April 24: Goethe's bloopers

Even the most "embarrassingly superior" individual becomes suspect in adopting Goethe's attitude of "because I, an intellectual, say so."

letters to the editor 88 (photo credit: )
letters to the editor 88
(photo credit: )
Goethe's bloopers Sir, - Re Meghan Daum's "Still with Stupid" (April 23): a cautionary note about intellectuals past and present, including Goethe, who thought of himself as quite a scientist. Once he was walking on the Lido in Venice when he saw the dried-out half-skull of a sheep and immediately came to the brilliant but false conclusion that the skull was a result of development from the first spinal vertebra. His second blooper was his dismissive statement that he could not find any use in the world for crystals, except as an "ornament around a beautiful woman's neck." He cannot be faulted for failing to predict that a woman, Rosalind Franklin, with her work in X-ray crystallography, would provide the key that enabled Crick and Watson to formulate the DNA helix. However, even the most "embarrassingly superior" individual becomes suspect in adopting Goethe's attitude of "because I, an intellectual, say so." MIRIAM L. GAVARIN Jerusalem Cheers, not fears Sir, - Congratulations to Michael Freund for his clear and very worthwhile "It's Greek to me" (April 23) - and cheers for the Greeks! Israel has indeed assumed the collective Jewish posture of hundreds of years ago, when Jews walked around with their heads bent low in fear of all the governments that had expelled or abused them at one time or another. Our government fears world opinion more than it fears its own enemies. But today we have a country. We are a sovereign nation with the right to stand up and defend ourselves against the threats to our existence, and to do it in the way we choose. Freund is right: We need to refashion our thinking - to remember the spirit of Entebbe, Osirak and the Six Day War - and act fast. Let's get back some of the pride we used to have, and which we still so richly deserve. MARGERY FEINSTEIN Jerusalem Counterfeit claims Sir, - Either there were some typos in your From Our Archives selection from April 21, 1943, or American and British delegates were lying abominably in their claims at the Anglo-American Bermuda Conference: "The US recalled that it had admitted 600,000 refugees of all races since Hitler's advent to power. The British delegates stated that 680,000 refugees, including prisoners of war, had been saved in the British Empire and more than 150,000 in the British Isles." Many decades after WW2 it transpired that America had adamantly refused entry to hundreds of thousands of Jews (including my own family) who sought entry visas to escape the Nazis. Even some refugees with visas were returned to Germany. The total number of refugees, Jews and non-Jews, from Nazi Germany allowed into the US from 1933 to the end of the war was less than 40,000! The attitude toward Nazism's victims, especially Jews, by the Roosevelt government was one of the most cold-hearted in the history ofthe free world. As for the British claim of 150,000 refugees let into Britain from Hitler's election to the end of WW2, British archives opened a few years ago exposed the number as being 60,000+. The only truthful statement from that conference was that acceptance of Jewish refugees into Palestine was "out of the question." For more details see The Secret War Against the Jews by John Loftus and Mark Aarons. TRUDY GEFEN Kiryat Ono Oil... Sir, - Air, water, food and oil are all necessities of modern life and should be available to every person. If the 13 OPEC countries, through an accident of location, were able and tried to withhold the first three, the UN would be in an uproar. The fourth - oil - is just as important. I believe the 150 or so non-oil-producing nations should step in now and together regulate the search for oil, its production, pricing and fair distribution. Israel should lead the way ("The Big Thirst," New York Times supplement, April 21). MATTHEW WOHL Mevaseret Zion ...and water Sir, - Carol Novis's op-ed on water conservation was well-meaning but ignored the real culprit: water-intensive crops, like cotton, that are subsidized. Rather than using water from the Golan/Kinneret, Israel can and should demand a regional solution using water supplied by Turkey to assist Jordan and Syria ("Dribbling away our water," April 23). MOSHE DANN Jerusalem Incentive or tax? Sir, - The one-sided "Israel trashes an environmental initiative" (April 21) made much of the fact that governments in the UK and Europe impose "high fees" on businesses "to provide an incentive to recycle." Faced with punitively high fees, businesses that have been disposing of their waste in landfills suddenly see recycling "as a much more attractive option." Apparently the government of Israel has been slacking off in the environmental fees department. Author JJ Levine seems to put this down to sheer bloodymindedness on Israel's part - but could it be that our government is more concerned with Bank of Israel governor Stanley Fischer's warning just last week, in this newspaper, that "We have to grow fast because neighboring economies are also growing fast, and we have to be certain that we can maintain our relative strength"? ("Fischer to 'Post': Economy must keep growing to pay for defense costs," April 15.) What Levine so delicately calls "an incentive to recycle" an investor might call an added tax, another reason to take his business to one of our even less regulated neighbors. Can little Israel, with a defense budget five times larger (relative to GDP) than those of the European economies, afford to regulate business the European way? Some environmental initiatives can't wait. Maybe the landfills problem can. STEPHANIE GUTMANN Ra'anana Unacceptable Sir, - I want to express our strong condemnation of the baseless and totally unacceptable comparison made in Daniel Pipes's "A democratic Islam?" (April 17) between the arch-terrorist Osama bin Laden and Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, prime minister of the Republic of Turkey. We hold dear freedom of expression so long as it stays within decent boundaries of criticism. However, the intolerable parallel drawn in this article went beyond any conceivable context. NAMIK TAN Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey Tel Aviv Outstanding Sir, - Over my years of reading the The Jerusalem Post, I have noted how Greer Fay Cashman has progressed from "gossip-column" writer to a major contributor to your paper. Her professional, informative and amusing style, augmented by her profound understanding of the Israeli social, entertainment, business and diplomatic scene has made her one of your outstanding writers. Her coverage of President Shimon Peres's state visit to Poland (April 14-17) was an excellent example. MICHAEL MOHNBLATT Tel Mond Sir, - To all at the Post: You are a great paper. You make me cry and laugh, you make me smarter - what more could one ask for? I especially like Calev Ben-David and Greer Fay Cashman. ILANA DRORI Rehovot