March 7: The dream of Syria’s role

United States policy in the Middle East remains myopic.

The dream of Syria’s role
Sir, – Syria and Iran held a big pow wow in Damascus (“Dinner in Damascus: What did Teheran ask of Hizbullah?,” March 4). The United States has just returned its ambassador to Damascus, and of course, as is usual with the Obama administration, it is saying that this will bring about a change in Syria’s behavior: Syria will now become a peace-loving and -seeking state.
However, the facts do not bear out this dream. Iran and Syria have become closer than ever, and Iran fully intends to continue to fund and work with all the major terror groups such as Hizbullah and Hamas, which want to be at the forefront of destroying Israel. United States policy in the Middle East continues to remain myopic because it refuses to understand that Iran and Syria are working jointly for the purpose of not only destroying Israel, but creating a new power structure in the Middle East – emphasizing Iran and Syria, and not Egypt and Saudi Arabia. This configuration is something the US should be aware of, and instead of relying on Syria to further peace in the Middle East, it should take a better look at the reality of the present situation. The alliance of Syria and Iran bodes no good for anybody.
Democratic expectations
Sir, – Once more, we are treated to a discussion of democracy in Israel (“An ethnocracy or a multiethnic democracy,” March 3). Why does Israel alone in the entire world justify its existence in terms of being “Jewish and democratic?” There are many accepted members in good standing in the United Nations – Arab, Islamic, Chinese – without being democratic.
There are Christians in America who insist that America is a Christian country, and President Barack Obama has generously noted Islam’s role in shaping America, but I don’t hear any Americans protesting that it should be both American and Democratic. Either Americans see no contradiction or distinction between the two ideals, or they are satisfied with one of them.
Saudi Arabia is a respected member of the UN, a friend of America, has no minorities to speak of, treats its women as second-class citizens – yet no one demands that Saudi Arabia must be Arab and Democratic.
The test of a country’s quality should be: Does it allow minorities to begin with, and does it treat those minorities humanely?
More on hasbara
Sir, – There may indeed be a few risible facts included in the new hasbara Web site, but in reading the article by Jeff Barak, I had to wonder where the author has been living over the past few years (“The joke is on Yuli Edelstein,” March 1).
There can be no doubt that the major, if not only, block to peace “negotiations” is “the refusal of the Palestinians to recognize the State of Israel.” Every piece of rhetoric and every article printed by the Palestinians for the Palestinians is a vehicle for repeating the need to destroy the “Zionist entity,” and it is this undeniable fact that should be broadcast to the rest of the world – not that there are still some naïve members of the public who still think they can reach an agreement with... yes, with whom?
TAMARA BRILLMa’aleh Adumim
Sir, – Hasbara? What a simple word for a gigantic undertaking.
Part of this undertaking involves maintaining basic manners in the country where you are visiting. Our chutzpa is a positive trait when the country needs people’s initiative in order to cope with security issues. However, the problem is that the same chutzpah is not very endearing abroad. Often, the people who push to get to the front of a line, the people who do not hold the door for those right behind them, are – you guessed it – our mates, the Israelis abroad. 
Israel’s best advocates are travelers returning to native countries. They know the language, they understand the mentality – Americans to the USA and Canada, Italians to Italy, and so on.
How can the country make the best use of our “traveling ambassadors? Make sure that the person who speaks on behalf of Israel is willing to give of his/her time to prepare for such a meeting. A center in Israel, manned by one person, will suffice to coordinate the speaking engagements. All that is required is an hour for a meeting at a local high school, or for a Sunday breakfast speaking engagement at a local church. Knowing the person’s schedule abroad, the Israeli center can pass on the information to be coordinated with the nearest embassy.
Guidance is also needed in using the right approaches for the various communities. When speaking with Roman Catholics, for instance, there will be different issues raised than when speaking to Seventh-Day Adventists, Mormons, blue-collar workers, university students.
For those who challenge the need for civilian hasbara, I relate the following experiences:
While walking in Hyde Park, my young children decided to answer an Israel-basher.
In a world-famous museum, a map outlining every city in Babylonian times in the Middle East had no mention of Judea, or Jerusalem – yet there was mention of Palestine. A lively discussion ensued, and the guide promised to have the museum authority handle this “mistake.”
In a crowded bar/restaurant a person noticed my Star of David. Immediately a large crowd surrounded us with questions on current events in Israel.
What does Europe lack?
Sir, – According to “Israel enjoys near record support in US, Gallup finds” (February 26), “Support for Israel among Americans is at a 19-year high [i.e., since the Gulf War]... According to a February Gallup survey of American attitudes... just 15 percent of Americans side with the Palestinians, while 23% either said they support both sides, neither side, or had no opinion.”
In the 2006 Pew survey, far fewer Europeans sympathized with Israel than with the Palestinians – from less than 40% in France and Germany and 20% in Britain, down to 10% in Spain. One would wish for more recent comparable data, but anyone who has kept up with the news must know that the figures for Europe today would be worse.
What makes the United States different? Perhaps it’s that the earliest founders of America were dissident Protestants who saw themselves as Jews seeking freedom from Egypt, or perhaps it’s connected to the fact that the same recent poll found that support for Israel among Democrats in the US remains around 50%, while support for Israel among Republicans has risen to an overwhelming 85%.
Readers may differ. Well and good; let better heads than mine consider, then: What is it that is lacking in Europe, that makes the US a friend?
Front-page news
Sir, – For the past three years, we have been enjoying The Jerusalem Postevery morning. For the past three weeks I have been contemplatingasking that you be more critical about what you print on the frontpage.
Tuesday’s front page featured the story that “13 boys gang-raped girlfor 3 years” (March 2). Page 4 of the same day held a small sidearticle that would make Jews proud, locally and internationally:Brazilian Jewish bibliophile Jose Mindlin from Rio de Janeiro, a giantamong the “People of the Book,” leaves 38,000 books from his collectionto the city (“Jewish bibliophile Jose Mindlin dies”). Mindlin’s storywould have made a great front-page story.