Sir, - I was dismayed to read that IAF servicemen were being attacked by Beduin along a main road leading to the Nevatim Base in the Negev, a wave of violence described by senior officers as a "mini-intifada" ("IAF facing 'mini-intifada' near southern base," November 19). I was, however, even more distressed by the order issued by the Nevatim commander, Gen. Eden Atias, that the troops assigned to the base refrain from driving on Route 31 at night.
Is the military unable to protect its soldiers near the largest base in the country? Are we not abdicating our responsibility and thereby encouraging further terrorist violence? Is this not more of the same aberrant mentality that permitted eight years of Hamas rocket fire to traumatize Sderot and the surrounding area before any serious action was taken to protect our citizens?
Obama's Tibetan silence
Sir, - China invaded Tibet in 1950 and exiled a million Tibetans to China, replacing them with a million Han Chinese. Now US President Barack Obama says, "We did note that while we recognize that Tibet is part of the People's Republic of China, the United States supports the early resumption of dialogue" ("Obama, Hu vow cooperation but produce few deals," November 17).
Two years before the Chinese army invaded Tibet, five Arab armies invaded Israel. Israel fought off its aggressors and later created essential strategic depth by retaining some of the territory (Judea and Samaria) captured during its defense, territory previously illegally occupied by Jordan. Obama maintains that territory Israel captured in the pursuit of its defense must be handed over to its aggressors and that any construction there is problematic.
He could adopt the wording he used with China: "We did note that while we recognize that Judea and Samaria are part of the State of Israel, the United States supports the early resumption of dialogue."
But he does not. He stays silent on the construction of housing for a million ethnic Chinese in Tibet and acknowledges Tibet as the property of China, while criticizing the construction of 900 apartments in Gilo ("No limits on Gilo building, government declares," November 18), a suburb of Jerusalem on land once occupied by Jordan and captured by Israel in its defensive war.
The double standards are breathtaking.
'Just following orders'
Sir, - As a Norwegian who loves and supports Israel, I was very surprised to read about the destruction of Jewish homes in Negohot, and even more surprised to read that some of the soldiers who protested were punished ("More soldiers protest illegal settlement evacuations," November 17). We read that they had to follow military orders.
Following orders was a topic of much discussion in Norway after World War II. Not only Jews, but also many Norwegians were killed because of the Germans and the need to "follow military orders." The few who protested were killed.
How can it be that the Jewish people do not allow their soldiers to have a conscience? Shouldn't Israeli soldiers be allowed to protest being used to destroy Jewish homes? Remember that these soldiers are in the IDF to protect Israel, not to destroy Jewish homes or communities. This is really insane. Wouldn't it be more logical to use police for such political orders?
GRO FAYE-HANSEN WENSKE
Can we keep birthright youngsters inspired?
Sir, - Participating in this year's General
Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America in Washington, I could sense that there was a consensus among American Jews that birthright was proving to be a transformational experience for its participants. However, while I applaud the American Jewish community for offering this experience to an increasing number of American young adults ("It's hip to be Jewish," October 27), I also wonder about the Israeli side of this equation.
At the GA, a Taglit-birthright participant, Rachel Cohen, shared her story of newfound Jewish identity and connection to the Jewish community after 10 days of free fun in Israel. But what happens when Rachel discovers that the same State of Israel that so inspired her to embrace her Jewish heritage will not even recognize her as Jewish because her father is Jewish and her mother is not? What happens when Rachel realizes that that same State of Israel views her form of Jewish expression as largely unacceptable?
Does the responsibility of the American Jewish
community to bring its otherwise unengaged
youth to Israel for inspiration-at-first-glance carry over to a responsibility to ensure it continues to be inspiring upon second-glance? Israel owes a lot to American Jews for their support in nation-building over the past 60 years. Israel still needs that support - only now, it is for building an open, pluralistic Jewish culture that can be a genuine Jewish home for Rachel and her peers.
The Jewish identity of the State of Israel is an issue that should concern all Jews throughout the world. It is this identity that lies at the core of the Zionist dream of Jewish freedom. Is the American Jewish community doing enough?
NOGA BRENNER SAMIA
BINA Center for Jewish Identity and Hebrew Culture
Texts and contexts
Sir, - Of course, I accept Isi Leibler's thesis that we must not label entire groups with which hate criminals such as Ya'acov Teitel are affiliated ("Vigilance wanted: apply within," November 19). But can we ignore the texts, the teachings, the environments that produce them? Shall we apply the same standard of purely individual criminality to the American major who killed 13 soldiers and to the 9/11 plotters who killed 3,000 Americans? Can we treat individual Nazi killers as having no connection with German history?
Our own "Jewish terrorists," of course, must be treated as individual criminals. However, while the books they read and the teachings to which they may have been subjected cannot exculpate their crimes, those books and teachings have to be examined and perhaps altered, if not censored.
Explaining that outdated historical circumstances are behind some of those teachings (such as the call to wipe out Amalek, a nation that can no longer be positively identified) does not remove the danger of some readers misinterpreting and misapplying them. It must be diligently explained to our students that such teachings are no longer relevant to the times in which we live.
RABBI JACOB CHINITZ
Sir, - Hearing that "Israel ranks 32 in global corruption index" (November 18) would make me feel better if we also scored low on a global naÃ¯vetÃ© index, because what is being measured rather than bribery is perceived venal practices. Meanwhile, I'm holding on to my wallet, not my breath.
A ray of hope
Sir, - In cautioning readers about the possible speculative nature of his article regarding Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's recent "hushed" meeting with US President Barack Obama ("Editor's Notes: Behind closed doors," November 13), David Horovitz has nevertheless left the reader with some tangible hope regarding Washington's current commitment to "concrete action" in the Middle East. A welcome ray of light in the midst of political uncertainty!
DR. RACHEL BIRATI