Garbage in, garbage out
Sir, - We are used to equating "democratically elected" with "good." And why not? That formula works in most cases. While democratic election is essential, it is not, in itself, sufficient. An election without a truly free press or the ability to write and speak without fear - and voted in by generations raised and educated in worship of death and hatred - is what we software programmers call "garbage in, garbage out."
Daoud Kuttab thinks withholding funding from the PA is a declaration of war ("Arab peoples' right to choose," February 27). So he must admit that Kassam rocket attacks on Israeli civilians is even more so.
Engage Hamas? Certainly, it is in charge. But why give it financial support? The tax money collected on the PA's behalf under the Oslo agreements should be paid by Israel to the PA's creditors.
Since Hamas does not recognize the Oslo agreements, let them collect their own taxes.
Sir, - Daoud Kuttab seems, quite understandably, to have gone into denial. He urges Israel and the West to honor the Arab peoples' right to choose but he has missed the true meaning of the recent Palestinian elections.
The true result of those elections is that an organization whose aim is not a free, secular Western democracy - of the kind Kuttab might once have dreamed - will now dominate Palestinian politics. The aim of Hamas is not even a Palestinian state as such, but rather Islamic domination of the whole region and beyond.
In such an Islamic state there will be little place for Christian Arabs like Kuttab, except perhaps as second-class citizens.
No priceless asset
Sir, - Rather than conceding that his program of enthusiastic concessions to the terrorist-supporting Palestinian Authority has only brought Hamas to power and more terror - and not peace - M.J. Rosenberg castigated Israel and the US for not conceding enough ("Who 'lost' the PA?" February 21).
Contrary to what Rosenberg argues, Israel did "ease up" on the PA when Mahmoud Abbas came in, with the result that terrorist movements regrouped, terror attacks reached an 18-month high in June last year and terrorists and weaponry flooded into Gaza. The latter occurred thanks to the US-brokered Gaza border agreement in which Israel relinquished border control, an arrangement that Rosenberg strongly endorsed.
The PA is not some priceless asset that was "lost" but a source of incitement to hatred and terrorism that has never worked for Palestinian acceptance of Israel and should have been dismantled years ago.
Sir, - The US should absolutely cut off all aid to the PA. We feed the animal, then cry when it bites us ("US, EU have retracted aid threat, PA claims," February 26).
Sir, - When a general makes the rather benign, almost obvious observation that the Hamas victory could threaten the stability of the Jordanian monarchy, our acting prime minister feels obligated to chastise the general and apologize to the Jordanian king ("Naveh reprimanded for Jordan doomsday talk," February 24).
Does Ehud Olmert really think that his cavalier dismissal of the security assessment of the OC Central Command, and his deference to the totalitarian dictator on our eastern border, show him to be a courageous leader worthy of election as prime minister? Does he really believe that we should hand him responsibility for our security when he has shown that he lacks even the most rudimentary understanding of geopolitical reality?
The real fear
Sir, - Larry Derfner ("Smear and Fear," February 23), with the agreement of Leonard Zurakov ("Terror and terrible," Letters, February 26), says: "Terror - it's Netanyahu's and Likud's only hope for victory."
However, the idea is a double-edged sword. The real fear is that Amir Peretz or Ehud Olmert will be elected prime minister and will be unable to handle the renewed terror expected from Hamas. Now that puts real terror into me and, I hope, into Israeli voters. Binyamin Netanyahu is the only candidate who has sufficient experience to cope with the dangerous new situation.
Sir, - When I read about Lazar Berman, the new Givati officer, being jailed following his refusal to be drafted into the Military Police ("US native takes pride in his hard-earned officer's rank," February 26), it brought to mind my son-in-law's stubbornness at the start of his 31-year army career. Knowing his own abilities, he felt that his place was in military intelligence, and he refused to join the others in the truck heading for infantry training. Before the army gave in, he spent a month painting the stones white along the paths of the base.
Following his discharge as a colonel not long ago, the background, contacts and knowledge which he acquired over the years continue to be called upon by the army's top brass. And the stones lining the walk leading up to his front door are brown.
The bonds that tie
Sir, - While visiting Los Angeles, I was privileged to tour the wonderful Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance where I witnessed people of all ages and races enthralled by the powerful portrayal of the bonds uniting all human beings - and the horrors of torture and the negation of so many.
There is nothing more needed in this country, itself so divided into quarreling groups lacking respect for others, than such a facility.
So I felt terrible to read that the ADL was trying to stop the building of the Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem, when both organizations are ostensibly on the same team: fighting anti-Semitism ("ADL: Stop building tolerance museum over Muslim graves," February 20).
When politicians and NGOs look at their work as self-serving, a source of personal pride, power and profit, rather than wishing colleagues in the field well, they should not be supported by the public.
Sir, - In Israel most synagogues have separate seating for men and women, often with a curtain separating them. There are also synagogues where men and women sit together. There are minyanim for men only, and some for women only. Everyone is at liberty to decide where he or she wishes to pray, if at all.
Instead of regarding this as a sign of Israel's pluralism, Trudy Gefen refers to this freedom of choice as "segregation" ("Forward & back," Letters, February 24).
She also complains that the first Yiddish film in 60 years has an all-male cast. In a free society one is allowed to make a film with an all male cast, an all female cast, a mixed cast or no cast at all.
The public then expresses its opinion via the box office. Trudy Gefen seems to regard this freedom of expression as "clinging to a primitive sexist past."
A Liberal used to be someone who believed in Voltaire's principle: "I disagree with everything you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it."
Sir, - London Mayor Ken Livingstone was sentenced to a one-month suspension from office for the anti-Semitic comment he made to a Jewish journalist and refusing to apologize for the remark ("London mayor faces suspension for Nazi slur," February 26).
Let us imagine for a moment what would have happened if he had made an anti-Muslim remark. For a start there would have been demonstrations in major capital cities throughout the world, with violent demonstrations in London.
There might even have been casualties - and Livingstone would have been suspended from his job forever.
Sir, - I applaud the suspension of London's Mayor Ken Livingstone, despite the British press labelling the decision "undemocratic."
Under English law, an employee, whether elected or appointed, faces the appropriate sanction for breaching the terms of his employment contract. Depending on the contract, this may lead to dismissal or other disciplinary action.
The mayor breached the terms of his employment contract by calling a Jewish journalist a concentration camp guard.
A simple word, "sorry," would have obviated his suspension, but his refusal to apologize caused a mess of his own making.
Livingstone has written a book entitled, If Voting Changed Anything They'd Abolish It. One hopes that in 2008, in the next mayoral election, voters will disprove the theory of the title and make his suspension permanent.
Sir, - Judy Siegel-Itzkovich is correct that many older Israelis suffer from heart disease, diabetes and other medical problems and that "the health gaps between... rich and poor have not been wiped out" ("Planning for a healthier future," February 26).
At Ezrat Avot Senior Citizen Center we offer the only meals-on-wheels program for homebound elderly that caters to their dietary requirements - free of oil, salt, sugar and MSG. Many of our recipients are referred to us by hospitals or municipal social workers.
We do not charge for the meals to ensure that everyone is able to receive them.
A program such as ours will reduce medical costs in the long run, but requires substantial funding. We welcome the Health Ministry's initiative and hope that it will also provide support for organizations that are already contributing to a healthier society.
Director, Ezrat Avot Senior Citizen Center