Sir, - Arieh O'Sullivan rightly condemns the Israeli government for its tepid response to Hizbullah aggression ("A sign of weakness," November 27). However I wonder if it is a sign of political weakness. The totally unconditional, rapid return of the bodies of the Hizbullah terrorists whose intention had been to kill or kidnap Israeli soldiers seems such a bizarre decision as to bring its very sanity into question.
...at all costs?
Sir, - Why did Israel return the bodies of those Hizbullah terrorists before getting navigator Ron Arad back, alive or dead? His family have suffered far too long not knowing his fate. Yet instead of Arad's family being helped those three terrorists were sent back to a hero's funeral. It is about time Israelis woke up and stopped being the nice guys.
Much pain, no gain
Sir, - When we hear of painful steps many believe are necessary to arrive at a peace settlement with our Palestinian neighbors we believe the pain should be not only that of those suffering the changes, but of our nation as a whole. There is absolutely no justification for the drawn-out suffering of former residents of Gush Katif. If those responsible for their welfare do not act quickly and efficiently to solve the problems, there will be serious doubt of our ability to cope with any further painful steps in the future ("Unsettled," Editorial, November 27).
Sir, - Thank you for this editorial. It hit the nail on the head, stating what many of us have been claiming since August. No other mainstream newspaper is telling it as it is.
Benzion Netanyahu, activist for the Jews
Sir, - Your November 24 editorial correctly noted that Prof. Benzion Netanyahu is "an academic... who spent his days writing history books [and] could hardly be more distant from, and uninterested in, the kind of wealth" with which his son's political rivals have tried to associate him ("Unpopularity contest," November 24). While it is true that Prof. Netanyahu is the author of a number of acclaimed history books, it is worth remembering that during world Jewry's darkest days he set aside his writing and tried to change that history for the better. He was one of a handful of Zionist emissaries from Mandatory Palestine sent by Ze'ev Jabotinsky to the US in 1940 to lead political action campaigns in support of Jewish statehood and the rescue of European Jewry.
At a time when most American Jewish leaders limited their Washington contacts to the Democrats, Netanyahu was one of the first Zionist lobbyists to build relationships with Republican members of Congress, recognizing that Jewish political leverage could be multiplied by building coalitions on both sides of the aisle. He also helped persuade the Republican leadership to include in its 1944 campaign platform a call to open Palestine to Jewish refugees from Hitler and establish a Jewish state - the first-ever such plank in an election-year platform; which in turn compelled the Democrats to do likewise.
At a time when many Jewish leaders were afraid to publicly criticize US or British policy regarding the Holocaust and Jewish statehood, Netanyahu authored a series of hard-hitting, full-page advertisements in US newspapers openly challenging the Allied leaders and bringing Jewish concerns to their attention. One such ad, during Winston Churchill's 1943 visit to Washington, prompted president Franklin Roosevelt to tell a Jewish aide that he and Churchill were "incensed" by the criticism (for once, the Allied leaders couldn't sweep the issue under the rug).
Moreover, at a time when many American Jews were reluctant to question the cautious policies of the Jewish leadership regarding the rescue of Jewish refugees, Netanyahu, writing in the pages of Zionews, called Jewish leaders to account: "They cannot claim... to have done everything within their power to save these condemned people. They have been too cautious, too appeasing and too ready to swallow the meaningless statements of sympathy... issued from high places."
Opponents and supporters of his son's candidacy should acknowledge that Benzion Netanyahu deserves the public's gratitude for his tireless and selfless efforts on behalf of the Jewish people.
DR. RAFAEL MEDOFF
David S. Wyman Insitute
for Holocaust Studies
Melrose Park, Pennsylvania
Sir, - One can only hope that the Austrian judiciary applies the full weight of the law to David Irving's continued vitriolic rhetoric ("Irving to remain in custody on Holocaust denial charges," November 27). If Austria fails to take this opportunity it will be viewed alongside many other countries who just pay lip service to eradicating the demons that haunt them in respect of their Nazi past. If Austria is seriously looking for redemption the incarceration of Irving and his infamous beliefs will be a major step along this road.
When good men do nothing
Sir, - Kenneth Timmerman describes a scary scenario in which Iran alternately obfuscates, threatens and boasts about its nuclear intentions ("Iran's ongoing nuclear lies," November 24). Iranian officials have all but explicitly stated they intend to nuke Israel.
In view of this warmongering it's interesting to note that the same crowd accusing the US administration of lying about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction aren't exactly raising a fuss when an Islamo-fascist regime makes no bones about trying to acquire them. It reminds me of Edmund Burke's famous dictum "The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."
You can't be serious...
Sir, - On first read I tremendously enjoyed Elie Friedman's "Sharon and the Israeli consensus" (November 23). The second time I enjoyed it much less, mainly because it hit me that the piece wasn't meant as a parody but was itself a classic example of the Orwellian doublespeak that so typifies Israeli politics.
"In spite of a record of inconsistent and variant political moves... Sharon has succeeded in expressing the will of the majority of Israelis." Let me see if I got that: The majority of Israelis are a schizophrenic mass that experiences 180-degree swings in political beliefs with the same frequency as changing socks. Gotcha.
But the second paragraph began with a jewel that must have taken all week to think up: "Sharon's ability to express and embody the majority's will has little to do with his actual policies...." One wonders whether there was a coordination problem here, with one Post editor publishing an opinion piece the other was saving for April Fool's Day.
In a nutshell
Sir, - Amir Peretz wants talks with the Palestinians. I guess that means he trusts them. Sharon doesn't trust anything about the Palestinians, regardless of any pacts they might sign. He doesn't agree with the Likud's status-quo stand of no negotiations, no relinquishing territory, and also wants to do what he wants, democratically or not. So leaving the Likud makes a lot of sense.
Seems like pretty simple equations to me: Trust the Palestinians = vote for Labor. Bide your time and do nothing but sit on your hands and wait = vote Likud. Want to do what you want to do on your own terms = vote Kadima.
Sir, - When Israel and the PA emerge from their respective elections next year they will have at least one parliamentary record in common. The two heavyweights in both their dominant parties will each be behind bars. Serving five life terms, Marwan Barghouti garnered 85% of the ruling Fatah's primary votes in one city alone ("Barghouti scores big in Ramallah Fatah primary," November 27). For his lesser misdeeds, Omri Sharon faces jail time when his father most needs him as enforcer for the new party.
Faced with this innovative style of "cellular government" journalists will have to find a whole new set of euphemisms for their political tipsters.
"Government insider" would just give the game away.
News over sport
Sir, - With an unprecedented Israeli social and political upheaval on the horizon I find it hard to understand why our TV stations often postpone or cancel their news programs in favor of a basketball or football game. While I have nothing against sports broadcasting, there are sufficient channels on cable TV to satisfy sports enthusiasts without infringing the rights of most Israelis, who wish to see their favorite newscasts each evening.
Friends from Ghana
Sir, - We are young Ghanaian students of geography who have been searching in vain for more than four years for pen-friends from your beloved, peace-seeking country. We are down on our knees praying this request will find its way into your paper.
We are Jessica Jackson, 25, at P.O. Box CT. 1027, Beach End Point, Cape Coast, Ghana, West Africa; Joseph Geongedo Annan, 22, P.O. Box 1027, Virgin Home Tarrace, Cape Coast, Ghana, West Africa; and Georgina Aidoo, 27, P.O. Box CC 1027, Inner Ring Junction, Cape Coast, Ghana, West Africa.
We hope for some lovely letters.
Cape Coast, Ghana
Sir, - Re Steven Hansen's "Giving thanks" (Letter, November 24): In Israel we do not need a Thanksgiving. We have Shabbat, one day of every week when we thank God. We have several festivals during the year, when we praise the Lord. We have our annual Independence Day, when "God is thanked and praised, for we have all been blessed by His loving grace."
As I see it, a better way to thank God than adopting Thanksgiving would be to start taking proper care of the needy.