April 24: Bravo, Obama!

I applaud President Obama's decision to boycott the 2009 Durban Review Conference ("Durban II") this week in Geneva.

letters good 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters good 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Bravo, Obama!
Sir, - As a member of the US delegation to the first World Conference Against Racism in Durban, I applaud President Obama's decision to boycott the 2009 Durban Review Conference ("Durban II") this week in Geneva.
My 24 years as an American diplomat included service in South Africa (during the height of Apartheid), Israel (during the first Gulf War) and Baghdad (when mortar attacks were a daily occurrence). The virulent anti-Semitism that I witnessed during my week in Durban was by far the most frightening experience of my entire foreign service career.
The fact that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - an outspoken Holocaust denier who has called for the total destruction of the State of Israel - was an honored speaker at this year's conference was proof positive that the conference organizers fully intended to replicate the tenor and outcome of the earlier meeting.
The Congressional Black Caucus's criticism of the boycott was sadly naive. The caucus argued that the US could have delivered a powerful message to the world by sending "a high-level delegation reflecting the richness and diversity of our country." The conference organizers cared not a whit for the make-up of country delegations. Their goal was the legitimation of their final anti-Israel, anti-Semitic document through the mere presence of the US and other Western democracies at the conference.
Years from now, the US will be proud that it did not participate in this farce ("Despite text changes, US to boycott 'Durban II,'" April 19).
Faint squeak
Sir, - I was impressed by Alexander Zvielli's review of Why We Watched - but the title "The Jewish hush-hush policy," also caught my eye (UpFront Books, April 17).
It seems that Jews are sadly incapable of learning from even their recent history. "Hush-hush" seems, with very few individual exceptions, to sum up the attitude of British Jews to the increasing anti-Semitic rhetoric against them.
One famous British writer, a vocal critic of Israel's policies, caused a stir recently in the UK by his apparent realization that unjust criticism of Israel is really anti-Semitism.
His actual statement, though, was very poignant: "English Jews are considered a soft touch. You can say what you like of us... we will squeak no louder than a mouse when we are abused."
Left behind
Sir, - Re Levi Cooper's "The depths of the Talmud" (UpFront April 17), I am astonished that in the year 2009 this strong emphasis on the use of the right hand should still prevail. It is an affront to left-handed people, and untenable.
How does "We should seek to mirror God's conduct" - the writer explaining that "the Torah was given by the Almighty's right hand" - square with Yigdal, which states, "He has no body, nor the semblance of a body"?
I myself am not left-handed, and yet outraged by the antiquated and tasteless talmudic example the writer chose of what to learn from one's teacher; and the notion that right-handedness should be emphasized as godliness.SONIA GOLDREINJerusalem