Why so unforgiving?
Sir, - I was shocked to read the unforgiving letters concerning Yigal Amir's hope of siring a child ("Right to father?" June 18). Didn't our sages admonish us not to visit the sins of the fathers on their children? One also wonders why the writers' ire is cast only upon one criminal's (unconceived!) child when any number of children have been born to all sorts of convicted murderers, including terrorist-mass murderers, serving time in our prisons.
Do we visit the sins of Nazi criminals, those human beasts who committed genocide and numberless war crimes, upon their children? Then why this implacable, intolerant attitude toward a child which may be born to one-time assassin Yigal Amir and his blameless wife?
Sir, - In "Abbas's comeback plan is a dead-end" (June 18) Aaron David Miller wrote: "The current plight of Abbas, a good man with moderate views and aspirations, reflects the fundamental problem confronting Palestinians today." I don't know who Mr. Miller invites to family barbecues, but, I suspect, "nicer" people than Abbas.
Mahmoud Abbas received his doctorate from a Soviet institution of higher learning by denying the Holocaust. In approaching the road map, to which he has repeatedly committed his Palestinian Authority, he has also repeatedly denied that he will adhere to disarming the terrorists in his midst; and he will never, in his own words, collect arms from them.
A nice man? Well, I guess you can judge someone by the company he keeps.
Sir, - The Palestinian strategy for bleeding Israel while playing victim for the rest of the world has been simple: One group controls the government and acts sheepish, the rest attack Israel. The governing group tells the world how it cannot control the other groups since Israel keeps sabotaging its efforts every time it responds to the attacks.
So the "Egyptian Proposal" could be a step in the right direction. However, I am afraid it will just be accompanied by the creation of new bleed-Israel groups that are not part of the new, bigger-tent PLO, to keep up the facade ("Palestinian factions meet to discuss Egyptian proposal," June 14).
Sir, - I agree with Barry Rubin's assessment of Palestinian intentions vis-a-vis the so-called "prisoners' plan." Think of all the Arabs have to gain by adopting such a plan - an internationally recognized state; regaining the world's financial subsidy; unfettered ability to bring in arms from rogue regimes and others (a taste of which Israel is now experiencing in Gaza). It would be extremely difficult for the IDF to operate freely on sovereign Palestinian soil.
Why, then, wouldn't the Palestinians leap at the chance of such a deal? Because they are led by a fanatical Muslim cadre that cannot mouth the words: "We accept the existence of the State of Israel."
How smart is it for Israel to give them Judea and Samaria outright? For this the Palestinians need hold no referendum, nor make any compromise. They can just sit tight, shoot each other occasionally, try to make mischief with Israel and hang on until "convergence" hands them most of the territory they need ("A disturbing poll," June 12).
Kofi Annan and the Gaza beach killings
Sir, - Your June 14 editorial "No law, no order" contained serious factual errors about the UN secretary-general's reaction to the tragic killing of civilians, including women and children, on Gaza beach on June 9.
First, unlike the other authorities whom you quoted, Kofi Annan was careful to refer to the killing as "reportedly" by Israeli forces, and to "call for" (not "demand") an investigation before making a definitive judgment on this point.
Secondly, yes, he did speak to Prime Minister Olmert (as well as to President Abbas). This was a private phone call, but I am authorized to say that it was perfectly cordial throughout, and that at no point did the secretary-general say, or imply, that he was unaware of rocket fire into Israel from Gaza. He is of course fully aware of the extent and dangers of the rocket attacks, and has repeatedly called on the Palestinians to end them.
Finally, Mr. Annan did not "announce" that he "doubted the results of the IDF investigation." On June 13, some hours before the findings of the investigation were known, he replied to a question by saying that reports of a land mine on the beach struck him as "odd." Since then he has made no further comment on responsibility for the killings except to say (on June 15) that "we should all hold our horses until the Israeli government puts out a definitive report."
On the more general issue of Israeli missile attacks he simply repeated (on June 13) what he has said many times before, namely, that the United Nations "accept[s] that Israel has a right to defend itself and its population, but that the issue of proportionality and respect for international humanitarian law is a basic requirement."
Director of Communications
United Nations HQ
NGOs, it's time to stop blaming others
Sir, - NGO Monitor's conference was a clear illustration of our commitment to accountability and critical debate ("Major NGOs skip 'unfair' monitoring conference," June 15). Despite being boycotted by several major NGOs, the conference succeeded in presenting a balanced discussion of major issues with speakers from across the political spectrum. No viewpoint dominated; speakers were free to express their opinions. Some even criticized NGO Monitor directly.
A diversity of opinions is the backbone of critical debate. NGO Monitor made every effort to include powerful NGOs such as Amnesty Israel, B'Tselem, and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel. Our responsibility is to offer them a place at the table. If they refuse, the failure is theirs. To reject the invitation and then claim lack of a "balanced ground for open and fair dialogue" is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
We believe their claims were a cover. NGOs that have escaped critical debate and accountability for decades suddenly realized their half-truths and unsubstantiated allegations would be exposed, leading to loss of credibility. Funders would realize what they have been supporting for years, and distance themselves.
It is time for Amnesty and the other politicized NGOs to stop blaming others for their own failures and start delivering on their promise to promote the human rights of everyone equally. And it is time for the public to demand accountability.
We need new blood
Sir, - I was quite frankly appalled by Esor Ben-Sorek's letter decrying the immigration to Israel of Lost Jews from Burma and Marranos from Brazil and warning that "we are turning our country into a nation of mongrels rather than a land of chosen thoroughbreds" ("...but mongrel isn't," June 16).
Aside from failing to credit whichever Nazi or American White Supremacist supplied this idea, your correspondent displayed an almost blissful ignorance of both Jewish history and Jewish religious law. If this is the best thinking a "thoroughbred" mind can produce, we are evidently in urgent need of new blood.
Sir, - Esor Ben-Sorek needs a few history lessons, plus the chance to view some of the films made on Marranos-Anusim in Brazil. This might enlighten him as to how they got there. As to other countries around the globe, I can assure him that the tenacity of many such individuals regarding their Judaism, and their desire to keep Jewish Law from generation to generation, would put many an Israeli to shame.
In recent months a number of such anusim have come out of the closet in Northern and Southern Italy with most valid reasons for not claiming their heritage earlier. Sadly, so many rabbis and emissaries, when they are approached, are, like this gentleman, so ignorant of the subject that they turn the people away.
Do not imagine, either, that all these people are in poverty; many who come and live in Israel give up good livelihoods. And many who find the unwelcome road to conversion too long and arduous still come here as volunteers, study our history and long for the day they can live an open Jewish life.
Casa Shalom Institute for
Get rid of religion
Sir, - Why can't we all live together in the world in peace? The simple explanation is an eight-letter word - religion - that over the ages has been deliberately misinterpreted to disguise its true meaning: power.
We are not born with religion, but brainwashed into it by those who want to maintain control over our lives from birth to death. These religious zealots - Christian, Jewish, Islamic or other - have one thing in common, love of their particular God over all others.
Israel and Palestine have no chance of peace. Their respective religious leaders will see to that, as happens in all nations where religion is also politics. The world doesn't need religion to survive; on the contrary, it needs religion absolutely stripped from political influence in any form worldwide to have even a remote chance of survival in the atomic age.
Gorokan, NSW, Australia
World Cup racism?
Sir, - The following occurred during the crucial match between the Netherlands and Ivory coast and was confirmed by TV replays:
1. On two occasions an Ivory coast player was fouled and pulled down in the Netherlands penalty area. The referee did not react.
2. Netherlands forward Robin van Persie deliberately fell to the ground in a scoring position just outside the Ivory Coast penalty area. Instead of earning a yellow card he was awarded a free kick, from which he scored the first Netherlands goal.
This refereeing determined the outcome of the match: Netherlands, 2; Ivory Coast, 1, instead of Netherlands 1, Ivory Coast, 3 - which would have given Ivory Coast an excellent chance of advancing as its last match was against Serbia, while the Netherlands still had to play Argentina.
The headline over the Arts & Entertainment article about British director Peter Brook in our June 18 issue should have read: "Peter Brook keeping the passion alive."