January 4 UpFront: Second American century?

What will happen when Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Qatar and Saudi Arabia together buy major stakes in US alternative energy companies?

letters good 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters good 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Second American century? Sir, - Amotz Asa-El, putting his faith in America's vibrant and unique spirit of innovation, believes the American Century is not over. I can only wish Mr. Asa-El's sanguine conclusions come to pass. Unfortunately the enormous and rapid transfer of wealth, in large measure due to the global commodities boom, has allowed the sovereign wealth funds of undemocratic countries lacking in the capacity for innovation to purchase innovation through their stakes, not only in US companies (for instance, Abu Dhabi's stake in AMD) but also in the capital markets that finance innovative US start-ups (for example, Dubai's and Qatar's intended, and so far unopposed, investment in the Nasdaq stock exchange). Moreover, four of the eight largest sovereign wealth funds belong to the governments of Arab nations which are not only undemocratic but also at high risk of Islamist takeover. What, one wonders, will happen when Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Qatar and Saudi Arabia together buy significant stakes in US alternative energy companies - having already bought stakes in US banks and other sensitive sectors? ("Is the American century over?" December 28.) PROF. KIM EZRA SHIENBAUM Department of Politics Rutgers University Camden, New Jersey Fleshing out history Sir, - If I may add some points to Shmuel Katz's excellent "On the rights of 'settlers'" (December 28): When Tel Aviv was founded in 1909, the Ottoman Muslim rulers called the area "The Independent Sanjak Jerusalem," and not the "P" word. Two years after the Balfour Declaration, in 1919, Emir Feisal, on behalf of his father, the former Sharif of Mecca and now the self-declared king of Hejaz and Nejd, signed (with Britain's help) an accord with Chaim Weizmann in which he welcomed the Jewish state to be and promised a "cordial" relationship. In 1922, king Hussein of Hejaz and Nejd allowed Britain to "take" the Sinai peninsula from his kingdom and make it part of Egypt as a means of securing Britain's financial interests in the Suez Canal. In return, Britain took some 78% of the land Feisal had agreed was to be the Jewish state and gave it to his brother Abdullah, who renamed it Transjordan (the eastern bank of the Jordan River). Feisal was given the Vilayets of Mosul, Baghdad and Basra (Mesopotamia), which he renamed his "green" kingdom of Iraq (yarok), in contravention of the 1920 Treaty of Sevres, which anticipated a Kurdish state (i.e., Mosul). So the Hashemite family had the Arabian peninsula, Transjordan and Iraq to add to the gold, horses and loot Feisal had been granted when he cooperated with the British against the Ottomans during WWI. Four years after that 1922 Sinai "swap," in 1926 Ibn Saud, with the help of the Wahhabis, deposed Hussein and renamed the kingdom Saudi Arabia. By the way, T.E. Lawrence's The Seven Pillars of Wisdom has four maps of the Middle East, none bearing the name "Palestine." GERRY DINERMAN Ramat Aviv Katz and Churchill, war and peace Sir, - For those of us who witnessed the early days of the State of Israel, Shmuel Katz's piece was extremely satisfying. Despite his age, he is still able to display leadership and restore the state to the level of dignity and much-needed direction of those days. The concluding statement in his masterpiece Battleground - "The contours of the battleground rearrange themselves. The conflict goes on" - are as true today as they were then, the major difference being that in Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni we have individuals who are inept and unqualified for the task. In contrast, had one not read Colin Shindler's review of the two new Churchill books ("Churchill and the Jewish state," December 28), one would not realize to what extent Winston Churchill did us Jews justice. Would he were alive today and at the helm of foreign affairs. His views were clearly defined in a visit to Jerusalem in 1921: "The hope of your race for so many centuries will be gradually realized here, not only for your own good, but for the good of all the world." ALEX ROSE Beit Shemesh Sir, - Colin Shindler portrayed Winston Churchill as a great friend of the Jewish people and of Zionism, who did his best to help Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis. This assessment would have surprised my late grandfather, Rabbi Baruch Rabinowitz, who resigned from his pulpit in Maryland in 1940 in order to raise funds for bringing Jews from Europe to British-controlled Palestine - in defiance of Churchill's restrictions. As a member of parliament Churchill may have criticized the British government's 1939 White Paper, but when he became prime minister the next year he kept that policy in place. It meant that no more than 15,000 Jews were allowed to enter Palestine each year, and not even that many were admitted. While millions of European Jews desperately looked to escape the Nazis, their ancient homeland nearby was almost completely off-limits. My grandfather and his colleagues in the Aliya Bet movement did what they could despite these obstacles, and saved many thousands of lives. Yet how many more might have been rescued but for the opposition of the Churchill government? JONATHAN STERN Takoma Park, Maryland Sir, - In defending Winston Churchill's record regarding the Holocaust, Colin Shindler surprisingly made no mention of the Churchill government's failure to bomb Auschwitz. In the course of directing and producing my documentary film on the bombing issue, They Looked Away (2003), I interviewed American pilots who flew over Auschwitz in 1944, bombing German oil factories just a few miles from the gas chambers. The film also described how British pilots flew to Warsaw - 150 miles further than Auschwitz from their air bases - in order to drop supplies to the Polish Home Army. British pilots had the technical ability to bomb Auschwitz or the railways leading to the camp, but the Churchill government never ordered them to do so. On one occasion, in July 1944, Churchill jotted a note to his foreign minister, Anthony Eden, endorsing a request by Jewish leaders to bomb Auschwitz. The plan stalled amid objections from lower-level officials. But Churchill had so little interest in it that he never bothered to follow up, and thus the plan never materialized. Contrast that with his response when the British air force commander for southern Europe, Air Marshal John Slessor, objected to airlifting supplies to the Polish forces in Warsaw because of the risk to the pilots and the minimal military benefit. In that case, Churchill actively followed up, overruling Slessor and insisting that the airlifts proceed - because they were politically beneficial to him. (He wanted to be able to show, postwar, that he had not abandoned the Poles.) When the political will existed, Churchill was prepared to ignore the military drawbacks. When it came to taking steps to halt the mass murder of the Jews, however, Churchill and the other Allied leaders were too busy to be bothered. STUART ERDHEIM Las Vegas Sir, - "Churchill and the Jewish state" brought to mind the Talmud's statement (Hullin 92) that in addition to the 36 Hidden Jewish tzaddikim, or righteous men, in whose merit the Jewish people continues to exist, there must also at any one time exist at least 30 Pious Gentiles in whose merit the nations endure, the "30 pieces of silver" of Zechariah 11. Winston Churchill personifies the gentile who is destined for the afterlife (Bava Batra 10). Throughout his life he made many positive speeches about Jews and Judaism, and it is no exaggeration to say that there was a critical juncture during WW2 at which the continued existence of Judeo-Christian civilization devolved upon this great man. As he walked through the ruins of the Reichstag in 1945, Churchill was right to exult: "I have tracked the Nazi blood-beast back to his lair!" AMNON GOLDBERG Safed