Letters

Spring cover

“It is precisely when things are settling into a comfortable consensus between advocates on the left and the right that we most need to take a fresh, critical look.”
—Assistant Professor Jeannie Suk ’02

Many reasons for Palestinian anger

The bulletin’s spring issue highlighted Professor Alan Dershowitz’s statement: “The long history of Palestinian terrorism against Jews, which began in 1929, was motivated by religious bigotry.” (Hearsay) The charge is grossly overstated and misleading. There have been lots of reasons for Palestinian anger and violence. In the 1920s and ’30s, this certainly stemmed in large part from the Palestinians’ realization that the Zionists then immigrating in large numbers were not like the Jews who had come in earlier centuries; the new arrivals intended to convert Palestine into their own Jewish state, thus denying the existing Arab Christian-Muslim majority the right of self-determination. In later years, many Palestinians who were driven from and/or denied the right to return to their homes had reason apart from religious bigotry to be angry at Israelis.

It’s depressing that, in this country, one can be reasonably sure that if someone like ex-President Carter publishes a serious critique of Israel he will be subjected to widespread vilification and intimidation—while Professor Dershowitz can rest assured that if he fires off an over-the-top slander of a whole Arab people it will be picked up and widely circulated by the media as an interesting comment.

John Poole ’59
Washington, D.C.

Connecticut’s approach to protective orders

I was pleasantly surprised to see the brief article on domestic violence and protection orders in the Spring 2007 issue of the Bulletin (Ask the Professor). Professor Jeannie Suk’s attention to victims of DV who seek protection through the criminal justice system is very important, as positive change may be set in motion by her article on this major societal problem.

One example of a judicial system addressing the problems raised may be found in Connecticut, where, when someone in a household is arrested for DV, an initial criminal protective order is issued, yet the court works with the victim to determine what longer-term protective order should be made. The Criminal Court has a family services officer who meets with the victim to discuss his/her concerns and whether the protective order should include a more restrictive “no contact” order to prevent the perpetrator from returning to the home or a less restrictive order that could allow the defendant to return home. The court also notifies the victim when the protective order is due to expire so that she/he can seek further restraints, if needed. While the measures applied in Connecticut may not be perfect solutions to paternalism and ingrained bias against women, they are welcome steps in the right direction.

Dahlia O.F. Grace ’97
Bridgeport, Conn.

A different view of reality

As a legal services lawyer for most of the last 15 years, I have handled my share of domestic violence restraining orders. I have seen them used in excess, and used where they were not appropriate. I once saw a landlord try to use a harassment restraining order in lieu of an eviction. But nothing I have seen prepared me for Professor Suk’s diatribe against protection orders in the Spring 2007 Bulletin (“When do protection orders go too far?”). I have not read, and do not comment here on, the (presumably) longer, more nuanced piece she wrote for The Yale Law Journal on this topic.

In the Bulletin, she says, without qualification: “The criminal justice system’s growing control of the home harms women.” Really? Does that apply to the woman I know whose husband hit her upside the head with an iron and then jumped on her stomach? How about the woman whose ex threw a brick through the windshield of her car as she drove down the street?

The real irony here is that Professor Suk seems to be staking out an ideologically driven position in one of the few areas where advocates from the left and right have found common ground. Conservatives—traditionally concerned with crime issues—have discovered that domestic violence is one of the primary sources of violent crime in the U.S., even as advocates for women’s rights have recognized the centrality of fighting domestic violence in the struggle for women’s equality. Professor Suk’s comments recognize neither of these dominant realities.

William Z. Kransdorf ’92
New York City

Assistant Professor Suk replies: It is precisely when things are settling into a comfortable consensus between advocates on the left and the right that we most need to take a fresh, critical look at what is happening on the ground. Without a doubt, there are many cases in which abused women seek and need protection orders. Reflexive extrapolation from those cases to the view that prosecutors should invariably and automatically seek long-term protection orders even in misdemeanor cases over the women’s objection is precisely the kind of well-meaning but erroneous reasoning that creates the practices that my article examines. And yes, these practices can harm women generally, without harming every woman in particular—a simple point of rational policy that I would hope advocates like Mr. Kransdorf could embrace.


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