November 29: Views of democracy

Martin Sherman is to be commended for pointing out hypocrisy of those who claim changing Supreme Court’s method for selecting new members is undemocratic.

Letters 521 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Letters 521
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Views of democracy
Sir, – It is seldom that I write to the Post in praise of an article. However, Martin Sherman (“Dismantling democracy,” Into the Fray, November 25) is to be commended for pointing out the hypocrisy of those who claim that changing the Supreme Court’s method for selecting new members is undemocratic.
The present situation, in which the most intrusively active judiciary in the world in effect controls its own composition, is as undemocratic as you can get. It is important to recognize that those defending the status quo do not occupy the high moral ground.
Dan Meridor’s threat (“Meridor threatens to quit if legislation harms High Court,” November 27) merely emphasizes the necessity for radical change before the right-wing majority in this country reaches such a level of frustration that the entire structure of our society is thrown into danger.
STEPHEN COHEN Ma’aleh Adumim
Sir, – Hooray for Dan Meridor! The Meridor name still stands for justice and something good. Let’s hope things remain that way.
He is particularly wary about certain bills coming from his own party that threaten to do exactly that – threaten the judicial system. With his opposition, the nation’s High Court can be saved.
Sir, – Like Caroline B. Glick (“Defending Israeli democracy,” Our World, November 15), I find it disappointing that senior Likud politicians like Bennie Begin, Michael Eitan and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin have seen fit to oppose the judicial selection reform bills.
Since the Supreme Court is widely thought of as having a left-wing bias, one might have expected the Likud, our main right-wing party, to show a united front in supporting bills aimed at making the Supreme Court a totally impartial body.
In the same way that anti-Israel propaganda around the world carries greater weight when it can be attributed to Israelis, so does opposition to justice reform bills when it emanates from Likud politicians.
Unfortunately, the lack of support for the bills shown by Likud politicians gave rise to newspaper reports that bore such misleading headlines as “Coalition, opposition slam judicial selection reform” (November 13) and statements about across-the-board opposition.
Thus, the impression was that the Left and Right equally oppose the bills, even though the vast majority of negative comments have come from leftwing opposition parties, with only a sparse handful of Likud politicians being opposed.
It’s a shame that the Likud politicians who attacked the bills failed to foresee the ramifications of their apparent move leftward. It’s also to their discredit that they failed to bear in mind that the proposed bills are surely finding favor in the eyes of the vast majority of the Likud’s electorate.
Sir, – Lawrence Solomon (“The push to regulate NGOs is consistent with democracy,” Comment & Features, November 22) is to be commended for trying to bring some clarity and sanity to the debate regarding the foreign funding of Israeli NGOs.
Democracy is defined as government by the people, by each people in its own land. Thus, Israeli policy is to be democratically determined by its own people (we, the Jews) and our own elected government, and not by Europeans or other foreign nationals.
Foreign interference is not democracy but subversion.
NETTA KOHN Jerusalem
Sir, – Further to the objections raised over recent legislation, I draw your attention to two significant statements dealing with this matter, more especially applicable to a democracy under threat of destruction by undemocratic forces.
In 1949, in a US Supreme Court case, Justice Robert Jackson warned against interpreting the First Amendment as to fortify “right and left totalitarian groups who want nothing as much as to paralyze and discredit democratic authority.” A commitment to liberal democracy is not an obligation to open the democratic process to parties that reject liberal democracy itself.
Jackson cautioned the court to “temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom” lest it “convert the constitutional bill of rights into a suicide pact.”
Sir, – Regarding the new anti-libel legislation, if an article appearing in a newspaper or magazine turns out to be erroneous, an apology usually follows.
However, even though the original article might have been printed in a prominent spot with a large headline, the apology is usually buried in a less conspicuous position on an inside page and therefore is barely noticed. This does almost nothing to repair the damage.
I would like to see a law passed that makes it mandatory for the apology to be printed in exactly the same position, on the same page and with the same size headline as the original article.
I. ZUNDER Ramat Hasharon
All in the family
Sir, – While your article on the sale by the Oppenheimer family of its stake in De Beers to Anglo American (“South Africa’s Oppenheimer dynasty consigns diamonds to the past,” Business & Finance, November 27) seems to have deep knowledge of the current situation inside the clan, it is lacking a historical perspective both of the relationship between the family and Anglo American, and of the role of Oppenheimer generations in creating the value of diamonds per se.
My own interest comes from the fact that I once worked for De Beers in its diamond research laboratories, and after that I occupied the wonderful office that once housed Sir Thomas Cullinan and was home to the vault that stored the famous Cullinan Diamond that now adorns the British crown jewels.
Bottom line is that Anglo American and De Beers were for most of their existence a single global entity, both under control of the Oppenheimer family through a complex web of cross-holdings. In fact, Anglo American itself was founded in 1917 by Sir Ernest Oppenheimer and was used by him to build a large stake in De Beers, sufficient for him to become chairman 20 years later. His son Harry was also head of both Anglo and De Beers.
It seems to me that the sale now is much less an abandonment by the Oppenheimers of their stake in De Beers than the cashing in of an asset by moving it into another area of their empire.
Simplistic view
Sir, – Nathan Lopes Cardozo’s article (“Judaism: The art of bold ideas,” November 24) brings to mind the story about the chronic cynic who attends a very elegant wedding. Upon hearing the guests’ comments about how much planning went into producing such a lovely ambiance, he commented: “There is one serious flaw with this affair – the bride is too beautiful!” In this case the bride is the Jewish education enterprise.
Cardozo now comes along and cavalierly informs us that all yeshiva students and some of their teachers are spinning their wheels because they allegedly don’t read the philosophical works of Jewish thinkers. How simplistic can you get? And quoting Kierkegaard’s “warning” to Christianity and making it analogous to present Jewish educational efforts is an unforgivable insult.
The writer is a former director of the Department of Yeshivot and Day Schools of the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York.