September 23, 2018

Letters to the Editor: Islam, Mensch List, Trump and Immigration

A Meaning Lost in Translation

In his Jan. 12 column “A Hunger for Memory,” David Suissa quotes Aomar Boum’s book “Memories of Absence” as translating the word dhimmi as “people of the book.”

The term dhimmi always has been translated inaccurately as meaning “people of the book” or “protected people,” who are exempt from Islamic law. However, the term is not native to Arabic and its usage is descriptive rather than factual translation. It is borrowed from Hebrew, related to the biblical Hebrew word d’mama, which means silent or still (as in the kol d’mama daka, the “still, small voice” that the prophet Elijah hears in 1 Kings 19:12 and as in numerous Psalms such as in Psalm 62:2 (al dhomi lach, “don’t hold Yourself silent”).

The Quran does not mention dhimmi and it is stated only in the Hadith in various agreements between the Prophet and Jewish tribes in Medina. It has always struck me as a derogatory and humiliating term referring to Jews in the Muslim world as a “silent second-class,” who were expected to stand when a Muslim walked by, not allowed to ride horses or own a piece of land. In most Arab countries, Jews were allowed to live only in limited closed quarters called hara. In contrast, Hebrew has the term ger, referring to non-Jews who live among the Jews and accept and observe the seven Noahide laws. The term, as used in the Torah and discussed lavishly by Maimonides, never implies discrimination or humiliation against the ger but rather full acceptance and total respect.

Ed Elhaderi, Los Angeles


Journal’s Hits and Misses

My compliments on Larry Greenfield’s reflections on the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (“King’s Dream,” Jan. 12”). He promotes King’s vision of racial friendship, and points out the growing voices of black separatism and leftist violence. The Journal is to be commended for thoughtful diversity of views. “Antifa” is not our friend.

Norman Epstein, San Francisco

Just wanted to tell you I like your new format and human interest stories. Very good — sharing how people are helping people. But I miss some of your columns that offer intellectual and challenging thought — like Dennis Prager.

Karen Rae, Sherman Oaks

The 11 vignettes in the “Mensch List” cover story (Jan. 5) were heartwarming. But one omission troubled me. Our species is devastating the biosphere, including countless wild species. Reportedly 98 percent of U.S. charitable contributions are to organizations whose concern is our species whereas only 2 percent are to organizations whose principal concern is the environment or wild species. The Journal’s list follows in the same spirit. The efforts of all 11 honorees are human-focused. Was there no one in the “overwhelming influx of inspiring nominees” who works to protect nature and who is deserving of recognition?

Ben Zuckerman, Los Angeles

Susannah Heschel’s essay was a “blast from the past,” bringing to the fore the incredible insights, acumen and razor-sharp mind that characterized her father’s work (“What Would My Father Say?” Jan 12). Most importantly, Heschel emphasized her father’s unrelenting search for the truth and the homeostasis that was universally acknowledged between his fiery words and his concomitant nonviolent actions of resistance.

Contrast that with the dissembling screed that Ben Shapiro penned about the reported scatological remarks made by President Donald Trump in his self-deified role of a (“who shall live and who shall die”) present-day Nero. To offset this treasure trove of conservative tried but not true journalistic legerdemain, Shapiro sprinkles in a few seemingly apolitical political crumbs about Trump being a charismatic boor with a volatile yellow streak running down the center of his back.

Defending that which is best about Judaism (defining a religious person as maladjusted; attuned to the agony of others and never satisfied but always questioning) is the gist of Heschel’s gift to the Journal reader, while Shapiro’s gift is the benighted defense of that which is indefensible.

Marc Rogers, North Hollywood

President Trump has been in office for a year, so let’s look at the facts. Third-quarter economy grew 3.2 percent. Unemployment at a 17-year low. Stock market sizzling. Stopped foreign college graduates from coming here and taking our jobs. Illegal immigrants are leaving. Foreign countries are opening plants here. American companies are coming back. Retail sales for December were up over the previous year. All this despite two major hurricanes and major wildfires in California. If you bashers are going to bitch in good times, what are you going to do in bad times?

Joseph B.D. Saraceno, Gardena

Ben Shapiro hit the nail on the head. When the entire Michael Wolff affair is said and done, it won’t be Donald Trump who emerges worse off. It will be the fake news mainstream media who subscribe to Wolff’s journalistic style, namely, if you like what you read, take it as truth. That’s the essence of confirmation bias that the mainstream media are foisting on the public.

The mainstream, liberal, left media blew their integrity in the desire for a cheap hit by defending Wolff, the author of “Fire and Fury.” They relied heavily on the falsehoods of Wolff’s book while ignoring some of the major achievements of Trump, such as tax relief for the middle class, defeating ISIS, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and announcing the moving of the American Embassy to Jerusalem.

Marshall Lerner, Beverly Hills


Trump’s Comment About Certain Nations

I am the daughter of an immigrant. As we are confronted with the most recent profane and derogatory comments by President Donald Trump concerning groups who have sought and wish to seek refuge in the United States, we must remember Jews who were turned away from entry into this country only to be returned to a country where they were murdered.

Some Jewish groups have ignored previous vulgar and bigoted comments made by Trump. How can they remain silent now? Every Jewish organization that claims to promote freedom and tolerance should denounce his words.

Cynthia Hasday, Los Angeles


and FROM FACEBOOK:

‘Sacred Protectors,’ Jan. 12:

I have spent time in Morocco and this is mostly true. Of course, like anywhere on Earth, there will be some Moroccans who will not behave so gallantly. One of the most beautiful, oldest Jewish cemeteries is in Marrakesh. … Rabbis request being buried there. It is like little else you’ve ever seen; simply breathtaking and moving. The old Jewish quarter is pretty amazing too.

La Pickwell

Respect is due to these Moroccan, Muslim protectors of Jewish cemeteries and synagogues. A good story of humanity gone unnoticed.

Herman Meltzer

We need to hear more stories like this. I’m sure that they are out there.

Ginny Baldwin

Thank you, Aomar Boum. Shalom. Aleikum-as-Salaam. Peace be upon you.

Eb Hoene

‘A Hunger for Memory,’ Jan. 12:

Beautiful and touching story.

Ruth Solomon Wolitzer

Nice to hear a positive story about living in a Muslim land.

Beth Anderson

Biased Media a Win for Trump

Michael Wolff. Photo by Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Over the past two weeks, the media world has been agog with reactions to the new gossipy tell-all from the West Wing, Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury.” The book is riddled with errors both small and large, and relies heavily on unverified anecdotes, particularly from former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon. Bannon’s comments have prompted the majority of headlines: He apparently called Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian-backed lawyer “treasonous,” suggested that President Donald Trump was an insane person, and attacked Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump with alacrity. Trump responded in Trumpian fashion: he attacked the book as fake news, and slammed Bannon — rightly — as a self-aggrandizing boor with a penchant for overwrought drama.

But put aside all the chaos regarding Trump — after all, we already knew most of this stuff in a broad way. We knew that Trump wasn’t exactly the “stable genius” he professes to be; we knew that Bannon was a nefarious force motivated to strike down Jared and Ivanka; we knew that the White House seems to function with the force and efficiency of a hamster wheel, with Trump’s itchy Twitter thumb starring as the hamster.

There’s something else more disturbing: the tendency of the media to believe that which they find comfortable, and to disbelieve everything else. The most egregious example came courtesy of Wolff himself, who stated, “If it rings true, it is true.” The meaning of this rather self-serving phrase: If you like what you read, take it as truth. That’s the essence of confirmation bias — the bias we all have toward believing that which confirms our already-decided views. Wolff made that statement to MSNBC’s Katy Tur, who responded, “Congratulations on the book, and congratulations on the president hating it.” Can you imagine such a congratulatory message from Tur to muckraking anti-Hillary Clinton author Ed Klein? Of course not.

Then there was Brian Stelter, CNN’s supposed journalistic ombudsman. Stelter stated, “Wolff’s errors are sloppy, but many Trump experts say the book ‘rings true’ overall. My advice: Read it — skeptically.” Stelter’s own colleague, Jake Tapper, fired back, “Having many errors but ‘ringing true’ is not a journalistic standard. That said, quotes are quotes. And if facts can be ascertained by further reporting as true, that’s also a service.”

But the damage has already been done. Not to Trump — to the media.

When the entire Wolff affair is said and done, it won’t be Trump who emerges worse off.

Trump has been making political hay out of the media’s bias against him for over two years. This week, he’s attacked the media again, suggesting that next week he hopes to hold a “Fake News Awards,” which presumably will come complete with little gold statuettes. The only way for the media to fight back would be with intrepid truth-telling: double-sourced non-rumor-mongering, a real attempt to fight back against confirmation bias. Instead, the media have chosen to run with anonymous sourcing that often turns to dross; they’ve been unable to hide their smiles when the news is bad for Trump, and unable to hide their frowns when the news helps Trump. That lends Trump credibility.

When the entire Wolff affair is said and done, then, it won’t be Trump who emerges worse off. Trump is what we always thought he was: an unstable, charismatic, volatile human being. The media, however, may have blown their credibility in the desire for a cheap hit — and all to promote Steve Bannon’s personal profile. That’s a major win for Trump, not the media that hate him.


Ben Shapiro is a best-selling author, editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire and host of the conservative podcast “The Ben Shapiro Show.”