Letters to the editor, January 9

Dr. Cohen's skill Sir, - Re Dr. Jose Cohen's assessment of the prime minister's condition, particularly "If you give everything as a surgeon and realize that everything depends on you, you feel responsible... [Ariel Sharon] is a true fighter": As one to whom Dr. Cohen "gave everything," enabling me to resume life satisfactorily following brain surgery carried out by him, let me join those who praise his skills as a surgeon and qualities as a caring human being. He continually motivated me to be a "true fighter" in the battle against debilitation following my stroke, which was significantly less severe than the ones suffered by Mr. Sharon - a proof of this being that Dr. Cohen offered me the choice of local anesthetic for the surgery, which I accepted (to his subsequent regret, perhaps; for throughout the procedure I was giving him cautionary advice on dealing with my brain). In any case, this doctor's abilities and dedication enable me to express appreciation to him and his associates. May it be God's will that Mr. Sharon recovers and is able to express his thanks to Dr. Cohen personally ("Sharon has 'very high' chance of survival," January 8). MOSHE BERLIN Jerusalem Divine knowledge Sir, - I was pleased to see statements by at least a few Christian leaders distancing themselves from Pat Robertson's reported "knowledge" of divine judgment ("Evangelist Robertson blasted for saying God punished Sharon," January 8). At the same time I was greatly troubled by the lack of condemnation in print by Jewish leaders, religious and secular, of Baruch Ben-Yosef and Yosef Dayan following their reported admission of having performed "witchcraft" directed at the prime minister ("'Lashes of fire' extremists boast: Our curse brought down Sharon," January 6). We have a valid and workable democratic process that permits our citizens to put pressure on our political leadership, one that can bring about a peaceful transfer of power. If that process needs improving, then fine-tune it and make it even more responsive to the voting public. But menacing, injuring or proposing to injure, killing or proposing to kill our democratically-elected ruling leadership, by any means, must be as repulsive to us as the blowing up of our citizens in our cities. Offenders should be marginalized, maximally, and strongly and swiftly sanctioned by society. If there is no appropriate law against such reprehensible behavior, a reasonable one needs to be drafted. AVRAHAM OZ Jerusalem Sir, - I am surprised at how many people tend to believe that the fate of a Jewish leader is devoid of divine intervention. The Bible is filled with accounts of Jewish leaders paying dearly for their deeds. For many, Sharon committed serious offenses against his own people and against God. If he had merely given up land but not afflicted his own people one could understand God's forgiveness, but destroying their homes and leaving them up until this day in poverty without homes and work is something I don't believe passes without notice. ELIJAH ROSENBURG Zichron Ya'acov Missing 'trust me'? Sir, - One got the impression from David Horovitz's eloquent "After Sharon" (January 6) that many people will miss the vague "trust me" attitude and largerthan-life figure Ariel Sharon cut for the Israeli electorate. But one has to ask where that attitude has brought us, and where it is likely to leave us in the future. Is the policy of "We'll pretend you don't exist if you'll leave us alone" that describes disengagement truly a sage policy, or is it a desperate band-aid prescribed by an exasperated Israel? The results so far: The security situation has deteriorated rather than improved - more arms and explosives in Gaza, more Kassams on Israeli cities, al-Qaida now in Gaza and Northern Samaria, an uncontrolled border between ourselves and Egypt. And are we truly disengaged? We still let in Palestinian workers, still supply utilities such as electricity, are still forced to consider convoys over our sovereign land between Gaza and Hebron. What has been achieved other than the uprooting of 9,000 good Jews from their homes? DAVID STERNE Jerusalem Looking to... Sir, - Despite Ariel Sharon's overwhelming popularity, there need not be any uncertainty about Israel's political future if we are all honest observers of the past. Sharon was not the first prime minister to make the Palestinians accountable for terror. He was not the first to stop a wave of terror. He was not the first to enjoy a special relationship with the US, and he was certainly not responsible for our economic turnaround. In fact these achievements can be attributed to Binyamin Netanyahu, and if the Israeli public and media looks itself in the eye and votes accordingly we can look forward to a secure and stable future. We all hope and pray that Mr. Sharon will make a full recovery and enjoy the fruits of his life's labor for many years to come. JODI LEVY Ra'anana ...the future Sir - I would like to take issue with a very important point made in "Restraint and maturity" (Editorial, January 8) concerning what we should or should not do with regard to the rest of the world. You state: "This is not to advocate that Israel attempt to buy further international favor with the same coin." I feel that is exactly what the new administration, be it Ehud Olmert or anyone else, should do; and obviously by moving out of some of the Palestinian territories, whether unilaterally or together with the PA - particularly the "outposts," which have been declared illegal. And the sooner the better. LEONARD ZURAKOV Netanya Strong on Zionism Sir, - Within a period of a few short weeks Judy Montagu has written a second article strong on Zionism, positive on Israel, and good for the Jewish people ("About living in Israel and losing friends," January 8). No doubt thousands of readers could identify closely with these articles as they had many "me too " elements about events that have touched most of us. These days, with much of the media full of bad news and negative attitudes toward our country, it is a pleasure to read such writing. BERTIE FRANKEL Ra'anana Sir, - Like Judy Montagu, I have lost some old friends in heated arguments over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, I have come to realize that there is no point in continuing a friendship with those who over the years have not only failed to attain the Zionist goal of living in Israel but, by remaining in the Diaspora, have continued to be outsiders to the society in which they live. For no matter how much they may try to fit in by supporting the mainstream view against Israel, that society will still perceive them as not really belonging; living, as it were, in someone else's home. It is these friends who, out of their own frustrations, have turned good friendship into false. LILY SINGER Jerusalem Sir, - The unhappy personal significance of "losing friends" which comes across in this column is echoed on the political level in Nathan Guttman's "US's Sharonfocused Mideast strategy needs to be redefined" (January 8). NIEL HIRSCHSON Tel Aviv Sir, - The experience described so well by Judy Montagu can happen in Israel with Israeli friends. How is it that someone who would never think of defending the KKK or Nazi ideology finds every possible way to excuse, diminish or explain the same disregard for human life when perpetrated by Palestinian terrorists? Naivete or good intentions are no reason for closing one's eyes and continuing to listen to a friend defending the indefensible. And being lazy to read up on Islam is not a valid reason for people to continue talking nonsense and still consider themselves my friends. MLADEN ANDRIJASEVIC Beersheba Sir, - Judy Montagu's op-ed highlighted two facets: the attitude of Jews overseas to the conflict, and the denial by these same Jews of what is happening in their countries. The first facet relates to the fact that Israel is losing - or maybe has already lost, by default - the battle for the hearts and minds of so many people around the world. For the last 14 years our own Foreign Ministry has considered hasbara unnecessary (Shimon Peres: "Good government policies do not require hasbara"). The role of the many volunteer groups in this field of what is now referred to as public diplomacy, while admirable, is merely a drop in the ocean vis-a-vis the significant media campaign against Israel. Is it any wonder, therefore, that Jews, particularly in Europe, feel "many of us here don't like things that are happening in Israel"? About the second facet, the denial Europe's Jews languish in: Making allegations against Israel perhaps relieves them of the need to consider the reality of where life for Jews in Europe is heading. The syndrome of "Why shout when a whisper will do?" (Henry Grunfeld, British Board of Deputies) allows our "friends" to keep their heads in the sand. STUART PALMER Northern Area Director, ICAN (Israel Citizens Action Network) Haifa Sir, - It's sad when those who purport to be your friends are influenced by your enemies. The so-called liberal Left has been so victimized by Arab propaganda that fellow Jews living in the comfortable Diaspora see it as chic to criticize Israel. I wonder how their host countries would behave if an enemy in very close physical proximity was trying to wipe them off the face of the earth - for more than 100 years! Though it may hurt considerably, perhaps the good that can come out of this kind of situation is seeing who one's friends really are. ROCHELLE AVITAN Kiryat Ono Murder on wheels Sir, - The media report that a motorist with more than 60 traffic violations was caught driving at over 180 kph. on Route 6. A bus driver with over 20 violations and a revoked license killed a child. If the Israeli courts enforced our laws and severely punished "early" offenders we might be able to stop some of the 500 traffic murders committed each year. DAVID FEIGENBAUM Netanya 'Nuff puff Sir, - Further to Ellie Morris's letter of January 4 about the poll in which 75% of Israelis favor a smoking ban in eating places: My bad luck is that I've been in restaurants and coffee shops that have excellent No Smoking signs posted all over but where people still smoke, and no one does anything about it. Some places are permeated by stale smoke, and not even a fresh breeze removes the smell. LOU SCOP Netanya