Letters to the editor: 3/26

Letters to the editor: 3/26

Face facts
In the March 19 issue of The Jewish Chronicle an article appears describing recent activities at local universities that have been labeled “anti-Israel.” While I don’t see any point in arguing whether or not this description is accurate, I think that the time has come for this community and the larger American Jewish community to face some unpleasant facts about Israel.
In no particular order I make the following comments and suggestions knowing full well that many of The Chronicle’s readers will be in sharp disagreement.
Israel must initiate or begin negotiations with all parties that are involved in this conflict — the Palestinians first. Saying you will talk with anyone at anytime is not the same as doing it. Excuses are no longer acceptable. Make the first move.
The West Bank must be returned to the Palestinians to help facilitate a two-state solution — the only possible solution. A single-state solution will produce either a non-democratic state — apartheid state — if Israel absorbs all the Palestinians and does not grant them full rights of citizenship.
Israel’s international reputation suffered terrible damage as a consequence of the recent war in Gaza, and while I supported Israel, everything now must be done to make certain that the war with Gaza will be the very last one Israel must be engaged.
The Pittsburgh Jewish community can no longer afford to parrot the party line, nor sit back and remain silent. The entire community must debate the tough subject of Israel and the Palestinians, and the road to peace. I call on our community leadership to open the debate, and let’s not label all criticism of Israel as anti-Israel; it isn’t. And this kind of effort, so often used to shut off debate, must be exposed and turned aside.

Richard Fox
South Side

Where Obama order is heading
Your editorial on March 12 states that President Obama signed an executive order to lift “the Bush administration’s ban on embryonic stem cell research.” Of course, this a blatant misstatement of fact on your part. There never was a ban on embryonic stem cell research. President Bush used his legal authority to prevent federal funding of research on stem cells from embryos, other than those stem cell lines already existing. Embryonic stem cell research continued and has been funded by non-federal government sources.
The proper place for decisions on government funding is not with scientists, as Obama would have it, anymore than bankers should make the laws that regulate banks or generals decide when the country goes to war. Obama did state that “We will ensure that our government never opens the door to the use of cloning for human reproduction,” but did that mean he will fund cloning in order to harvest stem cells? In other words, he would not permit cloning to allow an embryo to live, but would he permit cloning to take the life of that embryo? Investigate the procedure known as “somatic cell nuclear transfer” and the Missouri stem cell ballot initiative in 2006 to see where Obama’s executive order is heading.

Sholom Cohen
Squirrel Hill

(Editor’s note: Somatic cell nuclear transfer is defined by the National Center for Biotechnology Information as cloning by nuclear transfer from adult somatic cells; President Obama has expressed his opposition to cloning. The Missouri stem cell initiative of 2006 asked voters whether the state’s constitution should be amended “to ensure that Missouri patients have access to stem cell therapies and cures, that Missouri researchers can conduct stem cell research in the state, and that all such research is conducted safely and ethically, any stem cell research permitted under federal law may be conducted in Missouri, and any stem cell therapies and cures permitted under federal law may be provided to patients in Missouri, subject to the requirements of federal law and only the following additional limitations and requirements. The initiative also said, “No person may clone or attempt to clone a human being.” The March 12 Chronicle editorial did incorrectly omit the word “funding.”)

Air Force action lauded
(Editor’s note: This letter was written following news reports that Air Force Col. Kimberly Toney, Commander of the 501st Combat Support Wing in Europe, encouraged thousands of Air Force personnel to view a video on a Catholic Web site that contained proselytizing content.)

We commend the Third Air Force Commander, Lt. Gen. Phillip Breedlove, for opening an investigation into Col. Kimberly Toney dissemination of a video housed on a Web site with both religious content and offensive equations of President Obama to Adolf Hitler and “the Antichrist.”
By encouraging personnel to view the video, Col. Toney’s action appears to be an endorsement of a particular faith and a potential violation of the right of individual service members to abide by their own faith traditions. The military’s policy of religious neutrality exists to respect the diversity of religious beliefs and protect the religious liberty of both those who serve and those who are protected by our great armed forces.
As Jews and as Americans, we understand the importance of the separation of church and state that protects the liberty of Americans of all faith and of no faith alike. The ability of our armed forces to provide for the security of this country should not be contingent upon the real or perceived need to pass a religious test.
While we appreciate Col. Toney’s subsequent e-mail of apology for her action, we welcome the Air Force’s attention to this troubling incident. We look forward to a full and thorough investigation that will yield greater awareness and protection of the military’s policy of religious neutrality.

Rabbi David Saperstein
Washington, D.C.

(The author is director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.)

Madoff mess

It is difficult to imagine that the Jewish community and the community-at-large will ever recover from or be able to live down the horror that has been inflicted on them by con man and grand thief Bernard Madoff, whom with disgust we acknowledge as a member of our faith.
A prominent financial analyst recently noted that Madoff is responsible for the deaths of more Jews than the Holocaust. While this assertion is somewhat of a stretch and an exaggeration, most in our community can surely understand the sentiment.
I have been reading letters to the court from some of the victims of the fraud, and they are uniformly heartbreaking. One of the saddest is from a woman who noted that her children cashed in an insurance policy to provide her a means of meeting basic needs; it goes on to state, “Mr. Madoff took my hopes, dreams and self-esteem. I am at my wits’ end. I am not sophisticated or knowledgeable about investing. I worked all my life, lived frugally. I am 75 years old and physically cannot find work.” What is such a person to do, and how is someone in these circumstances to feel when they note that there is unlimited public money for corporate thieves/bailout recipients, but nothing but tax deductions for Madoff victims, this despite the fact the Securities and Exchange Commission, the arm of the government which is appointed to oversee and audit financial concerns, was impotent?
If there were rough justice in this case, an eye-for-an-eye method of punishment, every member of the Madoff family who profited from and was aware of the fraud would be stripped of every worldly possession and nicety, every cent, and relegated to live on the streets where they would have to scrounge for food scraps.

Oren Spiegler
Upper St. Clair