April 10: Patronizing disregard

Let nobody accuse US President Barack Obama of hiding his true intentions.

Letters 521 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Letters 521
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Patronizing disregard
Sir, – Let nobody accuse US President Barack Obama of hiding his true intentions.
In what he apparently describes as an act of “honor[ing] the tradition of celebrating the Passover meal” (“Passover at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,” March 8), we are told that Obama substituted “Next year in the White House” for “Next year in Jerusalem” at the Seder during his 2008 campaign, putting his career ambitions above the hastening of the Messianic age.
Apart from contorting the meaning of the words “honor,” “tradition” and “Passover,” he displayed a breathtaking combination of patronizing disregard for the true significance of the Seder, as well as overweening arrogance.
Even if one were prepared to forgive him a private joke behind closed doors, the fact that the world’s press is invited to cover this mockery leaves no room for misunderstanding.
We find ourselves wondering how the world would view the Israeli prime minister inviting Catholics to celebrate mass with him, in the course of which he declares that the wine and wafer symbolize the eternal right of the Jewish people to dwell in and rule the whole of the Land of Israel.
No poem at all
Sir, – Günter Grass (“Grass defends poem attacking Israel for planning to ‘extinguish the Iranian people,’” March 8) claims that Israel is trying to wipe out the Iranians. But that is not correct. No member of the Israeli government has ever uttered such a threat, while by contrast the leaders of Iran have been threatening to wipe out Israel.
Grass’s poem is not a poem at all. It is merely an anti-Semitic diatribe, the kind of thing actor Mel Gibson blurted out when he was drunk and that numerous liberal reporters have written but then were forced to retract. Why bother with him?
Sir, – Alfred Nobel, in his final will conferring prizes to outstanding individuals, specified that the prize for literature go to the person “...who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction.”
According to these words, Günter Grass, a former member of the Nazi Waffen SS, may indeed deserve the Nobel Prize he received. However, can anyone imagine that Nobel would have thought that the “ideal direction'” was to criticize and lie notoriously about one of the world’s most peace-loving nations? True literary intellectuals should express their disdain for Grass’s ignorant and reprehensible comments.
Sir, – Recently in the UK, a once-prominent banker was stripped of his knighthood for conduct that was unbecoming.
Perhaps for the same reason, the Nobel Prize committee might wish now to consider revoking Günter Grass of his Nobel literature laureate?
Time for a change
Sir, – Meir Dagan (“Dagan warns of dangers of current political system,” April 8) is absolutely right, but my concern is that little notice will be taken of this.
I have dual nationality (British and Israeli) and can vote in both countries. In Israel I vote for a party, as individual MKs do not stand for election. In England I vote for an individual, whom I can meet personally, as can any constituent. If he is unsatisfactory I can vote for somebody else at the next election.
The other great problem here is that the Israeli electoral system has produced close to 30 ministers. In the UK, with some 650 members of parliament, this would mean about 150 ministers. Here in Israel each minister has a car and a personal guard. In the UK only some ministers have these.
In England I was for many years a leader in local government – without pay, using my own car and accessible to all constituents. It may well be that self-interest encourages MKs to preserve the present arrangement, but surely the public interest is far more important.
There has been talk about electoral change for many years, but nothing happens. Perhaps Dagan may be able to establish a following that will make us a genuinely democratic country.
A heated Hebron
Sir, – Thank you for so eloquently stating your position on Hebron (“The Hebron hullabaloo,” Editorial, April 8).
You would think it the normative position of any pro-Israel politician to embrace the return to our historic lands, yet today our “leadership” has become so mired in what will look acceptable to the world that we appear to be thieves trying to keep as much booty as we can.
We are so willing to make compromises over territories we gained when the Arab world tried to “throw the Jews into the sea” that, 45 years later, people – even our own – somehow believe that we were the aggressors.
MARC ANNIS Hashmonaim
Sir, – As Jews around the world celebrate the exodus from slavery to freedom, Defense Minister Ehud Barak chooses to take away the freedom of living in the oldest Jewish city: Hebron.
Barak’s reason for the eviction is that these people are a threat to public order. Who gave Barak this power? What did these people do? Did they attack their neighbors? Did they stone people or shoot at them? The only thing they did wrong was to be Jewish and not ask permission from His Holiness to live in their new home.
Barak will have a lock on the defense portfolio as long as Prime Minister Netanyahu is in power. Thus, this is also a blemish on the prime minister’s integrity.
 Sir, – Your editorial takes Ehud Barak to task for criticizing the settlers in Hebron. But surely, one can acknowledge the city’s religious and historic importance to the Jewish people without kowtowing to one of the most extreme and provocative Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.
It is simply misleading to say that “The power to arbitrarily ban Jewish residence confers in Barak’s hands clout the voters didn’t grant him.” That power rests with Barak because he is defense minister and the Jews in Judea and Samaria are living in disputed, military-administered territories.
So yes, he does have that power because Israel has seen fit to house its citizens in those areas.
Right-wing politicians and commentators frequently ignore the fact that east of the Green Line there is a different legal and political situation. They often condemn American and European leaders who make a distinction between “Israel proper” and the settlements, but these condemnations are little more than propaganda and undermine the credibility of those working to defend Israel from its detractors.
This is not something I expected to see in an editorial of this newspaper.
PAUL GROSS Jerusalem
Sir, – As a resident of the Hebron area I deeply appreciated your thoughtful, sensitive and informed editorial.
In my opinion, the eviction of the Jewish residents of Beit Hamachpela served the interests of no one – not the Palestinians, not Israel, and not even the political status of Ehud Barak.
Worse, Barak, by acting in such an underhanded manner (having promised to delay the eviction and then going back on his word), has lost all credibility with Jewish residents of the territories and further damaged their already fragile relationship with the IDF.