Letters to the editor May 30, 2022: Warm, provocative and aggravating

Readers of The Jerusalem Post have their say.

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

I was preparing to write a letter praising the Post after reading a whole series of op-ed articles with which I felt I could perfectly identify. Then came the editorial “Political partners” (May 29). I did not know whether to laugh or cry. The editorial is a mixture of disingenuousness and what Winston Churchill would have called “terminological inexactitudes.”

You attack Itamar Ben-Gvir, leader of Otzma Yehudit (a faction of the Religious Zionist Party), in harsh terms, accuse him of being a follower of the outlawed Kach party and its former leader, Rabbi Meir Kahane, and mention the picture of murderer Baruch Goldstein which until recently Ben-Gvir had on the wall of his living room. You argue that Ben-Gvir does not want to get along with Arabs and you compare him to white supremacists in the US. Your editorialist writes that Ben Gvir sends a “message of Jewish power that dominates the Arabs in this land.”

I am not a fervent supporter of Ben-Gvir but unequivocally reject your accusations against him which are far from correct. Ben-Gvir was a member of Kach as a teenager. Today, he categorically denies supporting Meir Kahane’s racist ideology. He has repeatedly said that he has nothing against Arabs per se, but only opposes those who deny the rights of the Jews to have their own state, and who express support for terrorist actions against Jews. Very reasonable, I would think. The picture of Goldstein in his living room was disgraceful but he has removed it.

I am absolutely in favor of having Arabs in the government who recognize the Jewish state and do not express solidarity with terrorists. The Ra’am party is part of the government coalition. Its charter, which was reviewed at a meeting in 2019, apparently chaired by its present leader, Mansour Abbas, calls Israel a “Zionist occupying project,” backs a “right of return” for Palestinians, and says there can be no allegiance to the Jewish state. MK Waleed Taha of the Ra’am Party, now chairman of the influential Internal Affairs Committee of the Knesset, has called jailed Arab terrorists, “prisoners of conscience” who have “paid the price for our just Palestinian cause.”

You turn a blind eye to the activities of Arab members of Knesset such as Ahmad Tibi of the Joint List, the former adviser to arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat. Tibi has a photograph of Arafat in his Knesset office but do not let that worry anyone. He also recently forcibly released an Arab detainee from police custody, a criminal offense. Then there is Ofer Cassif of the Joint List who recently slapped a policeman in the face. You have nothing to say about either of them.

Ben-Gvir appears to be a warm, gregarious personality with an infectious smile, a Zionist Jew who loves his country. Yes, he is provocative and aggravating but by all accounts he would not hurt a fly. He has been the subject of serious, repeated Arab threats on his life. Only recently the Shin Bet discovered plans for Palestinians to murder him on his doorstep in Hebron. However much he may offend and upset his opponents, he does not deserve the vilification that is heaped upon him.



Cruel and opportunistic

Seth Frantzman’s article “Turkey threatens new ethnic-cleansing invasion of Syria” (May 26) suggests more reasons for Jerusalem to be cautious about Turkish President Erdogan’s rapprochement overtures. Most Israelis remember how Erdogan spent over a decade acting as a strident anti-Israeli and antisemitic mouthpiece, and it is widely assumed that he ceased this behavior when he found himself facing 2023 elections with his country’s economy in a shambles and his personal political fortunes at risk.

But there is an added cause to suspect Erdogan’s character and motives. In 2018 and 2019, Turkish forces invaded Syria and caused grievous suffering to Yazidi, Kurdish, and other minorities there. And now, according to Frantzman, Ankara is planning a possible new incursion into eastern Syria which would expel Syrian refugees and could replace them with Turkish extremist groups loyal to Erdogan and who have been guilty of serial human rights abuses.

In addition to demanding that Turkey cease hosting Hamas groups, Jerusalem should consider what kind of relationship it wants to have with this cruel and opportunistic autocrat who acts ruthlessly toward anyone who might oppose his Islamist AKP ruling party. Any Israel-Turkey agreements should include failsafe provisions that preclude a return by Ankara to its previous regional behavior.

Such agreements must not come at the expense of other, defenseless minorities, nor in any way grant Erdogan leverage regarding our own interests.



A condition for our good behavior

Heshie and Rookie Billet raised very important issues in their column “Two Nazi officers and a UK UN representative” (May 27). It is both interesting and curious that in stating the obvious that discerning people should see both sides of a complicated issue that they used the events in Yeshiva College surrounding the invitation to Lord Caradon as the focal point. I wonder why they did so when they could have used many examples in their call to see beyond ambiguity. 

I am proud to recall that my fellow students and I who were members of the Betar youth movement organized the petition to prevent Caradon from speaking at YU. It was this petition that created the “loud noise.” I have no doubt that I was one of those whom Heshie and Rookie Billet accused of evoking “irresponsible language.” I am proud of what I did and my small role in what followed.

I was a student of history. Several of my fellow activists were political science and sociology students. Some of us were members of the Political Science Club. We all understood that there are two sides to most stories. (As a teacher I tried to impress this upon my students.) But there was only one side to this story!

We felt strongly that the Yeshiva College student body cannot provide a platform to the person whose views on Israel were so hateful. We were determined that we would not allow him to speak on the Yeshiva College campus.

Rav Soloveitchik invited us to meet him in his apartment in the dormitory. We were honored to accept the invitation. I don’t know how many students were privileged to meet Rav Soloveitchik in his apartment in general and to discuss such an issue in particular. As I recall the meeting, he did not try to impress upon us that we should see both sides of the Caradon invitation.

The main point that I remember him raising was that it would be a great desecration of God’s name if the lecture event turned ugly and generated negative press. He implored us to withdraw the petition and to allow the meeting to take place in a positive atmosphere. Basically he wanted us to promise that we would “behave ourselves.”

He said that he would like to address the students to explain his position. Some of us remember that it was we who suggested this as a “condition” for our “good behavior.” We of course agreed and looked forward to what the rav had to say to the student body. As far as I know, this was the first time Rav Soloveitchik addressed the students on what may be called a “political” issue.

I only vaguely remember the philosophical aspect of the talk. I do remember that he outlined his view on the future of the territories, liberated during the Six Day War, or perhaps more to the point, who should make the decision. That’s a different topic, however important it may be.

By the way – Lord Caradon called off the lecture for his own reasons. Was it because of the loud noise we raised or the scheduling problems mentioned in the official statement? 

I don’t know, and more than 50 years later, it’s not really important.


Hod Hasharon

Minor inconvenience

Regarding “Basic rules for driving in Israel” (May 27): We, too, have noted how poorly Israelis drive when compared to most other countries we have been in (not just the US and Canada).

I would add one more item to the list. Enforcement!

Neither the police nor the courts seem to consider what a danger bad drivers are to everyone else. That includes other drivers and pedestrians.

Mandatory prison time and/or heavy fines for second offenders might help. The current defensive driving course is regarded by too many as just a minor inconvenience.



The article by Andrea Samuels regarding the solution to the dismal driving records of Israelis and high death tolls on the nation’s roads speaks abundantly about publicity campaigns emphasizing safe driving practices to change people’s attitudes. Sadly, I must disagree. What is most egregiously lacking on Israeli roads is adequate law enforcement. 

When my wife and I made aliyah three years ago, we were shocked both by the terrible and unsafe driving practices of Israeli drivers, but much more by the lack of any police presence on the highways. Cars will routinely pass mine at easily 30, 40, and 50 kph over the speed limit, with nary a police car in evidence. We come from the province of Quebec, Canada, an area with roughly the same population as Israel. It is not normal to travel the roads of Quebec without seeing significant police presence, the sight of which serves both the discouragement of unsafe driving, but also to punish offenders.

But in Israel, hardly ever. We also have traveled on the roads elsewhere in Canada and the US very extensively. The same experience applies. But here, almost no evidence of a police presence. Where are they hiding? Or, does the government not really care enough about this very important issue to actually do something about it?

I am positive that once the government begins assigning police patrols in adequate numbers to the nation’s roads, and then once the police begin citing the offenses of offenders, that will bring about the much-needed attitudinal change in Israeli drivers of which Ms. Samuels speaks in her article. Nothing works like financial penalties, and the consequences to one’s permit to drive. A bad driver will get punished once and think twice the second time.

If not, he or she will get punished a second or third time. A point system, known in many parts of the civilized world, by which licenses of bad drivers are suspended should be instituted and consistently applied.

The government should at least try, instead of not doing anything.



Sacred to both peoples

Once again, Gershon Baskin finds fault only with Israel(“‘Occupied’ territory and flags,” May 26)  and ignores all responsibility on the Arab side. When Jordan illegally occupied eastern Jerusalem for nearly two decades, no one from the Israeli side of the Green Line was allowed to visit the Old City, synagogues were demolished, and Jewish graves were desecrated. Israel liberated eastern Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and Gaza from illegal occupation only after Jordan allied with Egypt and Syria in a war instigated with open genocidal intent.

After the Six Day War, the Arab League rejected Israel’s offer to withdraw from newly liberated territory in exchange for recognition and peace. The Arab League rejected this generous offer. And many Arabs living in eastern Jerusalem (some in homes from which Jews had been ethnically cleansed by Jordanian forces) refused to accept Israeli citizenship.

At the urging of Arab leaders, the Arabs living in eastern Jerusalem also refrained from voting in municipal elections (which they were allowed to do, although their refusal of Israeli citizenship barred them from voting in elections for the Knesset). It is not at all surprising that people who chose not to participate in the electoral process found the needs of their communities largely ignored by elected officials.

Considering the disrespect shown for Jewish holy sites by the Jordanians, no one should have been surprised by Israel’s annexation of eastern Jerusalem. The surprising thing was that Israel allowed the Jordanian Wakf to administer the Muslim sites on The Temple Mount. That move was influenced by rabbinical concerns regarding the ritual purity of Jews in modern times. Yet, it was a magnanimous gesture on Israel’s part. 

It is a disgrace that the Wakf has allowed Palestinians to desecrate the Aqsa Mosque by using it as a site for storing rocks and other weapons, using them to harass Jews praying at the Western Wall and to attack Israel security officers. Instead of proclaiming that Jews have no connection to Jerusalem and its holy sites, the Wakf should have found a way to accommodate Jewish prayer as well as Muslim prayer in a place that is sacred to both peoples.