(photo credit: Courtesy)
Sir, - While graffiti were sprayed a couple of weeks ago on the outside walls of Caracas's Sephardi synagogue, what happened there on Friday night was much different. Fifteen armed men subdued the security staff, damaged the synagogue, destroyed Torah scrolls and neutralized the security camera.
We are talking about a 6,000-member synagogue in a Jewish community of 15,000. Every comment you will find in online forums expresses the belief that these actions were backed by the government ("Venezuelan synagogue vandalized," February 1).
Sir, - The Venezuelan diplomats expelled from Israel appeared at a government rally in Caracas wearing keffiyehs depicting the entire State of Israel as "Palestine." Our Foreign Ministry should take this into account when the subject of resuming diplomatic relations with Venezuela comes up.
Present and ready
Sir, - Re "To the people of Venezuela" (Editorial, February 1): I participated in the coup against Hugo Chavez in 2002 and made aliya in 2006 after being officially designated "an enemy of the regime." I am available to be called upon to "pitch in where necessary," as you urged, to improve Israel's image in South America.
HANS ANTON BROD
Call for clarity
Sir, - I am an avid reader of David Horovitz's columns and want to thank him for the honesty and foresight in "(Ducking the) Decision Day" (January 30). For a long time I have believed that Israel is making a fundamental mistake by not declaring its specific intentions toward the future of the West Bank. This has caused a dangerous situation where Israel is beginning to lose its best friends in America.
Forget about Walt and Mearshimer, we are talking Friedman and Simon. I see two worrisome signs of things to come when two very important American-Jewish journalists, Tom Friedman and Bob Simon, address this issue in a way that is very critical of Israel.
I believe that the best hope for Israel's future can be found in the Clinton parameters. Israel should adopt those as its official policy in order to secure its future. What is important is that people like your editor continue to speak out and call for a clear direction from the government.
The real target
Sir, - It is ironic that Avigdor Lieberman's Israel Beiteinu list is gaining popularity with many English-speaking immigrants, who ought to be the most familiar with liberal democratic values. In fact, it is because they are that Lieberman's straight-talking and -thinking is attractive.
It is the US, the bastion of democracy and liberty, that calls on immigrants to swear loyalty to the constitution and, in many states, to pass an English test.
Lieberman's equating the rights of citizenship with its obligations (acceptance of Israel's unwritten constitution) would make all our citizens - Arab, haredi and everyone else - decide who they really are and where they need to make their lives.
Just as Israel has never defined its physical borders, it has never determined what the minimum conditions for citizenship should be. Lieberman is offering his vision, and it is broadly shared.
To accuse him of racism is ridiculous ("Bigoted immigrant," Jeff Barak, January 26).
Treachery, dishonesty and hypocrisy are the real target.
Can't be bad and good
Sir, - Re Ruthie Blum's interview with Avigor Lieberman (UpFront January 21): It seems eminently sensible to be considering a movement of borders, as Lieberman proposes. After all, it appears that Israeli Arabs consider themselves Palestinians first, then Muslims or Christians, and Israeli citizens only when it suits them.
If they are so supportive of their Palestinian "brothers" and so resentful and critical of nearly all Israel's actions, why shouldn't they want to trade Israeli citizenship for Palestinian citizenship?
And if the good citizens of Umm el-Fahm and other towns in the Wadi Ara area start protesting that this is "ethnic cleansing" and won't agree to inclusion in a Palestinian state, then perhaps the world will wonder what is so bad about living in Israel after all.
Two states living in mutual trust
Sir, - Israelis and Palestinians need a fresh and radical start of dialogue based on equal respect and dignity. War is a proven policy of failure for all sides. Its victims are usually innocent women, elderly people and children. Whatever the territorial dispute, a two-state solution is part of a viable option. Both sides need to live in mutual trust, peace, economic progress and security.
The Arab world needs to wake up; Israel's right to exist cannot form any part of a future debate. Iran needs to take the path of moderation and realism. A future nuclear conflict will be a catastrophe for the whole world.
Equally, the Palestinians need a homeland of their own. They need no longer be refugees living a nomadic existence, like the ancestors of present-day Israelis. Significant confidence-building measures need to be put in place.
Politicians on both sides have badly and selfishly let down their communities; they must not be allowed to do the same for future generations. The children in the region need hope in place of hate; they deserve much more than the constant and vicious cycle of dogma, fear, violence and despair.
Every civilized community has an obligation to help Israelis and Palestinians resolve their seemingly irreconcilable differences. To those who would fire rockets, we must say no; to those who would live next door but see their neighbors live in poverty and squalor, we must say no. To those who would seek solutions through violence, we must again say no.
And to those who wield power, we must urge them to act responsibly, for the common well-being of humanity ("Democratic accountability in Gaza," Nir Boms, Shayan Arya, January 29).
AFZAL A. CHOWDHURY
Better to buy a lottery ticket
Sir, - Re "No shock here: Social issues left out of election campaign" (February 1): Actually and inadvertently, one of the small, unelectable parties, the Kesef Party, has explained why the major parties will never effectively deal with social economic issues.
The fact is that our entire economy, from the top down and from local government up to the national level, is controlled by about 18 wealthy Israeli families whose control of the banks and the government legally allows them to rack up obscene wealth and benefits at the expense of Israeli workers, while keeping the vast majority of those workers impoverished. These moguls also exert complete control over our media and the central committees of the major political parties, ensuring that they will never face public scrutiny or ever lose their control of the government.
These families and the monopolies they control are the reason why most Israelis will always remain poor and pressed for cash, and why our government representatives will never lift a finger to change this ugly situation.
Regrettably, the average Israeli has a better chance of winning the lottery than he has of beating the economic system here.
1,000 rabbis for Pollard
Sir, - Rafael Medoff, commenting on the 400 rabbis from every major stream of Judaism who signed a petition urging Yad Vashem to include a display about the Bergson Group, asks: "When was the last time 400 rabbis from across the religious spectrum joined hands?" ("Rabbis urge Yad Vashem to add museum exhibit on WWII rescue group," January 27).
In fact, the last time more than that number of rabbis from across the religious spectrum spoke with one voice was on October 23, 1992, when 500 rabbis signed an open letter to President George H. Bush asking that Jonathan Pollard's sentence be commuted to time served. The letter was coordinated by AMCHA - the Coalition for Jewish Concerns, and appeared as a full-page advertisement in The New York Times.
On November 19, 1993, a similar letter organized by AMCHA was signed by 1,000 rabbis from across the spectrum. Tragically, despite this unified statement, Pollard still languishes in prison, almost 20 years later.
Willpower didn't enter into it
Sir, - In "Growing old with Anne Frank" (January 18), the following statement was erroneously attributed to me: "Had [Anne] known of her father's survival, she might have had the will to survive until the liberation."
This statement was made by Hannah Pick in a video being shown in the Anne Frank House which we, her classmates, visited during the making of this documentary. On hearing it, I shook my head in disagreement. As a survivor of Bergen Belsen, I can state that no willpower on earth could have overcome the typhus that caused Anne's death.
Sir, - As a teenager, nine years after seeing The Wizard of Oz, I was watching TV in our den in Montreal when a coffee commercial came on. A little old lady sitting in her cozy country kitchen earnestly extolled the virtues of a certain brand.
As I watched, I became increasingly agitated, without knowing why. When my agitation turned into full-blown fear, I realized that the actress in the coffee commercial was none other than Margaret Hamilton - the Wicked Witch of the West.
It seems Judy Montagu was right to label this character "unbeatable as a projection of sheer malignancy" ("When life declines to imitate art," January 28).
And I will never buy that brand of coffee.