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June 18, 2004

U.S. Support for Israel Not Contingent on Gaza

A June 4 news article quotes supporters of Prime Minister Sharon’s withdrawal plan as claiming that Israel’s failure to leave Gaza would set off a major clash between Israel and the United States (“U.S. Groups Warn Israel on Failure to Pull Out”).

I and other representatives of the Zionist Organization of America speak regularly with senior members of Congress and their staff. We have not met a single congressman or aide who would vote to penalize Israel if it chose to refrain from withdrawing from Gaza. In fact, many congressmen are perplexed that Israel is willing to continue making concessions despite the ongoing Palestinian terrorism and incitement.

Moreover, on June 2 the Jerusalem Post quoted senior Israeli officials as saying that claims of a possible rupture with the United States were just a “spin” used by supporters of withdrawal from Gaza. One official said bluntly that “it makes no sense that Congress would consent to imposing sanctions on Israel for not implementing a plan Jerusalem initiated.”

Throughout Israel’s history, the United States always has supported Israel, for reasons that transcend specific issues of borders, settlements or refugees. Over the years, the two countries have disagreed occasionally, as would be expected between allies. Despite any differences, every American president has pledged his strong and unequivocal support for Israel. That never has changed.

Even when a particular president has been less sympathetic to Israel, Congress has remained overwhelmingly supportive of Israel. And no major policy decision on American-Israeli relations or American aid to Israel could be made without involving Congress.

Morton Klein

National President

Zionist Organization of America

New York, N.Y.

Be Consistent About Political Leanings

In a June 4 front-page article, the Forward refers to the Washington Times as “conservative” and “right leaning” while describing the Guardian newspaper merely as “London based” (“Intel Agencies Fear Iran Used Chalabi to Lure U.S. Into Iraq”).

The Guardian, though, is as much a paper of the left as the Times is one of the right. As the self-described “national Jewish weekly,” the Forward might try a bit harder to confine its opinionating to the editorial page.

Michael Jay Friedman

Fairfax, Va.

Historians Produce New Research on Holocaust

A May 21 article about the recent conference sponsored by the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies inaccurately suggests that the institute’s work does not involve “brand-new research” in the field of America’s response to the Holocaust (“Conference Focuses on U.S. Inaction During Holocaust”).

In fact, many of the 45 historians on the Wyman Institute’s academic council have authored cutting-edge research in this area. Indeed, they are virtually the only scholars producing new material in this field. To list just a few:

Laurel Leff has authored “Buried by the Times,” a book about the New York Times’s coverage of the Holocaust, to be published shortly by Cambridge University Press. Joseph Bendersky wrote an important study of antisemitism in the U.S. Army, including material on military attitudes toward proposals to rescue Jewish refugees, which was published by Basic Books in 2000. Bat-Ami Zucker is the author of the 2001 book, “In Search of Refuge: Jews and U.S. Consuls in Nazi Germany, 1933-1941.” Joseph Ansell has authored the first biography of Jewish artist and rescue activist Arthur Szyk, to be published shortly by the Littman Library of Jewish Civilization.

A recently published book by Myron Glazer and Penina Glazer recounts the heretofore unknown efforts by Smith College president William Allen Neilson to rescue German Jewish refugees in the 1930s. Efraim Zuroff authored “The Response of Orthodox Jewry in the United States to the Holocaust,” published in 2000, and Alex Grobman’s biography of American Orthodox rescue activist Nathan Baruch will be published this year. Gil Troy, a former

Forward opinion columnist, has authored a major new essay on the political activism of Ben Hecht, the first new research on Hecht in many years, that will be published shortly in the scholarly journal American Jewish History. Moreover, the institute’s director, Rafael Medoff, co-authored with David S. Wyman in 2002 the first book-length scholarly work on the Bergson group of rescue activists, “A Race Against Death: Peter Bergson, America and the Holocaust.”

The article neglected to mention that Medoff is one of the top scholars in his field. He is associate editor of American Jewish History, the premier scholarly journal in that field, as well as the author of seven books, including, most recently, a textbook on American Jewry that was named an Outstanding Academic Title of 2003 by the American Library Association’s Choice


Benyamin Korn

Associate Director

David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies

Melrose Park, Pa.

Zinni Claimed Ignorance Of Neocons’ Background

The Forward’s otherwise thorough coverage of Anthony Zinni’s effort to attribute the American decision to make war in Iraq to a “group of neoconservative thinkers seeking to make the world safer for Israel” did not reveal the most problematic and revealing elements of the retired general’s misdirected tirade (“The Ground Shifts,” May 28).

In Zinni’s CBS interview, only five people were named as being in the neoconservative group that drove the American government toward war. Each of those people is a well-known Jew.

Zinni stated: “I certainly don’t know what their ethnic religious backgrounds are, and I’m not interested.” How quaint it is that a person who spent more than 40 years in the military and diplomatic service can claim that he did not know that the only five people he named as influencing the policy chosen by the president and his advisors were all Jewish.

Kenneth Bialkin

New York, N.Y.

Berg and Pearl Were Not Heroes by Choice

It is true, as a June 11 article on Nicholas Berg and Daniel Pearl reports, that “we have learned to transmute tragedy into life-affirming substance” (“Berg and Pearl Cast as Heros of Volunteerism”). However, these gentlemen are heroes not of their own volition. They are martyrs by circumstance, as are all victims of terrorism, videotaped or not.

Bruce Birnberg

East Brunswick, N.J.

Editorial Offered Fair Account of Reagan

In a week filled with ceremonies, tributes and historiographic articles aplenty, the editorial marking the passing of President Ronald Reagan was the most honest and fair account I have seen of a complex leader who left behind a “paradoxical legacy” (“Reagan,” June 11). I commend the Forward on a superb editorial, written with integrity and grace, and thank you for affording your readership such an important perspective on the week’s events.

Gali Cooks

Washington, D.C.

Charedi Thinkers View Rabbi As an Outsider

There is a left wing and a right wing fighting bitterly over the legacy of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, but both those camps are within the Modern Orthodox world (“Does Modern Orthodoxy Have a Future?” June 11).

Book reviewer Saul Austerlitz makes the ludicrous claim that Soloveitchik’s “legacy has been bitterly fought over by modern and charedi thinkers.” But Soloveitchik is known as “The Rav” only in Modern Orthodox circles, not in charedi ones. Charedi thinkers know he was the spiritual leader of Modern Orthodoxy, and that Yeshiva University was his longtime employer, but they consider both him and it as utterly outside the charedi camp. It is therefore quite a stretch to say that Soloveitchik faces “co-option by the ultra-Orthodox.”

David Kelsey

New York, N.Y.

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