letters to the editor 88.
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Sir, - I want to thank you for the excellent coverage of the 2006 elections. I teach Israeli adults English and it was very helpful to be able to print out various articles and editorials regarding the elections and incorporate this information into my English classes this week.
Since some of my students are new immigrants, I was able to help them better understand the electoral system in Israel while also helping them to improve their English proficiency.
Wingate English Language Center
Sir, - The biggest loser in Tuesday's election was not the Likud but the large number of people who did not bother to vote. I heard some of them interviewed on the radio while sitting on the beach in Tel Aviv, saying there was no one to vote for.
These are, in the main, selfish people who have allowed themselves to become detached from the welfare of the country. They don't deserve to live in the only democratic country in the Middle East.
I hope they will now shut up until the next election, as they have forfeited the right to criticize the running of the country.
Strong words, sort of
Sir, - Warning the Palestinians to either shape up or face the "consequences," our presumptive prime minister said: "Israel will take control of its own fate, and in consensus among our people and with the agreement of the world and US President George Bush, we will act ("Olmert: Israel entering a new chapter," On-Line Edition, March 29).
Olmert is threatening to take control of our fate, but only if the world and President Bush (in that order - and followed by God?) agree!
Why British Jews go 'softly, softly'
Sir, - Might I, as a former member of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, comment on "Lobbying in an English accent" (March 23) and later reports concerning British Jewry's response to the mayor of London's offensive braggadocio? The problem that faces British Jews in their propaganda war against those who dislike us so intensely can be summarized in two words: numbers and geography.
Britain's Jewish population is about 250,000, and falling. It is mainly concentrated in London and, to a lesser extent, Manchester. While there are other communities, the numbers in them are so small that they can have no electoral impact. Even if all the Jews lived in London they would be hopelessly out-voted by their fellow Londoners.
Many of our most enthusiastic detractors originate in the provinces and cut their anti-Israel teeth where they can safely disregard local Jewish votes as irrelevant.
This contrasts with the situation in the US, where, although the Jewish population is a small proportion of the whole, it is concentrated in key areas such as New York, where it can genuinely influence the outcome of an election.
Votes are the only thing that can send shivers down a politician's spine.
Since British Jews, by their numbers and location, do not have this weapon they are forced to use more subtle means of persuasion: hence the softly, softly approach.
However, the Board has never, to my knowledge, prevented anyone from presenting our case in a strident way while acting as an individual, or as a spokesman for a community relations or similar organizational group. On occasion it has even encouraged those who express themselves in robust terms.
Sir, - In response to David Forman's "Getting beyond name-calling" (March 29) I would like to advise him to get his liberal house in order.
As a former San Francisco Bay Area resident, I found that where Israel is concerned, "liberal Jews" fall into four categories: pro-Palestinian; pro-Israel; those who show some interest in Israel but lack a strong knowledge base and are unwilling to put themselves out to support her; and (the largest group) having little or no tie with the Jewish community and no interest in Israel.
Mr. Forman has some lofty goals. I do wish him well. He's got a lot of hard work ahead of him educating and convincing American liberal Jews to look at Israel in a more positive light. Once he's done that, he will be in a stronger position to convince his liberal Protestant partners.
Sir, - It's disappointing that you confused Natorei Karta with the Edah Haredit by stating that they are the same organization, when they have very different ideologies ("For Natorei Karta, voting is joining forces with evil," March 29). The former is much more aggressive in its stance and gets much more attention in the media. The latter does not often actively demonstrate against the government.
These Orthodox Jews were here well before the State of Israel, much like Native Americans were in North America before the Anglo-Saxons came.
Matthew Wagner responds:
You are right that Natorei Karta is not identical with the Edah Haredit. However, to say that the two have "very different" ideologies is not only wrong, it minimizes the incredible antagonism felt by the Edah Haredit for the State of Israel. As Shmuel Popenheim, chief editor of the Edah Haredit's mouthpiece Ha'edah put it, "Our opinions are identical on the issue of voting, it's just that Natorei Karta is a little more outspoken in their attacks on rabbis that support voting. We think those verbal attacks are counterproductive." This means that tactical, not ideological, issues differentiate Natorei Karta from the Edah Haredit.
Victory, OK. But how?
Sir, - As an admirer of Daniel Pipes I was disappointed in his call for Israeli victory over the Palestinians ("Try victory," March 29). He did not explain what Israel should do to gain that victory.
Does he want a total occupation of the West Bank by the IDF? A total expulsion of the Palestinians from Palestine? A United Nations vote that the Palestinians must accept Israel?
Hamas has said no. Fatah has said yes, if Israel will leave the West Bank as it left Gaza.
Criticizing all the other efforts - unilateral withdrawal, acceptance of two states, a new Middle East, financial aid to Palestine, the barrier fence - is easy. Proposing a specific method for gaining victory is difficult; and, regrettably, Pipes does not provide it.
JOACHIM MALCOLM KING
Palestine is Arab
Sir, - Israel does not get it! Arabs do not want peace at the expense of their land. What Israel is relinquishing, part of the West Bank and Gaza, is what is ours, not theirs. Our complete land of Palestine belongs to us Arabs.
The majority of the Jews in Israel desire a democracy, they are not Zionists, therefore they have no claim to the holy land the Bible speaks about. They should go somewhere else in order to create a democratic state, not in Palestine.
If Israel was a Zionist state, then they could claim the promised land, but it is not!
AHMED TAIBI BENNUNA
A chance for Pollard?
Sir, - "Caspar Weinberger dead at 88" (March 29) said nothing about what may have been this man's greatest "achievement": the conviction and, especially, the sentencing of Jonathan Pollard for espionage.
In spite of the fact that Mr. Pollard cooperated fully with the law enforcement officials, Weinberger appeared at the sentencing and persuaded the judge to disregard the "deal" that had been made and sentence Pollard to life imprisonment without parole.
Except for the execution of the Rosenbergs for espionage in the early 1950s no American convicted for spying for a foreign country since World War II has received so harsh a sentence - especially when it was for a country that has friendly relations with the US.
I hope that with Weinberger's demise some leniency may finally be granted to a man who has suffered far too long for a crime for which others (including the Walker family) suffered far less.
Sir, - Congratulations to Rafi Eitan and his Pensioners Party for joining the Knesset. I consider Eitan one of the key people responsible for Jonathan Pollard's imprisonment, and therefore expect him to honor his pre-election commitment to do everything possible to enable Pollard's release, and his subsequent aliyah. ("What makes Rafi run?" Uri Dan, March 2.)
Sir, - Your incisive editorial about the 100th anniversary of the American Jewish Committee, tracing its path from high German Jewishness to pro-Israel advocacy, omitted one important detail about the course of that path ("AJCommittee at 100," March 20).
You asserted that the Zionist cause did not become part of the AJC agenda until after the 1967 war. The sequence is a bit more complicated and begins in 1950, when Jacob Blaustein, the epitome of Jewish American prosperity (head of Amoco Oil, now Chevron), quite consistently with the classic concern over dual loyalty, had a famous exchange of "understandings" with David Ben-Gurion.
It was "understood" according to their correspondence, that nothing done by Israel would undermine the good status of American Jews as such.
I can well imagine Blaustein's satisfaction with Ben-Gurion's assent, while the latter smiled knowingly.
The dustbin of history surely contains that correspondence, seeing that the natural affection of the Jewish masses for Israel made such assurances anachronistic long before the Six Day War.
The phrase "a dead letter" applies here perfectly.
Shaker Heights, Ohio
Sir, - Reflecting on "Exit polls show Olmert can form 'pullout' gov't" (March 29): Were the elections themselves an "exit poll"?