August 20: Something's amiss

Lipkin-Shahak, upon retiring as chief of staff, joined the Labor Party. Doesn't his present appointment also qualify as an act of nepotism?

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Something's amiss Sir, - Re "Lipkin-Shahak to head probe on handling of war" (August 17): The attorney-general has recommended that Tzahi Hanegbi be indicted for the crime of appointing party cronies to government positions. Defense Minister Amir Peretz, head of the Labor Party and himself under criticism for his role in the conduct of the war, has appointed Amnon Lipkin-Shahak to head the war probe. Lipkin-Shahak, upon retiring as chief of staff, joined the Labor Party. Doesn't his present appointment also qualify as an act of nepotism? MIRIAM L. GAVARIN Jerusalem Mini-storm Sir, - Whilst I have no tools to judge Dan Halutz's performance as chief of staff, I feel that the brouhaha over his spending a few minutes on July 12 selling shares is a real storm in a teacup. Was the time he spent in the bathroom also recorded - or was constipation the order of the day? ("MKs blast Halutz for ducking committee questions," August 17.) YITZ GREENWALD Givatayim Outside the fray Sir, - Bravo to Uri Dan, who has shown that he will not be swayed to join in the political lynching of Dan Halutz ("Hands off Dan Halutz," August 17). Small-time politicians are trying to make some headlines, and journalists to create an uproar. Selling his stocks was maybe poor judgment on Halutz's part, but no more than that. MK Zevulun Orlev might ask the attorney-general to investigate Bank Leumi's responsibility in the case, or that of any other source that leaked private information contravening the bank's secrecy policy. HENRY WEIL Jerusalem Zapatero's zeal Sir, - I get the feeling that, given half a chance, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriques Zapatero would reintroduce the Inquisition for the appeasement of Islam.("One of Israel's biggest critics in the EU," August 13.) PHILIP FRYDMAN Netanya Mahmoud & the Mufti Sir, - Iran's Ahmadinejad asks: "If an atrocity was committed in Germany, or Europe for that matter, why should the Palestinians answer for this? ("Iran joins PR war on '60 minutes,'" On-Line Edition, August 17). The answer is very simple: The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, was closely associated with Nazi Germany during WWII, even moving to Berlin. Therefore Muslims, whom he represented, must take their share of responsibility for those atrocities. President Ahmadinejad goes on to complain that "to date I have never received an answer." Let us refer His Excellency to the Web site, where full details are available. FANNY & GERRY MYERS Beit Zayit Sir, - I see reports that President Ahmadinejad has launched his own Web log. Don't bother with it. I've been writing him for months now, and he has nothing to say. When he does say something it is absolutely meaningless, like "Israel has pressed the button of its destruction." Every time he says something, it makes me lose my will to live. PAUL DAVID SWINFORD Geneseo, Illinois Sir, - The easiest kind of leader to be is one who whips a group into a frenzy and runs at its head. Hitler did it, Yasser Arafat did it, and now Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is doing it. The next easiest way to lead is to find a complacent group that will sit back and criticize others who are struggling to improve their lot, while playing a violin for people whose victimhood is self-induced. Such leaders hope to discourage the hard workers from surpassing them in achievement, and offset their guilt by expressing concern for those who lack even the basic necessities. This is what Jacques Chirac and Kofi Annan are doing. The hardest thing to do is see the path of justice in an unjust world, and rally support for the pursuit of it. MATTHEW BERMAN Herzliya Dreams are made of this? Sir, - Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calls President Bush and tells him: "I had a wonderful dream last night. I could see the whole of America, and on each house I saw a banner." "What did it say?" asks Bush. Replies Ahmadinejad: "Allah is God, God is Allah." Bush says, "You know, I'm really happy you called. Last night I had a dream too. I could see all of Teheran, and each house flew a huge banner." "What did it say?" asks Ahmadinejad. Bush: "I don't know, I can't read Hebrew." S. RENNELS Oklahoma We were terrorists! Sir, - All the talk about terrorists today makes me think back to the history of my own people. I am a Scandinavian, and proud of it. In school we studied the Nordic Sagas and Viking culture. We were an unruly lot, but we had style. The Vikings ruled northern Europe from 800-1100. Their strength was their ability to build sleek, speedy longships. Without this crucial technology they would never have become a dominant force in medieval warfare, politics and even trade. What made them such a formidable force was their fearless attitude toward violence, their readiness to rape, kill and rob. Their gods were Thor and Odin, fierce battle gods. Odin would welcome the dead warriors into the Viking afterlife. He had the power to send out beautiful battle maidens called Valkyries, who went to earthly battles to collect the brave Vikings who had died in warfare. They were taken to join Odin in Valhalla - "hall of the slain" - to feast and prepare to fight in the final battle of the ages, called Ragnarok. To thrive in Viking culture you had to follow the strong guy, and that became the Vikings' weakness. Later a few well-travelled Vikings became influenced by southern Europe and converted to Christianity, becoming missionaries to their own culture. Christ was the new deity, stronger than Odin and Thor. Eventually, the descendants of the brutal Vikings became totally different societies. They were not free to kill anymore, and each had to love his neighbor, according to this new God, and help the weak and the sick and the handicapped. Certainly we Scandinavians are highly taxed today to pay for our elaborate healthcare system and equal rights and education for all. Our societies have become known for being social democratic and very peaceful. What would our forefathers say to that? History shows that societies can change. For the Vikings it took a few centuries. Let's hope we can all move faster this time around. G. JONSSON Vancouver Secular conversion Sir, - David Forman shows evidence of having come far from his Reform forbears ("Protestantization of American Jews," August 17). He correctly laments the fact that American Jews, even when cleaving to their religious identity, have given up on their national identity. He should go one step further and conclude that conversion to the "Jewish people" should be possible without conversion to the Jewish religion. If, as he correctly maintains, Judaism has always been a peoplehood, a political identity and a culture in addition to a faith - and the faith element has proven useless in preventing assimilation in America, and has also not created loyalty to the State of Israel - why should the religious nature of conversion be retained? Why not have an open, secular form of conversion, obtaining membership in the Jewish people with or without formal citizenship of the State of Israel? Something of this nature has been discussed, but no one has come up with a clear procedure. True, some confusion would exist in this new form of conversion, but it would probably not be any more chaotic than the current forms of religious conversion. RABBI JACOB CHINITZ Jerusalem