Supporters of Donald Trump hold signs in Hebrew and English as the president speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition's annual leadership meeting in Las Vegas, April 6, 2019. (JTA/Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)
Supporters of Donald Trump hold signs in Hebrew and English as the president speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition's annual leadership meeting in Las Vegas, April 6, 2019. (JTA/Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Dershowitz was right; slavery reparations are misguided; Orthodox Jews wrong on Trump; etc.

Dershowitz was correct

In spite of my great respect and affection for Mark Cohen, I must take issue with his letter to the editor that criticized professor Alan Dershowitz’s defense of President Trump before the Senate in the impeachment proceedings (“Dershowitz betrays the Jews”).

Yes, professor Dershowitz acknowledged that the academic legal community does not share his view that the Constitution’s ”high crimes and misdemeanors” criterion for impeachment must include an action-violating criminal law.

However, his arguments here were scholarly, well thought-out, extremely well-sourced, and, in my view as a layperson, quite convincing. Reasonable people may disagree.

However, to Mark’s central point: Dershowitz did not justify “authoritarian rule by a president.” Rather he dealt with the issue of motivation and self-interest in presidential decisions. A president’s apparent political self-interest does not turn an otherwise legal act into something illegal and impeachable.

He cited the work of Josh Blackman, a constitutional scholar who, referring to President Lincoln’s actions during the Civil War, concluded: “Politicians routinely promote their understanding of the general welfare while in the back of their minds considering how these actions will affect their popularity.”

In Dershowitz’s own words: “In order to conclude that such mixed motive actions constitute abuse of power, opponents must psychoanalyze the president and attribute to him a singular self-serving motive.

“Such a subjective probing of motives cannot be the legal basis for a serious accusation of abuse of power that could result in the removal of a duly elected president.”

Nothing here justifies the unlawful or authoritarian use of presidential power.

Yasher koach, Mark, for your wonderful work as a criminal defense attorney. Hope to see you in shul soon. Take care.

Steve Astrachan
Pleasant Hill

‘That is the Jewish way’

Rabbi Julie Saxe-Taller raised some interesting questions in her recent J. opinion piece (“I cried tears of relief when Reform Jews embraced slavery reparations”).

Apparently, the Union for Reform Judaism endorsed a concept to redress the wrongs of slavery and discrimination against blacks in America.

On its face, this is a noble and deserving endeavor.

But when I consider how this might equitably be achieved, I am flummoxed. Slavery ended more than 150 years ago; no Americans alive today were responsible for the horrors of slavery, and likely the overwhelming majority of our citizens are descended from immigrants who arrived on our shores after 1865 or are immigrants themselves and have no connection to the oppression that occurred so long ago.

Yet these same individuals would shoulder the tax burden for reparations. If you are biracial, would you receive half the reparation? What if you are one-quarter black?

And once we hit this slippery slope, why not include the Japanese alive today and their descendants who lost their businesses and property during World War II while interned in detention camps. And the Chinese should also receive reparations because the U.S. passed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 (repealed in 1943). And what of Native Americans?

U.S. colleges and universities used to have quotas. Should Jews denied entry based on their religion be given reparations? Do the Egyptians still owe us reparations for what transpired 2,500 years ago?

The point is, terrible injustices have occurred throughout history. For those who suffered and are now gone, there is no way to make them whole again.

Is there a better option?

Perhaps strengthening our efforts to provide excellent education and opportunity for all those at the bottom of our social strata to achieve success through hard work and initiative. Torah admonishes us: “Strengthen him [the poor person] so that he does not fall and become dependent on others” (Leviticus 25:35).

That is the Jewish way.

Jeffrey Carmel
Portola Valley

Orthodox Jews for Trump

As a Democrat who studied the Holocaust as an undergrad at UCLA, I am terrified by Trump. I, and many others, see stunning parallels between the rise of fascism, his tactics and the way the entire Republican Party has dutifully fallen in line behind him.

But I truly must hand it to him on one account: Who else has ever been able to coalesce such fervent support from both neo-Nazis and Orthodox Jews at the same time? (“‘I think it’s Israel’: How Orthodox Jews became Republicans,” Feb. 3). Amazing.

Susan Hirshfield
Santa Rosa

Gratuitous defense

Here are just a few fitting questions for letter writer Todd Silverstein (“Fighting hate with censorship”) and like-minded people gratuitously defending anti-Semites’ right of speech.

How many Muslims have defended Islamophobic speech? How many African Americans have defended white supremacists’ bigotry?

The answer: Very few, if any.

Why is it that only Jews are compelled to neglect the hate toward them?

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” is the first of Rabbi Hillel’s famous three questions. Turning a blind eye on anti-Semitism only encourages those who promulgate it.

Concentration camps and ghettos weren’t built out of thin air. They laid on the foundation of an anti-Semitism where Jews were portrayed as vermin deserving just one outcome (total annihilation).

Nowadays, anti-Semites denounce Jews as “pigs and apes” and single out the world’s only Jewish state for its “oppressive and apartheid” policies.

The systemic, not occasional, anti-Semitic outbreaks — from campus to campus and from year to year — are rightly addressed in the presidential executive order on fighting anti-Semitism on campuses.

It sounds only logical for Jews to embrace this executive order, because, through millennia of persecution, they know better than anybody else where anti-Semitism may lead.

Vladimir Kaplan
San Mateo

‘Unconscionable’ statement

I am deeply disappointed by a UC Berkeley student government committee’s vote against a resolution condemning Bears for Palestine for its display glorifying Palestinian terrorists (“UC Berkeley student government resolution to condemn Palestinian display fails”).

The display featured pictures of Palestinian terrorists, including Rasmea Odeh, who helped bomb an Israeli supermarket in 1969, killing two Jewish university students, Leon Kanner and Eddie Joffe. That bombing set a precedent for future Palestinian terror attacks, including the 2002 Hebrew University cafeteria bombing that killed UC Berkeley alumna Marla Bennett.

Equally disappointing was the reaction of UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ. She acknowledged that Jewish students have the right to “feel dismay and concern” over the photos of the terrorists, yet insisted that “each side has an equal right to express and have heard their perspective.”

That statement was unconscionable.

If a white supremacist student group erected a public display celebrating MLK assassin James Earl Ray, the chancellor would undoubtedly condemn it without reservation — and assure students that the glorification of racist hatred, violence and murder would never be tolerated.

So why is the glorification of terrorists who murdered Jewish students — because they were Jews — acceptable?

Moreover, it runs afoul of the UC Regents’ 2016 Principles Against Intolerance, which expressly condemns “anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism.”

The concern here is not that Bears for Palestine is expressing a viewpoint that pro-Israel students can counter in the marketplace of ideas. Rather, it’s that anti-Israel activists are creating a climate of hostility, intimidation and intolerance for Jewish and pro-Israel students that leaves current students feeling threatened and will deter prospective students from enrolling at UC Berkeley.

Whatever one’s beliefs about the Middle East, this is incompatible with the university’s core educational mission.

Stephen A. Silver
San Francisco

‘Disingenuous’ claim at Cal

The Berkeley student senate demonstrated clearly that it is not a safe venue for respectful deliberation of issues that are important to students (“UC Berkeley student government resolution to condemn Palestinian display fails”).

The intent of the Bears for Palestine photo display was clearly to celebrate the three female terrorists pictured.

It is utterly disingenuous to claim Jewish students merely “perceive” the display as honoring a woman, among others, who was convicted and jailed for terror-murder, who lied about this on her U.S. immigration application and who was deported from the U.S.

This is tantamount to displaying pictures of the 9/11 hijackers and describing them as “fighters for the Palestinian cause.” Would objecting to such photos also serve to trigger all sorts of “marginalized” students?

Delaying a vote on a measure to censure the display featuring terrorist photographs does not constitute harassment of Palestinian students or any other group claiming “marginalization.”

UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ has stated her commitment to creating a campus environment where everyone feels safe, respected and welcome. But students from the full range of political perspectives and identity groups sent messages regarding the chaos at Cal, claiming perceived harmful verbal assaults and actions left them feeling “unsafe and concerned that they are not being seen or heard.”

One wonders which students groups at UC Berkeley do not routinely deploy the deflector shield of victimhood.

Perhaps student groups know that if they claim harassment, their behavior, no matter how questionable, will go unchallenged. However, in order to “build, not damage and destroy, the ties that can and should bind us together as a campus,” sometimes it is necessary for a chancellor to adjudicate — or even to blame.

Julia Lutch

Abbas, Olmert love-fest

Mahmoud Abbas, 15 years into his four-year term as head of the Palestinian Authority, is back in the limelight (“An unpopular Palestinian president and a disgraced former Israeli prime minister make the case for peace”).

After an appearance at the U.N. to reiterate his rejection of the Trump Peace Plan, Abbas spoke at a news conference in a Midtown Manhattan hotel. There, together with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (imprisoned for 16 months for bribery and fraud), Abbas reaffirmed his commitment to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“I’m fully ready to resume negotiations where we left it with you, Mr. Olmert,” Abbas said.

He must believe this is an actual option.

His remarks included the statement “We don’t want violence.”

Yeah, except maybe for the stabbings, stonings, shootings, bombings, vehicular homicide and rockets.

I suspect that if Israel didn’t assist with Abbas’ personal security arrangements, his own people would have killed him long ago.

Other than the photo opportunities, one can only wonder what benefit Olmert thinks he’s getting from kissing the cheeks of a Holocaust-denier and professional Jew-hater, Abbas.

Come to think of it, I’m not sure which cheeks Olmert thinks he’s kissing.

Desmond Tuck
San Mateo

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