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Letters Week of June 19, 2008

June 19, 2008
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Orthodox Also Call Shoah Punishment for Sins

I'm the son of Holocaust survivors. All my life I have heard the proposition, "the Holocaust was God's punishment of the Jews for their sins," as expounded by Orthodox rabbis. I was always revolted by this notion.

I've now come to realize that as a theological concept, it has internal consistency, as Jonathan Tobin pointed out in his article (A Matter of Opinion: "A Different Kind of Blame Game," June 12).

What Pastor John Hagee said has theological consistency within his belief system, as it does in Orthodox Jewish thinking. It's a pity that Rabbi Eric Yoffie doesn't understand this. Perhaps his political agenda is clouding his thinking.

What we cannot allow is the confusion of theological logic with historical truth. The two are, in fact, mutually exclusive.

Historically, nothing can absolve the Nazis of their responsibility for the Holocaust. But if we go after Hagee, we must first clean our own house as Jews.

Alexander Katz 
Delray Beach, Fla. 

No Need to Tread Lightly When It Comes to Hagee

Jonathan Tobin's June 12 article (A Matter of Opinion: "A Different Kind of Blame Game") had the right conclusion but the wrong tone.

While the editorial acknowledged that Pastor John Hagee's comments about the Holocaust and Israel were wrong, it did so with a tone of caution and even discomfort.

We should not be afraid to challenge Hagee. His remarks are profoundly disrespectful of the suffering of Holocaust survivors, as well as the work, commitment and practicality of Israel's founders.

Presumptive Republican nominee John McCain correctly rejected Hagee's endorsement. We need to keep a clear focus on our obligations to our people.

Nathan Weissler 
Chevy Chase, Md. 

Dealing With Syria: It's a Form of Suicide

Regarding Jonathan Tobin's piece on Israeli negotiations (A Matter of Opinion: "Misgivings on the Road to Damascus," June 5), most Israelis must realize that surrendering the Golan Heights means, at minimum, two things: First, that they place their citizens in that part of the country in grave peril, and second, that giving in to a long-sought-after demand by the surrounding Arab-Muslim states will only whet their appetites for more.

It's apparent to even the casual observer that neither Washington's nor Jerusalem's leadership grasp these facts.

Then again, what difference does it make, when our own esteemed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pushes for surrendering vast amounts of what is now Israeli territory to rabid elements who only want more -- ever more?

Jeff Cooper 
Midland, Texas 

What Sensible American Wouldn't Talk to Syria?

Jonathan Tobin's criticisms of Israel's talking to Syria focus on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's weakness, and on President George W. Bush's need to isolate the Middle East country (A Matter of Opinion: "Misgivings on the Road to Damascus," June 5).

The Bush policy of labeling countries as part of an "axis of evil," and then refusing to talk to them is terribly misguided, and results in more, not less, conflict.

It didn't work with Cuba. And when we ignored that policy regarding China and North Korea, we began to achieve results. The powers in Iran (many of whom dislike President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad), want talks with us, too. Even former Israeli premier Golda Meir advocated strongly for engaging our enemies in tough negotiations.

Tobin says that Americans are "perturbed" by these Syria talks. I ask, "Which Americans?" Sensible citizens want to open up dialogue, so that problems can be solved.

Edward S. Marks 
Philadelphia 

Syria Policy Cuts Ties With Israel's Only Ally

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's Syria strategy involves neither logic nor principle (A Matter of Opinion: "Misgivings on the Road to Damascus," June 5).

Olmert has wrecked America's broad foreign-policy strategy in order to cozy up to Syria, a diplomatic initiative that will destroy Israeli confidence, strengthen terrorism and poison our relationship with our only real ally.

Olmert is incompetent and corrupt. If it was necessary to snub the Americans, it should have been done in defense of Israel's vital and fundamental interests, not in sacrificing them!

Ezra Marsh 
Baltimore 

Democracy's Not a Gift, It's Got to Be Earned!

Concerning Natan Sharansky's latest attempt to justify the export of democracy as explicated in Jonathan Tobin's column (A Matter of Opinion: "Rediscovering the Will to Win," May 29), democracy requires inherent desire. It can't be imparted.

Just as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison said that this democratic republic couldn't stand without a base of Judeo-Christian ethics, so democracy can't stand if it is merely given. It must be earned.

S. Stein 
Philadelphia 

Perhaps Another Reason for Tears at Israel Parade

Another possibility about the weeping demonstrator at the Israel@60 parade (Letters: "Praise for the Students Who Stood Up to Hatred," June 5) is that this young woman was distressed to see fellow Jews so oblivious to the suffering of Palestinians, brought about in large part by the very Israeli success they were celebrating.

I thought that the demonstrators of notimeforcelebration.org -- who were not, as letter-writer Beryl Dean suggested, protesting the existence of the State of Israel, but witnessing the tragic situation in Gaza and elsewhere -- behaved with dignity and decorum.

What would it have cost the students of an academy once named after a Jewish sage (Rabbi Akiba), who counseled loving one's fellow as oneself, to acknowledge the reality of that painful situation?

Aryeh Kosman 
John Whitehead Professor of Philosophy 
Haverford College 
Haverford

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