The migrant issue
With regard to “Interior issues notices of deportation to migrants” (February 5), about 12 years ago, before we made aliya, my husband and I were here on a “getting to know the country” trip. We drove along the Egyptian border to Eilat and were shocked to see that the border fence was broken-down wire netting, in places lying on the ground.
The blame for the arrival of so many Africans should be laid firmly at the feet of the governments that allowed the border to be open like this. They were not interested in keeping out the Beduin drug dealers or the Romanian prostitutes, but suddenly, when we got flooded by non-Jewish asylum seekers, they could spend a few billion on a border fence.
The Netanyahu government bused the asylum seekers to South Tel Aviv and said they couldn’t work legally. What did it think would happen?
The problem can be easily fixed without dragging the name of Israel in the mud. Just replace the foreign workers in the agricultural sector with Africans. This would distribute them around the country, get them working legally and give them temporary visas.GERALDINE THEMAL
Israel, along with many of the OECD countries in Europe, is struggling with the problem of African refugees. The situation is both difficult and emotional, and is not helped when Gershon Baskin, with “Alienation” (Encountering Peace, February 1) misrepresents facts and confuses issues.
According to Baskin, the OECD countries recognize people from Darfur and Eritrea as refugees and award them asylum. But for more than a year, the UK has taken a hard-line regarding Eritrean asylum claims. The result is that a majority of these refugees are no longer granted asylum there.
EU countries have used a different approach. Under a new EU-funded policy, refugees fleeing Libya are intercepted by that country’s coast guard, which returns them to detention camps in Libya. There is no effective oversight of the camps, and it is therefore not surprising that the UN has reported that refugees there are subjected to slavery, sexual violence and killings.
Israel’s response to the plight of refugees from Darfur and Eritrea has been limited. It probably could and should do more. However, in comparing the actions of Israel with those of the UK and the EU, one can only be proud.H.B. MITCHELL
The Poland issue
In “‘Not Enough!’” (Comment & Features, February 5), Uri Avnery finds it very comfortable to state: “Nobody ever asks the most obvious question: How come so many Jews, millions of them, came to live in Poland in the first place?” What is most surprising is that he doesn’t ask the most searing question: How come only 50,000 Jews, of the 3 million who were domiciled in Poland in September 1939, ended up living in their former homes in Poland after World War II?
Mr. Avnery, try antisemitism!
After the German murder machine destroyed 90% of Polish Jewry, the Poles took over and implemented their own “resettlement” plan. People such as my father were threatened with death if they did not leave town within 24 hours. The Kielce pogrom of July 1946 is a historical fact that might also help explain Polish Jews’ hatred toward Poles.
Mr. Avnery’s facts and tone (“millions of them”) reflect a self-hating selectiveness that only gets better with age.ABE REICHMAN
With regard to “Israel-Poland crisis deepens as Shoah bill moves forward” (February 2), the legislation passed by Polish lawmakers has created the impression of very limited Polish involvement in the murder of Jews during the Holocaust – an impression that needs to be addressed.
I would like to propose the following: We should produce a new book with two sections. It should be titled Poland – Red and White (the national colors). The White section would include all the known Polish Righteous Gentiles listed by Yad Vashem, and perhaps others, with dates, places and details of how they risked their lives to save Jews. The Red section would list all the known murders, killings and atrocities perpetrated by Poles as individuals or groups both during the Holocaust and afterwards, and would include voluntary cooperation with the Nazis.
Details are available from Yad Vashem, survivors and their organized groups in Israel, Australia, the US, Canada, England, Europe and South America. All of this in a book with two parts would provide a much more balanced picture showing the Polish people’s true colors.ELIYAHU HONIG
Letter about a letter
I noted the letter from reader Roy Runds regarding antisemitism in Britain (“Appalled at lack of mention,” February 5).
I made aliya nine years ago and have forever blessed the day. However, the UK is a parallel to the Jews of pre-war Vienna when they thought they were more German and safe from the antisemitism. The expression “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink” comes to mind.
European Jewry is doomed. I hope we have room for all of them. There will come a time in the not-too-distant future that these complacent people will wake up and smell the coffee. Life is more important than riches.
Shame on them to still wear blinkers after all that has befallen our people.HARVEY GREEN
More on Chiune Sugihara
With great interest I read Michael Wilner’s “Lionizing a rebel” (January 26), mentioning inter alia the Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara, who rescued some 6,000 Jewish refugees from the Nazis by issuing visas against instructions of his government. While all the related facts are correct, to the best of my knowledge, allow me to add some relevant details.
When Sugihara returned from Europe to Japan, he was forbidden from working at the Foreign Office – even after the war, when Japan had no more obligations toward Germany. No reason for his dismissal was announced officially, but it was understood that it was done as a sanction for his disobedience. In fact, until the end of his life, he was persona non grata at the Foreign Office.
When the Jewish National Fund inaugurated a forest in commemoration of Sugihara, I met the then-first secretary of the Japanese Embassy (whose name I am not mentioning to spare him embarrassment). The envoy declared clearly, for everybody to hear, that he was attending in a private capacity, not as a representative of the embassy.
An opera on Sugihara and his humanitarian effort was written by Toshi Ichiyanagi, one of Japan’s most celebrated contemporary composers. It premiered in 2006 in Yokohama and was reviewed favorably in the Japanese press.
The scene where Sugihara overcomes his initial hesitations and starts to sign the visas evoked spontaneous and stormy applause among the audience (and such audiences in Japan are usually reserved in their enthusiasm).
The opera was never performed in Israel. The opera company’s management informed me that it was ready to perform here during a stop-over on its way to Lithuania, where it had been invited. The Israel Festival declined, however, for budgetary reasons, and the Israeli Opera responded by saying it “was not staging operas from such extravagant countries.”URY EPPSTEIN
The writer is The Jerusalem Post’s opera critic and an ex-chairman of the Jerusalem branch of the Israel-Japan Friendship Association.
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