Well done, Ehud...
Sir, - In his address to the joint session of Congress, the prime minister communicated the strength, conviction and tenacity needed to overcome the obstacles to peace in the Middle East.
Israel has every reason to be proud of its new leader. ("Olmert's address to Congress," May 25.)
...er, not really
Sir, - Mr. Prime Minister, fire your advisers. You could have done much better. Congress and the American people did not want to hear of an Israel that is so dependent. Tens of millions of Americans see Israel as their spiritual inspiration, not as a charge.
Linking yourself, moreover, to your predecessor will not score you points in America. Ariel Sharon was perceived as having cornered President Bush into taking a position he did not want to take. In addition, the previous Israeli administration was considered unprofessional, with government officials constantly arriving for what the Americans saw as unnecessary meetings.
Finally, leave party politics at home. An invitation to address a Joint Session is an opportunity to identify yourself as a world statesman. Bringing up party matters was inappropriate.
Begin said it
Sir, - Prime Minister Olmert's speech before Congress last Wednesday included this line: "Peace with Egypt became possible only after president Anwar Sadat came to the Knesset and declared no more war, no more bloodshed." But Sadat said nothing of the sort in the Knesset. What he did say was: "Ring the bells for your sons. Tell them that those wars were the last of wars and the end of sorrows."
Only at a press conference on November 21 did he say: "The two slogans that I want everyone to say are: 'Let us have no war after October' and 'Let us agree upon security.'"
The phrase Olmert highlighted was authored by prime minister Menachem Begin. In a broadcast to the Egyptian people on November 11, 1977, Begin said: "No more wars, no more bloodshed, and no more threats." He repeated this in his Knesset speech the next week.
At the November 21 press conference Begin stated: "No more war, no more bloodshed, no more attacksâ€¦ let us give a silent oath, one to another: No more war, no more bloodshed, no more threats."
At the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in December 1978, Begin said; " "No more war, no more bloodshed" and at the March 1979 White House Lawn signing ceremony Begin declared: "No more war, no more bereavement, no more bloodshed."
Sir, - While the universities in Britain are discussing a boycott of Israeli universities, the Sorbonne and the University of Haifa have signed an agreement of cooperation ("Business could benefit from U. of Haifa, Sorbonne Pact," May 23).
As we have criticized the French in the past, it is good to have the chance to compliment them. It is heartening to have this relationship with such a prestigious university as a counterweight to the boycott by some nondescript ones in Britain.
Nice guys & others
Sir, - President Bush may be a nice guy to assure support for Israel in case of attack, but do Israelis really believe Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would make such provocative speeches if he could not afford it?
The best Israel can do is ignore him. Ahmadinejad is not a fool, and Iran will never take the risk of attacking Israel if it can be avoided ("Bush vows to aid Israel if attacked by Iran," May 25).
Sir - I was interested to read Nathan Guttman's interview with Donna Rosenthal, author of The Israelis: Ordinary People in an Extraordinary Land ("Presenting... Israel 'lite,'" May 25).
In my review of the book for your paper in November 2003, I suggested that it "be purchased in bulk by the Jewish Agency for distribution to its aliya offices worldwide and given to every potential immigrant" as a way of combating ignorance about the country and its people.
It seems from Mr. Guttman's interview that the need today is just as great. It would be interesting to know if the agency has bought any copies.
Sir, - David Kretzmer's "Human rights law applies, too" (May 22) was very interesting with regard to Israel's status vis-a-vis the "occupied territories." I would turn his and your readers' attention to an article by the noted international lawyer Howard Grief entitled "Whose promised land?" This legal treatise proves beyond doubt that the "occupied territories" are in fact those occupied by the Palestinians and the Jordanians.
Israel is legally entitled to all of Palestine, on both the West and East banks. The Arabs, with the connivance of the oil-hungry and greedy West, have managed to prove the dictum of Dr. Goebbels: "If you tell a lie long enough and loudly enough, you can create a fact."
Stop harassing the chief rabbi...
Sir, - Re "Metzger rejects compromise proposal" (May 25): At the risk of sounding disrespectful, this Diaspora Jew would like to offer some friendly advice to her brethren in Israel: Treat your clergy with more respect!
In the Diaspora all faiths treat their clergy with reverence. A clergyman, after all, is the bridge between ordinary men and women and the Almighty.
Even in Israel, where religion and party politics are often intertwined, the need for personal respect toward a clergyman is paramount. Thus should a hotel wish to honor a rabbi with a free festival stay, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It is like a congregant slipping a few dollars or shekels to his rabbi for officiating at a monument unveiling at the cemetery, or at a child's wedding.
Wake up, Attorney-General Mazuz! Stop harassing a chief rabbi of Israel, and get busy weeding out the massive corruption in your government.
...and blocking converts
Sir, - Hurrah for "Stop obstructing converts" (Editorial, May 24). It is time the Jewish public became more acquainted with the unnecessary suffering being caused to the growing numbers of Marranos-Anusim who are waiting to regain their heritage after generations of clinging to Judaic customs, often in secret.
If we really are the People of the Book, then the time has come to play by the book. The rabbinate must show that it is properly informed and believes in fair play, and is willing to stop acting like a despot.
At the moment many of Israel's conversion classes have an unbearable load of students and applicants who are not getting their promised rabbinic hearings or follow-up documents - identity cards and passports - from the Ministry of the Interior, months after they were promised. This means children cannot go to school and parents are prevented from obtaining permanent housing, taking out driving licenses and arranging for health care, etc. Until these documents are issued these would-be converts cannot get a job.
The unnecessary hardship and heartbreak are unbelievable. Something has to be done, and quickly.
Casa Shalom Institute
for Marrano-Anusim Studies
Sir, - I returned home from a meeting of an Experts Commission on the Armenian Genocide in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, to find Guenter Lewy's article questioning the validity of the Armenian genocide ("Was it genocide?" May 15). How would I have felt if on arrival in Yerevan I had found an article in a major newspaper questioning the validity of the Holocaust? Incredulous?
The Armenian genocide is an established historical fact: The ruling Ottoman Turks murdered or enabled local killers to murder several million Armenians as well as other non-Turkish peoples, the majority Christians, including the Assyrians and Greeks.
Lewy's real agenda is denying genocides, and when one knows this it changes the experience of reading his apparently dispassionate, earnest reevaluation of facts about the Armenian genocide - the third genocide on which he has trained his denialist thinking. The others were the killing of the Roma (Gypsies) in the Holocaust, and of the Native American people (Indians) in North America.
What motivates Lewy? One possibility is a campaign for the uniqueness of the Holocaust as "true genocide"; but this is speculation. I do know that it was unethical of him to make no mention of his other denials.
In my opinion an Israeli newspaper should not be publishing denials of the Armenian genocide any more than we approve of other newspapers in the world publishing denials of the Holocaust.
PROF. ISRAEL CHARNY
Institute on the
Holocaust and Genocide
The writer is editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia of Genocide and president of the International Association of Genocide Scholars.
Sir, - Who was responsible for the burning of a Star of David at the Ma'aleh Rehavam outpost? ("Peretz to accelerate outpost removals," May 24.) All it brought to my mind were the cross burnings in the American South, the book burnings in Nazi Germany, and the auto da fe in the time of the Spanish Inquisition.
Sir, - After seeing James, the Israeli movie about a young black priest who comes to Israel on a tourist visa only to be relegated to foreign-worker status, I wondered whether such a terrible thing could actually happen. Well, it appears it almost did.
"50-show Israel Festival set to launch" (May 18) tells of the narrowly averted diplomatic disaster when "French performers of African origin almost backed out after being asked for documentation to prove they weren't attempting to access the country as illegal workers."
Not only should measures be taken to ensure this never happens again, an official apology should be personally delivered to these performers.