Sir, - The divisive and insubordinate actions of a small number of soldiers ("Orthodox Zionists grapple with insubordination in the army," November 18, 2009) must lead to punishing not only the soldiers involved, but those who condoned, encouraged or planned these actions.
"Nahshon also does not evacuate" represents the view of a few soldiers who have not learned the necessity of accepting commands from superiors outside of the rabbinate. That the chief of staff is working on this issue should be enough to stop the rabbis and soldiers from generating restlessness in a front-line battle unit.
That the blindness of the adult leaders - laymen and clergy - is pervasive is pathetic. We live in a dynamic democracy in which opinions are not squelched but shouted; however, this does not license any group to try to influence and control young soldiers - and certainly not to offer financial rewards for protesting, as was reported last week ("Reservists' letter opposes 'politicized missions' for IDF," November 12). If people outside of the military want to protest, that's fine - but donning a uniform subjects soldiers to a different standard.
Once we tolerate rebelliousness in the IDF, there is no way of knowing where it will end, and therefore the strongest measures must be taken now. To start down this path toward sedition is self-destructive and must stop.
STEPHEN J. KOHN
...isn't necessarily called for
Sir, - In his report of military concern over signs of growing insubordination by religious soldiers ("Soldiers' insubordination a growing concern to IDF brass," November 17), Yaakov Katz suggests that these religious Zionists are inclined to obey their rabbis rather than their commanders. Worse yet, military commanders evidently anticipate massive refusals should there be forced evacuations of Jewish settlers.
But such refusals would not, as Mr. Katz concludes, "undermine Israel's democratic and Jewish character." Instead, they would affirm the deep attachment of religious Zionists, whether or not they are soldiers, to the Jews of Judea and Samaria and to the biblical homeland of the Jewish people. That deserves commendation, not condemnation.
JEROLD S. AUERBACH
Professor of History, Wellesley College
Sir, - Yaakov Katz's analysis on soldiers' insubordination was okay until we got to the last surprising paragraph. Then he said, "What could make a difference is for the rabbis and settler leaders who these youths follow to understand that their advice and actions ultimately undermine the Israel's democratic and Jewish character."
What does Katz mean? That it's the rabbis fault that the soldiers don't want to evacuate more Jews from their homes? Have we not learned anything since 2005?
But never mind. On the next page, Katz's last paragraph is well-answered in Rebecca Anna Stoil's article. She quotes MK Ze'ev Elkin as saying, "Today the majority of the public understands that the disengagement was a great error that seriously harmed Israel's security, economy and society and was a social and political trauma."
I would add that Israel's democracy has yet to recover from that trauma. Remember there was a referendum. The vote went against disengagement. Ariel Sharon ignored the whole democratic process. The whole country is still paying for all the hideous mistakes that were made at that time. What these protesting soldiers are saying is that we certainly mustn't be made to relive it all - on a much bigger scale than Gush Katif.
Our government should say unequivocally that we have no intentions of repeating the tragedy of Gush Katif. They would thereby defuse the ugly situation that is brewing in the army.
Sir, - Sheila Rotenberg's positive reaction ("A different delivery," Letters, November 17) to Judy Siegel's article ("Demons in the delivery room," November 15) was very typical of the wonderful feedback we got from midwives who attended the conference run jointly by the Israel Childbirth Education Center and YMCA Great Shape in Jerusalem.
Penny Simkin has worked for many years as a researcher, childbirth educator and doula, and her work on supporting women in childbirth after a history of sexual abuse has provided valuable guidelines for our childbirth educators and doulas in Israel.
The awareness of midwives is especially important because their support and skills during labor can help a woman enjoy a positive birth experience even when the labor is hard going, and even when the woman comes to the birth with a lot of negative associations.
Hon. president, Israel Childbirth Education Center
Sir, - The Israeli academy is certainly analogous to irresponsible parents who encourage lawless behavior in their children as a result of their own behavior ("The (ir)responsibility of the academy," November 16).
There are indeed irresponsible, extreme radical academicians exploiting
freedom of speech to inculcate dangerous political views and grossly distorted facts, such as labeling Israel "Nazi" and "born in sin," into the susceptible minds of many students. Such radicalization of students bodes ill for the future unless dealt with rapidly by government and university authorities.
M. U. MILUNSKY
'Dispatch' with anti-Semitic messages
Sir, - The British Channel 4 program Dispatches struck a dangerous chord on Monday with its one-sided allegations on the so-called pro-Israel "lobby" in Britain ("British TV program to examine UK's 'powerful Israel lobby,'" November 16). Virtually no Israelis were represented in the interviews, save those aligning themselves with the cause set out by presenter Peter Oborne.
After a few minutes into the documentary, one thing was clear: This program was intended to slate Israel in a most striking and damaging fashion. Editors from the Guardian and the BBC and leaders from liberal Anglo Jewry were poised to expostulate on the alleged influence of generous donors involved in UK pro-Israel groups, on policies concerning the Jewish state. The negative connections between wealth and the Jewish community were emphasized repeatedly in a devious and insidious manner, and mentions of "conspiracy," alluding to the worldwide domination of Jews, was not accidental.
In addition, the "Israeli point of view" - whatever that may mean - was mentioned time and time again. Israel, as a democracy, has left and right wing politics and many divergent views, as in any other country. It can often be divided on a wide range of sensitive issues. To lump all Israelis together is not just unfair, it is highly inaccurate.
This was a very bad piece of television propaganda that unfairly attempts to tarnish the image of Israel and her supporters in Britain. Channel 4 should hang its head in shame for airing such an anti-Semitic diatribe.
Bangor, Northern Ireland
Sir, - Kudos for publishing such a happy story of a child who put her trust in this country and never "treated her differently" ("Story of a heart," November 17). Please print more such stories for the world to see.