Not Convinced By Plaut

I always enjoy Steven Plaut’s articles in The Jewish Press and until last week (“Israel’s Plague of Conspiracism,” front-page essay) always found myself in complete agreement with him. I do not know Mr. Chamish and almost always dismiss his claims; in addition, I am not one who sees a conspiracy around every corner, and no, I do not believe there was a conspiracy behind the murder of JFK, Oliver Stone notwithstanding.
When it comes to the murder of Yitzhak Rabin, however, I am part of a very large group of people who absolutely do believe that there is more than meets the eye. And yes, the Rabin family also felt there were many unanswered questions.
Mr. Plaut lists many points raised by those skeptical of the “official” version of events and, one by one, either dismisses them as false or finds an excuse for them. Taken together, though, these points make a compelling case.
The fact is that the driver of the car was not Rabin’s regular driver, even if he was someone who drove for the prime minister on occasion. But whoever the driver was, a three-minute trip to the hospital should not have taken a full 15 minutes (with the car getting lost into the bargain). The usual route was crowded? The driver should have just leaned on the horn and drove – the life of the prime minister of Israel was at stake. Pity we can’t ask the driver about any of this, since he met an untimely death in a hit and run accident shortly thereafter.
Why wasn’t Leah Rabin told right away and taken to the hospital immediately? Why didn’t the secret service shoot Yigal Amir after he fired the first shot? Why didn’t they shoot him after he fired the second shot? Why was the home video taken by a private person from his window suppressed for 10 years?
I was in Israel at the time of the murder and was watching the peace rally on television. I saw whatever was being filmed. I saw and heard an unidentified person yell “blanks!” I saw that clip repeated hundreds of times, but never again with that person yelling those words. Even if “people commonly mistake real gunfire for blanks,” why excise that tiny part from all future showings of the clip?
The doctors kept getting it wrong? First the hospital and doctors said one thing, but the final report got it right? My, how convenient. The prime minister is shot twice at point blank range and he walks to the car. Pretty good. His bodyguards don’t try to shoot the assassin. Pretty good. Avishai Raviv, the mole who instigated the whole affair and was responsible for the infamous poster of Rabin in a Nazi uniform, gets a slap on the wrist – or should I say a pat on the back, and the girlfriend who “should have known” goes to prison. But of course there’s nothing sinister at work here – only the people Raviv could have implicated.
Mr. Plaut writes that the Shamgar commission examined everything and found nothing. Proving what, exactly? A whole generation of Israelis grew up believing that Chaim Arlozoroff was murdered by a right-wing Jew. Only decades later, during the Begin years, did the truth finally come out, much to the dismay of Israeli left-wingers. Such is the power of the Israeli Left.
As for Yigal Amir, I believe he does think he murdered Rabin. I hope we are all alive to hear the truth when it finally comes out, because while sometimes the wheels of justice grind slowly, “there is an eye that sees and an ear that hears, and all of our deeds are written in the book.”

Amy Wall

New York, NY



Mediated Discourse
I heartily concur with Cheryl Kupfer’s assertion (“One-Way Ticket To Legal Hell,” op-ed, Jan. 13) that couples contemplating divorce strongly consider civil discourse rather than place their trust in the courts and social service agencies. In truth, this applies to anyone prepared to duke it out in any form of litigation. When the dust has settled the combatants are left bloodied and bruised with no one benefiting save the very lawyers who developed the mendacious and often unscrupulous system.
Well intentioned and logical as it is, it seems, however, that there is a flaw in Ms. Kupfer’s proposal. Warring parties are generally governed by their passions and are not likely to engage in conciliatory discussions. Perhaps a better suggestion is to allow for a third party to listen to each side and then advise accordingly. While there are intransigents who cannot be reasoned with, most people given the opportunity to air their concerns do so and accept the opinions of a trustworthy mediator.
I would imagine that such mediation already exists in some form, but it needs to be brought to the public’s attention as a first response – and where better than The Jewish Press, which has always been at the forefront of advocating for those in need?

Dr. Yaakov Stern

Brooklyn, NY



For The Record
In his January 6 column (“Israel’s Emerging Nuclear Strategy in the Islamic Middle East”), Professor Louis Rene Beres was quite mistaken when he wrote that “parts of a high-level report (November 2005) issued by the highly respected Washington Institute For Near East Policy [support] Israel’s unilateral nuclear disarmament.” In fact, The Washington Institute has issued no such report.
Mr. Beres may be referring to a report published by the U.S. Army War College, of which I was co-editor. In that report, one author (my co-editor, Henry Sokolski) suggests Israel consider mothballing but not dismantling the Dimona reactor which makes nuclear bomb material and, if key other Middle East countries dismantle their nuclear facilities, agree to let the United States control Israel’s nuclear material.
I do not support Mr. Sokolski’s suggestion, which has too many loopholes and is too open to misinterpretation. That said, Mr. Sokolski’s proposal is hardly a call for Israel’s unilateral nuclear disarmament; it is at most a proposal for a unilateral freeze on production of additional bomb material.

Patrick Clawson

Deputy Director for Research

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy

Washington, DC



Can Rabbis Be Wrong? Readers Respond



‘Jewish Popes’
Kudos to Rabbi Mordechai Weiss (“Can Our Rabbis Be Wrong?” op-ed, Jan. 13) for having the courage to write what so many frum Jews are petrified to even whisper about. When did the notion ever seep into our consciousness that rabbis are somehow infallible or above criticism?
As a child I always heard Orthodox Jews speak with condescension of Catholics who believed a human being like the pope could be infallible, beyond question, all seeing and all knowing, etc. And now, as a senior citizen some sixty years later, I see in the Orthodox community exactly the same phenomenon, although in our case this blasphemous elevation of mere mortals extends beyond one man to many, many rabbis.
It seems that every learned or respected rabbi is now, lehavdil, a Jewish pope – not to be questioned, criticized or second-guessed, no matter the issue.

Tibor Marger



King David Didn’t Sin
Rabbi Weiss rehashes an old discredited commentary about King David. Specifically, Rabbi Weiss incorrectly writes that King David and Bat Sheva committed a sin. The Talmud, however, points out that King David did not commit any sin. Although Rabbi Weiss does mention the appropriate Talmudic disclaimer, he erroneously says that it “goes against the simple meaning of the text.”
Unfortunately, he omits crucial information that would clarify the subject. In particular, it must be noted that at that time in Jewish history, all soldiers were required by law to divorce their wives. (See Shabbos 56a; Tosefos re Kesubos 9b) Such legislation was enacted as a benefit for the women in case their husbands were killed in battle. Thus, King David and Bat Sheva did not commit adultery.
The biblical text also verifies that no such sin was committed, as it reports: “….she was purified from her uncleanliness” (11 Samuel 11:4). Had their intimacy been an adulterous act, it would not have been described in terms of purification. Further, had she been a married woman, she would have been put to death for adultery. Moreover, King David would have been put to death for adultery. As indicated in the biblical text, King David inquired diligently about Bat Sheva’s status. That investigation was conducted to make sure that Uriah, Bat Sheva’s husband, had followed the custom of granting his wife a divorce.
Had King David merely wished to satisfy his lust, he would not have taken the trouble to ask people about such matters. It is, therefore, ridiculous to suggest that he planned to sleep with a married woman (II Samuel 11:3).
It is true that Nathan the prophet rebuked King David. Nathan’s aim was to teach that such behavior was unseemly for a man of King David’s caliber. As a righteous king and a prophet himself, King David was logically held to a higher standard. Nathan knew that King David would humbly accept such a reprimand, thereby setting an example of how to repent. The biblical lesson is that God accepts man’s true repentance.

Chaim Silver

(Via E-Mail)


‘Seriously Flawed Approach’
Rabbi Weiss presented a seriously flawed and misleading approach to the episode of King David and Bat Sheva. He seems to find a contradiction in the fact that the prophet Nathan severely criticized the king for his actions, yet the well known Talmudic dictum makes clear that “anyone who says David sinned is nothing but mistaken.”
The key to reconciling this inconsistency is to understand that people of high caliber are judged on a much higher level than common folk, and their “misdeeds” are greatly magnified in scripture to the extent that a superficial reading will give the impression that a “hideous crime” had been committed.
An example of this is the battle for the city of Ai, during which the nation suffered a major defeat, whereupon God told Yehoshua (Joshua 7:10), “Get up, for the nation has sinned…they have violated my covenant, they have stolen, they have lied…” which implies that a national transgression had taken place when in reality one man alone had sinned. The entire nation was held responsible for the actions of one man, because their high spiritual nature should have prevented the iniquity from taking place.
When the sages wrote that whoever says David sinned is in error, they meant to say that whoever thinks he understands exactly what the nature of the sin was is making a grievous mistake. As the king himself proclaims (Psalm 51:6), “To you alone I have sinned,” meaning that God alone knows exactly what the sin was. An excellent exposition on this matter can be found in the appendix to the ArtScroll edition of Samuel II.

Zev Lander

Brooklyn, NY
Rabbi Weiss Responds: I am familiar with the verses cited by Messrs Silver and Lander, but I feel they need to ask themselves some serious questions about the incident.
If, as they state, King David acted within the law, why did he call back Uriah from the battlefield at all? Why did he instruct him to have relations with his wife? Why did he command General Yoav to abandon Uriah and allow him to be killed in battle? Why was the child born to David as a result of this union killed by Almighty God? While the Talmud does say that “anyone who says that King David sinned was mistaken,” it also states that King David was punished for his acts by the rape of Tamar by his son Amnon and the rebellion of his son Avshalom, who defiled the concubines of his father on the same roof where David first beheld the beauty of Bat Sheva.
It seems to me the interpretations offered by Messrs Silver and Lander are rather simplistic. David himself in Tehillim recalls his sin and is constantly asking for absolution.

Though I cited the incident of David and Bat Sheva in my article, the main thrust of the piece was the suggestion that our rabbis retain their greatness even when they’re wrong with regard to science or medicine. This theory was put forth by Avraham the son of the Rambam and seems both plausible and compelling.