Attack on American democracy
I write to register my protest over the decision by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with prompting from President Trump, to deny entry to Israel to U.S. congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar. That the State of Israel would not allow two members of Congress to visit is for Israel to show extreme disregard — indeed contempt — to a democratically elected body central to the practice of American democracy. This is a slap in the face to the people who elected these individuals to Congress. What does this decision mean for Israel’s future as a liberal democracy?
There is no question that any fair-minded person would conclude — if that person had access to the full record — that the Israelis have treated the Palestinians unjustly. Land has been stolen from them and given to Israeli settlers, upending Palestinian families and villages. Palestinians are left with little hope that these injustices will be ended and restitution made to them. That hope got even fainter with the full-scale attack on American democratic institutions and, by extension, on Israel’s as well.
Steven M. DeLue
Fighting for soul of America
With some regularity, the letters column in J. contain harsh condemnations of the “ugly” words of President Obama, labeling him — and by extension, those who might support agendas other than those of the current president and his party — as a hater of Israel or even anti-Semitic. The authors of these letters seem to fancy themselves as the brave vanguard of the defenders of Israel and appear willing to trade anything to achieve this end, including a clean environment, women’s rights, marriage equality, the right to attend schools and places of worship in safety, the need to regulate corporate greed, and the rights to vote, earn a living wage or have affordable health care.
As 2020 approaches, Jewish voters will need to decide whether Israel’s perceived need for defense at all costs will justify sacrificing these values, and with them the soul of America.
Climate is an existential crisis
I totally agree with Jackie Garcia Mann (“A call for unified Jewish action on climate”) that we must act now to avert the catastrophic effects of climate change. Climate change is an existential crisis. It is also a matter of social justice as it most adversely affects those who can least afford it and who contributed the least to bring it on.
People need energy to lead healthy, productive lives, and currently about half of the world’s population does not have access to adequate energy. Social justice demands that the global supply of energy be increased to rectify this situation. However, burning fossil fuels, which are the easy source of energy, aggravates climate challenges.
Most leaders of social justice movements call for rapidly expanding renewable energy sources like wind and solar. However, these intermittent, low-energy density sources cannot meet the energy demand while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Germany’s experience with Energiewende makes that clear. Further, wind and solar require inordinate amounts of materials. Meeting the global energy demand by renewables would require more than doubling the global production of basic commodities such as copper, steel, cement, and rare-earth metals with enormous environmental degradation from mining.
Nuclear power can produce vast quantities of carbon-free energy. It has resulted in the fewest fatalities per unit of energy delivered than any other system, including wind and solar. It also has the smallest environmental footprint. Our unfounded fear of radiation, reinforced by decades of fearmongering, has prevented us from building any new plants in the U.S. for decades and has exacerbated the climate challenge.
Given the urgency to reduce carbon emissions, it is foolish to shut down working nuclear power plants. Instead, we should support their continued operation, and promote building and exporting new walk-away safe nuclear power plants.
’70s firestorm over ethnic studies
Your article “Draft high school ethnic studies curriculum ‘anti-Jewish,’ say California Jewish orgs” reminds me of the time in the mid-’70s when Oakland’s Merritt College, where I was teaching, instituted a graduation requirement for all students to take a course in ethnic studies.
Since I was planning a course in Jewish studies, I proposed that this course qualify to meet the requirement.
Little did I expect the firestorm that met my proposal! At public meetings, faculty members and administrators dragged out the ancient, scurrilous attacks on Jews: Jews are rapacious landlords, Jews suppress black people and other minorities, etc. The only two faculty members who came to my defense were my African American department chair and a devout Christian instructor.
My course was approved, but it failed to qualify for the ethnic studies requirement.
Army’s forward thinking
Thanks to the thoughtfulness and generosity of retired Col. Peter Gleichenhaus, a West Point graduate, on Aug. 7 some 80 people at the Lake Merced Golf Club in San Francisco were able to listen to Dr. David Frey, director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
It was enlightening and encouraging to learn that the future leaders of the U.S. Army are being thoroughly briefed about why mass atrocities occur and inspire them to think creatively about what can be done to prevent them, according to the center’s mission statement.
Imagine what might have happened if our armed forces had such a background during World War II or the Korean War!
In this time of rising tensions, to know that such a center is working on training our future Army leaders on this matter is, at the very least, a comfort.
Rita R. Semel
Omar and Tlaib: antagonists
In reversing its position to disallow entry to Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, Israel exercised its sovereign right, as any country would, to bar enemies of the state from the country. For those who are indignant with Israel for not allowing the congresswomen to enter the country, consider that once their itinerary was submitted there were no meetings with Israeli representatives and the trip was labeled a visit to Palestine, in support of BDS, with no mention of Israel.
What a missed opportunity for Omar and Tlaib to use this trip for becoming influential with both Israelis and Palestinians or highlighting the plight of Palestinian children who need assistance regardless of politics. The trip was designed to embarrass and antagonize Israel. These congresswomen refused to join the bipartisan congressional delegation that recently visited Israel, when they could have developed positive relationships with their colleagues and learn about the complexity of the Middle East security situation. Instead they decided to act as “legislator attack tunnels” rather than advocates for bridge-building between both parties to facilitate positive Palestinian-Israeli peace efforts.
Israel deserves the same respect the any sovereign nation would expect. Just imagine if a congressional delegation would deign to visit only separatists in Kashmir, India; Tibetans in China; or separatist Kurds in Turkey. None of these countries would allow for antagonists calling for economic warfare to enter their countries. So why should Israel?
Tlaib and Ilhan posed a threat
Whatever decision the Netanyahu government made concerning a proposed visit to Israel by U.S. congressional representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, it would have been wrong according to someone. In a situation like that, Netanyahu’s first consideration is the protection of every Israeli life.
Tlaib and Omar are hateful anti-Semites who promote BDS. The goal of BDS is to make Israel disappear. There is no doubt they intended to incite civil disobedience during a visit to the country that they want to destroy. Civil disobedience means different things to different people.
The extreme violence of the Arab Spring and its aftermath, including the rise of ISIS, provide recent examples of what civil disobedience means in Arab society. Conversely, you don’t see Jewish mobs murderously rampaging through the streets or engaging in civil wars.
Given Tlaib and Omar’s clear intent, if you think it is worth one injury or death to allow them to incite Arab Palestinians to riot, then Netanyahu made a mistake. I don’t.
J Street’s fiction-based world
J Street U’s trip to Israel under the banner “Let our people know” has been advertised as an alternative to Birthright trips (“Unlike Birthright, J Street’s trip shows the toll of occupation on both sides,” Aug. 5). The Birthright vision is “to ensure a vibrant future of the Jewish people by strengthening Jewish identity, Jewish communities and connections with Israel.” So, where is J Street’s beef? Where does J Street see a need for an alternative approach? Whatever the answers are, they are based on fiction, not facts.
First, what is this new notion of “Israel-Palestine”? There is no such country, confederation nor other world-known entity under this name. This is a pure J Street invention.
Second, the Israeli “privilege” may resonate with the American left, but it has nothing to do with everyday Israeli life. A privilege of being constantly threatened by maniacs obsessed with annihilating your own country from near and far? Or a privilege of incessant racial bigotry rooted in the millennia-old anti-Semitism? Jewish privilege gives a bad name to the word “privilege.”
Third, and most important, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is too complex to narrow it down to several personal stories, albeit emotionally convincing and touching. Of course, there are two sides to the conflict. But paraphrasing George Orwell’s famous maxim, one side here is more right than the other. Look at the history of Jews, the Israel’s defensive wars, numerous peace proposals, the results of Israel’s territorial withdrawals from Gaza (Hamas) and Southern Lebanon (Hezbollah). These facts should help even J Street to understand why two-thirds of Americans are on Israel’s side. And there is no need for any alternative to this reality.
Flawed reasoning on gun control
J. has done well in calling for new measures to prevent further acts of active/mass shootings with the Aug. 8 editorial “Cowardly politicians allow domestic terrorism to flourish.” Unfortunately, your case is compromised by factual errors and a casual dismissal of anyone on the other side of the issue.
Your obsessive, or obligatory, attack on President Trump completely ignores the administration’s decision last December to ban bump stocks that convert semiautomatic weapons to fully automatic weapons.
As J. was coming to print, the Wall Street Journal reported that President Trump and Sen. Mitch McConnell were seriously discussing the implementation of expanded background checks and red-flag laws when the Senate comes back into session.
Your discussion of the Second Amendment, and by extension the Constitution itself, was also seriously flawed. I fully agree that there is a compelling public interest in regulating the sale and ownership of firearms. Nevertheless, the ownership of firearms is a right under the Constitution and should be recognized as such. How we balance these competing legitimate interests should be a topic for respectful debate. But there is nothing respectful in describing any part of the Constitution as “outdated 18th century nonsense.” This statement implies an abandonment of the very notion of constitutional government.
Language, the words we use, matters. Such incendiary language can set off those who inhabit the far extremes of the polity. Let’s try to debate issues while showing respect for those with whom we may disagree. We may all learn in the process.
The point of the Constitution
Defining reasons for the mass shootings across the USA in recent years is difficult. There are clearly many contributing factors, ranging from violent video games to psychiatric issues, a disappearing “strong family unit” to teach children “right and wrong” and the easy access of guns. Your recent editorial (“Cowardly politicians allow domestic terrorism to flourish”) considers only one of these contributing factors and includes the self-righteous statement, “We are sick of pathetic Second Amendment arguments that sanctify outdated 18th-century nonsense as if it were holy writ.”
The initial 10 amendments were added to the Constitution to assure the document would be adopted by the independent states, in their attempt to unify as one nation.
President Obama openly stated that he could have made many unilateral edicts and run for (and won) a third term, except for those darn limitations imposed by the Constitution. That is the point of the Constitution: to limit the power of the central government and maximize the liberty of the individual.
Today’s political left would like to eliminate the Constitution so they could do whatever they pleased in an all-powerful, central government. That is called tyranny! Next, eliminate the “nation-state” concept, which spread across the globe in the 19th and 20th centuries. No more national boundaries or national citizenship!
We have seen the left’s “Congressional Squad” position on Jews/Israel: open anti-Semitic tropes and hatred. Political consequences of their anti-Semitism? None!
Be careful what you wish for, lest you get it.