The true path
Sir, – “Bumpy road to democracy” (Editorial, February 11) adroitly
analyzes the political situation in Egypt. But economics is the underlying
There is a pattern to the unrest: It is largely confined to the
non- OPEC countries. These are the states that are most vulnerable to the sharp
increases that have taken place over the past year in basic food costs, and they
are the least able to counter those effects through subsidization.
pinch is particularly hard in Egypt, where the average worker spends 40 percent
of his or her income on food. In retrospect, the billions in American aid to
Egypt were badly allocated.
Should radicals take over, the situation will
get worse because crude prices will spike due to the risk premium. Since
agricultural commodities are closely correlated with petroleum, food prices will
What the Middle East needs now is leaders who care more about
the welfare of their people than their own power. That is the path to prosperity
and democracy.DAVID KATCOFF
Jericho, Vermont Not his vassal
Sir, – With
regard to “UK’s Hague: Now’s no time for tough talk from J’lem” (February 10),
has no-one told the British foreign secretary that Israel is no longer under the
British Mandate? When Britain was threatened during World War II, it
carpetbombed Germany without thought for innocent civilians. All those who wish
to live in peace with the State of Israel will do so, and those who don’t will
be treated as any other sovereign state would treat enemies.YENTEL
Netanya Free speech paramount
Sir, – In response to “British physician
calls for TAU to discipline pro-boycott academics” (February 10), I understand
entirely the strength of Professor Stanton’s feelings about TAU lecturers who
campaign so publicly for boycott. I happen to disagree with their positions most
The academic community supports a wide variety of views and
policies. That is the nature of a campus. The views of the overwhelming majority
of academics are not reported, and disproportionate attention is focused on this
However, I feel it is imperative that the university provide
an environment where there is complete freedom of speech and completely reject
the concept of disciplining such lecturers on account of their views and
statements, so long as those views are within the law.
It is an essential
feature of any academic institution that there be complete freedom of speech –
that is what enables academic research and free association. It is a foundation
block of Israel’s democracy that there be free speech. Curtail the right to such
comments and you prejudice the nature of the state; you compromise democracy and
bring Israel down to the level of its enemies.
In addition, were TAU or
any other academic institution to “discipline” its lecturers, it would rapidly
vindicate and accelerate all campaigns to isolate and boycott it or any other
Israeli university on the grounds that it was no longer an institution
guaranteeing free speech, that it was a compromised entity and as such
illegitimate in the family of the academic world.
The mere fact that one
can so easily point to the essential openness of the academic institution raises
its status, proves its independence and guarantees its existence as a center of
The writer is chairman of the TAU Trust in
the UK Dancing with dictators
Sir, – Larry Derfner castigates Israel for
claiming to love democracy while establishing “special relationships” with
dictators over the past decades [“Israel and the dictators (besides Mubarak),”
Rattling the Cage, February 10].
Interestingly, his own position mirrors
what he claims to reject.
The Gaza blockade is meant not only to protect
Israeli citizens from attack, but to weaken the Hamas regime – a regime that is
every bit as repressive as those in Egypt or Tunisia. Yet Derfner once wrote:
“Nothing [the Gazans] have done... gives Israel the right to control their
country or take away the Gazans’ right to defend it with force” (“I blame my
country,” Rattling the Cage, June 3, 2010).
When he says “Gazans,” in
practice he means Hamas. So according to Derfner, Israel is wrong when it deals
with dictators, even if that relationship might be beneficial to Israel’s
security interests. But it is just as wrong when it opposes a regime that
brutalizes its own people, attacks Israeli civilians and has a stated goal of
destroying Israel.EFRAIM A. COHEN
Sir, – Egypt’s
revolution underscores Israel’s risks in exacerbating Arab public opinion by
perpetuating the occupation and settlements.
Instead of depending on
American-subsidized dictators, wise Israeli policy would encourage a
well-disposed Arab public.
Hence, it is folly that Israel’s Right badly
worsens Arab public opinion – and Israeli security – by ignoring the Arab League
peace plan, claiming the last bit of Palestinian land, and placing there half a
million Israeli settlers.
This will produce either one unified state or
an occupation that lasts forever.
Israel’s rightist policies generate the
paradox that the more democratic the Arab world , the more negatively it may see
Israel – and the more justified this would seem to the world.JAMES ADLER
Cambridge, Massachusetts Prudence required
Sir, – In “Return to negotiations
now” (Comment & Features, February 9), Smadar Perry, in trying to persuade
Israel to quickly come to an agreement with the Palestinians, offers us several
cogent arguments that, if examined carefully, should lead us to completely
Perry demands the return to negotiations now
because if we continue with the status quo, “[t]he next phase is already at our
doorstep: The Islamist movement is gaining strength, leveraging the slap on the
face that the US administration has delivered to Mubarak and his
Wouldn’t prudence – and the reality of Hamas’s democratic
takeover of Gaza, as well as the increasing influence of the Islamist movement
in the entire region – require us to understand which way the wind is blowing
before making irreversible concessions or granting legitimacy to a grossly
unstable Palestinian leadership? ZEV CHAMUDOT
Petah Tikva Be my Tu B’Av?
Who would believe that in Israel, the Jewish state, one can find articles about
celebrating Valentine’s Day, heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, romantic dinner
suggestions and gifts to buy? In the time of the Roman Empire, February 14
honored Juno, queen of the gods and goddesses. February 15 was the Feast of
Lupercalia, a celebration of fertility and sexuality. On the evening of February
14, Roman girls had their names written on slips of paper for young men to draw
for a partner for the festival.
When Emperor Claudius II ruled Rome in
the third century, he could not mobilize soldiers because they did not want to
leave their families, so he cancelled marriages and engagements.
secretly married couples until he was caught. He was known as St. Valentine and
suffered martyrdom on February 14.
When the “indecent” pagan festival was
outlawed, the fifthcentury pope replaced it with a morally suitable celebration
and named it with Bishop Valentine as patron saint.
When Jews have a
perfectly wonderful holiday called Tu B’Av, celebrated in August, as a holiday
of love, why would they need to celebrate a Christian holiday with pagan
origins? What? You don’t know about Tu B’Av? Go forth and learn!