Letters to the Editor: week of June 8, 2011

Interfaith understanding and ‘Klinghoffer’ opera

I commend the efforts of the Jewish Light, through its articles in the current issue, in addressing issues raised by the scheduled performance of “The Death of Klinghoffer” by Opera Theatre of St. Louis.

The Michael and Barbara Newmark Institute for Human Relations, at the Jewish Community Relations Council, has been working closely, in collaboration with Opera Theatre of St. Louis, through an interfaith steering committee, to inform and promote education and dialogue in regard to the opera. The committee has implemented programs with interfaith participants, including Jewish and Muslim teens, and has thereby advanced interfaith understanding and civility.

If the Newmark Institute had believed that the opera were in any way an attempt to rationalize or legitimize an act of terrorism, we would never have been a sponsor of this programming. Rather, we strongly endorse the comments of Timothy O’Leary, General Director of Opera Theatre of St. Louis and his opinion that “The Death of Klinghoffer” is a “deeply moving and deeply meaningful work of art that eloquently condemns hatred and extremism.” (See O’Leary piece)

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Rabbi Howard Kaplansky

Chair, The Michael and Barbara Newmark Institute for Human Relations at the JCRC

Editorial unfairly blames Benjamin Netanyahu

Your May 25 editorial, “(Cool) War and Peace,” was obviously written by an observer with an anti-Netanyahu agenda.

Blaming Netanyahu for being “too jaded to try for peace” is absurd; stating that he “has no idea how to get there” is a perfect description of President Obama. The answer to the editorial’s question,”if peace is impossible, then what are the alternatives?” is decidedly not a return to the 1949 lines, the “right of return” for 7 million Palestinian “refugees,” and the division of Jerusalem. Those are Palestinian demands, from which they have never publicly retreated; nor have they ever agreed to any “swaps.” There is something far worse than maintaining the status quo while still striving to find a serious peace partner: encouraging the destruction of Israel based on appeasement.

The author wants Bibi to seek peace, not “unilaterally” or by “performing miracles.” But that’s what it would take for a “peace” agreement: near-total surrender to Palestinian demands. The editorialist then asks whether Bibi really wants peace. The last thing the Prime Minister wants is more war. Israelis are weary of sending their children to war; they want to be able to live their lives without conflict and rockets and terror. But they know very well that peace at any price is not the solution.

Netanyahu was magnificent on his Washington visit – he got about 30 standing ovations from both sides of the Congressional aisle, and gained 20 points in Israeli approval polls.

Those who think that President Obama or a Jewish Light editorialist know better than the Israeli people, their elected leader, and their Knesset how to achieve a lasting peace are suffering from excessive chutzpah.

Irl Solomon

St. Louis County

I received a notice that I have only 10 weeks left in my subscription to the Jewish Light and perhaps that is a good thing. Although touted as the Jewish newspaper of St. Louis, recent editorial decisions suggest that the newspaper is being run with an agenda.

As if the Fish Fry debacle were not enough, we now have an attack on Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu who made a remarkable speech defending the position of his duly elected government on an issue of existential importance. One has the feeling that the Light would be placated only if Mr. Netanyahu had told Congress that he understood and now agreed with President Obama and in the interests of peace Israel would immediately withdraw to the borders of the 1949 Armistice. Does the Light have a soul anymore?

The Jewish community is heterogeneous and as a consequence advertisements from non-kosher restaurants and wedding announcements with intermarried couples are allowed.

But there is a limit: the editorials should put Jewish identity, Judaism and Israel first. If current trends continue, you may want to remove the word “Jewish” from the Jewish Light. At that point, you can editorialize in any way you desire.

I’ll be looking forward to the in-depth interview with George Soros and a review on where to find the best Christmas trees in a December issue. But thankfully my subscription will have expired, just like the Light’s Jewish identity.

Paul Hauptman

St. Louis

The problem with President Barack Obama’s recent speech was his emphasis on Israel as the party that must change to bring peace. His statement that borders should be based on the 1949 cease-fire line should have been accompanied by a statement that Israel cannot absorb 7 million Arab refugees, which includes the original refugees, their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He stated that the Israelis needed an answer from the Palestinians about the Hamas-PLO merger without mentioning what it should be: a renunciation of terror, recognition of Israel, and an agreement to honor the results of previous negotiations. These are the conditions stipulated by the United States and the European Union for Hamas to be included in peace talks.

Hamas and the PLO continue to preach hatred of Israel and Jews in their mosques, media, and schoolrooms. They have named monuments, squares, and schools after terrorists, which speaks volumes about their lack of interest in peace.

Although your editorial states Israel can choose between peace and war, the truth is that Israel chooses peace, while the Palestinians refuse it. If the “occupation” or the borders of a Palestinian state were the issue, this could be negotiated. The core problem is the refusal of the Palestinians to recognize a Jewish state of any size and any connection between Jews and the land of Israel.

Although you claim Jewish organizations have some level of comfort with President Obama’s speech, he was criticized by Obama supporters Ed Koch and Alan Dershowitz. Every time Mr. Obama critiques Israel, the Palestinians add a new precondition for returning to peace talks. I had hoped that after a fruitless Israeli 10- month building freeze, the Obama administration would understand that pressure upon Israel pushes the Palestinians to demand more.

Why should they negotiate for peace when America is winning concessions for them? I hope that President Obama learns more about the art of diplomacy before he makes any further pronouncements about the Middle East.

Laura Goldmeier

Creve Coeur

Comparing Mladic and bin Laden

I know our editor emeritus, Bob Cohn, as a person of ethical conviction. But I suggest that his commentary, “Capture of Mladic as important as killing of Osama bin Laden” (June 1) loses sight of a critical distinction.

Bob Cohn wrote that “the killing of bin Laden and the capture of Mladic” represent examples “of war criminals…brought to justice.” Yes, Ratko Mladic has just been captured for legal prosecution. And most of St. Louis may think that in the case of Osama Bin Laden: justice was served. But: Bin Laden was executed – without a trial.

In 1960, Israel’s fledgling Mossad and Shin Bet agencies could have quietly assassinated Adolph Eichmann in Buenos Aires and slipped away home. Instead, at considerably greater risk, Eichmann was held in a safe house and then by a dangerous ruse, brought to Israel on the first El Al plane to ever fly to Argentina and back.

True, when Eichmann was captured, he was living under the radar in a humble, private residence. By contrast, Bin Laden, it would have been rationally assumed, was on perpetual alert in an armed compound.

Nevertheless, neither the details of Bin Laden’s cowboy execution by a corps of Navy Seals, nor President Obama’s subsequent remarks demonstrate a compelling desire to use America’s intelligence and military services, to bring Bin Laden to trial. He was assassinated in an act of counter-terror. If Osama Bin Laden had truly been “brought to justice,” politically and morally that would have been the better choice.

Elaine K. Alexander

Creve Coeur