Letters to the Editor: President Obama, Muslim Americans, Sarah Palin, Independence Day Festival

Listen to President Obama

It is ironic that Judea Pearl wrote this article on the eve of perhaps the worst foreign policy speech on Israel and the Middle East in American history (“Words Matter — Obama’s Next Challenge,” May 20). His phrase “Words Matter” tells it all. The words in this case, were all wrong.

Obama’s appeal to the Jewish public seems to be that he is the proverbial underdog, heralding a new era of tolerance and compassion. We associate him with the disenfranchised because of the color of his skin. I understand that. But Obama’s record on the Middle East is clear; his support for Israel is fraught with conditions that put Israel on a path to destruction.

Victoria Talbot
via e-mail

Achieving Better Treatment for Muslim Americans

David Lehrer and Joe Hicks question the Muslim Public Affairs Council’s assessment that “Muslim Americans have suffered a 10-year span of nasty, irrational anti-Muslim attitudes and actions in this country resulting in ‘alienation and psychological ghettoization’ ”(“Right Goal — Wrong Strategy,” May 13).

In fact, hateful crimes and bigoted attitudes toward Muslims continue unabated in this country. According to a 2010 Gallup poll, nearly one-third of Americans (31 percent) say their opinion of Islam is “not favorable at all” in sharp contrast to Americans’ views of Christianity and Judaism, which are far more likely to be “very favorable.”

Attitudes impact actions: Last August, a college student stabbed a New York City cabdriver after the cabbie confirmed he was Muslim, and a man urinated on prayer rugs at a mosque, shouting anti-Muslim slurs; in May 2010, an Islamic center in Jacksonville, Fla., was bombed; last year, a California mosque was vandalized with graffiti that referenced Ground Zero; in February 2010, a mosque in Nashville, Tenn., was spray painted “Muslims go home” in bright red paint and a letter left behind called Muslims “the enemy”; and barely two months ago, Pastor Terry Jones presided over the burning of a Quran in Gainesville, Fla. These ugly incidents should ring all too familiar to Jews.

Hicks and Lehrer imply that acts of violence committed by some Muslims might understandably lead us to relax our “commitment to tolerance.” But blaming all for the actions of some is the essence of prejudice and collective guilt. As a people who have suffered from guilt by association, we must oppose it when it is visited upon others.

The authors also point out that reported hate crimes against Jews are more numerous than those against Muslims. Anti-Semitic views and acts are unacceptable and should be opposed by all. However, while we too were once seen in mainstream circles as foreign interlopers incapable of becoming American, today our rights to build houses of worship and practice our religion are not under sustained attack in the United States. Not so for Muslim Americans who across the nation — including here in Southern California — have faced ugly opposition to their First Amendment rights to build mosques and worship peacefully.

Well-meaning observers like Lehrer and Hicks should remember the most repeated mitzvah in the Torah — “Remember the stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt” — and should join with others in the Jewish community and their allies in condemning all acts of hatred and intolerance.

Stephen Rohde, president
Elissa Barrett, executive director
Eric Greene, regional director Progressive Jewish Alliance

Another View of Solitary Confinement

While Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz’s humanitarian concerns, overcrowding statistics and biblical references all have merit, he is leaving out a large part of the equation that leads to the decisions to house certain inmates this way (“Solitary Confinement: When Solitude Is No Longer a Virtue,” May 20). Other than some very high-profile cases such as “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski who are housed in Supermax facilities simply due to their celebrity, a great many of these inmates are simply too unruly to live in the general inmate populations because they have repeatedly attacked staff members and assaulted other inmates. Correctional officers, and in some cases the inmate’s former cell partners, have been injured or murdered over extremely trivial offenses. Correction officials do not take the inmate populations of these Supermax facilities lightly, as the facilities are the most costly to build and operate, and they are continually trying to “promote” the inmates back to general inmate populations when they demonstrate better behavior.

John Rico
via e-mail

A Journey on Arab Street

I wanted to commend you on your thoughtful and incisive piece on the Arab street (“Street Smarts,” May 20). While I am sure the piece provoked some strong reactions, I thought it was a balanced and realistic take on the practical implications of the Arab spring both for Israel and the region as a whole.

Hoyt Hilsman
via e-mail

The Lightning Rod Sarah Palin

While it is egregious that Sarah Palin continues to be basically a windless weather vane of political nonwisdom (“Palin, Trump Don’t Excite Jewish Republicans,” May 13), I would say that Jennifer Rubin and Bill Kristol — in addition to criticizing Palin — might want to step back and examine why they were so eagerly supportive of her in the first place.

Scott Lenz
Los Angeles

A Better Tomorrow

Joe Hicks and David Lehrer’s statistics may be cited for support but not for illumination (Right Goal — Wrong Strategy,” May 13). They may count people’s attitudes toward Muslims but they cannot count our collective dreams for a better tomorrow for our friends and family. Hicks and Lehrer are scaring us with their nightmares. Fear is a debilitating force where our common humanity is concerned. It will not have the last word.

Rabbi Steven Jacobs
via e-mail

The Border Wars

What people have to keep in mind is that no matter what Israel’s Arab neighbors say today, most have shown they can’t be trusted (“Words Matter — Obama’s Next Challenge,” May 20). Israel gave up Gaza, a forced disruption of so many Jewish communities, only to have Gazans elect Hamas to lead them and turn Gaza into the source of constant missile attacks against Israel. Now Hamas will be part of the “united” Palestine’s government. No matter what is promised, can anyone believe they will ever accept Israel’s existence? Israel gave up the Sinai for a signed peace treaty, and now Egypt is threatening to abandon that treaty. And the idea of giving back the Golan Heights, which, under Syrian control, continually bombed the Jewish homes, schools and school buses below, killing so many civilians, is a non-starter. The Arab spring may exchange autocrats for fundamentalist sharia governments who are even more dangerous to Israel and to the West. The fact is, the Palestinians have never accepted any Israeli borders, either in 1948 or 1967. Obama’s timing of this route to “peace” is perfect. He is either the stupidest man on earth or truly sides with the Muslims.

Noelle Donfeld
via e-mail

A Palestinian State

It is expected in September there will be a U.N. resolution for the creation of an independent country for the Palestinians. The members of the U.N. who will be voting, including the United States, will be considering the creation of a country whose charter and leaders openly state their goal to destroy another U.N. member. The Palestinian leaders and its current key faction, Hamas, again and again call for destruction of the State of Israel.

It would be hypocritical and dangerous for the United Nations (and the United States) to agree to the creation of a country that would legitimize a stated goal to destroy another U.N. member. The U.N. should not tolerate, let alone approve, any entity to become a country intent on destroying another U.N. member. One could only imagine what other groups could exploit, under the United Nations endorsement if there is a Palestinian country created with the current stated goal of the leaders of the Palestinian entity.

The United Nations (and the United States) must insist that the Palestinian entity agree to Israel’s right to exist before approving any U.N. resolution to create an independent country for the Palestinians.

Alan Warshaw
Palo Alto

Lighter Look at Diplomatic Meeting

If President Obama had called Prime Minister Netanyahu prior to their meeting, with Bob Newhart playing Netanyahu:

Hello, Mr. President. Thanks for giving me your recommendations in advance on how to move the peace talks along. What? You want the borders to revert to the 1967 lines? Then Israel should be able to deal with the Palestinians? You are aware, sir, that Israel would now have to negotiate with Hamas. You don’t think that’s a problem? Even though Hamas refuses to recognize Israel and calls for Israel’s complete destruction? I’m a little uncomfortable with that. Oh, we would all sign an agreement. And you think that would bind the Palestinians? You do, because you would have the agreement signed in front of a notary. And you held a séance and Neville Chamberlain said there will be peace in our time.

Reverting to the 1967 borders would put thousands of Israeli’s at risk. What if the Palestinians attack us? We shouldn’t worry because you think you could convince Congress to pay for the installation of an alarm system in each Israeli home. That could be a big job, sir, are their alarm companies that could handle that? You recommend the Islamic Brotherhood Alarm Co. That ‘s not too reassuring to us, Mr. President. Oh, they have a motto — “We aim to please.” Exactly what might they be aiming sir, possibly rockets? The radicals seem to like to use Israel citizens for target practice. It helps them feel like brave warriors. If they did launch rockets towards Israel, Israel would have to aggressively retaliate. You don’t recommend that? It would be bad for Israel PR? And you plan on talking to the Taliban and you will put in a good word for us. That’s supposed to make us feel better?

This all could be a tough sell back home, Mr. President. I will have to get back to you. I know you would like this finalized before the next presidential election, but please don’t call me, I’ll call you.

Michael A. Gesas
Beverly Hills

Two-way Street

Rob Eshman is onto something (“Street Smarts,” May 20). The Arab spring has made a big difference in the Middle East. As Rob notes, Arabs and Muslims are people, too; they want economic opportunity, free speech and honest government. There is “an awakening of nonviolent Palestinian protest.”

He exhorts Israel to “think and act fast.” Israel needs to innovate; they must address the future. And therein lies a great opportunity for Israel to use its outstanding assets to gain the respect and admiration of the Arab/Muslim world and, indeed, people all over the world. It is an opportunity for the State of Israel to establish peaceful, harmonious relations with its neighbors.

The assets I refer to are not its armed might but rather Israel’s demonstrated ability to develop industries and resources, to build an economically viable, highly successful nation.

My vision: The State of Israel announces to the world that it stands ready to help ¬— yes, help — its neighboring Arab/Muslim countries that desire to improve the economic status and living conditions of its people. With financial support from wealthy Arab nations (such as Saudi Arabia), Israel will provide the manpower, the know-how and guidance to help the Palestinians and Egyptians to develop new industries, create new jobs, and build their infrastructures and educational resources so their people can live happier, healthier lives — in peace and harmony with all other nations.

Yes, this represents a major paradigm shift. It will take determination. There may be objections and obstacles to overcome; but it can be done. The benefits could be earth-shaking … and change world history for the better.

George Epstein
Los Angeles

Your editorial this week, Mr. Robert Eshman, has enough chutzpah in it to provoke me into responding at the beginning of my first reading of your writing (“Street Smarts,” May 20). I doubt whether you can outclass the chutzpah of our president this past week, but your sanitation of the Mavi Marmara passengers by calling them people, and your sympathetic portrayal of the nakba suggests a naivete which I doubt you have. It didn’t take a gun to slay Goliath as sticks and stones do wreak havoc as witnessed by the Mavi Marmara passengers who were armed with clubs. Please, you may editorialize all you want to but don’t assume all your readers are on to you, there are some very impressionable minds that may even be swayed by your rhetoric, language is very powerful, too many anti-Israel chutzpaniks take to task Israel for not willingly agreeing to succumb to her own annihilation. Peace now will only succeed if Israel remains strong. Study your history. For shame

Toby Willner
Los Angeles

Stepping Out

I couldn’t disagree with Dennis Prager more (“Dancing With the Rabbis?” April 15). I am a conservative and agree with 99 percent of Dennis’ views, but in this one he got it all wrong. Participating in this event did not make the rabbi equal to us, just merely another human being who wanted to have some fun. Now that it is over, I still respect our rabbi. I just now know that he can’t dance!

Paul Goldman
via e-mail

Bring Back Israel Independence Day Festival

Rob’s right — the absence of the festival is a great loss to the greater L.A. Jewish community and a reflection of a fracturing of our communal leadership (“I Miss Us,” May 13). The Federation, the Israel Leadership Council and Yoram Gutman will, hopefully, get their act together (and maybe reach out to some other potential supporters) so we can gather at Woodley Park or some other appropriate venue next year. It’s a bit of a shandah that Irvine and Santa Barbara can put on impressive Yom HaAtzmaut parties while L.A. drops the ball.

Rabbi Gil Kollin
via email

Sad about the festival at Woodley Park, so come up to Santa Barbara’s Oak Park and celebrate with us.

Judy Mannaberg-Goldman
Santa Barbara

Film Preview

Wow, how do we get this film to South Florida (“Yoya’s Promise,” May 13)?

herri Gross
via email