Better safe than sorry
Sir, - Larry Derfner wrote: "Arabs and gentiles... are at least 99.9999% guaranteed not to be hijackers or bombers" ("Stereotyping security," Cover Story, March 23). But no small part of that is the result of our well-known security measures. If they were relaxed, we might lose those last three nines. While 99.9% is also pretty secure, I cannot see anyone considering one lost airliner out of 1,000 acceptable.
I am sorry Rania Jubran is offended by the measures taken to verify her identity. Many false alarms, be they suspicious objects or praying imams, are designed to test the reaction of the security people. If they don't make sure she is who she says she is, there will be many false Rania Jubrans. It would take only one to prompt a national investigation into why an airliner was blown out of the sky.
Sir, - Larry Derfner quotes a Dr. Rajani who feels "cursed by God just because of [my] name," when Arab Israelis are searched thoroughly at Israel's airports. It is not the name but the people the doctor was born belonging to that causes his inconvenience. And mine too: Why must I and my family be surrounded by security guards at hotels, synagogues and airports around the world, to protect me from his brothers' bombs and shoulder-fired missiles?
Sir, - The cases of solid and loyal Israeli Arab citizens undergoing unnecessary ill-treatment during security checks are unfortunate, to say the least, and one would expect that a more sympathetic attitude would be required of the security staff. On the other hand, the article rightly pointed out the unparalleled security record of Ben-Gurion Airport and attributes this, correctly, to the multiplicity of the checks that do not rely on one method alone.
The problem with technological devices is that however sophisticated their design, they embody a degree of inflexibility, which can be bypassed. On the other hand, checking by human inspectors necessarily involves the variability of human nature, from person to person and from hour to hour in the same person. I think it was Emerson who said that instinct should be trusted, even though it sometimes leads in the wrong direction.
It is impossible to assess each traveler by the same criteria. There is no escape from some form of profiling, and ethnic or national origin is not only the easiest, it has an excellent record. All in all, better safe than sorry.
Sir, - Security supersedes racial profiling. I have flown back from the States with the passengers having to form two lines, men and women, one by one, standing with hands spread apart, etc. I am not the only one who pictured the Holocaust. Yet I thank the security personnel if they pull me aside and double-check my suitcase, escort me to a private room to check under my hat, etc. These are the times we live in, and we have to respond accordingly.
Sir, - As the father of a soldier still missing in action after the first Lebanon War in 1982, it has been my lot to travel by air to many places not usually visited by Israelis. My US passport has enabled me to have important meetings in many Arab cities.
Arab Israeli citizens are entitled to courtesy, as are Palestinians who use our airports. If we treated them half as cruelly as their Arab brethren do, the whole world would be down upon us. I have been witness to callousness that would be unthinkable here. Yet there is no complaint, no outcry, because their situation would only get worse.
Let us not forget that it was the Arab terrorists who forced new ground rules on the whole world. When my wife and I travel today we are given "special" treatment because our tickets were issued in the Middle East. We have been subjected to stereotyping involving the most personal inspection because of this. We understand that it is necessary, and endure it with understanding. In an ideal world there would be no need for security checks.
The Arabs must realize that there is no free lunch. If they use the terror tool, all of them must pay the price. Unfortunately, we are paying it too.
Global warming is real
Sir, - Saul Singer's op-ed "Good or green?" (March 16) on climate change, based on a recent movie, raises doubt about the possibility of climate change induced by industrial production of greenhouse gases, and its possible impacts on society. We live in one of the hottest areas on earth so these conclusions would be good news, if they weren't wrong.
After watching the movie, Mr. Singer repeats three main arguments: 1. Past warming preceded rises in carbon dioxide. 2. Carbon dioxide is only a small fraction of the atmosphere, so it should have only a minimal impact on surface temperatures; and 3. Climate warming in the last 40 years might be explained by changes in the magnitude of sunlight reaching the earth's surface. All these arguments have an element of truth, but they are irrelevant to the argument of whether greenhouse gases will cause global warming.
For instance, the so-called greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane and water vapor) do indeed make up only a small fraction of the earth's atmosphere. However, they account for most of the absorption of longwave radiation emitted by the earth's surface. The earth's surface emits longwave radiation after being heated by sunlight. Without these gases, this energy would escape to space and the earth would feel like a person without a blanket on a winter day: The effect of the greenhouse gases is to raise the average surface temperature about 35 C above what it would otherwise be (from a frigid -21 C to a comfortable +14 C).
It may indeed be true that in the past there were times when changes in carbon dioxide gas rose in response to increases in the earth's temperature. Such an argument, though, does not preclude the opposite: Increases in greenhouse gases will further reduce the emission of longwave radiation to space, raising surface temperatures well above a comfortable 14 C. Moreover, my own article, to be published soon in the Journal of Climate, suggests that the predictions we have until now may actually even underestimate global warming.
The air is cleaner and more sunlight is reaching the ground - at least in some locations. Yet as carbon dioxide levels rise, their impact on surface temperature will only compound the possible warming induced by cleaning the air.
I always appreciate Saul Singer's astute analysis of the global jihad phenomenon. It was a mistake, though, to write as an "expert" about the science of global warming - especially based on a movie.
Sir, - Barbara Sofer's column is always about varied and thought-provoking topics. "A bus is not a synagogue" (March 16) affects me personally. A few years ago you published my letter complaining about the danger of entering buses by the rear door - the doors started to close as I climbed the steps, and it was very frightening. Since then I have insisted on entering the older buses at the front.
...and sitting apart
Sir, - I have trouble with Barbara Sofer's theory. If, as the experts suggest, men have sex on their minds once a minute, why would I want to sit near them on a bus? Ms Sofer maintains men can learn self-control - all well and good, but knowing that this is a learned rather than a natural state of being is not very reassuring to this happily married woman long off the market.
I don't agree that sitting near men on a bus is a feminist position, especially when men are asking women not to. Rather, I think women who do are quite foolish and must be in need of the attention they are likely to encourage.