For those who cherish Israel as the sole democracy in the Middle East and a beacon of hope for the oppressed citizens in that tragically misruled part of the world, the Grinch who stole Christmas this year was none other than President Obama. His decision to negate a half-century of American alignment with Israel, given our government’s recent abstention from the vote on a United Nations resolution condemning settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, makes the prospect for a peaceful, two-state resolution far more difficult (“U.S. allows resolution on Israel to pass,” Dec. 24). The practical effect of the abstention is to define under international law Israel’s borders when the state was created in 1948. Were the Palestinians ever to undertake serious negotiations, they would have in their pocket the U.N.-sanctioned right to insist on 1948 borders. Were Israel to submit, it would mean the effective end of its existence, given the overwhelming numbers of Arab residents outside those 1948 borders. Many on the left would be delighted with that outcome. In the arc of history, which according to Obama is always bending forward to a better world, this would be nothing less than a catastrophe. How much more damage is this vindictive individual going to do before he leaves office next month?
Mark H. Reed, Plymouth
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I am greatly concerned about the future of Israel, never mind the intent of our current or future president. More than a geopolitical state, Israel is the spiritual home to Jews worldwide. I survived the Holocaust and years later cried at the Wailing Wall, recognizing the gift that was not available to millions of other ancestors. Americans, individually, contribute enormous sums to Israel, and the U.S. government has committed billions of dollars to Israel’s defense. However, it is time to separate state and religion and find compromise. Israeli settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is an obstacle to peace and a contradiction of Zionism’s basic principle to live peacefully with others. Israel’s future depends on mutual understanding and cooperation with all its neighbors. If not, a final catastrophe will be inevitable.
Robert O. Fisch, Minneapolis
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Thanks to President Obama, the United Nation’s Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s settlements in the West Bank passed 14-0. For the first time, the U.S. abstained on such a vote, declining to use its veto power that has long enabled Israel to recklessly and arrogantly ignore international law with impunity. While it would have been better if the U.S. had voted in favor of the resolution rather than merely abstaining, this vote is a powerful acknowledgment of Americans’ growing awareness that Israel is a problematic friend and questionable ally.
Israel has what its supporters call a “special relationship” with the U.S. But under Israel’s right-wing leadership, that special relationship has made Americans enablers of Israel’s illegal settlements, land thefts, water theft, housing demolitions, and many more injustices since Israel seized remaining Palestinian territories in 1967 and imposed martial law on the inhabitants.
Two sayings apply to our special relationship with Israel: “Tell me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are” and “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.” By abstaining at the U.N. last week, the U.S. mildly rebuked a friend, but it has yet to take away the keys. And, while President-elect Donald Trump has promised to reverse this brief moment of sanity in our relationship with Israel, the message should not be lost on the rest of us. When it comes to international politics, the actions of those we call friends say a great deal about who we are.
Mary C. Bader, Wayzata
It’s a kind thought, but do you realize there’s evil in our world?
I admire the peaceful motivation and heartfelt concern that comes through loud and clear in “Each of us must have faith and courage to offer sanctuary” (Opinion Exchange, Dec. 26). I believe I understand the idealism of the writers, John Medeiros and Denise Roy, in expressing the following philosophy: “Sanctuary is a spiritual stance. Sanctuary is our sacred duty.”
Nevertheless, I believe these sincere and well-meaning individuals of God do great harm by focusing so much emphasis on providing sanctuary from the dangers of the incoming administration. They write: “In the advent of this New Year, amid the shock and fear of our recent election, people of faith are asking: What can we do? The answer is simple: We can offer sanctuary.”
The writers’ ideological differences with our president-elect leave no room for some important concerns. They would do a great job of providing sanctuary from bullies, cads, boors, chauvinists and all sorts of “isms,” but they forget about real existential threats present in the world we live in. Fear of these real threats is what turned the election against what the writers obviously preferred.
The eloquent words of Medeiros and Roy unfortunately create a distraction from what should be our real fears and against which we must provide defenses. I fear this well-meaning but naive attitude and approach crowds out a system which respects the “rule of law,” and emphasizes meaningful ways of identifying, isolating and destroying the true forces of evil afoot in our world.
Steve Bakke, Edina
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The commentary by Medeiros and Roy, both lawyers, advocates offering sanctuary as an answer to the “shock and fear of our recent election” regardless of the law. As posed by these authors, sanctuary must be “re-imagined” as a response to the “flight from poverty” and as the “goal of justice work.” In their view, sanctuary is a religious duty that transcends all obligations under the law. The argument about the supremacy of religious duty must certainly appeal to Muslim terrorists. Indeed, Islam has made the argument for centuries.
While we might disagree in identifying underlying religious duties, the two authors apparently take no issue with the argument that heartfelt religious duties supersede all. Kathryn Steinle was murdered by a violent immigrant in San Francisco, the American capital of sanctuary cities. Steinle, one supposes, has the prayers of the authors, but those who sheltered her murderer and refused to heed a detention order — chiefly the mayor — have their support. The authors’ argument that sanctuary is a transcendent duty undermines all principles of law and justice under which our country was founded and attempts to hold in place. One is free in America to possess even the most repugnant beliefs in the name of religion, but the idea that one must act on them regardless of law and the nation’s security must by rejected.
Phillip A. Cole, Eden Prairie
EDITORIAL FROM ARCHIVES
A limiting message on Christmas
The reprint on Saturday of an editorial that ran in the Minneapolis Tribune on Dec. 25, 1932, was very touching, but sadly very out of date (“A message of peace for the world-weary”). Time for a new one that sends a message of peace to all of your readers: Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and others — not, as the editorial states to the “Christian world.” Yes, the “Voice” of Christmas speaks of goodwill “to all men,” but one can only hope to women as well, regardless of their faith.
May we all join together in a spirit of goodwill that promotes peace, happiness and joy to all of humanity.
Marilyn J. Chiat, Minnetonka
Thanks to those who sacrificed
A special thank you to all the Minnesota doctors, nurses and ancillary health care personnel who, with much sacrifice, work the holidays and collectively save all our lives. Also, this thank you includes, collectively, all law enforcement, fire and first responders who put others ahead of themselves to make our society safer. Thank you!
David Gottlieb, St. Anthony