April 26: United we prevailed

The key to the success at Durban II was the pooling of resources and joint efforts by all major Jewish organizations.

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
United we prevailed Sir, - "Pro-Israel activists raise their voices in Geneva against Durban II" (April 23) gave the impression that the World Jewish Congress and B'nai B'rith International led Jewish efforts last week to prevent a repeat of the Durban I anti-racism conference. However, the key to the success was the pooling of resources and joint efforts by all major Jewish organizations; the WJC and BBI were part of a coalition of nearly 20 major Jewish groups from around the world which cooperated closely under a common umbrella, the International Jewish Caucus. The caucus shows what can be achieved if individual effortsare pooled. MICHAEL SCHNEIDER Secretary-General World Jewish Congress New York It beats me \ Sir, - Well, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad certainly underscored the lie that there wouldn't be any anti-Semitism at Durban II. Protocol aside, it is impossible to understand how the coordinators of this conference, cognizant of his past tirades, could have put this man first on the speakers list, tucked right up next to Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is also hard to imagine how the conference could possibly be considered credible as a forum for peace when, even after the walkout by dozens of participants, many of those who remained applauded the racist speech by this crafty manipulator. The sad part is that the plight of the Palestinians is desperate, and power-hungry despots like Ahmadinejad simply make it worse ("Ahmadinejad buriesthe Durban process," Gerald Steinberg, April 21). DOUG THOMSON Kitimat, BC, Canada Myopia rules Sir, - Re "Morality in neutral" (April 20): Your editorial's inability to understand why Switzerland pursues its own interests rather than Tel Aviv's is another indication of the myopia that affects so many Israelis. When a country doesn't do your bidding, it doesn't always boil down to anti-Semitism. G. LINDT Berne False echoes Sir, - Larry Derfner accepts Caryl Churchill's assertion that "the Six Day War turned us into conquerors, made us callous toward the Palestinians and... our callousness reached a shocking new extreme during our onslaught in Gaza" ("Hearing echoes in Seven Jewish Children," April 23). The truth is that our attitude has been shaped by the elected Palestinian leadership, which aims for our total dismantlement; not only doesn't recognize our right to exist but will not honor past agreements; considers the indiscriminate targeting of civilians with rockets fired daily into the sovereign state of Israel an acceptable norm; and is funded by the nuclear-obsessed Mad Hatter in Iran. If Mr. Derfner spent more time trying to convince the Palestinian leadership to break with the extremists and take a more pragmatic approach instead of bashing Israel - one of the most moral countries in the world - we would all be better off. P. BERMAN Shoham Sir, - I also read that short play, and reached completely different conclusions. Larry Derfner's justification of Caryl Churchill's basically anti-Semitic accusations only provides our enemies with ammunition. If I wanted to read masochistic articles, I would subscribe to another newspaper. DAVID MANDEL Savyon Proud of what we do Sir, - It was interesting to read Jonathan Spyer's analysis ofConflicts Forum ("The energetic Hamas lobby," April 23). A lobby is a paid organization. By calling us a Hamas "lobby," Spyer mistakes us as speaking on behalf of the organization or arguing its point of view. We do not: Its members are capable of articulating their own vision of the region and determining their own future. He also implies that Conflicts Forum is paid by Hamas. We are not. The implication is, in fact, quite dangerous - since saying so means that we and those who support our work are subject to prosecution. Would Mr. Spyers like to support his statement with evidence? Spyer then describes me as a former intelligence officer. I am not and have never been. Later on, Spyer quotes a Hamas official as saying "They [Jews] have legitimized the murder of their own children by killing the children of Palestine... They have legitimized the killing of their people all over the world by killing our people." We are supposed to be outraged by this statement, but react calmly when Israeli supporters in the US and elsewhere issue virulent descriptions that are similar in tone and meaning. Commentator Charles Krauthammer, for instance, says that "for Hamas, the only thing more prized than dead Jews are dead Palestinians." Is hate speech confined only to Palestinians? Then there's this: "But as the planned Portcullis House meeting showed, Hamas possesses an experienced, well-oiled, well-funded (largely by the European taxpayer) lobby in the heart of London, in which it may takejustifiable pride." Experienced? Well-oiled? Well-funded? Mr. Spyer sounds worried. I would like to reassure him. When he comes to Washington, he can give me a call. I'll show him what an experienced, well-oiled, and well-funded lobby really looks like. Right here, in the heart of Washington. Spyer is right about one thing: Conflicts Forum intends to keep working for greater understanding between the leaders of the US and in Europe and political Islamist organizations. We're proud of what we do. We intend to continue. MARK PERRY Conflicts Forum Washington Jonathan Spyer responds: I thank Mark Perry for pointing out that he has never been an intelligence officer. The Conflicts Forum Web site describes him as a "military, intelligence and foreign affairs analyst." I have never before come across anyone who describes himself as an intelligence analyst but has no background in intelligence. (His fellow director of Conflicts Forum, Alastair Crooke, is a former MI6 officer). Regarding his other assertions, he claims the article "implies" that Conflicts Forum is paid by Hamas; it does not. He claims that Hamas official Mahmoudal-Zahar's threat to kill Jewishchildren throughout the world is analogous to a claim by a US columnist that Hamas is indifferent to the fate of Palestinians. I fail to follow Mr. Perry's logic here. He takes issue with my describing his organization as "experienced, well-oiled and well-funded." Mr. Perry, Mr. Crooke, Lord Alderdice and others associated with Conflicts Forum are certainly men of experience, with full CVs. Regarding "well-funded," as I described, Mr. Perry's organization has been the recipient of at least one very substantial grant from the EU, which seems to justify use of this term. Re "well-oiled" - he may have a point. Since the Portcullis House experience indicated that Mr. Perry's associates cannot operate simple video-conferencing technology successfully, I accept that this description may have been unduly charitable. Two difficult minutes Sir, - I was shaken by Judy Montagu's "Two minutes of silence" (April 22). It showed a depth of insight into something that cannot be encompassed. Those two minutes of the memorial siren are like the history of the Jewish people compressed into 120 seconds. A "blank mind" during those two minutes isn't really blank - it's just trying to grapple with the inexpressible. About Jewish affiliation, my late husband, in his love for the Jewish people, used to say: "Even if the only thing that keeps a Jew consciously Jewish is chopped liver or herring, that's worth something." LOTTE LAPIAN Netanya