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April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘BGU’

BGU Researchers Say Oxytocin May Promote ‘Lying for Your Team’

Monday, March 31st, 2014

A team of researchers at Ben Gurion University of the Negev have discovered that the hormone oxytocin can promote “group-serving dishonesty.”

According to findings published today (Monday) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), participants receiving oxytocin “lied more to benefit their groups, did so quicker, and did so without expectation of reciprocal dishonesty from their group members. A control setting ruled out that oxytocin drives self-serving dishonesty.”

The team, led by Dr. Shaul Shalvi at the university’s Department of Psychology, worked in cooperation with Carsten K.W. De Dreu of the University of Amsterdam’s Department of Psychology.

Shalvi is director of BGU’s Center for Decision Making and Economic Psychology (DMEP). He noted, “Our results suggest people are willing to bend ethical rules to help the people close to us, like our team or family. This raises an interesting although perhaps more philosophical question: Are all lies immoral?”

Oxytocin is produced in the hypothalamus and functions as both a hormone and a neurotransmitter to create bonding between couples and between mothers and babies. It also stimulates social interactions.

Researchers have found a correlation between increased oxytocin and greater empathy, lower social anxiety, more pro-social choice in anonymous games, reduction in fear response, cooperation in single-shot anonymous games and trust in interpersonal exchange. It also stimulates defense-related aggression.

The study was funded in part by the People Program (Marie Curie Actions) of the European Union’s Seventh Framework Program under a Research Executive Agency Grant Agreement and by the Netherlands Science Foundation.

Ben-Gurion University Trains Jordanian Emergency Responders

Monday, June 24th, 2013

About ten years ago, Prof. Jimmy Weinblatt, a former dean of the humanities and social sciences at Ben-Gurion University, invited the President of the Jordanian Red Crescent, Mohammed Al Hadid, to visit Israel. Weinblatt had met him via the Middle East Peace initiative at McGill University, where the two had become good friends. “He came to visit me and he told me he was very involved with Magen David Adom. He was at the time chairman of a very important committee of the International Red Cross. Israel was a not a number until a few years ago. He was the one to push through the candidacy of Israel, as a member of this organization. This is very important for it allows cooperation with other countries,” Weinblatt explained.

Following Weinblatt’s instructions, Prof. Rivka Carmi, the current president of Ben-Gurion University, took Al Hadid on a tour around Ben-Gurion University, to see different departments of the medical school and one of them was emergency medicine, which trains paramedics. “It is the only one of its kind in Israel and the Middle East. There are very few schools of that kind,” said Weinblatt.

 Jordanian students dancing with an Israeli at BGU

Evidently, Al Hadid was very excited by what he saw and asked about the possibility of sending Jordanian students to study at Ben-Gurion University. While the bureaucracy took a while, eventually a group of 30 Jordanian students came to Israel with the express purpose of studying emergency medicine. They spent two years living in Israel, while for their third year, they returned to Jordan to do practical work under the guidance of Israeli professors. Weinblatt emphasized, “It was a historical event for it was the first time that a group of students from Jordan or any Arab country for that matter came to study in Israel.

JORDANIAN STUDENTS RECEIVE WARM WELCOME

Weinblatt stated that these Jordanian students got the best of education and believes that their experience interacting with everyday Israelis will help them become ambassadors of goodwill. The Jordanian students lived with Israelis in the student dorms, traveled around Israel, had joint conferences with Israelis where they learned how to respond to natural disasters, and made Israeli friends. One of the Jordanian students already had a positive impression of Israelis and even wanted to bring a kippah back to Jordan as a souvenir. Yet for many other Jordanians, it was a transformative experience. Another one of the Jordanian students was expecting that the Israelis hated him and was pleasantly surprised by the reactions that he got from Israelis, causing him to question what he was taught within Jordan.

BGU library

During his remarks to the graduating class of 54 students, Al Hadid spoke of the positive nature of this program.

“I thank you for all giving our students the opportunity to get their education and training them to become lifesavers, unlike those lifetakers who do so in the name of their fanatic beliefs. However, our belief will always be through humanity to peace,” he said.

“Experience has shown us that it is possible to bring Arabs and Israelis together to achieve common goals.”

Visit United with Israel.

Israel’s Totalitarian Left Never Sleeps

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

There is a species of radical leftist that believes the main purpose of taxpayer-funded universities is to indoctrinate students in radical left-wing ideology. Such people believe the only legitimate form of scholarly research and teaching is to force upon students the ideas and agendas of the left because only these represent correct thinking.

For them, the highest form of academic inquiry is to engage in one-sided advocacy. They believe faculty members at universities should be hired mainly, if not exclusively, on the basis of their devotion to radical leftist ideology.

They believe classrooms should be arenas in which students are immersed into leftist NewThink.

They believe student grades should reflect the extent to which the student toes the ideological line of the radical left.

They believe academic conferences and research forums should be restricted to those who advocate the left’s political agenda, while non-leftist dissident thought should be suppressed and barred.

Most important of all, they believe those who dare criticize the radical tenured left should be silenced and denounced.

The totalitarian left believes taxpayers are morally obligated to fund the teaching of extremist ideology in the classroom, including by people advocating the demise of those same taxpayers and of their country.

It is the job of citizens, insist the academic leftists, to sit back passively and pay for the far left to operate propaganda centers, while the radicals collect their cushy salaries as payment for advocating their anti-Israel agenda.

It is the job of universities, the tenured left maintains, to criticize (actually to demonize) the state of Israel – just as long as no one is permitted to criticize those critics of Israel.

Nowhere is this ideological extremism so clearly on display as in the Department of Politics at Ben-Gurion University (BGU), a pseudo-academic propaganda and indoctrination center disguised as an academic department. It is not the only such department in Israel or at BGU, but it may well be the worst.

Last year an international panel of experts appointed by the Israel Council of Higher Education (which oversees and funds universities) called for shutting down this BGU department altogether, due to the abysmally low quality of its work its having replaced serious scholarly research with one-sided advocacy.

The far left faculty members in the department denounce Israel in unison, and some call for world boycotts of Israel. In response to the CHE criticism of the departmental obsession with one-side advocacy, BGU hired three new politics faculty members in order to generate diversity and pluralism – but the three new ones are also leftist radicals.

Students in political science classes at BGU who dare to express pro-Israel opinions tell of being penalized and harassed by the faculty. The single non-leftist faculty member who taught in the department was fired a few years back for incorrect thinking.

Diversity and pluralism in the department consist of people of various ethnicities, genders, heights, and weights all advocating leftist and Marxist ideas. Diversity of thought is mercilessly suppressed, and serious academic standards are trashed.

In recent weeks, the totalitarian left has been circling its wagons in solidarity with the Department of Politics at BGU. Leftist-dominated academic associations are flooding the press and the CHE with angry demands to defend the right of the Department of Politics at BGU to engage in “advocacy” and leftist indoctrination.

Recruited by members of BGU’s politics department, foreign members of the academic left and Israeli tenured radicals have been leading the campaign to defend the BGU propagandists.

The campaigners demand that the right of BGU leftists to indoctrinate and propagandize at taxpayer expense be defended against CHE criticism and interference. The defenders of the department insist that “positivism,” i.e. actual scholarly research, is only one legitimate strand of academic activity in political science, meaning they really want ideological indoctrination to be the “alternative” function of academics.

A recent one-sided conference devoted to advocating political advocacy as the proper calling for academia was held at Ben-Gurion University. Participants were greeted by BGU President Rivka Carmi, who regularly insists she is not aware of any one-sided advocacy or indoctrination activities held at BGU. This is the same Carmi whose belief in pluralism was manifested in her firing Prof. Yeruham Leavitt because he dared express a politically incorrect opinion about children being raised by homosexual couples.

What Freedom Of Speech?

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

           The latest headliner in the campaign to silence critics of Israel’s radical Left is Prof. Zvi Hacohen, the new rector at Ben Gurion University. A professor in chemistry and “desert research,” Hacohen was cited at length in Haaretz (Sept. 15) denouncing people, especially students of the Zionist Im Tirtzu movement, who dare criticize leftist sedition.
 
            Hacohen calls all such critics of anti-Israel extremism “McCarthyists.” Leftists denouncing Israel as a Nazi country, a fascist apartheid entity in need of obliteration, are simply exercising their legitimate academic freedom, but anyone who denounces those leftists for what they say and do is guilty of “McCarthyism” and so must be suppressed.
 
            Radical leftist academics who call for a world boycott of Israel are engaging in legitimate use of academic freedom, they insist, but others who call for boycotts of such boycotters of Israel are fascists and guilty of “incitement.”
 
            Hacohen denounces students at his own university and others (I assume he means the www.Isracampus.org.il  watchdog group, Israel’s equivalent to Campus Watch in the U.S.) for recording the public lectures of radical anti-Israel faculty members and then making them public. He also is upset when they cite verbatim the seditious public pronouncements of those faculty members. Hacohen insists it’s McCarthyism to protest the anti-Israel indoctrination that is the main (if not the sole) activity of the Department of Politics at Ben Gurion University, and he denounces students from Im Tirtzu for calling on donors to place their contributions to the university into escrow until the university makes needed reforms.
 
             Hacohen is just one of Israel’s many increasingly hysterical radical leftists inside (and outside) academia who demand that freedom of speech for non-leftists be suppressed.
 
             Leftists in Israel are free to endorse violence, to call for Israel to be destroyed, and to endorse anti-Semites and terrorists. They are free to promote lawbreaking and violence. They are free to call on the world to boycott Israel and to impose upon Israel by force an outside “resolution” of the conflict along lines the vast majority of Israelis oppose.
 
             Yes, it may be upsetting to people, say the leftist poseurs, but offensive speech needs to be protected in the name of democracy.
 
Or does it? A young Jewish woman named Tanya Susskind drew a protest poster of the Prophet Muhammad as a pig. Her drawing was distasteful, but no worse than those Danish cartoons that were judged to be protected speech. She was sentenced to more than two years in prison. Israeli soldiers who recently had their photographs taken alongside handcuffed or blindfolded suspected terrorists have been prosecuted for insensitivity. Why was their behavior not considered protected freedom of expression?
 
In a similar manner, Israel has criminalized and banned the various Kahanist factions of followers of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane. They are denied freedom of speech under Israel’s silly “anti-racism law,” a law that has never been used to prosecute a single anti-Semite. Their crime? They express political opinions Israeli leftists find repulsive.
 
            A professor at the University of Haifa was ordered by the Attorney General’s Office to report to the police for interrogation concerning things he was accused of saying about Arabs in class – statements he denies having made. But even if he had said negative things about Arabs, why was that not protected speech? Is protected speech in Israel limited to the rights of anti-Semites and traitors to smear Jews?
 
Just what happened to the idea that freedom of speech protects unpopular and even offensive opinions? Leftists expressing anti-Semitic or anti-Israel radical ideas are never prosecuted in Israel. The most the government ever did was deny entry into Israel to a few foreign leftist professors who had been maintaining intimate association with terrorist organizations like Hizbullah.
 
Let us go back to Prof. Hacohen, the rector. We know what upsets him, but what does not upset him? He is not disturbed that entire departments at his own university operate as open anti-Israel indoctrination camps. He is not disturbed that faculty members at Ben Gurion University are leaders in the international campaign to boycott Israel, to “divest” from Israel, to place sanctions against Israel. He is not disturbed about BGU faculty members who associate with Holocaust deniers.
 
Prof. Hacohen is not concerned about reports of leftist faculty members at BGU harassing and penalizing students there who dare dissent from the anti-Israel ideology poured out in classroom indoctrinations. He is not concerned that anti-Israel radicals are being hired and promoted on the basis of “academic records” consisting of nothing more than anti-Israel hate propaganda. He is not concerned about BGU faculty members who endorse terrorist violence. He is not concerned about Arab and Jewish leftist students marching about his campus giving Heil Hitler salutes.
 
The only thing he seems worried about is that some Zionist students at BGU wish to express their opinions and criticize treasonous behavior. He demands that they be silenced. He insults the students at his own university, calling them “McCarthyists.” He demands that criticism of treason be silenced in the name of protecting academic freedom.
 

The academic freedom of which he dreams is the sort to be found in North Korea.

 

 

 

Steven Plaut is a professor at Haifa University. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at steveneplaut@yahoo.com.

Lessons of Gaza

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

The great untold story of Operation Cast Lead was the level of euphoria and national unity that gripped Israel. Those who think the era of miracles is over will have to explain this sudden wall-to-wall political consensus in Israel.

In what is arguably the most contentious society on earth, public opinion polls were showing a 94% approval rating among Israeli Jews for the military action against Hamas. Almost the same percentage opposed any cease-fire that did not include the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.

The emergence of this sudden national consensus came against a backdrop of an international wave of naked anti-Semitism on a level not seen in decades, and of Israeli Arabs almost uniformly expressing both opposition to the operation and outright hatred of Jews and the Jewish state.

The really amazing thing, however, was that the man responsible for the surge of good feelings and patriotism among Israelis was the most unpopular and probably the most corrupt politician in modern Israeli history.

Ehud Olmert already had one foot out the door of the Prime Minister’s Office before the shooting started, and many believed his other foot was headed straight for prison. Olmert’s approval ratings before the Gaza war were not significantly above zero. Yet within moments of his ordering the commencement of operations, Israelis were closing ranks behind him in a way that caught nearly everyone by surprise.

The rest of the world may be united in denouncing Israeli “brutality” and the supposedly disproportionate level of Palestinian casualties. But Israel was just as united, at least for the moment, in celebrating the beginning of the end of its era of national self-debasement and capitulation.

Israeli television stations and newspapers reported in great detail on the countless anti-Israel demonstrations all over the world, down to and including the swastikas and the chants that Hitler had been right. This only seemed to augment the sense of national unity and determination among Israelis.

The devotees of Hamas could march on Western campuses all they wanted, Israelis seemed to be saying, but we will deal with the savages in our own way.

The new Israeli national unity manifested itself even in the face of the distorted and maniacal denunciations of Israel for its alleged insensitivity to the plight of Palestinian civilians.

Of course, the same world media that failed to challenge the lies surrounding the infamous “death” of the Gaza boy Muhammad al-Dura back in 2000 kept repeating the Hamas “estimate” as if it were a scientific finding from an unimpeachable source.

In any case, clearly the bulk of the Palestinian dead were armed genocidal terrorists. The usual “human rights” organizations, which have never acknowledged that Jewish civilians in the Negev are entitled to their human rights, kept claiming that a quarter of the dead were “children.” Of course, they count any 17 year old killed while firing a bazooka at Jews as a “child.”

My youngest son spent most of the war dodging rockets in Netivot, a town of 26,000 in the Negev near the Gaza Strip best known for serving as the spiritual center for Moroccan Jewry, with its shrines of leading Moroccan rabbis. Netivot was hit by more than its fair share of Hamas rockets.

Home for a weekend, my son watched the televised images of a Palestinian man sitting on a pile of rubble that had once been his home and sobbing about how there is no justice.

“You do not like having your house blown up?” my son responded to the TV screen. “So who told you to start firing rockets at me?” He speaks for nearly all Israelis.

And then of course there was all the whining by the media about how Israel was preventing convoys of supplies from entering Gaza, as if the Allies in World War II had sent convoys of supplies to Berlin when it was under siege. A caller to an Israeli radio program put it rather succinctly: “So release Gilad Shalit and stop shooting rockets at us and you can have all the supplies you want; in fact you can shop in Israel and use our hospitals and beaches.”

Even some – though certainly not all – members of the country’s dwindling far left came out in support of the operation. (I say “dwindling far left” because half have woken up to the fallacies of leftist thinking while the other half have morphed into outright anti-Zionists.)

Consider the following developments, which would have been unthinkable a month ago and which are a very small sampling of the changed mindset in Israel:

The novelist A.B. Yehoshua, leader of Israel’s leftist literary soviet, wrote a scathing article telling off an anti-Israel columnist at the far left anti-Zionist daily Haaretz.

The popular singer Arik Sinai, long associated with Tel Aviv bohemian leftism, suddenly went on a Zionist crusade, complete with bashing of leftist anti-Zionists.

Street protests in Israel against the war consisted almost exclusively of Arab students and Jewish members of the pro-terror HADASH communist party.

The Israeli national consensus opposing the declaration of a cease-fire by the Olmert team was almost as broad as the consensus in support of the actual fighting.

* * *

Within days of the new cease-fire, however, it was becoming clear that Olmert had blown the whistle before the team had finished its work. The abandonment of Gilad Shalit was just part of it. The new cease-fire would allow Hamas to re-stock its armories and replenish its rocket warehouses.

Hours after the cease-fire went into effect, Hamas’s smuggling tunnels were being repaired and returned to operations. Worst of all, most of the Hamas leadership remained alive.

Even more worrisome, the Olmert people were reverting to the approach that had produced the rocket blitz on Israel in the first place. After eight years of a policy of restraint that had achieved absolutely nothing, turning the other cheek was being restored as the national defense policy.

Olmert and Livni were back to offering land for peace, reaffirming that two decades of giving up land and getting war in return had taught them nothing. For decades Israeli leaders had agreed to one unilateral cease-fire after the next. These bought Israel nothing but demonization in the world media.

After their brief incarnation as fierce Zionist warriors, Olmert and his pals were once again pretending that Mahmoud Abbas and the PA were something different from the Hamas; that they were reasonable people who yearned for peaceful coexistence with Israel and with whom deals could be struck. And Israel was again offering to release hundreds of terrorists from captivity.

If there was one lesson Israel should have learned over the past eight years, it was that Israeli restraint buys neither goodwill for the country nor moderate behavior on the part of Palestinians. For eight years Hamas and its affiliates in Gaza fired rockets at Jewish civilians, while the Israeli government’s main response was to turn the other cheek and order the country just to wait passively for Hamas to run out of ammunition.

Israeli leaders had deluded themselves into thinking that if only the world would clearly see unprovoked Palestinian aggression and terror, Israel would enjoy a public relations Xanadu. Especially after the Israeli government, for the sake of peace, drove all Jews out of Gaza.

The expectation that restraint would boost Israel’s image was among the stupidest of the delusions of Israel’s Osloid leadership. The world not only ignored the thousands of rockets fired at Jewish civilians, it went to contorted moral lengths to justify them.

For decades Israel’s leaders misunderstood and misjudged anti-Semitism and they continue to do so now.

Anti-Semites and those with totalitarian ideologies always reverse cause and effect. For them, every atrocity against Jews is a righteous protest against Jewish wrongdoing and Israeli misbehavior. Every retaliation by Israel is an unprovoked criminal act of malice and Nazi-like aggression. It is exactly like claiming the Japanese were the victims of American aggression at Pearl Harbor.

The real problem is that the Anti-Israel Lobby does not consider Jews to be human. Therefore Jewish deaths never matter and Jewish lives are expendable. Because Jews are not quite human, they can never be entitled to the right of self-defense or permitted to engage in it. Anti-Zionism has now been thoroughly Nazified. There can be no other word for people who insist that Jewish life is worthless and that Jewish deaths never count.

If Olmert had responded to the firing of thousands of rockets at Israel by merely sneezing in the general direction of the terrorists, thousands of protesters would have take to the streets and the campuses in Europe and America to denounce this as a disproportionate response and a war crime; many would no doubt describe it as an act of biological warfare.

Absolutely nothing can ever be gained by Israeli restraint, except to demonstrate weakness and fan terrorism. But that insight, clear to any reasonably intelligent seven year old, was too complicated for Israeli officials who for eight years ordered residents of Sderot and the other towns of the Negev to sit and take it. Sderot had been turned by the Israeli government into an undefended Guernica, its children traumatized, its families reduced to paupers.

* * *

Another delusion that fell victim to Operation Cast Lead was the notion that Israel’s far left, while perhaps dangerously na?ve, is not at all anti-Semitic or self-hating.

Over the past two decades a malignant plague of anti-Semitism has swept the left, including the Jewish left. It affects Jews in the United States, in Europe, and even in Israel. While 94 percent of the Israeli public was solidly behind the soldiers and the attack on the Hamas infrastructure, the Jewish left was out at the forefront of the pro-jihad Nuremberg marches, waving Hamas and PLO flags, demanding international boycotts of Israel, calling for a Hamas victory.

The Jewish-born British Member of Parliament ranting about how Israel is a Nazi regime was just the tip of the iceberg. While the Arab regimes themselves were letting everyone know the contempt they felt for Hamas, Jewish leftists were out displaying their contempt for Jews, from the members of J Street to the Reconstructionist “rabbi” leading a pro-Hamas rally in Philadelphia,.

Those who thought that “Jewish anti-Semite” was an oxymoron will have to think again. Increasingly, the left, and especially the campus left, produces a mass of Jewish collaborators with the enemy, the Jewish equivalents of Taliban John. Just about every Israel-bashing newspaper and Internet site now features anti-Jewish columnists and writers, many of them Israeli faculty members.

But the rudest awakening of all at the end of Cast Lead came with regard to the Israeli far left, led by the academic fifth column. For years, the pursuit of leftist silliness has been just as fashionable on Israeli campuses as it’s been on campuses in the U.S. and Europe. As Orwell wrote, some ideas are so stupid that only intellectuals can believe them. As the guns in Gaza began to fall silent, a number of Israeli leftists emerged from their bunkers with a vengeance, sabotaging the consensus of patriotism that had filled Israel during the war.

Ben-Gurion University, the campus with arguably the largest number of anti-Israel extremist faculty members, was shut down for weeks as Hamas rockets bathed Beersheba. Several rockets landed close to the campus. Public-school buildings in Beersheba were destroyed by rockets. Yet leftist faculty members at BGU went on the warpath against Israel and in support of Hamas. In an article titled “Black January,” BGU sociologist Lev Grinberg proclaimed Hamas terrorists to be the true Maccabees, struggling against the evil empire:

I admit that I find the name “Cast Lead” in bad taste because of its allusion to Chanukah and the Maccabees who fought against a mighty conqueror. If indeed there is a struggle here of the weak against an occupying empire, it is the struggle of Hamas against Israel, not the other way around. Our self-image as the weak victim is utterly surreal and trapped in the mythology of the Jews as the ultimate victims, regardless of reality…. The firing of missiles by the prisoners in protest against their starvation was interpreted as aggression, while their oppression by their jailers was interpreted as self-defense.

Grinberg had earlier denounced Israel’s targeting of terrorist leaders as “symbolic genocide.”

Neve Gordon, a BGU lecturer now serving as the chairman of political science at the university, turned out one pro-terror anti-Israel article after the next for anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi websites, denouncing Israel as a criminal entity. In one, he excoriated Israel for bombing the Islamic “university” in Gaza that was serving as the storage warehouse for the very same rockets being fired at his own university campus.

Oren Yiftachel, a professor of geography at Ben Gurion University who has made a career out of denouncing Israel for being an “apartheid” regime, cheered the firing of rockets at the children of Sderot and Netivot as the moral and just response of Palestinians “imprisoned” by Israel firing at their “jailers.”

At my own University of Haifa, left-wing faculty members exploded in a wave of outraged protests when the campus heads decided to fly Israeli flags as a gesture of solidarity with the embattled residents of the Negev towns. The leftists claimed this would be insensitive because it would offend the pro-jihad Arab students who fill the campus.

The most important lesson of the past eight years, at this late stage understood by everyone except university leftists and most Israeli politicians, is that nothing will really put an end to the terror and rockets other than some good old-fashioned R&D – Reoccupation and Denazification.

Everything else is a delusion.

Steven Plaut, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is a professor at the University of Haifa. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be reached at steveneplaut@yahoo.com.

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007

Note to Readers: A letter appeared in last week’s issue purporting to be from a “Rabbi Rick Probstein.” We have since learned that the letter was not from someone named Rick Probstein. Though we make every effort to verify the identity of readers who submit letters for publication, the system obviously failed in this instance. We apologize for the error.
 

 

Remembering Reagan
 
   Thank you to Professor Paul Kengor for a wonderful and informative piece on President Reagan’s fight for Soviet Jewry (“The Liberator,” front-page essay, March 16). Like the Russian immigrant and his grandson mentioned in the article, I too had the honor of running into Mr. Reagan on one of his walks near his Los Angeles office.
 
   It was a sunny March day in 1995, and Mr. Reagan, who recently had told the country of his Alzheimer’s in a letter released to the media by his wife Nancy, appeared slightly unsteady.
 
   I asked one of the men walking with Mr. Reagan if I could approach the former president. He looked at me for a couple of seconds and nodded. I shook Mr. Reagan’s hand and told him how much I admired him. I happened to be wearing a yarmulke, and he pointed at it and slowly said, “I know what that stands for. God above us.”
 
   I thanked him again for everything he’d done for the country. The entire encounter lasted maybe a minute, but it was one of the most memorable experiences in my life.
 

David Goldfedder

(Via E-Mail)
 

 

Connecting The Dots
 
   With all the brouhaha enveloping the World Jewish Congress over its firing of Israel Singer, the casual observer may well be missing a more important story.
 
   The attempt by WJC Grand Pooh-bah Edgar Bronfman to install Oded Eran, Israel’s current ambassador to the EU, as WJC Israel branch director is an ominous sign – and one I don’t believe to be incidental to the surrounding controversy.
 
   For some time there have been worrying signals emanating out of “high places” in Israel’s political establishment regarding clandestine negotiations between Israeli emissaries and the Vatican, which, we know, has been biding its time for many years in order to gain ownership of some of Judaism’s holiest sites.
 
   Bronfman has often served as an emissary for Israeli officials on various “sensitive” issues. As czar of a leading Jewish umbrella group, Bronfman has positioned himself as something of a bridgehead between the religions in interfaith dialogue.
 

   Enter Oded Eran. Installing Eran as head of WJC’s Israel branch would, given his access to EU officials, put him a position of being the point man on many issues involving Israel and Europe – including the explosive issue of the Vatican’s claims on Jewish holy sites.

   Could it be the WJC will soon be cozying up to Europe and the Vatican at the expense of our Jewish homeland?
 

Adina Kutnicki

Elmwood Park, NJ
 

 

Selective Freedom Of Speech?

 
   Carol D. Saal’s offensive letter to the editor (March 23) claims that Ben-Gurion University officials champion pluralism and free speech. Oh, really? Then why have they never spoken out against BGU faculty member Neve Gordon’s misusing the Israeli court system to harass the prolific writer (and Jewish Press columnist) Steven Plaut in an ugly attempt at silencing him?
 
   Are BGU officials of the opinion that Gordon’s writings – carried on a number of neo-Nazi and pro-Palestinian websites – are deserving of freedom of speech while Plaut’s criticisms of those writings are not? Evidently, BGU officials feel their own donors are not the only people undeserving of freedom of speech and the right to criticize.
 

David Feldman

(Via E-Mail)

  

  

Readers Debate ‘The End Of Innocence’

 

 

‘Dirty Little Secret’

 

      The Jewish Press is to be commended for its courage in shining a spotlight on the dirty little secret of abuse in the Orthodox community (“The End of Innocence,” special report, Feb. 16).
 
     It’s a subject many of our religious leaders do not want publicized, because acknowledgment of the problem’s existence would lead to all kinds of uncomfortable questions – not the least of them being, where have these esteemed rabbis been all these years as the problem festered and grew?
 
      For too long we’ve blinded ourselves to the reality that there are sick predators in our midst who prey on our children with relative impunity. Because of our tradition of deference to religious authority, we are reluctant to question the operation of our religious institutions. This has to stop. If we know about the problem and do nothing, how can we defend ourselves against the charge that we are complicit in these crimes against our children?
 

Tuvia Schorr

(Via E-Mail)
 

 

Placing Blame
 
      I blame the rising levels of abuse in our communities on those who presume to lead us: our rabbis. (By the way, speaking of scandals, exactly how many of these rabbis have authentic s’micha? Look at the phone book – it seems like every third Jew in Boro Park and Midwood is listed as “rabbi.” Imagine how ridiculous it would seem if you looked at a phone book for Bay Ridge and found name after name listed there with “Father” or “Reverend” attached to it.)
 
      We’ve swallowed the false assurances, given us by our comfortable, don’t-rock-the-boat, kavod-driven rabbis and Orthodox functionaries, that there is no real problem, and that whatever isolated instances do exist are firmly under control thanks to their fearless and peerless leadership.
 
      And let’s not leave ourselves off the hook – we parents who are so obsessed with shidduchim that we are willing to perpetuate the see-no-evil mentality in the community because God forbid 10 or 12 years from now a potential zivig or mechutan finds out our son or daughter was molested as an 8 year old by some pervert – as if that somehow renders the victim damaged goods or an unfit husband or wife.
 
      How ignorant we must seem to the outside world.
 

Zundel Feinberg

(Via E-Mail)
 

 

‘Comprehensive And Unblinking’
 
      By publishing Shlomo Greenwald’s “The End of Innocence,” The Jewish Press proved itself to be the only responsible Orthodox Jewish publication out there. While I realize your paper constantly focuses on problems in the frum community, including the various forms of abuse, I do wonder why it took you so long to put the issue so squarely out front like this, giving it the attention it deserves in such a comprehensive and unblinking manner.
 
      That, I’ll admit, is a rather minor quibble considering the breadth and length of Mr. Greenwald’s article and your willingness to open yourselves to criticism from those in our community who prefer to go through life with eyes and ears firmly covered.
 

Henchie Duberstein

New York, NY
 

 

Help In Rockland County
 
      Thank you so much for publishing the “The End of Innocence.” Unfortunately, domestic violence and sexual abuse in the Orthodox community do exist, as they do in any community. It is time we acknowledge and accept this fact and work together on solutions.
 
      I’d like to mention that Project Tikvah is a program under the umbrella of the Rockland Family Shelter dedicated to serving families in the Orthodox community. We provide counseling, a 24-hour hotline, rabbinical referrals, legal and court advocacy, and weekly support groups for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. We also hold informative meetings in the community dealing with community issues of domestic violence and sexual abuse.
 
      Please feel free to call us at 845-634-3344. We are always sensitive to halacha.
 
Lynn Goldblatt
Coordinator
Project Tikvah
New City, NY
 

 

Where’s The Beef?
 
      As an Orthodox Jew, I welcomed Mr. Greenwald’s article on confronting sexual abuse, if only because of its potential to stimulate serious interest in, and discussion of, this very serious issue.
 
      Unfortunately, the article failed to provide any hard facts – there were no statistics or figures offered to bolster the claim that we indeed have a growing problem on our hands. In the end, we have to trust the word of “professionals,” based almost entirely on anecdotal evidence rather than cold numbers.
 
      The rabbis, therapists and educators interviewed by Mr. Greenwald seem to go by the theorem of “vi ed Christalzich, Yiddelstich” – that is, when something is present in the non-Jewish world, rest assured it’s present in the Jewish world too. Nice bit of folk wisdom, but one would think that people the caliber of those quoted in the article would have some data at their fingertips.
 

Rabbi Zvi Brecher

Jerusalem
 

 

Why Focus On The Orthodox?
 
      I’m concerned by the exclusive focus in Mr. Greenwald’s article on Orthodox Jews. Can we not assume that the problem exists with at least equal virulence among Reform and Conservative Jews? Actually, it’s probably a bigger problem in those circles, simply because, in terms of sheer numbers, there’s more of them than us.
 
      The Jewish Week and the Forward have the market cornered on presenting the Orthodox community in the worst possible light. Please don’t lower yourselves to that level.
 

Deborah Lembersky

(Via E-Mail)

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, March 21st, 2007

Dog In The Fight (I)

 
   Reader Yaakov Fromer writes (letters, March 16): “Whether Turkey did or did not commit genocide nearly a hundred years ago is no concern of ours – we have no dog in that fight.”
 
   I would respond that as Jews – a people who have suffered tremendously at the brutal hands of our various persecutors while the rest of the world looked on without comment – we ought to hold a unique understanding for the suffering of one people at the hands of another. That Turkey refuses to recognize the terrible crimes of its past should be as morally offensive to us as if the German government of today were to do the same.
 
   Genocide, past or present, cannot be met with silence. To do so would make a sham out of the phrase “Never Again” – as if it were only a self-interested goal and not an incontrovertible moral principle. The world was silent as we suffered – please, let us not repeat its mistakes.
 

Daniel Hagler

Bronx, NY
 

 

Dog In The Fight (II)

 
   Mr. Fromer, your insensitivity to the sufferings of the Armenian people is reprehensible, and it terrifies me to think that others who are not Jewish might assume your callousness is shared by other religious Jews. It certainly is not!
 
   Did you know that the Nazis based their genocide of our people on what Turkey did to the Armenians? In fact, Hitler (may his name and memory be blotted out) used the example of the Armenian massacre to justify why he should be allowed (by his generals) to carry out his insane plans.
 
   To give just one example: Hitler got his idea for the gas chambers from the Turkish practice of shoving Armenians into caves, covering the entrance with brush and trees, and setting them afire, so the men, women and children inside would die of smoke inhalation.
 
   Turkey denies it committed genocide against the Armenian people, just as Shoah deniers claim the death camps never existed and six million Jews were not murdered. We Jews know better than anyone what genocide is, and when it happens to others we must be the first to stand up and condemn it, no matter who the guilty party is, even (maybe even especially) if they appear to be our friends.
 
   You say that we as Jews “have no dog in that fight.” Actually, we do. Anytime any group of people is slaughtered because of what they are or what they believe, we as Jews have a dog in the fight – if we have any kind of decency and humanity at all.
 
   If you feel that we as Jews should not speak out in defense of the innocent men, women and children ruthlessly tortured and murdered by the government of Turkey, does that mean gentiles do not need to speak out against the genocide that was carried out against our own people from 1939 to 1945 by Germany? Perhaps they, too, should think they “have no dog in that fight.”
 

Chana Rovinsky

Philadelphia, PA
 

 

Storm Warning
 
   The storm clouds of expulsion and destruction are on the horizon, yet nothing is being done to prepare. Many people talk about getting rid of the evil Olmert government once the Winograd Commission releases its findings. Have we learned nothing from the Sharon debacle?
 
   Just as Sharon sought to divert attention from his legal problems with the destruction of Jewish life in Gaza, you can bet that Olmert, right before the Winograd report is released, will accept the Saudi plan for the destruction and uprooting of Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. He will, insanely, be viewed as great peacemaker and will thus stay in power. The ultimate destruction (God forbid) will commence.
 
   The storm is approaching. If we’re not ready, the storm will wash all away. Just ask the former Jewish residents of Gaza.
 

Ken Abrams

Margate, NJ
 

 

Play Ball
   Re the new baseball league in Israel (Baseball Insider column, March 9):
 
   What is more integral to the American Jewish experience than baseball? Nothing. My own grandfather in the twilight of his life would enjoy a baseball game on television when nothing else even mattered. As a young man and a new hard-working immigrant, baseball was my grandfather’s sole mode of recreation. This type of story is shared by many.
 

   To think that we will have a league of our own in a place that is so dear to our hearts makes me literally choke up with positive emotion. Personally, I cannot thank enough the people who are pulling this off for the benefit of our two beloveds – Israel and baseball.

   The Middle East will change in a very positive way come June 24.
 

Jonathan R. Klein

Encino, California
 

 

Misappropriated Funds
   I am appalled at the tremendous misappropriation of personal funds that I see in the frum community. To spend thousands and thousands of dollars on weekends and Yomim Tovim – while we are losing so many souls to the public schools – is tragic.
 
   We are facing such a terrible crisis now with our Jewish children. Please consider all expenditures, large and small, and transfer them instead to the saving of Jewish souls. In this merit may the Geulah soon come.
 

Rabbi Rick Probstein

(Via E-Mail)



 

 

The Politics Of Ben-Gurion University

 

Illiberal Liberals
 
      Allyson Rowen Taylor (“BGU President Disses Overseas Donors,” op-ed, March 16) deserves our thanks for providing some of the details of the leftist leanings of Israeli universities, in this case Ben-Gurion University. It is incongruous that those who claim to be ”liberal” would curtail the exposure of students to a broad education and a variety of opinions instead of a system that teaches intolerance for the viewpoints of others.
 
      Apparently, those who stifle academic freedom fear that their own attitudes and prejudices might be challenged. As a former educator I firmly believe in the saying that “he/she who dares to teach must never cease to learn.”
 

Chana Givon

(Via E-Mail)
 

 

‘Den Of Radicalism’
 

      I wanted to congratulate you on running Allyson Rowen Taylor‘s piece, which I thought was one of the best recent cases of investigative journalism in the American Jewish media.

      If anything, Taylor did not go far enough. Ben-Gurion University has become a den of radicalism and anti-Israel activism. If that sounds like an exaggeration, just consider the case of Dr. Neve Gordon, a lecturer in political science at BGU whose articles regularly appear on Holocaust denier and neo-Nazi websites.
 
      Alan Dershowitz, the law professor and author who certainly is no right-winger, wrote in the Jerusalem Post on November 8, 2006: “It is my opinion that Neve Gordon has gotten into bed with neo-Nazis, Holocaust justice deniers, and anti-Semites. He is a despicable example of a self-hating Jew and a self-hating Israeli.
 

      Professor Carmi, the president of BGU, has dismissed concerns raised by Gordon’s critics, saying that Israeli students are mature enough to cope with Gordon’s views.

Don Levine

Passaic, NJ
 

 

‘Diss’ – Short For Distortion
      The outlandish fairytale by Allyson Rowen Taylor is chock full of gross distortion and false innuendo. It is an inflammatory political and personal attack against Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, its faculty and new president, and ultimately Israel itself.
 
      First, I question Taylor’s motivation and the authenticity of her authorship. The article she references from Academia was published in Hebrew. Taylor doesn’t speak Hebrew. And her phraseology is eerily similar to another BGU slanderer convicted of libel in Israel. Whoever “translated” chose to twist BGU President Rivka Carmi’s words, juxtaposing quotes and commentary to alter situations described in the Hebrew article.
 
      For example, the original article described Prof. Carmi shaking hands with students demonstrating on behalf of Holocaust survivors, not anti-occupation supporters! Also, Carmi is asked, “If, under the threat of a cancelled donation, can a donor dictate the limits of academic freedom?” Her answer: “Unfortunately, this potential exists.” That simple reply was instead twisted by Taylor into a sensational falsehood and attack on overseas donors, but Carmi made no such remarks.
 
      Furthermore, Taylor’s reference to Carmi’s support for boycotts of “Israeli” universities “under extreme circumstances” is a gross misrepresentation. The question was, “Would you consider a situation where you would agree with a boycott of any institution?” (The word “Israeli” doesn’t appear.) Prof. Carmi’s thoughtful reply was only in cases when crimes against humanity are committed, citing an incident that occurred in Teheran.
 
      BGU’s faculty and student body reflect the diverse ethnicity, religious orientation, socio-economic status, and ideology that are representative of Israel. There are faculty from the left and the right and everything in between.
 
      Taylor’s group, StandWithUs, believes that any criticism of Israel is unacceptable, treasonous and anti-Zionist. It’s very easy to lob criticism from a cozy Los Angeles home while posturing as a holier-than-thou Zionist. How could anyone who chooses to make his home in Israel, raise a family there, and serve with distinction in the IDF call for Israel’s annihilation? It defies logic and is a preposterous, ignorant claim.
 
      It’s impossible to refute every distortion and misquoted remark in the space that I have been allotted. I hope those who can read Hebrew will read the actual article.
 
      More than any other university, BGU captures the pioneering Zionist spirit that so exemplified Israel’s founders. Its faculty, staff and students are fulfilling David Ben-Gurion’s vision to develop the Negev and secure Israel’s future.
 
   Articles like Taylor’s threaten this vision. Her time and mine would be much better spent fighting Israel’s real enemies.
 

Carol D. Saal

President

American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev 

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