On Iran, Obama Must Change Course

In a Jan. 9 editorial, “Time to Reconsider Iran Sanctions,” the JT suggests that the purpose of new sanctions legislation would be to keep the Iranians at the negotiation table. However, we should be mindful that sanctions were originally imposed
to pressure Iran to comply with a half-dozen hard-won U.N. Security Council resolutions. These resolutions required Iran to completely end its uranium enrichment program and established rigid verification parameters to ensure that Iran ceases to
engage in other nuclear weapons development activities.

It should be painfully clear by now that concessions already granted to Iran by the Obama administration during the present negotiation process have gutted those Security Council resolutions. According to Omri Ceren in Commentary magazine (“Enabling Iran’s Nukes,” January 2015), the president and his advisers are still clinging to hopes that these negotiations will stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, hopes that “they have every reason to know are, in truth, delusional.”

If President Obama is looking for a foreign policy legacy worthy of praise, he would do well to abandon his present course of appeasing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Instead of continuing down that delusional path, he should insist that Iran immediately and unconditionally comply with all the applicable U.N. Security Council resolutions, and he should start working seriously with Congress to bring Iran to its economic knees now by imposing ever-increasing sanctions on the recalcitrant Iranian regime until it fully complies with those resolutions.

Marc L. Caroff is a President, Louis D. Brandeis Chapter Zionist Organization of America, Silver Spring, Md.

JT Misses Mark

While the first three paragraphs of the JT’s editorial “Empty Gestures” (Jan. 9) factually outline the current situation between the Palestinians and Israel, the next paragraphs, where you imply the moral equivalency of Israel and her enemies, is unconscionable: “Israel and the Palestinians continue to make accusatory statements against one another and alternately take steps that each knows hurts the other but are unlikely to last.” I don’t think so. The truth is, the Palestinians act and Israel reacts. The unfortunate part of this is that Israel never seems to react long enough, hard enough or significantly enough. You said that while “… the two sides are talking — even if not with each other — they are less likely to be fighting with one another on the battlefield.”  Really? The last time I looked, the Palestinians, like the proverbial “Elvis” had left the building, er, table, and I don’t recall a time when talking “not with each other” prevented the Palestinians from
attacking and killing Jews in general and Israelis in particular.

Further, your comment that “neither Israel nor the Palestinians seem to have leadership capable of working out a peace deal” is patently ridiculous. Yes, President Mahmoud Abbas (just starting the 11th year of a four-year term) is a weak and ineffectual leader.  But therein lies the problem, not in Israel’s lack of leadership. The Palestinians could have had their own country and Israel could have had the peace and security she so desperately wants and needs years ago had the Palestinians only given up their dream of eliminating Israel — not just from the atlases of Harcourt Brace but from her very existence — and implementing the dream of a Palestinian state from the Jordon to the Mediterranean Sea. If freedom-loving, democratic people have not learned by now that peace comes through strength and the will to use it, then woe be unto us. Woe will not be unto Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu because he has learned that lesson and learned it well.  His leadership has remained strong, and it is that which has kept Israel strong.

Finally, your statement that the Palestinian Authority works constructively with Israel is laughable. Yes, its security forces work closely with Israel’s but only out of its own self-interest. But what have they done for us lately? Have they made any attempt to stop teaching their children of hatred for and murder of Jews? To worry about what would happen if the corrupt, intransigent, anti-Israel P.A. should collapse is foolhardy; in this case, the known is not better than the unknown.

It’s time for the Palestinian Auth-ority to collapse and hopefully bring forth a representative entity that will recognize the reality of Israel and negotiate a peace with her that provides the security she needs and deserves while doing it from the perspective of representing the best interests of the Palestinian people. Why? Because peace with Israel is in the best interests of the Palestinian people.  It’s not Israel that’s ratcheting up the levels of confrontation. She just reacts to the confrontational acts of the Palestinians, which she rightfully must do.

Rise of Nationalism

I am writing to all Jewish newspapers in Canada and the U.S., as a concerned Jewish writer who experiences racism and anti-Semitism on a regular basis, much as French Jews are
living it in 2015.

I live in Montreal, Quebec, where only a year ago, our religious rights and freedoms were on the legislative chopping block, so I know how it feels: Living somewhere you consider to be your home only to have an elected government try to strip you of your religious rights and freedoms is a terrifying experience, to be sure. It definitely changes how you feel about “your home”; I may live in Montreal, but it is no longer my home.

France has had these so-called secularizing laws on the books now for 10 years, and they are routinely strengthening and expanding them. These so-called “secular” laws are primarily targeting France’s 10 percent Muslim community who, as one might anticipate, isn’t taking too kindly to having their religion legislated out of “French society.” (For the record, neither are the Jews, but Jews represent only about 1 percent to 2 percent of French society.)

How can we frame the Charlie-Hebdo massacre as a freedom of press or freedom of expression issue when satirists were actually poking fun of a religious group of people whose rights are being systematically stripped away, simultaneously, by the state? To me, this is not satire. This is not freedom of the press related. This is rubbing salt on a wound and, in my opinion, represents the worst in journalistic ethics and practice.

I’m just saying that there are two sides to the coin here, and I fear our desire for solidarity with any people who’ve just experienced an act of terror like this is clouding our ability to delve deeper into the issue of what the state might or might notbe doing to enable and even stoke the fires of this type of extremist reactionary violence.

What would happen in New York State if the governor suddenly passed similar legislation? Could you imagine telling New York Jews that it was against the law for them to go to work wearing yarmulkes? There’d be a lot of plotzing and very few doctors left to handle it all.

As Jews, we are, or at least should be, more sensitive to issues that involve a state trying to take religious rights and freedoms away from its citizens. Our ancestors have experienced this for generations and generations, all over the planet.

In fact, Europe’s current trend toward secularization is not that at all; it is actually a red herring for
nationalism. If you look deep enough into the legislative agenda behind these laws, it is the preservation of the future “French state” that is uppermost on legislators’ minds. Historically, does this remind you of another era?

Win-Win Situation

Marc Shapiro’s Jan. 2 article on the issue of wages for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (“Opinions Divided on Subminimum Wage”) did an excellent job in conveying why there is a need to continue expansion of job opportunities that pay at or above minimum wage while cautioning what would occur if we completely disallow sub-minimum wages that may be paid to
people with significant disabilities. While these individuals’ disabilities may greatly diminish their productivity, they do not inhibit their desire to work nor their pride in earning.

Of the nearly 1,000 people supported in our day and employment programs at The Arc Baltimore, 53 percent are employed in jobs paying at or above minimum wage. Less than half of those we support are based at area centers and are involved in other activities in the community. Of these, 45 to 50 people get the opportunity to work for a limited number of hours each week earning 50 percent to 90 percent of the minimum wage.

Shapiro also put the right focus on the interest of The Arc, Chimes and other agencies in finding more companies that would hire people with disabilities, whether for office filing and administrative support, janitorial or landscaping jobs or customer service jobs. We have a lot of capable people who just need a chance to show what they can do, and our team is ready to back them up and make it a win-win situation.

Danish Hypocrisy

It’s always good to know when someone has left no doubt about their anti-Semitism and hypocrisy. Jesper Vahr, Denmark’s ambassador to Israel was clearly revealed in this regard in “European Hypocrisy” (Jan. 2). Remarks of the sort he made at the Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference would get many diplomats declared persona non grata and sent home. This individual has lost any credibility he may have had as a representative of his country. He’s a hypocrite because if a Palestinian with a knife approached him on a Jerusalem street and attempted to
inflict bodily harm, would he really say, “Give it to me in the gut because my proud Danish standards call for me to accept your antipathy toward Europeans and non-Muslims?”

Show of Support

As a staunch practicing Christian, I believe that the Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center (“Israeli NGO Blows Whistle,” Jan. 9) is correct legally and morally in its allegations against  the Presbyterian alliance, and I hope the Church reverses its positions regarding Israel and its peoples.

Unconditional Support for GW’s Steiner

Since December, emails from The George Washington University flood my inbox. Most of them I disregard, knowing they are reminders to evaluate my professors from the past semester’s courses. All my professors are listed there — history, political science, economics and statistics; however, the best teacher of the semester is absent from the list.

In my three-and-a-half years at GW, Rabbi Yudi Steiner’s role in my development as a person can neither be quantified nor equaled (“Rabbis Face Off,” Dec. 19). As I reflect on my college career, I regret some decisions I made. There were people, classes and organizations I invested time and energy in with little return. My investment in Chabad GW and the Steiner family not only proved worthwhile, but also will continue to pay dividends far after my college experience.

Growing up in a Jewish suburb of Baltimore and graduating from a Jewish day school I hoped to broaden my horizon in college and finally escape the ever-present “Jewish bubble.” This plan seemed doomed from the start, as I instantly felt comfortable and connected with Rabbi Steiner.

Routinely attending Shabbat dinners and holiday celebrations, I found my niche in GW’s Jewish community, but it wasn’t until Passover that I began to understand Chabad and Rabbi Steiner. I went to his apartment to ask where to buy kosher-for-Passover food and heard the following conversation between Rabbi Steiner and another student:

Student: “Last year, I broke Passover after the second day. It’s just not what I do.”

Rabbi Steiner: “Wow! Two days! That’s amazing; maybe this year you can keep it for a third day.”

Initially, I chuckled. Only later did I realize the significance and importance of his comment. Rabbi Steiner does not judge people based on their religious observance but strives to help and guide them along their own personal journey.

Because of him, I have wrapped tefillah every day since this past Sept. 2 and plan to continue after graduation. A court order may be able to separate Rabbi Steiner from GW, but it will never be able to separate GW students from Rabbi Steiner. He has built a home at GW for us, taught us, mentored us and inspired us. His family is our family, and the students of GW will support him unconditionally in any and every way. He has been there for us, and now we have an opportunity and an obligation to be there for him.

Was Gross Release Worth It for U.S.?

While I, along with many others, welcome the release of Alan Gross after his unjust imprisonment in Cuba (“Welcome Home, Alan Gross,” Dec. 26), I feel that the price was too high. The United States has exchanged an innocent man for several convicted terrorists and, in addition, agreed to resume diplomatic relations with a terrorist state, which has attempted to overthrow Latin American governments that are our friends and allies. For lessening of sanctions, freeing of terrorists and resumption of diplomatic relations, the U.S. has obtained the release of one innocent man. Is this a fair exchange?

Guilford’s Fear: Islam

I believe that the Guilford community’s holiday tree has nothing to do with anti-Semitism (“Right to Light Denied,” Dec. 19). In accordance with its constitution, were it a Christmas tree, every religion would wish to install its version of religious observance. I believe it’s an attempt to prohibit inclusion of the crescent moon and star and not anti-Semitism. These are wondrous times in which we live, as we watch our forbears’ good intentions being dismantled.

Not So Surprising

In light of the current levels of anti-Semitism in the world, the decision by Guilford’s neighborhood association not to allow the display of a menorah is much ado about nothing (“Right to Light Denied,” Dec. 19). Guilford was one of those communities that prior to equal housing laws had a prohibition against Jews and blacks in its real estate covenants. It’s amazing that Jews actually live in Guilford and Roland Park because of both neighborhoods’ historic record of anti-Semitism.