Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Practicality Should Drive the Peace Process

March 12, 2014

Emphraim Sneh wrote one of the wisest and most hopeful analyses of the Arab-Israeli peace process that I have seen in the New York Times in quite a while (“Lift the Mideast Roadblocks,” Mar. 12).  The politics of the conflict is about settling scores and blaming the other for the impasse, but what Sneh is advocating is more practical.  The crimes of the past are important and relevant, of course, but many of the problems of the present have practical solutions that are worth implementing despite the hard feelings on all sides.  The Arab-Israeli conflict has long ceased to be a conflict between Arabs and Jews.  Over the past few decades, it has morphed into a conflict between those who advance the two-state solution (and its implications) and those who oppose the two-state solution.  When the conflict is conceived in those terms, Arabs and Jews can be (and often are) on the same side.

UPDATE: The Times published my letter!


Investigation of Maj. Hasan

November 14, 2009

[The following was sent to President Barack Obama via the White House contact page.]

Dear President Obama:

I’m writing to express support for the way you are handling the Fort Hood massacre committed by Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan.  On the one hand, the United States military must be vigilant about Islamic terrorism, but on the other hand, the United States cannot afford to give the impression that it is against Islam or its own Muslim citizens.  The rhetoric in the media in response to the Fort Hood massacre has too often called on non-Muslim Americans to be suspicious of of their Muslim compatriots.  Tragically, this rhetoric sometimes spills over into hate speech and calls to violence against Muslim Americans.

Therefore, President Obama, I support your call for an investigation of the indecent, of Maj. Hasan’s prior history, and of any negligence by the U.S. army or intelligence.  I am also grateful that you are not fanning the flames of the religious issue either by condemning Islamic terror on American soil nor by apologizing for it by saying something to the effect of “Hasan doesn’t speak for all of Islam.” I hope the investigation is successful and that the government learns how it can prevent a tragedy of this magnitude in the future.



Sherman Oaks, CA

The Rabbinical Assembly vs. False Nazi Analogies

November 3, 2009

According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “The Rabbinical Assembly, which represents more than 1,600 Conservative and Masorti rabbis around the world, worked with Los Angeles Rabbi David Wolpe to issue a statement” condemning the recent surge in false analogies to Nazi Germany and the Holocaust.  I couldn’t find the statement anywhere on the Internet, so I asked Rabbi Wolpe if the statement only referred to the health care debate or if it also referred to the broader problem such as when creationists use the same rhetoric to attack people who accept evolution or when anti-Israel activists compare Israel to Nazi Germany.  Wolpe answered that the statement referred only to the health care debate, but agreed with me that it was a larger problem.  He then sent me the text of the statement:


As rabbis who deal daily with the sick and dying we are aware that these are extraordinarily sensitive issues. Our tradition reminds us that the more urgent the issue the more important it is to choose one’s words with care.

We note with dismay the vehement rhetoric swirling around the health care debate.  An alarming number of public figures have embraced this imagery in attempt to demonize the opposition.  In recent weeks alone, they include

Rev. Dr. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention called health care reform proposals “what the Nazis did” and invented the “Dr. Josef Mengele Award” to present to health care policy-maker, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel.
Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) referred to the current health care system as a “holocaust in America.”
The Republican National Committee posted a video on-line showing Adolf Hitler discussing health care proposals.

Each offense was later moderated, but not until a hue and cry arose from opponents and supporters of the sources alike.  The willingness of supporters of public policy positions to employ the demonizing rhetoric of Nazism not only does nothing to move conversation forward; rather, it has a chilling effect on people of conscience who find the appropriation of such imagery to be disrespectful of the victims and reinforcing of the politics of personal attack that has damaged public discourse in the United States.

The use of Nazi and other drastic imagery is categorically unacceptable.  Not only is such bluster inflammatory, but it impoverishes the discussion.

We plead — indeed we demand — that civility govern these crucial deliberations.  “Sages” warned the Rabbis of the Talmud, “take great care with the words you speak.”

When one has a public platform one cannot allow the heat of rhetoric to outrun its reason.

As we discuss issues of life and death let us not ignore the words of Proverbs: “Life and death are in the power of the tongue (Prov. 18:21.)”

Angry words and hateful images will not bring us closer to the healing we all seek.

Judge from Bochum Weighs in on the Israeli Flag Fine

October 20, 2009

Faithful readers of this blog will know that I have been in contact with officials from the municiality of Bochum, Germany where a student was described by the Jerusalem Post as being fined for carrying an Israeli flag at an anti-Israel protest.  I just got the following email from Judge Patrick Van Ryn of Bochum:

with reference to your e-mail I want to inform you that the student was not fined because of waving the flag of Israel.

In fact she violated the “law of assembly”, because she has not declared the assembly accurately timed. The municipal court has been the opinion that the student did not produce a so-called “innocuous situation”. The obligatory registration has the intention to enable the police authority to avoid a confrontation of opponents or to minimize the risks resulting from this.
I hope, that I have answered your questions.

As I do not know anything about German law or about the specific incedent other than what I read in the Jerusalem Post article, I will refrain from commenting.  I invite comments by people more knowledgable on the subject than myself.