- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 13, 2002

Desert rats

Arnaud de Borchgrave is unconvincing in his portrayal of the Saudi rulers as, give or take, basically friends of the United States ("Bats in the Saudi belfry," Commentary, yesterday). They are about as royal as you and I and barely more legitimate as rulers of their desert oil depot (made profitable, incidentally, by American and British oilmen). The 30,000-strong Saudi royal family in turn plunders this geographic phenomenon with our military protection, generously giving part of the proceeds to finance terrorism by one means or another. The Islamic sect to which they subscribe, Wahhabism, is viciously anti-Jewish and anti-Christian and allows no room for compromise. Thus, the Saudi concept of reality is alien to everything our Western, democratic and pluralistic society holds dear.

Will the Saudis occasionally throw us a bone on oil pricing? Sure. But make no mistake about it: When push comes to shove, they are not our friends.



Panetta's moral non sequitor

There has been some complaining, mostly in liberal circles, about the makeup of the Roman Catholic bishops' lay review panel, which has been created to police the problem of sexually abusive priests.

For example, the appointment of Dr. Paul McHugh, former chairman of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University and a specialist on why priests sexually abuse minors, has been criticized because he testified in court against "repressed memory syndrome" ("'Repressed memory' opponent joins bishops panel on abuse," Nation, Thursday). Then last week, the chairman of the panel, Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, made headlines by urging Catholics to withhold contributions or attend Mass in dioceses with bishops who had not adopted policies made at the bishops meeting in June ("Archdiocese strikes back at call for a boycott," Nation, Friday).

However, one appointment to the panel that has drawn little attention, and certainly no ire from liberals, is that of Leon Panetta, a former congressman and Clinton chief of staff. According to a spokesperson for California Right to Life, Mr. Panetta voted 69 times on abortion funding in various forms while he was a congressman. In those votes, he took the pro-abortion position 67 times. Later he defended President Clinton's veto of the bill to ban partial-birth abortion procedures.

Mr. Panetta's public positions on abortion contradict the Roman Catholic Church's teaching that all human life is sacred because it is created by God in His image and likeness. How can someone who voted to advance such egregiously immoral behavior have the virtue necessary to root out sinful priests?


Rockville, Md.

Elvis at home and abroad

Though it was an otherwise informative article that nicely illustrated the staying power of Elvis Presley, "Elvis taking care of business in old haunts" (Nation, yesterday) was off-key in one respect. The reporter noted: "The tourist onslaught hails from near and abroad, with Japan and Europe particularly still in the throes of Elvis worship, even though the King of Rock 'n' Roll never played outside of North America."

Elvis may have seen no need to venture beyond the States not that it stunted overseas record sales but when he was compelled to do so while in the U.S. Army, he did, indeed, perform. He not only continued to make a few recordings while serving in Germany ("Wooden Heart" was a best seller, part of the lyrics being in German), he also made a few personal appearances before German and American audiences.


Wheaton, Md.

To drive or not to drive to synagogue

I feel compelled to solve the paradox posed in "Orthodox Jews have the most synagogues" (Nation, Friday). The question is why Orthodox Jews have the most synagogues when they constitute only 10 percent of the Jewish population in the United States. While the reporter suggests several explanations, he does not mention the correct one: that Orthodox Jews do not drive on Shabbat (the Sabbath, starting Friday night and continuing until Saturday night).

One of the 39 categories of prohibited activities on Shabbat is "lighting fires." Because driving a vehicle "lights a fire" by burning gasoline, driving is prohibited on Shabbat. Therefore, Orthodox Jews must walk to the synagogue, which logically means they must live within walking distance of one. This explains why there are so many small Orthodox synagogues, vs. the fewer but larger ones to which Conservative and Reform Jews drive.


Puyallup, Wash.

The twins' health-care bill

I hesitate to strike a discordant note on the upbeat story of a remarkable scientific success ("Separated Guatemalan twins emerge from sedation," Nation, Thursday), but why don't we know more about how the medical bills for the recently unconjoined twins will be paid?

The long-term cost has been estimated to run $1.5 million beyond the donated services of the doctors. References about a possible fund to cover this enormous expense have been vague, indicating that taxpayers may eventually be stuck with the bill.

American health care already is overwhelmed by millions of illegal aliens needing care. Indeed, some emergency rooms have been forced to close because of that financial pressure. Should we be importing indigent patients from abroad when there are more than 40 million persons in this country without medical insurance?

It sounds coldhearted to mention money when individual people are in pain and need help. Still, we Americans cannot rescue all the needy people of the world. How many more patients with exceptional problems will make their way here because of news about the twins and American generosity? Already we learn that Egyptian twins have been brought to Dallas for the next unconjoining medical miracle.


Berkeley, Calif.

'Anti-Semitism' debate heats up

Suzanne Fields' column on Europe's supposedly ascending anti-Semitism is yet another ugly piece of anti-European libel disparaging our Western allies because their foreign policies are not identical to ours ("The rising tide of anti-Semitism," Op-Ed, Thursday).

Like many other neoconservative columnists, Mrs. Fields excoriates Europeans in general for the anti-Semitic opinions of a minority of the population and their governments' criticism of Israel. The headline of her column makes a priori claims that anti-Semitism is on the rise among Europeans. The only evidence given is a poll indicating some latent resentments and a few isolated cases of vicious remarks in the press. She neglects to acknowledge the great strides in toleration and pro-Jewish attitudes among Europeans since World War II and gives no credit to the strong moral and financial support lent to Israel by the modern German government.

Making politics personal, she dismisses European criticism of Israeli government policies as recrudescent anti-Semitism in disguise. As she writes, "It would be foolish to dismiss what's happening today as a phenomenon isolated from age-old anti-Semitism." Perhaps so, but she conveniently fails to mention that the majority of anti-Semitic incidents, especially violent ones, have been committed by Europe's Muslim immigrants and were duly punished by the authorities.

Furthermore, native-European bile spewed on Israel usually is not the old-fashioned brand of Western anti-Semitism fueled by misguided Christian bigotry. Rather, these typically leftist attacks on Israel stem from the same hatred of all things historically Western: guilt over colonialism (of which Israel is a legacy) and a reflexive sympathy for the poor, non-white or otherwise "oppressed" nationalities regardless of circumstances.

In short, opposition to Zionism and criticism of Israeli government policy are not anti-Semitic positions per se. (After all, Orthodox Jews were particularly vehement in their opposition to the creation of a Jewish state in Israel before the coming of the messiah.) There must be room for legitimate criticism of Israel without knee-jerk cries of "anti-Semitism" unless, that is, it is desirable for people to become callous to reasoned debate.


Albuquerque, N.M.

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