Letters to the Editor January 17, 2022: National pastime

Readers of The Jerusalem Post have their say.

Letters (photo credit: PIXABAY)
(photo credit: PIXABAY)

National pastime 

It took me a while but I finally figured out why I’m okay with the plea bargain agreement arranged for Arye Deri but would find it utterly offensive if anything similar was offered to our former prime minister (“Netanyahu likely to agree to Mandelblit’s plea deal conditions,” January 16).

Tax evasion, the white-collar crime that Deri is being charged with, is most definitely a serious matter but, to be honest, is regarded as something of a national pastime. Far and few between are businesspersons or politicians who do not energetically look for ways to hide, camouflage or disguise taxable income. Deri is not denying that what he did was illegal; his more serious crime, in his thinking, was getting caught. He knows that virtually all his supporters have no problem with his failed attempt, and sees no reason why he should be punished.

Lady Justice, though, is depicted as blindfolded and carrying a scale. So, a public confession complemented by a slap on the wrist is, all things considered, a just way to close this episode. Besides, I don’t see any reason why the citizens of Israel should finance for Mr. Deri what would be more or less the same accommodations as a three-star hotel for eighteen or twenty-four months.

With Bibi, though, the prevailing issue is different altogether. Netanyahu does not believe that he in any way violated a code of ethics by accepting expensive gifts from someone who could very easily benefit economically from a prime minister’s protekzia. Bibi was sure that he would come out ahead in a battle of attrition but is finally sensing that the walls are closing in on him. His legal team has gone fishing in order to arrange a deal in which their client can claim victory and keep within sight of another run for the premiership; and not inconsequentially, claim reimbursement from the state for what are sure to be hefty legal expenses.

Withdrawing from politics is not in and of itself a sufficient punishment. A short stint in locked quarters feasting on frozen schnitzel and canned vegetables would do him more harm, and make him realize that hand-rolled Havanas and pistachio ice cream from a boutique ice cream shop need to be personally paid for and not procured as a perk to be taken for granted.

SHAS LEADER MK Arye Deri, August 2, 2021 (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)SHAS LEADER MK Arye Deri, August 2, 2021 (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

The breaches committed by Deri and Netanyahu are not the same which precludes them benefiting from the same plea bargain. It is imperative that the attorney-general, whoever it winds up being, ensures that Netanyahu pays a just price for his indiscretions. And you know what? I don’t think there would be too many who would raise any objection to that course of action.


Amid all the chatter about a plea bargain deal between Attorney-General Mandelblit and Benjamin Netanyahu, it is important to remember the very serious damage inflicted on Israel as a result of the alleged deal between Netanyahu and Shaul Elovitch to trade business advantages for Bezeq for favorable coverage on the Walla website. The damages of the deal go far beyond helping Bezeq with business issues and improving their profits.

What Bibi arranged in his dual roles as both prime minister and communications minister was to allow Bezeq to renege on commitments Bezeq had been forced to make to speed up the installation of fiber optic cable within the Israeli communications network infrastructure. The direct result of allowing Bezeq to delay these critical internet improvements is an ongoing significant delay in the ability to implement 5G internet in Israel, and as well, the ability of Israel to develop and exploit the “Internet of Things (IoT).”

Thus, what Bibi allegedly did in return for some favorable news coverage has actually caused significant damage to the Israeli economy by making us less competitive. There has also been an impact on our security, which after all depends on having the latest communications technology. The final casualty is the speed and reliability of every Israeli’s internet usage.

Any plea bargain that addresses Case 4000 must be justifiable in relation to the damages done to the State of Israel and all its citizens.


The right to know

Andrea Samuels explains quite well (“Vaccinate or live with the consequences,” January 14) the trade-offs inherent in the choice of whether to vaccinate or not to vaccinate against the Wuhan virus. To which I, having this past week taken the time and trouble to receive the fourth administration of the vaccine, would add that given the broad and sweeping effects of the COVID virus, the public should have the right to know who has not been vaccinated.

This right to know is most consistent with the injunction in the Torah portion Tazria (Leviticus 13:45) that one afflicted with leprosy publicly announce that fact as he or she circulates in public; the Talmudic glosses (Niddah 66a, Shabbat 67a, and Sotah 32b) support this.


Great pride, goodwill 

Regarding “Coalition in crisis despite tree planting truce” (January 13), Israelis take great pride in the fact that theirs is the only country in the world that entered the 21st century with more trees than 100 years earlier. For decades, Jewish schoolrooms everywhere had posters of a tree with coin slots for leaves. Children filled them from their allowance until another tree could be planted in Israel.

Palestinian Jews drained the swamps and made the deserts bloom. Forests and crops are an integral part of the Israeli psyche. Herein lies the seeds of conflict with the Bedouin.

The Bedouin are a nomadic people whose self-reliance and territorial approach to land ownership represent core values. Just as in Islamic culture, any land once controlled by Muslims is Muslim forever, the Bedouin treats any hill his father’s lamb once climbed as his own.

Bedouin are proudly not Palestinians. A century ago, when there were no borders, the families moved around the region as the head of each family determined. Loyalty is to the family, then to the clan. The nation-state, and its restrictions, is strictly a western construct.

Israel must continue to grow and control desertification. To this end they have built a number of Bedouin towns with all the modern conveniences. Most residents are happy to have electricity and sweet water. Others may prefer the open spaces on a permanent or temporary basis.

With goodwill, the diverse communities will learn to accommodate each other.


Similarities and differences

While one is in complete agreement with the general thrust of “The algebra of appeasement:1938 and today” (January 13), one must remember that when one compares a historical situation with a current situation, care should be taken to examine the similarities and differences between the two. This is why I would like to describe the 1938 appeasement in greater detail than in this article.

First, we Jews need not attempt to defend Chamberlain. He did not like us and the White Paper was introduced when he was premier. However, he condemned the persecution of German Jews by the Nazis and the German public at that time. But Munich was not about Jews; it was about Czechoslovakia.

This state was a product of the peace conference after World War One, and in 1938 it was only 20 years old. It was “stitched” together after the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Like most, if not all, of the new states created by that conference, its borders were defined in a slovenly way which was why a substantial ethnic German population was included in the Sudetenland. It was also recognized that the driving force during the peace conference was France’s desire for revenge against Germany, or Prussia after the Franco-Prussian war in 1871 and the destruction which resulted from the German invasion in World War One.

Adolf Hitler was a new phenomenon. History has more than its fair share of unscrupulous and evil senior politicians who would not hesitate to break a treaty but they had intelligence and would not break a treaty as soon as a few weeks after it had been signed. Hitler was unique in his stupidity and the intensity of his paranoid fantasies concerning Jews. He was a new phenomenon in politics; one with which the appeasers had no experience in assessing.

One also had to take the horrendous slaughter of young men in World War One as a factor.

When all this is taken into account, together with the demand to transfer the Sudeten Germans to what was considered their natural home, it seemed a rational decision to sign the Munich accord. It soon became obvious that this was a horrendous mistake made in ignorance of what they were dealing with and perhaps innocence concerning the nature of their opponents.

Winston Churchill? In 1938 he was considered a militaristic romantic with poor judgment. He was responsible for the Gallipoli campaign. He also supported Edward VIII during the abdication crisis. He would use troops against strikers. He did not have the reputation which he was shortly to earn.

Dr. Richter points out in his op-ed article that when “the chips were down,” Chamberlain declared war on Hitler. He might have added that neither Roosevelt nor Stalin did so. They waited to be attacked.

The big difference between 1938 and today is that while the 1938 appeasers were unable to appreciate the danger of their opponents, the modern appeaser cannot plead such ignorance and one of the most important lessons of 1938 is that when a head of state says he intends to wipe out the Jews, he means it. Although the modern appeasers are motivated by self-interest and, by that yard stick they are behaving in a rational way, their failure to smash Iran’s potential to destroy Israel is nothing less than criminal negligence and makes them complicit in Iran’s planned crime.

One last word: Czechoslovakia does not exist any longer. We now have the Czech Republic and Slovakia, two separate states.


All its people

Yes, Gershon Baskin, there is a solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians (“There is no solution?” January 13). It is the Israeli vision of “Two States for Two Peoples” – a Palestinian state coexisting with the nation-state of the Jews, with members of minority groups having full civil rights in their state of residence, just as non-Jews have full civil rights in Israel.

Unfortunately, Palestinian leaders have been working very hard to make sure that vision is never achieved. While refusing to negotiate on Israeli and American peace proposals, Mahmoud Abbas incites his people to attack Jews and rewards those who answer the call with livelong stipends to the murderers and/or their families. Hamas fires missiles at Jerusalem and other Israeli population centers when Israeli officers dare to try to stop Palestinian rioters on the Temple Mount from hurling stones and fireworks at Jews worshiping at the Western Wall. Anti-Jewish invective spews from Palestinian media outlets, mosques and schoolrooms. Palestinians who work with Israeli peace activists are denounced for “normalizing the ‘occupation.’”

Gershon Baskin has deluded himself into believing that a Muslim-majority Israel would be a “state of all its people.” But most Israelis (whether Jew or Arab) know that they would not be safe in such a state.


Never again

The article “Saying ‘never again’” by Issy Lyons (January 12) was so beautifully written, no less by a 19-year-old who made aliyah from Hong Kong.

She captured the essence of her “visit” to Poland. We can picture the horror and detritus she experienced and saw there, and without completely understanding the scenes before her, feel deep in our souls the meaning of those two words and how she dealt with her trip.

Her deep feeling for what took place in the death camps, and then the subsequent bus ride back to their hotel, and hearing about the shooting in yet another Jewish place of worship, albeit in the United States, shook me to my core, as well as the students on the bus.

 My tears flowed freely not only for the extermination of millions of Jews, but also for those young people to have seen the end results of those exterminations; shoes  ashes, clothing, books, etc.

Her writing may have been cathartic for her on some level, certainly enough for her to make aliyah to the “home” she spoke about, Israel.

In addition, that catharsis allowed her to contribute to society here in such a way that she will be able to truly believe that Israel will never allow the word  “again” to be part of the lexicon that makes us what we are. “Never,” however, will be our calling card to the world.

Keep up the wonderful work, Issy, and may you continue to go from strength to strength.