English history

Sir, – Opposition leader Isaac Herzog’s Knesset speech welcoming British Prime Minister David Cameron (“Cameron gets a taste of democracy, Israel-style,” March 13) was not well researched.

The thousand-year history of Jewish settlement in England began with the Norman conquest in 1066. The massacre of the Jews of York in 1190 eventually led to the expulsion of the Jews in 1290 by Edward I. The expulsion lasted for some three and a half centuries, until Cromwell prevailed against the anti-Semitic opposition of the clergy and the economic fears of the merchant class, and permitted the Jews to return.

Moreover, we must not forget Britain’s pre-World War II actions, such as the Evian Conference, which dealt with the flight of Jewish refugees from Germany, as well as the White Paper of 1939. Both dealt with restricting immigration to Palestine in blatant violation of the promises of the Balfour Declaration and the League of Nations mandate.

Mr. Herzog, is it politically correct to gloss over the realities of history in order to curry favor with visiting dignitaries?

JOSH WIESEN
Haifa

Sir, – Opposition leader Isaac Herzog assured Britain’s visiting prime minister that the Mideast peace process should emulate recent English overtures toward Northern Ireland. But the English model of negotiating after 850 years of occupation would have us resume our own peace talks only in the year 2817! And what exactly do Palestinians have in common with the Irish? Have the Irish declared that London is their third-holiest city and denied the right of Anglicans to pray – or even live – there? Do clergymen in Belfast openly preach that Protestants are pigs and monkeys? Is England surrounded by reactionary, racist dictatorships that repeatedly threaten its existence? Also, how many missiles and rockets have been fired at England lately? There is, of course, one key similarity between the two conflicts.

We Jews are the Irish. We are the natives. We have lived here continuously for over three millennia and are the majority in our own land. But we are also the South African blacks, the Australian Aborigines and the American Indians. And don’t forget, Jews lived in England long before the advent of an English culture or language.

STEVE BERGER
Ramat Gan

Sir, – I had the opportunity to be present at the special session of Knesset in honor of the British prime minister.

I was disgusted by the behavior of so many MKs – those who walked out, those who disrupted the proceedings, and opposition leader Isaac Herzog for his speech. This was not the occasion to make cheap political points.

Our legislators obviously do not know how to behave when welcoming an esteemed visitor.

ALAN WEBBER
Netanya

Odd proposition

Sir, – I find myself in the odd position of agreeing with Gershon Baskin as to the return of Palestinians now languishing under desperate conditions in the wretched and overcrowded camps in which millions of refugees from the Syrian tragedy find themselves (“Palestinian refugees in Syria,” Encountering Peace, March 13).

I agree that they should be allowed to return to Palestine, which they can do with the generous assistance of their well-off Muslim brothers in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Gulf states. But for all his altruism, Mr. Baskin wants to short-change these poor folks by telling them to go to a tiny area virtually empty of resources and beyond the control of their fellow Muslims.

Instead of wishing to place them in the Palestinian state of Jordan, he wants them placed inside Israeli-controlled territory. I thought he was an advocate for these people! Surely, the “Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan,” which covers almost 80 percent of historical Palestine, has much more room than the tiny area in Judea and Samaria known as Area C. Area C is also “occupied” by the Jews.

There is much more room for these unfortunate folks in the cities of Irbid, Mafrak, Amman and Aqaba, where they can live without ever seeing an Israeli flag, soldier or checkpoint.

I applaud you, Mr. Baskin, for your humanity. But shouldn’t it be directed where it can do the most good instead of fostering more violence? After all, haven’t these people suffered enough? IRWIN BLANK Ma’aleh Adumim Sir, – Gershon Baskin suggests that the Palestinians who have been displaced in Syria be resettled in Area C of the West Bank.

This, in turn, would provide them with badly needed jobs and a future.

There’s only one problem: No one in the Arab world would support this. This includes the Palestinian Authority itself. Mr.

Baskin seems to have forgotten that the reason the Palestinian refugee problem even exists is to displace the State of Israel.

He also knows that PA President Mahmoud Abbas has no intention to forgo the Palestinian narrative.

MATTIAS ROTENBERG
Petah Tikva

Real reason

Sir, – A young Jewish man was attacked near the capital’s Damascus Gate last Tuesday afternoon (“Arab gang attacks Jewish man near Jerusalem’s Old City,” March 12). You report that police are investigating whether it was because “several Jews were seen in the area sporting shirts emblazoned with images of slain right-wing politician Rabbi Meir Kahana, stating ‘Kahane was right.’” It is not the T-shirts that caused the attack, as it is not the first time a Jew has been stabbed or beaten near the Damascus Gate. I could fill pages with such incidents.

In 1980, a friend of mine and her husband were walking home from the Young Israel Synagogue in the Muslim Quarter and were attacked by Arabs throwing rocks. My friend asked a storekeeper why this happened. The answer was: “You bother us by being here and living in our country.”

That was the reason for the attack last Tuesday, and for the many more that are sure to come.

BARBARA GINSBERG
Ma’aleh Adumim

Worthy of Purim


Sir, – Purim seems to have come early for Nachman Shai (“Israel-America relations vis a vis the Crimean War,” Comment & Features, March 12).

Shai admits that US President Barack Obama’s identifying expression “leading from behind” is “ridiculous,” yet he considers Obama’s handling of the recent crises with Libya, Iran and Syria a “relative success.”

If success is measured by avoidance of responsibility for the ongoing chaos in a ruptured Libya and the stubborn staying-power of the unrepentant Assad in Syria, then Obama is a smash! But how can Iran’s unbending march to the nuclear threshold be considered anything but a disaster? Who can disagree with Shai’s plaintive assertion that “we need a strong America and a strong American president”? But when he adds that “if they are weak, we should bolster them,” is he serious? What more can Israel do for America and its president than what it has been doing for its entire existence – serving as its one unreservedly strong and committed ally in this part of the world.

What else does Shai want? He wants Israel to do much more toward achieving an agreement with the Palestinians. This, in the face of Shai’s own admission that “the US will not be spending much time dealing with... the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the future.” In other words, giving in now to a dangerous, if not suicidal, deal with the Palestinians will “bolster” a weak America and a weak Obama.

This is strategic and geo-ethical logic worthy of Purim!

AVRAHAM FEDER
Jerusalem

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