March 1: Peculiar medicine

If, in the UK, one raises the possibility that an anti-Israel commentator might just be a bit anti-Semitic, one is likely to face an action for libel.

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February 28, 2009 22:11
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Peculiar medicine Sir, - "'British Medical Journal' complains of 'obscene' attacks by pro-Israel lobby in e-mail campaigns" (February 25) referred to the now-defunct World Medicine, which I used to receive regularly. We did not have to pay for the journal. When this is the case, the publication is usually a vehicle for drug advertisement. It was an amusing rather than informative magazine. I took strong exception to the article attacking Menachem Begin when it appeared, and wrote a rebuttal and sent it to the editor, Michael O'Donnell, who predictably ignored it. I was acting as an individual and would regard any assertion that I was acting on behalf of an organization or lobby group as libelous. I suggest that the demise of the journal was because of cost-cutting by the firms who advertised, and consider the accusation that a pro-Israel campaign "led to the dismissal of Michael O'Donnell as editor and closure of the magazine" to be a more sophisticated version of "the Jews control everything" conspiracy theory. I have complained to the British Medical Journal in the past concerning its inclusion of political articles and advised the editors to confine their material to medical matters, which would free more pages for medical articles it rejects for lack of space. This is important since much of the anti-Israel material is not evidence-based. In conformity with current practice, I submitted an article for its Personal View column, in response to anti-Israel material - but the journal could not find room for it! Finally, the subject of free speech. If, in the UK, one raises the possibility that an anti-Israel commentator might just be a teensy-weensy little bit anti-Semitic, one is likely to face an action for libel. Is that not an interference with free speech? ALBERT JACOB Beersheba Icon of tolerance Sir, - "Provoking anti-Semitism" (February 26), in which Larry Derfner labels one of our new leaders a fascist, proves we in Israel value free speech. But a fascist is a dictator with complete power to suppress opposition and criticism. This op-ed omits manifold facts about Gaza's violent transformation from a self-supporting agricultural export community into a terrorist attack base - yet may Mr. Derfner long serve as a useful example of our tolerance. ESTER ZEITLIN Jerusalem Problems - where? Sir, - Rafael Medoff criticizes Roger Cohen's New York Times op-ed piece for its pollyannaish view of Iran's Jewish minority ("Don't turn Iran's Jews into a political football," February 26). Cohen appears to be following in the footsteps of former New York Times Moscow bureau chief Walter Duranty, who denied the existence of a famine in the Ukraine in the 1930s and took Stalin's show trials at face value. Duranty won a Pulitzer Prize for telling people what they wanted to believe, rather than the unpleasant truth. DAVID KATCOFF Jericho, Vermont Shouting 'red lines' to sleeping consciences Sir, - In his reply to Caroline Glick's "Obama's Durban Gambit" ("Assessing Durban," Letters, February 24) David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, claims to have played a central role by having "publicly praised France and the Netherlands, among other countries, for insisting on clear red lines and threatening to withdrawif they are breached." Unfortunately, it is quite true that the AJC has been publicly visible on numerous occasions in the context of various European structures, governmental and others, in connection with Durban II. The AJC has repeatedly supported the participation of European governments in the Durban review process. This infiltration of the AJC in Europe has had negative effects on individuals and organizations in Europe who have attempted to condemn the capitulation of their own governments throughout the Durban process and the spectacle of European governments seeking consensus at any price, however costly for our democracies. Well before President Obama's election, the moral support of a large organization such as the AJC gave European governments the cover of good behavior. For example, the AJC gave President Sarkozy its "Light unto the Nations" award. France, then sure of AJC's friendship for its president, launched the now-famous concept of deciding Durban II participation on the basis of whether the process crossed so-called "red lines." But these red lines were never precisely defined by France or by Europe; they purposely evolve as negotiations continue. Today, Mr. Harris and various European governments seem to believe it sufficient to shout "red lines"and threaten to leave in order to influence negotiations. In practice, they are fully aware that throughout the Durban II negotiations this has not worked even once. By affirming that France is still talking in the abstract about red lines - that have surely been crossed - the AJC camouflages the reality of a grave situation. The AJC's paternalistic attitude toward European Jewish communities has had the dangerous consequence of helping to lull European consciences to sleep, while Munich-like appeasement grows stronger with each passing day. BERNICE DUBOIS MALKA MARCOVICH Paris Dubois is co-founder of French Coordination for the European Women's Lobby (CLEF) and of the European Council of WIZO Federations (ECWF). Marcovich, a historian and human rights consultant, is the author of 'DisUnited Nations: How the UN Buries Human Rights.' Aiming to win Sir, - Re "William Howe echoes down the ages" (February 26): Thanks to Evelyn Gordon for reminding us that victory is still an option in our war with the PA and Hamas. GERRY MANDELL Omer A winner, on & off the court Sir, - In the Shahar Pe'er visa affair, Andy Roddick put his money where his mouth is. Venus Williams did not ("Roddick steps up by stepping down from competition," Allon Sinai, Sports, February 25.) STANLEY LAWSON Jerusalem Bridge to nowhere Sir, - Reading David Brinn's "Heeere's Sandy," (UpFront, February 20) about Sandra Bernhard was in many ways like being forced to watch a train heading for a bridge that isn't there. We are suddenly being invited to share Ms. Bernhard's crude and violent sexual fantasies about dealing with female politicians with whom she does not agree. We learn more about her personal life than some of us would care to know. To make matters worse, we are asked to take seriously a discussion of "her dedication to the study of Kabbala" and her criticism of its "pop culturization," although she seems unaware of the all-too-obvious irony of her remarks. No doubt, Ms. Bernhard is one of the funniest patients in the asylum, but we needn't confuse her with any of the doctors and ask her to prescribe medication for the rest of us. Nor should we feel required to join her in her private version of Bedlam - even for extended visiting hours. FRED CASDEN Ma'aleh Adumim Bless you Sir, - E.M. Hammer's story about his 35th birthday in Israel brought tears to my eyes ("When I came home," February 25). Bless him for putting his experience as a schoolteacher here in writing - and thank you, Jerusalem Post, for publishing it. HARAN FAINSTEIN Rehovot

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