letters to the editor 88.
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Sir, - According to "PA: IDF offensive in Gaza would scuttle peace talks" (December 6), the Palestinians are unwilling to negotiate with Israelis while IDF tanks are in the Gaza Strip. Should we hope the Palestinian Authority grants us permission to negotiate peace while Gazans are firing rockets at Israel?
JERRY AND SYLVIA DORTZ
Sir, - From 1983-1992 I served as director of BIPAC in Israel, and I took foreign journalists and other opinion formers to Gaza on a regular basis. My visitors covered a range of subjects including education and health, so we had access to all the institutions and clinics run by Gazan professionals - albeit under the auspices of the IDF's Civil Administration.
During those years medical services were well run. Medical personnel were able to go to Israeli hospitals for specialization training, and cases that could not be treated in local hospitals were sent to Israel.
I saw newly built hospital facilities, clean, well run clinics and modern equipment. On one visit to Shifa Hospital the then-head told me that $7 million was available from overseas for the hospital, but the donors would not send it as long as the Israeli Health Ministry was the overseer.
It is indeed tragic that the deterioration in our relationship (we need not spell out the reasons) since we left the people of Gaza to run their own affairs has caused so much suffering. I would have been pleased to see the advantages they had put to good use. If only they had taken the best out of the situation presented to them by Sharon's government and enhanced their institutions with the help they received from Europe and the US.
Jessica Montell's article ("Palestinian civilians as political currency," December 5) would have been quite different.
Israel should accept blame where its justified, but not all the blame all the time.
Sir, - Jessica Montell is big on Israel's responsibilities towards Gaza's population and totally silent on the responsibilities of Gaza's Hamas government, both to Palestinian civilians whose health requirements they are now required to meet and to Israelis in the Negev whom they have no business attacking. If she concentrated her message and efforts on the perpetrators of terrorism, it would be perfectly obvious that were the most pressing issue on the Annapolis agenda the humanitarian situation in Gaza as she states (something on which I beg to differ), the solution would lie with the Hamas and nobody else. That would be facing reality responsibly.
Sir, - I have only one thing to say to Larry Derfner ("Shock of the new," December 6) - "There's a bridge in Brooklyn and I'd love to sell it to you." For him to believe that the NIE is current and correct surprises me, especially since his forte is investigative journalism. Why take this report at face value? Did it ever cross Derfner's mind that perhaps this is a politically timed ploy to get President Bush off the hook with the American Left before he leaves office?
Derfner's last paragraph is the most worrisome to me. For decades Israel has been expected to make unilateral "goodwill gestures," getting absolutely nothing positive in return. I would suggest that Mr. Derfner direct his philosophizing about "opening minds" to the Arab public, not the Israeli.
Sir, - During this holy season of Advent, as eyes again turn to Bethlehem, Christians, Muslims and Jews must resist the temptation to conflict ("Christian community in danger of disappearing in PA areas," December 4) and focus on goodwill.
In 1223, St. Francis of Assisi commemorated the scene of the Nativity according to the infancy Gospel, and the crib thus became one of the traditional symbols of Christmas. Beside the crib, the Christmas tree, with its twinkling lights, reminds us that with the birth of Jesus the tree of life has blossomed anew.
Today, amid increased conflict, we are allowing ourselves to be stripped of our traditions.
Displaying the crib and Christmas tree in homes and public places - not in a folkloric manner, but as symbols of faith - means rediscovering the solidarity of friendship, the human tenderness of relations and the piety of souls.
Sir, - Free will, as taught by Judaism over thousands of years, is still under attack. This time not by simpletons such as reductionists and philosophers, but by modern-day eugenics ("Gene variant may determine if you'll be a Scrooge," December 6).
Dr. Ariel Knafo (not to be confused with Avi, Vicky and other Knafos with a publicity gene) explains: "The experiment provided the first evidence..." Truthfully put this is: "The finding might very well be accidental because the sample was small and these results have never been seen in other trials. Whatever the case, we need more money for our research."
Whether we act generously, violently, justly or deceitfully is not determined by our genes, character, upbringing or society, but rather by ourselves. This lesson is still as fresh and brilliant as it has been throughout all of Jewish history.
MOSHE M. VAN ZUIDEN
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