August 21: No free lunch

Inaction on our part only emboldens Hizbullah to make more serious incursions and further build up its fighting capability.

letters to the editor 88 (photo credit: )
letters to the editor 88
(photo credit: )
No free lunch Sir, - Larry Derfner suggests that either Israel was too quick to go to war after its soldiers were kidnapped or killed, or it should have ceased fighting within a week ("Flirting with state terrorism," August 17). The fact is that inaction on our part only emboldens Hizbullah to make more serious incursions and further build up its fighting capability. If Israel had stopped the fighting after a week of sustaining missile attacks on its civilian population it would have convinced Hizbullah and its supporters that Israel's home front cannot withstand assault and is thus the most effective target. Israel's action may not have caused the Lebanese to love us, but it delivered the message that "There's no free lunch." America's nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was taken to save the lives of 100,000 soldiers who were themselves civilians drafted into the army. To categorize this as "state terrorism" is sheer hypocrisy. TUVIA MUSKIN Rehovot Our war Sir, - You are fighting our war, and most of us appreciate it. Keep the faith and fight terrorism as one nation, not a divided nation as we in the US are. Dear friends, my prayers go out to you. CHUCK DIKE Fall City, Washington Overdue for overhaul Sir, - We need more honest and capable commentators like Lenny Ben-David ("The lessons of Lebanon - II, August 20). If even half of what he writes is true the Israeli establishment needs a thorough shakeup. For too long have we endured incompetence and greed in our government. When it causes needless sacrifice of our youth, as in Lebanon, we are overdue for an overhaul. LEE M. SPETNER Jerusalem France's sorry role... Sir, - Jacques Chirac's government has played a sorry role in hobbling international response to the Israel-Lebanon crisis, both by restricting its scope and by being niggardly in its offer of manpower for the proposed peacekeeping force ("Abandoning Lebanon," Editorial, August 20). For historical reasons Paris carries some residual weight of influence in the Levant. And yet it prefers to stand aside with insouciance while a vacuum of authority works its worst in southern Lebanon. Is there no memory in the Elysee Palace of the France that once mattered in world affairs? There is unlikely to be a more fitting moment this decade to display some world-class initiative in committing to a plan of action that is worthy both of the confidence of Israelis and Lebanese in restoring order to chaotic Lebanon, and of renewing luster to France's own image. The French aspire to be players on the world stage; let them now commit the resources necessary to realize such ambitions. RON GOODDEN Atlanta Sir, - The French government's offer of 200 personnel for the Lebanese border, compared to the thousands they promised at the UN, is not only dishonest but very disproportionate. MICHAEL PLASKOW Netanya ...Annan's hardly better one Sir, - I found absolutely repulsive the remarks of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the recent skirmishes between Israeli troops and the terrorist Hizbullah ("Beirut warns groups to keep cease-fire," On-Line Edition, August 20). It seems to me the sec.-gen. doesn't understand what real terror is. If Resolution 1701 indicated that there should be no arms supplies from either Iran or Syria and the Lebanese army could not control that, Israel had the right to enforce the resolution. Annan, instead of condemning the arms infiltration into Lebanon from Syria and Iran, did the opposite. Israel should prepare for a greater war to defend itself because it seems there is a conspiracy somewhere to bring the State of Israel down. It beats my imagination that the Security Council never condemns Hizbullah for targeting Israeli civilians, but always covers the devastation in Lebanon. What an injustice! ADEBIAYE FAPETU Lake in the Hills, Illinois Secretary-General's consistent stand Sir, - In "Kofi Annan to Hizbullah's rescue?" (August 9) Anne Bayefsky shamelessly sought to portray the UN secretary-general as an ally and protector of Hizbullah. It is impossible to conceive how this could be the case when the secretary-general has consistently stated that "the present fighting began on July 12, with an unprovoked Hizbullah attack on Israel and the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers." Mr. Annan has repeatedly and publicly condemned Hizbullah attacks on Israel, including in a statement to the UN Security Council on July 20, and has called on Hizbullah "to stop its deliberate targeting of Israeli population centers." Ms. Bayefsky also falsely accused the secretary-general of denying Israel's right to self-defense when he has repeatedly affirmed Israel's right to defend herself under Article 51 of the UN Charter, including in the current conflict. As he told the Security Council on July 30, "No one disputes Israel's right to defend [it]self. But, by its manner of doing so, it has caused, and is causing, death and suffering on a wholly unacceptable scale." The secretary-general condemns all attacks that target civilians, and continues to call, as a matter of priority, for an immediate end to the fighting to prevent the further killing and suffering of civilians in both Israel and Lebanon. EDWARD MORTIMER Executive Office of the Secretary-General< United Nations New York PR for Hizbullah? Don't be ridiculous Sir, - Stephen Pollard accuses the BBC of "ingrained anti-Israel bias" ("Don't boycott the BBC," August 15). He suggests that our output could be mistaken for that of al-Manar, Hizbullah's own TV station. He dismisses the findings of a recent "committee set up by the BBC to look into bias" as "a whitewash." It should be pointed out that this was an independent panel appointed by the governors of the BBC to review the impartiality of BBC News and current affairs coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The panel carried out extensive research, speaking to senior BBC editors and correspondents, among others, and visiting our bureau in Israel. Its conclusion was that there was no deliberate or systematic bias in the BBC's reporting. But it did highlight other shortcomings, such as a need to provide better context. Contrary to what Stephen Pollard suggests, we do not believe that our coverage is "perfect," and indeed it could probably never be so given the complexities of the story and the highly-charged emotions involved. The BBC attempts to provide as rounded a view as possible of events, and has done so throughout the present conflict. This is why we have committed huge resources to reporting on the ground from multiple locations, including Jerusalem, Haifa, Northern Israel, Beirut and Tyre. We believe strongly in the value of firsthand reporting and have had more than 60 staff reporting from the field, many of them at some risk to their own lives. We may not always get it right, but it is ridiculous to suggest that we are acting as propagandists for Hizbullah. We are attempting to fulfill our remit as an impartial broadcaster and to reflect the different perspectives that exist on this story. FRANCESCA UNSWORTH Head of BBC Newsgathering London 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 Go with the flow? Not me (or is it 'I'?) Sir, - I belong to an on-line group of would-be writers, of whom most are Americans. They are supposed to be the ones to keep literature flowering, and I can't believe their spelling and grammar. That our language should be in the hands of people who come out of college barely literate, who can buy degrees over the Internet, who seemingly haven't read a line of Shakespeare, who've never heard of Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, W.M. Thackeray, Hemingway, O'Henry or Fitzgerald is a crime. Then there are those who can sing all the songs from My Fair Lady but have no idea it is based on Pygmalion, the play by George Bernard - who? I can't abide the constant splitting of infinitives to an absurd degree, even when it trips the tongue. I want to bellow like a bull when I hear "between you and I," or "phenomena" for "phenomenon," or "most" for "almost," or "if I was" instead of "if I were." Don't people know that things are "different from" and not "different than"? "Than" suggests a comparison. If something is different, there is nothing to compare. My nerves jar every time I hear "The president returned to Washington Saturday." Pray, where is Washington Saturday? Where's the one-syllable "on" to make sense of this? Get used to it? Go with the flow? Never, not so long as I live. I will continue to hope there are those out there, like me, who do not wish to see the degeneration of a beautiful, rich language to comic-book jargon. Long live Jane Austen! Long live the Bronte sisters! Long live Oliver Goldsmith and Pearl Buck! (a credit to her nation). Long live John Galsworthy and H. Rider Haggard! Long live English! ("It's a sad, bad time for purists," Judy Montagu, August 14) EDMUND JONAH Rishon Lezion