September 23, 2019

Letters to the Editor: Election, Amona

As the Election Results Sink In

“Have you no sense of decency, sir?” 

                                        — Joseph Nye Welch, 1954

As a 12-year-old Holocaust survivor, I came to the United States in late 1949. Even at that young age, I was aware of the McCarthy hearings and witch hunts of the times. Since then, I felt that throughout my adult life, we have been on a trajectory of ever-expanding inclusion, tolerance, decency and economic progress. The institutions that make America great enabled me and my family to thrive. Unfortunately, this has not included many Americans whose jobs have been eliminated by technological advances and globalization. This is the challenge that we, as a decent people, must face.

What I just experienced was a revolution, largely powered by those left behind. In their anger, they attacked the institutions and politics that could and still can help them, in favor of slash and burn. They elected a president who appeases their anger by directing it toward immigrants and minorities. Who do you think is next?

I hope that the great promise of America is still alive and this detour in our progress is just that, a short detour. We must make it so.

Michael Telerant, Westwood

The Electoral College is one of the many imaginative ideas that the founders instituted that has helped preserve the stability of our system of national government for well over two centuries. Any system will favor larger states over smaller ones, as should be the case. Because all states are guaranteed a representative in the House and two senators, their contribution to the college can’t fall below a certain threshold (3/538, or about 0.6 percent), even if their population is less than this as a percentage of the total. Wyoming, for example, has under 0.2 percent of the U.S. population. With direct voting, the marginal votes in large states like California will matter even more, and candidates will have a greater incentive to ignore small states and concentrate on large ones.

The Electoral College is what primarily preserves our strong two-party tradition, forcing national candidates to the center and requiring broad-based coalitions to govern. Ross Perot got almost 19 percent of the popular vote in 1992 but zero electoral votes. Without the college, we would have factious multiple parties, leading to presidents without the consensus to lead and unstable, revolving-door coalition governments. In a large and diverse nation such as ours, the college prevents single-issue and geographical fragmentation, leading to more truly egalitarian election results, not less.

In close presidential elections, like the one in Florida in 2000, the Electoral College serves to quarantine voting disputes. The 1960 election between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon was decided by less than 1/5th of 1 percent of the vote, or fewer than one vote per precinct. Without the college, such a situation could lead to a “Florida” everywhere, leaving us without a clear winner long afterward.

With direct voting, it would be much easier for a candidate to win while losing a majority of the states. We are the United States of America, not the United People of America. We should be very wary of tinkering with this elegant constitutional establishment.

Brian J. Goldenfeld, Woodland Hills

Bet all the bad Americans at the Journal are having spasmastic crying fits over the fair and legal election of Mr. Trump. Now, at last we have a good American at the helm for at least the next four years.

Lynda Wadkins via email

Keep Up the Good Work

Interesting headline (“Jews and Hillbillies,” Nov. 11). The column by Rob Eshman was very well written, a broad and in-depth analysis of our society’s socio-economic challenges, especially as they pertain to economic disparity. Thank you!

Steve Klein via email

Amona Sends Wrong Message

The enclave called Amona (“Will Israel Evacuate the Settlers of Amona?” Nov. 18) must be dismantled for Judaic moral and ethical reasons and because its existence sends to the Muslim world exactly the wrong message as to what Judaism means. Judaism is based upon the core concept of moral and ethical justice. While the other Jewish communities that have been built were built for legitimate defensive and historical reasons, Amona was built to assert the primacy of Jewish legal and political rights over Palestinian legal and political rights. Its existence sends exactly the wrong message, the message of dominance of one people over another to Israelis, to Jews, to Arabs, indeed to the entire world.

Israel will continue to survive and to thrive without Amona. The existence of Amona is an existential threat to the meaning of Judaism.

William E. Baumzweiger, Studio City

Israel and the U.S. Election

I think that what Shmuel Rosner said in the “The Downside and Upside of Israel-less Election” (Nov. 11) about Israel not being part of the election is a bad thing. If Israel is not spoken about enough, more anti-Semitism will spread throughout the world. Also, people who don’t know a lot about Israel can get information through politicians. Lastly, voters whose main concern is Israel cannot get a good idea of whom to vote for. In the future, we should hope that Israel is one of the main topics throughout politics and the election, and only positive things are said about it.

Jaron Cohenca Via email 

Shmuel Rosner states that Israel was absent from the campaign trail this year because of previous years when they had “overrepresentation” and it caused a headache (“The Downside and Upside of the Israel-less Election,” Nov. 11). After President Obama concluded the Iran deal, Israel felt that it was in great danger. So, Israeli leaders cannot speak up now because they are in danger, not because they were overrepresented in past years. The article also states that Israel did not speak up because it causes problems during the election. There is always lots of publicity when one candidate favors Israel. Donald Trump had no fear, and spoke up for Israel. He believes in and loves the Jews. Therefore, I am surprised [that he lost the popular vote]. Earlier in the article, Rosner wrote that he talked to Debbie Wasserman Schultz and asked if this could this be an opportunity to begin an era of civility in Jewish political discourse. 

He then writes that he got a puzzled look because of how much of an over statement this was. However, I don’t believe it might be an overstatement, because there could always be an argument if President-elect Donald Trump crosses the line of acceptability that Republican leaders draw.  

Eliezer Lasry Via email

Shmuel Rosner’s article “The Downside and Upside of the Israel-less Election” was very interesting and honestly surprising. Throughout the election, teachers in my school would ask which candidate we thought would be the best choice for Israel. This really made me think because neither of them seemed particularly good or bad for Israel, as Rosner said that Israel did not play such a big role in the election. I remember asking my father what he thought about this topic and he said there is honestly no way to know. But in school, most people were convinced that Donald Trump was the better choice for Israel. After reading this article and the part where “American-Israelis” and “Israeli-Israelis” have different opinions, I think what my father said about not knowing for sure makes more sense than acting like we know who is better for Israel. 

Shiffy Rav-Noy, Los Angeles

Rabbi Abraham Cooper’s View of Hate

I was shocked to read an article by the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Rabbi Abraham Cooper about hate “on both sides.” But Cooper presented a distorted image of reality: He treats leftist hate as a footnote to sporadic alt-right violence, which he portrays as widespread — which it is not — but it is the alt-left [that is] clearly the mainstream norm of hate today led by a dangerous, self-hating Jew George Soros — who was not even mentioned in the article! He is alleged to have been funding the anti-Trump protests throughout the nation — Soros was the founder of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic group prevalent on college campuses today, as he is alleged to fund the Black Lives Matter lobby — another anti-Israel, anti-Semitic lobby organization.

Yet the few far-right groups that are easy to dismiss preoccupy Cooper’s emphasis. Is Cooper insinuating that Trump’s election was the reason for the recent outbreak of hate “on both sides”? That is a clear untruth: Obama has polarized both sides for the last eight years, and the overwhelming violence and enemies of free speech in this country especially on college campuses is the far-left, which has infiltrated and now dominates the Democratic party. This factor doesn’t appear to concern Rabbi Cooper, and that is quite troubling.

Richard Friedman, Culver City

Rabbi Meir Kahane’s Israel

Nov. 5 marks the 26th year since we lost Rabbi Meir Kahane (May God avenge his blood).

Kahane, assassinated in a New York hotel November 1990, truly believed that he represented mainstream Judaism. Because of sensitivity to his militancy, the rabbi wanted people to know that he was also a scholar and that, under certain circumstances, he could be as prominent as King David. Kahane never perceived himself to be a radical fundamentalist and thus was certain that the rest of the world had wrongly perceived him. He was equally certain that his message was the most important thing that had happened to Jews in the last quarter of the 20th century. His rise to power in Israel, Kahane believed, was just a matter of time.

Kahane ran his movement in a very personal way. He raised its money, wrote its pamphlets and made all its important decisions. 

Rather than political, Kahane’s long-term success was cultural. The Israel to which he emigrated in 1971 had its problems and was never a model democracy. But certain ideas were anathema. Violence against civilians was considered an un-Israeli act, as was the idea of a mass expulsion of Arabs.

The Israel that Kahane has left as a legacy is far different. It is still democratic, open and free. It is also brutal and violent. Its schools, universities, military camps, markets and synagogues are increasingly filled with populist chauvinism and crude anti-alien sentiment. Most noticeable are neo-religious ideas about redemption, the expurgation of the Temple Mount, the indivisibility of the Land of Israel and the necessity to transfer out the Arabs.

Kahane should by no means be held responsible for all these ills. The Jewish state has come a long way since the early 1970s, shaped, in part, by the necessity to carry on in a world full of Arab terrorists. But not a single Israeli I know has made a greater contribution to the brutalization of the nation and its public spirit than did Kahane. What was especially different about the rabbi from Brooklyn was his conscious theological and educational effort to destroy the mechanisms of Jewish moral engagement among his followers, an effort unfortunately crowned with great success.

Brian J. Goldenfeld, Woodland Hills

CORRECTIONS: The article “Largest Schindler Archive Finds a Home at Chapman University” (Nov. 18) misspelled the name of the Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education at Chapman University.