April 27: Why do we turn the other cheek?

The excellent work of Itamar Marcus, director of Palestine Media Watch, must surely be a wake-up call for a change in our approach to our neighbors.

Why do we turn... Sir, - The excellent work of Itamar Marcus, director of Palestine Media Watch, must surely be a wake-up call for a change in our approach to our neighbors. It is a disgrace that we have willingly sat down to discuss Israel's future with Arab representatives who support such outrageous lies and insults about us in their media, and in their children's classrooms ("The genocide mechanism" April 26). Small wonder Iran's hostility toward us is so calmly received around the world. Future Israeli negotiations and social meetings with Arab leaders must rest on their first eliminating this brainwashing media garbage. Until then there is nothing to talk about. CHAYIM SADAN Jerusalem ...the other cheek? Sir, - Jonathan Spyer's "The energetic Hamas lobby" (Analysis, April 23) highlighted the involvement of the Conflict Forum in pushing the Hamas lobby worldwide. Forum co-director Alastair Crooke, a former officer of the UK's MI6, was in May 2002 instrumental in relieving the siege of Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity by dispersing 100 Palestinian terrorists to various EU countries; many of them are now attempting to return. More disturbing is the effort spearheaded by a UK legislator, Clare Short, who has maintained direct contact with Hamas - a proscribed organization within the UK Terrorist legislation - and has been neither arrested nor charged with encouraging terrorism. Neither the UK Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards nor the UK Committee on Standards in Public Life has taken a stand against this breach of the legislation. The representative body of Anglo-Jewry, as well as a UK parliamentarian with a very large Jewish constituency in NW London, have also refused to ensure reporting of these actions to the appropriate authorities to institute proceedings. What a shameful exhibition of turning the other cheek, when only the other day the UK foreign secretary initiated an investigation to prohibit the export of arms components to Israel. C. L. LECI Jerusalem Losing strategy Sir, - It appears that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's utter hatred of Israel is religion-based. It is very disconcerting to the Iranian president that Islam was supposed to replace Judaism, and yet in modern times the Jewish Holy Land - miraculously, after 2,000 years - became a Jewish state again in the "Muslim Middle East." Rather than, perhaps, engaging in inner reflection or trying for some peaceful reconciliation of his theology, he is seeking to physically remove those who present him with this theological problem. Too bad he has forgotten what happened to the Babylonians, the ancient Romans and others who tried the same in the past, only to disappear into oblivion ("Ahmadinejad's vitriol meets with mass walkout," April 21). BEN KLEIN New York Sir, - Ahmadinejad is a good student of history. He knows only too well that in WWII no country wanted to wage war to help the Jews. His top strategy now is to persistently emphasize in all his speeches that his war is against Israel. This way he can finish his plan to get hold of nuclear weapons and bombs undisturbed. You see, no country will go and fight a war to help out the Jews. ESTI REICHMAN Jerusalem Sir, - I thought the meeting of nations for the purpose of reducing racism was very successful. If there had been any doubt before, it was dispelled by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad putting himself in the limelight to claim the title of champion excrement stirrer for the whole Mideast. TOM RUNDELL Warana, Queensland Polish past Sir, - There can be no question about the level and extent of anti-Semitism in Poland during much of its history, particularly during WWII and its aftermath. Also beyond question, though you would never know it from Ruthie Blum Liebowitz's "Reporting from the scene of the crime" (Media Matters, April 24) is the remarkable renaissance of Jewish life taking place in Poland today about which Ms. Liebowitz appears woefully uninformed and cavalierly unaware. Rather than look askance with "disgust" at the "feeble attempts at Jewish revival," I think it more likely her grandparents would be "kvelling" with pride at the genuine strides being made by the small but vibrant Jewish community. Such things as: Yeshivas with growing student enrollments; summer and winter camps where Jewish youth from around Poland can meet other Jews and reconnect to their Jewish roots; a union of Jewish religious organizations with outreach throughout the country; three streams of Judaism active and growing; high schools and colleges with Judaic studies programs; a government that forcefully and publicly condemns anti-Semitism; an enlightened and conciliatory Catholic Church, and numerous other private and public organizations working on many levels and all fronts to revive Jewish life and heritage. How do I know these things? I've just spent the last two years making a documentary about the re-emergence of Jewish life in Poland. The film, Overcoming the Burden of the Past, will shortly be available for viewing at Yad Vashem's Visual Center. I think Ms. Blum Liebowitz could overcome her burdens with the (Polish) past if she took the time to view it. HANK NADLER Jerusalem Blond, yes, but informed Sir, - Seth J. Frantzman was right to deplore the insensitivity and ignorance of Scandinavians who demonstrated against the "occupation" during Passover in Jerusalem ("Free at last," April 22). However, the overwhelming majority of Scandinavian Christians who come to Israel - during Passover, or at any other time - do so in sympathy and solidarity with the State of Israel and the Jewish people, based on a deeper knowledge of the history and traditions of the Holy Land. And yes, we also know about the Ethiopian Jews, even if many of us are blond. ARE NAESS Former Member of Parliament Bergen, Norway What we stand for Sir, - "Two minutes of silence" (Judy Montagu, April 22) expressed most movingly what so many of us feel when we stand for the memorial siren. Whenever I am asked - often in surprise and by people from all over the world - why my husband and I plus three young children left our comfortable lives in England in 1969 to live in Israel, I have a very short answer: That after 2,000 years of Jews praying to return to Jerusalem, we were the lucky generation to have grown up safely during WWII who now could simply decide to go and live in the Land of Israel. I once heard Golda Meir say that the biggest disappointment in her life was that after 1948, when she was sure there would be a huge aliya from the "free countries," it did not happen. We and our now extended family have never regretted our move for one minute. RUTH GREENWALD Givatayim Sir, - "Two minutes of silence" was profoundly thought-provoking. It was a rabbi's message which inspired the writer to make aliya in the '70s. I find his words unforgettable, and they bear repeating: "The historians of the future will find it hard to understand why after millennia of Jewish crying and lamenting and yearning for Jerusalem - when it finally became possible, so few Jews went there." THELMA BLUMBERG Kiryat Arba Less rosy than painted Sir, - Re "The Marrano myth" (Letters, April 23): We are happy to hear that Margalit Serra has had a smooth route to conversion; but sadly, as reported so many times in your newspaper, the general picture here in Israel is not as she paints it. Much suffering and heartache continues. Furthermore, while Marranos, Crypto-Jews in the Balearic Islands of Majorca and Ibiza, certainly are not today in danger of their lives by displaying any form of practice they suspect stems from Jewish origin, many social barriers and stigma remain. These practices are often seen as just family customs, discussed very privately, and rarely with strangers. To further refute Ms. Serra's remarks, one only has to look at those who in recent years have come to the Shalvi Organization's Chueta House in Palma de Majorca - I was there when it opened in 2007 - or to the recently opened Chabad House in Ibiza. Not a week goes by without a number of such people, with Balearic links and completely unsolicited by us, contacting our Institute requesting information, explanations and requests for help. All testimonials are carefully checked and, with the permission of the senders, may be seen by appointment. GLORIA MOUND Casa Shalom Institute for Marrano-Anusim Studies Gan Yavne Spanish Jews of Rhodes Sir, - Stella Levi's story is, tragically, a common one for Sephardim during the Holocaust as well as in immigration stories of the early 20th century ("It's time they knew our names," UpFront, April 17). Even here in Israel, the description sefarad is often used derogatively by Ashkenazim who haven't a clue about the rich tapestry of our great history in Spain and in the subsequent dispersion throughout the world. But Stella has another story to tell, and those fortunate enough to hear it have been enriched by it. It is the story of the lives of Rhodes Jews before the war, which she shares with Rhodesli descendants who have traveled with her to that once-remarkable island. I had that pleasure in 2004 - and of all my visits there, that one stands out. The Rhodes Museum may lack the global impact of bigger museums dedicated to the Jewish people, but it is still in its infancy. And thanks to people like Aron Hasson, who founded it and has committed himself to its survival - and to Stella and the many, many contributors to the Rhodes Jewish Historical Foundation - the world will one day know the true story of the Spanish Jews of Rhodes. JUDITH AMATEAU HAZARY Nahariya