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September 12, 2008

Don’t Blame O’Reilly

An August 22 editorial mentions that books by conservative talk show hosts Bill O’Reilly, Michael Savage and Sean Hannity were found in the home of alleged killer Jim Adkisson (“Terrorism and the Lone Gunman”). The Forward does not mention what other books or other types of literature were found in Adkisson’s home — which, considering the editorial’s insinuations, should be mentioned.

If he owned a Bible, would the Forward blame his actions on the Gospel? 

The editorial accuses the book writers of “urging action” in the context of asking whether they incited the violent attack. Yet the Forward makes no mention of what type of action is allegedly being urged. Considering the magnitude of what the Forward is suggesting, an example is most certainly warranted.

Suppose that a reader of the Forward took action against O’Reilly, Savage or Hannity in order to stop them from inciting attacks on liberals. And supposed a police check found a copy of the Forward in the reader’s home.

Would the editorialist feel that the Forward should in any way be implicated in the reader’s actions? 

Andy Klages
College Park, Md.

Take Lebanon To Task

Hezbollah is of course a political organization in Lebanon that participates in Lebanese politics, but it also has its own army and its own foreign policy (“All of Lebanon Is Not Hezbollah,” August 29). This is a very unusual situation, and Lebanon is an abnormal state.

Two years ago, Hezbollah opened fire on northern Israel, and under the cover of this attack crossed the border and killed and kidnapped our soldiers. The Lebanese government and public felt that Israel had no right to strike back after such an act of war, claiming that it was Hezbollah, not Lebanon, that launched the attack.

In short, Lebanon does not take responsibility for actions of war that originate on its own territory, and yet opinion writer Firas Maksad feels justified in addressing complaints to Israel. He appears to believe that Israel is responsible for the strengthening of state institutions and the political stability of Lebanon.

What Maksad needs is a good lesson in self-criticism. Surely Lebanon has to behave as a modern state in control of its own territory — one state with one government running one foreign policy and one army. That, obviously, means hard work.

Apparently, it is easier to criticize Israel than it is to criticize one’s own failures. Perhaps it is actually a compliment to Israeli society: Maksad apparently believes that Israel is actually listening to criticism and that there is room to influence its decision-making process — which is not the case for his own society.

Yehudah Ben-Hayim
Via e-mail

Religion Is a Cure All?

Rabbi David Wolpe says of the real content of religion: “Eighty-five to 90% of religion is not about abstract ideas; it’s about the way people live their lives, and when people are in trouble, or rejoicing or need community, or are sick, or have died, suddenly religion steps in as that which supports and cares for them. There is no real understanding or acknowledgement of that in many of these polemics” (“Keeping the Faith, L.A. Rabbi Grabs a Pen,” September 5). This is the old argument that religion should be maintained because it’s useful.

But when one looks at the social and political influence of religion, there is a real question as to whether its net impact has been beneficial. Think of the centuries of antisemitism promoted or tolerated by the Church, the effects of religious teachings about birth control and the role of women on world population and poverty problems, and the fruits of today’s Islamic radicalism in Iraq, Gaza and around the world.

The extent to which religion may seem useful to some says nothing about the truth of its teachings. I want my physician to prescribe a drug for my medical condition because she has a rational basis for expecting it to work, not because she thinks it will make a great placebo, and it’s fair to expect similar integrity from those promoting religion as a balm for the human condition.

Joshua Barwick
Atlanta, Ga.

Give Carter His Due

The minimal role given to President Carter at the Democratic National Convention, out of fear of offending Jewish voters, does not auger well for Israel (“Jimmy Carter Conspicuously Absent From Podium,” September 5).

More than anything else, Israel needs peace. It also needs to end its discrimination against its Arab citizens, reducing their antagonism toward the Jewish majority, and to reestablish its good name in the international community. These can only be achieved if both the Israelis and the Palestinians acknowledge their responsibilities for the current terrible situation.

American participation is needed if there is ever to be a peaceful and progressive Middle East. But a cowed Democratic Party can be of no help to Israel.

Joel Levitt
Ann Arbor, Mich.


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