letters to the editor 88.
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Sir, - "Olmert speech: Old wine, new bottle" (November 28) is precisely the state of affairs that has prevailed for the greater life of modern Israel. For Ehud Olmert to memorialize Ben-Gurion while expressing his willingness to give away Israel's birthright is sheer hypocrisy.
Ben-Gurion considered the pragmatism of concessions, but made clear that the Land of Israel belonged to the Jewish people.
When one cannot discern an enemy from a friend, should one qualify for leadership? But, then, this is the failure of a "democracy" that is merely a prop for self-proclaimed elitists.
The real difference
Sir, - You quoted sources saying that freeing Gilad Shalit is a tougher request than a cease-fire because it involves approval from Hamas in Damascus. I think the real difference is that you can claim to be observing a cease-fire while actually violating it, but you can't claim to have returned a captive while still holding him ("Sides work on extending cease-fire to West Bank," November 28).
MARK L. LEVINSON
Sir, - Ehud Olmert says Israel will release prisoners and withdraw from settlements if Palestinians abandon violence. In other words, Israel is asking Muslims to abandon jihad, a basic tenet of their faith.
A tall order, indeed.
Sir, - The peacemakers are here again. How many times can we buy the same bill of goods? The buyers change, but the price is always paid, by the same people.
Sir, - How can you deal with the Palestinians when they have two mob bosses? It is a well-known fact that they do not keep their promises and do break their treaties. They have already had too many chances to mend their ways, but constantly demonstrate they are not trustworthy. Keep them under sanctions, and restrict their entry into Israel.
Surely he jests
Sir, - Daoud Kuttab must be joking in "Honor the agreement you signed" (November 27). No one aware of the current situation in Gaza and the West Bank could truly believe that Israel should allow potential terrorists to roam our country unchecked. The Palestinians have done nothing to help their own situation and, as usual, blame everyone but themselves.
New Jersey/Ma'aleh Adumim
Denser than Gaza
Sir, - I must point out a common misconception. In "Israel signals to Hamas it wants a cease-fire" (November 24) an Israeli government official called Gaza "the most densely populated area in the world." It is not. The statistics below disprove that statement, which the Palestinians use as a valuable tool in their propaganda kit.
Example: Hudson County, New Jersey, has a population density 18% higher than Gaza's, yet is never described as one of the most densely populated places. Why does Israel consistently take the Palestinians' population figures as factual, when prominent Israeli (and other) demographers have published much lower numbers?
Gaza Strip: 1.4 million residents on 360 km2 = 3,900 persons/km2.
Manhattan (New York):
1.5 million on 57/km2 = 26,978/km2
Hong Kong Administrative Region, China: 6.9 million residents on 1,103 km2 = 6,206/km2
Taipei, Taiwan: 2.6 million residents on 272 km2 = 9,660/km2
Mumbai, India: 17.5 million residents on 438 km2 = 28,800/km2
Singapore: 4.4 million residents on 693 km2 = 6,400/km2
These figures are available on www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/ and other Web sites.
Sir, - My theory that Lewis Carroll was a time traveler who based Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass on observations of the modern state of Israel has received a boost in recent days with the strongly-bruited rumor of Ehud Barak's imminent appointment to the post of defense minister ("Forget politics, do your jobs," Editorial, November 24).
This is the man who engineered the notorious midnight flight of the IDF from Lebanon in May 2000, fueling the Arab belief that Israel could be defeated militarily and thereby inviting the September 2000 intifada outbreak, leading to the shameful 2005 retreat from Gaza, which left the citizens of Sderot exposed to foreseeable danger.
It beggars the imagination that such an appointment could be seriously entertained. What have we done to deserve this?
It makes me mad
Sir, - I am increasingly irritated by the bad faith of people who call Israel a colonial power. A simple question I would like to ask all those who think that Jews in Israel are no more than an anachronistic example of Western imperialism:
Did the British, when their first 19th-century archeologists started digging in India, find 2,000-year-old parchments and stones inscribed in English? Did the French digging in Algeria find any in French? Did the Spaniards digging in South America find any in Spanish? ("South African Jewish weekly in eye of storm," November 23).
Sir, - Simon Williams's desire for Jewish unity is laudable ("Let's get beyond name-calling," November 23). Unfortunately, it is not well served by the double standard implicit in his position, which appears totally lost on him.
His assertion, "[When] you force respect of your beliefs, you belittle yourself - religious folk would have gained an awful lot more respect" had they not "coerce[d] their standards on neighboring communities" might have carried more weight had it not appeared in a piece praising a Supreme Court decision that is, like many others in what is increasingly the court's specialty, nothing more than the forcing by an insular minority of a subjective social standard onto a larger population.
Williams's opinion that "the rest of Israel... supports freedom of choice" needs substantiation if it is to be taken as more than mere rhetoric. At the very least, it should be tested and proven at the ballot box rather than assumed by the elite few who wear the robes.
The court would do the cause of Jewish unity a great service by retreating from its imperial impulses in the legislative sphere and leaving questions of great social consequence to the will of the people.
And the people would do the cause of Jewish unity a great service were they to realize that Jewish unity - indeed, Jewish existence as a people - is irrelevant unless anchored by the Torah and acceptance (if not observance) of its commandments, which have been solely responsible for sustaining us through more than 3,000 years.
Praise the peacock
Sir, - Ury Eppstein's review of Gluck's Armide expressed my own sentiments ("An opera enhanced by its special effects," November 28). However, he neglected to praise the "peacock."
I attended last Friday's matinee and was enchanted by this skilled performer's ability to turn himself into that elegant and curious bird.
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