Sir, - I am among those puzzled Israelis who cannot understand why we have agreed to risk the safety of our own citizens by reopening the Karni passage ("Gaza crossing to reopen in attempt to curb food crisis," On-Line Edition, March 20).
Jewish law dictates that pikuah nefesh (threat to life) overrides all other considerations - including, I would think, even the preferences of the Americans and Europeans. Israeli law gives us full authority and discretion. Where is our negotiators' sense of pride, of responsibility?
Should any Israeli be harmed as a consequence of this servile capitulation, I suggest that those who made the decision be held fully accountable, financially as well as morally.
Sir, - I am all for assuring that the Palestinians at the Jericho jail did not carry any hidden weapons. But it is not fitting for us to show pictures of partially undressed Palestinian men. By doing this we embarrass ourselves even more than we embarrass them. They could have been made to undress in a sheltered place ("Jericho's prison walls come tumbling down," March 15).
Caution trumps PR
Sir, - What a naive comment from reader Gerson Jacobs (Letters, March 17). The obvious reason for making the Palestinians strip "in front of the Associated Press photographer" was to preclude a tragedy had one of the prisoners or guards concealed a bomb on his person, which he would have detonated on approaching the IDF soldiers outside the prison.
Caution trumps PR every time.
Lakewood, New Jersey
Sir, - While touring your country I read a statement by the "Israeli Arab Follow-Up Committee" condemning the Israeli government. One wonders: Was the destruction of churches, the murder of innocent Christians in France, Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria, etc., carried out by Jews? No, by Muslims. One has to conclude, therefore, that this "follow-up committee" has the same aim as Hamas - to destroy Israel. We journalists will surely be commenting along these lines in our periodicals.
Le Vesinet, France
Sir, - In "Pull the plug on UNRWA" (March 19) Jonathan Tobin appears content to regurgitate hackneyed allegations which have been proven wrong many times over.
Countries funding UNRWA rightly scrutinize its expenditure very closely and external reviews and audits take place continuously (including by the United States General Accounting Office).
Far from being a "fiasco," UNRWA is considered by its funders as a success story of the UN, providing humanitarian assistance and human development to millions of Palestinian refugees, basic education to 500,000 pupils, eight million health visits a year in its clinics, empowering refugees through micro-credit and micro-enterprise loans, and providing significant emergency assistance when the need arises.
Asking for the Agency's "decapitation" is not only tantamount to incitement, it also exposes Mr. Tobin's lack of political understanding of - or, worse, his ill intentions toward - the currently unfolding situation in the occupied Palestinian territory. He appears to welcome the humanitarian disaster which "pulling the plug on UNRWA" would entail.
Fortunately, the Government of Israel understands well what is at stake and has asked the UN agencies, including in particular UNRWA, to continue to maintain and strengthen humanitarian operations. Constructive discussions with the Israeli authorities are under way with a view to ensuring that our work is facilitated to the fullest extent and supply routes stay open.
I consider myself fortunate to lead an Agency comprising 25,000 able and committed staff. In doing my job I am thus thankfully spared the unpleasantness of dealing with the kind of mediocrity and mendaciousness this article exudes.
Stand aloof from the feeding frenzy
Sir, - In "Who's really damaging Israel's image" (March 20) Larry Garber and Eliezer Ya'ari praise HaMoked and B'Tselem for understanding social realities and "bringing unpopular truths to public attention."
While I agree that a democracy should scrutinize its government, a crucial point is being missed, exclusive to this case. For the last five years Israel has been engaged in a war against terror. Unlike other Western governments, whose threat of terror is thousands of miles away, ours lurks in our own backyard. Globally attacking the ethics of our soldiers only fans the fire of widespread condemnation and increases the calls for us to cease taking critical defense measures.
Had the few incidents of US soldiers' humanitarian negligence been universally exposed during World War II, it is doubtful whether the enemy would have been successfully defeated.
As Israelis faced with a daily threat of terror, concerned primarily for the well-being of our families and our state, must we feed into the global community's fervent skepticism and mistrust of our government's dealings?
Sir, - That European governments fund some of the most critical Israeli human rights organizations makes many of us question these organizations' integrity. It is impossible to be objective when one is beholden to foreign powers, and organizations are besmirched by accepting money from them. Europe has its own agenda, which is pro-Arab because of its own problematic situation.
I would feel much more able to sympathize with some of the New Israel Fund's arguments if it also had a department which looked out for Arab violations, specifically the vicious cartoons, disregard of women's rights, and the horror stories about Israelis and Jews that fill Arab children's schoolbooks.
Don't mess with Israel
Sir, - God promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their descendents the land where you now dwell (actually, the dimensions in the Torah far exceed where you currently dwell). I believe you have the right to the land, because God said so. I realize my view is not a very popular one, but when was it ever popular to genuinely please God?
I'm a Christian pastor of Calvary Chapel, and I'm praying for you and encourage my congregation to do the same. After all, God promised to bless those who would bless Abraham. I believe that applies to his descendents as well.
The reason I'm writing right now, well, I have to admit I get angry within my heart when I read how Israel keeps getting pressured to give up land for the sake of peace, and how the world immediately accuses the Israelis of being aggressive and destructive when they retaliate against attacks upon them while all they're trying to do is defend themselves.
Let me tell you, God said Himself that He will be Israel's defender; those that mess with Israel are touching the apple of His eye.
Sir, - Your headline "Cohn defends 'Paradise Now' nomination" (March 19) could easily be misunderstood. While I recall that it is always the position of the president and board of governors of the Academy that it is solely up to its members to evaluate the quality or lack thereof of each film considered for a nomination, I clarified very clearly in my letter:
"I completely agree that the film is dangerous because it can be conceived as providing comfort and sympathy for murderers whom the film presents as freedom fighters."
Round and about
Sir, - Re Sharon Lindenbaum's "Where the truth lies" (Letters, March 19): Before 1492 it was a scientific fact that the Earth was round. Aristotle suggested it almost 2,000 years earlier. People the world over, including in Europe, knew it and navigated accordingly.
Columbus's discovery wasn't that the Earth was round; it was that if one sailed westward there was another body of land between Europe and China.
Only the Christian Church demanded nobody discuss the facts, because the facts disagreed with its interpretation of the Christian Bible. That didn't change global understanding; nor did their opinion change fact.
Waste of mind
Sir, - I have just been informed that the Pessah school holiday begins on Tuesday April 4, when Seder night is Wednesday, April 12.
Does this strike anyone else as ridiculous?
There are many things right with the educational system here and I do not want to be one more Anglo bemoaning education in Israel. However, this strikes me as extreme.
The argument goes that teachers need time to prepare. Well, so do I. I work almost full-time, and every night, starting the day after Purim, I clean another section of the apartment.
A week's vacation is a waste of a child's mind and, as we all know, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste."
In the soup
Sir, - In "A case of the flu" (Editorial, March 19) you write that this particular peril "doesn't differentiate between nationalities, religions and races." How wrong can you be? It's blatantly anti-Semitic. What am I supposed to have on Friday nights - tomato soup?
The Editor responds (not because we don't have a sense of humor, but in the interest of being responsible): The editorial in question went on to note that "as long as meat and eggs are purchased from known suppliers and all poultry-derived foodstuffs are well-cooked or fried, they can be eaten without hesitation."
Sir, - Re "Jerusalemites are still eating chicken" (March 20): Of course! We Jerusalemites never chicken out.