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June 19, 2009

Settlement Growth Is Legitimate, Natural

Your June 12 editorial “Unnatural Growth” contends that there’s “nothing natural, or acceptable, about ‘natural growth’” of Jewish communities in the West Bank, and that, in focusing on this issue, President Obama isn’t being unreasonable, whereas Prime Minister Netanyahu is.

Not so.

There are communities of between 10,000 and 35,000 people that Israel would retain in any feasible peace agreement. This was effectively recognized in 2004, when President George W. Bush, as part of understandings reached over Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, sent a letter to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. “In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949,” Bush wrote.

Moreover, both houses of Congress also recognized this reality: This language was specifically endorsed by the House (407 votes to 9) and the Senate (95 votes to 3). Hillary Rodham Clinton — who now as secretary of state is calling for a total freeze on Jewish construction in all these areas — was one of the 95 senators who voted to endorse this understanding.

Jewish growth in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem has a fundamental legitimacy and poses no obstacle to a true peace if Palestinians are ready for one. So the Obama administration’s insistence on a construction freeze would remain inappropriate even if genuine peace negotiations with a truly peaceful Palestinian partner were possible — which they aren’t. Moreover, all construction is taking place within existing communities and therefore does not involve expansion onto other disputed land.

Morton A. Klein
National President
Zionist Organization of America
New York, N.Y.


Israel Haters vs. Israeli Music Lovers

To me what is controversial is the blacklisting, embargoing, boycotting and other attempts by Israel haters to turn Israel into a pariah — not Leonard Cohen performing to music lovers in Israel (“Now Back in Public, Songwriting Legend Leonard Cohen Plays to a New Controversy,” May 29).

Cohen would acquit himself as a proud Jew and an honorable human being by standing tall against the intimidation.

Judy Odette
New York, N.Y.


Don’t Shortchange Leo Frank Scholar

The claim in your May 22 article “The People Revisit Leo Frank” that journalist Steve Oney “had been the first to hold a magnifying glass to the particulars of the case” with his 2003 book does a serious injustice to Leonard Dinnerstein, the leading historian of American antisemitism. Dinnerstein’s scholarly book “The Leo Frank Case” appeared in 1966, and it remains indispensable for anyone interested in this terrible episode.

Stephen Whitfield
Max Richter Chair in American Civilization
Brandeis University
Waltham, Mass.


Try Laboring Before Opposing Labor Bill

I recently read your May 15 article “Which Side Are We On? Jews Lead Fight For and Against Key Labor Bill.”

All I can say is that if retired Home Depot CEO Bernard Marcus and the rest of his cronies would come and work at Walmart here in St. Joseph, Mo., for one eight-hour shift, they would quickly become proponents of the Employee Free Choice Act.

In my experience in the job market, employers have not become enlightened regarding their employees’ needs and welfare. On the contrary, they have come armed with high-powered attorneys and PR personnel, whose main goal is to invent new ways to circumvent the labor laws in order to mistreat and degrade their employees.

Our labor standards have not improved in this great nation. Instead, we have descended into corporate slavery. Isn’t that what our people were escaping during the Exodus? What would Moses do?

Jason E. Phillips
St. Joseph, Mo.

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