May 29: Free speech for BDS...

One should know that free speech in the Netherlands never played the role it does in the US.

May 29, 2016 21:24

Letters. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Free speech for BDS...

One should know that free speech in the Netherlands never played the role it does in the US.

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One is allowed to say what one wants as long as it doesn’t hurt others. (The second part is a clear restriction, not a mere afterthought.) This civility, however, has been undermined in recent decades, and oppressive remarks have become popular and tolerated in the Low Countries (“Dutch deal blow to Israel, declare BDS ‘free speech,’” May 27).

And there we have it. A senior Dutch cabinet minister dares to say that calling on others not to buy from Israeli Jews is free speech. How about “Don’t speak to, visit or buy from the Dutch.

They are anti-Semites.” Isn’t that also free speech?


You report that “20 Israeli academics encourage BDS, Im Tirtzu says” (May 27).

I am sure that many, like myself, are horrified to learn this, so I ask you to name names. Perhaps their neighbors, peers and the general public will give them the cold shoulder they deserve.


...and in the IDF

Melanie Phillips’s “Democracy in turmoil” (As I See It, May 27) is a fabulous column.

Our army serves us, the citizens, via our elected officials.

Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan, the deputy chief of staff who cheapened the Holocaust, should be fired before being considered as chief of staff.

The departure of Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon, who supports free speech for officers and, as defense minister, encouraged them as to speak their minds, was also good. Right on! (No pun intended.) Goodbye and good luck in other fields, but not in our Knesset.

TZVI TOREM, Jerusalem

To quote Melanie Phillips, “Ya’alon was wrong.... to say IDF officers should be free to say what they like. They should not.

Soldiers should be defending their country, not attacking it.”

To quote another great English scribe, Alfred Lord Tennyson, in writing about the Crimean war, “Theirs not to make reply, theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die, into the valley of death rode the six hundred.”

Tennyson was bemoaning blind obedience; Phillips is recommending it. This might be a fine approach in a country like the United Kingdom, where citizens have a choice and choose to go or not to go to fight for their country, but in our country, most of our children are conscripted and have no such choice.

It is insulting to expect those who defend our country to be mere cannon fodder.



In equating Breaking the Silence with “whistle-blowing,” the powers- that-be at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev are engaging in some measure of intellectual dishonesty (“Donor withholds $1m.

from BGU over Breaking the Silence panel,” May 27).

To be credible, a whistle-blower must confront the putative wrongdoer in an open forum. By contrast, Breaking the Silence accusers are promised anonymity by the group in return for their testimony, assuring that the IDF will not be able to confront them.

To this may be added that the organization’s modus operandi makes it important that it disclose the extent to which its funding comes from governments and organizations outside Israel that have the same agenda.


The writer says he “blew the whistle” on New York mayor Abraham Beame in the 1970s for misrepresenting the depth of the city’s financial crisis. He adds that the mayor demanded his employer, Citibank, fire him, and that the bank refused.

Explain that

While your May 27 editorial “Explaining Israel” correctly criticizes Israel’s shockingly inadequate public diplomacy efforts, your recommended solutions are unlikely to solve the problem. For example, “utilizing professional diplomats” who have “received training in the art of diplomacy and are therefore the best qualified to take up Israel’s case abroad.”

Diplomats are not public relations experts. For the most part, they talk to each other, while hasbara (public diplomacy) talks to private citizens. Even diplomats who have an aptitude for such work often are transferred to other jobs just as they develop the necessary skills and contacts to make a real impact.

Another recommendation is “coordinating the different hasbara efforts under a single body.” But coordinating is very different from devising and implementing an entirely new public diplomacy strategy – a sea change from the failed government strategies of the past. Contrast this with the tens of millions of dollars the PA expends to obtain the services of outside PR firms; the success of this PR onslaught in moving the world’s sympathies toward the Palestinian side is all too apparent.

What is needed is a dedicated agency – independent of any of the ministries or the government of the moment – whose sole responsibility is the dissemination of the truth of what Israel stands for and is doing. This is not a Goebbels-like ministry of propaganda, but an agency of communication.

We need an operation that is both independent and well funded, with the ability to contract with outside firms when necessary.

Israel must speak with one full-time voice that is expert in getting our message across. This task is too important to be left in the hands of well meaning diplomats who might have neither the time nor the skills that are essential if we are to succeed.

Israel must participate in the public diplomacy game with all its energy and resources. While hasbara, by itself, will not guarantee its survival, abandoning the playing field could well contribute to victory for the other side.


Cohen, a former US diplomat, is a fellow at Bar-Ilan University’s Center for International Communication. Bailey, a former staff member of the US National Security Council and Office of the Director of National Intelligence, is professor of economics and national security at the University of Haifa. They are among the founders of “The Zichron Project,” an organization dedicated to developing creative approaches to Israeli public diplomacy.

One over the other

Your article “2015 aliya increases among youth and academics” (May 26) notes that aliya from Russia and Ukraine increased by 44 percent in 2015, while aliya from Ethiopia decreased by 57% over the previous year. Isn’t that a surprise! With our government actively supporting extra benefits for immigrants from the former Soviet Union – an agreement made in order to persuade Avigdor Liberman and Yisrael Beytenu to join the coalition – the same government is actually delaying the immigration of Ethiopian Jews, many of whom have waited in intolerable conditions in transit camps for years and are desperate to join their family members in Israel.

Never in the history of the Jewish State of Israel have government agencies abandoned Jews in distress. What a shame that Benjamin Netanyahu does not need the support of an Ethiopian MK to secure his position as prime minister.

So much for democracy.



The last sentence of “McGill University professors sign letters condemning anti-Israel movement” (May 29) was inadvertently cut. It should have read: “The academics concluded the letter by thanking Fortier for ‘affirming the core principles of McGill’ and said they are committed to ‘be vigilant in preserving the openness, tolerance and civility that has made our years of service to McGill so rewarding, both professionally and personally.”

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