letters to the editor.
(photo credit: )
Sir, - Once again we see an example of Muslims' instant, irrational response to offenses real or imagined. This time it's the walkway at the Western Wall, replacing the previous one damaged by natural causes. Had they bothered to ascertain the facts of the matter, they would have seen that there was neither cause for concern nor logic in such a violent response ("Tour bus stoned amid Arab riots," February 7).
Sir, - When the Muslims originally built the Dome of the Rock directly on top of the Jewish people's most holy site, their object was to obliterate any sign of the Jewish presence in Jerusalem. This act is one of the underlying reasons for the never-ending conflict between Muslims and Jews. Little did the Muslims realize at the time that one day the Jewish people would control Jerusalem.
No serious problem can ever be solved by using force, so if Yossi Beilin's assertion that the current construction was not coordinated with the Islamic leaders is true, then in order to preserve the peace Israel should take a step backwards by halting it until a suitable solution can be worked out. I would like to propose a Ministry of Sensitivity to handle cases such as this.
Sir - We never seem to learn, but plunge ahead when it comes to alterations in the Temple Mount area, knowing from past experience what worldwide Muslim reaction will be and the potential clashes, injuries and loss of life. Couldn't we pull out the rug from under the Wakf?
1. Announce way in advance what we intend to do.
2. Invite engineers from two prestigious Muslim countries - say, Egypt and Saudi Arabia - and two European countries to inspect the planned construction.
3. If they conclude that this work is harmful to the Temple Mount, we cancel the project, or revise and resubmit it until approved.
4. If it is approved we announce it with all possible media hoopla, especially in the Muslim countries, and only then go ahead.
It's too late for Step 1; but wouldn't it be worthwhile to prevent bloodshed by stopping work immediately and initiating steps 2, 3 and 4?
Sir, - Looking at Muslims' behavior around the world, the following belief appears to prevail among them: If a Muslim acquires land - whether by purchase, theft or war - it becomes Muslim land. If land is acquired from a Muslim, by purchase, theft or war, it remains Muslim land.
Why is this never challenged?
King's Lynn, UK
Sir, - This untimely construction work in Jerusalem provided a better opportunity than the Mecca conference for the Palestinians to unite.
Sir, - Dramatic and newsworthy as they are, the repeated TV scenes of violence in Jerusalem avoid the crux of the matter - the actual nature of the work being carried out on the bridge. Statements by an Israeli spokesperson, contradicted by angry Palestinian commentators, do little to enable the public to form an objective opinion about the merits of the arguments.
There is, however, an obvious logical solution. Invite the IBA and foreign TV newscasters to film the work being carried out so the world can judge whether this volcano of rage, reminiscent of the Danish cartoon riots, is justified.
How unfortunate that Israel's offer to arrange 24-hour TV surveillance of the work, enabling it to be viewed on the Internet worldwide, has not been taken up.
Don't return them
Sir, - It was with great sadness that I read about the need to return the Liberian refugees to their country of origin. Have we so easily forgotten that when Jews sought refuge in strange lands, many brave people ignored all excuses and "reasons" to turn their backs, and, imperiling their own lives, saved many Jewish ones?
I hope the powers that be will think very carefully before sending innocent people back to an uncertain and possibly dangerous future. Think of the innocent children who, through no fault of their own, could be caught up in a terrible situation ("'Don't send us home to be murdered, Liberian refugees plead,'" February 9).
About Arab aid
Sir, - "UN pressing Arab states for more aid to the Palestinian refugees" (February 9) misrepresented quite drastically the contributions made by the countries of this region to assist Palestine refugees. It omitted to mention that Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and the occupied Palestinian territory host over 4 million refugees; and while UNRWA provides basic public services to them, it is these host authorities who bear the considerable burden of the refugees' presence in areas such as secondary and tertiary education, public health and hospitalization, and other services rendered to their own citizens.
The annual contribution of Jordan, Syria and Lebanon can be roughly estimated at no less than $610 million.
Moreover, the figures quoted do not take into account the significant contributions made by many countries in the region to major infrastructure projects in refugee camps. As an example, since 2002, Saudi Arabia has contributed upwards of $28 million to (re)construction projects, in particular in Rafah, while the United Arab Emirates have provided over $42 million worth of support to rebuild refugee shelters in Jenin, Khan Yunis and Beit Hanun. This year, large amounts have been pledged to improve the living conditions of Palestine refugees in camps in Lebanon.
The "general fund" contributions quoted by Michael Freund are correct, but ignore the major project efforts of the countries in question. The article thereby disingenuously belittles the strong support UNRWA enjoys from regional donors.
What characterizes UNRWA is its close partnership with both traditional "donor" countries and those in the region, all of whom work together closely to ameliorate the suffering of the Palestine refugees. The projects just mentioned are crucial in this respect.
Funding remains voluntary and hence scarce, and the aim of Mr. Ford, my senior representative in the region, is to encourage additional contributions to the agency in these trying times. In doing so, he enjoys the full support of UNRWA's commissioner-general.
Director of External Relations