Hastings-on-Hudson, NY

Dan Frosch’s “Your Money or Your Life” [Feb. 21] assumes that medical claims driving the increase in bankruptcies are legitimate. My colleagues and I are medical billing advocates, and as such we uncover not just sloppy billing practices at all levels of our medical system but widespread fraud and abuse. Whenever a claim is denied, the patient is billed full price for that service, and often they pay it, or try to.

Examples: claim denied because the physician entered the wrong diagnosis code on the electronic record; emergency bill denied because the policy-holder neglected to tell the insurance company within forty-eight hours (he was comatose); a widow placed in collections four times by a hospital for a service her deceased husband never received; three defibrillator charges for the same procedure; routine supplies such as gowns and drapes charged individually; not to mention the $1,000 toothbrush for the patient admitted for facial surgery (his jaw was wired shut) or a “disposable mucous recovery system” (i.e., tissues) for $12 per box.

These claims are brought to our attention by studying the bills of the uninsured, but similar errors occur on virtually every hospital bill. People with co-insurance or who go out of network are equally at risk. Recently, an insured client who came to me with a bill approaching $90,000 finally paid $2,900–the overcharge almost all due to the insurer not complying with its own rules.

Health Savings Accounts, the newest player, has already caused its owners grief and greater expense due to its vulnerability to deceptive billing practices, demonstrating that if there’s a way to game the system, it will soon be figured out.

LIN OSBORN, director
Health Plan Navigator LLC


New York City

Though Baruch Kimmerling begins his essay by positing an exceptionally deep obsession with martyrdom in the Israeli psyche, he seems to lose the thread of his own thesis in the lengthy disquisition on Israeli exploitation of the Holocaust that follows [“Israel’s Culture of Martyrdom,” Jan. 10/17]. While Israeli leaders like David Ben-Gurion could well be accused of shaping the Holocaust narrative for their own ends, it does not follow, as Kimmerling suggests, that Zionist thinking transformed the victims of the Nazi extermination campaign into martyrs who gave their lives for Israel’s birth. If anything, the Zionist narrative is a cautionary tale. From Eichmann’s trial to the March of the Living (one of many identity-building trips in which Jewish youths are whisked from the chambers of Auschwitz to the face of Mt. Masada within twenty-four hours), the Zionist message seems exceptionally clear: Diaspora equals death; Israel equals redemption. Diaspora Jews were fools for thinking they could ever live without fear in any country that was not their own–so the story goes. The Israeli obsession is with survival–with the fear of death, not the embracing of it. A martyr chooses death over hypocrisy. The message implicit in much Zionist thought is that even hypocrisy won’t save you, that European Jews sped their own deaths by denying themselves and by trusting in gentile society. They died not so much as martyrs for the Jewish state but as victims of an inevitable scourge.

Kimmerling’s comparison of Israel’s supposed culture of death to the Palestinian cult of self-detonating martyrs is also flawed. Israel certainly lionizes fallen Zionists as nationalist heroes, and Israeli soldiers have certainly committed atrocities against civilians. But the link between the two has never been explicit or ideological. In segments of Palestinian society, entry to paradise is contingent on killing Israeli civilians: to take the lives of Israeli bus passengers as well as one’s own is considered noble. Only at the very fringes of Israeli society will one find any such endorsement of civilian murder, and the notion has no official imprimatur.

Kimmerling is certainly right that Israel’s fear of destruction has led to short-sighted policy and willful blindness to Palestinian suffering. Though why a negotiated settlement in which Israel returns to borders considered a casus belli in the first place would better guarantee its security than the military superiority built on that fear is a question he does not address. Sixty years after the Holocaust, the Jewish obsession with annihilation might seem unreasonable. But that obsession is not the product of a desire to glorify Holocaust victims as martyrs to the cause of Jewish statehood. As Kimmerling says: All nations celebrate those who fall in their name, exalting in their death. What is perhaps unique about the Jewish state is its belief that without the nation there would be little chance of life.




Hasdai Westbrook is completely correct to note that one of the basic assumptions of Zionist rhetoric is that “Diaspora equals death; Israel equals redemption.” His second observation–that the “Israeli obsession is with survival”–is similarly accurate. However, these observations constitute only a fragment of a more complex picture of the Israeli political and general culture as well as of its civil religion.

As a settler-immigrant society in the postcolonial era, Israel has had a deeply troubled relationship with the local native Palestinian population, who have questioned its very right to exist in the region. This has posed a heavy internal and external problem of legitimation for the Jewish state. Israeli culture has constructed two major responses to this existential problem. The first is rooted in religion and is articulated through God’s promise to the Patriarch Abraham and an ensuing 2,000 years of longing and praying by religious Jews for a return to Zion in a messianic future. For secular, not to mention atheistic, Jews–who comprise the founding fathers of the Jewish community in Palestine as well as the majority of the population of Israel currently–this answer has been found lacking, to say the least. Until not so long ago Orthodox Jewry, for its part, has also considered the Zionist enterprise as a form of apostasy. Even from a purely historiosophical perspective, the “return” of a group after 2,000 years to a mythical birthplace shared by many nations sounds somewhat ridiculous. This, not only from the perspective of the Palestinians who were uprooted from the very same piece of land fifty-seven years ago and who are now prevented from actualizing their “return,” but also from the perspective of many Jews. History, it seems, is not a time tunnel through which one can travel back and forth at whim.

The second basis upon which the Zionist enterprise was legitimized was the so-called “teachings of the Holocaust.” The creation of the State of Israel was depicted as the only logical consequence of the Holocaust–a conclusion that has been adopted today even by Jews who have linked their faith with localities such as New York City by positing it as a safe and convenient place for Jews to live both as regular citizens and as Jews. Through the expropriation and retroactive Zionization of the Holocaust and through the dissemination of the belief that without the Jewish state “there would be little chance of life,” Israeli culture recruited the annihilated Jews as its raison d’être and, as such, posthumously as martyrs who made the victory of Zionism possible and provided the ultimate legitimation for the Jewish state, even if it was constructed over the ruins of another society. There is an enormous body of evidence that clearly points to this conscious manipulation of the Holocaust victims and survivors, part of which has been documented by Tom Segev and Idith Zertal, among others.

Contrary to Westbrook’s assertion, martyrdom is not only an individual decision to choose death over hypocrisy but can easily become a social construct that bears no connection to the original intentions of the victims, as is evidenced by the many invented “heroes” of history. On a less abstract level, in her recent PhD thesis, Dalia Gavrierli of Tel Aviv and Bar Ilan universities has found that the Israeli POWs who returned after the 1973 war felt, upon their return to Israel, that Israeli society would have been much happier to have had them return in coffins instead of as “cowardly traitors” who surrendered to the enemy. Indeed, it does seem better to die for the country than to live for it. The Israeli obsession with death has much more to do with the invented Masada “heroes” than with Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zachai’s efforts to save the soul, spirit and civilization of Judaism.



Martinez, Ga.

I greatly appreciate “The Hunting of Dr. Craft” by Judy Jackson and Debbie Nathan, about my husband, Dr. Bruce Craft [Jan. 10/17]. This case is an example of the dark side of the “justice” system, when suspicion stands for evidence and law is whatever the prosecutor wants it to be. Most of the convictions were because of something in photos taken by my husband that offended the prosecution. There were also convictions not because the pictures were objectionable but because Bruce was imagined to have been aroused by taking them. A defendant is helpless against such charges. How does one prove that he did not think something? No proof was offered, and no one ever came forward claiming to be a victim.


Bethlehem, NH

“The Hunting of Dr. Craft” mentions Women’s Rural Entrepreneurial Network’s brush with a potential child pornography charge. As WREN’s executive director and one who “posed” for the fundraising calendar mentioned, I appreciate the absurdity of, and the fear that can come from, such charges. In our case they didn’t go very far, but there is indeed a dirty picture here–and it isn’t of the toddlers, mothers and grandmothers in the calendar. It is the potential to use such charges for political vendettas. Kay Craft alludes to this when she cites her involvement with Planned Parenthood as a possible reason to be targeted. I had taken a very public stand against a national “waste management” company that now dominates our tiny town. The complaint against WREN was brought by a person clearly aligned with the corporate dump (see www. davidandgoliathtrust.org).