August 14: Old libels & new

The South African Sunday Times wasn't the only paper in the world that provoked a discussion on "apartheid in Israel."

letters good 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters good 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Old libels & new Sir - The South African Sunday Times wasn't the only paper in the world that provoked a discussion on "apartheid in Israel." In the Netherlands, the left-wing de Volkskrant had two pieces in one week on its opinion page - one defending Israel against the the claim of apartheid; the other, from the chairman of A Different Jewish Voice, upholding it. The result was a heated discussion in the talkback section of the paper, which recorded an all-time record of 441 reactions, most supporting the apartheid claim. The most worrying part of the debate was the number of anti-Semitic remarks posted, the most outrageous of them from a man who presented a new, dangerous claim: The Jews were never expelled from Israel by the Romans - they choose to leave voluntarily! The meaning is clear: If the Jews left voluntarily, they lost any claim to the land. Nothing will stop these people if we do not confront these modern libels. The chief rabbi of South Africa did what he had to do, but it would be much more powerful if Nelson Mandela himself came forward to refute these claims ("This is apartheid?" Warren Goldstein, August 12). In the Netherlands, the country from where the white South Africans mostly immigrated, the claim of apartheid in Israel seems already commonly accepted. YOCHANAN VISSER Efrat This bias is rare Sir, - Re "You want that degree? Sleep with the professor" (August 13): Elana Maryles Sztokman's impression of Israeli academia as a domain of backstabbing intriguers, womanizers and chauvinists is extreme and distorted. At least in the life sciences, where I work, these things are extremely rare. Ninety-nine percent of the researchers behave professionally, and I have felt little back-stabbing, nor heard of such from my friends. Finally, more new positions in the life sciences are being filled by women scientists than men at Tel Aviv University! I have sat in professional committees and know firsthand that there is no bias for or against women. We simply look for the candidate with the best potential to succeed as the head of an independent research group. Go into the TAU life sciences/medicine Web site and count the number of women accepted for tenure track positions from 2000, or the 1990s, until now. It's all transparent. Sorry, but I couldn't let this go without responding in a clear fashion with these, my personal views. DR. NIR OSHEROV Tel Aviv University Tel Aviv Of human worth Sir, - I credit my parents for believing in all people and their worth, and try to teach my children that all are made in God's image. What Judy Montagu conveyed in "Scales of worth" (August 13) is the heart of the Jewish soul. I once experienced a situation that left me speechless. A woman I know, a mother of not a few children, whose job was in child education, stated to me that she didn't understand why anyone would devote time to non-functioning children who would never contribute to their surroundings, nor to their own lives. Caught flat-footed, I submitted no answer. Simultaneously, I thought: What would she say if, God forbid, a tragedy befell one of her own? Do people really see the non-functioning as human detritus? I've learned so much about Jewish values in the presence of "those who seem to have little obvious value." Compassion for others is its own, internal reward. DOV EPSTEIN Efrat A third option Sir, - "A powerful, nuclear-armed Israel is the ultimate deterrent," writes MJ Rosenberg in "Those obscene Holocaust analogies" (August 11). He does not understand that to Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mutual Assured Destruction is an incentive. This is the opinion of none other than Bernard Lewis, the renowned scholar of Islam. Last year, Prof. Lewis told The Jerusalem Post: "Mutual assured destruction, the deterrent that worked so well during the Cold War, would have no meaning... for people with this mindset, MAD is not a constraint; it is an inducement." This does not mean that historian Benny Morris is right, either. He has apparently never considered using low-yield 1kt tactical nuclear weapons against the Iranian nuclear sites only - quite different from Morris's scenario of an all-out nuclear attack on Iran, something Israel could never realistically initiate. Iran is looking for a nuclear exchange and the destruction of Israel in order to trigger the return of the "hidden imam." But if Iran does not yet have the bomb, its non-nuclear retaliation for the destroyed nuclear sites would not destroy Israel and would open the door to an Israeli nuclear retaliation. Not quite the plan the mullahs had in mind. The use of tactical nuclear weapons to destroy Iranian nuclear sites is an option that should not be completely discarded if a country's existence is at stake. M. KNEZEVIC Split, Croatia Dismantle the Quartet Sir, - The de-facto annexation by Russia of sovereign Georgian territory in South Ossetia and Abkhazia clearly rules out Russia as a principal of the Quartet, composed of the UN, Russia, the US and the EU. It is no longer acceptable for the Quartet itself to be recognized as a legitimate body for setting guidelines and dictating and implementing policy as to what we in this region should do - given that one of its principals does not recognize either international law or borders, and that the other principals have failed to prevent this military annexation and took their time in condemning it. Indeed, we can now expect more of the now independent former Soviet Union states to be at risk of similar action by Russia ("Putin's pique," Editorial, August 12). COLIN L LECI Jerusalem Sir, - Let's call a spade a spade. The former Soviet Union, more specifically Russia, was hijacked by gangsters. As simple as that, and with all the consequences it brings. MITCHELL BARNETT Tel Aviv Why raise hopes? Sir, - Israel is a very small, mediocre sporting nation unable to fund the necessary infrastructure and facilities to make us a great sporting nation. We are competing in the world sports arena against major powers that do have such funds and much less expensive and pressing national and security needs. Why, then, do our sports writers and commentators build up the expectations of the Israeli public regarding our Olympic medal chase? By so doing they are putting excessive pressure on our gallant athletes, the majority of whom are simply not up to world championship levels. I am proud to see our athletes performing under the Israeli flag to the best of their ability, but have no illusions about their sporting prowess against the world's best. Our commentators should adopt the same attitude and encourage them; and not, in so many cases, criticize them for not performing well ("Israelis crash out of Olympic tennis," August 13). MICHAEL MOHNBLATT Tel Mond Sir, - We should all be proud of a fine young man - swimmer Alon Mandel, who carried on in the face of unspeakable tragedy so as not to let his country and teammates down. May he enjoy a bright future in his chosen sport ("Mandel breaks national record four days after his father's tragic death, but fails to reach semis," August 12). LYNETTE LEVIUS Netanya