Letters to the Editor, September 14, 2022: 'Wrong' decision saved them

Readers of The Jerusalem Post have their say.

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

‘Wrong’ decision saved them

In “Ken Burns has a Palestine problem” (September 13), the eminent historians Rafael Medoff and Monty Penkower, reviewing the nefarious record of the Roosevelt administration in not admitting Jewish refugees facing annihilation in Nazi-occupied Europe, state that between 1939 and 1941 nearly 300,000 Polish Jews fled German-occupied areas of Poland for the Soviet zone, because they “chose life under the Soviets, instead of likely death under the Germans.”

My parents were among those 300,000 and the reality is more complex than that stated by the authors. My father, under no illusions regarding the true nature of the “socialist paradise,” but anticipating full well what the Nazis had in store for the Jews, did indeed flee the advancing Germans. He escaped to the Russian zone, where shortly afterward he was arrested and sent to a labor camp in Siberia. My mother’s family, in contrast, was expelled by the Nazis – against their will – to the Soviet zone early in the war.

In fact, when the Soviets asked the group who wished to return to their homes on the German side, my mother’s family, with little inkling of what that might ultimately entail, indicated they indeed wished to return to their homes in the German-occupied zone. The Soviets informed them they would accordingly go back to their homes. Instead, construing their request as anti-Soviet, the Soviets loaded them onto trains to a work camp in Siberia.

In all likelihood, both my parents would not have survived the conditions of Stalin’s gulag were it not for Hitler’s attack on Russia in 1941, whereupon the Polish government-in-exile came to an agreement with Soviet Russia, a provision of which freed the thousands of Polish citizens in these camps. They in fact had made what we, in hindsight, would have viewed as the decidedly “wrong” decision to request to return to their homes in the German-occupied zone, but it was precisely this decision which ultimately saved them. The Jews who made the “right” decision to stay in the Soviet zone, were ultimately caught and killed when the Germans invaded the following year.

It is tempting, in hindsight, to view these events as binary – Russia vs. Germany, life vs. death. This is not to excuse the execrable conduct of the US and British administrations in condemning Jewish refugees to a terrible fate, the contours of which by then had become obvious. But, at least for the Jews of the time, with few good options in a rapidly-evolving, increasingly murderous world, it was impossible to know what move was the right one, and where in fact safety lay, moves with implications which became known only years later after the war. 

IRVING WIESEN 

Jerusalem 

Unnoticed and taken for granted

I refer to the article by Tzvi Joffre, “Will public transport run on Shabbat? It’s now up to local authorities” (September 13), concerning the controversy regarding allowing public transport, and particularly the new light rail of Tel Aviv and environs, to operate seven days a  week.

What will be, I wonder, if, as is noted in your article, the question is to be delegated to the individual local councils to decide whether to operate on Shabbat or not? Will all passengers have to disembark from the buses and trains when they reach the boundaries of the local authority, then walk to the next boundary and get on again?

Now, I know that Tel Aviv and the center of the country are not Jerusalem and that one cannot compare the different atmospheres generated by these two different cities. Even so, I would hate to see the little that is left of the Shabbat atmosphere in Tel Aviv being destroyed by the operation of the light rail on Shabbat.

In this connection, I cannot help but cogitate on the fate of Jerusalem if, heaven forbid (not a pun), the city allowed the Jerusalem light rail to operate 24/7.

Gone would be the Shabbat days when Jerusalemites would stroll through the streets in unhurried and relaxed fashion, seeing and enjoying for the first time since last Shabbat, the houses, the gardens, the interesting and unique archaeological features, the Bauhaus, the parks, the amazing intermingling of the ancient and the modern – things that during the week, just flash past the windows of the light rail unnoticed and taken for granted.

On the cool Jerusalem Friday evenings, you see young people bringing trays, or pots or bottles to the house where the young and unattached get together over the traditional shared Shabbat meal and find friends and soulmates; when everyone who passes you by smiles and wishes you a “Shabbat shalom,” even if you haven’t a clue who they are, and no one, but no one, is in a hurry. Crossing roads on Shabbat is even a pleasure, indeed, most Jerusalem Shabbat strollers just walk in the road, because cars, and certainly electrically-propelled machines, are few and far between.

I, for one, am not prepared to give this up to allow the intrusion of public transport backed up by some nebulous and unsubstantiated claim of saving public money, not for Jerusalem and not for Tel Aviv, because that is the true spirit of the Shabbat which goes to the very heart of Jewish life as it was, as it is and as I sincerely hope it will continue to be, in this our Jewish country.

LAURENCE BECKER

Jerusalem

Reluctant to be dissolved

Regarding “Hurtling toward a sixth election?” (September 12): I suspect Herb Keinon knows that the answer to his question is a resounding “yes.” There are too many parties, it is much too easy to form a party and equally easy to dissolve one. Parties swap partners between election cycles and make deals during efforts to form governing coalitions, leaving the voters unable to hold politicians accountable for promises made in election campaigns. Clearly, things have got to change.

Whatever type of government results from the November 1 election will probably be composed of several small parties which have little allegiance to one another, making the government in constant danger of seeing the coalition fall as any party walks out and is hard to replace (because the parties making up the original fragile coalition were the only ones which would even consider sitting with each other). 

This is not going to change until the Knesset enacts reforms in election policy. The election threshold needs to be raised, parties should be required to publish their platforms, obtain significant numbers of signatures of registered voters, pay substantial fees, and agree to participate in multi-party debates before they are allowed to stand for election. This will result in party members having to invest time, effort and money in their campaigns, making them reluctant to allow their party to be dissolved after only one or two attempts to obtain Knesset seats.

Once a stable government is formed, and a Knesset comes close to being able to serve its nominal four-year term, MKs should begin looking at the possibility of moving from the proportional representation system (all MKs elected at large via voters who choose from party lists) to a system in which some seats are designated to represent specified districts, with parties designating candidates who would face off against each other in campaigns for the designated seats.

New Zealand has adopted such a “mixed” system in recent years with the result that a single party obtained a clear majority in parliament after many years of the country having been governed by coalitions.

TOBY F. BLOCK

Atlanta

Ramallah, Israel

Regarding “We must act now” (September 12): Antisemitism is centered in our universities, promoted by radical Islam and a left-wing academic agenda.

There was never a Palestine or a Palestinian people until the KGB and Egypt formed the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1964. The PLO called Israel, ‘Palestine’ and the Arabs living there, ‘Palestinians.’ They did not consider Gaza and the West Bank to be part of Palestine. Yasser Arafat, an Egyptian, became the first (Arab) Palestinian.

Under international law (San Remo Accords, 1920, League of Nations, 1922, and article 80 of the UN Charter), Israel includes all of Mandatory Palestine. During the mandate, 500,000 Arabs from other areas moved in for the job opportunities Zionist development created.

In 1947, the UN ‘suggested’ the Jews share the land with the Arabs to avoid conflict. The Jews agreed. The Arabs, under Nazi war criminal Haj Amin al-Husseini, grand mufti of Jerusalem, refused and launched a war of genocide against Israel as soon as the mandate ended in 1948. Five Arab armies joined in. 700,000 Arabs fled the fighting.

Jews caught behind Arab lines were ethnically cleansed. Their synagogues were destroyed and their properties stolen. Arabs caught in Israel became Israeli citizens. 

Israel welcomed in 850,000 Jews forced out of Arab lands as well as Holocaust survivors and Ethiopian, Russian and Yugoslavian refugees.

The PLO, meanwhile, tried to dislodge the Jordanian monarchy and were routed. They moved to Lebanon, started a civil war and drove out 700,000 Christians. With Israel’s help they were pushed out and settled in Tunis until the Oslo Accords allowed them to set up headquarters in Ramallah, Israel.

CAIR, Hamas and the Muslim Students’ Associations (MSA) are part of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose goal is to replace the West with a Caliphate. MSA is a sponsor of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions and Israel Apartheid Week movements. SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine) is Hamas’s representative in our universities.

“Pro-Palestine” groups exist solely to promote an antisemitic agenda. They present a clear and present danger to Jewish students, faculty and administrators and to the population at large.

LEN BENNETT

Ottawa

Affording the latest fashions

Andrea Samuels posted the question, “Should a school uniform be compulsory?” (September 9).

Although it may be almost obsolete in Israel, there was a great purpose for wearing a uniform. It provided pride in your school, with no outward differences between poor and more wealthy students. If some children should be ashamed not being able to afford the latest fashions, of course it affects their concentration on their education.

Imagine sports teams all turning up in different clothes! It would be unthinkable. Additionally, when all players wear white at Wimbledon, there is a sense of unity. I don’t even like to see tennis players wearing different-colored clothes in other countries.

Maybe it is in British upbringing that we were so accustomed to all dressing alike, and if you were caught not wearing your hat (or cap for boys) on your return journey home after school, you could be punished.

It all comes down to pride in belonging – not fashion. There is always time for that in evening or weekend events that are not connected to one’s school.

I’m old-fashioned, and proud of it!

JOY COLLINS

Tel Mond

Demanding Israel’s destruction

US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides is convinced that the two-state solution is the way to keep Israel Jewish and democratic (“Nides: Two states will keep Israel Jewish, democratic,” September 8). To the western mind this view seems entirely logical. All Israel has to do is agree to a Palestinian state and the problem will be solved. Unfortunately, this simplistic view ignores the reality of the actual situation in the Middle East.

For over 70 years, the Palestinians have rejected every offer of a Palestinian state living peacefully alongside Israel. Instead, they have consistently called for a Palestinian state from the river to the sea with Jerusalem as their capital, and the right of return of Palestinian refugees. Does Ambassador Nides really think that Hamas, Islamic Jihad or any other Islamic jihadist group will suddenly change its fanatical obsession of liberating every inch of what they consider to be Palestinian land, by agreeing to hand them a state?

Does he not know that the stated policy of the Palestinian Authority is that no Jews will be allowed to live in Palestine, and that Palestinian refugees including their descendants must be settled in Israel. The latter demand will inevitably end in a Palestinian majority in Israel. The result will be the exact opposite of a Jewish and democratic Israel.

All one has to do is read the Hamas Covenant and the PLO Charter to confirm the demands of the Palestinians. It is definitely not a two-state solution. There are enough failed states in the Middle East without creating another non-viable state, that has as its core demand the destruction of Israel. 

No agreement will prevent a Palestinian state from requesting help from other states. This will be a green light for Russia and Iran to respond by sending troops to Palestine in the same way as they have responded to Syrian requests for help. Having Russian or Iranian soldiers looking down on Ben-Gurion Airport is not a solution. It is the prelude to a much greater Middle Eastern war. Ambassador Nides, please stop deluding yourself with wishful La La Land thinking about a two-state solution.

The future of peace in the Middle East lies in the expansion of the Abraham Accords. The most that Israel can offer the Palestinians is autonomy over their own affairs in Gaza, and parts of the West Bank where Palestinians are the majority. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, peace will come when the nations “shall beat their swords into ploughshares.”

At some long-term future date, a two-state solution may be possible. Under the present circumstances, a two-state solution is an oxymoron and is clearly not on the cards.

NEVILLE BERMAN

Ra’anana