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Seidler-Feller on Hebron Massacre

March 23, 1994

Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller ("Look Within for the Personification of Evil," Commentary, March 14) sees darkness and demons in the soul of Jews generally because one man, living under siege and betrayed by his government, committed a massacre. The rabbi, a board member of Peace Now, should have addressed his remarks to the Arabs, whose purpose he serves, since they have had much more experience in committing massacres. He evidently didn't see darkness in the soul of Jews during all the long years they were victims of Arab terrorism, and evidently not yet in Arab souls.

In sharp contrast to Arab massacres, the recent Hebron massacre was not planned and encouraged by a government or an organization, and virtually every Israeli government official and citizen with access to the media have rushed to publicly condemn the killings. Nonetheless, predictably, the Arabs and others are vilifying all Israelis and they are trying to extract even more concessions.

B. MEHLMAN

Woodland Hills

As a religious Jew, I take offense to Rabbi Seidler-Feller's commentary. How can he claim that anyone teaching has the power of evoking violence, any more than one can blame a line in a song or book for an individual's actions?

This is especially true when quoting about Amalek, a people that contemporary Jewish sources consider to be unrecognizable to us today. It is ridiculous to criticize Jewish teaching for Baruch Goldstein just as it would be to criticize Christian doctrine for David Koresh. Neither Christianity nor Judaism intentionally encourages violent aggression of any kind.

The Kach Party and Kahane Chai must be recognized as a fringe group, outside mainstream Orthodoxy. And though militant, they, unlike Hamas, have not accepted terrorism as a policy for determining the outcome of the peace process.

Unlike Seidler-Feller's assertion that the Jews have made Palestinian Arabs the Amalek of this generation, I argue that if anything, Israel has been very tolerant to an Arab world largely hostile to the state of Israel.

Finally, I resent Seidler-Feller's implication that only religious Jews are extremist. What about Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, both of whom were leaders of underground movements, Leumi Zvi and the Stern Group, that through the result of their actions caused the death of innocents during the British Mandate in Palestine.

CARL ROSENBLUM

Los Angeles

Seidler-Feller deftly sidesteps the basic issue of the pernicious influence of religion in secular affairs throughout history. In the Zionist movement the inspiring driving forces were non-religious humanists; the yarmulkes and beards were merely a latter-day sprinkling among the vast majority. Today they are trying to do to the democratic land of Israel, which from its outset has welcomed all peace-loving people to its shores without imposing any beliefs upon them, what religious zealots throughout history did and still try to do: to impose their will on the majority.

Banning them in Israel is long overdue.

WILLIAM S. GREENE

Granada Hills

As a strong critic of the Kach and Kahane Chai organizations, and as one who debated Rabbi Meir Kahane on national TV and condemned in the strongest terms the actions of Baruch Goldstein in an article published in papers across the country recently, I believe that the Israeli government decision to ban the Kach and Kahane Chai organizations is fundamentally flawed.

As much as I despise the philosophies of Kach and Kahane Chai, in a democratic state debate in the open marketplace of ideas is critical. To arbitrarily arrest individuals for being part of a group even if they have committed no wrong act is contrary to democratic principles.

All arbitrary administrative detention directed against Jews or Arabs is wrong. It is illegal in America and should be declared illegal in Israel as well.

Even from the perspective of the Israeli government, which today wrongfully carries out arbitrary arrests, the Rabin administration does so selectively and is guilty of a double standard. Of the thousand convicted Palestinian terrorists, including many from Hamas who were released recently, none were asked to give up their ideological commitments or beliefs. These individuals are allowed to roam the roads of Israel with no restrictions.

The PLO's national council has never formally denounced terrorism and according to news reports the PLO has entered into a working alliance with Hamas. If they can operate an office in Jerusalem and PLO flags can be flown all over the city, then it should not be illegal to wear a Kach T-shirt.

Rabbi AVI WEISS

National President

Coalition for Jewish Concerns--AMCHA

Bronx, New York

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