(photo credit: Courtesy)
Sir, - Gershon Baskin, it seems, forgets nothing and learns nothing ("President Obama: Pro-Israel, pro-Palestinian, pro-peace," September 1). He asserts, without proof, that both sides want peace but cannot achieve it alone. Even if true, that is meaningless; we all want nice things, but when some are mutually exclusive, it's the priorities that matter.
Peace is very low on the Arabs' priority list. If they want peace a little bit but have a more fervent desire to destroy Israel, the former desire is of no great significance. If, in fact, they wanted peace as much as Israelis do, we would have achieved it decades ago.
To suggest we need an outside arbitrator to force peace upon us is demeaning to all parties, and impractical into the bargain. As long as the Arabs believe Obama will force a settlement that will in effect destroy the Jewish state, there is no incentive for them to search seriously for a compromise.
Our only option is to make it absolutely clear that we will not be pushed into committing suicide. Fortunately Israel's so-called peace camp is diminishing by the hour.
The vast majority of Israelis see no benefit in talking to the likes of Hamas, or the Palestinian Authority, which, though sometimes clad in sheep's clothing, seem to have the same philosophy as Hamas.
Sir, - The international attitude to Israel is exemplified by Carolyn Glick in "Your standard European newspaperâ€¦ demonstrate[s] the depths of Europe's obsession with hating Israel" ("The rigged game," August 28).
The prime minister's attempt to convince the rest of the world that "Palestinian acknowledgement that Israel is the homeland of the Jews" is the "'pivot' of peace" - Herb Keinon in the same issue ("Reframing the conflict") - appears an impossible task.
Will the international community consider any concept that would not weaken Israel?
Sharing in the guilt
Sir, - My association with Richard Goldstone was not "somewhat limited" ("Goldstone's human rights record," Letters, September 1). I frequently used his legal services until I left South Africa in 1973, and 10 years ago he was kind enough to write the introduction to a book of mine. I regarded him as a friend and there was certainly no animus on my part in writing a letter which I would have preferred not to write had I not thought the matter sufficiently serious.
My simple point, which Henry Shakenovsky's letter does not address, is that anybody who took part in carrying out the unjust and immoral laws which were an inherent part of the apartheid system shares in the guilt. A person who acted as a judge when 80 percent of the population were, by law, prevented from sitting with him on the bench - or, indeed, on any bench - cannot hold himself up post facto to be a paragon of human rights when the going becomes easy.
All who lived and worked in S. Africa are guilty to some degree. Only those who devoted themselves to African rights or actively opposed the system and put their careers and, indeed, their liberty at risk, can claim the right to preach. Significantly, Nelson Mandela's autobiography mentions the names of lawyers who truly stood up. Goldstone's name does not appear.
The fact that Mandela chose him for the Constitutional Court is not surprising. Mandela had to make use, as much as possible, of the existing judicial system, or chaos would have ensued. Goldstone's record may certainly have been better than most of his colleagues' - but one cannot be only somewhat pregnant.
On a personal note, I was a member of the Liberal Party until it was banned, did some African pro bono work and was one of the handful of white lawyers in the '60s to employ a black articled clerk. Yet I do not exempt myself from the guilt of moral compromise. I would not now claim to be a paragon of human rights.
The only way to make reparation for one's previous compromise would be not to allow oneself to be compromised now on human rights issues. In this context, one cannot ignore Judge Goldstone's "sad mistake," as conceded by M.L. Rostowsky (Letters, same date): not only his acceptance of the UNHRC appointment, considering his seat on the board of Human Rights Watch, but also his failing to insist on proper parameters for the investigation, and his allowing the participation of Christine Chinkin, who had made her animus known in advance.
In someone as brilliant as Goldstone, does this not indicate the very pliability about which I wrote?
Sir, - In "Back to school" (Shalom Hammer, August 31), the author states: Israeli education is predicated upon quantitative education as opposed to qualitative education... They program our children to amass volume as opposed to embracing values, and this breeds a society of ego-centricity."
This insight into the pedagogic problems that exist in Israel is at the heart of the educational workshops offered by the Begin Center, including one on "Value-Driven Leadership."
Much of the thrust of the Begin Center's projects, in formal and informal education as well as the rationale behind the museum, is to suggest to participants and visitors that beyond the historical facts, Menachem Begin sought to influence the Jewish people on the basis not only of benefits for the individual, but, more importantly, in values such as joint responsibility, Jewish heritage, concern for the life of the nation and the need to assist Jews in difficulty.
HERZL MAKOV, Chairman Menachem Begin Heritage Center
The Swedish allegations
Sir, - Ma'an News Agency never claimed to "confirm" the allegations printed in the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, contrary to what "Palestinian news agency 'confirms' organ snatching story" (August 23) stated. Instead, as a responsible, independent and professional news organization, Ma'an published articles stating that Aftonbladet's reporter, citing Palestinian sources, had made allegations concerning "organ harvesting," as did many Israeli and Western media outlets. All our Arabic and English articles on this issue have simply reported the comments and claims of other parties and sources.
The specific article mentioned in the Post's report was in Arabic, and it reported the comments of one researcher, Abed An-Nasser Farwana, who said he believed the allegations in the Swedish newspaper.
In addition, the Post was mistaken in citing the title of the original Ma'an article. The actual title was: "Farwana: Disappearances, Holding Bodies, Organ Theft - Intertwined Crimes." Both the title and body of the article made it clear that this was Farwana's interpretation of events, not Ma'an's. A variety of other Arabic and English websites also reported on Farwana's claims in the context of the ongoing media interest in the controversy.
Finally, Ma'an no longer receives funds from Denmark or The Netherlands, as stated in the Post's report.
Ma'an News Agency
Sir, - I don't think I ever met Meir Ronnen personally, but I was a fan of his writing. His achievements in Israel mirror the successes of many other Australian olim. Indeed, the Australian contribution to Israel is one of the unsung stories of Zionist history.
London's Piccadilly Circus in the postwar period had a huge neon sign reading "Australia sends its best to Britain." Israel could everywhere emblazon the message "Australia does its best for Zionism." We Australians can be proud of ourselves ("Mike Ronnen" Letters, September 2).
RABBI RAYMOND APPLE
Great Synagogue, Sydney