August 25: Talking with Hamas

Israel’s decision not to eliminate Hamas once and for all at the end of Operation Cast Lead has come back to haunt us.

letters (photo credit: JP)
(photo credit: JP)
Talking with Hamas

Sir, – Israel’s decision not to eliminate Hamas once and for all at the end of Operation Cast Lead has come back to haunt us.
My feeling at the time was that Israel must have figured it’s better to deal with the devil you know than with an unknown foe.
Under the circumstances, Gershon Baskin, in “Let’s talk to Hamas now” (Encountering Peace, August 23), may be correct in that if Israel is truly interested in a permanent ceasefire, we have no other choice than to open negotiations with the group.
The situation on the ground today is totally unacceptable. If Israel does not want to enter Gaza with military force again, the political echelon must find the courage to sit down with Hamas and hammer out a ceasefire, even though doing so would run against the principle of not negotiating with a terrorist organization.
P. YONAH Shoham
Sir, – According to Gershon Baskin, our only option with Hamas is to talk. One wonders what there is to talk about.
Baskin never asks the pertinent questions. Why is Hamas smuggling weapons into Gaza instead of caring for its people? Why doesn’t Hamas gain the release of Gilad Schalit?
Petah Tikva
No pussyfooting
Sir, – In “What has happened to Israel?” (Comment & Features, August 23), George Rooks says almost all of what needs to be acknowledged. I would add only that we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t, so we had better do what is necessary and stop pussyfooting and delaying more of what is sure to come!

Pollard abandoned
Sir, – Jonathan Pollard’s case casts a horrible blight on American jurisprudence and the much touted American sense of fair play (“‘J’accuse on Pollard,’” Comment & Features, August 23). But what is far more distressing is his abandonment by Israel in the early years of his incarceration, and by both American and Israeli intellectuals to this day.
Perhaps Pollard does not project the image of a Jew that some people would like to present, but the fact that a Jew is suffering as a Jew at the hands of a purported friend of the Jews should be enough to stir a deafening outcry by every self-respecting Jew living in freedom and security.

Ganei Tikva

Sir, – You might be interested in the following excerpt from the Journal of the American Bar Association (December, 1993, pp. 23- 24) on the Pollard case: “Since the sentencing, Pollard has made a series of unsuccessful attempts to have his guilty plea withdrawn or his sentence reduced. In March 1992, a panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected his claims. The court, in a ruling by Judge Laurence Silberman, joined by now Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsburg, called the government’s dealings with Pollard ‘hard-nosed.’ ‘But we think that Pollard’s claims of government breaches of the plea agreement, which appear to us to be very much the product of revisionist thinking on the part of Pollard and his new counsel, are brought far too late in this collateral proceeding to enable Pollard to prevail,’ the court said. Judge Stephen Williams, in dissent, however, said the government had breached its plea agreement, and that Pollard’s sentence should be vacated. The Supreme Court, in October 1992, refused to hear the case.”
I would like to point out that two Jewish judges were responsible for the continuation of Pollard’s imprisonment, based not on the merits of the case but on the technicality that his appeal was filed too late. The single gentile judge on the panel was later quoted by Irwin Cotler as saying the case was a “complete and gross miscarriage of justice” (“US justice on trial,” Opinion & Features, December 14, 1998).
Ironically, in “Ginsburg: Justice key in Jewish tradition” (October 20, 2004, Judge Ginsburg is cited as describing works of art in her Supreme Court chambers that are inscribed with the verse from Deuteronomy: Justice, justice shall you pursue. Her decision regarding Pollard might have been legal according to American law, but I wouldn’t exactly call it justice.
Ma’aleh Adumim
‘Derech eretz’
Sir, – In response to “Jews have human rights, too” (Comment & Features, August 23), we blame the PA, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Iran, England, Norway and America. But we have to look at ourselves. Why should anyone respect us if we don’t respect ourselves? I don’t think we’ll have peace until we all start behaving with derech eretz (literally the “way of the land,” and generally understood to mean decency).
Until we start believing in ourselves.
Until we realize that all Jews are responsible for one another. Nothing will change until the Jewish people in the Land of Israel realize that we are supposed to be setting the example, not copying the rest of the world.
How about smiling at a stranger today? How about offering your colleague a cup of tea when you go to the kitchen? How about making that phone call? Writing that email? Visiting that friend in the hospital? Letting that car enter the lane ahead of you? How about some derech eretz for a change?
Sweat required
Sir, – Regarding “Rabbi Rafael Halperin, of Optica Halperin, who went from wrestling to Bnei Brak, dies at 87” (August 22), there is a major lesson to be learned: Every religious Jewish man should have a profession, trade, occupation, business or other means of making a livelihood to support his family, in addition to studying Torah.
Only in Israel is the state expected to support the religious Jew who devotes his life to Torah.
Yet it is unlikely that the state can economically sustain itself in the long run if it is to support a large and growing segment of the population that is not contributing to its economic welfare.
Rabbi Akiva had a trade. So has it been for thousands of years, and there is absolutely no logical reason why it should not be so in Israel. Even the Torah expects us to earn our living by the sweat of our brow!
Kiryat Ono
UNRWA on op-ed
Sir, – Anav Silverman (“Do UNRWA schools encourage terror against Israel?,” Comment & Features, August 22) recycles old and false allegations against UNRWA (to which I will not give currency by gracing them with a detailed reply). This has been done numerous times, particularly to our donors.
Our agency applies the highest standards of neutrality to its staff, beneficiaries, suppliers and installations.
We report on this regularly to our donors to their satisfaction; this is a matter of public record. A US State Department investigation found that the textbooks we use are free of incitement, and that the curriculum is “peaceful” and one in which “religious and political tolerance was emphasized.”
Silverman’s article also recycles the tired old claim that UNRWA perpetuates the refugee problem, and the suggestion that if the refugees were handed over to UNHCR they would be resettled.
All internationally accepted paradigms for resolving the refugee problem envisage this being achieved in the context of a just and durable solution to the conflict by the parties and in consultation with the refugees, based on international law and UN resolutions.
Silverman should also take note that the preferred durable solution of UNHCR is that refugees should return to their homes, and that any resolution of their plight should be voluntary.
The writer is a spokesman for UNRWA.