Freedom to question, and freedom to just not answer


To the editor:

(re: “Attacking Israel? It’s ‘racism,’” Sept. 10)

It is sad to see such a letter as the esteemed Charles Moerdler wrote to this newspaper. Though every bit his right to vent, perhaps he should have done what many do: Step back for a moment and take a deep breath. The outcome might have been quite different.

One of the myriad over-emotional statements — and perhaps the overriding one at that — is that attacking Israel is anti-Semitic. This is an old trope of some of the same radicals Mr. Moerdler excoriates.

It is based, in part, on the concept of the “perfect state” of Israel — one in which Israel cannot do wrong.

Sorry, Mr. Moerdler. As an American Jew who has experienced (somewhat milder) anti-Semitism in my lifetime, I and many of my peers can often see the distinction between criticism of Israel and naked anti-Semitism. Though infrequently conflated, I do not buy into the all-or-none viewpoint expressed in your letter.

“Dichotomy is seldom a rational solution to extremism as it allows little room for compromise.” Life is lived in this country in the gray areas in between, as you imply, not at either end of the spectrum. Besides, as a trained and esteemed attorney, you should know that people have the right to ask questions, and express their views (like you).

In fact, it is incumbent upon us as free Americans to express our unpopular opinions, if we so choose.

Freedom of speech, it is often said, is most important when the person voicing their unpopular opinion speaks. Agreeing is easy.

Whether said opinions are relevant to the topic at hand — such as a question on international relations in a New York city council race — is entirely a separate question. The right to ask such a question is equal to the right not to answer said question. To be offended by the question may be acceptable.

However, to label the questioner an extremist is not acceptable, and is entirely inappropriate.

As a leader within the Riverdale community, on the local community board and in the same synagogue as I am a member, please know how much your status is respected. The damage you do to that status with such a rant is entirely yours to bear.

It is with significant melancholy that both the community and I witness such a diatribe from so esteemed a member of our community.

An apology to the community would be in order.

I would also not be at all surprised how quickly such a request would be rebuffed.

Adam Stoler

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Adam Stoler,