Letters to the Editor: Nelson Mandela, Israel, settlements

Mandela Just a Man, Not Another Moses

I realize that Americans love heroes, and journalists love to serve them up, but Nelson Mandela as another Moses (“Mandela/Moses,” June 28)? 

Unlike Moses, Mandela could go to Israel any time he wanted, although Jews may not enter Muslim countries, including those that comprise most of Israel’s neighbors. Those countries, you may recall, threatened to drive Israel into the sea, and in 1967, attempted to do just that in yet another attempted genocide against our people, which no country on earth, including the United States, has ever tried to prevent. Has Mandela ever spoken against the ban of Jews in Muslim countries? Has he ever spoken in our support, other than to recognize that Jews were the backbone of the civil rights movement?

How sad that so many American Jews still lionize themselves as champions of civil rights, while creating idols out of people who attack Israel, the survival of which, as history should have taught by now, is essential to the prevention of our genocide.

Charles Wintner via e-mail

Smoke Screen of a Different Sort?

In the tinder box of the world, with its death and suffering of millions of people from successive wars, revolts and bombings of both Israeli and Arab towns and cities, Mr. Suissa wants people to be more offended — more emotional (“Jews Should Get Offended,” June 21). Is he serious? This was his response to a remark from Mr. Abbas in which Jews should have been mentioned but were not mentioned, and he extrapolates the error of omission into a blood libel. Must we really struggle with all our might to inflame ethnic strife on the matter of changing the status quo of a 60-year arrangement on holy sites? Could this be Mr. Suissa’s way of distracting us from the greater issues of settlements, occupation and the urgency of Palestinian human rights?  

Rick Chertoff, Sherman Oaks

David Suissa responds: Mr. Chertoff refuses to be offended by the fact that, as I wrote in my article, our Palestinian “peace partner” brazenly and publicly denies any Jewish connection to Jerusalem. I have nothing else to add.

Israel Should Not Abandon Old City

David Myers does not believe that Israel’s public diplomacy, or hasbara, is inadequate. But Myers could have provided no greater proof of that inadequacy than his op-ed (“The Re-’birth’ of Hope,” June 21). Myers has, somehow, come to believe that Israel’s occupation of Judea and Samaria is the cause of the obloquy and hatred that one finds in the media, on campus, and in BDS and related activism.

The “occupation” was the result of a war that was forced upon Israel by Jordan. Before Jordan’s attack and even after, Israel entreated Jordan to refrain from hostilities. Jordan ignored Israel’s entreaties, and Israel won a decisive victory that placed it in control of its ancient patrimony, Judea and Samaria. From that point until today, were Israel to have abandoned that land, as Myers evidently believes it should have, it would have ceded the land to its mortal enemies. What rational actor would have done that? Would Myers have been so foolish as to have done that? 

Of course, Myers never explains why justice requires Israel’s withdrawal from the Old City of Jerusalem, from which the Jews were expelled in 1948. Why would any decent person believe that justice requires the vindication of Jordan’s “ethnic cleansing” of Jerusalem? 

Chip Bronson and Stephanie London, Beverly Hills  

The Truth About Settlements

Arthur Cohn’s article is full of simplifications and distortions, which unfortunately take the place of serious, informed discussion among vast numbers of American Jews (“The Truth About Settlements,” June 28). One can be skeptical of the immediate prospects of negotiations without the need to resort to talking points such as his.

I’ll just cite two:

1. Areas such as Har Choma, the area of disputed new building, were never part of the Holy City of Jerusalem. In fact, Har Choma is south of Kibbutz Ramat Rachel, which is administratively part of the Mateh Yehuda Regional Council, not part of Jerusalem even by today’s definitions.

2. Beyond all the convoluted arguments about settlements and the justified pessimism of current policies lies one fact. The only reason for 600,000 Jews inhabiting the vast majority of area over the Green Line is clear: to make it less likely Israel will ever withdraw. I’ll leave it to others to define “obstacle.”

If people like Mr. Cohn were truly concerned about the security of Israelis at a time when they are facing increased taxes and cuts of educational and welfare services, he would be asking: Where is the money to preserve these services, reduce the heavy tax burden and provide for the long term economic security of Israelis?

Lawrence Weinman, Los Angeles

Israeli policemen suspected of robbing Palestinian workers in Jerusalem

Three Israeli border policemen were arrested on Wednesday over suspicions that they had systematically accosted Palestinian workers in Jerusalem and stole their money.

In a court hearing discussing their remand on Thursday, representative of Israel Police’s Internal Affairs Division Shalom Amar, said that the three suspects were in the habit of “targeting working-class people, workers suspected of illegally entering Israel.”

The policemen, after leaving their bases without permission, allegedly, “using threats, escorted the [Palestinians] into alleys near Damascus Gate in the Old City.”

Read more at Haaretz.com.

Israel Film Fest to honor ‘Meathead,’ ‘Alan Brady’

“If I ever get the Nobel Prize, the headline is going to say, ‘Meathead Wins Nobel Prize,'” suggested Rob Reiner, harking back to his role as Archie Bunker’s son-in-law during the 1970’s run of “All in the Family.”

“I’m very proud of that appellation,” he added. “The show was an enormous success — also in Israel, by the way.”

The throwaway line was part of a conference call interview with Rob and his father, Carl Reiner, which ranged across their Bronx roots, presidential politics, Jewish identity, the future of Jewish humor and the Ten Commandments.

The Reiners, father and son, will be honored Wednesday, June 11, by the Israel Film Festival with the 2008 Achievement in Film Award.

Other honorees will be actor Kirk Douglas, Israeli producer-director Menahem Golan and Jeffrey Berg, chairman of the talent and literary agency International Creative Management.

Carl Reiner, winner of nine Emmy awards and an American institution as actor, director, producer, writer and comedian, was born 86 years ago in the Bronx, the son of a Romanian-born watchmaker and a mother from Budapest.

“I was born in the Bronx, too,” Rob interjected.

“No,” Carl corrected. “I was delivered at our home in the Bronx. You were born in a hospital in Manhattan.”

Despite this early handicap, Rob was a precocious lad.

“When Rob was 2 or 3, before he could read, he had somehow learned to recite Hamlet’s soliloquy, ‘To be or not to be,'” recounted the proud father. “Only he had trouble with his ‘L,’ so instead of ‘the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,’ it came out as ‘swings and arrows.'”

A few years later, young Rob used to sit on the steps, listening intently when the likes of Mel Brooks and Sid Caesar visited the Reiner home.

Rob was basically a serious kid, Carl said, but the amazing thing was that when the men swapped jokes, “he laughed at all the right places.”

American Jews once had a virtual monopoly on stand-up comics, but the torch seems to be passing to other ethnics. “It’s always the downtrodden people who produce the best comics, such as [the black] Chris Rock or [the Hispanic] Carlos Mencia,” Carl said.

How about Jerry Seinfeld?

“No,” Carl insisted. “Seinfeld is not a Jewish comedian. He is a comedian who happened to be Jewish.”

But Carl has not lost hope, saying, “As long as we’re persecuted, we’ll have Jewish humor. It’s in our DNA; it’s been inbred for thousand of years.”

Some of the DNA was obviously passed on to Rob, who has emulated his father’s versatility and multitasking. He has scored some of his biggest successes as film director of such critical and commercial hits as “This Is Spinal Tap,” “Stand By Me,” “When Harry Met Sally” and “A Few Good Men.” His most recent release is “The Bucket List.”

On politics, which means Democratic politics, the Reiners disagree, with the father backing Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and the son supporting New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“I felt that Hillary was more electable,” Rob said. “She was also very helpful in my California campaign against smoking and for better child care.”

But both Reiners promise to work hard for the election of the ultimate Democratic candidate.

It took Carl longer than his son to break into show business.

“I was working as a mechanic’s helper in a sewing machine repair shop in the 1930s when my brother saw an ad that the WPA, the Works Progress Administration established by President Roosevelt, was offering a free drama workshop, and that was the beginning,” he said.

“I’ve always maintained that I owe my career to two men — my brother Charlie and FDR.”

For Rob, 61, it wasn’t a given that he would go into the entertainment business, but, he said, “I always looked up to my father and wanted to be like him.”

Carl broke in with another anecdote. “When Rob was 7 or 8, he came to me and told me he wanted to change his name,” the father recalled. “I figured that the Reiner name weighed on the kid, and he didn’t want to feed off it.

“‘So what would you like to change your name to?’ I asked, and he answered ‘Carl.'”

Like many Jews, especially in do-it-yourself California, the Reiners have fashioned their own identity.

To the question, “What kind of a Jew are you?” Rob responded, “The best kind of Jew, one who tries to do good things for others.”

Carl went into more detail. “I’m not a believer, I call myself an atheist,” he said. “It was man who invented God.

“I once wrote that there are 15 things I know about God, and one is that he is allergic to shellfish. There are far too many commandments and you really only need one: Do not hurt anybody.”

So why do the Reiners call themselves Jewish?

“It’s what binds us together. We celebrate Passover, that’s our heritage, our race,” Rob answered.

Carl corrected his son. “I don’t know about race; that’s still a big argument. But I remember that my parents were always very proud of Jewish accomplishments: Christ, Karl Marx, Freud, Einstein; we’ve turned the world around.”

Rob chimed in, “We always wanted to know which stars were Jewish. Edward G. Robinson. Paul Muni. And Kirk Douglas, that was really a big deal.”

“How about the gangsters?” Carl asked. “Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel. But they were good gangsters.”

The Reiners weren’t quite sure why they were chosen to get the awards from the Israel Film Festival.

“When you get old,” Carl mused, “people want to give you awards. We’ve never been to Israel, and we don’t really have much of a connection.

“Which reminds me, I met Aaron Ruben, the director and writer, on ‘The Andy Griffith Show,’ which, by the way, was full of Yiddishisms, though people didn’t realize it.