October 5: Biden and Pollard

Even if Biden really meant “over my dead body,” power of executive clemency still rests with Obama, who is free to ignore his VP.

Sir, – Regarding “Pollard doesn’t lose hope after VP’s condemnation” (October 3), it appears to me that Vice President Biden’s explanation is nothing more than a sleight of hand wherein he falls on the sword to shore up his boss’s crumbling stature.
What better useful idiot than shoot-from-the-hip Joe Biden to pull it off? After all, he is on record as having supported Pollard’s cause for freedom while on the campaign trail four years ago.
Even if Biden really meant “over my dead body,” the power of executive clemency still rests with President Obama, who is free to ignore his vice president’s opinion.
Sir, – Either US Vice President Joe Biden has become a liability to President Obama’s re-election campaign or he is a man of no compassion.
Father Theodore Hesburgh of Notre Dame University was one of the first to urge the pardoning of Jonathan Pollard. Biden is Catholic, and Catholic theology generally tends to be very merciful in forgiveness and the pardoning of prisoners. Something about this story just does not make sense.
If President Barack Obama wants to pardon Pollard, he can do so based on the fact that Pollard has paid for his crime after 25 years in prison. To quote Portia in The Merchant of Venice, “The quality of mercy is not strain’d.”
It is time for Obama to show the strength of mercy.
Sir, – Joe Biden’s unconscionable statements arouse anger, nausea and a feeling of gross betrayal. One senses a betrayal of decency and the desecration of the very core of the American value system.
Outrageous pronouncements to a group of rabbis encourage the suspicion that he is airing the politically weighted sentiments of the president. This is especially evident in view of the fact that Biden himself has voiced the opposite opinion on past occasions.
The ending plot
Sir, – Yoram Kaniuk’s request to legally renounce his familial ethnicity (“Writer Yoram Kaniuk to be registered as ‘no religion,’” October 3) may be considered religious freedom by some. But others with cemetery plots here wonder if he, too, has one – and if so, in which Jewish area.
Certainly, Kaniuk should reach the age of 120 and enjoy a healthy new year.
Allegations about UNRWA
Sir, – Your piece by David Bedein (“UNRWA is an impediment to peace,” Comment & Features, October 3) makes unsubstantiated assertions about alleged political activities in UNRWA facilities.
UNRWA’s neutrality team has examined Bedein’s “evidence,” and none of the activities he ascribes to us took place in our installations or have any association with the agency. They took place in non-UNRWA facilities for which we are not responsible.
Bedein’s organization was recently exposed by the much-respected academic at McGill University in Canada, Prof. Rex Brynen, for having Kahanist links. To quote Brynen, “David Bedein has enormous credibility problems among serious researchers. His work contains numerous factual errors – for example, falsely associating unrelated activities with UNRWA. Bedein has also published work under the auspices of his organization with Samuel Sokol – an ultra-right-wing activist who, in pictures he once proudly posted online, can be seen posing with weapons in front a Kahanist... flag.”
I trust The Jerusalem Post will do its due diligence in the future before publishing material from an internationally discredited polemicist.
CHRIS GUNNESS Jerusalem The writer is spokesman for UNRWA
Sir – I have only great praise for David Bedein’s article.
UNWRA has been working with Hamas in Gaza and has enabled it to continue its war against Israel and the Jewish people. Hamas has vowed even now at this juncture, where Israel has accepted the Quartet’s proposal to resume negotiations, to continue on this track.
The whole United Nations structure is founded on a rather naïve approach to world problems. Let us take seriously the idea of peace negotiations and restructure once and for all the UN, which at present is not united and has no ability to act justly in world affairs.
Pray more, pay less
Sir, – Jack Wertheimer refers to the mid-century American phenomenon of “mushroom synagogues” that “popped up to provide High Holiday services, then disappeared at the conclusion of Yom Kippur” (“Pay to pray?,” Comment & Features, October 3).
In truth, virtually every Conservative and Reform synagogue in America is a mushroom temple whose core architectural DNA is a miniature chapel with a movable rear wall that opens to a major catering hall for two or three days a year. These often grand edifices are built around the defeatist awareness that there really is nobody at home, something that would be unthinkable for a Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or Orthodox Jewish house of worship.
With this in mind, perhaps the “pray to pay” model should be changed. Families that attend Shabbat services at least 40 weeks a year would pay five percent of the full dues. Ghost members who attend only on the High Holidays would pay the full freight.
Such a membership model might serve as an incentive to attend services. After all, everyone likes a bargain.
Sir, – “Pay to pray?” gives another good reason for making aliya.
My husband and I were members of two congregations, where we paid the shekel equivalent of $225 and $212 for membership.
We also paid Chabad $80 for reserved holiday seating.
I am not sure why the Post printed this article unless it was to remind us of one of the many benefits of living in Israel!
Sir, – In my childhood, there were High Holiday appeals for contributions in synagogues. Mr. A contributes $20, Mr. Z contributes $25, and so on. Officers would call out the names, which were repeated by the president at the podium.
There were instances in which a sum of money was announced, but not a name! Someone who doesn’t have a name? Deplorable! Later I understood. But why the photograph of a beautiful synagogue that does not bear a name?
The Letters Editor responds: The photo shows the interior of Berlin’s restored Rykestrasse Synagogue. It was taken on November 9, 1998, during a ceremony commemorating the 60th anniversary of Kristallnacht.
Welcome contrast
Sir, – How nice to read about the very talented and interesting Debbie Kampel (“Eye of the beholder,” Arts & Entertainment, October 3), an ordinary Israeli pursuing her chosen field.
No doubt there are many more people here in Israel who are also worthy of exposure in the pages of The Jerusalem Post. Can we look forward to more articles in a similar vein, which would make a welcome contrast to the daily diet of politicos, problems, doom and gloom?
Mevaseret Zion
Ralph Steinman is the Nobel Prize winner for medicine who died last week, and not co-winner Jules Hoffmann, as our Page 9 headline on October 4 erroneously stated. We apologize to the Hoffmann family for any duress we might have caused.