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Letters week of July 13, 2006
'Never Again' Was Never Far Away at Conference
Phillip Rosen complains that at our recent conference, "Blowing the Whistle on Genocide" -- devoted to Josiah E. DuBois Jr., a non-Jewish official of the U.S. Treasury Department in the 1940s -- "not one of the speakers ... saw the relevance of the past to the present" (Letters: "A Historical Comparison of Heinous Crimes," June 29).
Given that Rosen's contributions to historical awareness and community service in the Delaware Valley are well-known, it is surprising he does not acknowledge a major component of the Wyman Institute's program at Penn Law School on June 11.
An entire session of our conference was devoted to "Combating Genocide: History's Lessons for Today."
That session featured Mark Hanis, director of the Genocide Intervention Network, speaking on "Blowing the Whistle on Genocide in Sudan," and former U.S. Congressman Stephen J. Solarz, a veteran leader in the human-rights movement, speaking about "Making 'Never Again' a Reality."
Also taking part in that session were two local high school students, Brandi Waters and Susan Garrigle, winners of the Josiah E. DuBois Jr. Essay Contest, speaking about how DuBois' fight against the Holocaust has inspired their own human-rights activism.
The cause of Holocaust rescue -- particularly the stories of those who risked their careers or lives to confront the 20th-century's greatest moral crisis -- has vibrant lessons for today.
David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies
Don't Buy Paper's Take on Guantánamo Prisoners
I have long believed that taking a New York Times editorial at face value or attributing to it even a small measure of wisdom would be foolish.
Thus, I am afraid that my friend Dr. Philip Rosen errs in that regard when he quotes the Times editorial about Al Qaeda prisoners being held in Guantánamo, Cuba (Letters: "A Historical Comparison of Heinous Crimes," June 29).
The Guantánamo prisoners believe religiously in dying in battle for Islam. As both Palestinian terrorist Yasser Arafat and Iranian Islamist Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini said, "To kill and be killed [in jihad] is the highest joy of Islam."
Given the religious background of these prisoners, it would be short-sighted to ascribe the recent suicides there to "despair," as the Times does, with Rosen's approval.
In order to understand the acts of these men, it's necessary to first understand their cultural and religious values.
Can anyone forget that the Sept. 11 terrorists -- who were all middle-class, or wealthy and educated men -- deliberately committed suicide, killing themselves along with thousands of victims?
Hence, it cannot be excluded that the recent prisoner suicides resulted from a cynical, if bizarre, endeavor to advance the cause of jihad.
Elliott A. Green
What's Needed to Bolster Peace? Intervention Now!
Jonathan Tobin writes that the current crisis in Israeli-Palestinian relations is a test for the Bush administration, as well as the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (A Matter of Opinion: "Back to the Brink Again," June 29).
That's correct, but Tobin's mistake is his belief that the measure of President Bush's friendship for Israel is his willingness to stand by silently while the situation escalates.
Rather than simply signing a diplomatic blank check to Israel for Olmert to use as cover for pointless military strikes against the Palestinians, what Bush ought to be doing is getting involved in the crisis.
The worst thing for the administration to do would be to listen to the strident advocacy of the Christian right on behalf of a one-sided, "pro-Israel" policy that only serves to undermine hopes for a peaceful Mideast, in which Jews and Arabs can live alongside each other.
Those, like Tobin, who welcome such "support" for Israel are not thinking straight.
What's needed now is American intervention on behalf of the flagging cause of peace -- not more Bush backing of Israeli actions that set the stage for more Palestinian violence.
Thoughtless Hubris Lies at Heart of Israel Mission
The Jewish Exponent's article concerning the proposed trip to the forthcoming World Pride events in Jerusalem was troubling (City & Suburb: "In Outreach to Gays, Federation Sets Mission," June 29).
I think the decision of those participating is appalling and ill-advised, as is any underwriting of this unfortunate adventure by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.
While "broadening its outreach to the gay and lesbian community" may have some validity, I believe that the "community" in question is accepted in all streams of Judaism, outside of Orthodoxy, which the events in Jerusalem will not change.
I have lived in Tel Aviv and enjoyed colorful gay-pride celebrations there. But portraying this event as some sort of latter day "Freedom March" is, at best, disingenuous.
The Federation's participation is even more questionable. The event has stirred up a good deal of controversy. Many Israelis and Jerusalemites think that it's inappropriate to hold such an event in a holy city, and feelings are running very high.
As Americans, we visit Israel, we send money, we go home. We don't have to deal with the consequences and controversies the citizenry has to.
If one wants to make aliyah, commit to living in Jerusalem, and work for gay rights, that's being a mensch. To go off on a lark -- excuse me, a mission --smacks of thoughtless, condescending hubris.