Sir, - Any attempt to make an issue out of whether or not there was "collusion" between Israel and Britain in the storming of the Jericho prison is a non-starter ("Israel to try the 'Jericho Six,'" March 15).
Britain and Israel had a written agreement whereby monitors would ensure that Popular Front of the Liberation of Palestinian head Ahmed Sa'adat would not be brought in through the front door of the Palestinian prison and released through the back, as had happened many times with other Palestinian prisoners.
If Britain broke that agreement, albeit for the very good reason that British monitors were under threat, then there was an obligation to keep the Israelis informed about the decision.
Brookmans Park, Hertfordshire, UK
Sir, - As president of Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA), I was shocked and saddened at the announcement by the head of the Chief Rabbinate's international ritual slaughter division, Rabbi Ezra Raful, that he would permit the importing of meat from AgriProcessors Inc. of Postville, Iowa, despite a US Agriculture Department report that found the slaughterhouse in violation of animal cruelty laws ("Rabbinate OKs meat despite cruelty to animals," March 14). This decision makes it harder for JVNA to continue to defend shehita (ritual slaughtering) and argue that Judaism teaches compassionate treatment of animals.
Rather than accepting the horrible conditions revealed at the Postville slaughterhouse, I respectfully submit that Jewish leaders should point out how the current widespread production and consumption of animal products threaten our health and that of our imperiled planet's environment, thus violating basic Jewish mandates to guard our lives, treat animals with compassion, preserve the environment and help hungry people.
RICHARD H. SCHWARTZ
President, Jewish Vegetarians of North America
Staten Island, NY
Sir, - It is truly ironic and shameful that cruel animal slaughter methods could be undertaken with the sanction of Jewish law. Allowing this, despite revelations of illegal abuse of animals at AgriProcessors Inc. in Iowa, overlooks a fundamental fact: Judaism has an entire code of laws on preventing the suffering of animals. Indeed, the Jews invented the concept of kindness to animals. Even the Ten Commandments include a requirement that farm animals be allowed to enjoy a day of rest on Shabbat. So God must have felt that kindness to animals was not a trivial matter.
Jews are not allowed to pass by an animal in distress or to ignore animals being mistreated, yet this is exactly what we do when we certify as kosher products from animals that are treated cruelly.
Paintings, by numbers
Sir, - I was quite impressed with the courageous decision by the Haifa Pyramida Center for Contemporary Art to display copies of still-life paintings by Adolf Hitler, along with the support given that choice by the Ministry of Education and Culture ("Hitler's paintings in Haifa gallery spark outrage," March 15).
Was the number of paintings chosen, six to be exact, meant as a token memorial for each of the million Jews murdered by this sensitive artist?
Market for clean
Sir, - If Anshell Pfeffer thinks "There's no market for a Mr. Clean" (March 14) and that the Israeli public likes to vote for politicians who are corrupt, selfish liars, how does he explain the recent upsurge in public demand for electoral reform? Why is everyone complaining about the lack of accountability by our MKs? And why do many of the parties' election pitches emphasize how clean their candidates are?
Citizens for Responsible and Representative Government
Sir, - I agree with Anshel Pfeffer that Uzi Dayan, leader of the Tafnit Party, is nice and clean, but I beg to differ with some of Pfeffer's conclusions. Western olim aren't the only public-minded and concerned Israeli's; many others are also worried about corruption. In addition, many are aware that a main reason for Tafnit's lack of public exposure is that Dayan actually follows Israeli election laws.
Tafnit is not a one-issue party focusing only on defeating corruption. Its agenda includes improving education, bridging the various gaps in society including the religious one, improving security, and reducing crime and violence.
As for the realistic election chances of Tafnit, there are more than enough concerned citizens who not only admire "Mr. Clean" but believe that he will deliver on his promises. Perhaps it's time in Israel for a grassroots people's revolution at the ballot box.
Just say 'he told me so'
Sir, - It's getting just a wee bit tiresome hearing from Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that "Prime Minister Sharon told me this, he told me that, he wanted me to take over for him," etc. Olmert's not exactly the straightest shooter in the Knesset so perhaps he ought to give it a rest.
And by the way, did Olmert really need Sharon to clue him in to the importance of dealing with the threats to society posed by drugs ("Anti-drug parley draws delegates from Jordan, Egypt," March 13)? Olmert may yet surprise us all some day and come up with something original.
Sir, - While drug use can be a quick fix for boredom or an ineffective coping mechanism, we must understand the difference between these different motivating factors. While boredom is at the periphery of drug use, clearly those who become addicted to drugs because of it will be just as addicted as those who use drugs to cope.
However, the method of treating such individuals is different. Boredom users are guided to spend their time more wisely. Those people using drugs to help them cope must be taught effective coping tools.
It is important to note that lack of supervision is not a cause of drug use, it simply facilitates access. Using soft terminology such as "small-scale," "dabbling in" and "doing a little," regarding drugs, does a disservice to the people at risk. Users have enough denial to go around; we don't have to add to it.
Picturing the next withdrawal
Sir, - The idea of "civilian disengagement" is one of the most dangerous I've heard yet ("'IDF will remain after West Bank pullout,'" March 13). Just picture the scenario: Whole towns of empty apartment blocks, houses and other buildings along with desolate streets and poor lighting (why waste the electricity?); and an occasional jeep or armored patrol. No self-respecting terrorist, with suicidal tendencies, could resist so many "hideouts" from which he could pop out and kill Israeli soldiers.
Even assuming that the abandoned buildings were destroyed as in Gaza, the enormous mounds of rubble would be just as easy to hide in and even more difficult for the IDF to negotiate. It would be far worse than house-to-house "search and destroy" missions. Gaza can't be used as a "template" for civilian disengagement because the IDF doesn't go into Gaza and therefore its soldiers are not vulnerable.
Victoria, British Columbia
Sir, - Pinchas Yonah repeats the Arab propaganda myth that Israeli communities over the Green Line are forbidden by the Fourth Geneva Convention ("The bottom line," Letters, March 13). There is no legal basis for this statement. The convention does forbid one country that is a Contracting Party from establishing communities of its citizens when it invades the territory of another country that is a Contracting Party.
In 1967 Israel took over Judea and Samaria from Jordan in a defensive war. These territories were not legally part of Jordan, but were unassigned lands that were part of the 1922 British mandate, and occupied by Jordan from 1948 to 1967. Israel did not invade another country and therefore the convention did not apply.
There certainly was no Arab Palestinian state in 1967. Therefore today there is no "occupation" and no "illegal settlements."
Protest to Protestants
Sir, - "Church of Scotland to discuss divestment at meeting in May" (March 9) is a particularly galling development for all lovers of Zion, both Jewish and Christian.
Many Scottish clergy have been persuaded by Palestinian Protestant clergy that Zionism is colonialism. However, many of the remaining faithful are good, pious Presbyterians for whom God's promises to Israel concerning this land are a bedrock of their faith. This is a silent majority that could be awakened if we took the trouble to counter the Palestinian propagandists.
The Palestinians have been successful in playing the "ethnic card" arguing that since some Palestinians are Christian, Europeans should side with their brothers in faith. It is time to point out that the 175,000 Arab Christians on both sides of the Green Line are only a fraction of some half a million non-Arab Christians who are loyal Israelis.
The Church of Scotland General Assembly in May is an opportunity to slow the round of anti-Israel resolutions in liberal Protestant churches. We need a significant effort to explain to the Scots that the real threat to Christians in this land is Palestinian terrorism.
Ban the mini bombs
Sir, - Why can't shopkeepers and the Israeli government follow the lead of the British government and ban the sale of firecrackers to the public? Perhaps a TV ad campaign showing children being brought into the emergency room with missing fingers would do the trick: to cause those parents who allow their offspring to explode these mini gunpowder bombs in public places to think again ("Enjoy Purim but avoid the dangers," March 13).