Letters week of March 15, 2007

With Friends Like These, We Don't Need Enemies!

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency's survey of the landscape of Jewish-evangelical dialogue omitted discussion of the 800-pound elephant in the room: Evangelical financial and moral support for its affiliate group, Jews for Jesus (Nation & World: "Evangelicals: Friendship Should Eclipse Division," March 1).

This group is notorious for its deceitful tactics in targeting Jews for conversion.

And yet, it is these same evangelicals — a treacherous "weak reed" (to use a biblical image) — that Jewry is expected to rely upon for its future safety and welfare?

Israel needs allies where it can get them, but not in the form of Trojan horses and Judas fifth columnists.

With such "friends," who needs enemies?
Stas Cohen
Newark, Del.


Saudis as Peacemakers? Don't You Believe It!

Leslie Susser's Jewish Telegraphic Agency report (Cover Story: "Saudis Maneuver to Revive Peace Process," March 8) does not contain basic background on Saudi Arabia, which is that the Saudis remain in an active state of war with Israel.

Of the five Arab League nations bordering Israel that declared war to exterminate the nascent state of Israel in 1948, four of these countries eventually made interim arrangements of one sort or another to put themselves on a slow path of reconciliation with Israel. Egypt and Jordan made peace treaties with Israel. Lebanon and Syria signed armistice agreements with Israel.

However, the fifth Arab nation contiguous to Israel — Saudi Arabia, now the dominant factor in the Arab League — remains at war, having never agreed to any armistice or semblance of a peace agreement with Israel.

Instead, Saudi Arabia has consistently funded all terror groups at war with Israel, from Hamas to the 10 PLO terror factions based in Damascus. Saudi Arabia has earned the distinction as the first nation since the Third Reich that is officially Judenrein — Jew-free. By law, no Jew may visit or live there.

Saudi Arabia was indeed the patron of the Mecca accord between Fatah and Hamas, which aligned all Palestinian terror factions against Israel.

Meanwhile, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia received Iranian President Ahmadinejad this past weekend in an unprecedented state visit to dissuade any American illusion that the Saudis would form an Arab coalition against Iran.

Saudi Arabia and the Arab League do not deserve the titles of new mediators of peace by the Exponent or JTA.
David Bedein
Israel Resource News Agency

'Birdbrains' Who Slur Israel Aid Anti-Semitism

Jonathan Tobin is on target when he points out the obvious: That those who single out Israel as an apartheid state are being disingenuous, confused, anti-Semitic or all three (A Matter of Opinion: "The 'Palestine' Purimspiele," March 1).

If birds of a feather flock together, then those who attack Israel using outrageous and dishonest words — comparing Israelis to Nazis or racists — demonstrate what a bunch of birdbrains they really are.

It's fair to disagree with Israel's policies and practices, but by inverting reality and calling the victim the perpetrator is beyond the pale.
Steve Heitner
Port Jefferson Station, N.Y.

Don't Call Israeli Critics Modern-Day Hamans!

It is easy to identify contemporary Jewish challenges with our biblical past, but it is also often misleading.

Jonathan Tobin appears to fall into this trap with "The 'Palestine' Purimspiele" (A Matter of Opinion, March 1).

No matter how much we care for Israel, there is no excuse for confusing well-meaning critics — such as former President Jimmy Carter or those who demonstrate against Israel's occupation policies on college campuses — with the villain Haman.

Instead of decrying such voices, we should be listening to them — and urging Israelis to do the same.

Knee-jerk defenders of Zionism do us no service when they seek to damn all those who will not march in lock step with them.
J. Miller

Be More Specific When Stating Who Does What

Jonathan Tobin should have found a better way to express his views about Purim (A Matter of Opinion: "The 'Palestine' Purimspiele," March 1).

He writes: "In the book of Esther, it was not an outside power or even the direct intervention of Providence that saves the day but the Jews themselves, in the person of the valiant Esther, the wise Mordechai and the community as a whole, which rises up to defend itself."

Hashem does not lack for messengers, which is what Mordecai and Esther were. Hashem chose to be hidden then, as he is now.
Ira Friedman
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Malaysian 'Tolerance?' It's More Myth Than Fact

Readers encouraged to visit Malaysia (Travel & Leisure, "Mythical Malaysia," Feb. 15), should be aware of one thing.

You write that "tolerance is held high not only by the government … religious freedom is one of the most important Malaysian values."

Unfortunately, Malaysia openly discriminates against non-Muslim minorities.

According to a pastoral letter from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Malaysia, converts out of Islam "may be fined, whipped, detained or imprisoned" — not by a mob, but by Malaysian police. Non-Muslims cannot inherit property from a deceased Muslim relative. And if a spouse converts, he or she has no right to the children or any property.

Malaysia also bans the performance of artistic works "of Jewish origin," which is why the New York Philharmonic canceled a tour there in the 1980s, rather than comply with the government's insistence that a piece by Ernst Bloch be removed from the program.

Malaysia does not share our liberal democratic values. Instead, it conforms to practices typical of Muslim-majority countries worldwide.
Kevin Jon Williams


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