January 10: When cooperation fails

January 10 Letters

When cooperation fails Sir, - In his recent "Right of Reply" to my op-ed ("Of insult and mockery," December 23), Prof. Barry Rubin asserts that I believe that "any emphasis by Central European countries of their own suffering during World War II... is somehow a challenge to the uniqueness and importance of the mass murder of the Jews in those countries" ("Our suffering should be the basis for cooperation, not competition," December 30). However, I never wrote any such thing. My assertion was that the current campaign being conducted by the Baltic and other post-communist countries to press for official recognition that the crimes of communism were equivalent to those of the Nazis is a distortion of history that will have very negative consequences for the Jewish world. At no point have I ever advocated ignoring communist crimes, nor would I ever belittle the suffering of their victims. As someone who began actively campaigning to help save Soviet Jewry as a 16 year old high school student and continued to do so for more than two decades, I am well-aware of the evils perpetrated by communist regimes and support any effort to commemorate their victims If the Balts and other Eastern European peoples had courageously faced their bloody Holocaust past by prosecuting local Nazi war criminals and teaching the truth about local participation in the murders, a solid basis for cooperation might have been created. But 18 years have already passed since independence, and all we have is lip service as far as the Jewish victims are concerned, and fig leaf monuments that fail to mention the local killers. These countries commemorate murdered Jews to help burnish their images as upstanding liberal democracies sensitive to Holocaust issues, but they refuse to teach their societies the truth about the extensive role of local Nazi collaborators in the murders. I very much admire Prof. Rubin's analysis of political issues related to the Middle East, but as far as Eastern Europe is concerned, he is naïve at best, if not totally misguided. Yes, there was a theoretical basis for possible cooperation with the post-communist nations of Eastern Europe, but they have hitherto failed in dealing with the Shoah, and the recent campaign to equate communism with Nazism is yet another chilling proof. A missed opportunity to make friends and create alliances, indeed, but to ignore their abysmal failures in this regard is to betray the victims of the Holocaust and make fools of ourselves in the process. DR. EFRAIM ZUROFF Director, Simon Wiesenthal Center-Israel Office Jerusalem 'Pro-Israel, pro peace' Sir, - Let me get this straight: Jeremy Ben-Ami believes that "pro-Israel, pro-peace" means closing any agenda other than J Street positions because he knows the real truth and solutions? Ben-Ami, a true believer, has faith that the Arabs will be peaceful and loving if Israel only gives up a large portion of land, agrees to never live on Arab land, hands over control of parts of Jerusalem as a new capital of yet another Israel-loving Arab country, and that the newly formed State of Palestine will be democratic and "love life more than killing Israelis." How does he forget and ignore that after the Jews left Gaza, the Arabs used it as a close-up shooting range? That the hothouses of Gaza with all their equipment were looted and destroyed? That Hamas and most of the "Palestinians" want to push us all into the sea and destroy Israel? They have never recognized that Israel is a legitimate country, which Ben-Ami claims along with them that we occupy. SONIA GOLDSMITH Netanya Condemning abortion Sir, - I commend Israel's chief rabbis, Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger, for condemning abortion ("'Abortions are delaying redemption,' chief rabbis warn," December 30). As a result of abortions, millions of children, who would today be millions of young people which the world needs desperately, have not been born. Often it is women who pay the price for situations in which perhaps they are the least to blame. Once again, the feminist cry for freedom for the dignity of women is drowned out by dispositions to turn them into simple objects of passing and irresponsible pleasure. Let us fight for life. Life is the future of man, never death. Let us support women in difficulty, giving them the means to assume the precious task of new motherhood. PAUL KOKOSKI Jerusalem Freedom of religion Sir, - As you reported, the former presiding rabbis of the air force, navy and IDF Educational Division have declared that for observant Jewish soldiers, religious observance has to take precedence over a clashing army order ("Ex-IDF chief rabbis: Halacha is above military orders," January 1). Obviously, everyone agrees that military emergencies tilt the scales - but just as obviously, settlement evacuation orders are not military emergencies. The former military rabbis therefore called on Defense Minister Ehud Barak to stop inciting against hesder and reinstate Har Bracha Yeshiva. This is all not only correct, but self-evident. At least two former chief rabbis of the State of Israel - namely the late Rabbi Shlomo Goren and Rabbi Avraham Shapiro - were both well-known for their explicit rulings that Orthodox soldiers cannot participate in such evacuation from any part of the Land of Israel, in any way, shape or form, directly or even indirectly. It does not make any difference that this is not an across-the-board ruling in the sense that Rabbi Lichtenstein of Har Etzion Yeshiva is reported to have ruled otherwise. Just as the IDF respects naturalist soldiers' wish to refrain from wearing regulation leather army boots, so it must respect the thousands of Orthodox soldiers who follow the teachings of our country's own former chief rabbis. In fact, the army is far more obligated to these elementary Jewish teachings than it is to esoteric vegetarian or naturalist inclinations, since Israel is, after all, a Jewish state - not a vegetarian state. There is an acute freedom-of-religion issue here - as is clear to us Anglo-Saxons, at least. The crisis is actually supposed to be resolved by MK Ze'ev Elkin, if the political system is functioning. As chairman of the coalition, Mr. Elkin's job is to politely but firmly remind Mr. Barak that if he cannot sort out this issue by himself, he (Elkin) will be forced to push a negating cabinet decision through the government. SUSIE DYM Spokesperson, Mattot Arim Rehovot How to support Young Judaea Sir, - As grandmothers of two Young Judaeans - one who participated three years ago and one who is now enrolled - we object to the pessimistic tone of the article in Thursday's Jerusalem Post ("Key directors resign from Young Judaea," January 7). Our girls are ardent Zionists and fully support the program, as do their friends. We feel that the loss of the two leaders mentioned will not affect the basic aims of the program. Everyone is replaceable. Possibly blogger Danny Reed is looking back to his time as a Young Judaean with rose-colored glasses (which often happens as time passes) and needs to talk with the people who have participated recently or are doing so now. Funding is important to any program, but the love of Israel isn't based on money. The best way to advance a program as important as YJ is to continue supporting it and urging our children and grandchildren to participate. People should not bash it while it flounders, as Hadassah tries to recover from the Madoff scandal. MARIAN BURCK and JAN GAINES Netanya