Letters week of Sept. 06. 2007



At Holiday Time, Ask the Wealthy to Aid the Poor

The debate concerning the Darfur asylum-seekers in Israel (Editorial: "Succor for Sudanese," Aug. 16) can be easily remedied.

As noted in the editorial, a major sticking-point is financial: how to pay for the ongoing influx in the face of the crushing poverty experienced by thousands of Israelis left behind in the privatization boom.

Multibillionaire Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who is Jewish, is the third richest individual in America, according to the Forbes listing.

Instead of his current activities bankrolling divisive right-of-center political projects in America and Israel, he could instead step forward and offer to subsidize these refugees during their sojourn in Israel.

With the approach of the High Holidays, what could be more fitting than putting people ahead of politics and ethnicity, and to let the welfare of those in dire straits supersede Jewish, Republican or Vegas-based causes?

In the words of Hillel the Elder, "If not now, when?"
Stephen Arkan


You Call Them 'Wise'? Look What They've Done!

On the front page of the Jewish Exponent, Likud leadership candidate Moishe Feiglin is characterized as an extremist because he differs with the "wise men" of Israel (Cover Story: "Victorious Bibi Needs to Shake Hard-Line Rival," Aug. 23).

What have these "wise men" done? It is they who brought arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat to rule in Israel. It is they who dragged the Jews out of their homes in Gaza, where two years later, these folks still remain homeless.

It is they who abandoned their Christian allies in South Lebanon. They who fought a war to free Jewish soldiers and concluded a peace without bringing them home. They who send funds to pay the salaries of Hamas members, and who continually make concessions to an implacable enemy who in word, deed and teachings openly proclaim their intentions to murder and drive the Jews into the sea.

If Feiglin is an extremist, what do you call the "wise men" of Israel who have done all of that?
Fred Fisher

Israeli Academics Face Pressure to Blast Zionism

I enjoyed Jonathan Tobin's piece about Israeli academia, and his point about the failure to teach liberal arts in Israel is a good one (A Matter of Opinion: "Between Courage and Despair," Aug. 23). But there is a further point to be made here.

Israel being a small country, Israeli academics must write for an international audience, often in a foreign language, in order to succeed. They face enormous pressure to take a non- or even an anti-Zionist position in their scholarship, even when they are relatively moderate in their own lives.

Scholars who address Middle East issues are especially subject to this pressure.

An institute like the Shalem Center could conceivably counteract this pressure, much as conservative institutes have helped to balance the fashionable liberalism of American universities.

But it is important that the center and its allies maintain the highest academic standards in doing so, lest they be accused of being propaganda mills, and so cede the scholarly debate to their liberal adversaries.
Michael A. Livingston

Neocon Economic Policies Responsible for Malaise

Jonathan Tobin did not tell the truth in his column "Between Courage and Despair" in which he describes Israel's Shalem Center as simply "an academic research institute in Jerusalem" (A Matter of Opinion, Aug. 23).

It is a neoconservative think-tank that aims to do for Israeli thought and culture what the Likud's — and especially, Bibi Netanyahu's — privatization policies did for the Jewish state's economy: namely, enrich the few to the disadvantage of the many. Almost one-quarter of the Israeli population now subsists below the poverty line.

If there's a malaise of spirit and a lack of patriotism characterizing the population in Israel today, it may have something to do with the fallout from such policies, with their stress upon acute individualism.

After all, if you live only for yourself, and the gap between the haves and have-nots increases, what attachments — indeed, what respect — do you have for the community or the society at large ?
Wojo Cohen
Memphis, Tenn.

Emigration Testifies to Society's Deep Problems

Jonathan Tobin's analysis shows a deep understanding of Israeli society (A Matter of Opinion: "Between Courage and Despair," Aug. 16).


In fact, I'm not sure why the magnitude of the problem of people who have given up on Israel was minimized in his article. It is more widespread than described. The sheer volume of Israeli emigrants is an alarming testimony to the problem.

I also belong to those who left Israel for greener pastures. Like most Israelis that I know in the age group over 50, we found life under the heavy hand of the Israeli government to be unbearable, yet we remain connected to Israel, and most are avid Zionists.

Most of us are children of the founding generation; we served in the army, fought in wars, are students of the Holocaust, and are saturated with guilt over our betrayal of the Zionist ideals.

However, the younger generation, such as Avrum Burg, whom Tobin cites as a prime example, seem to have no connection with the land and the people. Many were born post-1967, and are not familiar with the history of the "occupation."

Their disappointment is the result of many things: poor education, corrupt government, corrosive social order, lack of opportunity (due to government policies), the effects of occupation, socialism and, lately, the use of the Israel Defense Force against Israeli citizens in the disengagement from Gaza and the West Bank.

The fact that the elite has opted out has more to do with opportunities than anything else.
Harvey Zirler
La Canada, Calif.



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