April 12: A shocking tragedy

The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation mourns the untimely and tragic death of Polish President Lech Kaczynski.

A shocking tragedy
Sir, – The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation mourns the untimely and tragic death of Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife Maria and dignitaries who were on their way to pay respect to the Polish victims of the Katyn massacre (“Polish president killed in plane crash along with wife, country’s top leaders,” April 11).
Kaczynski was a member of the Wallenberg Foundation from his very first days as president of Poland and his contribution to our mission of preserving and divulging the legacies of the saviors of victims of the Holocaust was paramount and a source of inspiration. Under his leadership, the Polish authorities have greatly helped us in our efforts to unearth unknown stories of rescue, leading to the the recognition of brave Polish rescuers.
President Kaczynski will be missed, but his legacy will live on.
    DANNY RAINER     Vice president, The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation    Jerusalem
Sir, – The question arises from this shocking tragedy: Why were the president and so many top officials traveling together on one aircraft, especially a Tu154, an old model with a very poor track record for safety?
    DAVID GOSHEN    Kiryat Ono
Free press?
Sir, – Can someone please explain to me why it is ethical for a journalist to protect the corrupt individual who allegedly breaks the trust placed in her and provides him with privileged information (“Shin Bet warns of ongoing ‘direct threat’ to Israelis after theft of 2,000 IDF documents,” April 9), but it is a criminal offense to offer money to a municipal official in return for keeping silent about allegedly corrupt activities?
And don’t give me that old canard about a free press being the guard dog of democracy. There was a free press in Germany for years before Hitler came to power and even for some time afterward.
    JEREMY I. PFEFFER    Rehovot
A statistic discrepancy
Sir, – The article titled “American Jews satisfied with how US, Israel are handling bilateral ties” (April 11) states that 55 percent of American Jews approve of Obama’s handling of Israel. At the same time, it indicates that 90% of American Jews do not want all of the land gained in the 1967 war to be handed over to the Palestinian Authority (34% who want no settlements dismantled plus 56% want some, but not all, settlements dismantled).
These results indicate that there are Jews who both approve of Obama’s handling of Israel and do not want to evacuate all of the land gained in 1967. This can only mean that there are Jewish supporters of Obama who are unaware of his policies and actions regarding Israel. Obama has clearly shown that he wants Israel to return to its pre-’67 borders and give up all lands that were gained in the ’67 war, including in Jerusalem.
Evidently, there are American Jews who support a president whose policies they don’t understand.
    RANDI MELLMAN OZE    Jerusalem
Street condemnations
Sir; – The US State Department spokesman Phillip J. Crowley was finally moved to condemn the renaming of a Ramallah street in honor of arch-terrorist Yehiyeh Ayash by the PA (“US condemns PA for naming Ramallah street after ‘The Engineer,” April 9). The spokesman also said the US would “hold Palestinian leaders accountable for incitement.”
Despite this slap on the wrist, there was no hint of punitive US action for non-compliance. Nothing, after all, should get in the way of continued support for a two-state solution; hence, business as usual.
Therefore, Mahmoud Abbas, the “moderate” Arab leader, will continue to be supported by unrelenting pressure on Israel for further concessions, US Gen. Keith Dayton training PA quasi-military policemen, and generous US and EU financial aid.
The Americans have a severe case of myopia in discerning friend from foe. If Mr. Crowley is concerned about Yehiyeh Ayash Street in Ramallah, what must he think of the main piazza in the Jenin refugee camp, now called the Muhammad Nuamani Square?
Nuamani was an Iraqi army officer who, in the early days of the invasion of Iraq, drove his bomb-laden taxi to a US checkpoint near Najaf, some 150 km. from Baghdad, and detonated it, killing himself and four US soldiers.
If President Barack Obama was so enraged at the embarrassment of his vice president by the untimely announcement of continued, historically uncontested building in Jerusalem, he should imagine the rage of those four American families who understand that their tax dollars continue to flood into the coffers of people who officially honor the suicide murderer of their sons.
    ZEEV ABRAHAM    Herzliya Pituah
‘Where was man?’
Sir, – Congratulations to Judy Montagu for laying out a number of approaches to “Where God stood in the Shoah” (April 7) – blaming the victims; standing mute before the Omnipotent; and seeking some correlation. As Ms. Montagu points out, the third approach is usually couched in terms of some faulty causality.
There is an ennobling way today to accept the concept of God and the Shoah. It relates to a clear understanding of “chosen people” versus “master race” – one the exact antithesis of the other. A midrash says that anti-Semitism was born at Sinai. The giving of the 10 Commandments, as thesis, set out the basis for their absolute rejection, reaching its most extreme form in the antithesis of Nazi racist “theology.”  With one finger, God bequeathed a force in the universe, creating all men in His image, with an absolute moral law for all humanity that intones: Thou shalt not murder, thou shalt not steal. And with the other finger, God again and again tests Jews and all those who invoke His name, individually and collectively, by allowing an evil that declares morality to be relativistic – an idolatry that supposedly serves mankind in some way. This evil has taken different forms; in the time of the Holocaust, it was in the drapings of Nazism, choosing to serve an Aryan race as master and “purifier” of humanity.
God’s challenge to His chosen people could not have been clearer and starker in the first half of the 20th century: confronting this evil. And yet, with what were we busy? We did not mobilize as one people, united in God’s image, to confront Nazism. We were internally divided and contentious, focusing on an unending range of secondary and side issues. Instead, we should have renewed ourselves at the foot of our spiritual Sinai.
Today, the threat is no longer a master race, but a would-be master religion that is devilishly subverting Islam. We have inherited from our forefathers the responsibility and the watchword, “Never again.” The heavenly court is waiting to see if the chosen people will know, this time around, that it is again called to action.
    ART BRAUNSTEIN     Jerusalem
Sir, – Holocaust Remembrance Day commemorations will, once again, stir the emotions of most Israelis. In a disturbing series of reflections, Judy Montagu reviews for the reader the many painful philosophical questions raised by that apocalyptic event – not the least of which is, “Where was God?”
The existential discussions of free will versus an all powerful deitywhose moral justification is beyond us cannot be resolved. Belief andfaith are not rational attributes. For every survivor who lives a lifeof “God is dead,” there is another who prays fervently to an Almightywith every fiber of his being.
But it is important for all of us to keep in mind the crux of thisenigma. Elie Wiesel, in responding to the question of “Where was God?”writes, “Where was man?” Just as in the present, there are always thosewho would misplace responsibility, blame the blameless, curse theinnocent.
Montagu’s powerful essay is a moving precursor to Holocaust RemembranceDay and stokes the debate of how we must honor our martyrs. Kol hakavod.