(photo credit: Courtesy)
Wine and dime
Sir, - Re "Herzog's first job - to provide needy with food for Pessah" (March 23): If the Welfare and Social Services Ministry has a "lack of resources" and "limited budgets" why was there wine on the table for a staff meeting, as seen in the accompanying photo?
Raising the stakes
Sir, - Re "Iran: British sailors 'bargaining chips'" (On-Line Edition, March 24): Raising the stakes, Saudi Arabia could threaten to dramatically lower the price of oil, which would wreck Iran's economy and foment the ousting of volatile Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The mere threat by the Sunni oil sheikhs would do more to secure the sailors' release from the hands of the Shi'ite clerics than waves of cruise missiles.
Sir, - The question has to be asked: Why do the Iranians permit smuggling into and out of their country? Because there is a reason why those British sailors were where they were before they were seized.
DAVID W. LINCOLN
Sir, - Norway will enter the "hall of shame" for precipitating itself to recognize and resume relations with a government whose platform is the continuation of terror, non-recognition of Israel and and de-facto repudiation of the road map and the Oslo Agreement, which was sponsored by the Norwegian government.
While Foreign Minister Raymond Johansen was cozily chatting with Hamas's Ismail Haniyeh, not far away an Israel Electric Company employee inside Israel was shot and gravely wounded by a Gaza sniper near the Karni crossing. Hamas proudly claimed responsibility.
Johansen did not even bother to condemn the attack, nor did his new friends Haniyeh and Mahmoud Abbas.
Does the Norwegian government really think that Johansen's recommendations matter to Hamas? It has got what it wanted from Norway, and no window dressing will cover it ("Israel to boycott visitors who meet with Hamas," March 21).
Sir, - Many thanks to Alexander Zvielli for his excellent "quisling" article ("Norway's dash for Gaza," March 22). It could not be said better - except maybe just one more thing the Palestinians must do: Stop incitement, especially in the schoolbooks.
Who was cleansed?
Sir, - "Shared history, but a different conclusion" (March 25) noted that Ilan Pappe's recent book is titled The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. But how can Pappe argue that there has been an ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in Israel when there are a million Arabs living in Israel today? However, there has been a real ethnic cleansing in the Middle East - of Jews from Arab countries.
When I asked Dr. Pappe some time ago at a University of Haifa conference why he never speaks about the near-million Jews from Arab countries who were banished from their homeland wearing only the shirts on their backs, his answer was: The time has not yet come to speak about them.
Well, now that even the US Senate and House of Representatives has introduced important landmark resolutions recognizing rights for Jews from Arab countries as Middle East refugees, it is high time for the truth to become widely known.
The world has heard only about the injustice caused to Palestinian refugees, and almost nothing about the injustice caused to the Jews from Arab countries, mainly from Egypt, Iraq and Syria.
Whereas the Palestinian refugees numbered 650,000 in 1948, the Jewish refugees from Arab countries were 850,000, according to UNRWA statistics. The property they were forced to leave behind, both personal and communal, was much vaster than that which the Palestinians left behind in Israel (documented by the International Court at The Hague).
There was a virtual "ethnic cleansing" of Jews in Arab countries. Egyptian Jewry, for instance, numbered 100,000 in 1948; today there are only 38 Jews in the whole of Egypt.
Palestinians who learn these facts may become less intransigent, while the Jews from Arab countries and their descendants - who today account for almost half of Israel - may be more inclined to make concessions for peace if their long-neglected heritage and history are taken into account.
Too old to be bad?
Sir, - In providing data on the superior morality of post-Christian, secular European societies, Gwynne Dyer neglected to provide a true and complete social portrait of those societies, which he compares to "religious societies" ("God and good behavior," March 22).
Dyer's "superior" societies are societies of diminishing vitality, with zero or, in most cases, negative growth rates. As aging societies, their lower crimes rates are to be expected as they have a far smaller percentage of people in the age-cohort most prone to violence and criminal behavior.
By virtue of Torah
Sir, - "New governmental panel to examine restructuring conversion process" (March 25) ended: "70% said they felt the goal of conversion was to make them religious and not merely Jewish, and that this was the reason for their aversion to the process."
The problem is that Judaism is a religion and cannot be acquired merely by national identification. Maimonides defines the conversion process as a gentile wishing to enter into the covenant and dwell under the Shechina. He does not speak of someone wishing to join the Jewish nation.
In the immortal words of Saadia Gaon: "Our nation is a nation only by virtue of its Torah."
Doesn't ad up
Sir, - I was pleased to read M.M. Van Zuiden's letter ("Ad-Lib?," March 23) because it showed that I'm not the only "crazy" reader of your publication. When the "empty-pages" ad first appeared, my immediate reaction was that we had received a faulty copy of the newspaper. Upon realizing it was an advertising gimmick, I was not amused. What a waste of paper!
This ad must represent an inordinate amount of money, and I understand it is not illegal. But if I were buying a new car I would avoid that particular make - since the great expense of the ad must, without a doubt, be reflected in the price of the car.
For the record
Sir, - In "A woman hospital chief's work is never done" (March 25) I was astounded to see the claim that Dr. Orna Blondheim is "Israel's first and only female hospital director." Without detracting from her, of course, I would like to point out that I was appointed medical director of Alyn Hospital in 1984, and then director-general (CEO) in 1996. At the time it was indeed considered a milestone for Israel. To the best of my knowledge, I was the first female to be appointed to this position in Israel.
DR. S. MEYER
Director, Alyn Hospital
In "The Iranian-Saudi summit was a microcosm of Mideast contradictions" (March 21) by Mark Heller, the writer's affiliation is with the Institute for National Security Studies, and not as printed.