Loyalty demands speaking out

Dr. Lippe, thank you for your comments (Letters, September 17). I am sure that it was in the spirit of the High Holidays that you were inspired to respond to the recent article that I wrote along with Mark Gold (“Cry the Beloved Country). I am sure that it was because of your misplaced concern for my soul and what the Talmud (Shevuot 39a), says about the domino effect of sin, Kol yisrael arevim zeh bazeh, meaning all of Israel are responsible for each other. This phrase is the basis of the notion of communal responsibility in Jewish law. If one Jew sees another Jew on the verge of sinning, he has an obligation to step in and help. I am sure that you only fell into the chasm of ad hominem attacks while under the pangs of hunger from your Yom Kippur fast.

I am sure that we both love Israel, and while we most certainly disagree about current policy decisions by the sitting coalition government, I am sure that you didn’t intend to accuse me of being disloyal to the state. After all, between the two of us, which one is a citizen of Israel? Which one served three years as a combat soldier in the IDF and saw combat in Lebanon? Which one lost a brother in the Yom Kippur War and which one continues to vote in government elections? Oh yes, and exactly which one is limited to writing a check and sitting in his comfortable chair here in America?

Let me make it perfectly clear. Mark Gold and I write what we write ONLY because we love the State of Israel and want it to be everything it was intended to be. I share a real pride of Israel with the plethora of writers who correctly praise Israel as the Start Up Nation. Plenty who will shower her with accolades about all her technical successes, which have improved the world, be they drip irrigation, cherry tomatoes, WAZE and or instant messaging. Israel doesn’t need one more cheerleader. She needs some tough love.

Dr. Lippe, you spend a great deal of time trying to tell Standard readers where Mark Gold and I are coming from, while all we know about you is that you are a physician from Fair Lawn. Let me be very clear. We are not now, nor have we ever been, members of the Communist Party. We don’t hide our backgrounds. We are both quite proud of it. We are both members of storied Zionist movements. The same movements that proudly called Ben Gurion, Golda Meir, and Moshe Dayan members. We are not representatives; we speak in our own voices and our words echo the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who protest the direction that this government is taking OUR country. We do not speak for either Meretz or Ameinu.

Dr. Gold and I both strongly support and have dedicated time, energy, and money to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, at peace with its neighbors, committed to religious pluralism and social and economic justice for all its citizens.

Is there something in that vision that you don’t agree with?

It is clear that in recent years, the government of Israel sadly has moved away from that vision and it has been progressive NGOs that have been left to fill that vacuum. Israeli NGOs, created and run by citizens of Israel, are funded by Israelis and Jews from around the world who share that vision of justice, not from anti-Israel countries and groups. These NGOs are the recipients of grants from government aid sources around the world, including the United States State Department but NOT Saudi Arabia or Iran. The article made it clear that we have nothing against transparency. That, in fact, regulations already exist legislating the reporting of funding sources for all NGOs. This new law sets up different criteria for leftist NGOs than for NGOs that support settlement activity or the present government coalition. It appears that transparency is valuable only for some and not for others.

And then, Dr. Lippe, you choose to school us on the Nation-State Law. You pretend that until the law passed, the flag wasn’t the flag and the anthem wasn’t the anthem. You imply that without this law the State of Israel wouldn’t, couldn’t be “the Jewish State.” The right of Israel to be a Jewish State was recognized by the Balfour Declaration in 1917. It was reaffirmed in the mandate of the League of Nations and the United Nations called for the establishment of a Jewish State in the land of Israel in 1947. The flag and the anthem are the ribbons and the bows of the bill, obscuring the fact that the Nation-State law is the next step in the dismantling of Israeli democracy. I posit that no one who loves Israel and wants it to be a Jewish and democratic state can remain silent about this law which contradicts the very Declaration of Establishment of Israel itself, no longer promising to be the government of all its citizens. So who is really pro-Israel here? Friends don’t let friends drive the State toward apartheid.

And finally, Dr. Lippe, self-proclaimed loyalist to the Jewish homeland, how can you not be alarmed at a Jewish government, of the Jewish State, turning away Jews at the border? The Declaration of Establishment declares that Israel will be open for Jewish immigration and for the ingathering of the exile. Not only were Jews whose political leanings were to the left of the ruling coalition stopped at the border but Israeli citizens returning home were interrogated as well. I am sure, Dr. Lippe, that as someone who grew up in America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, as someone who was weaned on freedom and democracy, you find these actions to be an affront to your sensibilities as they are to mine.

It isn’t because of the cherry tomatoes or Waze that I love Israel. It is because no matter what the threat, my Israel and the Israelis I love and respect, love and respect freedom and democracy. They will go to the streets to defend it, just like I go to print to try and do the same.

I don’t think that you have to be a “leftist elite” to want to defend democracy and seek justice. I think both you and I want to do that, but then I guess I think more of you than you do of me.

With love for Israel and justice

Hiam Simon

What exactly is Meretz?

On September 21, the Jewish Standard published a letter from Dr. Lippe critical of an article Hiam Simon and I wrote. The article contains some inaccuracies. I would like to set the record straight.

For many years, I have been involved with Partners for Progressive Israel, an affiliate of the American Zionist Federation; it is affiliated with the World Zionist Federation through the World Union of Meretz. The World Union of Meretz is aligned with the Meretz Party in Israel. Far from being a “microparty,” Meretz has a long history reaching back to pre-state times. One root of the party is Hashomer Hatzair, the pioneering Zionist movement that took a leading role in the creation of kibbutzim, the Palmach, and the Haganah. Members of Hashomer Hatzair were also leaders in ghetto resistance in Europe, including Mordechai Anielewicz (Warsaw), Haika Grossman (Bialystok), and Abba Kovner (Vilna). In 1948, the Hashomer Hatzair Party, merged with other left-Zionist and kibbutz related political organizations to form the Mapam (United Workers Party). Mapam was the second largest party in the first Knesset. Originally a Marxist-Zionist party, it never was a communist organization and stood explicitly apart from Maki (the Israeli Communist Party). Mapam and its successor parties have been represented in every Knesset since the creation of the Jewish State and its leaders have served as ministers in governments and have held prominent positions in the Knesset, including Deputy Chair of the Knesset (Haika Grossman).

In the early years of the Jewish State, Mapam was unique in that it worked to include Arab members within the framework of the ideologically Zionist party. It was instrumental in ending the military occupation of Israeli Arab communities. The first non-Jewish member of an Israeli government, Abdel Aziz Zouabi, was a member of Mapam.

Another root of Meretz was the civil rights movement, established under the leadership of Shulamit Aloni. Running as the political party, Ratz, in 1973, the party won Knesset representation.

With many shared political views in support of civil rights, social justice, and peace, Mapam and Ratz merged to create the Israeli political party Ratz in 1992. Meretz continued the Mapam tradition of maintaining relationships with Israel’s Arab community. The first Israeli Arab woman elected to the Knesset, Hussniya Jubara, was elected on the Meretz list.

In a parallel development, in the United States, Americans for Progressive Israel, the US affiliate of the World Union of Mapam, merged with the Educational Fund for Israeli Civil Rights and Peace in 1997. Today, this merger is known as Partners for Progressive Israel.

The column that Hiam Simon and I wrote lamented the global drift toward anti-democratic leaders and policies and expressed our concern that such manifestations were emerging in Israel. We are worried it is not only political pluralism that is being criminalized in Israel but religious pluralism as well. The recent arrest of the Conservative movement’s Rabbi Dov Haiyun is a matter of great concern not only in Israel but here among US Jews as well. I do not think the views we expressed were either anti-Israel or a double standard. Given the Jewish experience, I think our views are a Jewish standard.

Mark Gold

Even more on tikkun olam

We have been here before. (“Not enough with the tikkun olam…,” Letters, Jewish Standard, June 14, 2013.)

Why is it so important for some to limit the scope of tikkun olam? Should we not be proud and inspired that an important idea in Judaism encourages reaching out to those in need—Jews and others, near and far? And does not such reaching out enhance the rest of our Jewish practice?

What is wrong with expanding the scope of a concept beyond its earlier meaning? (If it was not already expanded.) And, following David Zinberg (“Social Justice and traditional Judaism can peacefully coexist,” Letters, Sept. 28), is the early Talmudic use, “betterment of society” or “basic decency,” really narrower than the direct translation, “repair the world”? Certainly, his concluding quote from Isaiah is not narrow: “…to let the oppressed go free…to share your bread with the hungry and to take the wretched poor into your home.”

Further, if the Talmudic use can be seen as narrow, what about the expansive scope the phrase is given in Kabbalah?

Or, how narrow is the phrase’s use in our Aleinu prayer: “perfect the universe through the Almighty’s sovereignty”? (Art Scroll translation, 1990).

We are here again because of Rabbi Mitchell Rocklin’s “Rosh Hashanah has nothing to do with the attractions of tikkun olam” (Jewish Standard, Sept. 14), to which David Zinberg’s letter is a response.

Rabbi Rocklin is questioning Tikkun Olam as having become a stand-in for modern “social justice,” which he sees as placing all people on the same level, discouraging an individual’s striving for greatness, striving to become something special. But no one inspired by social justice/tikkun olam wants to discourage the individual’s striving for greatness and becoming special. Social justice means the provision to each individual of the resources to so strive.

And in his last paragraph, Rabbi Rocklin, in trying to show the proper narrowness for tikkun olam, arrives at the broad definition anyway: “Our job is not to heal the world, but to localize ourselves in a meaningful relationship with the one who asks us to improve ourselves and the world.”

In this sentence, does Rabbi Rocklin not transition from his narrow “localize ourselves” to the expansive definition, “improve…the world”?

Art Lerman

Kavanaugh had a witch trial

To my perception, the hysteria surrounding the confirmation process of Judge Kavanaugh in the Senate Judiciary committee is reminiscent of the Salem witch trials (1692-3) and the reign of terror of the French Revolution (1793-4).

In these infamous examples due process was non-existent. An accusation was for the most part equal to guilt. Personal motives such as political power, hatred, and fear of the accused were the major factors driving the heinous procedures.

In my opinion, Judge Kavanaugh’s enemies (which do not include Dr. Ford, his primary accuser) are willing to destroy his family, his future career, and his honor on the altar of political power,

The constitution and culture of our beloved republic guarantee the accused due process of law. The burden of proof rests with the accuser(s). This is true even in non-criminal cases. If there is credible (legitimate) evidence supporting this allegation or others over the subsequent 36 years which suggest criminality and/or character defect— he should not be confirmed.

However, our tradition of due process (presumption of innocence until proof of guilt is established beyond reasonable doubt) must be preserved. Hearsay, polygraph technology, suggestive hypnosis etc. are not legitimate (valid) sources of evidence. Reliable eye witnesses are required. Anything less puts our country in danger of becoming a banana republic.

Jerrold Terdiman, MD
Woodcliff Lake

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