What a ‘chosen people’ means
Dear Editor:Sean Anderson’s letter to the editor (“No country is above criticism” – July 14) refers to a monolithic “Jewish community” that he asserts labels anything objectionable as “anti-Semitic and bigoted.” For Mr. Anderson to claim that all members of a group speak in one voice is a clear expression of a profound lack of understanding and, indeed, borders on bigotry. If he did a modicum of research, he would discover that Jewish Americans have many voices covering the spectrum of virtually all issues; there is no “Jewish community” speaking for all. Mr. Anderson complains that Jews consider themselves superior to others, a common (but incorrect) misreading of the concept of a “chosen people.” Jewish historical documents (including commentaries by Christian and Muslim scholars) leave no room for misinterpretation as to what “chosen-ness” means … and requires. It means that Jewish people have a self-imposed obligation to serve God’s mission on earth by making it a better place for all people. It is misguided to assert that Jews are above or “better” than others. A practicing Jew has an absolute moral obligation to help fellow humans by actively participating in philanthropic activities and civic initiatives in many realms. This includes advancing activities that diminish human suffering, encourage pluralism, improve race relations, advance medical research, expand educational institutions, support the arts, work for world peace, etc. Many Jewish Americans participate in philanthropic organizations in America and make a disproportionate contribution – in time and monies – to religious and secular charities. The final act of malevolence to Jews and to Israel is his obtuse reference to the U.S.S. Liberty, a U.S. intelligence-gathering ship positioned in the Mediterranean during June, 1967. This reference is a nasty attempt to sully the image of Israel as a staunch U.S. ally. What are the facts? In the height of the 1967 war (in which Israel was threatened with extinction by the combined military forces of Egypt, Syria, Jordan and other Arab countries), the Israeli air force errantly fired on this U.S. vessel. It must be emphasized that before initiating military action, the Israeli air force heralded the U.S. Sixth Fleet commanders. The purpose? To determine if a U.S. intelligence-gathering ship was positioned near Israel. Only when the U.S. responded in the negative did Israel commence firing on what it concluded to be an enemy spy ship camouflaged as an American carrier. Subsequent exhaustive investigations by U.S. authorities exonerated the Israeli air force of this incident. The primary agency for U.S. intelligence-gathering failed to inform the U.S. Navy of the mission and location of the U.S.S. Liberty. The unfortunate deaths that resulted were the consequences of “friendly fire.” The U.S. is no stranger to “friendly fire,” a tragic facet of the horrors of war. While we still mourn the deaths of our troops from the U.S.S. Liberty, it is misleading for Mr. Anderson to mention this out of context. Israel has supplied invaluable intelligence to the U.S. for the past 50 years that has saved countless American lives, including those in our military.David J. KudishChicago
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