Therefore, in establishing the State of Israel, they left intact the basic tenets of Shabbat, kashrut and matrilineal descent in confirming Jewish identity. They also wisely honored the traditions of conversion that have been observed over the years throughout the world.
As Jewish people settled in relative freedom and comfort in Western countries, they interacted more with their non-Jewish neighbors and took on progressively more of the culture around them. One of the changes that evolved was our religious observance, because that is one thing that makes us feel different. The lines between “us” and “them” blurred and it became easier to moderate our religious strictures, to assimilate and intermarry.
An individual Jew may decide to ease religious restrictions for himself, but it is unreasonable and unfair for him to foist his changes upon the rest of us. He cannot simply redefine what is a Jew to a concept that is comfortable for him, and then expect all of us to accept his version.
As one of my teacher/rabbis put it, “if you change the ingredients, you get a different cake.” Personally, I prefer the original recipe.
Redefining democracy
Sir, – The Knesset is creating a law requiring all new citizens to swear a loyalty oath (“Illegals must pledge allegiance to ‘Jewish, democratic state’ to stay,” July 19).
According to Wikipedia, “Even though there is no specific, universally accepted definition of ‘democracy,’ equality and freedom have been identified as important characteristics of democracy since ancient times.” Yet even as the Knesset debates the loyalty oath law, Israel’s High Court will hear a case about Jaffa, an ethnically mixed city enriched by its many religions and peoples (“Jaffa residents protest ahead of court hearing on ‘Jews-only’ housing project,” July 19).
What could be more undemocratic? Even I, a Jew, couldn’t imagine swearing an oath to a “democratic” state that has redefined democracy by violating its basic tenets so brazenly!
O’Connor, Australia
What do they care?
Sir, – Barry Rubin has correctly exposed the hypocrisy of “people who don’t follow the issues, understand the debate or know the country (but) want to play with our lives” (“The Abandonment of logic on the Middle East,” The region, July 19).
A good example is German Foreign Minister Gido Westervelle’s opposition to the proposal by his Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman, to cut all Israeli responsibility for Gaza-Hamastan – in short, constituting it as an independent entity.
While such an opinion may be in diplomatic order for Westervelle, it is certainly undiplomatic, to say the least, to advocate opening up a “Danzig Corridor” across Israel for the convenience of Hamastan’s Jew-hating population.
Don’t believe it
Sir, – In reading “Poll shows Obama charm offensive didn’t sway Israelis” (July 16), in which it was reported that 46 percent of Israelis believe the US president is pro-Palestinian, it would be helpful to keep two things in mind.
First, Israel unfortunately is stuck having only one English-language network originating solely in the US. Fox News most assuredly is not a news network, but rather a Republican media group run by a former GOP strategist. Israelis (and, in particular, Israelis born in the US) have been fed Fox’s non-stop propaganda against President Obama since the day he won the Democratic primary, something that shapes Israeli public opinion to be anti-Obama in all matters.
Second, even if Obama were indeed pro-Palestinian, what would that mean? Israel is also “pro-Palestinian.” It wants a two-state solution, economic development and education reform for the Palestinians, and human rights for gays and women in the Palestinian community.
Being pro-Palestinian does not mean one is anti-Israel. There are very few people in the US (other than the 5-6% who are avid Fox viewers) who believe this administration is anti-Israel.
Newton, Massachusetts
Skip for health
Sir, – One of the main reasons the Netherlands did so well at the World Cup is that it is a nation that believes in a healthy life style from grade school through adulthood. It is the world’s leading nation when it comes to the fabulous art of skipping rope.
Muhammad Ali always claimed that were it not for skipping rope, he never would have become heavyweight champion of the world.
CORRECTIONS • Statements attributed to journalist Harinder Mishra in “Peres to receptive Indian delegation: Gandhi was like a Biblical prophet” (July 20) were not made by him and do not reflect his views.
• J Street has not called for and is not lobbying for the tax deductible status of organizations that fund settlement activity to be revoked, as posited in “J Street’s new outrageous initiative” (July 19) by Isi Leibler. According to its statement on the matter, J Street is calling for an investigation into possible illegal activity committed by these groups.