letters to the editor 88.
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'Maak' a plan
Sir, - Re "New Carter book decries Israeli 'apartheid'" (October 29).
Growing up in apartheid South Africa in the 1950s, I used to complain about racial segregation to my boere - white Afrikaans-speaking - friends. Their answer was: "A boer [farmer] maak a plan" meaning that white South Africa had to "make a plan" for its cultural and political survival and that plan was apartheid.
The title of former US president Jimmy Carter's new book - Palestine Peace Not Apartheid - creates in the reader's mind the impression that he has come to assume that the Jews of Israel, like the Boers of South Africa, are also now applying apartheid as a plan for their own cultural and political survival.
However, this is not the case at all and I for one am taken aback that a US president could make such a facile comparison, for indeed the Israeli plan for Jewish cultural and political survival stands apartheid on its head. Here the majority rules and not the minority. Moreover the Arab citizen minority holds full civic rights, cultural and political freedom.
The security fence is the exact opposite of apartheid for it is not constructed upon a color bar, but upon security considerations, no different from the one currently being built along the US-Mexican border.
Since Carter liked to identify as a farmer, I, as a farm girl myself, would like to take this opportunity to say to him, with all due respect: "Jy verstaan niks nie van apartheid" - you don't understand anything about apartheid, so please do not use the word in the title of your book.
Sir, - The article on human experimentation missed an opportunity ("Clinical trials & tribulations," Health, October 29).
Most of the examples of ethical transgressions quoted in the article occurred in other countries and at a time when current regulations (such as exist in this country since 1980) did not operate. One hopes and trusts that such egregious abuses do not occur anywhere where Declaration of Helsinki regulations are in force and, as such, quoting them only confuses the reader and blurs the issue.
And the issue is not the lack of regulations or regulatory bodies, but the conscious or unconscious failure to abide by the rules. Such alleged occurrences are very rare in Israel, where the vast majority of medical scientists are ethical and careful to protect their patients.
It is understandable but regrettable that the media and politicians have targeted medical research for one of their recurrent bouts of moral indignation. If either of these two professions came even close to physicians in their publicly perceived ethical standards, they might have something to contribute. As it is, we know better.
A new law is most definitely not needed, but proper supervision of the existing very comprehensive regulations is. Unfortunately there are no scoops or political points to be won in quiet methodical supervision. That is why the correct and effective thing will not be done but the melodramatic headline catching will be.
DR. ANTHONY LUDER
Helsinki Ethics Committee
Sir, - Your editorial "Basic or not?" (October 29) raises, well, basic questions.
Discussing the basic law relating to the presidency, you note the ease with which basic laws can be amended for political expediency, as we have too often seen.
This calls into question how basic laws are amended and how they come into being. It should be self-evident that basic laws require the support of at least a real majority (61) of the members of the Knesset to be enacted or amended.
I maintain that they require more - either a super-majority of, say, two-thirds of the elected members (80) or, better still, a referendum of the people, wherein a real majority of enrolled voters support the proposed basic law or amendment.
The latter would put constitutional power into the hands of the people, where sovereignty properly lies.
Moreover, there should also be provision for constitutional change to be initiated by the people.
There is a further, related matter of how any law is passed by the Knesset. The contemptuously small numbers of MKs that can make a law (that is often disregarded in practice) suggest that some respectable, minimum number of MKs participate before new legislation can be passed in the Knesset.
Such provisions, that deliberately exist in other democracies, should exist here too.
Sir, - We at AACI (Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel) were concerned by the article "Poll shows high rate of olim going back" (October 26). The article could have misled many of your readers, because while the poll in question was not described, it was oriented primarily to immigrants from the former Soviet Union.
The number of olim from North America that return to their home countries has historically been less than 20 percent. But we take pride in the fact that of the many new olim who come to AACI for post-aliya counseling and/or employment assistance, less than 1% are interested in returning to their countries of origin.
Vice president of operations, AACI
Sir, - We would like to take this opportunity to recommend Mahmoud Abbas for entry into the Guinness World Book of Records for having the ability to stretch his constant two-week threats and ultimatums regarding Hamas into month-long campaigns in which nothing is ever resolved ("Hamas has two weeks to form coalition with Fatah, Abbas says," October 29). Abbas's unending two-week scenarios should be spelled too weak.
JERRY AND SYLVIA DORTZ
Change in strategy
Sir, - Larry Derfner bemoans the lack of solutions to Israel's present malaise ("Misreading our malaise," October 26). The last Lebanon war has shown the inadequacy of a military option, while a political resolution is not in the offing, as there's no one with whom we can negotiate.
What is sorely lacking in his article is what got us into this position. Successive vital concessions, effectively unilateral, have made us appear as lacking resolve or purpose. Expending and equipping our armed forces to expel their fellow Jews from their homes and destroying Gush Katif have made us weaker physically, economically and morally.
Perhaps, if we were to reverse our strategy by strengthening our settlements, rejuvenating our Zionist spirit and better preparing our forces to defend ourselves against our enemies, our neighbors would conclude that it is in their best interest to achieve a resolution in which their needs, if not their aspirations, can be met while assuring our safety.