letters to the editor 88.
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Sir, - We Israelis were hit very hard by a feeling that the IDF could not defend us - against Kassams and Katyushas, against incursions killing and capturing our soldiers - and all by simple terrorist/guerilla groups. I felt the fear, the helpless rage, the desire for revenge, to teach them a lesson they'd never forget.
I had loved ones fighting in Lebanon, and in the North, whose welfare was a constant source of great anxiety.
But now that the fighting has abated I wish to thank the Post for Rabbi Barry Leff's balanced reminder that even when we are infuriated we must try to behave like civilized human beings ("For purity of arms," September 5).
Sir, - Rabbi Leff's exposition of tamudic and Maimonidean ideas about the rules of engagement reminds us of another time, when combatants lined up on the battlefield and charged at each other. The modern battlefield employs civilian disguise as well as human shields.
In considering that the IDF's mission is to defend the state as well as to protect its own soldiers, I would encourage it to reconsider its "rules of engagement" in order to minimize our casualties and maximize enemy ones. After all, the army goes into the field when all else has failed and the life of the nation is at stake.
Perhaps Rabbi Leff has forgotten that Jewish law also considers those "who stand idly by" culpable. In our war against terrorism there are no innocent bystanders, because passivity in the face of terror is complicity.
...seen as weakness
Sir, - Barry Leff rebukes fellow rabbis who say it is not right to risk the lives of our soldiers to minimize civilian deaths. He quotes extensively from the Torah and the Talmud to prove his point, although I notice that he does not mention God's commandment to wipe out even the memory of Amalek from the face of the earth.
However what he has written is largely irrelevant because he never explains how to deal humanely with an enemy who indiscriminately fires missiles from within civilian areas for the purpose of killing Jews, all the while ensuring that if our soldiers attack the missile launching sites there is a strong chance of enemy civilians getting killed; or how one humanely fight an enemy that trains its children to blow themselves up in order to kill Jews.
We are dealing with terrorists who have no rules of war and regard civilized behavior as a weakness.
Serious? You bet!
Sir, - Given all that's going on in this country it is difficult to determine the seriousness of every situation. For instance,"European countries stymie IDF supply runs, miffed El Al pilots say" (September 5) seems to involve a relatively low-level letter of complaint by the El Al Pilots Union chairman to the prime minister.
But the statement therein that "Italy, Britain, Portugal, Spain and Germany refuse to allow El Al cargo planes transporting US military equipment to land and refuel" is almost terrifying. While these countries have every legal, diplomatic and political right to take this course, where is the moral right?
What business has Germany to interfere - even passively - with Israel's security? What confidence can Israel now have in Italy's performance as head of the new UNIFIL? And isn't Britain still America's main ally?
It seems that anti-Israel sentiment is universal and never-ending. Anshel Pfeffer's "Proving the link between extreme criticism of Israel and violence against Jews" (September 6) suggests that vicious anti-Semitism may not be far off.
Sir, - Prime Minister Tony Blair has repeatedly subjected the UK Jewish community to the mantra that he is a "good friend of Israel in both good and bad times."
Yet, when the chips are down, he has not kept faith. His government's refusal to grant landing rights to El Al cargo aircraft flying from the US to Israel, carrying heavy loads of vital equipment needed to replenish IDF stocks for defensive action against Hizbullah, clearly displays double standards.
We should seek a clear explanation of the decision and confirmation that Mr. Blair personally will ensure that the ban is lifted immediately.
COLIN L. LECI
Cheap shot at HRW
Sir, - I am concerned and disappointed by Gerald Steinberg's invocation of the ancient slur of "blood libel" to describe his disagreement with Human Rights Watch's assessment during the recent hostilities that Israel in its attacks repeatedly failed to distinguish between civilians and combatants ("Ken Roth's blood libel," August 27). I do not believe that a blind defense of the Israeli government warrants cheapening the memory of those myriad Jews against whom genocide was incited by grotesque demonization - that Jews killed Christian children as a ritual act.
As a member of its board of directors, I know that HRW has decades of experience in documenting and verifying battlefield abuses, not only in the Mideast, but also in the Balkans, Chechnya, Darfur, Rwanda, Congo, Central America and elsewhere, and that it has a well-deserved reputation for accuracy and scrupulous fairness.
Steinberg did not refer to any actual facts to impugn the organization's detailed findings that, although Hizbullah sometimes operated in civilian areas, there was no evidence of a Hizbullah military presence in some two dozen cases of civilian deaths investigated.
So great is his animus that Steinberg appears reluctant to admit that HRW also condemned Hizbullah abuses, not just in passing, as he says, but repeatedly, as even a quick look at the HRW Web site (www.hrw.org) would reveal.
Rattling the anti-Semitism saber and name-calling will neither elevate Israel's reputation nor help it respond constructively to avoid a repetition of past mistakes. Rather than accuse Human Rights Watch of bias, unprofessionalism and emotionalism, some introspection would be in order.
RICHARD J. GOLDSTONE
The writer was chief prosecutor for the International CriminalTribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and a judge on the South African Constitutional Court.
Sir, - Barry Lynn's "Sharing the pie" (Letters, September 6) was a bolt of good sense. I would go further, and simply stay shtum - quiet.
Announcements regarding prospective talks or negotiations invite all kinds of potentially embarrassing reactions. Any outside proposals that could be good for us should be studied and acted upon; everything else should be ignored.
It seems that simply being Jews, with a state or without a state, creates animosity - even hatred. So it's better to keep our mouths shut and our powder (i.e., the IDF) dry.
Sir, - I was heartened to read in "Israel's new PR focus" (September 1) that the Foreign Ministry is starting to relate to the Internet. However, it is hard to understand why it doesn't devote more resources to this important channel.
During the war I saw that Israel was the 6th most-searched word on a search engine. However, the search results showed that the ministry hadn't bothered to update its message on the results page or run any sponsored ads. Searching Lebanon, however, I found ads encouraging people to help the Lebanese.
I sent an urgent e-mail to the ministry offering to consult for them without charge. So far there has been no answer.
Advanced Internet Marketing Strategies
Trucks & trains
Sir, - Re "Truck runs train tracks - none injured" (On-Line Edition, September 6):
Take away that truck driver's license for life, and make him pay for all damages. In any similar case where someone is injured the truck driver should be jailed for as long as the injured person is incapacitated. If someone is killed, the truck driver should be put in jail for life.