Letters to the Editor: Iran Deal Schism Actually Helps Jewish Liberals

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Jewish Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) hugs a Code Pink activist at an event of activists delivering more than 400,000 petition signatures to Capitol Hill in support of the Iran nuclear deal, July 29, 2015
Jewish Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) hugs a Code Pink activist at an event of activists delivering more than 400,000 petition signatures to Capitol Hill in support of the Iran nuclear deal, July 29, 2015Credit: Reuters

Split: the difference

In response to “Fractured American Jewish Community Is First Victim of Iran Nuclear Deal,” August 19

I disagree with Chemi Shalev’s point of view in one important way. He describes the split among American Jews as a “victim” of the agreement. I would say, “Au contraire.” It is a benefit because, finally, the actual splits among American Jews are “out of the closet.” For the first time, some leaders of the liberal American-Jewish community are feeling brave enough to speak their mind, to say publicly what they really believe. In a society that depends upon open and honest debate, this is hugely important. Until now, whenever a Jew spoke publicly against Netanyahu or against Israeli policy, others in the American-Jewish community would accuse the speaker of being anti-Semitic and a “self-hating Jew.” That kind of accusation, and the fear of it, kept liberal Jewish leaders quiet for a long time – on a host of issues.

The recent public admission of disagreement is a wonderful turn of events. I hope that, having found its “voice,” the liberal Jewish community will continue to express itself. Our non-Jewish friends can no longer assume (as most do) that we, as Jews, support everything Israel does. We do not!!! But many have been reluctant to speak up, until now.

Shalev got it backward. The greatest gift of the agreement may turn out to be the opening of true democratic debate among Jewish Americans – supposedly, one of our most cherished values.

Louise Wides
Washington, D.C.

Turning into Barak

In response to “Gideon Levy: The one-trick pony of Israeli journalism,” August 23

It seems that Isaac Herzog is turning into Ehud Barak, one of his predecessors as leader of the Labor Party. Barak was always ready with a succinct analysis of the political scene, ignoring the fact that he was one of the people actually influencing the situation. In his debate with Gideon Levy, Herzog makes the Barak mistake of becoming a commentator, rather than an actor on the political stage. Herzog should not be wasting time scoring points off Levy.

He has to answer some simple questions: “If you become prime minister, are you prepared to withdraw from enough settlements to facilitate a two-state solution? Do you possess the determination and ruthlessness to uproot hundreds of thousands of settlers from their homes in the Jewish historical heartland? Arik Sharon only just managed to remove far fewer settlers from the land of the Philistines. Are you really Sharon on steroids?”

Permit me to express some doubts.
Daniel Gavron
Motza Ilit

Force-feeding is torture

In response to “Hunger-striking prisoners should be force-fed,” August 24

Your article reports that a group of Israeli scientists and an ethicist have deemed that, contrary to the decision of the Israel Medical Association (IMA), hunger strikers should be fed even against their will. It would, however, be a pity if the IMA was overruled and if Israel chose to ignore the World Medical Association (WMA) Malta declaration against force-feeding (2006).

This would likely lead to Israel being outlawed by the WMA, and thereby add more grist to the mill of our detractors. It would also likely uncouple us from other medical associations such as the American, British and Australian bodies. Force-feeding, whether in Guantanamo, Northern Ireland or Israel, is regarded as torture, even if several Israeli “experts” declare it is not. How else can one describe the forced passage of a nasogastric tube into a conscious human who wishes vigorously and forcibly to resist the procedure?

The IMA and Israel’s Medics and Medical Service are held in high esteem worldwide. Would it not be a huge mistake to undermine this esteem for the apparent minor parochial political benefits, if any, that might derive from flouting Malta 2006?

I presume it would be too much to hope that Israel might replace administrative detention, the cause of most hunger strikes, with habeas corpus.

Prof. George Fink
Tel Aviv