August 19: Price of poison

Alcohol in all its forms is cheap and freely available here and, along with illicit drugs, is fueling the horrendous violence now perpetrated by and among Israeli youth.

letters thumb (photo credit: )
letters thumb
(photo credit: )
Price of poison Sir, - "Crime and values" (Editorial, August 18), was both germane and important. But not enough emphasis was placed on the role of alcohol and illicit drugs. Alcohol in all its forms is cheap and freely available here and, along with illicit drugs, is fueling the horrendous violence now perpetrated by and among Israeli youth. I understand how and why the Israeli wine and spirits lobby has effectively used its considerable financial clout to insure that the taxes and prices of Israeli-produced alcoholic beverages remain low and internationally competitive. Unfortunately, the prices are also affordable to even pre-teens. The time has come not just to enforce the laws on underage drinking more vigorously, but also to raise the price of these poisons out of the range of most young Israelis. The culture of excessive recreational drinking is internationally glamorous and will be much harder to root out. On the other hand, I can hardly think of anything less attractive or glamorous than a drunken woman - except, perhaps, a drunken man! KENNETH BESIG Kiryat Arba Three or four states Sir, - Aaron Bashani writes about a two- or three-state situation on British-Mandated land ("Two or three states?" August 18). Actually he is wrong. It is a three- or four-state situation: Israel, Jordan, the PA and Gaza - never envisaged in all the peace talks since the Oslo Accords. Added to that, Muhammad Ghaneim, Abbas's heir presumptive, does not even recognize the Oslo Accords - so where does that leave Israel? The answer, of course, is that Jordan is Palestine. It took 78 percent of the Israeli land, and 75 percent of its population are Palestinian Arabs. If they don't want to take in/rule their irredentist brethren in the disputed territories and Gaza, why should Israel be expected to help found a third Arab entity its homeland - one, moreover, whose avowed intention is to take over the whole of Israel? JUDY PRAGER Petah Tikva Right to settlement Sir, - ICRC's M. Pierre Wettach cites the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 prohibiting "the transfer of [parts of] the civilian population of the occupying power into the occupied territory" as grounds for labeling Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria (the "West Bank") illegal ("ICRC clarifies, Letters, August 11). These settlements are, he avers, "a form of population transfer into occupied territory." "Occupied territory" implies the existence of a legitimate sovereign state whose territory is being occupied. In this instance, since Jordan's claim to sovereignty in this territory from 1949 till 1967 was never internationally recognized (except by Britain and Pakistan), the only legitimate previous sovereign power one can refer to in this area is Britain, in accordance with the Mandate given to it in 1922 by the League of Nations. Under the terms of that Mandate, Britain was charged, among other things, with encouraging "close settlement by Jews on the land." Jordan's invasion in 1948 did not alter that provision - which, incidentally, remains valid also under Article 80 of the UN Charter. According to Prof. Eugene Rostow, "Israel has an unassailable legal right to establish settlements in the West Bank... [which] is part of the British Mandate in Palestine which included Israel and Jordan as well as certain other territories not yet generally recognized as belonging to either country. While Jewish settlement east of the Jordan River was suspended in 1922, such settlements remained legal in the West Bank." The 1949 Geneva Convention is thus not applicable to Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria today. In addition, it manifestly does not fit the circumstances of the current situation, which does not and never did involve the transfer of civilians but, on the contrary, reflects a situation where civilians took the initiative in settling these territories, receiving government approval and support only at a later stage. MOSHE AUMANN (Ret.) Foreign Ministry Jerusalem Sir, - Pierre Wettach's letter begs for further comment. • The UN was obliged under the terms of its charter to honor "existing international instruments," including the Mandate for Palestine. Designating Palestine a Jewish homeland and encouraging close settlement, it stands as an article of international law to this day. • The armistice agreements of 1949 indicated that the armistice lines were "not to be construed in any sense" as political boundaries, and that "no provision shall in any way prejudice the... claims... of the parties." The Green Line - roughly that armistice line - is not a border at all; that has yet to be negotiated. The presumption that everything beyond the Green Line is off limits to Israel is fallacious. • Resolution 242 after the 1967 war did not require Israel to withdraw to the Green Line. It implicitly recognized that "secure boundaries" required something else. It mentions neither a Palestinian state nor the Palestinian people, putting the lie to current thinking that defines Judea and Samaria as "Palestinian land." • The establishment of settlements has nothing to do with the "transfer of civilian population by an occupying power," as forbidden in the Fourth Geneva Convention. First, that convention refers to the forced movement of the indigenous population of an area by the occupying power, not its own population. Second, Israel "forced" no population, as the Jews who moved into the settlements did so absolutely voluntarily. • The Oslo Agreements did not bar settlement activity by Israel. ARLENE KUSHNER Jerusalem Tamir was right Sir, - Avigdor Lieberman's implication that Israel's New England consul-general should resign is as near-sighted as his overall approach to Mideast peace - essentially, my way or the highway ("Critical consul-general Nadav Tamir reprimanded, sent back to Boston,"August 14). As a respected career diplomat, Tamir offered his professional opinion that it was not likely in Israel's strategic interest to snub the Obama administration's call for a halt to all settlement growth in the occupied West Bank. He's clearly right, but that seems to matter little to the Netanyahu-Lieberman coalition. It apparently would prefer to play chicken with the US government, while jeopardizing - by expanding settlements and continuing to create obstructive "facts on the ground" - the tenuous remaining possibility of peace in the region. Tamir was correct in seeking to adjust the Israeli government's misguided trajectory, and in observing that Americans, including American Jews, are quickly losing patience with the current coalition's obstinacy in the face of an Obama administration determined to move forward toward a just and lasting resolution of this age-old conflict. By pressuring all sides to begin to make tangible concessions, the US, Israel's historic ally, is now playing a critically constructive role. Tamir understands this; it's time Lieberman and Netanyahu did, too. MICHAEL FELSEN Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts Israeli Arabs and... Sir, - Why do I have to look for an excuse for Israeli Arabs not to recognize or salute the national flag of Israel, the country of which they are citizens? ("[Michael] Oren: Israeli Arabs can salute Magen David as Muslim symbol," August 18). Why do I have to fall over backward to "justify" the Magen David as being, in fact, also an Islamic symbol so Muslim citizens will accept it? Do Muslims demand the same "rights and consideration" in other countries in which they reside and are citizens, where the cross is part of that country's flag? I have counted 83 (and am still counting) states, countries, areas and towns in the world where the cross is part of the emblem of the place concerned - including England, Wales, Scotland, Australia, Denmark Finland, Montreal, London.... LITA ARKIN Jerusalem ...our national symbols Sir, - I cannot understand Michael Oren's thinking. How can he expect Arabs to sing the national anthem - doesn't he understand the words? "The Jewish soul longing to return to Zion - to our homeland." This was, and is the Arabs' worst nightmare: Jews returning and raising the Magen David, which is the symbol of the Jewish state. Arab loyalty is to Islam and Islamic symbols. They don't want to be a minority in a Jewish state. Respect this - and also realize that they want the State of Israel to be the State of Palestine. BARBARA GINSBERG Ma'aleh Adumim Truth about Wallenberg Sir, - We write on behalf of the Jerusalem Working Group commemorating the Jewish and non-Jewish Rescuers of the Holocaust. A few days ago we celebrated the birthday of Raoul Wallenberg, the tragic hero of the Holocaust who saved the lives of up to 100,000 Hungarian Jews in Budapest toward the end of the war, then disappeared into the Soviet Gulag. Wallenberg was born on August 4, 1912. The Russians claimed he died of a heart attack in prison in 1947, but there were frequent reports of his being seen alive in Soviet psychiatric prisons as late as the early 1980s. We have asked President Peres during his conversations in Moscow to raise the issue with President Medved in a bid to discover the truth about what really happened to Wallenberg. We owe it to this great human being and savior of our people, and to his family, to continue the search until the truth is made known. DAVID HERMAN LARRY PFEFFER Jerusalem Just to amend Sir, - My article "The man who brought Herzl Home" (August 18) contained two factual errors. Under the picture of Chaplain Lt.-Col. Oscar Lifshutz, the caption should have stated that he is standing by Herzl's tomb in Vienna (not Jerusalem). The intro should have begun "Sixty years ago..." and not as printed. Miriam Lifshutz of Chicago, who loaned the pictures for the story, has written a biography of her late husband entitled Rabbi Oscar Lifshutz: The World is My Pulpit, to appear laterthis year. DAVID GEFFEN Jerusalem