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December 6, 2016 / 6 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Rafael Medoff’

The Mufti Influences An American Election

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

A Palestinian mufti has called for violence against Jews, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is demanding Palestinian leaders disavow him and America’s presidential race could be affected.

That could be the lead sentence of a news report week before last.

Or from 1946.

Sixty-five years ago, another Palestinian mufti, another Netanyahu and another American presidential race likewise intersected in an unexpected round of high-stakes Middle East politics and diplomacy.

At the center of the current controversy is Sheik Muhammad Hussein, the mufti of Jerusalem, who is the Palestinian Authority’s senior religious official. In a recent speech Hussein, citing a traditional Islamic text, urged Arabs to “fight and kill the Jews.” Later he explained he was “only quoting the words of the Prophet Muhammad.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded by saying, “Whoever wants peace should not permit such incitement and should not allow calls to murder Jews.”

Hussein’s “morally heinous” statements, he added, were reminiscent of one of his predecessors, the mufti Amin el-Husseini, who fled to Germany in 1941 and collaborated with the Nazis during the Holocaust. Husseini’s pro-Nazi radio broadcasts were beamed from Berlin to the Arab world – including a March 1, 1944 tirade in which he exhorted his listeners, in language similar to that of last week’s controversy, to “Kill the Jews wherever you find them.”

What is not well known is the impact of the mufti on the 1948 U.S. presidential race.

In the aftermath of World War II and the revelations of the full extent of the Holocaust, American Jews and Christian Zionists pressed President Harry Truman to endorse creation of a Jewish state. Truman, fearful the U.S. would be dragged into sending “half a million troops” to Palestine, preferred to stay at arm’s length from the conflict.

But his political advisers saw trouble looming in the 1946 midterm congressional elections. New York State Democratic chairman Paul Fitzpatrick warned that if Truman failed to support Jewish statehood, “it would be useless for the Democrats to nominate a state ticket this fall.” And another longtime New York Democratic Party leader, Ed Flynn, predicted that if Truman backed down on Palestine, “the effects will be severely felt in November.”

Enter the mufti. In the waning days of World War II, Husseini made his way to France, where he was placed under house arrest. Yugoslavia indicted him for war crimes committed by members of an all-Muslim SS unit he organized in Bosnia, but did not seek his extradition. The French and the British, nervous about angering the Arab world, likewise took no action.

While Husseini was relaxing in his French villa, a series of exposes in the New York Post, PM and The Nation in early 1946 revealed new details of his wartime activities, including his sabotage of a prisoner exchange with the Germans that would have saved the lives of 4,000 Jewish children.

Furious American Jewish groups wanted Truman to intervene. The American Zionist Emergency Council sent the State Department a 13-page memo urging the United States to indict the mufti.

Another notable voice of protest was that of Benzion Netanyahu, the father of Israel’s current prime minister, who in the 1940s was director of the U.S. wing of the militant Revisionist Zionist movement. He sponsored large newspaper advertisements headlined “The Mufti Must Be Brought to Trial!” and featuring a photograph of Husseini meeting with Hitler. The administration ignored the protests.

To make matters worse, in May 1946, the mufti escaped to Cairo – with what seemed to be the connivance of the French and British – and promptly renewed his efforts to incite the Arabs in Palestine against the Jews. For American Jewish leaders, it was another sign that London, with Washington’s tacit support, was taking the Arabs’ side.

Even Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, usually the most pro-Truman voice in the Jewish leadership, publicly urged the president to “speak sharply and act decisively in relation to the [Palestine policy of] the British government.

Meanwhile, the Republicans were taking up the Zionist cause. In 1944, the GOP had adopted the first-ever platform plank endorsing Jewish statehood (which the Democrats then had to match). From 1945 to 1948, the likely contenders for the Republican nomination, Sen. Robert Taft and Gov. Thomas Dewey, repeatedly urged creation of a Jewish state and criticized the Truman administration for waffling on the issue.

The mufti’s escape and the revelations about his World War II activity were part of the tumultuous series of events in 1946-48 that helped inflame American Jewish voters against the Truman administration and, by association, the Democratic Party. It contributed to the Republican landslide in the 1946 midterm congressional elections (including the election of the first Republican senator from New York in 30 years) and the shocking defeat of Truman’s candidate in a congressional election in New York City in early 1948.

Dr. Rafael Medoff

FDR and the ‘Voyage of the Damned’

Monday, November 14th, 2011

Miami Beach was certainly a fitting choice as the site for this month’s reunion of passengers from the ill-fated SS St. Louis, the ship of Jewish refugees that sailed from Nazi Germany in May 1939. As children, they gazed at the lights of Miami as the St. Louis hovered off the Florida coast, hoping desperately for permission to land.

In the 70 years since that tragic voyage, the story of the St. Louis has been told and retold, taught and studied, researched and pondered. It has been to Hollywood, in the 1976 film “Voyage of the Damned,” starring Faye Dunaway. It was the subject of a U.S. Senate resolution expressing remorse over what happened. It was featured in a full-page political cartoon in the Washington Post (by Art Spiegelman of “Maus” fame and this author). It was the focus of a project by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to trace the fate of each of the more than 900 passengers.

And it continues to fascinate historians – including an Israeli scholar who has uncovered a new document that sheds light on President Franklin Roosevelt’s attitude toward the St. Louis.

The Saddest Ship Afloat

Hans Fisher, today a professor at Rutgers University, grew up in the German city of Breslau. He still vividly remembers the torments he and other Jewish children endured there in the early years of the Hitler regime.

“When my friends and I would come out of our school building, members of the Hitler Youth would be waiting nearby,” he recalls. “They would chase us, and if they caught us, they would beat us.”

His father, George Fisher, was one of the tens of thousands of Jewish men arrested during the November 1938 Kristallnacht program and sent to concentration camps. After nearly two months in Buchenwald, George was released on condition he leave the country within two weeks. He secured a visa to Cuba and immediately upon his arrival there began making arrangements for Hans, his sister Ruth, and their mother to join him. They purchased tickets to sail on the SS St. Louis in May 1939.

Hans’s grandparents, Wolf and Emma Gottheimer, chose to stay behind.

“My grandfather was convinced that since four of his sons had given their lives for Germany in World War I, the Nazis would never persecute him,” Hans explains. “In fact, my grandparents had gone to Palestine in 1935, but then returned to Germany, to the shock and amazement of their friends.”

Hans’s grandparents would eventually perish in the Theresienstadt concentration camp.

The two-week voyage from Hamburg to Havana proceeded without incident. “I was young, I was happy that we were getting away from Nazi Germany, I certainly couldn’t appreciate how tenuous our position was,” Hans says.

“When we reached Havana, all of our suitcases were brought up to the deck as we got ready to disembark. It was a terrible shock to be standing there by the rail, our suitcases in hand, and told we could not get off the ship.”

All but thirty of the passengers held documents granting them entry to Cuba as tourists, which they had purchased in Germany, at the astronomical sum of $500 each, from an unscrupulous Cuban government official. Cuba’s authorities, furious at the backroom profiteering and sensitive to domestic anti-Semitism, refused to recognize the validity of the entry documents.

The St. Louis remained in the Havana port for several days as officials of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee negotiated with Cuban leaders. Meanwhile, relatives of the passengers rented small boats and rowed close to the St. Louis, hoping to catch a glimpse of their loved ones.

Dr. Rafael Medoff

Evasion, Obstruction And Acquiescence

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

President Roosevelt’s response to the Holocaust is a serious issue that merits careful consideration of the historical facts. Listing FDR’s Jewish acquaintances, or the number of Jews hired by his administration, tells us very little about his response to the Nazi genocide. A meaningful discussion of the issues needs to move beyond arguments along the lines of “some of his best friends were Jewish.” And name-calling likewise does little to enhance understanding of the issues.

Let’s briefly consider some of the steps FDR might have taken to aid Europe’s Jews – steps that were all proposed to the Roosevelt administration by Jewish organizations and other rescue advocates.

1. FDR could have spoken out. From the rise of Hitler in early 1933 to the Kristallnacht pogrom in late 1938, FDR held 430 press conferences. He never once raised the issue of Hitler’s persecution of the Jews.

2. The Roosevelt administration could have admitted more Jewish refugees to the United States. Not by asking Congress to liberalize the entire immigration system and not by starting a public debate over the contentious issue of immigration but rather by simply instructing the State Department to allow the existing quotas to be filled. With FDR’s knowledge and approval, the State Department set up a series of administrative obstacles that made it extremely difficult to qualify for a visa to the United States. As a result, from 1933 to 1945 the quotas from Germany and other Axis countries were almost always under-filled. More than 190,000 quota places from those countries sat unused – 190,000 lives that could have been saved if FDR had quietly given the word to his State Department.

Hence, what Mr. Garfunkel writes about how Congress opposed “the Sabath-Celler refugee bill to bring in basically 20,000 Jewish children” (he means the Wagner-Rogers bill) is irrelevant: FDR could have saved not 20,000 Jews but 190,000 Jews, without proposing any new bills.

3. Thousands of U.S. cargo ships, known as Liberty ships, brought supplies to Allied forces in Europe and North Africa, but when they were ready to return to the U.S., they were sometimes too light to sail, so they had to be filled with ballast – rocks and chunks of concrete – to give them added weight. Jewish refugees could have served the same purpose.

4. The president could have pressured the British to open Palestine to Jewish refugees.

5. If the administration had established the War Refugee Board in 1943 instead of fighting tooth and nail against its creation and establishing it in 1944, the WRB staff would have found ways to rescue more refugees. In addition, the Board should have been given appropriate funding by the U.S. government. Instead, 90 percent of its budget was supplied by private Jewish organizations.

6. Ransom overtures (through funds blocked until after the war) and other third-party negotiations with the Germans. Thus, for example, the Swiss were ready to accept thousands of French Jewish children but it took the State Department more than a year to provide the necessary guarantees, and the opportunity was missed.

7. The administration could have pressured neutrals near Axis countries (Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey) to open their borders to refugees and keep them in temporary shelters until after the war. The U.S. also could have pressured the neutrals, the Vatican, and the Red Cross to take diplomatic action to aid the Jews. There could have been many more Raoul Wallenbergs if neutral governments encouraged their diplomats to take humanitarian steps.

8. The State Department could have quickly approved requests by Jewish organizations to send funds into Axis Europe to shelter or ransom Jews, instead of dragging its feet and undermining such requests.

9. FDR could have agreed to set up numerous temporary shelters for Jewish refugees, instead of just the one token camp in Oswego, New York, where 982 refugees were housed. Roosevelt’s apologists cannot hide behind claims that the American public was hostile to giving temporary shelter to refugees; an April 1944 Gallup poll found that 70 percent of Americans agreed that “our government should offer now temporary protection and refuge to those people in Europe who have been persecuted by the Nazis.”

10. Beginning in June 1944, U.S. warplanes could have bombed the railway lines leading to Auschwitz or the gas chambers and crematoria in Auschwitz. How do we know this? Because during the summer and autumn of 1944, American and British planes repeatedly bombed German oil factories adjacent to Auschwitz, some of them less than five miles from the gas chambers. (For the recollections of George McGovern, who was one of the pilots in the 1944 raids on the oil factories, see www.wymaninstitute.org/articles/2005-01-mcgovern.php.)

No wonder the Goldberg Commission, in its final report, concluded: “In general, the policies of both [the U.S. and British] governments toward Jews fleeing from Hitler’s grasp…was one of evasion and obstruction” and “The attitude which such policies revealed…was aptly characterized in the title of a memorandum dated January 18, 1944, entitled ‘On the Acquiescence of This Government in the Murder of European Jews.’ ”

Evasion. Obstruction. Acquiescence. That sums up the Roosevelt administration’s response to the Holocaust.

Dr. Rafael Medoff is director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies and author or editor of 14 books about Jewish history, Zionism, and the Holocaust.

Dr. Rafael Medoff

Netanyahu Follows Father’s Path In Amassing Bipartisan Support

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

The enthusiastic response Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received when he addressed Congress on May 24 came from both sides of the aisle. Democrats and Republicans both took part in the numerous standing ovations.

Afterward, Democrats and Republicans made statements criticizing President Obama’s positions and supporting Israel’s.

But perhaps it is not so surprising that the prime minister was able to attract such bipartisan support. His father accomplished something similar 67 years ago.

In the summer of 1944, 34-year-old Benzion Netanyahu was the executive director of the American wing of Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s Revisionist Zionist movement.

One of Benzion Netanyahu’s tasks was to help mobilize support in Washington for free Jewish immigration to Palestine and the creation of a Jewish state. That was no small job at a time when the British opposed Jewish immigration and statehood, and the Roosevelt administration preferred not to intervene.

The Revisionists often used tactics that the mainstream Zionists considered too aggressive. For example, Netanyahu and his colleagues repeatedly placed large advertisements in The New York Times and other leading newspapers with headlines such as “The White Paper Must Be Smashed, if Millions of Jews Are to Be Saved!” and “Is America to Be a Party to the Palestine Betrayal?”

These challenges to Allied policy did not sit well with mainstream Jewish leaders such as Rabbi Stephen Wise, who was deeply loyal to President Roosevelt, the New Deal and the Democratic Party. In his private correspondence, Wise called the president “the All Highest” and “the Great Man.”

Much to the Jewish establishment’s chagrin, Netanyahu actively cultivated relationships with Republican members of Congress and party leaders. For Wise, building friendly relations with FDR’s political foes was inconceivable. For Netanyahu it was political common sense. Roosevelt had no incentive to address Jewish concerns if he believed Jewish votes were in his pocket.

Only if there were a credible threat of Jews voting Republican would FDR see a reason to reconsider his cold policy toward Jewish refugees and Zionism.

In the months leading up to the June 1944 Republican National Convention, Netanyahu and his colleagues undertook what they called “a systematic campaign of enlightenment.” They met repeatedly with former president Herbert Hoover, 1936 GOP presidential nominee Alf Landon and influential Republican members of Congress such as Rep. Clare Booth Luce (wife of the publisher of Time and Life).

At a Revisionist dinner that spring, Luce said Great Britain’s blockade of Jewish refugee ships bound for Palestine was to blame for the fact that “Jewish blood stains the blue Mediterranean red.”

In their meetings, the Revisionists asked the Republicans to include a pro-Zionist plank in their 1944 platform. Neither party had ever formally endorsed the cause of Jewish statehood, but the GOP leaders clearly were sympathetic. On the eve of the convention, Luce called Netanyahu and said, only half joking, “I’m going now to do your work at the convention.”

Meanwhile, an additional lobbying effort was undertaken by Abba Hillel Silver, the activist Cleveland rabbi who in 1943 had been elevated to the co-chairmanship of the American Zionist movement alongside Wise. Silver, who enjoyed a close relationship with Sen. Robert Taft of Ohio, lobbied Taft and other leading Republicans on the platform issue.

The GOP’s final platform not only endorsed Jewish statehood in Palestine, as Silver wanted, but also criticized Roosevelt, as Netanyahu wanted. It declared: “We condemn the failure of the President to insist that the mandatory of Palestine carry out the provisions of the Balfour Declaration and of the mandate while he pretends to support them.”

Furious and embarrassed, Wise dashed off a letter to Roosevelt declaring that he was “deeply ashamed” of the “utterly unjust” wording of the Republican plank. In the pages of the Revisionist journal Zionews, Netanyahu commented that “It seems that to Dr. Wise and his friends, partisan politics are more important than truth and the interests of their people and their country.”

The Republican Party’s move had an important consequence: It compelled the Democrats to compete for Jewish support and treat the Jewish vote as if it were up for grabs. The Democratic National Convention in July 1944 for the first time endorsed “unrestricted Jewish immigration and colonization” of Palestine and the establishment of “a free and democratic Jewish commonwealth.”

Dr. Rafael Medoff

A History Lession From Netanyahu Senior

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Israeli generals probably don’t cry very often. These are men of steel nerves, professional soldiers toughened by the rigors of battle and a lifetime devoted to strict military discipline.

But there was a moment during his recent swearing-in ceremony when the new chief of staff of the Israeli army, Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, could not hold back his tears.

That moment came when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu turned from the familiar generalities about army service to a very personal subject: the contrast between the suffering Gantz’s mother endured during the Holocaust and the national triumph her son’s career symbolizes.

What the audience did not know, however, was that there was also a personal element on Netanyahu’s side. Seventy years ago, his father, the scholar and Zionist activist professor Benzion Netanyahu, authored a stirring Passover eve proclamation likewise anchored in the themes of Jewish victory in the face of unbearable persecution and the ability of the Jews to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Prof. Netanyahu’s words offer one last lesson to take with us from this year’s Passover holiday.

“When your mother was liberated from Bergen-Belsen, she weighed just 28 kilograms [62 lbs.],” the prime minister noted. “I am certain that at the time, she never dreamed that 66 years later her son, yet to be born, would be the 20th chief of staff of the army of the State of Israel, the Jewish state. Perhaps she did not dream of such a thing, but it has come true before our eyes.”

Lt.-Gen. Gantz made it clear, in his remarks at the ceremony, that he appreciated the historical significance of the journey from Bergen-Belsen to Jerusalem, from Jewish weakness and homelessness to sovereignty and independence.

“I am the son of the Jewish people’s chain of generations,” he declared.

The Israeli army, after all, is not just any army, and its chief of staff is not just another general. They are intrinsically connected to the Jews’ unique national experience, both in exile and in their homeland.

Which is exactly the point Prof. Benzion Netanyahu made in his Passover 1941 message. At the time, Netanyahu served as executive director of the New Zionist Organization of America, the U.S. wing of the militant Revisionist Zionist movement. He was also editor of its biweekly publication, Zionews.

His lead editorial in each issue of Zionews typically dealt with the latest Palestine-related political developments and controversies, not something from the Jewish calendar. In fact, Netanyahu’s April 21, 1941 editorial was the only occasion in the journal’s five year-history that he devoted that premier space to a reflection on a Jewish holiday.

“For ages and generations we have assembled in our homes on the first and second evenings of Passover to commemorate the liberation of our forefathers from the slavery of Egypt,” he began.

“Thousands of years have passed since; new slavery, hatreds and persecutions followed our race into every corner of the world.”

He cited a number of examples of such persecutions, including, of course, the Jews being “burned on the fires of the Spanish Inquisition,” which was the subject of the Ph.D. dissertation he was then writing.

Netanyahu also recalled how the Jews were “uprooted [by the Romans] from free and independent Judea to be slaves.” They were “beaten and killed by the Cossacks of the Ukraine.” The “Russian pogromists shed our blood like water.” “The Arab effendis have proclaimed a holy war on us.” And “Hitler and Mussolini have started a march of extermination against us.”

Yet the suffering of the Jews could never separate them from their faith or extinguish their hopes:

“Through oceans of blood, our blood, through oceans of tears, our tears, hated, persecuted, beaten, wandering and homeless, we assemble at the Passover Seder to thank God for our liberation from Egypt, and to express once again the hope of the [Haggadah]: ‘This year we are still slaves – next year we shall be free men.'”

“It is a great hope,” Prof. Netanyahu concluded. “It is a great spirit of a great nation. Only a nation of our spiritual caliber could come through the ages of unparalleled sufferings with its spirit unbroken; still alive; still striving for liberty. Next year we shall be free men.”

Dr. Rafael Medoff

Obama, Libya And The Holocaust

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

President Obama and his supporters have defended U.S. military action in Libya by invoking America’s failure to respond to mass murder in Rwanda, Bosnia and even the Holocaust. Do those experiences indeed offer useful lessons for the current crisis?

In his national address on March 28, the president pointed out that “when people were being brutalized in Bosnia in the 1990s, it took the international community more than a year to intervene with air power to protect civilians.”

White House Middle East adviser Dennis Ross reportedly said at a briefing for foreign policy experts on March 23 that there was a danger in Libya of a “Srebrenica on steroids” – referring to the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims by Serb militiamen.

National Security Council official Samantha Power, who reportedly played a major role in the U.S. decision to intervene in Libya, has described her unsuccessful attempt as a young journalist to alert the world about the imminent attack on Srebrenica as one of the formative events in her life.

Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen cited the Evian conference, in 1938, at which the United States and other countries refused to open their doors to Jews fleeing Nazi Germany.

“Lives were clearly at stake [in Libya] and something had to be done,” Cohen wrote. “The world could not simply shove its hands in its pockets and stand by as some madman had his way with people in his grip – in spirit, a reprise of the Evian conference.”

“We learned a lot in the 1990s,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has said in her comments on the Libya action, referring to the importance of not repeating the world’s slow response to the killings in Bosnia and Rwanda.

The people of Libya undoubtedly appreciate that they are the beneficiaries of the current administration’s effort to learn from America’s past mistakes. Of course, the people of Bahrain or Syria may be wondering what disqualifies them from U.S. military support.

Clinton’s explanation on “Face the Nation” that Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, unlike Moammar Khaddafi, is “a reformer,” probably will not impress many of Assad’s victims. Chinese dissidents, for their part, have been questioning Clinton’s judgment ever since her assertion, during her February 2009 visit to China, that human rights issues “can’t interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis, and the security crisis” that she was discussing with Beijing’s leaders.

Still, there can be no denying the fact that America’s action in Libya constitutes a significant change from the policies of some previous presidents.

It was not so long ago, after all, that another secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, was telling the president that “if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern.”

And Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was president during the years when Jews from the (Nazi-occupied) Soviet Union were indeed put into gas chambers, likewise thought it was not an American concern.

Today, by contrast, America’s president has declared that the United States has “responsibilities to our fellow human beings.” That “preventing genocide” is “important to us” and one of our “core principles.” And that “some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries, [but] the United States of America is different.”

The people of Libya are not comparable to the Jews of Europe during the Holocaust. Neither are the people of Syria or Bahrain. There is no danger of genocide in those countries. On the other hand, based on the historical record in that part of the world, we know the possibility of a dictator massacring thousands of his own citizens is very real.

The fact that America’s current leaders recognize a role for historical lessons in shaping policy decisions is certainly a welcome change from the attitudes of some of their predecessors.

Rafael Medoff is director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies.

Dr. Rafael Medoff

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, October 11th, 2006

Three-State Solution

   In his fine column of Sept. 15, Louis Rene Beres noted that Israel was not the aggressor in 1967 and as such was justified in using anticipatory self-defense. That point should be clarified: Israel used preemptive self-defense only against Egypt. Both Syria and Jordan initiated hostilities with attacks against Israel.
 
   Indeed, Israel had promised Jordan’s King Hussein that it would not attack Jordanian-occupied Judea and Samaria (the so-called West Bank) and East Jerusalem if he remained neutral in the event of hostilities with Egypt. Hussein chose not to do so, and thus lost his Western Palestine lands.
 
   It bears reiteration that Jordan, created in 1946 out of 78 percent of British Mandate Palestine, is Eastern Palestine. It is the Arab state in Palestine, just as Israel, which controls Western Palestine, is the Jewish state in Palestine. In other words, the so-called Two-State Solution is in fact a Three-State Solution.
 

Edward M. Siegel

New York, NY

 

Beware Dem Takeover

   Ed Lasky’s Oct. 6 op-ed article (“The Implications for Israel If Democrats Recapture the House”) should be a wake-up call for all those who care about the U.S./Israel relationship. The Democratic Party’s support for Israel has paled, of late, when compared with that of the Republicans. And several recent polls indicate that Democratic voters are far less inclined than their Republican counterparts to support Israel.
 
   There is one point that Mr. Lasky overlooked: If the Democrats do take control of the House of Representatives, you can be sure that impeachment proceedings against President Bush will promptly follow. This would, of course, undermine if not totally immobilize the Bush administration.
 
   Not only would Israel suffer – Bush has been a remarkably strong friend of Israel and has treated Palestinian leaders with far more skepticism than his predecessors in the Oval Office – but the war against terror will be doomed and our efforts to install democracy in Iraq will come to naught.
 

Harold Frankel

Cincinnati, OH
 
 
Count On Rangel

   Ed Lasky certainly paints an alarming picture of what might happen if the Democrats retake Congress. As he says, some of the Democrats who are in line to assume the chairmanship of key committees have disturbingly negative records when it comes to supporting Israel.

 
   But while I generally share his concerns, I do not think that Congressman Charles Rangel – one of the politicians Mr. Lasky warns about and who would become chair of the enormously powerful Ways and Means Committee – should be lumped together with the others.
 
   Rangel is the quintessential politician, and as a New Yorker with many Jewish acquaintances in both his public and private lives, he can be counted on to do the right thing.
 
   Lasky may well be accurate in his assessment of the other Democrats he mentions, but in Rangel’s case he offers pure speculation. I do agree, though, that in general the Democratic Party has a pro-Third World mindset that in many cases translates into antagonism toward Israel.
 

Robert Kravitz

(Via E-Mail)
 
 
Deception And Kashrus

   I write to add my voice to that of reader Pinchas Hammerman (Letters, Oct. 6) on the Monsey kashrus scandal. I find absolutely infuriating the tendency in some rabbinic circles to maintain that anything even remotely or indirectly involving halacha is the exclusive purview of rabbis.

 
   The Monsey scandal was not fundamentally about halachic standards for supervision but about a system that allowed a person to deceive his kosher supervisor – and to do so for a very long time.
 
   Adherence to halacha in this case was obviously not enough – but there was no “heads-up” given by the supervising rabbi that the possibility for deception even existed. Should we not now demand disclosure as to the actual extent of supervision? Is the rabbi, no matter how fine a man or how big a talmid chacham, blameless even if he was going by the book, so to speak?
 
   What exactly did this rabbi think his imprimatur meant to consumers if not that he, as the certifying supervisor, was certain beyond a doubt that the product was kosher?
 

Dov Grossman

Jerusalem
 

 Free Speech For All

   While I found last week’s editorial “Fear of Muslim Power” very insightful, I feel it failed to address a question that should have immediately suggested itself: Is there a substantive difference between what the Muslims do when they seek censorship and what the Christian and Jewish communities do when they seek to stop anti-Christian museum displays or anti-Jewish and anti-Israel advocates from speaking in the public square?

 
   I do appreciate that your editorial drew the distinction of Muslim violence and threats of violence. But there have been a number of recent instances where appearances on campus by anti-Israel spokesmen were called off for fear of a potentially violent reaction on the part of pro-Israel students. I certainly don’t agree with the position of the pro-Palestinian provocateurs, but I wonder whether our community is best served by seeking to curtail mere speech.
 
   Personally, I am repelled by Holocaust deniers and those who defend the murder of little children. It behooves us, however, to respond to these challenges with our heads, not our hearts.
 

Morris Finnestan

(Via E-Mail)

 

 

FDR And The Holocaust

 Roosevelt’s Inaction

      Thank you for publishing Rafael Medoff’s highly informative article on the failure of Franklin Roosevelt to concern himself with the savagery of the Holocaust, which of course was ongoing during his watch (Whitewashing FDR on the Holocaust,” front-page essay, Oct. 6).
 
      Given the enormity of the crimes, FDR’s inaction was and remains inexcusable. Had he taken even minimal action, who knows how many Jewish lives might have been spared? Perhaps a Jew such as Supreme Court justice Felix Frankfurter would not have said “I don’t believe the reports” when confronted with the evidence of the Nazi genocide.
 
      And perhaps – had FDR’s blas? attitude toward saving Jews not permeated the corridors of power in Washington – FDR’s successor, Harry Truman, would have sent Israel the arms it so desperately needed in its war of independence.
 

Jerry Boris

Philadelphia, PA
 

 

Jewish Culpability
 
      Despite repeated attempts to whitewash the truth, there is little doubt that many Jews in Europe were not saved due to the interference and obstructionist behavior of several high-profile American Jews.
 
      Chief among them, as Dr. Medoff amply demonstrates, were Samuel Rosenman of the American Jewish Committee and Stephen Wise of the American Jewish Congress.
 
      Wise stood out as an insidious instigator who worked counterproductively against attempts by others to save European Jewry. His tremendous influence in Washington and on Jewish opinion could have swayed the U.S. government to pursue a more aggressive course of intervention. In light of his completely negative influence during this horrific time in history, I find it abhorrent that several Jewish landmarks are named in his honor.
 
      There have always been attempts to excuse the inexcusable and justify the unjustifiable. But certainly when it comes to the Holocaust, there should be no excuses made for the disgraceful actions of those who were in a position to save their fellow Jews but didn’t.
 
      To add insult to injury, in order to spare the reputations of those who thwarted all efforts to assist Europe’s Jews, slanderous allegations have been made in an attempt to tarnish one of the few heroes of that time – Peter Bergson.
 
      Justice is well served whenever the real activities of the obstructionists are exposed and the heroics of Bergson and his equally valiant allies are trumpeted.
 

Adina Kutnicki

Elmwood Park, NJ

 

FDR Vs. GWB

      Tremendous work by Rafael Medoff, and kudos to The Jewish Press for featuring it so prominently. Dr. Medoff absolutely decimated Robert Rosen’s foolish book, which should have been titled Ignoring the Jews rather than Saving the Jews.

      Unfortunately, Jews never learn, and most still worship the memory of Roosevelt. Ironically, the same lemmings who adore FDR positively hate George W. Bush, despite the latter’s resolute backing of Israel. I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that had Mr. Bush been in the White House in the 1940’s, a lot more Jews would be alive today. And Jewish liberals would still despise him.

Yitzchak Heimowitz
Ramat Gan, Israel

 

Rosen Is Right

     Robert Rosen had it right in his book. Without FDR’s superb leadership, World War II would have been lost and world Jewry would eventually have been destroyed. If the critics think that Farley, Garner, Taft or others who might have been elected in 1940 would have saved any Jews, they are sadly mistaken.

 
      If FDR had died in 1940 or had not run and we had not won the war, the Jews would have been a bargaining chip for our own homemade fascists: Lindbergh, Coughlin, Ford, and countless others. Read Lucy Dawidowicz‘s book The War Against the Jews.
 

Richard Garfunkel

(Via E-Mail)

 

Letters to the Editor

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/letters-to-the-editor/letters-to-the-editor-158/2006/10/11/

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