August 15: Nothing new here

Suddenly, money that has not been available for a whole range of projects is found for the student body to work on behalf of the government, albeit covertly.

Letters 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Handout )
Letters 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Handout )
Nothing new here
Sir, – So the government now has a “far-reaching plan” (“Government to use citizens as army in social media war,” August 14).
Having sat in on a Knesset committee meeting discussing the role and problems of the many activist organizations already working for years in the existing “citizen’s army,” the profound plan is like a slap to the face of the thousands of people already working on Israel’s behalf, many in a purely voluntary capacity.
“We will get authoritative information out and make sure it goes viral,” you quote an unidentified official involved with the effort as saying. Isn’t this what all activists have been shouting for continuously for years? Until the Israeli side to the Muhammad al-Dura and Mavi Marmara cases (just to quote two examples) was available, we had lost the battle. Our news had become old news.
“We won’t leave negative stories out there online....” Wow, is there now a magician who can wave his wand? Our opponents can put out a story based on no facts and out of context, and until there is an official response the pro-Israel activists can hibernate.
“What we are doing is revolutionary.”
Really? Isn’t it what all the existing activist groups have been doing for years? As part of a group that maintains contact with over 100 active organizations in many countries around the world, I know that a single email, Facebook entry or tweet can help make a message go viral. But suddenly, money that has not been available for a whole range of projects is found for the student body to work on behalf of the government, albeit covertly.
The main battle today is not connected to the IDF. It is at the level of schools, universities, trade unions, professional journals and the general public. Yes, we need a citizen’s army, but it should be broad-based at the grassroots level. Why does the existing one not get any acknowledgement and encouragement? This is yet another case of “government knows best.” It’s sick.
STUART PALMER HaifaThe writer is chairman of CoHaV, the Coalition of Hasbara Volunteers
A cultural thing
Sir, – Reading Susan Hattis Rolef’s comments regarding the woes of Jews from Arab lands claiming discrimination against them by Ashkenazi Jews (“The ethnic demon,” Think About It, August 13), I was reminded of my arrival in Israel in 1957.
Having flown from South Africa and making a stop for refueling in some central African country, when our plane landed in Israel the door was opened and the passengers were sprayed with a disinfectant. I remember saying to myself, “Well, of course they need to do this – after all, we have come from Africa.”
Over the years, however, while talking to folks from North Africa, I have frequently heard them complain bitterly about what they call a terrible injustice inflicted upon them from the first minute of their arrival. “They sprayed us with DDT,” has been the common indignant gripe, begging the question: Does the readiness to complain and automatically find fault with everything have something to do with general attitudes and culture? I grew up in a culture based mainly on European-Christian values (spiced with a Jewish background), so I could see the logic in what I was subjected to on my arrival and wasn’t offended by it. Those who came largely from Arab and Muslim societies didn’t have this factor in their upbringing. Today, though, with the increased integration of all those different waves of immigrants in all walks of life and the general leveling-off of Israeli society, the grudges, whether justified or not, have become less pronounced.
While Rolef’s article does point out a number of important facts, its one-sidedness leads to an erroneous impression, and that’s a great pity when one considers the huge strides that Israel has made in a relatively short period in consolidating itself as a society.
Horrendous desecration
Sir, – I would add one footnote to Michael Freund’s excellent column about the brutal destruction of Gaza’s former synagogues at the hands of Palestinians (“When synagogues burned in the Land of Israel,” Fundamentally Freund, August 13).
The chief rabbis of the time had the opportunity to save these houses of worship. But in a colossal error they ruled that Jewish law forbade the synagogues from being dismantled and lovingly rebuilt in other parts of Israel. Despite numerous calls for them to rule otherwise – citing the authoritative opinion of other halachic decisors who not only permitted such a move but encouraged it – the rabbis refused to budge.
The ensuing destruction of the synagogues not only brought untold grief to thousands of former residents of Gush Katif, it caused a horrendous desecration of God’s name.
The only somewhat positive thing to come out of this dreadful event, as Freund intimated, is that it gave a further indication that the Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in co-existing with a Jewish state, no matter how many foolish concessions we make.
STEWART WEISS Ra’anana The writer is a rabbi and Post magazine columnist
Go for Flug
Sir, – With regard to “PM’s office: We did not send BoI candidate list for vetting” (August 12), the search for a new governor of the Bank of Israel is rapidly becoming a crisis.
This critically important position affects our entire economy.
The governor of the Bank of Israel must be not only a recognized world-class economist, he or she must also be able to work effectively with all the divergent opinions and strong personalities among the members of the bank.
At a minimum this requires a decent knowledge of Hebrew, an understanding of problems unique to our economy, great skill in working with others, and a mastery of economic policy. Very few people are qualified.
When Stanley Fischer resigned he recommended that he be replaced by his deputy, Karnit Flug, who is currently running the Bank of Israel.
Obviously, she is thoroughly familiar with all details of its operation and is highly qualified.
Why she was not nominated is not known, but the result is very unfortunate.
The first two nominees, who were also well qualified, withdrew their candidacies. The new candidates that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is considering do not appear to be anywhere near adequately qualified. Sadly, anything less than an outstanding governor could be a disaster for our economy.
What can be done to change Netanyahu’s rejection of the only adequate candidate left? And even if he were to relent, how could Flug be persuaded to accept after the insult of multiple rejections for unexplained and probably unjustified reasons?
• In “Nefesh B’Nefesh ‘soldiers flight’ lands in Israel” (August 14), NBN co-founder and executive director Rabbi Yehoshua Fass was incorrectly quoted as saying: “For 11 years, on 29 flights, I have welcomed thousands as they make their way to Israel.” In actual fact, he said “49 flights.” He was speaking prior to the takeoff of NBN’s 50th charter flight, which landed in Israel on Tuesday morning. According to the organization, Fass has been aboard all 50 flights.
• “The perceptions of power” (Analysis, August 13) misstated the authorship and subject matter of a May 2003 Boston Phoenix article. Dan Kennedy was the author of the article, which asked eight foreign policy experts to comment on the uncertain future of the US role in Iraq. Fareed Zakaria’s comments in this article were related to neither Samantha Power’s comments nor to Israel.