Letters to the Editor: U.S. Immune System Isn't Infallible

America may not withstand Trump; international pressure should be applied on Palestinians, not Israel.

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Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, August 1, 2016.
Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, August 1, 2016. Credit: Eric Thayer, Reuters

U.S. immune system isn’t infallible

In response to “America Needed a Trump. Now It Needs to Let Him Go” (Bradley Burston, Haaretz.com, August 2).

There is no Israeli journalist whom I admire more than Bradley Burston, who nearly always gets it exactly right. But when he writes that “We need Donald Trump” and then need to take our leave of him, in order to remind and have open discussions with ourselves about our weaknesses, I think his optimism and personal geniality and kindness gets the better of his analysis.

It is well known that the crust of civilization is fragile, and so can become better and worse depending on circumstances, and we don’t need dangerous demagogues to make it worse. No more than cosmopolitan liberal Weimar Germany needed a Hitler, or easygoing tolerant Italy needed a Mussolini. They tore the crust off those civilizations, and made them, Italy a thousand times and Germany a million times – 6 million times – worse. To embolden extremists does not encourage discussion and better our society either, but instead coarsens and threatens it, just as it did Italy and Germany in the ‘20s and ‘30s. There is no evidence that opposition to Trump is making us better, only that the conscientious are becoming more worried, the society more polarized, and on the other side of the divide many others are becoming more brazen and insolent.

What if we don’t “let go of” Trump? From the beginning of the election cycle last summer, when he denigrated John McCain’s war service as a tortured POW and we thought it would end his career, to his thousand other ethnic and religious and gender and personal insults and outrages, we thought he had gone a ruinous step too far. Then we thought he was only running against Republicans in the primaries and would lose in a landslide. Now it appears the election may be close. This hasn’t just laid bare ugliness – it has incited still more ugliness; it hasn’t just exposed racism and hatred and vulgarity, it has incited and emboldened still more racism and hatred and personal insult and vulgarity. Opposition to Trump isn’t bettering us; rather, the surprising support that Trump’s outrages have aroused – and the extremism he continues to incite – is worsening us.

The veneer of civilization is indeed thin, and authoritarian demagogues can generate upheavals in its mantle and crust. Burston is one of the finest writers alive, but in this case the warm humanity that helps make him so fine and decent a writer may be blinding him to a déjà vu, now in America, of those ‘20s-to-‘30s darkening clouds over Europe.

James Adler

Cambridge, MA

Int’l pressure on Israel isn’t the way

In response to “The Dishonest Democratic Platform on Israel” (Peter Beinart, Jul. 25).

Peter Beinart, in arguing that a Palestinian state shouldn’t necessarily be the product of Israeli/Palestinian negotiations, contends that “Israel wasn’t born via direct negotiation; it was born via UN vote,” but this is misleading.

Israel wasn’t “born via a UN vote” – sovereignty was asserted by its provisional government at the termination of British authority in the territory in May 1948. Nor indeed was the November 1947 General Assembly partition resolution, to which Beinart refers, even legally binding. Yes, it could have provided a legal basis, had both Jews and Arabs accepted it, but Arabs did not.

Beinart’s preoccupation with establishing a Palestinian state via international pressure on Israel suffers from the undemocratic tendency of seeking to compel Israel, against the judgment of its government and electorate, to make self-defeating concessions to a unreconstructed, irredentist Palestinian regime. It also partakes of the flawed tendency to believe that such a state will produce peace. Yet no perusal of Palestinian sermons, statements or publications suggests that Palestinians accept the idea of a peaceful state alongside Israel. If a Palestinian state won’t bring peace, why create it? 

A United States policy that devises carrots and sticks to induce Palestinians to relinquish their war on Israel’s continued existence provides the best basis for future, fruitful negotiations. 

Daniel Mandel

Haddonfield, NJ

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