Letters to the editor, June 13, 2006

Hard-line Sir, - Israel Railways has to take responsibility for its worsening safety record. Road vehicles can and do get stuck at crossings, and it is simply negligent for IR not to plan for this contingency. When the crossing is obstructed the train driver must know about it in time to stop. Either train speeds must be drastically reduced, or each crossing needs a monitoring mechanism to warn an approaching train of any obstruction ("At least 150 injured after train collides with truck, derails," On-Line Edition, June 12). JONATHAN MARDER Rehovot Lucky man Sir, - Benjamin Bright-Fishbein should consider himself the luckiest man in the world ("'Post' intern released unharmed by Aksa Martyrs Brigades," June 12). This guy risked his life just to drink coffee and smoke a nargila water pipe in Nablus? Doesn't he know that Nablus, as The Jerusalem Post has so many times reported, is considered in Israel to be the capital of Palestinian terror? If Bright-Fishbein hadn't had his US passport with him he would very likely have been killed. Surely this prank reveals naivete to the point of idiocy, and beyond? DAVID MANDEL Savyon Guess who's upset Sir, - Destruction on the beach of Gaza. Several people dead. Everybody upset. Most upset is Hamas - although this result is exactly what they pray to Allah will follow every Kassam they send into Israeli territory ("Hamas vows 'earthquake' after 7 killed on Gaza beach," June 11). BIRGITTA JANAI Kibbutz Ein Harod Ihud Shaking house Sir, - Along with Sderot, my kibbutz and other communities are getting hit by Kassam rockets. Also in the last two weeks terrorists have been caught trying to get through the security fence near my kibbutz. Every day we have to endure noise, not only from Kassams but from artillery that literally shakes the house and rattles the windows. Has Prime Minister Olmert apologized to us? No, for he is too busy apologizing to our enemies. On June 12 he left us, amid everything that is going on, to run off to Europe. I ask you, PM Olmert: Come home and protect us. Why do you worry more about making friends in the world then about protecting your own citizens? ("Olmert: Gaza incidents won't mar London visit," June 12) DON SALIMAN Kibbutz Nahal Oz 'It all started when the Israelis hit back' Sir, - Our countermeasures against rockets fired from Gaza would be better understood internationally if the Foreign Ministry were to flood the UN Security Council with formal protests every time a hostile rocket is fired at Israel, whether or not it causes damage. After all, the Palestinians file such protests regularly, accompanied by effective publicity. There is no difference in intent between a rocket which falls harmlessly and another which, God forbid, causes fatalities. Yet our spokespeople and media seem to treat the hundreds of rockets fired at us as commonplace events, issuing standard stale statements about protecting our citizens. In the circumstances it is unsurprising that foreign media confuse cause and effect, giving more prominence to our counterattacks than to the rockets that provoke them ("Gissin says Israeli media playing into Palestinian hands," June 12). MAURICE OSTROFF Herzliya Noxious silence Sir, - It was a sad experience to read "Noxious speech" about Nadia Matar (Editorial, June 12). It is in effect a bill of indictment. You designate her an "agitator" - why not "activist"? You imply that she is lucky not to be be prosecuted for incitement, which carries with it the implication of sedition. This very week in Jerusalem a theater company is presenting a play about the moral dilemma of a Jew who "worked for" the Nazis in the camps, and of the aftermath, not only for the protagonist and his family, but for all Jews. We Jews have the right to remember the reality of such a situation and to use that memory amongst ourselves. To proscribe such a thing is no more than the flip side of the coin of Holocaust denial, which, it is agreed, is noxious speech. What we need constantly to bear in mind is that the forerunner of "noxious speech" and the real killer was "noxious silence." MIRIAM L. GAVARIN Jerusalem UNRWA is a blessing Sir, - Efraim Inbar's "Rethinking humanitarian aid" (June 4) was one of several articles that have made unfounded accusations against the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. Inbar conflated the natural increase in registered Palestine refugees with an increase in the number living in dependency. Rather, the reverse has occurred: The percentage of self-sufficient refugees has increased. Except in emergency situations, under seven percent of UNRWA-registered refugees receive food and cash assistance. Inbar claims that UNRWA's work fosters dependency. Conversely, UNRWA mainly provides schooling and primary healthcare. Most refugees have jobs and manage to support their families. Charging refugees with "living on charity" because they use our schools and clinics is like accusing anyone accessing state schools or healthcare of suffering from dependency. UNRWA's education system - the first in the Arab world to achieve gender parity - has educated millions. Graduate doctors, teachers and engineers have formed a backbone of professionals in the Middle East. UNRWA's micro-credit program has loaned over $100 million to small entrepreneurs. The communities themselves are now running UNRWA's training centres for women and youth, empowering thousands of the poorest and most marginalized refugees. UNRWA exists to help Palestine refugees. Some, deeming this bad news for Israel, continue to insist that the agency keeps refugees dependent. Donors and diplomats dealing directly with UNRWA know it is a stabilizing force, delivering essential services in the interests of Israel and the international community. Ultimately, the region is better off because of UNRWA. GINA BENEVENTO Chief, Public Information UNRWA - HQ Gaza Right to settle Sir, - Evelyn Gordon asserted correctly that the waiver by its leadership of Israel's right to settle in the West Bank has weakened Israel's international image ("Israel's image - why the all-time low?" June 8). Her analysis of Israel's case, however, lacks one very important element: reference to Article 80 of the UN Charter. This provides, in part, that nothing contained in the International Trustees System set up under the UN Charter "shall be construed in or of itself to alter in any manner the rights whatsoever of any states or any peoples or the terms of existing international instruments to which Members of the United Nations may respectively be parties." One such instrument was the Palestine Mandate. This gave international recognition to the Jewish people's historical connection with Palestine, and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home there. Article 6 of the Mandate granted the right of close settlement by Jews on the land [west of the Jordan River], including state lands and waste lands not required for public purposes. Notwithstanding Britain's surrender of its mandatory obligations to the UN in 1948, and particularly in light of the Arab states' rejection of UN Resolution 181 recommending partition of the territory, the Palestine Mandate has never been validly repealed. Thus, under the protection of the UN Charter, Jewish rights to settle on any public or waste land in the West Bank still remain valid and unaltered. Whether, politically, Israel can continue to maintain a settlement population in the West Bank territories while remaining both democratic and Jewish is another matter; but legally the case for Jewish settlement is stronger than that presented by Ms. Gordon. GERALD M. ADLER Haifa/Hove, UK Only a fool could fail to notice In "Fine exposure" (Letters, June 12) Joanne Yaron states that Jews will continue to vote for the Democrats, which is doubtless the unfortunate truth. One of the reasons is because many Jews fear the putative theocratic intentions of the Christian Right. While that concern may have some validity in terms of certain legislative issues such as school prayer or abortion, Jewish voters should also consider the fact that Evangelicals form the backbone of Israel's support in America, a more vital life-and-death issue. As for Iraq, while there is certainly room for criticism over tactics, Jews should be very grateful to President Bush for having removed Saddam Hussein, something the Democrats would never have done, WMDs or no WMDs. Looking around globally, only a fool could fail to notice the obvious linkage between liberal-left parties and anti-Israel bias. DAVID KATCOFF Jericho, Vermont Germany in the UN Sir, - In "Making friends in Nuremberg" (June 9) David Horovitz erred in his statement that Germany endorsed the establishment of the State of Israel in the 1947 UN partition vote. Germany was not a member of the UN at that time. It was many years later that the two Germanys - East and West - were admitted to the UN. SHALOM BRONSTEIN Jerusalem Death of a friend Sir, - I would like to call your readers' attention to the death at the age of 50, in Vienna on June 11, of Hubertus Czernin, who was a great friend of the Jewish people. As a publisher and writer he did his best to perpetuate the memory of Jews lost in the Shoah. MARTHA NADLER Vancouver Hello Sir, - I am a young man aged 26 who would like to correspond with penpals from Israel aged 18-28. I like computers and traveling, and am a big fan of the cyber world. Please respond to P.O. Box 2392 Lilongwe, Malawi, Africa; tel: +265-8-896521; or e-mail as below. IAN MALISENI ianmaliseni@yahoo.co.uk Lilongwe, Malawi