Listen up, Obama...

Sir, – With regard to “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate” (Analysis, October 5), the next US presidential debate will focus on foreign policy.

Mr. Obama, if you’re listening, please offer us words of reassurance that you’re not simply an ally of Israel, but rather Israel’s greatest ally. I want you to focus on dispelling all the spin that you’ve been a disaster for Israel, and to say that if you win a second term and won’t have to worry about being reelected, you won’t place undue pressure on Israel to make concessions that will jeopardize its security.

Our relationship is at a crossroads, Mr. President. Like the Spike Lee movie, do the right thing.

STUART PILICHOWSKI
Mevaseret Zion

...and you too, Erekat

Sir, – With regard to Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat’s comment that “a culture of hatred and racism...has become mainstream among Israelis” (“‘Price tag’ graffiti desecrates J’lem convent,” October 3), I wish to say to Erekat: You will never get what you want vis-a-vis Palestine and the Palestinian people if you and your colleagues continue your hateful and libelous rhetoric and demagoguery against Israel and the Israeli people.

It is you and your people, Mr. Erekat, who have been pursuing and disseminating a mainstream policy of defamation and hatred against Israel in your textbooks, films, magazines, and now in your libelous presentation of events in the news. It is you, sir, who is consumed with hatred, not us. If we were, your people would not benefit, for example, from the medical care they receive at our hospitals.

If anyone should be held accountable for hatred it is those who controlled the West Bank and east Jerusalem before the Six Day War and denied universal free access to the holy places in Jerusalem.

My advice to you, sir, is to change your attitude and present events as they are, without twisting them to your hateful political ends. Speak the truth.

Then and only then will the Palestinians reap all you feel they deserve.

MICHAEL SHAPIRO
Tel Aviv

Good of the country

Sir, – Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (“Embarking on early elections,” Politics, October 5) should forget about records and consider not what is best for his party and its partners, but what is best for the country. The reasons are critical.

• It is pretty clear that despite sanctions, Iran will have the bomb in the coming months, and we can’t afford another surprise like in 1973. To preserve their tottering regime, Iranian leaders will, like Syria’s Bashar Assad, do anything to survive.

• It is not going to be easier to pass the budget after the elections. The critical economic problems will still be there.

• We need a little time and to be on our guard to see how we go with Egypt. Cairo is playing around with Sinai. It does not look as though it has a way to quell the terror that keeps spilling over into Israel.

• Syrian rebels have made it clear that if they win, we are their next target. Whatever happens there is likely to be a huge escalation of civil war, much larger than at present, as the Alawite regime fights for its life.

• There are signs of unrest in Jordan that could easily escalate overnight.

• The West Bank under Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is bankrupt. It continues to prop up the Gaza regime with half its budget, but does not have the slightest say in what happens there. There’s no chance of an agreement with Hamas, and even less for agreeing on elections. Donor countries are not paying up. The explosive situation in our backyard cannot remain peaceful.

Internally we have serious problems, but we cannot afford to be in a situation where our enemies take advantage of an interim government that can’t plan ahead, take any initiatives or make decisions vital for our survival.

DAVID GOSHEN
Kiryat Ono

Right on Barak

Sir, – Hurrah for Hirsh Goodman (“Time for Barak to bolt,” PostScript, October 5). As Goodman states, Ehud Barak had his chance – more than once – and the time has come for him to leave the stage.

Barak was a great soldier and, for a time, a pretty good politician.

But that time has passed and he is no longer needed. As of late he has hung on by making Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu believe that he can’t do without him. But that time is over.

So let’s end this charade. In fact, it would probably be a good thing if both Barak and Bibi left the stage. Now!

LEONARD ZURAKOV
Netanya

Sir, – Everyone knows what Ehud Barak is like. He has consistency in two things: failure and the fact that no one matters except Ehud Barak.

If the mistake is made again and Barak manages to remain defense minister, he will have his bag of excuses and blame everyone else for his failures before any buttons are pressed, whether they are for Iran or anywhere else.

I. KEMP
Nahariya

Solid ground

Sir, – In “Freedom in theory” (Letters, October 3), reader Jalil Mortazavi accuses supporters of Israel of not practicing freedom of speech. He overlooks the fact that free speech is subject to limitations. It does not give one license to endanger lives, for example, by shouting fire in a crowded cinema when there is no fire, or by indulging in libel or slander.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has advocated the destruction of a member state of the United Nations, thereby infringing UN principles.

It would therefore be completely reasonable for the US to refuse him admission, and for the UN to refuse him the right to address its General Assembly.

Supporters of Israel were on solid ground in advocating this.

GERRY MYERS
Beit Zayit

Serious field

Sir, – I was flattered that my course, “Harry Potter and the Holocaust,” was motioned in Adina M. Yoffie’s “Jewish studies, once and in the future” (Comment & Features, August 29). However, I was surprised that Yoffie saw in the title of the course “a sign that standards are low and getting lower.”

With due respect, why does Yoffie assume this is not a serious course? Did she look at the syllabus and the ideas presented in it? Did she glance at the reading list for the course and the various topics it covers? Is Yoffie at least aware that there is a serious field of children’s literature, as well as scholars who take children books, such as the Harry Potter series, very seriously? Does she know that the Harry Potter books have inspired a great deal of serious scholarship in a number of fields? At the very least, is Yoffie aware of Prof. Ann Curthoys’s serious academic article in History Australia, “Harry Potter and Historical Consciousness: Reflections on History and Fiction,” which discusses the topic of Harry Potter and the Holocaust?

The course that I teach covers a variety of issues, such as imagism and modern poetry, modern Jewish history, the Holocaust and children’s literature. And, yes, it is very well attended.

I do agree that academic studies must aspire to a certain degree of elitism. But this must not be elitism that is based on ignorance and sloth. If Jewish studies are to have a future, people like Yoffie should stop stifling new and original voices and let new ideas flourish instead of cultivating old, stale and cowardly pedagogy while wailing that students (for some strange reason) do not seem interested.

DROR ABEND-DAVID
Gainesville, Florida

The writer teaches in the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures at the University of Florida.

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