letters to the editor 88.
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Sir, - It was a great pleasure to read the brilliant analysis by Dan Schueftan ("Whatever we do, we will not get peace," One on One by Ruthie Blum, April 6). Schueftan cogently dismisses the non-sequitur assertions of the right-wingers that the Gaza withdrawal was a complete failure because rockets are still being fired from Gaza and peace has not been advanced. With equal cogency he punctures the illusions of the left-wingers that if only we were willing to negotiate with Hamas and Syria and make a few more concessions to show our good will, peace with the Arabs would be forthcoming.
Schueftan boldly states the obvious but unpleasant truth that no matter what Israel does, the Palestinians will not make peace and Arab terrorism will not cease because the Arabs have never abandoned their desire to eliminate the Jewish state. It follows that all decisions of our government should be based on this unpleasant truth.
Sir, - Prof. Schueftan thinks he has the solution to the demographic problem: withdrawal from Arab-populated areas. It is crucial that the Israeli public understand that withdrawal, unilateral or negotiated, is doomed to failure, for the simple reason that Palestinian attacks inevitably force Israel to reoccupy PA territory. This is predictable and manifest in the post-Oslo paradigm. Whether planned or derivative, the Palestinians can strategically use terror and missiles to block our attempts to disengage from the demographic problem. And the settlements are completely irrelevant to this equation.
Yet the so-called demographic problem exists only insofar as we honor its immoral logic, which essentially states that Israel does not have the right to exist if we unendingly deny her existential enemies the right to independence. If Israelis continue to buy into this unethical and demoralizing position, we will slowly watch as the world takes our cue and demands that Israel end its "apartheid" policies a la Jimmy Carter.
In our interest
Sir, - Sarah Honig pointed out the futility of appeasement in "Miracles by proxy" (April 6). Israel can never allow a Palestinian state, nor the terror to continue. We must strike hard and fast at all the terror groups. We must stop talking out of both sides of our mouths to gain some peace. We must stop fueling the Arab extreme with promises we can never and must never keep. We need a strong, fearless leader who will strengthen our resolve to live according to our contract with God, and live by it. Peace will come only when we fulfill our part of the contract.
Little Arab meekness...
Sir, - Amotz Asa-El hit the nail on the head - he hit several nails on their respective heads, actually - in his assessment of the Arab League member-states' many failures (economic, social, religious, etc.) in bringing their nations up to snuff with the modern world ("The business of the Arab League," April 6). However, these failures become a problem for the various governments only when there is no outlet for the people's frustrations.
Fortunately for the leaders of the Arab world, outlets do exist. Like the Christian world before them, Arab leaders have honed the scapegoating of Jews in general, and Israel in particular, to a science. The major difference between them, however, is that while the New Testament gives no formal backing to Christian anti-Semitism, there is no Koranic version of "whose kingship is characterized by non-retaliation and meekness" (Matthew 11:19).
And, as Asa-El notes, there is always the outlet of emigration. Just one more disparate color in the rainbow the EU will have to amalgamate.
...and lots of weakness
Sir, - Amotz Asa-El makes a statement that has been repeated many times but which I feel does not accurately describe the current situation in the Middle East - that "progress threatens the elites" in the Arab world. This is used to attempt to explain why there are many dictatorships in the Arab world, and why there are large economic inequities.
A more accurate explanation of the current situation would note that much of the population of the Arab world is steeped in primitive superstitions, tribal allegiances and a culture that cannot cope with modernity. The elites of the Arab world are aware of this, and attempt to shield the rest of the world from the effects of the primitivism of the Arab street by governing without open elections. Democracy cannot work without a significant portion of the populace being capable of thinking rationally.
The Arab version of Islam requires the kind of reform that Christian and Jewish Europe absorbed during the last four centuries. A version of Islamic reform started in Turkey 100 years ago, but now appears to be fighting a losing battle.
The economic problems of the Arab world will probably not be solved without a long period of psychological adjustment by the populace. We can only pray that this can occur before the world is engulfed in destruction.
Watch that praise!
Sir, - Tucked away in the New York Magazine article Saul Singer gave attention to last week was the parenthetical observation that "Highly aggressive, violent people happen to think very highly of themselves, debunking the theory that people are aggressive to make up for low self-esteem" ("The praise craze," April 6). Well, considering what's been taking place on our roads and in our nightclubs and high schools, this deserves some thought. It's fair to say, I think, that the reckless demons behind the wheel who endanger our lives, and the teens and twenty-somethings settling accounts or looking for some exciting way to kill time are hardly the downtrodden under-achievers of our society. Maybe an A for Effort rather than for solving a tricky geometry proof or for nicely putting together a term paper would have done more good.
But what neither Prof. Carol Dweck nor Mr. Singer came up with is how to overcome the mind-set of praising the high achiever for achievement rather than for effort. It's no problem to praise the effort made by a kid who's prone to hit a sour note while practicing the piano; praising the effort of one who rarely does is somewhat more difficult. The latter, quite naturally, gets a pat on the back for the achievement not the effort.
While Prof. Dweck's research focused on fifth graders, parallel studies suggest that age is not necessarily a factor, and that the power of praise has positive benefits even with young adults. The message, though, needs to be received by both parents and teachers, who need to be reminded that repeatedly telling a youngster just how smart he or she is can backfire, and that carefully chosen words of encouragement can have more meaningful and long-term results.
Some will rebel and argue that this notion is nothing more than psychobabble. They're the ones who'll blame the world when their kids' advancement becomes stagnant. Or when they wind up in jail.
Sir, - I must admit that Amanda Dan's saga of motherhood, which started out rather stilted, has become one of my favorite columns in the paper. I wish her luck in her "potty training" ("Let freedom ring," April 6). The twins should finish with diapers earlier, as they'll want to do whatever their big brother does. Honestly, I suspected that she'd wait until all three were old enough!
When I was a young mother, decades ago, Israeli babies were rushed out of diapers as soon as they could walk. And high chairs had "removable seats" which covered holes over "slide-out potties." My daughters were trained by age two, which was considered old at the time.