letters pink 88.
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Sir, - Len Green expressed what thousands of Israelis must have felt when they heard that Judy Price, a rabid anti-Zionist, had been invited to take part in this year's British Film Festival ("Persona non grata," Letters, January 14).
The British Council insists that Ms. Price was chosen "for her artistic credentials." If so, why pick an obscure yored instead of Vanessa Redgrave, who is both a great actress and a renowned Israel-basher? She could then lecture on her film, The Palestinians, and use her stay in an East Jerusalem hotel to promote Equity's cultural boycott of Israel. By closing its library service in Jerusalem, the British Council would have saved enough money to pay for her trip.
Some day, when the council sends ambassadors of goodwill rather than hatred to the Jewish state, we may look forward to hearing and meeting people of a very different caliber. Who knows? They might even include Linda Grant, Wilfred Hopkins and Maureen Lipman.
GABRIEL A. SIVAN
Door opens to
'right of return'
Sir, - In the Post's coverage of President Bush's visit, Herb Keinon quoted George Bush's remarks in support of Israel "as a Jewish state," noting that "this is widely considered code for a rejection of the Palestinian claim of the 'right of return'" ("Bush: An historic opportunity for peace," January 10). Yet he failed to mention that in the very same speech, Bush called upon Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians on all "core issues" - including, he said, the "right of return" of Palestinian refugees to pre-1967 Israel:
"You just heard the man [Olmert] talk about their desire to deal with core issues, which I guess for the uneducated on the issue [sic], that means dealing with the issues like territory and right of return and Jerusalem... And they're going to sit down at the table and discuss those issues in seriousness."
This is an enormous departure from existing US policy: In the past, no American administration has ever expressed support for the supposed "right of return," or used that loaded expression. Not even the Europeans have. The reason is obvious: Its very use, unless prefixed by "so-called" or "claimed," implies that such a right actually exists - a position never taken by the US (the term always used is "the Palestinian refugee problem"). It is universally understood that granting millions of Palestinians a right of return would result in the instant demise of the Jewish state. Last Wednesday, George Bush became the first US president ever to use this expression in a public speech. In spite of its extreme precedence-setting significance, nearly the entire Israeli media ignored it.
Who, exactly, fed Bush the line about the "right of return"? In 2006, the president appointed the "Iraq Study Group" to reexamine US Middle East policy and make recommendations. Its chairman was none other than president Bush Sr.'s notorious secretary of state, James "F*** the Jews" Baker. So nobody was surprised when the group produced a report that criticized existing US policy as too pro-Israel. They were surprised when they saw a reference to the Palestinian "right of return."
Commented one Middle East analyst who participated in the group's discussions: "'Right of return' is not in Oslo I or Oslo II, it's not in the Bush Rose Garden speech, it's not even in UN 181, the original partition resolution - it's part of the Palestinian discourse." The analyst speculated that it might have been "a deliberate attempt to fuse something to the Bush rhetoric which wasn't there before." A year later, that attempt has borne fruit.
Should Bush's new rhetoric worry us? Many would argue that his surprising talk of the "right of return" is offset by his statements that imply rejection of this "right," and by his stated support for Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. But we should not forget that Bush, in the past, has made many statements on the Arab-Israeli conflict indicating positions in line with Israel's - only to later disregard them.
Many would argue that Israel would never be so suicidal as to agree to negotiations over a "right of return." But Israel has already done this, and more: PM Olmert wasted no time in implementing Bush's directive. On Thursday night - before Bush had even concluded his visit - Channel 10 reported that Olmert and PA President Mahmoud Abbas had agreed that the final-status agreement about to be negotiated would include the entry of 50,000 Palestinian refugees from 1948 into pre-1967 Israel. Asked for comment, a spokesman for Olmert did not deny the report.
This is what Israel has already agreed to prior to the start of negotiations. How many additional Palestinian refugees will Israel be "convinced" to allow in by the time an agreement is signed - and what will be the consequences for Israel as a Jewish, democratic state? The outlook is worrying indeed.
End the occupation
Sir, - I can't help but say that as a journalist and author, my experiences and observations in Israel and Palestine are not at all reflected in most of the Post's articles. "Where Bush needs to nudge" (Editorial, January 11) was just another comment enhancing the attitude and conviction that the Arabs are mainly to blame for the failure of Oslo and the so-called peace process.
May I ask three questions? Why did Israel totally ignore the remarkable Arab Peace Initiative of 2002, which has been reinforced a few times since? Why did neither Sharon nor Olmert talk seriously to the Palestinians before Hamas came to power? And why didn't Israel make peace in the first 27 years of its occupation, before the first Hamas suicide bombing shocked Israel in 1994 (triggered by Baruch Goldstein's massacre in Hebron)?
The editorial concludes: "The first prerequisite for peace is ending Arab incitement to terrorism, hatred and war."
After four years of living in the West Bank and constantly visiting Bethlehem, Jenin, Gaza and Ramallah, I have encountered very little Arab hatred toward the Jews, but rather sadness and despair that "our cousins (the Jews) do not want peace."
My sincere and deep conviction is that the first prerequisite for peace is ending the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and also Gaza, where - by the way - Israel still controls the borders.
Sir, - President Bush has made very bold, even brash demands of Israel - such as his call "for an end to the occupation" - but his credibility must be measured against US successes and failures in Iraq and Afghanistan. From that viewpoint, I think more humility is in order.
Notice that a lot of the hype about bringing democracy to "ordinary Moms and Dads" has vanished after all the disappointments from those chaotic countries. The sharp edge of Mideast realities has a way of bursting bubbles.
Many good Americans have died as a result of well-intentioned but naive policy. Let's not repeat the same mistakes with Israel.
Sir, - Fali Braun (Letters, January 8) wondered what Avigdor Lieberman would have to say about releasing Marwan Barghouti in an exchange if it were his kid being held captive by Palestinian terrorists. I wonder how Braun would feel about the exchange if Braun's kid (or parent or spouse) was among the 31 people murdered by Barghouti.
Braun quotes Halacha selectively in pointing out the importance of redeeming captives.
Our sages did, indeed, teach that "nothing is greater than saving human lives" - which is why they cautioned against paying a ransom for the release of a captive if it would lead to more Jews being captured.
I have little doubt that had we not released thousands of terrorists in previous lopsided prisoner exchanges, Gilad Schalit and others would not have been kidnapped. Any exchange now, especially one including Barghouti, will make other kidnappings inevitable.
The choice is a heartbreaking one, and as a father of soldiers, I don't argue lightly against an exchange.