May 28: Rejecting reality

Gershon Baskin has written yet another beautifully constructed piece of prose, but please tell me how many elected Israeli prime ministers have PhDs in Holocaust denial?

May 27, 2013 23:02

Letters 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Handout )

Demand transparency

Sir, – If – as Chairman of the Claims Conference Julius Berman asserts – Germany bore the entire cost of the fraud of $57 million committed by Claims Conference employees, how does he explain the fact that there are a vast number of Holocaust survivors in Israel, the US and elsewhere who are nonetheless living in severely impoverished circumstances (“After botched probe, Claims Conference head addresses accountability,” May 24)? Everybody in the Jewish world should be concerned in ensuring that for the first time in its history there is both transparency and accountability in the workings and finances of the Claims Conference.

That The Jerusalem Post, on the same day, reports that members of the US Congress have introduced legislation to improve care for the estimated 120,000 Holocaust survivors living in the US should be a wake up call for Congress to also demand transparency of Claims Conference finances now.



Sir, – Julius Berman and his cronies sit atop billions in undisbursed funds at the Claims Conference (“Berman to ‘Post’: Claims Conference senior staff unaware of fraud until 2009,” May 23).

They must enjoy the convenient smokescreen of a mere $50 million embezzlement by their own employees. Indeed, the real embezzlement is the fact that Berman will not release the hundreds of millions that, as The Jerusalem Post reports, are there “to secure restitution for Holocaust survivors and their heirs from the German government.”

As the son of two disabled, nearly impecunious 90-year-old survivors, I can attest to the fact that there is virtually no funding available for those in dire need of aid. The Claims Conference knows very well who every single living survivor is, as there are only a handful left. It could easily take care of all of them properly, with hundreds of millions still left to be embezzled by its executives.

Instead, any survivor in need must go hat-in-hand and beg one of the myriad social service agencies that are contracted by the Claims Conference for this purpose. The lucky ones will be summoned for a grilling by a bureaucratic sinecure before being served a blizzard of forms that would confuse Berman himself.

Assuming the survivor manages to get the forms completed, the social services agency will inform them that there are no funds available. Survivors who have already been getting help are often told that their allocations are being cut back owing to lack of funding from the Claims Conference.

Berman and his gang should be criminally prosecuted for violating the very raison d’etre of the Claims Conference. They sit safely in plush Park Avenue offices, inured to the rabble outside, while running circles around government investigators.



Full facts

Sir – The Jerusalem Post reported last week that a group of South African tourists had been advised by their tour guide to cover the word Israel on their caps whilst touring the Old City out of fear of offending the Palestinians (“Just don’t do it,” May 24).

I was so incensed by this report that I personally contacted Pastor Steyn of Menorah Tours, who assured me that he had had no knowledge of it until he was contacted by a Jerusalem Post reporter and the Tourism Ministry.

Pastor Steyn assured me that all his life he has been pro-Israel and supportive of different welfare organizations in the country, adding that unlike the previous 140 tours of Israel that his company has arranged, he was unable to join this one for health reasons, but that he intends to take the incident up with the guide in question.

It was clear by Steyn’s reply that he has a great love of Israel and the Jewish people and it is a shame that The Jerusalem Post could not have given the full facts instead of damaging the image of someone who is clearly a friend of ours.


Beit Shemesh

Rejecting reality

Sir, – That Gershon Baskin continues to level blame on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for the failure to revive peace talks is not surprising (“Who is not a peace partner?” Encountering Peace, Comment and Features, May 23).

However, his statement that our prime minister has refused to meet with PA Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas is patently false. Both during his previous term as prime minister and during the current term, Netanyahu has repeatedly stated that he is prepared to meet Abbas at any time for peace talks, in Jerusalem or in Ramallah, or abroad, but without preconditions.

Now that Baskin recommends that Palestinians should come to the negotiation table without preconditions of any kind, maybe he should convey this recommendation to his confidante, Abbas, reminding him of Netanyahu’s repeated offer.

While Baskin states that it will be inexcusable for Netanyahu to waste another four years, it is, in fact, much more inexcusable for Abbas to do just this.

el Mond

Sir, – Gershon Baskin has written yet another beautifully constructed piece of prose, but please tell me how many elected Israeli prime ministers have PhDs in Holocaust denial? How many Israeli education ministers ensure their schools’ curricula show no Arab states as neighbors and call for the destruction of all Muslims, Arabs and Palestinians? What happened in London last week was real. What is happening in Stockholm is real – why does Baskin reject reality?



Operatic offense

Sir, – In Ury Eppstein’s review of La Traviata, he left out what we considered a cheapening of the last act of the opera (“Stereotypical realism in ‘La Traviata,’” Opera Review, May 23).

It was the scene before Violetta’s death scene, where she attended Flora’s “baccanale” party, clearly staged as an orgy.

Three so-called “Spanish” dancers arrived clothed in long capes, which they then threw off to dance bare breasted around the stage.

We are not prudes by any means, but the whole scene cheapened the opera and was totally unnecessary and pointless.

This is a beautiful opera which does not need nudity. We expect more from a director of the Israel Opera productions.


Logic and vision

Sir, – Kudos to Ari Briggs for his well-reasoned and candid analysis of the EU recommendation for its 27 member states to “prevent” Israeli activity in Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights, and for his comments about the BDS movement (“Et tu, EU? No Dutch treat here,” Comment and Features, May 22).

My admiration also extends to his revelation of the discriminating approach and double standard of those who choose to boycott Israel rather than China and Turkey – who have forcefully occupied areas and persecuted their peoples. Bravo also to the Dutch Parliament who listened to his voice of reason and decided to remove the labeling laws from its agenda, at least for now.

My hope is that more moral and enlightened people will listen to the logic and clear vision of Mr. Briggs and that he can persuade the nations and peoples of the world who seek to undermine the Jewish nation as a whole – and Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights in particular – to reconsider.


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