April 8: Price Forensics

I share Marsha Ohayon’s horror at the prices of commodity products.

Letters 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Handout )
Letters 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Handout )
Difficult mission
Sir, – With regard to “Yad Vashem hopes to gather nearly all the names of the six million within 3 years” (April 5), I wish to clarify that Yad Vashem is laboring intensively and investing a great deal of effort and funds in its endeavor to identify the names of every Jew murdered in the Holocaust, and has made significant progress toward this goal over the past decade.
In 2004 we uploaded to the Internet the names of approximately 2.7 million victims of the Shoah; today, the online Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names has approximately 4.2 million entries. If our name-collection program is successful, we hope to reach 5 million in the coming years.
Nonetheless, it is difficult to say with certainty that we will ever recover the names of all Holocaust victims. Certainly, we cannot say definitively that in the next three years we will know the names of all the Jews who were murdered.
The Nazis made a concerted and systematic effort to obliterate the memory of those murdered.
In numerous cases they wiped out entire communities, leaving not a single person who could convey the victims’ names.
We will not rest until we have completed the mission, but it is a complex task and caution should always be exercised.
Jerusalem The writer is director of Yad Vashem’s Archives Division
Letter from afar
Sir, – Regarding “100 prominent American Jews call on Netanyahu to take concrete steps toward peace” (April 5), it would be fitting if these American Jews made some concessions, too. For example, let them publicly declare that if no progress is made after Israel makes the concessions they request, they henceforth will point their fingers at Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as the cause, and notify President Barack Obama to this effect.
Sir, – The last thing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu needs is a letter from prominent American Jews urging him to take “concrete steps” toward peace.
It is beyond belief that these people should suppose, even for a second, that thoughts of peace are not uppermost in Netanyahu’s mind every minute of every day.
Any chances for peace in this region are in the hands of the so-called Palestinian leadership, and it is to them that letters should be addressed.
Mevaseret Zion
Damages to whom?
Sir, – Anat Kamm (“Convicted document leaker Anat Kamm sues ‘Haaretz’ and journalist Uri Blau for NIS 2.6m.,” April 5) should be glad she received a lenient sentence of only threeand- a-half-years. In essence she was committing the offense of high treason in a time of war, for which she would have faced the death sentence in many of the countries surrounding Israel – assuming she did not die in detention before coming to trial.
While I have no sympathy for Haaretz or Uri Blau, I am appalled at Kamm’s chutzpah of suing them for failing to cover up her crime. If anything, they should have to pay the state, not pay her, for their involvement in undermining the country’s security.
Salford, UK Kudos to Sherman
Sir, – Your columnist Martin Sherman remains peerless.
The intelligent reader who seeks a deeper understanding of rapidly unfolding events beyond their superficial reportage depends a great deal on the likes of Sherman. His “Obama in Israel: The sinister subtext?” (Into the Fray, April 5) is a prime example of his gift for articulating that which many Israelis came to suspect after being overwhelmed by US President Barack Obama’s recent charm offensive.
Sherman offers cogent arguments supported by impeccable logic and an incredibly rich vocabulary to make his points, which he further strengthens by a fertile array of quotes from the subjects of his articles or literary sources. He begins his thesis with a most valid question concerning Obama’s decision to bypass Israel’s Knesset and deliver a message to a pre-selected group of students, whom he urged to organize pressure for the promotion of peace – if necessary, even by circumventing their democratically elected officials.
What indeed is the nature of the aforementioned peace? Is it a peace agreement, which the government of Israel has been insisting must be negotiated by both sides without pre-conditions, and which the Palestinian Authority has for many months refused to accept, instead choosing to stir up violent attacks against Israeli civilians and IDF personnel? Or is this Obama’s subtext peace plan based upon indefensible 1967 borders and the release of hundreds of terrorist prisoners, while totally ignoring the growing hostility that surrounds Israel? Sherman has got it right!
Petah Tikva Price forensics
Sir, – As a recent oleh from England and a consumer who has always visited a variety of retail outlets in search for the lowest price for similar or branded products, I share Marsha Ohayon’s horror at the prices of commodity products (“Fight to lower prices in Israel,” Comment & Features, April 2).
While fresh fruit and vegetables vary tremendously in price among retail outlets and are far more related to seasonal availability and promotions, prepared foodstuffs, frozen goods and non-edibles are at significantly higher prices than their English equivalents – for example, about double for milk products and frozen goods, and perhaps 50 percent higher for laundry products.
While these differences might be explained by the relatively small size of the Israeli market and the distance from the manufacturing plant or original distributor, I suspect that the determinants of pricing are related to both the inertia of the average Israeli consumer and captive market pricing.
Boycotting high prices by retailers, whose profit margins are relatively low and subject to sufficient competition in urban areas, would likely have little, if any, long-term impact on pricing, and in my experience from standing in lines at the supermarket, would likely be ignored.
It would be more effective for Finance Minister Yair Lapid to establish a department of forensic accountancy to trace the supply chain and establish whether a lack of competition is maintaining prices to the detriment of the Israeli consumer, and act to remedy the situation.
Negative image
Sir, – Your article “Ukrainian town to stop paving its roads with old Jewish gravestones” (March 3) claims that old Jewish tombstones are still used as materials for construction projects in Lviv. This is a brutally untrue allegation that lacks any reliable evidence.
The article includes references to alleged decisions and promises made by municipal officials.
However, it fails to represent the position of the city council.
It seems that as soon as Lviv starts to implement measures to improve the condition of historic Jewish sites or construct Jewish memorials, as it has recently done, there appear certain forces intent on creating a negative image of its attitude toward the Jewish community.
Let me stress that the preservation and commemoration of Lviv’s Jewish heritage is a responsibility we take extremely seriously. All initiatives aimed at the preservation and commemoration of this heritage are undertaken in close collaboration between the city council and Jewish organizations and NGOs, and in consultation with the appropriate Jewish religious authorities.
The writer is mayor of Lviv