How 'our' Arabs...
Sir, - Larry Derfner's "Our Arabs, indeed" (January 26) succinctly identified the new trend among Israeli and other Arabs. My personal experience with Arab Israelis and Palestinians from the "disputed territories" points to similar conclusions.
First, Arab Israelis do not want to be part of the future of the West Bank and Gaza. Second, Palestinians refer to Israel as a democratic country, in contrast to tyrannical Arab regimes. I remember a Palestinian from Gaza defending Israel in the middle of a discussion and saying, "I prefer to live among the Israelis rather than in any Arab state." Third, a lot of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza envy the Arab Israeli "traitors" who opted to remain loyal to Israel and refuse to support terrorism.
Arab Israelis know that in the State of Israel not only is their economic situation much better, they realize, more importantly, that being part of a democratic state entitles them to citizenship and due process.
Where there is rule of law, people have a better chance to see their grievances addressed, and to challenge the state to advance their social welfare.
...view life with us
Sir, - While I was relieved to learn that most Israeli Arabs/Palestinian Israelis seem to have a positive view of life with the Jews and want to continue living in Israel, some important questions were left unasked. What is the tone within their community? Is it a monotone of complaint and dissatisfaction? From the little I hear, many, if not most, of these people continue to believe that we stole the land from them and that the state is illegitimate, no matter how much welfare it pays.
My real concern is the dialogue between teachers and students, between parents and children, and among friends hanging out.
What are the real reasons Israeli Arabs/Palestinian Israelis prefer to continue living in a state in which the national language is not their language, the national flag is not their flag, and the national anthem is not their anthem?
What does it mean that a little more than half are "proud" of Israel's welfare state? Could this represent those who benefit from it? And if Hamas offers more welfare? In how many homes of the 44% proud of their Israeliness is Nakba ("catastrophe") Day observed rather than Independence Day? I would also like to know why it is public policy for these Israelis not to contribute to their communities or ours via some kind of National Service. Does their pride in the nation include the aspiration to contribute to it?
Many of us long to share Larry Derfner's optimism and hope. Yet for all his compelling report - and it is forceful - sad to say, I suspect that the annual festival known as "Al-Aksa Is In Danger," with all its passionate and purposefully planned and directed hate, anger and paranoia, is a far more accurate expression of the deeper feelings of our Arab fellow citizens.
Luster & its lack
Sir, - Re "Dayan plan retains settlement blocs, Jordan Valley, Jerusalem" (January 24): Tafnit has the policies and aims I agree with, and it is led by a man of integrity and intelligence I have confidence in. There is a logic in Israel that says if your candidate is not a sure thing, you're wasting your vote. That logic is back to front because the "sure-thing" candidate doesn't need my vote - he'll get in anyway. Which means my vote would be helping someone way down his party list; one of those lackluster party hacks who makes it in on the coattails of his leader would have me to thank for it!
Our system, whereby small parties can be represented in the government, certainly has its negative side - small parties hold large ones to ransom, etc. - but there is a positive side too. My vote can actually mean I helped one good candidate get in. And that is why Uzi Dayan will have my vote.
Moshav Tal Shachar
Real poverty and false
Sir, - With "The poverty debate" (Editorial, January 25) you hit the nail on the head. The so-called poverty line does not track poverty. As you said, it "tracks inequality." And since poverty is significantly much more important than inequality I suggest a new, real poverty line measured with respect to the cost-of-living index.
I'm sure that the National Insurance Institute, which issued the current poverty line, would be adept at constructing an appropriate formula for real poverty measurement based upon the cost of living. Inequality measurement could be represented by the old poverty line, perhaps given a more appropriate name.
Sir, - Your editorial writer said, "It is not clear that the NII has succeeded in preventing some people who work completely on a cash basis and give no receipts from - in addition to avoiding taxes - claiming unemployment and other welfare benefits."
The NII's recent demand to register the identity number of all domestic help has resulted in many homes which paid the NII contributions now being left without these same workers, who want to work only on the "black market." By working on the black market with no record of income these people, earning good wages, pay no taxes and yet continue to claim all types of benefits on the basis of their so-called "poverty."
Our ex-domestic, whom we legally registered with the NII for 12 years, has now moved on to black-market work in order to be able to claim additional benefits. When we referred the matter to the NII, the reaction was a pathetic smile and a statement that "the government needs to do something." There seems to be no effort to remove these domestics from being incorrectly recorded on the "poverty" register.
As we try to find a replacement for our household help the recurring answer is: "No, I don't want you to pay NII contributions; it will affect my benefits!" In the meantime, I remain somewhat skeptical about the true level of poverty in the country.
S. M. PALMER
Day whose time has come
Sir, - I fully agree with Phillip H. Waldoks about making January 27 Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day ("A better day for remembering," January 25). By establishing this day as its own official annual memorial day for Holocaust victims, Israel would be reinforcing its becoming the perpetual international observance day for World War II atrocities against Jews.
The biblical basis for the establishment of the State of Israel aside, an international day of Holocaust commemoration would help emphasize, and remind the world of, the origins and necessity of the Jewish homeland in Israel. It would likewise help to discourage the breeding of Holocaust deniers.
Kudos to Mr. Waldoks for his well-conceived idea. Israel should adopt it.
Great Neck, New York
Sir, - David Forman's article 'Is the Right still Zionist?' (January 25) is a classic example of a person creating an argument for himself by selectively quoting and stating what Zionism is. Rabbi Forman fires the arrow of liberalism and his own interpretations into a wall, then draws the target of Judaism and Zionism around it.
He has come to the decision that Zionism is the gospel according to Herzl. Political Zionism owes a lot to Zionism, but unless my history is incorrect Zionism was around for decades before Herzl became imbued with it.
Nationalism is then decried with the use of quotes from the Bible - perhaps one of the most nationalistic tomes of all time. The absolute attachment to and fervor for the land is what kept the Jews during all their years of exile.
I am constantly amazed by liberal religious Jews who look first to liberal Western values before the values they are supposed to represent. With statements like "the original purpose of Zionism" is Rabbi Forman attempting to supersede Herzl as the true Zionist prophet?
Sir, - In his attempt to define the true meaning of Zionism David Forman provided us with a surfeit of theological and political distortions. His antipathy for the Right is expressed by identifying two major groups, whom he accuses of being in contradiction of "every aspect of Herzl's dream." The first villain is to be found in the national camp, and the second in the religious one. Forman is distressed by any manifestations of national self-interest or religious expression that do not bear his imprimatur.
Apparently he forgets what he himself points out - that the original purpose of Zionism was to provide a national home for the Jewish people in the land of Israel. It follows, therefore, that it is those groups that deny the right of the Jewish people to its only national home who are the real rejecters of the Zionist program.
Rabbi Forman abhors the fusion of nationalism and theology, which he places in opposition to the ideals of Israel's Declaration of Independence as spoken by the prophets of old. It was, however, those very prophets who called for the fusion of theology and nationalism in forming a "holy nation" in whom the imperatives of equality and justice would be manifest, and who could then serve as a light unto the nations of the world.
Menace on wheels
Sir, - According to news reports, on Saturday night, January 7, a driver stopped by police on Highway 6 doing 181 k/ph was found to have a record of 61 traffic violations. One does not need a crystal ball or degree in psychology to know that this person will most likely go on to injure or kill people in the future, God forbid. How can the police allow someone with 61 traffic violations to continue having a license?
If the government is serious about ending the carnage on the roads, it needs to revoke the licenses of such reckless drivers. If they are caught driving without a license their vehicle should be confiscated; if they continue to drive, they should be jailed.
In 2005, 50 people were murdered by terrorists and 470 killed in auto accidents. At what point will the public demand that the authorities treat reckless drivers as a menace to civil society?
Sir, - After seeing Munich, the impression I was left with was the utter humaneness of the Israelis, whose concern for human life and values makes them a remarkable breed. It sets up a direct contrast to the rest of the Middle East, which has apparently accepted suicide bombing as a weapon of choice ("Spielberg's fictions," Alan Dershowitz, January 23).
Boynton Beach, Florida