Letters to the Editor April 14, 2021: Remembrance Day meditations

Readers of The Jerusalem Post have their say.

Letters (photo credit: PIXABAY)
(photo credit: PIXABAY)
 Remembrance Day meditations
The front-page photo that accompanies “Nation to bow its head to honor the 23,928 fallen” (April 13) reveals something unique and special about Israel: the seat for mourners beside every grave at the Mount Herzl Military Cemetery is a gesture unlikely to be repeated anywhere else.
As it is every citizen’s duty to respect and honor the fallen, it is also a very somber reminder that a country so small has 52 military cemeteries for those that gave their lives that we should live.
As we reside in a very dangerous neighborhood, it is imperative that we continue to remain vigilant in deterring anyone who wishes us harm. That’s the least we must do in honoring the past and guaranteeing our future.
Tel Aviv
This week we salute our fallen soldiers who sacrificed the ultimate for our country and people.
Recent defensive events by our Mossad and military forces have demonstrated the long reach of our Air Force, Navy and Special Forces to defend us in other countries. I am very grateful and proud of our soldiers, sailors and airmen. 
We salute you and thank you for defending us so valiantly.
Biden and betrayal
In “Biden and the American pay-for-slay law” (April 12) we learn that US President Joe Biden, in apparent violation of US law, has begun streaming tens of millions of dollars to the Palestinian Authority – even while it is spending an estimated $350 million per year in bounties to incentivize and reward the killing of Israelis.
Last summer a rumor circulated that Russia was offering bounties to Afghan militants to kill US soldiers, yet the US was doing nothing. It is instructive to recall how then-candidate Biden spoke about pay-for-slay at that time:
Biden said president Donald Trump’s alleged inaction in the matter of pay-for-slay was a “betrayal of the most sacred duty we bear as a nation to protect and equip our troops when we send them into harm’s way. It’s a betrayal of every single American family with a loved one serving in Afghanistan or anywhere overseas... But I don’t just think about this as a candidate for president. I think about this as a dad, a father who sent his son to serve in harm’s way for a year in the Middle East and in Iraq, and I’m disgusted on behalf of those families whose loved ones are serving today,” Biden said.
In other words, when Biden claimed the Russians were paying bounties to kill Americans, he was “disgusted” and condemned the president’s inaction, but now that he knows the PA is paying bounties to kill Israelis, his disgust is suddenly absent and he is directing significant sums of money their way – unconditionally, asking nothing of them in return. As money is fungible, these generous monetary gifts from Biden are indirectly financing the murder of innocent Jews.
Now it is my turn to feel betrayed and be disgusted.
Fort Lauderdale
In 1981, Israeli warplanes destroyed a nuclear installation in Baghdad, Iraq. This prevented dictator Saddam Hussein from obtaining nuclear capabilities, arguably saving countless American and Middle Eastern lives during subsequent conflicts with Iraq.
In 2007, Israeli special forces verified and destroyed a nuclear installation in Syria being constructed with assistance from North Korea. This rescued the world from having to confront a nuclear-armed ISIS, Al-Qaeda, or Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.
Now we learn (“Mossad behind cyberattack on Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility,” April 12) that Israel engineered a cyberattack on the Iranian nuclear installation at Natanz. This attack caused severe damage and occurred one day after Iran announced the presence there of advanced centrifuges, capable of enriching uranium at up to 50 times the rate of their IR-1 machines. It appears this may have set the tyrants of Tehran back about nine months in their ongoing nuclear proliferation efforts aimed at obtaining an Iranian nuclear arsenal.
The world owes Israel a debt of gratitude for delaying or destroying these illicit nuclear proliferation efforts. Will the world understand this? Will the Biden-Harris administration, currently engaged in a sure-to-fail policy of appeasement toward Iran, finally see that their approach will only lead to an industrial-strength Iranian nuclear arsenal?
Williamsville, New York
Regarding “Palestinians ‘optimistic’ about new peace talks” (April 11), here we go again. Fatah officials are absolutely giddy with the prospects of a return to the Obama/Biden era. They are salivating over the Quartet (the US, the UN, the EU and Russia) “reactivating” the failed policies of the past: a Palestine in all of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, with its capital in eastern Jerusalem and “refugees” flooding into Israel.
The PA talks of a “renewed commitment to the two-state solution.” Where’s the renewal? The US has always favored a two-state solution, including during the Trump administration.
US president Donald Trump proposed the Peace to Prosperity Plan, which included two states and a $50 billion development fund to kick-start the Palestinian economy. Its map gave the PA more land than Jordan and Egypt occupied from 1948 to 1967 and provided Israel with border security.
The Trump plan, not the Obama plan, is the practical starting point for PA-Israeli peace talks. The Arab League, not the Quartet, could facilitate progress. Even China has offered to sponsor talks. Unfortunately, American policy looks set to waste another four years.
Ottawa, On. 
Kasting aspersions?
Touch of memory” (Grapevine, April 7) again relates the Kastner saga, though diplomatically refrains from expressing an opinion on whether Kastner deserves to have been assassinated, or whether he deserves to be praised for having saved many Jews from the horrors of the Holocaust. I would like to reveal some facts that may throw some light on the subject.
I was acquainted with Dr. Israel Kastner in 1952-1953 when I worked with him as his assistant in his capacity as public relations director in the Communications Ministry headed by Dov Joseph. One day Kastner arrived in the office with a thick file containing many type written pages in German. It was the report he had submitted to the leadership of the World Zionist Organization on his activity to save Jews in Hungary from the horrors of the Holocaust. 
This was one of my most exciting reading experiences. I don’t know why it was important for Kastner to have me read the report. I was then merely a young man who had just graduated from the university, without any public position, then as now, that might have enabled me to do anything in his favor. 
The report described in minute detail his negotiations with Eichmann about the refugee train and also his profound despair when his desperate request of the Zionist leadership to send him at least a small symbolic advance payment to convince the suspicious Eichmann that Kastner’s financial promises were indeed made with the backing of the World Zionist leadership. But Kastner was not granted any consent by the leadership, and therefore was forced into a dangerous situation to retain Eichmann’s trust regarding Kastner’s backing despite its total absence. 
In Kastner’s office I frequently had the opportunity to observe his talent as a manipulation wizard of people. Frequently he succeeded – always with gentlemanly elegance – to convince his conversation partner to do what Kastner wanted, even against his partner’s own will. Thus I imagined how Kastner could probably convince Eichmann. Kastner’s intelligence was doubtless by far superior to that of Eichmann. Eichmann, though in a position of immense power, was intellectually no more than a dumb bureaucrat. 
After I had returned the report to Kastner he almost never mentioned its content. He only remarked with bitter, Kurt-Tucholsky-like irony: “I am the gift that the party, Mapai, gave to Dov Joseph.” He also said bitterly: “In England I would have got the Victorian Cross for what I did. Here I got a blow on the head (kibalti al harosh).”
Based on my acquaintance with Kastner and on the report I read, I believe that an unforgivable wrong has been done to Kastner, even before his assassination.
The Grapevine column refers to the Kastner/ Gruenwald trial in the 1950s. 
In the book Perfidy (which was initially banned in Israel), author Ben Hecht writes about the trial, which he attended. Dr. Yisrael Kastner filed a civil claim for damages libel against Malchiel Gruenwald, a journalist (and not a hotelier as stated in the column) for writing in a newspaper that he (Kastner) had collaborated with the Nazis during the Second World War. The presiding judge decided that Kastner had collaborated with the Nazis and his claim was dismissed. He appealed and his appeal was partially successful (he was not completely exonerated as stated in the column).
The column that much of the material relating to the trial and conviction of those who killed Dr. Kastner remains classified. As to why, it may be that his murderers were former members of the Shin Bet as stated in Perfidy.
Dwindling Jewish majority
Jewish population at lowest percentage since founding of Israel” (jpost.com, April 12) informs us that close to the establishment of the state, the Jewish percentage of the population stood at 82.1%, while today it stands at only 73.9% and continues to decline.
The Central Bureau of Statistics is right to warn that Israel should take steps to ensure that Israel maintains its status as a Jewish and democratic state. Israel was founded to be the Jewish homeland – the place that must take in people being persecuted as Jews, even if they are not Jewish according to Halacha. 
To meet its obligations to Israel’s Jews and to people suffering antisemitism outside of Israel, Israel needs to define “Who is a Jew?” and implement outreach programs for those who enter Israel, completely legally, under the Law of Return but are not Jewish according to Jewish law. A Basic Law should be adopted which defines who can supervise conversions, how people/groups can be approved to get added to the list, and reasons why one might be removed from the list. The rules must be set by the State so that people who undergo formal conversion do not have to live in fear of their conversions being annulled on the whim of a Minister whose personal standards differ from those of members of the State-approved conversion boards.
On the other side of the coin, asylum seekers entering Israel with no attachment to the Jewish people should be treated humanely and helped to find new homes outside of Israel. Israel is not big enough to become the home for the entire world population.
Atlanta, GA
Israel Prize gallantry
Regarding “High Court lets Gallant deny Israel Prize to pro-BDS math professor” (April 9), Prof. Oded Goldreich has the right to his opinions and to express them, and science should trump politics. However, petitioning a foreign government to cease providing funds to an Israeli institution, even when situated in Ariel, is something else. 
It reminds me of a similar instance reported in The Jerusalem Post (October 6, 2020), where the journal Molecules refused to publish Dr. Mindy Levine’s paper because her residence was stated as “Ariel, Israel” – another example of “politics over science.” 
I didn’t find any protest by Goldreich as to this event. We are talking about science, are we not?
Another case of two weights, two measures.
Prime Minister Deri
As I read “Shas leader demands rotation as prime minister” (April 12) regarding Shas Party leader Arye Deri’s demand to be included in the rotation for prime minister, I couldn’t help but recall the “warning” in Ethics of the Fathers: “You shall despise positions of leadership.” 
In other words, to describe Shas as the Sephardi haredi ultra-Ortodox party is the epitome of an oxymoron.
Tzur Yitzchak
Carr’s career
“US searches for new antisemitism monitor” (April 9) correctly states that the US Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism position was elevated recently to ambassadorial level, but fails to note that this change was passed by a Republican Congress and was signed into law by president Donald Trump. The article also notes that groups on the Left “want the antisemitism monitor to focus on white supremacists and deemphasize Israel.” 
Deemphasizing Israel is a serious mistake worthy of a letter of its own. Focusing on American white supremacists would be inconsistent with the position’s statutory mandate: “The Special Envoy serves as the primary adviser to the US Government… relating to monitoring and combating antisemitism and antisemitic incitement that occur in foreign countries.” 
The article fails to recognize the manifold accomplishments of outgoing Special Envoy Elan Carr, one of the most highly respected of the many international Special Envoys fighting the world’s oldest hatred. He met with numerous foreign government leaders (including several Israeli ministers), and was instrumental in the adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism by over 35 countries. He personally negotiated a groundbreaking MOU with Bahraini leaders on fighting antisemitism well before the Abraham Accords became a reality. An eloquent defender of the Jewish people, he was (and is) in high demand – appearing before nearly 100 domestic and foreign audiences (either in person or on-line) in the past year alone and one of the headliners at two Jerusalem Post digital conferences.
Carr was the first special envoy to focus on the danger of online antisemitism. He initiated a cutting-edge two-day online conference bringing together leaders of government, religious and civil society, social media platforms, and academia to devise effective counter-strategies that combat antisemitism while upholding America’s longstanding commitment to free speech. 
Carr recognized that it was not enough to decry antisemitism. Working with outside Jewish organizations, he set out to develop a philo-semitic school curriculum that highlights the many contributions made to modern society by the Jewish people. 
Carr developed close working relationships with officials at the very top of the White House and State Department, resulting in unparalleled support for the cause. His replacement will build on the foundation established through Carr’s dedication and hard work. 
Zichron Yaakov
Driven to the brink
Two letter writers recently complained about the recklessness of Israeli drivers compared to Australians (“Driving us crazy,” April 12). Road death statistics however do not entirely support this complaint. In equivalent recent years the number of road deaths normalized to population is about 20% higher in Australia. 
One of the factors is probably that the Aussies love to drink and drive. It is dangerous to be out there on a Saturday night. On a personal anecdotal level, I’ve driven many thousands of miles in the USA, Canada, Australia and Israel and my only brush with death was when an Australian truck driver in a hurry sideswiped me, broke off the mirror on my rental car and forced me off the road. What saved me from the canyon was the guard rail. The driver did not stop. I hadn’t enough time to note his license number and the police could not identify the driver from the name of the company on the truck; the rental company charged me several thousand dollars for the damage to the car  because of the incomplete police report. 
The truth is, the drivers in both Australia and Israel need far more severe punishments for dangerous driving – revocation of license, for example for more than a single incident.