December 15: Who is a refugee?

Jews who were expelled from Jerusalem, the Etzion Bloc or any other part of Mandated Palestine by the Jordanians must be considered refugees.

December 14, 2010 23:48
letters March 2008

letters good 88. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Who is a refugee?

Sir, – Regarding “Palestine refugee issue comes to fore as Mitchell arrives” (December 13), I am sure that many of those who rely on their perception of what international agreements say have never actually read them. Such misconceptions are particularly relevant to the Fourth Geneva Convention, on which those against settlement building in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem rely.

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As far as the refugee question is concerned, UN Resolution 194, on which the Arabs rely when arguing for the right of return, says “the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and... compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.”

It does not say Arab, Muslim, Christian or Jewish refugees – just “refugees.” Therefore, Jews who were expelled from Jerusalem, the Etzion Bloc or any other part of Mandated Palestine by the Jordanians must be considered refugees and must be counted among those recommended for a return to their homes.

Beit Shemesh

Sir, – In 1944, Finland and the Soviet Union made peace after being at war. Finland had to give up Karelia and absorb its Finnish population of some 450,000 people as refugees.

Since then, nobody among them or the rest of the Finnish people has ever spoken of second- or third-generation refugees. In fact, in Finland there is no such concept – those born in Finland are Finns.

The concept of a second and third generation of refugees was created by the Arabs. Should it be accepted in Europe, more than half of the continent’s population would be refugees.

It should never be accepted by Israel.

Espoo, Finland

Stop right there

Sir, – It was quite disturbing to read about the terror attack in Sweden (“Stockholm slams likely terror attack in busy district,” December 13). I was therefore utterly dismayed to read the statement by Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, wherein he almost apologetically states that the bombing was “unacceptable because Sweden is an open society which has a stated wish that people should be able to have different backgrounds....”

Reinfeldt should have ended his statement at “unacceptable,” because any act of terror is designed to maximize fear, havoc and indiscriminate destruction amid innocent civilians.

The West must learn to understand this.

Petah Tikva

Clear preference

Sir, – Your December 13 editorial (“Zionism, Nixon-style”) raises the question: Do we have to choose between liberals who admire Jews and Judaism in exile but detest Jewish independence in Israel, and reactionaries who hate us in the Diaspora but support us as a political entity in Israel? As you cite from The New York Times, Richard Nixon made a “distinction between Israeli Jews, whom he admired, and American Jews.”

Because Herzl’s prediction that a Jewish state would remove anti- Semitism from the world has been proven wrong by today’s worldwide resurgence of anti-Semitism, perhaps we should conclude that it is better to bear the world’s hatred of Jews and have a State of Israel than to be loved as wandering Jews without a state.


Sir, – In regard to President Nixon’s remarks about Soviet Jews, he was a complex man.

In March 1973 he approved of Henry Kissinger’s dismissive attitude toward the refuseniks. Eleven months later, on February 22, 1974, six months prior to his resignation, Nixon stood in the White House to greet over 450 guests who had come to support him. I was among them. As I shook the president’s hand, I thanked him for all he did to advance freedom for the Jews in Russia, which by that time was considerable.

Nixon told me that he felt very privileged to work on their behalf and that I should expect a lot more from him and the United States. I began to step away to make room for others, and was surprised when he took my hand again and pulled me back, saying, “Oh yes, we’ve done a lot for the Soviet Jews, and we’ll be doing a whole lot more.”

Ma’aleh Adumim

That is the question

Sir, – Regarding the question of conversions and your conclusion that Orthodox, Conservative and Reform rabbis should be allowed to perform them in Israel (“Converting conversions,” Editorial, December 12), I think the question is not “Who is a Jew?” or “Who is a rabbi?,” but “What is a conversion?” If conversion is an act with little or no meaning, then maybe it can be done at city hall without a rabbi at all. But if it is a serious matter connected to Halacha, it is obvious that only those who follow Halacha can deal with them.

It is indeed ironic that in all areas of life we want expertise, but in matters of religion we are willing to settle for much less.

The writer is chief rabbi of Dimona

Desperate measures

Sir, – Many in our country see the rabbis’ letter against the sale and rental of property to non-Jews as a call to racism (“Let the rabbis go,” Editorial, December 10). I see it as a call to action to preserve Israel for the Jewish people.

In recent years, non-Jews have seized thousands upon thousands of dunams of state land in the Negev and the Galilee, upon which they have built massively and illegally. In a number of neighborhoods in “mixed” cities, they have employed blockbusting tactics, verbal threats and physical violence to drive the Jewish population out.

By contrast, Jews who try to settle outlying northern and southern regions or strengthen the Jewish presence in urban neighborhoods find themselves up against highly professional and well-connected legal, human rights and environmental activists who are wellfinanced by anti-Zionist money from abroad.

Government officials, the police, the media, the judiciary and even the Jewish National Fund have been ineffective against this worrisome trend.

Indeed, to some extent they have even collaborated with it.

A call to not sell or rent to non-Jews is unusual and harsh.

But I believe these rabbis are righteous men who feel impelled to take desperate measures to save our land for the Jewish people. This is more than can be said for many of those who are now calling for the rabbis’ heads.


A prerequisite

Sir, – “The state of Israel’s democracy” (Comment & Features, December 8) leaves me very perplexed.

A loyalty oath to me is simply a statement of loyalty to the State of Israel as a democratic Jewish state and all this infers (i.e., obedience to the law, a willingness to fight for and even die for the preservation of the state). It is not a statement of allegiance to a particular government.

It is not an allegiance to any political party or philosophy, and in no way does it confer additional powers upon the government that it does not already possess by law.

Thus, I find incomprehensible Yitzhak Klein’s fears of government sanctions, the revocation of freedom of expression and opinion, as well as exclusion from the ballot box.

I personally feel that the willingness to sign a loyalty oath to the state should be one of the prerequisites for citizenship and all the entitlements derived thereof.


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