Letters to the Editor: October 28, 2020: UNRaveling UNRWA claims

The readers of The Jerusalem Post have their say.

Letters (photo credit: PIXABAY)
(photo credit: PIXABAY)
UNRaveling UNRWA claims
It is not often that one sees anything as misleading as “Attacking UNRWA’s education system risks the lives of students” (October 25) praising UNRWA’s educational programs.
In this heavily biased account by Gwyn Lewis, UNRWA director of operations in the West Bank, she fails to mention that UNRWA textbooks do not show Israel on their maps; do not teach that the Jews lived in this land continuously for over 2,000 years (before Islam existed and the first Moslems arrived); that no Jewish society has ever sought to remove or kill Arab settlers; that the Declaration of Independence appealed to the Arabs to join the Jews in the new State of Israel as full citizens; that Israel offered the Palestinians a two-state solution several times only to be rebuffed by the Arab leadership and answered by vicious intifadas; that terrorists and martyrdom are wicked and unproductive and that their leaders have all been corrupt.
She does not say that the pupils are taught about the benefits of peace (which they are not) and she fails to understand that their idea of peace is not the same as ours: on a recent TV program, several Arabs were asked in Ramallah if they wanted peace. “Of course,” was the immediate answer, but when asked if that included peace with Israel, almost all said “no” emphatically.
The well-publicized examples of the textbooks these children use will perpetuate another generation of indoctrinated Jew-haters.
Alan Halibard
Bet Shemesh
Tellingly, Gwyn Lewis does not deny that hatred appears in UNRWA textbooks. She merely (implausibly?) claims that where such material appears, “we simply do not teach it or include it in our classes.”
Among the things I most disagree with in the UNRWA article is the writer talking about educating “the next generation of Palestinian refugees.”
Sorry, but there is no “next generation” of refugees. The 1948 war was 72 long years ago. The few genuine refugees from that war who are still alive are now quite aged. The status of “refugee” is not a title that can be handed down generation after generation to one’s grandchildren, great-grandchildren and beyond.
A child is Gaza is a Gazan – not a next-generation refugee. Educating them, as UNRWA does, to view themselves as “refugees” embeds resentment and hatred into their psyches. Conflict and violence – not peace and goodwill – are likely to result.
Mike Singer
Gwyn Lewis’s defense of UNRWA leaves important questions unanswered.
In the late 1940s, between 400,000 and 700,000 Arabs fled the Arab-initiated violence that failed in its goal of preventing Israel’s rebirth in the Jews’ ancestral homeland. No more than 30,000 of those Palestine refugees are still alive. Why does UNRWA have nearly 6,000,000 people registered on its rolls?
In the first three decades following Israel’s rebirth, she absorbed and uplifted 800,000 Jews who’d been thrust from their homes in the Muslim countries of the Middle East, while rehabilitating Holocaust survivors; recovering from damages inflicted by Arab forces; and dealing with terrorist incursions from land illegally held by Egypt and Jordan between 1948 and 1967. Surely, the original Palestine refugees could have been easily resettled in Arab lands, where the refugees did not have to adapt to a new climate, learn a new language, or live among people unfamiliar with their religions and customs.
Even if Palestinian leaders ever deign to negotiate with Israel and establish a real Palestinian state (as opposed to the fictional state recognized by so many UN members and NGOs), there is no sign that the leaders will drop their demand that Israel take in millions of UNRWA-registered “refugees,” thereby changing the nation-state of the Jews into a Muslim-majority state where Jews will be second-class citizens if they are tolerated at all.
Toby F. Block
Atlanta, GA
It is UNRWA that risks the lives of students. UNRWA has been a massive fraud. The UN-created so-called refugees now number six million, cared for by 30,000 well-paid UNRWA employees.
The UN took no interest in the million Jews forced out of Arab lands. Jewish refugees who fled to Israel were cared for and integrated into society quickly. The UN contributed nothing to their support.
The UN, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Arab League should hang their heads in shame. They created a “nakba.” They trapped generation after generation of Arabs in squalid conditions. And, for what purpose? To attack Israel? To promote antisemitism?
The cause of Arab refugees must be addressed and they must be set free. UNRWA must be shut down. UNHRC (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) should be tasked with ending this hypocrisy.
Len Bennett
Ottawa, On.
Permits for land grabs?
Regarding “EU shouldn’t penalize Palestinians for Israeli demolitions” (October 22), Muhammad Shehada complains bitterly and weeps copious tears because of the destruction of illegal structures in Area C. These structures are EU-funded and encouraged.
Surely Shehada and the EU are aware of the fact that the so-called West Bank was divided into areas A, B and C. Area C was to be under the jurisdiction of Israel. Nevertheless, the EU has time and again built structures for Arab residents without permits.
Of course these lack permits! Why should they get permits? Area C is for the use of the Israeli residents, yet Shehada complains of the pretext of lacking permits. Building after building, town after town, have been built by and with EU funds. We can well understand what would happen if such illegal building were to go on in the countries that make up the EU! It is about time that the EU stopped breaking the law in our country.
Rhea Israel
The nagging Nagorno-Karabakh fray
Two sides of the front – Jews in Azerbaijan” (October 27) by Roman Gurevich about the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict read like heartbreaking fiction that in no way reflects the reality of the hearts or minds of Armenians or Jews living in Armenia or abroad, or the social/political practices or leanings of the country.
Armenia’s “mono-ethnicity” is a product of mutual ethnic exclusion with its hostile neighbors and, most notably, its shortage of economic/financial prospects. Its ties with Iran are rooted not in shared religious, political, or social ideologies, but rather basic life-enabling trade needs that have been executed on a platform of mutual tolerance.
 Gurevich distorts facts to demonize or diminish Armenians, but his greatest sin is his sin of omission, neglecting:
1) To describe the violent massacres that Azerbaijan pursued against Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) region Armenians in the 1920s;
2) To mention that the territory (94% Armenian at the time) was carved out of Armenia SSR’s borders and gifted to Azerbaijan SSR as an autonomous oblast by Stalin and that the region made many legal attempts to peacefully join Armenia’s borders, less than 100 kilometers away;
3) To note that NK Armenians faced economic discrimination, gerrymandering, planned re-settlements to dilute their majority, and limited access to Armenian-language books under their Soviet Azeri stewardship; and
4) To admit that Azerbaijan illegally abolished NK’s autonomous status in 1988 and subjected Armenians in other regions to vicious pogroms and massacres at that time. The implication that Armenia, a nation of only three million, is trying to extend its borders from “sea-to-sea” (through 100 million Azeris and Turks) is absurd, as is the omission of pan-Turkism in the region.
I’m certain that many Jewish statesmen and intellectuals (Lemkin, H. Morgenthau and countless others) would take exception to Gurevich’s analysis of this conflict on moral, historical and basic factual grounds.
Armenia has suffered immensely at the hands of Turkey, a German ally in WWII, who continues to pursue its genocidal aims with total impunity. Armenia’s will is simply the will for survival on her plot of land on planet Earth; she stands in constant fear of total annihilation. I’m afraid that Gurevich’s article has given more fodder to those seeking a non-diplomatic solution to the NK problem, one that breeds more enmity between these countries, costs more human lives, and fuels the expressed aims of her neighbors: the total elimination of the Armenian people and their nation.
I hope you can appreciate the complexity of this situation and the danger of publishing and perpetuating Gurevich’s line of thinking, which at its crux, holds that Armenians are an unimportant, racist people, resourceless and of no import or benefit to Israel, who can be expelled from their ancestral homelands and killed should they not succumb to their neighbor’s conquer/kill/deny policies.
Stephanie betjemann
San Francisco
Headlines matter
The heading on your October 20 front page, “Netanyahu says he won’t cave to Gantz’s budget demands,” shouts out exactly the wrong message at this critical time.
The country is torn between the compelling conviction of half of all Israelis that Netanyahu is causing damage to the country, and the other half who fully support his continuing in his present position. One of the issues with the most serious ramifications at the present time, highlighting this difference in opinion, is the crisis due to the delay in approval of a budget. The generally accepted opinion, particularly among economists, appears to be that to renege on the coalition agreement by passing a one-year budget at the end of this year instead of a two-year budget as agreed, has only disadvantages for the country; the only possible beneficiary is Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
The above heading gives, in a couple of words, the clear impression that Gantz is causing the crisis because of his “budget demands.”
Regardless of affiliations, this is clearly the opposite of the truth, which could be expressed as “PM says he won’t comply with budget contract,” which blames the delay on the correct party and for the correct reason.
Charles Smith
Regarding “Blue and White: No chance of 2021 budget passing by Dec. 23 deadline” (October 26), what kind of country do we live in, when our underpaid, overworked, heroic first responders do not have adequate staff, salaries and equipment because we still don’t have a budget?
What kind of country do we live in, when the idea of yet another election that will cost the country millions of shekels, puts smiles on the faces of many of our politicians while people are out of work, hungry and suffering?
What kind of country do we live in when members of Knesset are staying stuck to their seats rather than thinking about the citizens they should be serving?
And why should they? They were not elected by us! They were put there by their party bosses, who have no idea what it’s like to be us – and have no interest in finding out.
What kind of country do we live in when the government will not let the eminently qualified Dr. Gamzu do his job fighting the coronavirus, because they think they know better than he does, to the detriment of all of us?
What kind of country do we live in where our prime minister can only think of staying out of jail and has no time or energy to do his job properly?
Is there any other country in the developed world that would tolerate such an obscene situation?
Is this what we came to Israel for?
Phyllis Freed Narrol
Beit Shemesh
Genesis Prize for popularity
The Genesis Prize Foundation (GPF) has opened voting to the public in a democratic gesture and received an overwhelming response from over 100,000 Jews around the world (“Genesis Prize extends voting deadline for 2021 ‘Jewish Nobel,’” October 27).
How Jewish identity is determined is not clear. Over 2,000,000 people (non-Jews included) have engaged with the GPF on social media – viewing, discussing and sharing opinions. Seven prominent nominees for the 2021 laureate are featured in the article. With all due respect to the noble ideals of democracy, four members of the seven are prominent in the movie industry: Sacha Baron Cohen, Barbra Streisand, Steven Spielberg and Gal Gadot. Why was Woody Allen left out?
The Jewish Nobel is well on its way to becoming a social media popularity contest, which is unfortunate given the tremendous accomplishments of the Jewish people, most of whom do not live or work in Hollywood.
Yigal Horowitz
Kudos to Keinon and Cashman
There are two writers in your paper whose articles I enjoy immensely. The first one is Herb Keinon and the second is Greer Fay Cashman.
Keinon is an island of tolerance and diplomacy in a sea of critics. He has a way of approaching prickly issues in a diplomatic and logical manner (he also has a great sense of humor), but I’m specifically referring to his article “Enforce COVID-19 laws with sensitivity, resolve” (October 19). I, like most Israeli citizens, decry the lack of adherence to the COVID rules set by the government by the haredim and this is evident by the high infection rates in the neighborhoods and cities predominantly inhabited by this community. Let’s face it, we’re not going to change their mentality and their unique way of interpreting the health danger of the virus. Therefore, Keinon’s suggestions of dealing with their school’s opening when the government’s instructions were to the exact reverse, is sensitive and with resolve, as is seen in the title of the article.
Cashman’s Grapevine column I regularly read with great interest, not only because I’m an expat Aussie, also from her hometown, Melbourne, (she ate in our sukkah when I was a child), but because she’s an extremely talented writer who has the knack of turning even a fairly uninteresting issue into an exciting one. She writes the historical background of her topics and usually adds interesting anecdotes. In October 21’s Grapevine column, she talks about The Australian Jewish News and about Di Yiddishe Nayes and their beginnings, and demise of the latter, both which were always present in our home, the former, read by us Aussie children, and the latter by my Holocaust survivor parents.
So, kudos to Keinon and Cashman and I look forward to reading their articles in the future.
Mina Stern
Ramat Bet Shemesh