Air to breathe
Sir, - Kol hakavod to the cancer patients who took up arms and did battle with the Health Ministry. It would give me great pleasure to see other groups do likewise.
I am an 80-year-old with emphysema, living in a small village half an hour's travel from Beersheba. My battle with the ministry is over portable oxygen. It is available, but they refuse to provide it for me because I "do not work at least four hours per day away from home."
I can't go anywhere away from home. The only oxygen provided to me comes in a lead balloon which is so heavy I can't carry it up the stairs, and it provides oxygen for only one and a half to two hours.
Perhaps there are other emphysema patients who would like to join me in a demonstration, as long as it can be done in less than two hours ("Katsav calls for end to hunger strike as cancer sufferer collapses," May 26).
Pope at Auschwitz
Sir, - During my 40-year career in Jewish communal service I visited Auschwitz twice. Both times I asked the very same question as Pope Benedict XVI: "Why, Lord, did you remain silent?"
I do believe it is a great sign of peace and good will that the pope has again traveled to this site ("Pope visits Auschwitz as 'son of the German people,'" May 29.)
GERALD CHAS. LASENSKY
Two pennies a week
Sir, - I propose a universal humanitarian tax of two pennies each week from every working human being on earth. This money would build warehouses strategically located worldwide and administered by local professionals under the possible guidance of the United Nations. They would be filled with food, clothing, tents, medicines and all other necessities required in the event of catastrophe, man-made or natural.
These warehouses would allow help to quickly reach victims who now often wait days for foreign aid to arrive. Any surplus could be used to feed the needy, while extra monies could go toward building housing.
Think of it: Just two pennies a week could help cement together a brotherhood of humanity, giving a glorious answer to the question: Am I my brother's keeper? ("Indonesia quake toll passes 4,300," May 29.)
McCollum is a friend of Israel
Sir, - You unfairly skewed Congresswoman Betty McCollum's views on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict ("Minnesota legislator boycotts AIPAC," May 20).
McCollum did indeed vote against H.R. 4681, last month's Hamas-related bill, in the committee hearing. She condemned the Hamas-led PA government and said "they must be isolated by the international community and Congress should be extending our support for the Bush administration's current position of leading the international community to keep firm pressure on Hamas until they agree to an internationally recognized civilized standard of conduct."
She then added, however, that she could not support the bill in its current form because it would limit the administration's ability to provide humanitarian aid to the Palestinians.
I personally support H.R. 4681 and wish McCollum had co-sponsored the bill, as did over 300 of her Democratic and Republican colleagues, in spite of portions of it that she finds overreaching. However, her opposition to the bill is not because she "supports terrorists," and not because she is an anti-Semite.
It is clear to me from personal conversations with Congresswoman McCollum, from her long-established pro-Israel voting record and her above-quoted statements in committee, that she is on the whole a friend of Israel. Hopefully she and AIPAC will patch up their differences caused by one person's rude behavior so that both can continue their important work in support of Israel and the US.
St. Louis Park, Minnesota
Sir, - The National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE) has embarked on a dangerous path, ignoring the complexities on the ground, binding and pressurizing members into actions which are undemocratic and McCarthyite in spirit. This latest action only brings dishonor and, indeed, sheer ridicule upon NATFHE, which can be rightly called and remembered as a racist and discriminatory union ("UK union votes to boycott academics," On-Line Edition, May 29).
The Academic Friends of Israel consider personal boycotts wrong, and we will continue with our policy of exposing academics who boycott Israeli institutions and academics. We believe that anyone who pursues such an action is breaking discrimination and equal opportunities legislation as well as university rules and their own contacts of employment.
There are countless Palestinian and Arab collaborations with Israel in agriculture, medicine, science, and many other fields, as well as burgeoning links between academics in this country and Israel. If the sponsors of this boycott campaign have succeeded in something, it is to undermine further progress, collaboration and peace in the Middle East and to marginalize the standing of NATFHE, its successor union, the UCU, and British academia.
Academic Friends of Israel
Harrow, Middlesex, UK
Sir, - It is no wonder many of Britain's best minds are now teaching in the US, where market forces ensure the quality ones are remunerated for their ability. While containing many brilliant people, British universities are increasingly the resting places of academics whose insulation from the realities of the world around them leads to such a boycott. It is their protected, not-for-profit existence that enables such despicable, not to mention self-destructive, actions.
To rework Woody Allen's famous line, Israeli academics shouldn't want to be part of a club that would refuse to have them as members.
License to kill
Sir, - The Talmud is very clear about the question "Is killing your abuser justifiable homicide?" (May 29) insofar as there is any threat to life: "If someone comes to kill you, rise up early and kill him first."
Jews as a people were always so against killing that this principle of self-defense needed to be rubbed in our faces for us to actually be willing to protect ourselves - or so I believe.
Sir, - In answer to Paul Arberman's question of how trafficking in women can proceed with impunity ("Inhuman trafficking," May 25), I fear the answer is: organized crime.
We today see criminals organizing prostitution and drug dealing, buying our politicians and political parties, corrupting our judicial system, gaining control of our big businesses and abusing our media.
These people are like human ticks; they drain our economic and spiritual vigor, and will fight viciously to resist removal. But remove them we must.
Football and other things
Sir, - How selfish can one be? Surely it's about time Martin Lewis realized that there are other interests besides the World Cup (Letters, May 29). And why has he decided that nobody watches the 1 a.m to 4 a.m. programs on TV?
Grow up, Mr. Lewis. Football is not the most important thing happening in the world today.