(photo credit: Courtesy)
Sir, - Re "PA's chief judge: Jews have no history in Jerusalem" (August 27): The denial by the Palestinian Authority's chief Islamic judge of the historical fact that Jews have a very long-standing presence in Jerusalem is key to understanding why the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is, to all intents and purposes, undecidable.
For in a Middle East where there is not one single history, but rather differentiated national histories; not one single set of common values, but rather differentiated civilizational values, how can one side possibly convince the other of the justice of its cause?
Arab, Jew, it's the same
Sir, - I agree with Joel Litke 100 percent! ("Bostrom: Come visit an Israeli hospital," Letters, August 27). It is important to add that if an organ is donated - by Jew or Arab, it makes no difference - it goes to the first person on the waiting list who can use it - Arab or Jew, it makes no difference.
Less of the Cassandra
Sir, - I don't understand Larry Derfner's shock at a Ben-Gurion University professor calling for the boycott of Israel ("The Zionist Left's red lines," August 27). Derfner has been writing articles for the past year presenting largely the faults of Israel and the virtues of the Palestinians. You cannot keep calling for an end to Israeli occupation and not expect the next step: boycott. You cannot accuse your own government of not wanting peace and not expect like-minded critics to go to other media to express their hatred of Israel.
If Derfner does not want his fellow Lefties to cross the Left's "red lines," he should lay down the broad brush of Netanyahu-bashing and voice his criticism of current policy with a bit less sarcasm and fewer Cassandra-like warnings to the Right that it is bringing on catastrophe.
HRW's Kenneth Roth misstates facts & law
Sir, - According to Human Rights Watch's Kenneth Roth, the UN Human Rights Council's originally one-sided mandate for its Gaza inquiry is in "the superseded past," because the 47-nation body "acquiesced" in the broadened terms given by the council president to Judge Richard Goldstone ("Don't smear the messenger," August 26).
This is a misstatement of both fact and law. The biased mandate - which examines only Israeli actions and presumes Israel's guilt in advance - was adopted by the council on January 12, 2009, in Resolution S-9/1. This governing framework of the Goldstone inquiry has never been legally "superseded." The president's purported changes were announced in April, and the council had the opportunity to ratify them at its June session. It chose not to do so.
Silence does not amend resolutions. Nor does the council president himself possess such power, any more than the House Speaker in the US can amend a law.
Moreover, Roth fails to address Goldstone's refusal to disqualify Christine Chinkin from the inquiry, as requested by UN Watch in a 28-page legal brief. While international law requires human rights fact-finders to be impartial and free of any commitment to a preconceived outcome, Chinkin, like the council, declared Israel in breach before she even started.
Goldstone and Roth are well aware of these and other legal defects, yet apparently believe that the ends - which they mistakenly believe will be noble - justify the means.
HILLEL C. NEUER
Executive Director, UN Watch
Sir, - Wars are fought to be won, and weapons are designed to win them. Had he lived in the Middle Ages, Kenneth Roth would no doubt have complained about one side introducing gunpowder. He seems to think modern battles are fought between two armies in uniform fighting it out on a battleground far away from civilians - and he does not explain how Israel is to deal with rockets fired from civilian-occupied areas. All of which makes me think he is well-meaning, but not much more.
Sir, - I cannot remember a time when a defensive war was so minutely analyzed. Where is one investigation into Hamas's activities? Kenneth Roth takes Irwin Cotler absurdly to task for asserting that indiscriminate rocket attacks for eight years caused the conflict. Is he insinuating that the IDF got up one morning and attacked Gaza as a way of passing the time?
He then admits that the Human Rights Council is biased against Israel. When will he say the same about Human Rights Watch ?
Roth claims Israel should have targeted only "combatants," and not civilians. Can he cite one other war where literally thousands of leaflets and phone calls were sent to the civilian population to warn them of intended strikes? Besides, how does one discriminate between combatants and civilians when the former purposely mingle with the latter to draw Israeli fire?
Much as it irritates Roth and the HRW, Israel is a democracy trying to keep its population safe from terrorist warfare.
Sir, - As the minister responsible for diplomacy, perhaps Avigdor Lieberman can be faulted for acting undiplomatically in publicizing his prerequisites for the foreign service at a time when sensitive talks are being conducted with the Americans ("Lieberman causes uproar," August 25). However, the allegation that these stipulations are unjust to haredim and Arabs does not pass muster. Today, the IDF and National Service have special units sensitive to the haredi life-style.
If the claim is that a haredi cannot serve in the army because he spends all his time studying Torah, why would he be seeking a job with the foreign service? And if an Arab's or Jew's abnegation of army or national service is due to his or her ideological rejection of Israel as a Jewish secular state, how could he or she serve in a post whose major mission is to present that state in the best light?
Jafar Farah's contention that the stipend and preferences soldiers receive after finishing their army service constitutes discrimination against Arabs is incredible. These are given as a token of appreciation to those who serve for years and face danger while those who do not serve earn money and/or further their education.
We're a democracy
Sir, - Re "Reform, Conservative should build shuls with their own money" (August 27): How very sad to read the remarks of Religious Affairs Minister Ya'acov Margi (Shas) that Israeli Conservative and Reform Jews shouldn't "expect the state to foot the bill" for synagogues and ritual baths. He needs to be reminded that the government of the Jewish and democratic State of Israel has to distribute governmental funds equitably and provide religious services to all streams of Judaism.
We must demand that PM Netanyahu call Margi in for "clarifications," just as he summoned Minister Moshe Ya'alon after his speech at a Manhigut Yehudit conference.
RABBI BARRY SCHLESINGER
In the August 28 issue of In Jerusalem, the photo of the Plan B loft bar was taken by Oran Hassidim.
For those who wish to contact Chaim Freedman regarding his book about the Vilna Gaon (Letters, August 26), the e-mail address is: email@example.com