November 21, 2018

Letters to the editor: Khuzaa, Steven Sotloff, Azerbaijan and firing ranges

The Fog of Narrative

With the article “Inside the Fog of War” (Sept. 12), the Jewish Journal joins many other media outlets in publicizing Palestinian suffering. It’s an easy story to write. The photos and witness accounts are plentiful and sympathetic. It’s truthful, too: Palestinian civilians suffered, and their suffering tells a worthwhile story — but not the obvious one suggested by most stories of this type.

Nearly every story about Palestinian suffering blames Israel either directly or by implication because they go no deeper than the photos and stories that lead the reader to the obvious conclusion that the ones shooting (Israel) are guilty. These articles need to go deeper. A truthful story is inadequate when it leads to the wrong conclusion. There are three culpable parties and each should be exposed for what it does:

Civilian residents: If war is coming, should civilians move those in wheelchairs, the deaf, elderly, young, and other residents out of the way? Failing to avoid known danger, like leaving a child in hot car, is abuse. Surely the residents bear some responsibility.

Hamas leadership: When your stated purpose is murdering your neighbor and taking their land; and when you act on this with missiles, you must anticipate violence upon your people. Hamas craves this violence in order to mobilize world media to publicize Palestinian suffering. It’s the only victory Hamas is able to achieve against a stronger enemy. Surely Hamas leaders bear some responsibility.

IDF: The Israeli army fires the bullets and drops the bombs, so it’s fair to examine the steps Israel takes to minimize civilian loss compared to what other armies do. Evaluating IDF behavior any other way is false because war is ethically unique. Do other armies pause to evacuate a handicapped person? Israel bears some responsibility, but we need to use the correct standard to assign how much.

Responsible journalism not only means reporting truthful stories but also ones that bake in all the facts that help readers correctly assess responsibility. This story, I’m afraid, fails to deliver on that dimension.

Jeffrey Feuer, Beverly Hills

The editors respond:

Simone Wilson’s story made or addressed every point you raise. Her story is about what it was like to fight in Khuzaa as an Israeli, and to experience the battle as a Palestinian.  She interviewed several Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers who fought in the battle in order to capture the intensity and chaos of Khuzaa, as well as Palestinians. After the story came out, the IDF launched an investigation into the civilian deaths at Khuzaa.

Preserving a Storied History

David Suissa, perhaps you can offer a free or low-cost online class titled “1,869 Years of Our History” (“Are Jews Losing Their Story?” Sept. 19). Each section of the course can be structured and guided by the questions you posed in your article. I think thousands of people would be interested — observant, not so observant, Jewish and non-Jewish. Maybe new stories of those years gone by will be the result. I would definitely take the class. It would be a part of my personal narrative.

Phillip Cohen via 

Murder Does Not a Martyr Make

Please be careful about this martyrdom stuff (“The Martyrdom of Steven Sotloff,” Sept. 19). Martyrs choose their deaths as an expression of conviction or faith. This young man was a murder victim. This alone is the sad point. Martyrdom enlightens and teaches; murder is sufficient reason for anger and demands revenge or punishment.

Saul Goldman via

Recipe for Peace

This was nice to read (“Israel’s Most Valuable Muslim Ally,” Sept. 19). I think it would be a very important part of the article to hear why and how Azerbaijan “invests in and supports its Jewish community and Jewish heritage.” Please tell us what those secret ingredients are that work there and not in Europe.

Beth Singer via

(For a lengthy cover article on Azerbaijan from December 2013, visit here)

Home on the Range

My husband and I were gratified to see the Jewish Journal cover the story of Dr. Fred Kogen establishing the Bullets and Bagels club (“From Slingshots to Rifles: A Jewish Club Fires Away,” Sept. 12). After my husband became interested in target shooting as a hobby, about 10 years ago, I too was surprised to see how many of our fellow Jews had firearms even if they had not fired them in a while. 

My husband and I also take friends out to the range and introduce them to the safe use of firearms. We make them memorize the safety rules prior to showing up at the range, and make sure to start them out on a low-recoil accurate rifle to make sure they hit their target from the start. This frees them of the fear of recoil, and builds confidence in their ability to handle a firearm in a way that is both responsible and fun.

It is a lot of fun, and I hope to see more and more responsible Jewish citizens out at the range.

Pamela and Alex Abramovici, Chatsworth