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Loss of balance, me thinks
Sir, - It seems to me that in "Checkpoint country" (Cover story, September 7) Larry Derfner allowed his own personal feelings to distort what might have been a balanced appraisal of a very difficult situation. I would like to draw your attention to two separate sections of the article:
1. "We saw no soldier raise a hand or verbally abuse anyone." He then goes on to add, "However, this might have had something to do with the presence of the women from Machsom Watch." The seeming implication is that our soldiers have no integrity and no pride in their work, and are waiting for any and every chance to beat up Palestinians.
My own personal experience in the army medical corps proved to me that even in time of war wounded Arab soldiers received the same medical treatment as our own soldiers.
2. "If the border police catch me they beat me and then they make me sign a paper saying I wasn't beaten." Printing this unsubstantiated statement gives the impression that the incident really took place. Why should we believe this man, who may have his own agenda to pursue? If this incident really did occur, a complaint should be filed and suitable action taken.
Why was Mr. Derfner so ready to accept the statement without hard proof?
I am afraid if I was Mr. Derfner's journalism teacher, I would have to give him a failing grade for this article.
Sir, - As a mother whose daughter serves in the IDF at a checkpoint near Ramallah, doing onerous, difficult shifts - day and night - I found Larry Derfner's article insulting to our children's sacrifice to secure this country.
Not only has she herself and others in her unit found guns, knives, explosives and other devices of destruction, she has helped in the very humanitarian expediting of those who are trapped by this system, created by the Palestinians themselves during intifadas I & II.
She grew up during the last intifada and saw the very real results of terror by visiting with us, at Beit Loewenstein in Ra'anana, those injured at Netanya's Park Hotel and Jerusalem's Moment Cafe, during the Defensive Shield operation and other incidents. She understands all too well what the price would be if there were no checkpoints.
Mr. Derfner himself admits that there were some 199 terrorist weapons discovered at checkpoints within a period of six months. Does he not understand that these were terrorist incidents not allowed to happen by our brave children, who are spat at and insulted on a daily basis by people who wholeheartedly wish them and us dead?
He states that the army has statistics on how many weapons were found, and then says, "but there are no statistics on how many Palestinians became terrorists-in-the-making because of their daily ordeals." Believe me, Mr. Derfner, their culture inculcates in them a feeling of pride in terrorism. We have only to look at Hamas's "Terror Mouse" knock-off to understand how deeply this feeling is rooted, and at how early an age.
Are people around the world "insulted and humiliated" by the airlines' asking them to go through security? I think not.
Grow up and let the scales drop from your eyes, Mr. Derfner. I have no pity for what this people has chosen, over and over again: stupidity and terrorism and war.
Sir, - Larry Derfner writes: "Over 99% of the people whose lives are hamstrung by the checkpoints are unarmed civilians, not terrorists." Let's see if we can understand the implications of this statistic.
Let's say that the checkpoint at Beit Furik opens for business at 7 a.m. and there is already a long line of Palestinians waiting to be checked through. If Derfner's statistics are correct and you have a total of, say, 550 people passing through the checkpoint, you would expect to find at least five hardened terrorists - less than 1% - in this group; it is up to the soldiers to detect these people and stop them before they can cause damage.
I cannot even imagine what a difficult job it must be to detect these people. It takes time and courage to complete this task when the soldiers themselves are in mortal danger. Their job is certainly complicated by outsiders standing over them and monitoring everything they say and do. They must also put up with harassment by some of the people waiting to cross the barrier.
It should be noted that the very same Palestinians who complain bitterly about the checkpoints are the same people who voted the terrorists into power.
Democracy has a price to pay. If you vote terrorists in, you are stuck with them till the next election.
Sir, - Israelis are generally decent people and try desperately to prevent terror in the most humane way possible, where uncounted others would have been carpet-bombing the terror-concentrations indiscriminately.
LEA DE LANGE
The more things change...
Sir, - I find it suspicious that among all the prevailing proposals for so-called electoral reform, the common element is a stronger hold on the Knesset by the same large parties that have continually disappointed their voters.
While purporting to correct the system, schemes to keep small parties from reaching the Knesset - whether by splintering their voters into geographical districts, by disregarding their existence when the prime minister is chosen, or by simply raising the electoral threshold - prevent the entry of new voices into the Knesset from outside the establishment and ensure that the only route to the Knesset is well guarded by the present, woefully corrupt holders of power.
Those who expect such reforms to produce clean government by popular demand are in for a disappointment. Given a choice between Mister Left and Mister Right, which is all we are likely to get once the small parties are squeezed out, most Israelis will not betray their own ideologies just to vote for the candidate with a cleaner record ("Power to the people," Gil Hoffman, September 7).
MARK L. LEVINSON
Goy of Judaism
Sir, - "The Joy of Judaism" (Sam Ser, August 31) may perhaps be more appropriately named "The Goy of Judaism." As sincere as Machon Miriam and similar institutes for prospective converts might be, they do little else but contribute to the growing bastardization of Israel.
Suddenly, from out of the woodwork in the jungles of Burma, the Amazon and the mountain regions of India, natives are "discovering" an alleged connection to the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. Those who never saw a Jew, who never heard a Hebrew word, have learned that connecting to the Jewish people permits aliya and, ergo, a nice apartment, tax-free purchases, health and insurance benefits and the whole basket of goodies that comes with being an oleh. Welcome to Israel, where life is free.
Why do we encourage such aliya? Is it because politically we need to import bodies for our dwindling army, substitutes for our native-born Jewish draft-dodgers? Are we so spiritually and physically impoverished that we have to invent new Jews?
When I walk in the city park of my home, Rishon Lezion, it disgusts me to see so many babushkas - Russian-speaking grannies - pushing baby-carriages with crosses dangling from chains about their necks. It angers me to stand in line at the supermarket whose Ethiopian cashier has a cross branded on her forehead.
Is it because normative Jews from Western countries have a better lifestyle abroad and do not opt for aliya that our Interior Ministry, Jewish Agency and the well-meaning Michael Freunds of our society have to search the jungles of Asia, the dark places of Africa and the dregs of mother Russia to find a Jew to be settled in Eretz Yisrael?
Jesus will save the Christians - but who, in God's Name, will save the Jews?