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Letter Week of Nov. 25, 2009
Confusing True Innocents With Deadly Terrorists
In response to Robert Leiter's review of the book Torture and the War on Terror by Tzvetan Todorov (Nov. 12), I suppose that I would not support burning a terrorist at the stake or flaying him alive to gain information that would save the lives of innocents. Yet I would agree to leaving the light on every night in his cell or incessantly blaring heavy-metal music and, yes, even "that horrific practice of waterboarding."
By conflating all interrogation techniques under the general heading of "torture," by implying that the Bush administration's interrogation techniques -- OK, have it your way, torture techniques -- can be equated to those of the Gestapo, and by suggesting an equivalence between "the density of [the Third Reich's] being" with that of the last administration's, Leiter dishonestly confuses the discussion.
Unfortunately, it is clear that Leiter really does not understand the difference between a terrorist and an innocent victim. (Could it be he has read too much Derrida or other postmodern crackpots?) He insults Mr. Amery's memory by comparing him to a terrorist.
Marc P. Hurowitz
Don't Call Them Activists; They Are Clearly Radicals
In reply to your Nov. 12 cover story, "Dueling Voices Duke It Out on Campus," I'd like to note that the "activists" noted in your piece, Elliot Ratzman and Jeff Halper, who claim Hillel unfairly denied Halper the right to speak, should in no way be considered victims, as their agenda is quite radical, and they are prone to express sympathy to groups who justify violence against Israelis.
Ratzman, in an article published in the magazine American Foreign Policy, accused Israel of practicing ethnic cleansing, and has volunteered with the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions -- a group that routinely defames Israel with the charge of being an apartheid state.
Further, Ratzman works with ICAHD founder Halper, a radical anti-Zionist who speaks wistfully of the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state, and who, during his frequent speaking engagements for Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center (a group that often compares the Palestinians to the crucified Jesus, and Israel to his murderers, alluding to the ugly and false deicide charge against the Jewish people), has used language equating Israel with Nazi Germany.
Halper has also justified Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, even refusing to condemn attacks against a 4-year-old. He is also a member of the International Solidarity Movement, a group, according to the Web site of the Anti-Defamation League, that has associated with known Palestinian terrorists.
There is nothing remotely reasonable, yet alone "progressive," about Ratzman's and Halper's views on Israel; and the Jewish community has no obligation to give a platform to such individuals, who aid and abet those who openly seek the Jewish state's destruction.
Must We Take These Stereotypes Seriously?
I have serious concerns about Ethan and Joel Coen's new film, "A Serious Man," which maligns its Jewish characters, yet is often described as "hilarious" by critics. It was reviewed in the Oct. 15 issue by Michael Elkin (Arts & Entertainment, "Seriously ... ").
I disagree with Mr. Elkin's description of the protagonist as a "mensch," and see him as a pathetic schlemiel who desperately wants to -- but doesn't always -- do the right thing.
However, I applaud Mr. Elkin for asking if the Coen brothers "have turned up the stereo too loud on the stereotypes."
The film's excellent acting and craftsmanship do not diminish the portrayal of Jews as selfish, deceitful, hypocritical, parasitic adults, and shallow, thieving or stoned youths.
Judaism is mocked throughout this so-called "very Jewish" film, in which the sacred word "Hashem" is spoken in ludicrous, crudely disrespectful contexts. The rabbis in the film range from idiotic to useless to uncaring.
Although "it is good to laugh at oneself," I think the Coen brothers are "laughing" at God, instead, while detesting their own religion.
Ilene Munetz Pachman