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March 14, 2003

Lack of Options Justifies PETA Holocaust Exhibit

It is because my grandmother was killed at Auschwitz that I support the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals “Holocaust on Your Plate” exhibit (“Animal Rights Group Invokes Holocaust,” February 28).

Being the grandchild of a victim gives me no privileged status. It does make me witness, though, to the consequences of families methodically torn apart for the most callous of reasons. Within the exhibit are images of calves and piglets forcibly removed from family units and confined in the most cruel and unnatural environments for their brief lives, only to become veal or baby-back ribs.

Factory-farmed animals are ripped from their families at birth, raised in unimaginably horrible conditions and systematically killed before they are fully mature. There is nothing natural about their lives or deaths. Nor was there anything natural or inevitable about my grandmother’s death at Auschwitz.

Ideally the extremity of animal suffering should be compelling in and of itself. We should not have to borrow or appropriate other metaphors. Unfortunately though, animals’ interests can only be represented by humans — usually to the animals’ detriment. Unlike other oppressed groups whose voice may be silenced, animals are not even conceptualized as having a voice. We have no recourse but to compare the suffering of animals with similar and more familiar extremes of human suffering in the hope that it will inspire people to question the brutality to animals our society condones today.

Lisa Cameron

Toronto, Canada

As the child of a Holocaust survivor, it seems to me that Matt Prescott, youth outreach coordinator at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, has more in common with Nazis than do those in the meat industry whom he criticizes. The Nazis, like Prescott, did not believe that there was a qualitative difference between Jews and pigs.

For my part, I don’t think of myself as an animal, instead choosing to be identified with humanity.

Blimie Twerski

Brooklyn, N.Y

Partisan Patriotism

I find the outrage of Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York and National Jewish Democratic Council director Ira Forman over revelations of accused terrorist organizer Sami Al-Arian’s June 2001 White House meeting amusing and extremely hypocritical. (“White House Hosted Al-Arian Despite Investigation,” February 28).

The fact that a man already under investigation such as Al-Arian was allowed access to administration officials because somebody wanted to be politically correct and not cause an incident certainly is disturbing and exposes the need for greater stringency in vetting who gets to see the president and other top officials. But coming from Nadler and Forman, such warnings are almost comical. For all of their huffing and puffing now, I don’t recall either of them raising the alarm during the Clinton administration. Al-Arian had been under federal investigation at least since the mid-1990s, but that did not prevent him from visiting the Clinton White House in an official capacity on June 23, 2000, as has been widely reported.

For all of his pontificating now about the need to keep our guard up against terrorist fellow travelers, did Nadler ever raise the issue with his House Progressive Caucus comrade, Democratic Rep. David Bonior of Michigan, long known to have close ties to the most vociferously radical and anti-Israel elements in the large and vocal Detroit-area Arab community and who had received large campaign donations from Al-Arian? Did he ever voice his concern that Al-Arian’s eldest son, Abdullah, worked as an intern in Bonior’s office?

Clearly, it behooves our government to thoroughly investigate the backgrounds of those who are invited to high-level official meetings. But after their eight years of loyal support for an administration that not only was at least as chummy with radical Muslim elements as the Republicans supposedly are — and which repeatedly lionized the leading Arab terrorist of them all, Yasser Arafat, something that President Bush, to his credit, has assiduously avoided — it also behooves partisan Democrats like Nadler and Forman to step aside and let somebody else play Paul Revere on this issue.

Paul Deckelman

Far Rockaway, N.Y.

Enough ‘Loyalty’ Talk

All the talk concerning Israel’s interests influencing American foreign policy shows the degree to which Jews are still considered outsiders (“Israel’s Role: The ‘Elephant’ They’re Talking About,” February 28).

Are we supposed to seriously contemplate that the United States is pursuing its Middle East policy to its own detriment, solely for the benefit of Israel? When England benefits from foreign policy actions taken by the United States are Anglo-Americans in the administration asked whether they are looking out for America’s interests or Britain’s?

Jewish “double loyalty” is not a legitimate focus for the media. It presumes that the loyalty of American Jews to the United States is a legitimate area of inquiry. And that is objectionable.

Edwin Rowe

White Plains, N.Y.

Circumcision’s Benefits

Opinion columnist David Klinghoffer states that there is no medical benefit from circumcision (“America Severs Its Abrahamic Ties, One ‘Small, Good Thing’ at a Time,” February 28).

This claim stands in contrast to medical evidence that circumcised males are almost never afflicted with cancer of the penis and that female partners of circumcised males almost never get cancer of the cervix. Both these malignancies are associated with the Human papilloma virus. Parents circumcising their infant boys have a good medical reason for doing so in addition to any religious reason they may have.

Dr. Arthur Mensch

Gaithersburg, Md.

Despite David Klinghoffer’s placing of circumcision in the American tradition, it is safe to assume the Founding Fathers were not circumcised. Secular circumcision was introduced in the late 19th century to “cure” boys of masturbation and later shifted to babyhood to prevent it — without success, of course.

Bogus medical claims have been successively added and replaced over the decades by circumcised gentile doctors to maintain it and protect their, and the fathers’, belief that they were not diminished by it. The spiritual content of the vast majority of American circumcisions is zero.

Hugh Young

Pukerua Bay, New Zealand

Kucinich Report Biased

The hatchet job done on Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich in a February 28 article does your venerable newspaper no credit (“Maverick Democrat Kucinich Says Iraq War Is ‘About Oil’”).

Far from jeopardizing the Democrats’ election hopes, Kucinich’s candidacy could rescue the party from years of fecklessness by reinvigorating millions of those in its core constituency who have been marginalized by pusillanimous “leaders” who would not lead. Isn’t it past time for a real alternative to government of the wealthy, by the wealthy, for the wealthy?

From the labeling of genetically engineered foods to the creation of a Cabinet-level Peace Department to the promotion of an evenhanded solution in the Middle East, Kucinich raises issues that deserve broader consideration. His positions should resonate with Jews who remain connected to our deep traditions of social justice. He is a thoughtful man, obviously able to change his mind when he deems necessary while at the same time standing up for real principles. Besides, he’s right about “shmurah” matzo. It’s the best.

Paul Lawn

Waterville, Maine

Promote Marshall Plan

In his attack on his fellow congressman Richard Gephardt’s advocacy of a “Marshall Plan” for the Middle East (“Why Middle East ‘Marshall Plan’ Ignore Real Roots of Terrorism,” February 28), Republican Rep. Eric Cantor misjudges the potential of using the process as a prototype for addressing all our concerns in the region — including how to foster a proper outcome in Iraq and providing a new dynamic for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A well-designed regional-development strategy — initiated by the United States in concert with other world power and various international agencies — would insist on compliance with essential standards to qualify for aid. These standards would include promotion of democracy, protection of human rights, opposition to terrorism and other priority objectives.

I witnessed firsthand the benefits of such a strategy while serving with the Marshall Plan in Washington and London. Now I am witnessing an arrogant Bush administration pushing forward a domino theory of democratizing the Middle East — a theory unlikely to bring about the changes the region so desperately needs.

David Steinberg

Alexandria, Va.


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