Sir, - I haven't always agreed with Manfred Gerstenfeld, but I loved "Yes, apologies for Shoah behavior still matter" (April 24). I can add that not only did the Dutch as a people, albeit with exceptions, betray their Jews 65 years ago, not much has changed since then.
Some 10 years ago the Netherlands issued a passport incorporating etchings and captions on page after page, going through its history. About World War II the only mention was the lack of freedom and the hunger in winter 1944-5 that the general population suffered in the big cities. There was nothing about the more than 104,000 Dutch Jews who were murdered - not even a sketch of Anne Frank's famous face. There was one of the statue commemorating the 1,100 civilians killed in the Nazi air attack on Rotterdam.
There was no public protest from anyone, either.
Let the siren sound
Sir, - The chairman of the Western Province Zionist Council of Cape Town, David Hersch, came up with a wonderful idea. Yesterday, Yom Hashoah, he organized a one-minute siren to sound at 10 a.m., the same time as in Israel, in memory of the Six Million.
I hope this idea will snowball around the world, and that in future every city where there are Jews will do the same.
So connected now
Sir, - I wanted to compliment Robert Rozett on "Where angels move between heaven and earth" (April 24). In general your Holocaust Memorial articles this year were very interesting, but Rozett's really made an impression.
I am a high school senior and in September I went to Poland with my class. Even though I have Ashkenazi roots, most of my family was in the US way before the war. The Holocaust was a sad event but it did not have a major influence on me - until now. What Rozett was saying really happened, it just wasn't part of my life.
My trip to Poland was a real life-changing experience. I feel so connected to the Holocaust, I have to pass on its message to the next generations, and to any person who doesn't know the facts.
What Rozett said about the Shwartz family was really amazing - I too will think of all those victims as I walk the streets of Jerusalem. I will always remember and never forget!
SHIRA JACOBOWITZ, 18
Anti-Semitism is in the Jew
Sir, - The following is not likely to be popular with your Jewish readers. Yet it is what I believe.
Jews habitually blame others for their misfortune, but it is really their own deep-rooted fear of the Gentile, combined with their unquestioning belief in themselves as a despised and persecuted people, that gives rise to anti-Semitism.
The truth is that you are responsible for what happens in your life, good and bad. You can't claim credit for success in business, the arts etc., then deny responsibility for bad luck, prejudice and persecution. Your circumstances are always a reflection of your inner state of being. This is the true meaning of "As ye sow, so shall ye reap," "As I am, so is my life" and "The inner creates the outer."
The more firmly you believe yourself to be the object of universal loathing, the more likely you are to be just that. In every generation a few rise above the crowd and discover their own tremendous power to alter the circumstances of their existence. By overcoming their fear they make themselves immune to the violent attentions of others.
It's at that point that they realize the awful truth: "I brought it all upon myself." When they try to impart that important message to others, they are ridiculed.
To rid the world of anti-Semitism, the Jews first have to rid themselves of it. This is difficult, because there is hardly a Jew alive who does not believe that his feelings of fear and victimization are the effects of persecution, rather than the causes of it.
Wellington, New Zealand
Sir, - I was shocked by "Top White House posts go to Jewish staffers" (April 25). It could conceivably have been written by someone who believes there is a conspiracy by Jews to control the world, evoking once again the age-old slander that Jews have divided loyalties that make them suspect in high public office.
Neither Joel Kaplan nor Joshua Bolten deserve such suspicion.
ICAHD: Part of the legitimate debate
Sir, - Whew! I've been attacked before in newspapers, but never by someone who has written such nefarious things about me without ever deigning to talk to me or check his facts ("Cut the cash, end the hostility," April 20). And the head of a program of conflict management at that!
The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), which Gerald Steinberg demonizes as "promoting the demonization of Israel," is a bone fide Israeli peace and human rights organization dedicated to ending Israel's policy of demolishing Palestinian homes (12,000 since 1967) and, through that, promoting a just peace between the two peoples sharing their country.
ICAHD is registered with the Israeli Ministry of Interior, has a Web site and conducts all its activities - public and financial - in a completely transparent way. ICAHD is small. We do not have at our disposal the massive funding neo-con groups like Steinberg's NGO Monitor do.
The project funded by the EU, "Re-Framing: Providing a Coherent Paradigm of Peace to the Israeli Public," seeks to enlarge the critical dialogue in Israel regarding the possibility of peace. The title tries to be precise, as you must be in grant proposals, but it is hardly "pseudo-academic jargon," a strange charge from a professor! And the project falls squarely into the guidelines of the EU's Partnership for Peace program: "to contribute to creating a political climate more conducive to improving relations between the parties." Is this a bad thing?
But the strangest charge Steinberg makes is that ICAHD "uses money provided by European taxpayers to propagandize citizens in another democracy." Why propagandize? I am an Israeli citizen active in my country for the cause of peace.
ICAHD does not present positions of the EU, only of a certain sector of Israeli society among others that the EU helps fund.
Why is EU support for our efforts different than Israel using millions of my tax dollars to support the activities of AIPAC in the US - really propagandizing - or hiring the services of PR firms abroad? For that matter, can Steinberg tell us that the NGO Monitor does not receive funds from abroad?
Durban, questions about Israeli policy, human rights - are these issues "radical" or "anti-Israel?" And who decides their legitimacy or relevance? Steinberg? To publicly accuse Sabeel or Rev. Naim Atik of "anti-Semitism" brings us back to the dark days when all progressive Jews were accused of being "pro-Communist."
Steinberg belongs to a long tradition - markedly anti-Jewish - that seeks to shut down legitimate debate by impugning and vilifying opposing views. His article should have been balanced by an opposing view.
Gerald Steinberg responds:
In my analysis, I provided numerous specific examples demonstrating the contrast between ICAHD's vicious "Israel bashing" and its claims, as fully documented on www.ngo-monitor.org
Unfortunately, Mr. Halper's letter simply provides additional evidence of the radical agenda that is entirely divorced from the substance of peace efforts and reconciliation. He does not claim that any of the evidence is incorrect, but seeks to justify this agenda, as funded by the European Union. Indeed, this letter reinforces the conclusion regarding the urgent need for a review of EU criteria for funding Israeli NGOs.
Two views of Israel
Sir, - Lenny Ben-David's article criticizing my view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict demonstrates that one can live in Israel and maintain a galut mentality ("To MJ Rosenberg," April 25). For Lenny, Israel's strength is illusory, its security a fantasy, and its success as haven for the Jewish people still in doubt.
I live in the Diaspora but, for me, Israel represents the triumph of the Zionist vision. It is strong, vibrant and independent. It is powerful enough to achieve peace with its neighbors and to sacrifice territory it does not need to do so.
Lenny's dark view of Israel is profoundly un-Zionist. Fortunately, most Israelis, and few American Jews, share it.
Jerusalem (David Citadel Hotel)
Sir, - So Israel will have its biggest government ever ("New cabinet to cost public NIS 400m.," April 24). After Ehud Olmert gave Labor "more than we expected," Shas is now demanding more ministers. Yuli Tamir, who always screams that the government doesn't provide enough social assistance, nevertheless endorses spending hundreds of millions of tax shekels on her and her colleagues.
Olmert calls the outlays a "necessary expenditure," which is easy for him to say when it's not his money. After the politicians' splurge, where do they expect to find the funds to provide actual social services to the citizenry?
Mark my words. Either income taxes and VAT will go up soon, or our education and health systems will collapse while more people go unemployed and hungry and the Palestinians get more land for free.
Israeli politics has hit its nadir.
Sir, - Isn't it time for Israel to start moving toward a form of government where MKs represent a constituency and ministers without portfolio are not a political necessity?
Least of all
Sir, - In all the talk about giving workers a minimum wage of $1,000, one should keep in mind that the average salary of a teacher is less than that.
I guess, then, we shouldn't expect our children to receive any more than a "minimum" education? ("Kadima, Labor frustrated by pace of coalition talks," April 21.)