Letter: Crisis Is Really an Opportunity
To the Editor:
I must say that I was truly disappointed by the recent article on the largely symbolic, though still disturbing, vote by the American Studies Association to endorse a boycott of Israeli universities. I was not bothered by the fact that 66 percent of the group’s members voted in favor of the boycott, for such is, unfortunately, to be expected from the academia of today. I was not bothered by the fact that the article shared the differing opinions of both Noura Erakat, a Palestinian-American human rights attorney, and Lewis Glinert, a professor who compared ASA members to German and Austrian academics who supported the burgeoning Nazi party. While I disagreed with both opinions, I still feel they needed to be included in the article.
What saddened me was the article’s omission of a viewpoint in the middle of these two polar opposites. I view the Palestinian-Israeli “crisis” as less a political battle between men and women in business suits, less a mortal battle between soldiers with bombs and guns, and more a precious opportunity for enriching our relations with one another, both socially and spiritually. The Torah’s text can be difficult and, at times, perhaps even frightening, but that is why the Jewish people have had rabbis. The Torah explicitly mandates the death penalty for 36 offenses, but rabbinic scholars have placed so many conditions on coming to the conclusion that a person must be killed that it has become virtually impossible for capital punishment to be enacted.
Even if Jewish law did consider capital punishment to be a practical solution, there remains a brilliant quotation from a book of Jewish legal text known as the Talmud: “Whoever destroys a single life is as guilty as though he had destroyed the entire world; and whoever rescues a single life earns as much merit as though he had rescued the entire world.”