March 25, 2005

N.Y. Politician Wrong To Demonstrate in Gaza

The visit by New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind and some 40 other Americans to offer support and solidarity to Gaza’s Jews reminds me, ironically, of the support and solidarity of the International Solidarity Movement for Gazan Palestinians (“U.S. Foes of Pullout Mobilize To Sink Plan,” March 11). Both involve non-Israelis who passionately feel that a particular population is being discriminated against and both claim they are not seeking to confront the Israeli authorities.

As noncitizens, both groups are trying to make themselves heard in a country whose policies they oppose. However, unlike most of the members of the International Solidarity Movement, members of this group of foreign Jews feels that they are actually serving Israel’s interests by vocally and actively demonstrating against government decisions in front of the world’s media.

Such opposition is totally legitimate for a country’s citizens, who bear responsibilities as well as privileges. That cannot be said of the Hikind delegation, who will leave after spending a week living with Gush Katif residents in a fantasy camp experience that may be emotionally satisfying and cathartic, but that comes with absolutely no price other than the cost of the ticket from their homeland of the United States.

Democracy has many facets, but one which these well-meaning but inappropriately guided individuals would do well to consider is that just as Israeli citizens have little right to demonstrate against an assemblyman’s policies in Flatbush or Boro Park, they should be more modest in demonstrating against a prime minister they cannot vote against. Unlike Israelis, they have chosen to make their real homes in the United States and not in Gush Katif.

Irwin Mansdorf

Ra’anana, Israel

That Government Is Best Which Moralizes Least

Arts and culture writer Joshua Halberstam’s insightful and profound March 18 article accurately portrays the silence of liberals in the face of conservatives capturing the high ground on “moral values” (“Will the Left Finally Talk About What Matters?”).

Hardliner conservatives have made moral values an essential part of the purpose of government. To their credit, they seem sincere in imposing such values on the “less moral” elements among our people.

Liberals shudder and move back from this struggle for the high ground because they believe that government has no place or purpose there. Morality in government is dangerous.

Firstly, the question of what is moral is more a matter of biased upbringing than clear-cut reality. Your morality may not be mine. For example, conservatives seem to feel that capital punishment is moral but stem-cell destruction is not. Secondly, when any power becomes convinced with an absolute certainty of the justice of its cause, it may not flinch in trying to impose its culture and values on those who do not agree. Out of such certainty crusades and holy wars are born.

As was said by our early leaders, that government is best which governs least. Especially for Jews, the greatest security comes with the government’s refusal to impose moral values. As an early rabbi said, “I have not found anything that is better for physical well-being than silence.”

Shimon Raskin

Flushing, N.Y.

DeLay’s Opposition to P.A. Funding Senseless

I am about as pro-Israel as you can get, but I don’t see the sense in House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s actions regarding funding to the Palestinian Authority (“House Sets Limits on Palestinian Aid as DeLay Defies Calls of Bush, Rice,” March 18). In a time of relative quiet, with a Palestinian leader who is starting to make the right moves, why not give him the tools he needs to continue down the long road to peace? I agree with safeguards provisions to make sure that if Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas goes down the road of terrorism the funds can be taken back, but at the present time I don’t see such measures needed.

Steven Clayton

Ocean, N.J.

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March 25, 2005

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