letters to the editor.
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Fair pay's enemy
Sir - In "We need unity more than a strike" (March 15), high school teacher David Graniewitz bemoans the ineffectiveness of the teachers' strike while having "no doubts" as to its justification. He claims that teachers are overworked and underpaid; that may very well be the case. But his belief in his right to better conditions, on the one hand, and his desire for more unity among the unions, on the other, are incompatible. In fact, the teachers' union is the worst enemy of what Mr. Graniewitz purports to want: fair pay for teachers.
In the real world (read: the private sector), employees get paid based on their ability. The effective ones tend to make more money, while the weaker ones make less. And that is fair.
The teachers' union, on the other hand, represents all teachers equally, good and bad alike. It wants teachers to make more money; but it wants the good ones and the bad ones to make the same. They can't have it both ways. If bad teachers get the same salary as good ones, then there's less money for all. If the good teachers want to be compensated fairly, the way to do that is to compensate them at the expense of the poorer ones.
So which does Mr. Graniewitz want? A fair salary for the good teachers - or a low salary for all? You can't have your cake and eat it, too. But that's exactly what Mr. Graniewitz's beloved teachers' union has always demanded.
Sir, - Under the headline "Still waiting for Washington" (March 14) Daoud Kuttab writes that "Gaza continues to be a source of worry among Palestinians." But he makes no mention of rocket-firing from there, nor of putative suicide bombers, going on instead to blame Washington.
The Palestinians always blame somebody else. Gaza has been "a source of worry" to the world for 50 years and more. In 1967, in 1973-4, and again when Anwar Sadat negotiated a peace treaty with Israel, Egypt refused to take back Gaza. Its attitude, wholly justified, amounted to: You've got those madmen -you can keep them!
Israel's withdrawal from Gaza exposed the reality to all the world: Its inhabitants are incapable of self-government or, apparently, of living like civilized people. Proportionate to population numbers, they have the largest security forces in the world, yet claim to be incapable of preventing rockets being fired at civilian targets in Israel, or tons of explosives being smuggled into their territory.
Why give this man a platform for his half-truths?
Sir, - On an Irish radio station recently I heard the European Union's "head of press" remark that in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute support for the Palestinians was "natural" because of their status of "underdogs."
This sloppy analysis and commentary came from an official spokesperson for the world's largest political and economic bloc.
Let us hope that the EU's policy-makers take a more sophisticated approach to the issue than their head of press.
Sir, - I have a nice story to tell. After four years of studies in military school and three in the Israeli navy, my view of the Arab world changed.
Almost three years ago I left Israel to study naval architecture in one of the best universities in the world, in Canada. I had been concerned about being in a minority - and on my first day I realized that I was the only Israeli among many students from Jordan, Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, the PA, Iran and Libya.
Still, I wondered whether this was my chance to show that, together, perhaps we could bring about some change in attitudes. I never thought those students from the Middle East would accept me as their "brother" - a term that to me is worth more than gold - yet they treated me in a way I wish people in Israel and the PA would take as an example.
This is my recipe for friendship across divides: no political speeches or sarcasm; spending lots of time together; and organizing special events.
Last week my Arab friends had a party in their house with flags representing each person's nationality. Many Canadian students arrived to party with us. It showed that we can live together and not bother each other.
What's in a name?
Sir - Problems surrounding the names used by our ancestors, as pointed out by Azriel Heuman in "Jewish genealogy" (Letters, March 15), will be found in a variety of forms by Jewish family genealogists.
My wife's great-grandfather was born in 1810 in Yuruslav, Western Galicia, now Poland. Out of meekness he would not sign his name with the title "Rabbi" or "Av Beth Din," but simply as "the one who settled here." Nor did he sign as Knebil or Knobil, the surname the family had taken, but only in his native city. This in spite of the fact that the Jews of Galicia had been ordered to adopt fixed family names in 1788. Although this was done as part of the emperor's plans to westernize Austrian Jewry, it was used by state officials to force degrading animal names on poor Jews who could not afford the extortionist prices for desirable names.
Sir, - The National Insurance Institute's Counselling to the Elderly advertises daily on the IBA English News, saying it has a hot line to assist senior citizens and their families; all one has to do to obtain advice is telephone the number given. On doing so one will be assisted by "a skilled and trained crew."
What we are not told is that you will be greeted by a recorded voice, which asks for your town of residence, then passes you on to another recorded voice, which asks for your name and telephone number and informs you that "you will be contacted soon."
Four days later, I am still waiting. This is a hot line?