Sir, - It is pretty pathetic when candidates for public office can't dismiss campaign slurs ("Olmert-Netanyahu rivalry gets personal over loyalty to state," March 26). Every politician knows it is common practice for rivals to use "mud-slinging" tactics. Olmert has been in politics for many, many years. Why respond, unless there is something to the allegations?
It would have been more professional to ignore the comments. To go back and slam somebody who was initially a minor living abroad with his parents during high school is pretty childish.
Many families are posted abroad on sabbaticals, government postings, etc.
Yes, Netanyahu went to high school in Philadelphia, and to university in the States. Big deal! He came back and served Israel and, as an adult, made his home here, not abroad.
Come on, now
Sir, - Caroline Glick tells us in "The Jewish threat" (March 24) that only Binyamin Netanyahu is "capable of rebuilding Israel's standing in the international community." This cringe-worthy praise is moving dangerously close to the parodies of the Soviet-era Pravda. She informs us that she was studying at the Kennedy School of Government in 1999 - the year in which the electorate booted Netanyahu out of office in the wake of his divisive conduct and policies.
I can only assume Ms. Glick was out of the country at the time.
Heaven & hell
Sir, - One party has suggested that those who vote for it will go to paradise. I even heard a report of the opposite: that voting for a particular party was a ticket to hell.
A Jewish saying has it that all Jews go to paradise, the question is only how long they have to wait. Another opinion says all Jews must pass through hell, the question is only how long they spend there.
Conclusion: Since either location is likely whether we like it or not, it seems the party we vote for is still a free choice.
Sir, - As I was doing my Shabbat shopping last Friday, I glanced at the Hebrew newspaper headlines. To my horror, one had a headline quoting Shas's spiritual leader as implying that anyone who votes for Kadima will go to hell. What have we come to?
As Orthodox persons seeking improvement in our education system we were sufficiently impressed by a recent op-ed in your paper extolling the virtues of Shas schools to make us consider voting for that party, as no other party inspired us ("Why an Ashkenazi academic is voting for Shas," Shira Leibowitz Schmidt, March 8).
I am more than disillusioned. We shall be voting for the pensioners' party.
PM of the Book
Sir, - Israel is threatened by Iran, al-Qaida and Hamas. The common denominator of all three is Islam. Therefore, the first question any journalist should be asking the potential prime minister of Israel is: Which books on Islam have you read?
Nobody has. Why?
Cry me a river
Sir, - M.J. Rosenberg is the latest to tell us that we have to prevent a humanitarian disaster from occurring to the Palestinian residents of Judea, Samaria and Gaza. He is not alone. The Israeli government, the US and the EU go through contortions to justify continuing such aid ("More hunger, less moderation," March 24).
Well, cry me a river. Again and again, the Palestinian people are not being held accountable for their own choices. They and their leaders choose terrorism and conflict, yet continue to be shielded from the downside of these choices. No wonder the dispute seems endless.
It may sound callous, but there's nothing wrong with preventing aid from reaching a population that is trying to harm our citizens and destroy our country.
As long as Palestinian society chooses to continue this path, it should likewise have to absorb the heavy cost. When the Palestinians decide that it's more important to build their own country than destroy ours, let the aid flow.
Sir, - Arthur Cohn put a very important issue in perspective ("The 'occupation' is the problem," March 23). The situation can be compared to Europe after 1945, when the Nazis were defeated and the east German territories became part of Poland. The same applies to the German occupiers, who were transferred west beyond the Oder/Neisse rivers, and from the CSSR to Bavaria.
So the Arabs, through their policy of aggression against Israel, deserve no other treatment than the Sudeten Germans, the East Prussians etc., etc., and the loss of the territories as the inevitable result.
Sir, - In a disgraceful decision the European Union gave $78 million to the Palestinian Authority ("EU hands UN $78m. check for urgent aid to Palestinians," March 20). Through the years Western governments have given billions of dollars to the Palestinians. This drain on Western wealth has been used to promote anti-Semitism in Palestinian schools, mosques and media; and to finance suicide bombings in Israeli streets, restaurants and malls.
The election of Hamas, an Islamic terrorist group committed to the destruction of Israel, is another demonstration that the Palestinians deserve no aid, or sympathy. What they deserve is to suffer the consequences of electing terrorists to rule them.
Ayn Rand Institute
What is it about the Palestinians?
Sir, - Accounts of the recent violence in Jericho, which spread to Ramallah, listed an astonishing number of foreigners, international NGOs and welfare organizations working in the Gaza Strip and West bank. They included UN workers, French medical workers, Canadian aid workers, American professors, an organization called AMIDEAST, a private American aid organization, and there may be many more. They are willing not only to devote their skills, but also to risk their lives: Witness the kidnappings, threats and violence aimed at these good souls, who were forced to flee in fear - like the TIPH force sent to Hebron to defend Palestinians bodies against the supposedly vindictive Israelis.
What is it about the Palestinian condition and society that so inspires do-gooders and liberals worldwide? And is their selfless commitment reserved for the Palestinians only? Dare we assume that these good people are also in the hellhole that is Darfur, for instance, caring for traumatized, raped and abused women and tormented children; running schools and clinics for this displaced and helpless community? Are all the wonderful, caring and idealistic young EU people, who protect the Palestinians with their very bodies, also caring for the suffering, hopeless millions of Africa? If not, why not? What is it about the Palestinians?
("10 foreigners kidnapped in Gaza Strip. Gunmen threaten attacks against Israel, US, UK," March 15.)
Sir, - "Conservative rabbi: I'm being punished for same-sex weddings" (March 24) was incredible - until one read the intro: "David Lazar says his movement is discriminating against him." By then, I believe the average reader was dumbfounded.
Lazar promotes the desecration of a basic tenet of the Jewish faith, openly promotes and participates in sacrilegious activities, and yet cannot understand why he is not allowed to lecture at the Schechter Institute.
Sir, - We were married by David Lazar in 2003. David's approach and genuine embrace for who we were and how we chose to lead our lives was inspirational. His commitment to Jewishness and Judaism is exemplary. He is a scholar and a dear friend. We are proud to be a part of his legacy and contribution to Judaism.
DAVID & DALIA FEUERSTEIN
Denigrating a PM
Sir, - "5 million Brits lose savings in Blair's supposed safe bet" (March 26) was highly disingenuous, illustrating how far the press in Britain is prepared to go to denigrate the prime minister.
Anyone with even a superficial knowledge of how pension and provident funds invest their money will understand that fluctuations in the daily value of bonds do not lead to "pension losses" or a situation where "millions of retirees may find they don't have the cash they thought."
Unless the issuing authority of a bond goes belly-up, a bond will be redeemed upon maturity for its face value, not one cent more or less.
Fund managers don't trade bonds, unless there is a meaningful gain to be made by the trade. They invest for long-term income flow and final redemption value. The market value of bonds already bought is of purely academic interest, and is totally determined by the pattern of interest rates prevailing on the day.
If British pensioners are facing a crisis it's because the funds' salesmen made promises they could never keep, based on actuarial computations that were wish-lists rather than facts - such as the life expectancy tables which have consistently underestimated the persistence of the draw that pensioners will make as they live past their expected life spans.
To blame this on Blair is hogwash.
Sir, - Thank you, Rabbi Stewart Weiss, for this needed pep talk! ("Our lot in life," March 14.)
It is so easy to feel insignificant in the grand scheme of things, to fall into lethargy and passivity and an attitude of "How can I make any difference?"
We need to keep being reminded that each of us has a part to play. There are many ways in which a person can be effective. This attitude is not only correct, but gives us optimism and a healthier emotional and mental life