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Not just my way

In response to "War against the N.Y. Times and the new 'my way or highway’ Jewish theology," by Chemi Shalev, September 3, Haaretz.com 

I am flattered that Chemi Shalev considered my Tablet column announcing my unsubscribing from the New York Times worthy of comment, even in so personal and vituperative a manner. He is clearly a master of hyperbole himself. Where he lost me was when he pivoted from my critique of the Times, which I continue to believe was accurate, to his characterization of me as an apologist for the Netanyahu administration, intolerant of other viewpoints, unconcerned with what Israel does across the Green Line, and opposed to a two-state solution.

I am none of those things, nor do I hold the views he imagines I do about Palestinians or others. I am passionately in favor of a two-state solution and I am a dual citizen of the U.S. and Israel, whose last vote in an Israeli election was for the Labor party. I am mystified at his bringing J Street into the matter, but for the record, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, which I lead, also voted for J Street's admission to the Conference of Presidents, not because the CCAR necessarily shares J Street's substantive positions, because we believed that it ought to be at the communal table, where diversity adds value - exactly the opposite of what he accuses me of believing. He has every right to disagree with my view of the Times, but as is so often the case with leftist critiques of those with differing viewpoints, he is guilty of the very sin of which he accuses me. It is he, not I, who believes there's "only one truth" and that it's either "my way or the highway."

Rabbi Richard Block

Menachem Begin, Jewish liberal

In his oped, “Despair won’t advance liberal Zionists’ agenda” (Haaretz.com, Sept. 2), Brent Sasley correctly notes that Israel’s pre-state and post-1948 “primary promoters of individual rights in the western European sense were the Revisionist Zionists under Ze’ev Jabotinsky.” But then he suggests that after the ​1977 Likud election victory under Menachem Begin, Jabotinsky’s liberalism had been “jettisoned ​... in favor of a tribal version of Israeli society that, they felt, should be oriented toward the Jewish majority.”

That opinion is unsubstantiated by the history of the period, the actions of Begin’s governments and is based on a purposeful misrepresentation.

In the first instance, Jabotinsky and his ideological heirs identified the concept of a Jewish majority as one of the primary political conditions not only for statehood but for the complete sharing of civic duties of its citizens as well as the obligations of the state’s institutions, as first formulated in Jabotinsky’s “Arab Angle Undramtised.”​ Secondly, there is nothing “tribal,” a pejorative label, in promoting and preserving Jewish values and traditions. Thirdly, Begin’s attitude towards Israel’s non-Jewish minorities did not alter in the negative sense once he became prime minister, and that included Vietnamese boat people.

Most importantly, Begin’s liberalism, as he understood his mentor, was predicated on the literature of Jewish sources, whether biblical, Talmudic, rabbinical or those of other Jewish thinkers, as any cursory reading of their articles will reveal. In other words, it was an internal liberalism of Jewish morality and ethics. Sasley’s problem is that he identifies liberalism from its external, non-Jewish development which, of course, biases his argument.

Yisrael Medad

Information coordinator

Menachem Begin Heritage Center


Doubts about the Dome

During a press conference, Bibi took credit for Iron Dome when in fact former Defense Minister Amir Peretz made the decision to develop the system. If Bibi wants to take credit for it, then he should also take the criticism. A senior official at Rafael arms company stated in a recent TV interview that Israel should have developed the Nautilus laser instead, because if 10 of them had been stationed around Gaza, they would have destroyed all of the mortars fired. In addition it could have been stationed all around the country and been more effective than Iron Dome, at a far lower cost.

Ken Kalcheim