Selective And Deceptive

I thought your readers would be interested in the following letter that I sent to The New York Times.

Ed Koch
New York, NY

To the Editor:

In today’s [Sept. 21] article reporting the decapitation by terrorists in Iraq of American civilian Eugene Armstrong, The Times reporter wrote:

“In the video of the beheading, an insurgent wearing a ski mask and surrounded by four men with assault rifles says the group is killing Mr. Armstrong because the American occupiers and the interim Iraqi government failed to meet the deadline. Much of the man’s long speech is addressed to President Bush, who is called a dog at one point.”

Please note that the news article omitted an important part of the story which was the exact phrase uttered by the executioner at the time he cut Armstrong’s throat and severed his head from his body. That phrase was, ‘Oh you Christian dog, Bush, stop your arrogance.’

The reference to President Bush by the terrorist strengthens the belief of many that we are involved in a war of civilizations. Fanatic Islamists believe that Christians and Jews who do not recognize the supremacy of Islam should die. That awful message is part of the story and The Times erred in not carrying that quote which many other papers did.

Lee Hamilton, Co-Chairman of the 9/11 Commission, has said in describing Muslim terrorists, ‘They want to kill us.’ Why? Because those making up western civilization and its ideas which Jihad is bent on destroying are overwhelming Christians and Jews. I believe it is President Bush’s faith that gives him the strength to stay with and implement the Bush Doctrine which is, ‘We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.’

Your reporter refers to the spokesman for the murderers as an ‘insurgent.’ What would it take for The Times to call someone who has just participated in the beheading of an innocent civilian a terrorist? I am sure the public would like to know.

All the best.


Edward I. Koch

Question Of Free Will

All right, class it’s time for Theocracy 101. Let’s start with the age-old question,”If G-d knows the future, then how can it be said that man has free will?” The answer is that since G-d knows the inner workings of man and the choices he will make, He manipulates events and places the appropriate people in the situations needed to carry out His will.

If we accept this resolution, then perhaps a burgeoning dispute between reader Deborah Diamond and Rachel Weiss, who penned a splendid Rosh Hashanah front-page essay (‘Forever in Awe,’ Sept. 17), can be doused. Ms. Diamond (Letters, Sept. 24) was troubled by Ms. Weiss’s contention that Messrs. Bush and Cheney are merely pawns blindly following the Master Plan. She argued that if we followed this line of reasoning, Hitler could not be held accountable for his crimes against humanity.

Following the model introduced above, Hashem decides on a course of action and then orchestrates, so the needed rashaim and tzaddikim are properly aligned. Hitler, then, could accomplish nothing without Heavenly assent.

This of course leads to the next question: “Are we to imagine G-d allowing or even calling for such atrocities to occur?”

Several approaches have been offered by gedolei Torah, and while they vary greatly, they all acknowledge that Hashem is at all times in absolute and complete control of everything. It is a tenet of our faith that the time will come when we will recognize that even the hardships were acts of Divine Love.

While I’m a sucker for esoteric philosophical discussions, what compelled me to write was Ms. Diamond’s demeaning and rather offensive tone. To disagree with Ms. Weiss is one thing, but not to acknowledge that she crafted a beautiful piece of work is quite another.

Dr. Yaakov Stern
Brooklyn, NY

Tears For A Friend

She is more than a young woman in a body bag. When you saw her picture in the media, did you think “she was just another troublemaking settler?” Did it pass your mind fleetingly that”if she wasn’t in a home in a settlement in Gaza, she would still be alive?”

Please don’t refer to her as another casualty from the other side of the green line.

She has a name. Her name is Tifferet Trattner. And Tifferet Trattner was my good friend. She was a beautiful young woman with a bright mind, a kind hear and a gentle soul. She loved animals and had an innate gift with them. She was a woman who wouldn’t harm anything or anyone. She was simple, loving, and pure. We worked in a zoo and I often brought my children to work with her there several years ago when we first moved to Israel. She also lived with our family for several months a couple of years back.

Tifferet was about peace. She respected all of life. And her life was not an easy one. She suffered a tragic loss of her mother while in her teens. Her family was affected by terrorism in the past. Yet she still loved life and people, and was devoid of cynicism and hate.

But today, early this morning, her life was brutally ended by hateful terrorists who bombed her home and spilled her blood throughout.

I grieve for the loss of this brilliant woman who was one of my first friends in Israel. The one who on more than one occasion schlepped boxes of books in English on two-hour bus rides from Jerusalem, just so I would be happy and have something to read. I weep for my friend, for her family’s grief and loss as well as that of my own family’s, and for the many other people who knew her and loved her. And I wonder when the hate and madness will stop.

Pnina Leor
(Via E-Mail)

Still Making The Case For Kerry

Responses to my “The Case for Kerry” (op-ed, Sept. 10) and other recent material in The Jewish Press lead me to the respectful conclusion that many Jewish Bush supporters are overlooking Bush’s positions and policies that are very harmful to Jews and others.

Many Bush supporters apparently underestimate the significance of environmental threats. I wonder if they know that, for example, air pollution in Israel kills far more Israelis than automobile accidents and terrorism combined and contributes significantly to the fact that one in six Israeli children has asthma. According to Israel’s Environmental Ministry and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, an estimated 1,400 Israelis die annually in greater Tel Aviv and Ashdod alone. Since pollution is also a serious threat in the U.S., we should be concerned that Bush is often more concerned with the interests of his corporate contributors than the health and safety of the public, and that he has by far the worst environmental record of our recent presidents.

Bush’s failure to address global warming is also serious because, contrary to Rachel Diskind’s assertion (Letters, Sept. 24), most climate scientists agree that global warming is largely due to human activities and it is already occurring: glaciers and polar ice caps are melting, over 20,000 Europeans died in an unprecedented heat wave in August, 2003, and there have been major increases in the number and severity of storms, flooding, droughts, and forest fires, all of which may have global warming connections. And climate scientists are predicting major temperature increases in the next century, with potential catastrophic effects for all of humanity.

Even Tony Blair, Bush’s biggest supporter re Iraq, pledged just last week to make climate change “a top priority,” stating that climate change is “a challenge so far-reaching in its impact and irreversible in its destructive power that it radically alters human existence.”

Jews and others should also be concerned about Bush’s conversion of record budget surpluses into record deficits that our children and grandchildren will be paying off for years. How many Jews and others will be affected by cuts in education, health care, and other social programs, while Bush continues to give major tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans? How many have been affected by the facts that the Bush administration is the first since that of Hoover to have a net loss in jobs and that poverty and the number of people without health care increased during each year of the Bush administration?

Re Michael J. Wiscott’s argument (“The Case for Bush,” op-ed, Sept. 10) that Congress, not the president, controls domestic issues: Since the Republicans controlled the House of Representatives for all of Bush’s term and the Senate for most of it, he definitely got his way on most domestic issues, and thus he should be held accountable for his dismal economic record. Contrary to Ms. Diskind’s assertion, most economists agree that the recession started during Bush’s term, not Clinton’s.

Certainly terrorism must be addressed, but I believe the record shows that Bush has also failed in this area. He has not provided sufficient money to hire additional police and to secure our ports, chemical and nuclear plants, transportation systems, and other facilities. Instead he has spent hundreds of billions of dollars in involving us in a quagmire in Iraq, in a war that looks increasingly unwinnable, while diverting attention from bin Laden and other terrorists.

Every four days we spend as much in Iraq as was spent in Bush’s entire four years on securing our ports, at which we can currently verify the contents of only about five percent of the 21,000 containers that daily enter the U.S. The number of insurgents in Iraq is soaring, attacks on U.S. troops have doubled since last winter, major Iraqi cities have become havens for insurgents and are completely inaccessible to U.S. troops, and security threats have stalled reconstruction.

Bush’s policies have lost the support and credibility of many of our allies. It’s wonderful that Saddam Hussein is no longer in power (may all dictators disappear!), but we are breeding a whole new generation of terrorists who may view Israel and Jews worldwide as convenient outlets for their hatred of America.

As one who has two daughters, their husbands and all of my grandchildren living in Israel, I am very concerned about Israel’s security and well being. As indicated in my op-ed “The Case for Kerry,” there are many reasons to believe that Kerry, especially with the traditional congressional support provided for Israel, would be just as supportive of Israel as Bush. I wonder why his supporters generally ignore statements like the one Bush made recently to the UN: “Israel should impose a settlement freeze, dismantle unauthorized outposts, end the daily humiliation of the Palestinian people and avoid any actions that prejudice final negotiations.”

An especially important point is that in a second term, Bush would not need to seek Jewish votes, and he would be looking to his “legacy,” which might include pressing Israel to make dangerous concessions. Bush?s close connections with the Saudis and with powerful oil interests should also be considered.

Best wishes to everyone for a wonderful New Year and a joyous Sukkos.

Richard H. Schwartz
(Via E-Mail)