Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Soft News Musings V

Top 36 Somethings

  • I can't figure out what this Jewish Week list of 36 people under the age of 36 is about, but I congratulate all of the winners, especially the two whom I know (Jewish Week). I was clearly disqualified because I will only be under 36 for a few more months.

  • The Kosher Business
  • The OU continues to certify as kosher meat produced at the Agriprocessors plant (link). This is a tough call. Revoking certification for reasons not directly related to the kosher status could cause serious damage to customers. The ensuing shortage will cause prices to rise and the people who will end up losing the most are the poor people who keep kosher and the marginally kosher who might opt for non-kosher rather than pay even higher prices. If the accusations impacted the kosher status of the meat then the OU would have no choice. But in this case, it's a tough call.

  • Click here to read moreReligious Books in Flames
  • The Deputy Mayor of the town Or Yehuda in Israel arranged for the burning of Christian Bibles that were given out by missionaries, and then afterwards apologized when he realized how bad it looked to the world (JPost). I think citizens should be allowed to burn holy books of another religion, even if I personally find it offensive. But public officials should not be involved. They represent the entire public and the government, and should not be offending any religion.

  • Politics and Morality
  • In an opinion piece in the Forward, Yehezkel Dror argues that the "the calculus of realpolitik gives primacy to existence, leaving limited room for ethical considerations" (Forward). The title of the essay is "When Survival of the Jewish People Is at Stake, There’s No Place for Morals". I hope that the newspaper chose the title because I think that Dror would be extremely irresponsible for choosing such a misleading and misguided title.

    His point, if I understand it properly, is that Israel's existence has to come first and it overrides other considerations, such as protesting China's treatment of Tibet. However, while I think his argument is essentially correct, I believe that he overreaches. For example, when he states that "It is very likely that the collapse of Israel or the loss of its Jewish nature would undermine the existence of the Jewish people as a whole." I believe that the Jewish people will continue to exist regardless of the fate of the State of Israel. While its demise would be incredibly tragic and would eternally injure the Jewish people, it would not spell the end of the "Chosen People". However, that is irrelevant. Israel as a country must put its continued existence as its number one priority.

    Yet I still disagree with his conclusion mainly because I agree with his statement that this primacy "leav[es] limited room for ethical considerations". "Limited room", not "no room". We can never set aside our ethics due to our need to survive. Instead, we have to include that need within our ethical calculations, much like military ethics include such considerations. Just like a soldier does not automatically kill everyone on the battlefield because of his need to survive but instead balances the different priorities, the State of Israel must do so as well. There are times when the country can fulfill more than one of its ethical priorities and, when possible, it must. Is there really no way to create a relationship with China while still protesting its treatment of Tibet? Cannot the State of Israel act in support while stating its hesitations? Or allow individual citizens to protest while the government remains quiet? There are more ways to maintain a relationship than full support and full opposition. Perhaps Israel would do well to stake out a middle position, even if slightly to the middle, in order to accomplish its multiple ethical priorities.

    I think Dror accepts this in principle. He writes, "Responsible decisions in such difficult situations require clear recognition of the involved moral issues, careful pondering of all relevant values and acceptance of responsibility for one’s autonomous judgment. They also demand an effort to reduce to a minimum the violation of moral values." But then he proceeds to demand full compliance by Jewish leaders and organizations with Israel's full support of China and Turkey. Is there really no middle ground?

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