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Sir, - Some years ago, when the revolution in news reporting brought about by the changing technological landscape first started, a distinguished BBC war correspondent, Godfrey Talbot, wrote an article in London's Times pointing out the dangers of "instant news." The need to be the first, the desperate fight for "ratings" that leads to the distortion and trivialization of the news - I felt Talbot was so prophetic that I cut the article out and kept it.
Everything he predicted has come to pass. Inaccuracies, speculations, the public demand for a "show" and the need to condense everything into soundbites has led to the situation so clearly delineated in "The 'Times' they are a changin'," (March 12).
A recent lecturer on media studies whom I heard referred to modern news coverage as "a mile wide and an inch deep."
Asseret and London
...and the role of the eccentric
Sir, - Marshall McLuhan of "the medium is the message" fame also pertinently noted that we think we are observing the present, but are actually looking in the rear-view mirror (at what is past). Thus one could argue that Ruthie Blum Leibowitz's interview with Prof. Tamar Liebes-Plessner could be more accurately entitled "The 'Times' have changed."
On the other hand, Judy Montagu's essay "Lovable 'deviants'" (March 11) highlighted the phenomenon that it is the eccentrics who, as outsiders, can "see" what is going on in the here and now. The artistic, free-wheeling element combined with a disciplined sense of what is right - plus erudition and a sense of humor - characterized such eccentric yet responsible journalists as the late Alex Berlyne.
Indeed, the "Times" have changed. For today's responsible newspaper to survive - and survive it must because of the incompatibility between immediacy and thoughtfulness inherent in electronic journalism - it must recognize that it is now the eccentric medium, "the so few among the many" and the bearer of John Stuart Mill's "mark of liberty" in society.
MIRIAM L. GAVARIN
Occupation of the mind
Sir, - According to Yitzhak Halevy ("Yesh Din's aims," Letters, March 12), it is "hackneyed, obsolete and irrelevant" to assert that the West Bank is "not occupied" but "disputed territory." Many concepts today are hackneyed, obsolete and irrelevant - like the truth.
Israel's territorial rights after 1967 are best seen by contrasting them with Jordan's lack of such rights in Jerusalem and the West Bank after the Arab invasion of Palestine in 1948. Jordan's presence there was solely by virtue of her illegal entry in 1948. By contrast, Israel's presence in all these areas is entirely lawful since Israel entered them in self-defense.
International law forbids acquisition by unlawful force, but not where, as in the case of Israel's self-defense in 1967, entry to the territory was lawful - and in particular when the force was used to stop an aggressor; otherwise all potential aggressors would, ridiculously, be guaranteed the automatic return of their lost territory even if their aggression failed.
Jordan has relinquished all claims to these areas. There remains the claim of "the Palestinian people and their land (sic)."
The Jewish people have had a continuous millennial connection with Palestine. It was conquered by Arab arms in the 7th century; WWI was followed by the solemn recognition of Jewish self-determination rights, granted later by the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
The truth is that there is no "Israeli occupation." There is, however, an occupation of the world's mind by 40 years of propaganda.
Sir, - In writing "that Israel itself had no previous sovereignty over the [West Bank], thereby extending and establishing military rule to land beyond its own recognized boundaries," Yitzhak Halevy ignores the fact that neither did the Palestinians have any sovereignty. Moreover, Jews lived in the West Bank before being expelled in 1929 and 1947, and the previous border was not a recognized one that we could have been said to have trespassed. The Palestinians now claim otherwise for propaganda purposes.
He also writes that "almost half a million Israeli civilians ("settlers") have been transferred to [the West Bank]."
Most of the land settled by Israelis was uninhabited - by this definition, most of the world is "occupied"! Moreover, if the Palestinian people are an undeniable fact, why isn't there a Palestinian state in Gaza, or even in the West Bank? We offered one four times, but there was no one home to say yes.
Sir, - There is already a "two-state solution" insofar as Israel and Jordan both occupy the parcel of land known as Palestine (since 1916). It is therefore a "three-state solution" that is being sought, and it will never work.
As for Israel having encroached on Arab land: In 1920 The League of Nations designated all of Palestine as a Jewish National Home. So it is actually the Arabs who are occupying Jewish land.
Shamir and Biko
Sir - Daniel Pipes's "Netanyahu as prime minister - deja vu?" (March 11) was a realistic assessment of the prime minister-designate since it didn't meander on about the alleged faults of others but focused on the man and a short synopsis of previous leaders of his party.
In fact, in Netanyahu's move toward acceptance of a so-called two state solution, what is he offering over Kadima? At least Tzipi Livni is honest, even if she is naive.
Interestingly, Pipes drew attention to the one leader who practiced what he preached: Yitzhak Shamir. While Shamir caused US Jews to "quake in their boots," all their fears did not manifest themselves. Israel did not lose the $10 million in loan guarantees to settle Soviet Jewry.
Shamir, in his way, espoused a Jewish consciousness and dignity much as the South African leader Steven Biko did for his people. Both understood Rabbi Nachman of Breslav's "All the world is a narrow bridge - and the main thing is not to be afraid."
'Women not allowed'
Sir, - The personal testimony of "Oranit" in which she tells of being stopped from attending the burial of a relative is, unfortunately, not an isolated incident ("Preventing women from mourning," March 12).
Preventing women from expressing their spiritual needs happens all over the country, all the time, in cemeteries and in synagogues. I myself have suffered spiritual abuse at the hands of the the sexton of my own synagogue, who vociferously denies the right of mourning women to say Kaddish.
The fact that "Oranit" feels the need to disguise her identity attests to the seriousness of the issue.
The question is: What can be done about combating this phenomenon while the religious establishment is in the hands of extremists, who also happen to be male chauvinists, and whose salary is paid by the state?
Sir, - Given Israel's victory over Sweden in the Davis Cup, perhaps those violent Swedish youths ought to have been out practicing on the tennis courts rather than demonstrating in a futile cause. They might have learned some sportsmanship ("Apology, and a hope," Letters, March 9).