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Strate is certaintly sane

Kudos for publishing Dr. Lance Strate’s courageous essay, “In defense of uncertainty” (September 4). It is a breath of fresh air that contrasts with the hurricane of hot air swirling around us. How many people who look inside themselves realize that what they spout is a product of groupthink, conformity, the herd mentality? The louder they yell, the more insecure they appear. If they really tried to get to the bottom of any issue, they would discover it to be a bottomless well. How rare to meet a sane person.

Manfred Weidhorn, Fair Lawn
Emeritus Guterman Professor of English, Yeshiva University

Disappointed in Cory Booker

I was very disappointed when I read and heard about Senator Booker’s decision to support the deal worked out by President Obama and his aides — but I was not surprised. It seems now that the policy of this administration and its supporters is “any deal is better than no deal.”

Senator Booker and others who have pledged to vote for the deal have not been overwhelming in explaining how good it is. The Democrats seem to be looking more to guarantee the legacy of Obama’s foreign policy toward Iran than to consider the future of the United States and the rest of the world.

There has only been one Democratic senator who has been honest and sincere in his objections to the deal, Senator Menendez.

Much has been made of Sen. Schumer, but if he were really against the deal, he would have worked to convince others to vote it down. He didn’t because he is more interested in becoming the leader of the Senate Democrats. It would have been very interesting to know if Obama did not get enough senators to vote to protect his veto, if Sen. Schumer would have voted for the override.

If you read the deal and listened to interviews with negotiators, you would be surprised with the inconsistencies. How can the Congress vote on it if it doesn’t know all the facts? Would you sign a contract if you know it contains sections you can’t see?

The vote has not yet been taken.

Hopefully those members who have pledged to vote for the agreement will put their loyalty for the future of our nation before their loyalty to the Democratic party and the president.

It is important for us to hear the reasoning behind our elected officials’ decision on the deal.

Howard J. Cohn, New Milford

Men talking about bikinis

I found Rabbi Zahavy’s bikini answer on August 7 to be both courageous and honest (“Dear Rabbi,” August 7).

While his statement that he “has no idea where his colleagues got the notion that wearing a bikini at the beach is a bad thing” probably represents the employment of hyperbole, the fact of the matter is that what little support one can find in Dat Moshe for modesty in female dress comes from Bimidbar 5:18 and involves the loosening or uncovering of a married woman’s hair in the presence of a Kohen after an accusation of adultery. From this the rather tenuous conclusion is reached that the hair is normally covered, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Granted, there are other arguments in rabbinic literature, but all are extremely weak in my opinion. But who am I to have an opinion? Well, as Rabbi Zahavy knows, I am sympathetic with the Karaite belief that only the Tanach is law and that each of us should draw our own well-considered conclusions of what the plain meaning of the Tanach is.

The Talmud and other rabbinic opinions are certainly worthy of consideration, but do not, and should not rise to the level of law. And, this is especially true, in my opinion, when it is all men telling women how to live.

Barry Obut, Teaneck

Fact and fiction on Iran

Several points are in order about Charlie Bernhaut’s snide non-response to Professor Arthur Lerman’s letter about the Iran nuclear deal (“Iran and ‘Death to Israel,’” September 4). We infer clearly that Mr. Bernhaut opposes that deal. We can also see that he would bundle those who support it — among them nuclear physicists, astute policy analysts (including some thoughtful Republicans), and the majority of landsmen — with Lerman as “wishful thinkers” and “bleeding-heart leftist Jews.”

Setting such sneering aside, your readers should focus instead on the issues of substance, and sort out realities from splenetic fantasies:

Fantasy #1: “Handing them [the Iranians] 150 billion dollars to further their goals makes no sense.”

Fact: No expert knows the exact amount of impounded Iranian assets that would be released, but the best estimates begin at 10 billion. Given the parlous state of the Iranian economy, one can surely envision domestic needs for released funds.

Fantasy #2: “I’m not so sure if it [Israel] can survive a nuclear Iran, with its ‘Death to Israel’ goal.”

Fact: The whole point of the deal is to stave off and forestall a nuclear Iran. For example, Dr. Sadegh Zibakalam, a prominent dissident, who held and still holds a chair in political science at the University of Tehran, publicly advocates recognition of Israel.

Fantasy #3: The letter postulates “the reality of Iran’s full support of terrorist groups throughout the world.”

Fact: Even after the hot air has been let out of this rhetorical balloon, the political reality remains that such groups are constantly at war with each other, and that Iran opposes many of the same ones we oppose, such as the ISIS “caliphate,” Al Qaeda, and the Taliban. Islamic politics cannot be reduced to simplistic posturing.

Fantasy #4: “Israel can take care of the Palestinians.”

Fact: Smug but false. One can only speculate on what that means. Despite all its military advantages, despite the horrendous bloodshed and endless skirmishing and worse, Israel has been unable to establish a basis for dialogue. However, Rabin and Peres came closer than the Likud regime in its current and prior manifestations. Nor will the irredentists on the West Bank, the territory that Yuval Diskin — former chief of the Shin Bet — calls the “State of Judea,” relent in their ideological claims.

If that is wishful thinking, we need more of it.

Richard Koffler, Teaneck

Civility and disagreement

In “Iran and ‘Death to Israel’” (Letters, September 4th), the author criticizes my August 21 letter for supporting the accord negotiated to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. He argues that the accord will actually allow Iran to go nuclear. He “wonder[s] which part of ‘Death to America’ and ‘Death to Israel’ Mr. Lerman does not understand. “

But clearly both his side and my side do understand. We simply disagree over the best way to keep Iran from going nuclear.

Some supporting the accord have accused the opposition of being warmongers. That is wrong. Some against the accord accuse the supporters of not understanding the Death to America/Death to Israel threats. That too is wrong. Why the overheated rhetoric? (The answer calls for a serious study of all our political psychologies.) What is certain is that the rhetoric does not help any of us think about Iran, the accord, and nuclear weapons clearly.

Can’t we return to that great Jewish tradition of respecting one another, though disagreeing “for the sake of heaven” — as well as for the sake of Israel, America, the Middle East, and the world at large?

The author also writes that my “wishful thinking…ignores the reality of Iran’s full support of terrorist groups…” Actually, his statement is inaccurate. Since my wishful thinking was directly focused on the reality of Iran’s support of terrorist groups, the wish was that we use the 10 to 15 years of the agreement to nurture those in Iran who hope to bring their country away from terrorism, away from nuclear weapons, and into the modern, democratic world. In other words, that Iran is not just one solid, unchangeable block of terrorism and nuclear weapons ambitions.

But maybe it’s unfair to call this wishful thinking, since the idea of using the time for supporting change in Iran goes beyond just wishing. It’s a plan, and a wish plus a plan may be better termed a hard-headed strategy.

The author also objects to “[h]anding them 150 billion dollars…” But Iran doesn’t get the money until it demonstrates compliance with the accord. And upon release, most of the money is committed to non-terrorist related debts and projects. And the U.S., its negotiating partners, and Israel are all committed to monitoring and countering whatever of this money ends up in a terrorist pipeline.

I am also criticized for commenting on Netanyahu’s pro-settlement policies — especially because they are “totally irrelevant to the Iran Issue.” But I was responding to the complaint that Obama was criticizing Netanyahu for helping Israel. I just added that his settlement policy was not helping.

The author’s rejoinder was that the Arabs demand all the land, so the settlements (comprising only a small part of the land) don’t matter.

But they matter a lot. An Israel occupying land until it could be handed over to a non-threatening regime would be understood by the rest of the world — even if that occupying has to be for a very long time. An Israel trying to squeeze land out of the little area that the Palestinians have to create a non-threatening regime would not be so understood.

And, as with Iran, the Arabs, including the Palestinians, are not simply a solid, unchangeable block. They don’t all demand all the land. There are those who want to reach out, live in peace and concentrate on bringing their societies into the modern democratic word. The settlements are not helping their cause.

Finally, I’m attacked for being a bleeding-heart leftist Jew. That’s a lot of modifiers, but is any of them bad? Sounds to me like a direct reference to what we say in synagogue: — ”lift up the fallen, clothe the naked and heal the sick.” And doesn’t that translate into such things as Social Security, civil and voting rights, Medicare and Medicaid — which have benefited so many Americans? And how about applying these modifiers to foreign policy, that is, my wishful thinking with a plan — Rabbi Natan’s striving to make one’s enemy a friend?

Arthur J. Lerman, Teaneck

Feckless Booker

I don’t doubt that Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is sincere when he says his good friend Cory Booker is a fine, upstanding citizen, who showed his devotion to the Jewish cause by presiding over the college L’Chaim Society (“Senator Booker and the Iran deal,” September 4).

But first and foremost Cory Booker is a politician, who, like most others of his ilk, is fundamentally risk averse, especially when it comes to making decisions or sticking his neck out. By all accounts Booker was a huge disappointment as Newark mayor, speaking passionately but doing little to help move that troubled city forward in any discernible direction. That his successor, the far less-polished and more controversial Ras Baraka, has won wide praise from Newark’s business community, police, and minorities says as much about the new mayor’s decisiveness as it does the former mayor’s timidity.

To those who have observed Booker’s rapid New Jersey political ascension for little other reason than he’s a relatively articulate, attractive Democrat, it was no surprise that he waited till after the deciding vote was cast finally to declare his support for the Obama Iran deal. His vote meant nothing, won him points in the party, and was totally consistent with his history of fecklessness.

Fraser P. Seitel, Fort Lee

Don’t preach, AJC

In response to Mayors decry anti-Semitism (September 4), here is an open letter to European leaders.

I am an American Jew whose ancestors, like so many others, come from the Old World, your continent. I have had the good fortune to spend time living, traveling, and working in Europe since the 1960s. I visited France last spring.

Recently, I learned that the American Jewish Committee has launched an initiative to bring its concerns to your attention. The AJC feels that you may not be aware of the threat to European culture and values posed by modern Muslim extremism. John Rosen, AJC’s New Jersey regional director, said, “Europeans don’t know how to deal with their Muslim populations.”

I wish to apologize for Mr. Rosen’s comments and for the AJC position that it knows better than Europeans how to deal with this issue. America has no monopoly on moral virtue, nor does America lack its fair share of anti-Semitism. The AJC should not be preaching to Europeans.

I am sure that European leaders are very well aware of these difficulties. I applaud the efforts made by European governments to pursue and punish criminals who violate your laws. I recognize European efforts to legislate Holocaust education curricula and to protect the rights of all minorities. Europe clearly is acting.

It is true that anti-Semitic incidents are on the rise all over the world. It is also true that pro-Semitic awareness is now at an all-time high. The response of Europe to the Hebdo attacks last summer bears witness to this truth. My friends in France and elsewhere tell me that they are concerned, but that their lives continue as before.

If there is anything that I might wish for, it would be for Americans and Europeans to join together even more closely in teaching tolerance and integrating minority populations into their mainstream cultures. Here in America, the issue of race relations has caused increasing violence, the worst period in over 40 years.

In spite of current tensions, I remain confident that Western civilization values, born on your continent, will triumph over the forces of religious insularity and tribalism.

Eric Weis, Wayne

No more name-calling

With more than 34 senators now committed to supporting the Iran nuclear deal, it is time to move past the destructive battle that much of the pro-Israel community has waged against this agreement. If we are to maintain the bipartisan consensus that the security of Israel is of vital importance to America, we must turn down the rhetoric. In particular, we must immediately stop the name calling that has appeared in Jewish publications, including, unfortunately, the Jewish Standard, where proponents of the deal have been called morally weak, intellectually dishonest, ignorant of history, and especially, poor friends of Israel.

The upcoming congressional vote never was a litmus test of support for Israel. That vote, as crafted, is a judgment call between whether or not it is better for the U.S. to participate in an agreement that has already been signed by six other countries. Further, President Obama has made it very clear that he has neither the desire nor the ability to negotiate a “better deal.” With that in mind, how do we justify calling Democrats who will uphold his veto “morally weak”?

The pro-Israel community needs to wake up to the fact that we need the Democratic party more than it needs us. Ethnic groups that are aligned with Democrats but are, at best, neutral to Israel are the fastest growing groups in America. Meanwhile, nothing has changed for Israel. We cannot afford to lose even one war. If a Democratic party with no emotional ties to Israel and at odds with the pro-Israel community is in charge the next time we need an airlift, the dream that is the state of Israel will come to an end.

We can’t let that happen. Let’s mend our fences with Democrats now — before it’s too late.

David Teitelbaum, Fair Lawn

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