Letters | July 1, 2020


Annexation blues

Regarding “What does annexation mean for American Jews?” (June 25): Without even waiting for the final specifics of the plan [to annex parts of the West Bank], you’ve got professors at several American universities and others decrying the plan, saying how it threatens Israeli democracy and relations with American Jews. Thanks for including a paragraph or two from Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer and what you call the right wing ZOA.

Let us please note that the situation has been like this since 1967, more than 53 long years. As a proud Jewish American progressive, I think that defensive annexation of swaths of the Jordan River valley and large Israeli settlements on the West Bank makes complete sense and would be the logical outcome of any settlement, if one could be reached with the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

Chevy Chase

American Jews have it all wrong

This article is a very painful read. It shows how far American Jewry has made both domestic American politics and the needs of Israel’s enemies their priority. Israel is still in a struggle for its survival against Iran and its Palestinian proxies. Twenty-seven years of Palestinian “no’s“ since Oslo have made clear Palestinian intentions to continue to reject a two-state solution.


The blame of Israel that exists in supposedly progressive quarters defies reason. Why keep waiting for the Palestinians to turn into Canadians? When they renounce the goal of destroying Israel, we can talk. Until then, Israel must protect itself and American Jewry support its survival unequivocally.


Let the facts triumph

What does annexation mean for American Jews?” ignores history and reality necessary to resolve the festering Israel/Palestinian conflict. The use of “annexation” is a perversion of a tactic used historically when one nation seizes land belonging to another nation. Any Israeli action to regain sovereignty over its own territory is not annexation.

The article fails to provide any historical background for a problem that has existed for 72 years and ignores a 3,000 year Jewish antiquity. It makes no mention of the true names of the territory: Samaria and Judea, where Jesus Christ was born 2,000 years ago, nor that the name “Jew” is derived from the word Judea. The article also fails to discuss the realities of an entity that has threatened to eliminate the Jewish state of Israel,
encourages anti-Jewish attacks in their schools, mosques and news outlets, and promises to make the area Judenrein.

This conflict will never be ended until all its attributes are identified and resolved. This article fails to contribute to this criterion.


A disgusting word

Not for the first time, I am disgusted by the Washington Jewish Week’s imbalanced coverage of Israel. The June 25 issue loudly headlines the front page with “Annexation,” a term that Israel disagrees with, based on the loaded historical meaning of the term, which means to take control of another country’s sovereign territory (e.g. Russia in Ukraine). A form of the term is repeated with frequency in almost every paragraph
of the article without any acknowledgment of the fact that the land is not under the sovereignty of any other nation and that Israel legally has strong claims under San Remo Convention to disputed territories in Judea and Samaria.

The author dismissively refers to the Zionist Organization of America’s use of the term “sovereignty” rather than annexation, without any explanation as to why ZOA doesn’t use the term. The author also fails to properly acknowledge that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has clearly stated that the extension of sovereignty would not include Israel taking control of Palestinian communities and the fact that the plan is consistent with the U.S. peace initiative for a two-state solution. Instead, the article suggests that a Palestinian state is impossible without providing evidence and ignoring views to the contrary. The article also includes a map that provides no useful information to the reader but shows Judea and Samaria cut up in pieces. Finally, the WJW includes quotes from a hateful fringe group, IfNotNow, and simply labels them an anti-occupation group.


You can’t just add women and stir

Regarding Stephen Arkan’s June 18 letter, in which he asks how Rabbi Alana Suskin, an ordained Conservative rabbi, justifies becoming an ordained Orthodox rabbi, “moving from a tradition featuring egalitarian participation in formal public worship to one which favors a separate but equal, sit-in-the-back-of-the-bus approach to female attendance.”:
I take Arkin’s question as an honest one, if provocatively phrased: He wants to know what I find compelling about Orthodoxy. On one foot, I would say that for me, it is not the role of tefilah (prayer), but that of learning and action which are the most compelling parts of Judaism.

Synagogue is important and speaking to God is important but, to paraphrase the famous words of Rabbi Louis Finkelstein, it is when I study that God speaks to me. And in that arena, there is no inequality. To the contrary, it has been and continues to be an extraordinary blessing to study with teachers of integrity and wisdom and with my brilliant sister colleagues. The other realm where I find my center is as an activist, and Judaism offers no inequality in my living out God’s demand of the Jewish people to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with my God.

Finally, I challenge the idea that the non-Orthodox streams of Judaism have completely achieved equality either. It’s not enough to add women and stir. It is true that I can lead services equally, but even as a liberal rabbi, I’m less likely to be hired as a senior rabbi, less likely to be hired for a job with benefits; in short, less likely to be hired at all and, if I am hired, I’m unlikely to make as much as a man. This isn’t news, of course, but it’s important to realize that, in reality, there’s a great deal of work to be done in all movements.


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