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Letters Week of Oct. 4, 2007
Visiting Israeli Jurist's No True Judge of Democracy
The report about former Israeli Supreme Court chief justice Aharon Barak coming to the National Constitution Center to lecture Philadelphians about democracy was hilarious (City & Suburb: "To Mark Constitution's Birthday, Judge Considers Democratic Process," Sept. 20).
Your article noted that "Barak is not without his critics" in Israel. That's quite an understatement.
While it's true that we have our own "activist" judges in this country, there is really no comparison between even the most extreme American judge and Barak.
Rather than a defender of Israel's democracy, Barak's career is a blatant example of the anti-democratic nature of its judicial system. He used Israel's lack of a written constitution as a license to allow the nation's high court to act as an unelected legislature. He has seized every opportunity to impose his personal views on cases that no American court -- whether run by liberals or conservatives -- would dare claim the right to intervene.
On top of it all, he has helped rig the system so that members of the court itself -- rather than the prime minister or the Knesset -- get to name their own successors! This ensures that Barak's extremist views on jurisprudence will prevail, and that the court will continue to thwart the will of both Israel's voters and their elected representatives.
The notion that, as he claims, the legacy of the Holocaust would serve as justification for this behavior is an insult to history and the Six Million.
Why Do So Many See Israel as So Different?
I was impressed by Jonathan Tobin's comments on the veneration of powerlessness and victimhood by so many Jews as a somehow desirable and pure state of being (A Matter of Opinion: "A Very Dangerous Tradition," Sept. 20).
Coming at a time when Israel faces existential threats by Iran while being led by an inept and arrogant government, it is especially important for Jews to quit putting Israel down for actions that are acceptable by any other country. The controversy regarding Israel's decision to declare Gaza as an enemy entity is a good example of this crazy part of the Jewish psyche.
Since Israel has not imposed any blockade on Gaza, the only violators of international law must be the terrorists who are firing rockets and missiles at Israel. Israel is told what it cannot do, but no mention is made of what it can do to stop the killing of its civilians.
Israel is held to different standards than any other country. Jews should expect this from our traditional enemies. It becomes more difficult to understand when Jews themselves act this way.
At Least There's a Place Where Jews Return Fire
Jonathan Tobin's column on the veneration of powerlessness expresses feelings I've always had but could not justify or verbalize so well (A Matter of Opinion: "A Very Dangerous Tradition," Sept. 20).
As an Israeli, I was limited to wisecracks in response to the querulous comments of my North American relatives. When my cousin wept when she saw a photo of my son in uniform, I replied: "It beats the hell out of the gas chambers, sweetheart!"
To the comments about the terrible wars and terrorist activity to which we are subjected, I generally say that "Israel is the only place in the world I can shoot back at the people trying to kill me."
Novels Don't Necessarily Reflect Personal Beliefs
I enjoyed Jonathan Tobin's column on "powerlessness" not being a Jewish value, but thought he unfairly tarred writer Michael Chabon as "leftist anti-Zionist ... who fantasizes about Israel's extirpation at birth" (A Matter of Opinion: "A Very Dangerous Tradition," Sept. 20).
While the plot of Chabon's Yiddish Policemen's Union takes place in a world where Israel did not exist as a Jewish state, you seem to forget that the work is one of fantasy.
Science-fiction and fantasy writers do not necessarily promote living in worlds of their creation, but rather use the conventions of the genre to explore issues in a way not possible in "realistic" fiction.
I enjoyed the book, and, if anything, it bolstered my relief at living in a world where the modern State of Israel exists.
A Victim, He Says? If You Can't Take the Heat ...
I have read and reread Michael Smerconish's Sept. 9. column in The Philadelphia Inquirer. Reading it, I continue to feel as if I were repeatedly being punched in the stomach.
But now, after Smerconish used his radio bully pulpit to attack Jonathan Tobin's justifiable criticism of his piece (A Matter of Opinion: "'Lobby' Lies Make a Comeback," Sept. 13), I find myself asking how dare he claim he is a victim after the Jewish Exponent had the grace to publish his whiney screech of a response (Letters: "Photo Placement Next to 'Lobby' Headline Misleads," Sept. 27). What a crybaby!
I would ask the readers to look up and read Smerconish's words, and see the false moral equivalence in his piece.
Whatever you believe about the "Israel lobby," its primary goal is focused on the fundamental issue of Israel's survival. And not just Israel's survival, but also our own -- as Americans and as Jews.
The Israel "lobby" and the State of Israel have given this generation of Jews protection and pride that we, for more than 4,000 years and in every corner of the globe, could only pray for.
King of Prussia
In last week's book column, "New Light on an Old Story," it was noted that Franklin Delano Roosevelt did not dismantle the internment camps for Japanese Americans until after the November elections in 1944. It was said that he was then running for his third term. He was, in fact, running for his fourth.