December 31: Man of passion

I never met the late Tzafrir Ronen, but I was privileged to hear him speak.

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Man of passion Sir, - Re Caroline B. Glick's "Patriots and anti-patriots" (December 30): I never met the late Tzafrir Ronen, but I was privileged to hear him speak on a panel at last year's Jerusalem Conference. In the few minutes allotted he delivered one of the most passionate Zionistic discourses I have ever heard. Despite the fact that he didn't wear a kippa on his head, he spoke fervently about the right of the Jewish people to live on every inch of the Land of Israel. It's truly a shame that Tzafrir Ronen and others who share his views are today called "extremists" and often marginalized by those in the mainstream. JOSH HASTEN Jerusalem The proportion issue Sir, - Our spokespeople are doing an excellent job, but they should make two points about comparing numbers of casualties, the so-called "disproportionality" issue (Letters, December 29). When the next BBC-type inquisitor accuses Israel of causing too many deaths among the Gazans, they could point out that his (or her) problem seems to be a lack of dead Jews, and ask how many more of these would be satisfactory? While he mumbles an answer, they would stress that Israel makes a great effort to defend its people with shelters and early-warning systems. Hamas, on the other hand, uses its children as human shields for the photo ops, and to flummox simple-minded anchors and EU politicians ("Netanyahu joins Gaza PR effort," December 30). J. GILBOA Jaffa Win the war - not the 'game' Sir, - The world media claiming unfair use of force are mixing their metaphors. Many people use a variation of game metaphors where a too-lopsided score, a too-skilled-on-one-side mismatch is boring and unfair, and a near-even match is the norm for a good game. But Hamas, with its life-threatening rockets, is not playing a game. A war metaphor means using everything at your command, skillfully and with overwhelming force, to annihilate the enemy. The way to stop the world media's spin is to point out its misuse of the game metaphor in a life-and-death threat. Israel needs to publish the number of missile attacks it has absorbed from Hamas, giving the dates, and thus make the attacks more substantive, more real for people to understand. Paint a clearer picture, as Barack Obama did by talking about his own children. Issue more pictures of Israeli children living in fear. Address and defeat the presumptive game metaphor to gain better world opinion ("'Coordination is putting Israel ahead in the media war,'" December 30). ELAINE SOUTHARD Colorado Springs Push your narrative Sir, - Gerald Steinberg's "Can Israel win the 'soft power' war in Gaza?" (December 29) was important, but more has to be said. The Arab narrative has become widely accepted and its vocabulary dominant. Needed is not a "response," but an aggressive campaign compelling public opinion to recognize the cynical and ruthless role of Hamas, and of the PA, in this conflict. When I was in business, I realized that pointing out the falsehoods of the dominant competitor in the field, who was supported by a strong marketing force, did nothing. Customers believed the hype no matter how often or plainly the misinformation was pointed out. Indeed, the more I pointed it out, the more I was perceived as whining or untruthful. When I learned how to be perceived as an authority, however, success followed. So with the current situation. The majority of those who are so violently opposed to Israel's policies probably genuinely believe that Israel is a brutal, bullying violator of human rights. It's futile to attempt to dissuade them. What will work is a powerful, aggressive and continuous promotion of our own narrative. The careful use of positive terminology to promote Israel as the beacon of light it is, and of negative terminology to portray the incredibly obvious (to us) shortcomings of our foes does not seem part of our field of vision. Politicians and media personalities fail to consider the impact of their over-the-top criticisms and public bickering. Israel does not speak with a united voice. We need a publicly foregrounded core vision, an essential and ongoing statement of who we are. Organizations like Honest Reporting, CAMERA, NGO Monitor and MEMRI are vitally important. But until Israel can develop a positive, widely accepted narrative of its own, put out there by its own people, in one voice, it is fighting this "soft war" with one hand tied behind its back. LOUIS PINKETT Minsk, Belarus/ Voorhees, New Jersey We're openly for the academic boycott Sir, - Your London correspondent Johnny Paul gives space to those who wish to rubbish the initiative launched by Haim Bresheeth and myself ("Boycott supporters in UK reach out to Israeli academics," December 30). Unfortunately most of what they say is nonsense. Here's the story. In the summer, 407 Israeli academics signed a petition asking for travel restrictions on Palestinian academic staff and students to be lifted. Haim and I recently wrote to all the 407 whose addresses we could find, under a BRICUP heading, inviting dialogue with them about some of the other problems impeding Palestinian academic freedom. Dr. Paul Frosh was quoted in the article as suggesting that we had dishonestly hidden the fact that we support the academic boycott. But, really, do socially conscious Israeli academics not know that this is BRICUP's campaigning policy? Have they not been listening? Well, I suppose that is possible. After all, Dr. Frosh calls our letter a volte-face: We are now, it seems offering discussion with those who, as a result of the boycott, we were formerly "resolutely refusing to talk to." So clearly Dr. Frosh, at least, has not been listening for a full four years. For all that time we have been advocating an institutional boycott - not attending conferences in Israel, not refereeing articles for journals published at Israeli campuses, etc. We are happy to talk to Israeli academics, and often do. But for us it cannot be "business as usual." If you want to know why, look at Gaza today. We hope more academics will join the worldwide call for the slaughter to stop. JONATHAN ROSENHEAD London Triumph of illogic Sir, - I am no one of consequence; a 70-year-old great-grandfather who lives in a tiny American town. All day I have watched the CNN coverage of demonstrations against Israel outside the Israeli embassy in London and cannot help but wonder why the demonstrators do not understand the position. Their deafening silence as Hamas fired thousands of rockets at children playing in the streets of Israel has in fact, left me totally deaf to them. I see their lips moving, but I can no longer hear what they are saying - and they have no one but themselves to blame. Their demonstrations are completely misdirected. The Palestinians sowed the wind when they voted Hamas into power. Now they are reaping the whirlwind that Hamas continues daily to bring down upon their heads. One would think logic would dictate that the demonstrations should be directed against Hamas. But, then again, no one has accused these people of being logical. CHARLES STANLEY Hertford, North Carolina Don't stop now Sir, - Re "Greek demos over Gaza erupt in riots" (December 30): I think it is an ideal opportunity for Israel to destroy the terrorists of Hamas. If Israel stops the military operations in Gaza now, nobody should be surprised if Hamas launches rockets against any city of Israel in the near future and kills innocent children. This military operation is a great chance to get rid of those killers. SOCRATIS VAKI Athens Are Yogic Flyers the answer? Sir, - Does anyone believe smashing Gaza will create a safe, peaceful Israel? Is there a better way that does not invite escalation? In fact, more than 20 published studies offer the possibility of a simple solution requiring only 300 people to protect Israel, or about 1,800 to pacify the entire Middle East ("Forget the F-16s, Israel needs more Yogic Flyers to beat Hizbullah," Amir Mizroch, July 23, 2006). This technology is "outside the box," but can Israel risk dismissing the group practice of Transcendental Meditation and the advanced Yogic Flying? ( Sceptics ridicule endlessly, but the bottom line is a substantial body of independently reviewed and published scientific evidence - much more than Marconi could offer when the military chose to stick with passenger pigeons rather than investigate radio. Harvard University researchers, myself included, conducted an especially relevant two-month intervention study in 1983, when the Israeli army was deep in Lebanon. Results were predicted in advance to scientific review boards in the US and Israel, and Yale University editors published the findings in the Journal of Conflict Resolution. They were first reported 25 years ago, and still the concept seems too "far out" for governments or people to act. In light of current events, if we continue to ignore the potential validity of alternative approaches to peace, do we not remain part of the problem rather than part of the solution? HOWARD CHANDLER Cambridge, Massachusetts Happy Birthday x 2 Sir, - I found Herb Keinon's "Calendar concerns" very amusing. I particularly enjoyed his discussion of the problems of "double birthdays." The birthdays of my 10 Israeli-born grandchildren used to drive me nuts too, just as they do Keinon's dad. But that was before I carefully crafted a chronological list of their Hebrew birthdays. Even more amusing: I too am Diaspora-born and -bred, and before I read Keinon's article I never even knew my Hebrew birthday. Imagine my surprise to learn that the Interior Ministry has put it on my ID card! THELMA BLUMBERG Kiryat Arba