August 6: Idol worship

Avraham Feder reminds all Israelis that we cherish our relationship with the US but also that the US cannot speak for, or make policy for Israel.

letters 88 (photo credit: )
letters 88
(photo credit: )
Idol worship... Sir, - Avraham Feder's brilliant "Idolatry by any other name" (August 5) should be published as a major piece in Foreign Affairs, which influences so many diplomats around the world. It should be required reading for our foreign ministry officials. Rabbi Feder analyzes most effectively what a free sovereign nation should keep in mind when dealing with other countries. He reminds all Israelis that we cherish our relationship with the US, leader of the free democratic world, but also that the US cannot speak for, or make policy for Israel. Israel's needs are particular because she is surrounded by nations who ultimately want her destruction. Avraham Feder's insight will be relevant for many years to come. JENNY WEIL Jerusalem ...& diminishing returns Sir, - One of the more striking results of the Obama administration's first six months is that only one country has worse relations with the US than it did in January: Israel. The new administration has pushed a reset button with Russia and sent new ambassadors to Syria and Venezuela; it has offered olive branches to Cuba and Burma. But for nearly three months, it has been locked in a public confrontation with Israel over Jewish housing construction in Jerusalem and the West Bank. To a less visible extent, the two governments also have differed over policy toward Iran. At worst, Obama may find himself diminished among both Israelis and Arabs before discussions even begin on the issues on which US clout is most needed. If he is to be effective in brokering a peace deal, Mr. Obama will need to show both sides that they can trust him - and he must be tough on more than one country. ANDREW PRIEDITIS Washington Best friends Sir, - Just wanted to let the people of Israel know that many, many Americans are on your side, even though our government seems to hang a question over that. Like best friends, our bonds cannot be broken! RAYMOND DEVLIN Rochester, Illinois Puppets on a string Sir, - Khaled Abu Usba, responsible for 38 dead Israelis, 13 of them children, and 71 wounded, has been allowed into our country together with other monsters, to take part in the Fatah terrorism conference. The fact that such a murderer is still alive is travesty enough; but to have him walk around in total freedom is beyond the realm of sanity. Defense Minister Ehud Barak called the move "a very correct and important decision" and this, God help us, is the person in charge of our security. I suppose the massive egos of the prime and defense ministers allows them to pretend they are more than just puppets being played by an anti-Israel world. We are totally adrift in a hostile environment of our own making ("We won't abandon 'popular resistance,' Abbas tell Fatah General Assembly," August 5). EDITH OGNALL Netanya Sir, - Ahmed Tibi said at the conference: "The settlers should get out of our lands." Clearly, he does not mean Israel's lands. If Tibi sides squarely with the Palestinians, what is he doing in our Knesset? All well and good that I can express this in your columns; but what I really need is a government representative responsible to me to whom I can voice my opinion, and even request a bill to be presented to deal with this travesty. The US, UK and Canada have such a mechanism, Israel does not. A democracy implies that the people have a voice. Why don't I? DEENA SPIGELMAN Jerusalem Looking moderate Sir, - Shaikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, prince of Bahrain, wrote that "Arabs need to talk to the Israelis" (July 27). An Israeli "might be forgiven for thinking that every Muslim voice is raised in hatred, because that is usually the only voice he hears. Just as an Arab might be forgiven for thinking every Israeli wants the destruction of every Palestinian." This is a false parallelism. No moderate Palestinian is heard in news broadcasts. The Arabs, on the other hand, hear many Israeli political voices calling for peace and understanding - from the president of our state to MKs, and including social and cultural figures. "The wasted years of deadlock have conditioned the Israelis to take on a fortress mentality that automatically casts all Palestinians as the enemy," the prince added, conveniently forgetting the many terrorist attacks and constant rocket attacks on our civilians. Has the prince forgotten how many times we stopped "settlement activity" - including the painful Israeli exit from Gaza, a considerable, and probably irrevocable initiative? Another nice-sounding slogan: "What we don't need is the continued reflexive rejection of any initiative that seeks to melt the ice. Consider the response so far to the Arab peace plan, pioneered by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia" - an Arab ruler not directly related to the conflict. The PA leadership has proffered no similar initiative. Prince Al-Khalifa should get this piece into the Arabic newspapers. In addressing Westerners, he tries to show he is moderate, fair and understanding, but underneath the veneer lies his and other Arabs' obduracy when it comes to true peace. AHARON GOLDBERG Hatzor Haglilit Muddling the JFS issue Sir, - Michael Arnheim is muddled in his analysis of the JFS issue ("The 'Who is a Jew' saga, UK version," August 5). All denominational schools in the UK had, on their establishment, to identify the religious authority they followed. The JFS, and many other schools, quite naturally chose the head of central Orthodoxy in the UK, the chief rabbi. His advice on admissions was that where the number of places was over-subscribed, priority should be given to those considered halachically Jewish by central Orthodoxy. Where there was a surplus of places, however, the advice was no longer relevant, and many schools under the religious authority of the chief rabbi enrol children not considered halachically Jewish by Orthodoxy. The Court of Appeal decided that the manner in which Jewish communities across the world had decided the religious status of their members for centuries contravened the UK Race Relations Act when applied to school entrance. This controversial judgment has been challenged and the UK Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal. Meanwhile, schools have asked the chief rabbi for guidance on what criteria they might legally use to prioritize applications for 2010 entry if they are over-subscribed. The chief rabbi has not, as Prof. Arnheim asserts, required Shabbat observance as a test for entry. On the contrary, his published guidance to schools states that "individual schools may formulate their own criteria in accordance with their specific ethos, but these criteria should be inclusive rather than exclusive." The Court of Appeal judgment has created much difficulty, with possible far-reaching implications for other aspects of communal life in the UK. Naturally people will want to add other agendas to what is already a complex issue; but these op-ed contributions tend to confuse rather than clarify. LESLIE WAGNER Jerusalem CLARIFICATION "Will Fatah give up the 'armed struggle'" by Pinchas Inbari (August 5) was prepared as a Jerusalem Issue Brief for the Institute of Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.