An Open Letter To Secretary Of State John Kerry:
Congratulations. After much internal conflict, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to your demand that it release one hundred and four of its most tightly-held prisoners to entice Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to enter peace talks. Before we celebrate, perhaps I should introduce you to several of the men you fought so hard to free.
Juma’ah Ibrahim Adam and Mahmoud Salem Kharbish launched several Molotov cocktails into a public bus in October 1988, causing a young mother and her three children to burn alive, including her 10 month old infant. The young soldier who ran in to save them was killed as well. Yusef Said al-Al and Ayman Taleb Abu Sitteh broke into a home in Ramle in December 1993 where they stabbed two sleeping men to death, mutilated their bodies, and then sliced off their ears to keep as souvenirs. Riziq Ali Khader Salah stabbed Professor Menahem Stern to death while he walked to his university library in June 1989, in what Israeli police alleged was an admission test to Fatah. Other prisoners to be released include two men who helped blow up a bus in April 1995, murdering 8 people including 20 year old Alisa Flatow, a New Jersey native.
Once released, these prisoners will be welcomed home as heroes, their crimes against humanity trumpeted as nationalistic victories and the blood on their hands wiped clean. They will have rallies in their support and stadiums named after them. People will no doubt name children in their honor. And to what end, John Kerry, to what end? Israel has a long history of exchanging prisoners for dashed hopes of peace. The likely results of this exchange will only be dragging up victims’ painful memories and reinforcing Palestinian beliefs that terrorism can be used as a political tool.
Our country is still reeling from the shock of the Boston Marathon bombing and many victims are just beginning their long climb toward normality. As the former Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts and former Massachusetts senator, I would expect you more than anyone to have a deep empathy for the innocent civilians whose paths crossed with terrorists on that day in Boston. Would you tell the injured marathon runners and families of those who were murdered that the man stalking their nightmares will one day be free to walk the streets? Would you demand that our government release Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? Because that, sir, is what you have demanded of Israel. Times one hundred and four.To the Editor:
Perturbed By Rand Paul
As a proud Jewish emigre from the FSU and a Teaneck resident, I am perturbed by potential U.S. presidential candidate, and a loud voice in the senate, Rand Paul, a libertarian from Kentucky. Perhaps he deserves respect for some of his out-of-the-box independence, his medical education, his stamina to filibuster, and his conditional defense of whistleblower Snowden. But I digress.
What is causing my cognitive dissonance is his attempt to legislate when life begins in the womb—the Life Begins At Conception Act. Is this because he seeks the votes of the “pro-lifers” who would declare a zygote a human being? Or is this because he has a callous disregard and disrespect for people of other religions and cultures?
By declaring a fertilized egg “A Person,” Roe v. Wade, decided on a privacy issue, would be overturned. So besides losing the right to privacy—imagine that!—Paul also violates the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the history of Judeo/Christian traditions regarding personhood and abortion…and he ignores quite a bit of medical evidence to the contrary as well.
Jewish law, Exodus 21:22, makes it clear that an unborn child is not a person, and the Talmud states: “If giving birth puts a pregnant women’s life in danger, the fetus may be removed surgically, limb by limb, because her life takes precedence over the unborn fetus.”
The Torah, in that same place, also says if a pregnant woman is struck by someone, and her unborn child is destroyed, the person who caused the mishap must pay damages, but is not considered a murderer, because the unborn child is not a person (the reasoning is that it would otherwise have been considered a murder).
The Talmud is even more specific on the status of an unborn child: “If giving birth puts a pregnant women’s life in danger, the fetus may be removed surgically, limb by limb, because her life takes precedence over the unborn fetus. However, if its head or greater part of its body has already emerged, the child cannot be harmed to save the mother, because one person’s life may not be taken to save another.” Many Jewish authorities consider any serious threat to mother’s health a sufficient justification for abortion. (Could a child conceived through rape or incest be in some cases a constant reminder of memories so hateful to the mother that she might murder the child and possibly either commit a suicide or spend the rest of her life in jail or psychiatric ward? Usually a rabbi’s opinion is sought in such cases.). The Jewish law does not approve of abortion unless there is sufficient justification. (e.g., A. Kolatch, Jewish Book of Why, II, 160-161, JD, NY, 1988; D.M. Feldman “Birth Control in Jewish Law”, NY University Press, 1995)
In the third and fourth centuries, the Catholic Church adopted the Greek Pythagorean view that the soul enters the body at conception. In the fifth century St. Augustine, based on the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Bible) introduced the rule that only the killing of a “formed” fetus (one of forty or eighty days) is homicide and consequently that only such a fetus can be said to have a soul. (“Formed” meant looking fully human with all human organs formed. St. Augustine did not need sonograms to see from results of miscarriages that in about initial 40 days the fetus looks rather as an insect and thus cannot have a soul—allowing abortions in this period. There was a reversal three years later, during the rule of Pope Sixtus V in 1588. When he left, Augustinian rule was reconfirmed and was official Catholic doctrine until 1869. That year Pope Pius IX declared abortion murder at any stage. This declaration was further affirmed in the current code of Catholic Canon Law, adopted in 1918 (see Feldman). Thus, the current strict ruling on abortion governed Christianity during only a short part of its history.
We should also realize that up to 50 percent of fertilized eggs die within the first month (NIH studies) often with the woman even not realizing that she was pregnant. One quarter of all medically confirmed pregnancies end up in miscarriages, and the percentage increases with the mother’s age (http://www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancycomplications/miscarriage.html). Also no fetus younger than 21weeks and 5 days can survive outside the womb and only half the children born at 26 weeks survive, with a large cohort suffering significant neurological impairments (Wikipedia). Thus, the Creator did not give fertilized eggs an unalienable right to life–but He apparently designed up to half of them to self-destruct if there was a problem. (Of course, in some states, there is an attempt to criminalize miscarriages, too.)
So why is Rand Paul trying to legislate religion? Why is he trying to legally force his brand of Christianity down the throats of Jewish women? That is not the American way.
To the Editor:
The anonymous author of the article “A Zaidie writes to a Rebbe” (July 25) raises the crucial point that there are far too many voices among the Orthodox that dehumanize those outside our religion. These voices are sadly real and must be countered vigorously. However, they must be countered for the right reasons and in the right way. Blaming the Jewish people for the deaths of millions of our own who died sanctifying G-d’s name is a grievous wrong. To start, it places the cart before the horse; most of the negative attitudes and practices adopted by our people over the ages have been as a direct result of persecution. But more importantly, as with most hatred based in bigotry and racism, though there may be a seed of truth involved, through the use of vast generalizations, a selective view of facts, and a heavy dose of fiction, the chief cause of the hate is hate itself. Blaming the Jews for the crusades, the inquisition, and the holocaust is a hateful tactic befitting our enemies. It has no place in any reputable paper. Unquestionably, voices for empathy and concern for our fellow man must be spoken loudly and clearly. But they must not be spoken out of fear of the alternative’s consequences, fear of what the world will do to us. They must be spoken because they are right and just, and it is what I hope and pray is at the heart of the Judaism that we live.
On Rep. Rush Holt
I appreciate Rabbi Burg’s endorsement (Letter to the Editor – July 25) of Congressman Holt for U.S. Senate. Although Congressman Holt may be a man of character, character should only be the first requirement for one to serve the people. Policy and ideas are critical. And it is Congressman Holt’s policies that I, and many members of our community, disagree with.
Congressman Holt’s fiscal policies are dangerous and irresponsible. His preference to make “ investments” (code word for “ spending” ) in select sectors of the U.S. economy ignore the huge deficit that continues to grow unabated in the Obama Administration and the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate.We face the perfect storm of a fast growing $16.7 trillion national debt and a rising interest rate environment. The cost of servicing our debt—or, more accurately, the debt of our children and grandchildren—is hijacking the little budget flexibility we have to create pro-growth policies. Pretty soon, the only remaining tool left in our toolbox will be inflating away the debt. And inflation is devastating to the poor and those who live on fixed incomes.
Furthermore, Congressman Holt’s attitude to capitalism is fundamentally misguided.The Congressman loves to blame wealthy U.S. corporations for hoarding profits, and for policies that prevent the rich from paying more taxes—their “ fair share” in Obama language. This reflects a fundamental lack of understanding in how the economy works: profitable U.S. corporations create jobs, and thus more income taxes are paid by more people. And distributed profits create dividends—money on which taxes are first paid and then spent in our economy. The rich spend and invest, growing our economy further.
One last point: the NSA. Former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey and other law enforcement professionals have insisted that it is a critical tool in stopping terrorist attacks. The Congressman is on record stating that he is against such surveillance techniques being used against “ the innocent.” If it were only that easy. We do not know who the innocent are, and we do not know the techniques of those trying to terrorize and kill Americans. As such, it would be irresponsible to let up now on a program that has stopped no fewer than 50 attacks on our country.
Yes, good character should be demanded from our elected officials—at the very least. But warm and fuzzy meetings with bloviating politicians do not make up for flawed policies that will weaken our country. We need to implement policies that will raise the poor, inspire each and every American to realize their potential and leave their “ Today” behind only to be realized by a better “ Tomorrow.” And we need courageous politicians who will lead by making tough decisions for our future— burying political expediency behind, for good. We need a change in direction. Unfortunately, Congressman Holt represents a doubling down on a failing Obama presidency.I am sure Congressman Holt is a nice guy. But nice is not enough.