Derfner's amazing double standard
Sir, - It is truly amazing to read Larry Derfner's approach to the American war against the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan ("Welcome, Obama, to the March of Folly," November 26). For this liberal-minded author to state that "the Americans should have retaliated [for 9/11] by carpet-bombing select areas of that country, killing tens of thousands of people, terrorists and civilians both," to send a message to terror groups and the Islamic world "that there is a terrible price to pay for attacking America and killing 3,000 innocents," is remarkable.
Yet when Israel is forced to protect itself against terrorists in its own backyard, it has to show restraint. Does Israel have a greater moral obligation to cave in to terror at home than the US, which is fighting on behalf of the entire free world?
Sir, - The article by Michael Freund headlined "Fundamentally Freund: Do the Arab states really care about the Palestinians?" (November 26) is fundamentally flawed.
Mr. Freund writes dismissively of Arab donations to UNRWA because he seems ignorant of Arab contributions to our emergency funds. Leaving aside the question of who is responsible for the emergencies, he fails to mention that these form the bulk of Arab donations to UNRWA and that they are several times larger than their contributions to UNRWA's regular budget. When the totality of our funding is considered, Mr. Freund's thesis is demonstrably misleading.
Arab donors pledged 11 percent of overall pledges to UNRWA in 2009. Kuwait's $34 million is one of the largest single donations the agency has ever received. Saudi Arabia has pledged $25 million for the rebuilding of the destroyed Nahr el-Bared camp in northern Lebanon, making it second only to the US in donations for this project.
Moreover, Arab countries often donate through non-government organizations but with government funds - a good example being the Saudi Committee for the Support of the Palestinian People, which has pledged over $10 million this year for Gaza, more than most governments. The UAE Red Crescent average more in a year than many donors. In addition, Arab donations are often "in kind" and do not register in financial statistics.
The king of Saudi Arabia has pledged $1 billion for reconstruction in Gaza, and other Gulf leaders have offered similarly large amounts. Much of this would be for destroyed or damaged UNRWA buildings. All that is preventing Arab leaders from being tested on this is the Israeli government's refusal to allow the entry of construction materials into Gaza.
Finally, the notion of an "anti-Israel," "anti-Western" UNRWA that perpetuates the refugee crisis is as old and tired as it is baseless. The fact that the overwhelming majority of our regular budget comes from Europe and America is ample proof of that. What perpetuates the refugee crisis is the lack of a durable peace deal under which, according to all internationally accepted paradigms, the refugees' plight must be resolved.
UNRWA spokesman, Jerusalem
Jews in high places
Sir, - In "Is Norway really an anti-Semitic country," (November 24), John A. Moen stated: "The country also has an ever-so-small Jewish 'novelty' appeal: The most northerly synagogue and most northerly Jewish community in the world are in Trondheim."
Nope! We are the northernmost community, in Fairbanks, Alaska - a full 3 degrees further north than Trondheim. At 65Âº North and about 100-odd miles from the Arctic Circle, we have a small Jewish community here.
Didn't want you forgetting about us.