More on the pipeline and JCPOA

In the December 31 issue, Max Kleinman levels major criticisms at President Biden (“Let Biden be Biden redux”). Several of his opinions run counter to fact-based assessments of the issues.

Kleinman condemns Biden’s “approval” of the final stage of the Russia-Germany Nord Stream 2 pipeline. In fact the U.S. offered no approval of the pipeline. Biden did remove some sanctions on the Russian construction firm, but imposed new sanctions on the Russian ships presently engaged in laying the pipeline in its final stage.

Assessment of U.S. policy on the Nord 2 pipeline needs to recognize that when Biden took office, 90% of the pipeline had already been completed. (It was started in 2018.) Furthermore, as was publicly stated by both Angela Merkel and the incoming German chancellor, the German government holds the firm view that the pipeline is essential for Germany’s long-term economic future, especially in light of its decision to abandon its nuclear power plants. Given Germany’s unwavering position, President Biden and Secretary Blinken reached the opinion that the pipeline was unstoppable at this stage. Therefore continuing efforts to press Germany — the leading and most powerful EU nation — to cancel the pipeline can only further damage our bilateral relationship and hamper cooperation in critical areas, such as on climate change and dealing with China and Russia, our main long-term adversaries.

An immediate gain from the changed U.S. policy is the recently announced U.S.-German agreement that if Russia commits aggression against Ukraine, pipeline operations will be halted. This is likely the most effective sanction the West can take against Russian aggression in Ukraine..

Kleinman devotes considerable space to criticizing Biden’s Iran policy, which seeks a revival of the nuclear deal, the JCPOA. We may recall that early in his term, Trump renounced the nuclear agreement, reached after laborious and lengthy negotiations with the U.S. and the participation of Russia, China, and four other major European countries. In justifying his action, Trump termed the agreement a “ disaster” and vowed that the new sanctions he was imposing would bring Iran quickly to its knees, forcing it to accept more stringent terms.

Consider, now, what has in fact happened since the agreement was nullified.

Under the negotiated deal, Iran agreed to limit uranium enrichment to no more than 3.67 % purity and accepted strict compliance inspections by the IAEA. Following Trump’s abandonment of the agreement, Iran has embarked on rapid enrichment of its uranium stock, which by now has reached 60% purity level — dangerously close to weapons grade level.

Many political analysts consider the Trump renunciation of the Iranian nuclear agreement an enormous diplomatic mistake.

Mati Marcus
Scotch Plains

Problems in Palisades Park

The wee Jewish community in Palisades Park needs the help of the larger Jewish community to right a series of wrongs.

As reported by opinion columnist Joseph Kaplan (“Busman’s Holiday,” Jan. 7) our public spaces — the town hall, library, even the parking lot beneath the library — are repeatedly used to promote Christian interests, while those in power deliberately deny fair, equal, or any representation to other residents.

There’s a pattern of ignoring residents, but oh, what a difference when outsiders step forward.

I believe there’s a scandal as to how, in 2009 a now-retired library employee painted a permanent mural of Santa and a Christmas tree on the children’s library wall, using public money for paint and leaving no acknowledgement or room for any other December observance. In 2013, I spotted it and asked that it be removed. The then library director rebuked me. The religiously non-diverse library board back then — and now — is still trying to convert me to the belief that Santa is a folk figure, appropriate to Jews and others. (To date, the American Library Association knows of no other public library in America with such a divisive mural.)

In 2013, the Anti-Defamation League dealt with the library’s all-Christian religious signage. In 2014, the Jewish Federation tried to help the library acknowledge the Holocaust. (Both were reported in the letters page of the Standard, on Aug. 23, 2013, and April 18, 2014)

In 2019, I attended a library board meeting and witnessed the board approving the library director’s attempt to segregate donated Holocaust books into a separate place, away from all other books, where access is limited and food is eaten. After I protested to groups outside Palisades Park, the books were integrated into the main library.

In 2020, our current mayor, Chris Chung (D), offered the parking space beneath our public library to the Christian group Our Community Dinner Table to distribute donated food to anyone. (Uh, that’s anyone who doesn’t need kosher or halal food.) When I pointed out in an email that a Christian group should operate on private, not public, land, the mayor replied by email. He actually suggested that I might consider joining him and volunteer with his group.

In 2020, as Joseph Kaplan reported, the town used public funds to erect its Christmas lights, along with a Santa Claus saying Merry Christmas on the main drag, Broad Ave. No mention of Chanukah, but the town did make it clear that Santa is Christian. So, why is Folk Santa still on the public library walls? When I pointed this out, the mayor and the library board isnored me.

In December, 2021, our Recreation Dept. ignored Chanukah, but announced “Christmas Tree” Lighting on Dec. 5. The Merry Christmas Santa was again prominently erected. I emailed the mayor and asked whether the town has an antisemitism problem. This time, I copied the email to the office of Rep. Bill Pascrell. Did that make a difference?

Well, halfway through Chanukah, the town shoved a newly acquired menorah right in front of Santa. Santa says Merry Christmas. No mention of Chanukah. And of course, Santa is still on the library wall, being a folk figure.

How can Santa be two things at once?

In 2019, Palisades Park officially condemned racism, as per the BLM movement. Last year it hung a banner across Borough Hall to fight anti-Asian racism. But to date, it has refused requests to condemn antisemitism.

How do you solve a problem like Palisades Park?

For the politically inclined, Mayor Chris Chung, who had not replaced any library board members, is up for re-election this year. You can contact him at cchung@palisadesparknj.us

I set up an email address (santamural@aol.com) and welcome advice and support from the larger community.

On Nov. 13, 2020, Larry Yudelson interviewed Fairleigh Dickinson Professor Dr. Khyati Y. Joshi about her new book, “White Christian Privilege: The Illusion of Religious Equality in America,” published by New York University Press. As soon as I finish this letter to the editor, I’m going to contact her.

Looks I have a whole chapter for her next book.

Robin Katz
Palisades Park

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