November 16, 2018

Letters to the Editor: Gun Violence Debate, Phil Rosenthal and More

Gun Violence Debate

The underlying argument of gun law reform: Public safety will be achieved through legislature (“When Will It End?” Feb. 23). In light of the Florida school shooting, this argument is shaping the modern U.S. political and sociocultural landscape. However, the dialogue on gun control has diverted the public from the underlying cause of shootings: pathology.

In Europe, multiple acts of terror have taken place through the use of cars. By driving through crowds of people, terrorist attacks have killed people in masses. Even in the absence of legal gun purchases, assuming black market sales are somehow nonexistent, pathological individuals can find means to fulfill their destructive motivations.

While empathizing with the victims of this tragedy, this conversation lacks this simple empirical observation: Pathology is a problem of being; it is not a problem of legislature.

Mahmut Alp Yuksel, Los Angeles

Former President Barack Obama and the left are partly responsible for the Parkland, Fla., shooting. Obama’s Promise Program lowered Parkland’s juvenile arrest numbers from 3,000 to 600. Then it lowered the number of children disciplined and expelled; it reduced the treatment of problem children; it lowered the number of children arrested. So when the killer attacked, the police did nothing because they were part of the Promise Program.

Robin Rosenblatt, Sebastopol

What a great column by Danielle Berrin (“In America, Life Should Come Before Total Liberty,” Feb.  23)! Thank you so much for bringing up the essence of the prophetic words of Isaiah Berlin. Having lived for 33 years in a society that believed in the absolute ideal of socialism, I experienced firsthand the truthfulness of his words: Everything is justified by the goal of attaining an ideal society. I would add only this: The more noble the ideal is, the more paranoid and fanatic the society becomes. Total liberty is possible only if a single person lives on an isolated island. If two or more people are to live together as a family, society, etc., then total liberty must be replaced by other values that put life at the center of everything.

Svetlozar Garmidolov, Los Angles

It seems to me that Ben Shapiro is a tad defensive about his hardline interpretation of the Second Amendment (“The Parkland Dilemma,” March 2). He harshly criticizes the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSD) for becoming strong advocates for gun safety. How dare they criticize Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) for his support of lax gun safety measures? In the very next sentence, he comes to the defense of NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch, arguing that she cares “deeply about their (students’) safety.”

These MSD students experienced a horrific massacre. If some of them spoke in hyperbole, it is understandable. What is Loesch’s excuse for her screed at CPAC? She accused those of us who support strong gun safety laws of being ill-informed, ignorant of the Constitution and anti-American. Yet, Shapiro does not chastise her for these comments.

Andrew C. Sigal, Valley Village

In his opposition to gun regulations, Ben Shapiro says he refuses to give up his guns to “browbeating gun control advocates.” We’re not asking him to give up his guns if he feels that they truly give him a sense of security. What we are asking is for improved background checks, introduction of “smart” guns to reduce the likelihood of accidental shootings, and restrictions on assault weapons. If people like Shapiro would listen and consider such reasonable proposals, then we wouldn’t have to shout at one another.

John Beckmann, Sherman Oaks

The “tribalism” David Suissa describes arises from a failure to develop “team skills” (Trapped Inside of Our Tribes,” March 2).

The deepening political divisions and increase in violence, such as the murder of schoolchildren in Florida, have cultural and interpersonal roots. As our culture has become increasingly technological, individuals have become focused on their smartphones and video games at a young age rather than being encouraged to develop relationships with others. Developing and maintaining relationships with others is a skill that is becoming increasingly difficult for some growing children and increasingly difficult for many adults. Violence and primitive tribalism are the consequence of deep personal isolation.

William E. Baumzweiger, Studio City


Phil Rosenthal’s Modesty

Phil Rosenthal significantly understated the level of his and Monica’s generous philanthropy to Jewish and Israel-based causes (“Phil Rosenthal’s 3 Desires,” March 2).

Just a sampling: They supported the production of the award-winning 2008 documentary about the life and death of Hannah Senesh; Monica received the JNF’s Tree of Life Award; and the couple made a significant gift to underwrite the Department of Religious Services, in memory of Phil’s uncle, Rev. A. Asher Hirsch, at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

Paul Jeser via email

There is at least a third trait that “Italians and Jews share”: We talk with our hands. Hence the Yiddish joke: “How do you keep a Jew from talking? Tie his hands behind his back.”

Warren Scheinin, Redondo Beach


The Truth of Deir Yassin

The deceitful and perverse Deir Yassin “massacre” fraud was a deliberate, manipulative propaganda effort by Palestinian leadership (“The Truth of Deir Yassin,” March 2).

Perhaps anticipating the sacrosanct status of the Palestinian narrative, Jonathan Swift wrote that “Falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it.” This would explain why professor Eliezer Tauber is still looking for an American publisher among those affiliated with the apparently now moribund “marketplace of ideas.”

Julia Lutch via emaill


What Protests Mean

Thank you, David Suissa, for writing “Obama and #IranianWomenToo,” Feb. 16).

Most of us are not brave enough to do what these women (and men) did, openly protesting an evil power —a real one, not from a movie or a novel.

I know this because I used to live in the evil empire, and I knew what an open protest would lead to. We did listen to Voice of America and Free Europe and knew of protests going on in front of the Soviet embassy, United Nations, etc. These people fought for our rights to leave, and for “refusniks” it meant a lot.

In light of this, the pretentious marches, resist movements, demands to remove old statues, and other political demonstrations seem meaningless compared with real issues of liberty (including women’s rights) that some societies face. It is very easy to participate in some march, feel good about it, then go home, knowing that there will be no consequences.

Andy Grinberg via email


A Rabbi’s Spiritual Journey

Thank you, Rabbi Adam Kligfeld, for poetically sharing your experience integrating yogic and Buddhist meditation practices with Judaism (“My Sabbatical Journey: Feeling the Drumbeat of Life,” March 2). In addition to spotlighting the enormous need for tikkun olam, meditation helps me to discern how best to use my God-given gifts to serve our world. None of us is expected to do it all, but each one of us is expected, even commanded, to do what we can. Whatever comes easily and naturally to us is exactly how to help, so go ahead, pick the low hanging fruit! What comes easily for you is difficult for others. Paralyzing guilt has no function in Jewish life.

Cathy Okrent via email


Listen and Learn

I strongly recommend to your readers a recent edition of “Two Nice Jewish Boys,” a Journal-associated podcast. It features Einat Wilf, a former Labor Party MK, who grew up supporting the two-state solution, but has since changed her mind.

It wasn’t just the failure of the Oslo Accords, the atrocities of the Second Intifada, ceaseless terrorism and repeated Palestinian rejection of good-faith offers that prompted her to “get real,” but her conversations with Palestinians themselves. She now believes, sadly, the Palestinian mindset makes a peaceful solution impossible.

Rueben Gordon, Encino


Inclusion at Sundance

Very glad to read about the Shabbat Tent at Sundance (“Sharing Some Light,” Feb. 2). I attended Sundance for 10 years — from 1998 to 2007— first as a programmer for another festival, and then as a filmmaker with a short that played Sundance in 2004. The only year I ever managed to participate in anything remotely Jewish was the year that “Trembling Before God” was an official documentary selection at the festival (in 2001). Very glad to hear that now there’s so much more, and that it is so welcoming and accessible.

Paul Gutrecht via email


The Power of Poetry

Thank you, Hannah Arin, for providing the lovely poetic parameters for wishing upon a star.

Charles Berdiansky, Culver City


New-Look Journal

Your new design format for stories is more conducive to reading all the material than the old design of presenting a starting story and continuing it on the back pages. Thank you for the change.

Ruth Merritt via email

Gaza ground war wouldn’t cure Israel’s Hamas headache

An Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip will not provide any long-term solution to the problem posed by the Islamist group Hamas, and this will make the government think long and hard before sending in the troops.

After six days of intensive military strikes against the Palestinian enclave, which Israel says are needed to halt regular militant rocket fire, thousands of Israeli soldiers are massing on the border awaiting orders to attack.

But aware that an assault on the densely populated coastal territory could backfire militarily and diplomatically, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will probably accept a ceasefire if he can draw half-decent terms from Hamas.

“I have never believed in the notion of definitive solutions per se,” said Einat Wilf, who sits on the Israeli parliament's foreign affairs and defence committee and is a member of Defence Minister Ehud Barak's Atzmaut party.

“If there is the possibility to reach a reasonable situation, even if it is not an ideal one, where at least for a while Hamas no longer shells our towns and civilians, then this will be the course of the government,” she told Reuters.

However, the rightist coalition, seeking re-election in January, is facing strident calls from some of its allies for concerted action that could yet influence the decision.

Moreover, any hopes in Europe that the conflict might help to revive moribund peace talks with the Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is despised by Hamas for renouncing armed resistance, look certain to be dashed.

Dreams that Israel might one day live in peace with all its neighbours have long since evaporated, and most Israelis seem to accept that their army, the most powerful in the region, will have to wage war regularly to defend their interests.

Israel pulled its troops and settlers out of Gaza in 2005 but has ever since come under sporadic rocket fire from militants who refuse to recognise its right to exist and chafe under a tight blockade imposed by both Israel and Egypt.

Looking to halt the attacks, Israel launched a three-week war at the end of 2008 that left 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead. After a lull, the rockets started shooting across the border again, infuriating southern Israeli communities.

“FLATTEN GAZA”

With the elections looming, Netanyahu felt compelled to send in the war planes. By Monday, Israel said it had carried out 1,350 air strikes against arms caches and other sites which have killed about 100 people, more than half of them civilians.

Some of the prime minister's supporters say now is the time to plough into Gaza and stamp out Hamas once and for all.

“We can buy time with small operations, but eventually we will have to deal with the main issue which is the downfall of the regime of Hamas,” Danny Danon, the deputy speaker of parliament and a member of Netanyahu's Likud party, told Reuters. “I think we should postpone elections and bring down Hamas.”

Others are even more outspoken, such as the son of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who is a newspaper columnist.

“We need to flatten entire neighbourhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn't stop with Hiroshima. The Japanese weren't surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too,” Gilad Sharon wrote in Monday's Jerusalem Post.

Few if any in the military or intelligence establishment would ever propose such a course of action. They know that the radicalism in Gaza cannot be countered by bombs alone.

“If worst comes to worst, we can (launch) a much wider operation in Gaza. But that is not going to really solve the problem,” Yosef Kuperwasser, the director of Israel's Ministry of Strategic Affairs, told reporters last month.

“There is a wide and deep problem of hate indoctrination that produces more and more terrorists all the time,” he added, suggesting that more violence will only stoke the radicalism.

IRAN AND EGYPT

When deciding in the coming hours what to do, Netanyahu will also have to consider much broader concerns than just the tiny confines of Gaza. He will need to weigh up future relations with Egypt and also look to see where Iran fits into the picture.

The election last year of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in Egypt has lead to a seismic change in relations between Egypt and Israel. So far, their 1979 peace treaty is holding fast, but a bloody incursion into Gaza could yet alter that.

Any upset in that crucial regional relationship, which has been a cornerstone of U.S. Middle East strategy, would be a boon for Iran and bolster the Islamic Republic in its stand-off with Israel and the West over its nuclear programme.

“An Israeli ground invasion would be very much in Iran's interest because first of all it would cause fantastic damage to Israel's international standing, particularly with Egypt,” said Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian expert who teaches at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya.

“The place where Israel has to win the war against Iran and Hamas is in the soft power arena, not the hard power arena.”

Looking at the soft arena, European politicians have linked the violence in Gaza with the paralysed peace process, arguing that the prospect of a better future might draw Palestinians away from militancy and undercut Hamas.

The last direct negotiations between Israel and Palestinian leaders in the West Bank broke down in 2010 over the issue of Jewish settlement building across the territory.

President Abbas wants a vote in the U.N. General Assembly this month so the Palestinians can become an “observer state” rather than just a “entity” as at present, giving them more clout in world bodies and potential leverage over the Israelis.

Israel is livid at this unilateral move and, whatever happens in Gaza, new negotiations seem far away.

“The European view is disconnected from reality,” said member of parliament Wilf. “I believe talks should be conducted only when you have a fairly good chance to succeed. I don't believe we are even close to a resolution now.”

Editing by David Stamp

Barak’s new faction receives ministerial positions

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and the four other lawmakers that split from the Labor Party will remain in the government with ministerial positions.

The Labor lawmakers who joined Barak in forming a new faction on Monday are Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon; Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai; Deputy Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Orit Noked; and freshman Knesset member Einat Wilf.

The new ministerial positions were announced Tuesday.

The new party is expected to be called Atzmaut, or Independence.

“We are creating a faction, a movement and eventually a party that will be centrist, Zionist and democratic,” Barak told reporters Monday.

Following Barak’s split with the party, three Labor government ministers announced that they would leave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government coalition: Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog; Minister for Minority Affairs Avishay Braverman; and Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor Benjamin Ben-Eliezer.

Barak’s exit from the Labor Party was facilitated by Netanyahu and his officials, several Israeli media outlets charged, citing unnamed sources.

Netanyahu began negotiations Monday to keep the new faction in his government, allowing him to maintain a parliamentary majority, of 66 out of 120, despite the exit of other Labor ministers from the government. Barak will keep his job.

It is not clear who will succeed Barak as chairman of the Labor Party.

Several Labor lawmakers in recent weeks have threatened to quit the coalition over the lack of progress in peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni, head of the Kadima Party, called on Netanyahu to call for new elections, saying that “The Netanyahu government lost its legitimacy today and is living off small political maneuvers. The only way for political opportunism is elections, and Kadima is reiterating its call for elections.”