Letters to the editor, March 19

No reason to pooh-pooh Sir, - Larry Derfner rightly points out that a militarily strong Israel today facing annihilation threats from Iran cannot be equated with the Jews of Europe during the rise of Nazism ("Hallucinations of Hitler," March 16). But that is no reason to pooh-pooh the danger facing the Jewish state from a fanatical revolutionary regime whose leaders say they would be willing to take millions of casualties in order to wipe out the Jewish state. All the destructive power we have will do us little good if even one Iranian nuclear warhead comes to our territory, God forbid. So while there may be no reason to panic, there is no reason to be blase, either. SHALOM FREEDMAN Jerusalem Where the truth lies Sir, - Barry Rubin sounds a little na ve in his assertion of "Facts and arguments" (March 13). A fact is defined as a statement generally considered true. Prior to 1492, when Columbus discovered America, it was a scientific fact that the earth was flat. If the Holocaust deniers had their way it would become a historical fact that the Holocaust was fabricated by the Zionists to justify a Jewish state. Fantastic as that sounds today, in 100 years from now, when even the great-grandchildren of the survivors will have died out, people will be left to the available resources to determine their own truth. The individual will have to determine upon which resources to rely for valid information. In the end truth will emerge victorious, but in this age of disinformation and massive propaganda dispersion one needs to rely on the heart as much as the mind to determine where the truth lies (pun intended). SHARON LINDENBAUM Rehovot Suckers' belief Sir, - David Forman writes that he is dismayed by the knee-jerk reaction of many liberal American Jews in not wanting to cut off funding to the Hamas-led PA, but then softens his disapproval by citing the concern for the "other" in Jewish scripture which could lead to such overly generous attitudes. ("Caught in a bind," March 14.) No expert in scripture, I'd be curious to know exactly where one would find doctrinal support for being a sucker. Maybe there's some little-known passage encouraging patience with telemarketers, or taking the time to read spam. I bet a religion like that existed years ago, but its adherents probably became disillusioned, converted to Judaism, and did well in business. DAVID KATCOFF Jericho, Vermont Red and redder Sir, - Ehud Olmert: "Israel will never allow any terrorist who deliberately killed… a senior government minister to get away without us responding" ("Olmert: We had foreign backing," March 16). It thus appears that the blood of a senior government minister is redder than that of a pregnant woman and her four small daughters killed by terrorists. Similarly, the punishment meted out to the murderer of a prime minister was much more severe than that given to a violent husband who cold-bloodedly murdered his wife and children. In keeping with the halachic dictum of "no punishment without prior warning," perhaps terrorists and prospective murderers should be issued with guidelines to the degree of redness of the blood of their potential victims. DAVID STEINHART Petah Tikva What good is all this killing? Sir, - The Israeli government feels it has the "right" to punish those who killed the right-wing leader. Why does it not think, then, that the "right"-wing Islamists have a right to punish those who kill their leaders? Nothing is gained from all this killing. It breeds hatred. The aim is for peace, and the time is now. AMINA SCHUMAN Toronto Good will for peace Sir, - The Chinese ideograph for "crisis" is the same, I understand, as the one depicting "opportunity." Such a conflation describes the situation today between the State of Israel and the Palestinian people. There is a great opportunity for both sides to forge ahead into new territory of cooperation and peace. Both sides will have to abandon time-worn practices of retaliation and concepts of revenge. Rather, it is a time for establishing mutual respect and economic cooperation. The peace of the Middle East hangs, in large part, on the solution of this problem. As a demonstration of good will for peace Israel should release to the Palestinian Authority taxes collected by it for the benefit of the Palestinians. Of course all UN resolutions should be complied with. I believe that the world waits with bated breath for the solution of a persistent and vexing conflict. WALTER H. PERSANS Staten Island Responding to 'the occupation' Sir, - When will Israel begin to refute the main accusations against it - of occupying Arab lands and denying the Arab refugees right of return? Intifada, hatred, suicide terror and the wanton murder of Jews are all based on these two claims that have become uncontested myths. According to biblical promises, 3,000 years of Jewish history and archeology, various declarations - Balfour (1917), San Remo of the League of Nations (1920) and its ratification (1923) and subsequent still fully valid UN legalities - the land between the sea and the Jordan River belongs to Israel. The refugees have no right of return. There was a population exchange nearly 60 years ago. Over 400,000 Arabs left the emerging state in 1947-48, while nearly 800,000 Jews were forced to flee the surrounding Arab countries, leaving behind property and wealth. The Jews rehabilitated themselves. The Arab countries forced the Palestinians to remain refugees, to this day using as them as political pawns. Israel must forcefully, consistently and relentlessly respond to these daily Arab accusations. Israel's very existence depends on it. They have 22 nations, oil wealth and water, whereas we have nowhere else to go ("Is this a new intifada?" March 2). ELCHANAN PELS Jerusalem The 400 hurrahs Sir, -The message conveyed by the 400 US rabbis to President Bush leaves one in a state of apoplexy ("Leaving the door open," Letters, March 15). Do the great and good live in the real world, or is their belief in Arab Muslim moderation just a figment of their imaginations? What is so presumptuous of the liberal-minded set sitting in their ivory towers is their readiness to voice parochial opinions on matters so totally alien to their own comfortable existence. Arab Muslims' minds are, to all appearances, controlled by their religion, according to which the dhimmi-cum-infidel status of the outsider cannot be altered. Jew-hatred seems inbuilt in the psyche, and no amount of shilly-shallying through the tulips will ever change the fact. JOEL JOSEPH Essex, UK For principle's sake Sir, - Avi Shafran's attempt to justify Agudath Israel's non-participation in the WZO's elections by portraying it as a matter of "standing on principle" was terribly misleading ("'The Jerusalem Program' problem," March 15). His so-called "principle " is actually a relic of Orthodoxy's original negative reaction to the Zionist organization and its secular approach. The issue then (there was no state) was whether observant Jews may join together with other Jews who differed radically as to the meaning of Jewish identity and the significance of Eretz Yisroel to build the land. The Aguda said no, while the Mizrachi (Religious Zionists) remained in the Zionist Organization. However, when the Jewish and democratic State of Israel was established, the Aguda people became citizens of the state and participated in the political process and in the government. They did not say then that participation was contingent upon accepting the credo that as a secular state "it places a country in the place of a divine mandate." What happened to Shafran's facile "Principle, though, is principle"? It is difficult to find the dire theological implications that Shafran reads into the perfectly innocuous Jerusalem Program. When it stresses the "centrality of the State of Israel" the reference is to the lives and concerns of every Jew today, not to our theology. The overriding interest of the WZO in the State of Israel is as the guardian of the welfare of five and a half million Jews, including the haredim and yeshiva students, and implies absolutely nothing regarding the place of the state or the land in our respective philosophies. It is, indeed, striking to see how utterly ready the American Aguda is to sacrifice the interests of Orthodox projects in Israel for the sake of principle. But in today's world even self-sacrifice for the sake of principle is not a virtue. It seems that otherwise decent and intelligent people can be sold on all sorts of "principles." Instead of flaunting so provocatively Aguda's failure to defend the Torah interest in the case of the WZO, Shafran would do well to reexamine his "principle." He might find it somewhat threadbare. SHUBERT SPERO Jerusalem Picking a mate Sir, - I was insulted by Shmuley Boteach's unqualified implication that men looking for "chemistry" or who date 40 girls without finding a wife are shallow ("Shallow men and the women who suffer," March 16). It reminded me of how people would blame me in my single days for being too picky. I vowed never to treat my single friends that way. I hope rabbis do not take his advice to criticize single men from the pulpit without considering the obvious fact that some good people have a hard time finding a mate. I understand the desire to protect women from unfair expectations, but this one-sided diatribe threatens to increase the suffering and decrease the self-esteem of single men earnestly searching for an appropriate wife. MARK SMILOWITZ Beit Shemesh