A reply to postscript problematics...
Sir, - Efraim A. Cohen of Netanya ("A problematic postscript," Letters, December 13) writes that I am "mistaken" to say Operation Cast Lead was not a war of self-defense. He begins by saying Israel's blockade of Gaza began only after Hamas took over in 2007 - not, as I wrote, immediately upon disengagement in 2005 - and insists it was justified to stop Hamas weapons smuggling.
In fact, Israel began blockading Gaza's coast and airspace during the years of occupation, then added a partial land blockade - on the border crossings - with disengagement. Since then, Israel has not only stopped weapons from entering the Strip, it has stopped protest boats loaded with medicines and toys, as well as a group of Western psychiatrists trying to get to a conference.
Nothing's changed, either. In June, the Christian Science Monitor, citing a report by the UN Organization for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, wrote that "everything from wheelchairs, dry food items and crayons, to stationery, soccer balls and musical instruments is currently being stopped at the border without explanation."
Cohen then disputes my point that even before the war, the IDF was meting out much, much more death and destruction in Gaza than the Kassams were in Israel. He says that in the years of the Kassams, Israel responded with "pinpoint air strikes causing minimal damage to civilian buildings and infrastructure."
Here are some excerpts from a September 27, 2006 field report by Red Cross workers in southern Gaza. They illustrate just a fragment of what Israel was doing to Gazan civilian life in those years: "The people living in southern Gaza were particularly affected by the incursions and military operations carried out by the IDF. In one village, 13 houses were destroyed and one was damaged, land was leveled, trees were uprooted and the irrigation system was destroyed."
The report notes that in the previous three months, the Red Cross in southern Gaza "set up water reservoirs to allow the distribution of 56,000 liters of municipal water per month where incursions destroyed normal water distribution systems... [and] distributed tarpaulins, mattresses, blankets and other essential household items, including tents where required, to 409 families whose houses were destroyed or damaged..."
That was from a corner of Gaza during a period in 2006, before Hamas took over.
Finally, Cohen takes issue with my point that
Israel turned down Hamas's cease-fire offer on
the eve of the war. He writes that Hamas declared an end to the truce on December 18, then escalated its rocket fire three days before Israel "launched its defensive war on December 27."
However, on December 21, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yuval Diskin told the cabinet that Hamas was "interested in continuing the truce, but wants to improve its termsâ€¦ it wants us to lift the siege of Gaza, stop attacks and extend the truce to include the West Bank." The following evening, Mahmoud a-Zahar, co-leader of Hamas in Gaza, made that offer to Israel in an interview televised on Channel 10. The day afterward, he repeated the offer in an interview published in Egypt's Al-Ahram newspaper. The rest, too, is history.
... and to Norwegian criticism
Sir, - In an article titled "Norway is not anti-Semitic" (December 13) Norwegian Ambassador Jakken BiÃ¸rn Lian replies to my substantiated claims about pioneering anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli actions in Norway. He mainly embellishes unpleasant historic facts.
One can get an insight into this by reading my
footnoted book Behind the Humanitarian Mask: The Nordic Countries, Israel and the Jews. There is no similar long list of pioneering acts of Jew- and Israel-hatred in Finland, Denmark or The Netherlands, countries with equal or larger populations.
The tiny 700-member Jewish community tries to
keep a low profile, but also often feels it has to publicly belittle problems. Yet Norwegian Jews cannot always remain silent, in view of the number of incidents. The book and my Web essay titled "Another Year of anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism in Norway" quote public statements from several members of the Jewish community over the past years about harassment of Jewish children in schools, school principals who supported aggression against them, verbal attacks, physical attacks, a Jewish family that is afraid to go to synagogue, the seemingly growing anti-Semitism, and so on.
The Norwegian government asks Israel to talk to Hamas, a group that, in its platform, promotes genocide against the Jews. With such a governmental attitude, Ambassador Lian should be delighted to debate a democrat like me rather than murderers. I am waiting for his suggestion of possible dates for a public debate so that the audience can decide who is right.
Sir, - Under the banner "False altars," (December 11), you editorialized that the demonstration on Wednesday, December 9, protesting the security cabinet's moratorium on new settlement construction was "a celebration of democracy."
Of course, dissent is an undeniable freedom. Yet the editorial ends with a statement most often associated with totalitarian and oppressive regimes: "For now, however, the security cabinet's decision deserves the absolute allegiance of the governed."
Absolute allegiance? A false altar, indeed.
Sir, - While Friday's editorial made a serious and effective argument in favor of the rule of law and against incitement regarding the government's building freeze, it failed to mention the important economic and social impact of this badly-thought-out edict.
There are hundreds of Israelis who have put down good money for building a new home, expanding an existing one, or simply making needed repairs, who now must wait 10 months to complete the work, not to mention paying rent while waiting for their home to be finished or living in a half-finished or half-repaired home. Along the same lines, there are dozens of contractors who have purchased materials and hired workers to do these jobs, who will also have to wait 10 months to do the work and be paid, thus incurring more debt. Their suppliers will have to wait to be paid as well.
Israeli citizens, individuals and families, through no illegal act or any fault of their own, are being punished financially and socially, by a government elected on a platform specifically opposed to this building freeze policy.
This should be considered a crime.
... and defiled houses of worship
Sir, - The desecration of a house of worship ("IDF on high alert to curb violence following vandalism of W. Bank mosque," December 13) is a shocking and inexcusable act - not of extreme political views, but of basic immoral and disrespectful behavior. Shame on the perpetrators, and shame on those who taught them these "values."
A Hanukka message
Sir, - I was absolutely delighted to hear about President Barack Obama's Hanukka message to the Jewish people around the world ("Obama recalls Hanukka miracles in message to Jews around the world," December 13). We Jews are very proud of our history: A determined band of heroes roused the Jewish people to action in the Land of Israel, few in number compared to the massive Greek army of the day, but right in their cause and passionate about their liberty. They never forgot their spiritual yearning, and at the first opportunity, they longed to rededicate the Temple.
We should learn from the glory that was the original Hanukka. We must remain sovereign in this land, able to fight for it if necessary and remain true to our spiritual heritage.