February 15: UNRWA's real role

For decades UNRWA has been doing the exact opposite of its UN mandate.

letters good 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters good 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
UNRWA's real role Sir, - UNRWA Commissioner-General Karen Koning Abuzayd is either prevaricating or ignorant in claiming that "UNRWA was established... to provide humanitarian assistance to Palestine refugees" ("Who UNRWA is, and what we do," February 14). Surely she knows that UNRWA was created by UN Resolution 302, which clearly states (Paragraph 5) that "constructive measures should be undertaken at an early date with a view to the termination of international assistance for relief"? Moreover, in Paragraph 7 UNRWA was assigned only two responsibilities: to work with Arab governments to implement UN recommendations to provide jobs for the refugees; and to help the Arab governments prepare for the eventual removal of international assistance. The UN called on existing international relief agencies to coordinate their efforts with UNRWA (Paragraph 18), allowing it to focus on ending unemployment and developing the Arab economies. In practice, the world has quietly allowed UNRWA to negate the entirety of Resolution 302. So for decades UNRWA has been doing the exact opposite of its UN mandate. Bottom line: Dismantling UNRWA and insisting that the Arab governments resettle the refugees with gainful employment would be to fulfill the original, wise vision of UN Resolution 302 - and go a long way toward combating terrorism while promoting peace. ROBERT KLEIN Beersheba Tut, tut, Shmuley Sir, - Shmuley Boteach should stick to sex, which maybe makes him amusing and controversial. But to express his opinion on the value of aliya, on who should and should not make his home here? Tut tut ("A political sacking," February 13). He writes: "Just imagine how sacking a brilliant young scholar, whose ideas have been publicly praised by the president (Bush)... will be perceived by those who may contemplate making aliya." Rabbi Boteach is insulted because he himself has "worked his guts out" to get young, talented Diaspora Jews to love Israel and devote themselves to its future. God help us if we have to wait for olim who condition their aliya on landing a top job. Our native-born Israelis and many young immigrants may not have gone to Oxford or Harvard. Yet they put their lives on the line for our people and our land. Many died for their country before they could complete, or even start their studies. Why has Boteach and his large family not moved here? Very likely because a leading rabbinical position will not come to him served on a platter. He should apologize for this piece, and Ron Dermer should grow up. He can always get his US passport and citizenship back if he wants to; or, like the rest of us, get used to the "heat in the kitchen." ZELDA HARRIS Netanya Out of line Sir, - The Law of Return stipulates that Jews, by definition, have the automatic right to be citizens of Israel. When a non-Jew decides to convert to the Jewish faith, whether by Orthodox, Conservative or Reform rabbis, he accepts the existence of the State of Israel as a home of the Jews. If these same converts decide to live in Israel, they are prepared to abide by the laws of this democratic stronghold of Judaism in every sense, including serving in the IDF. My suggestion to Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar before he proposes changing the Law of Return is to start with the status of Natorei Karta, Vishnitz and other haredi groups that do not accept the State of Israel. They do not send their sons to the army to protect the freedom they enjoy while collecting welfare for their institutions; while converted olim give their lives to uphold our freedom. Rabbi Amar: First change the law to force haredim to abide by the laws of this great nation, then you can suggest changing the Law of Return. At this point, you're out of line! ("Amar pushes for amendment to Law of Return," February 12). ALEX LOVINGER Ra'anana Hostile takeover Sir, - As an Orthodox Jew, I want to thank you for "More harm than good" (Editorial, February 13). The sad facts are largely as you stated them concerning the Rabbinate's obvious hostility to conversion to Judaism. As you wrote, the problem is not the Jewish religion; it is that the Rabbinate has been commandeered by a small group of haredi extremists who wish to impose their hostile, exclusive, sometimes even outlandish religious opinions on the rest of us. Worse, far too many of these rabbis are entirely, even aggressively indifferent to anything outside the closed world of their communities. The solution may be as extreme as the problem: dissolving the Rabbinate and doing away with the position of chief rabbi. Or perhaps the Knesset should legislate balance among rabbis hired by the Rabbinate - for Reform, Conservative, and even Reconstructionist rabbis to have some sort of proportional representation on rabbinic courts and in the Rabbinate bureaucracy. KENNETH BESIG Kiryat Arba How dare he deny us this treasure?' Sir, - As a Conservative Jew committed to Jewish tradition who believes that Jerusalem is a treasure for all Jews everywhere, I was outraged by Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz's remarks against non-Orthodox Jews. His words fitted any definition of hillul hashem, or desecration of God's name. He has disgraced the rabbinic profession and slandered committed Jews. One hopes the Western Wall Heritage Foundation has the wisdom to tell him, in his own words, to "go elsewhere" ("'Don't hold services at Western Wall if they're not Orthodox,'" February 13). SHIMON ARBEL Jerusalem Pen more perilous than the sword Sir, - I was pleased to read that Bar-Ilan University is seeking to query Prof. Ariel Toaff about his book Pasque di Sangue (Bloody Passovers). When I first read about it I thought of writing to your paper asking Jews to prevail upon the author to withdraw the book, whose baseless assertions pose a danger to Jews everywhere ("Bar-Ilan to query professor over support for ancient blood libel," February 12). TOVIA PRESCHEL Jerusalem Serendipitous Sir, - "Synagogue at famed Polish yeshiva opens in emotional celebration of Jewish renewal" (February 13), relating to the restoration of Yeshiva Chachmei Lublin in Poland, failed to mention that "Daf Yomi" - the practice of studying one page, or daf, of the Talmud each day - originated in that very yeshiva. In the same issue, "Lack of rabbinic control may have led to assimilation after destruction of 2nd Temple" reported on a study of how the talmudic rabbis of Israel and Babylonia could not communicate with the Jews of "the West" (Egypt, Turkey, Greece, etc.), because they were unfamiliar with their local languages. For those who follow the practice of Daf Yomi, this very week we are learning Tractate Megillah, which deals with how the Book of Esther (and other holy texts) may be written only in Hebrew, with one rabbi opining that it may also be written in Greek, the "lingua franca" of most of those "Westerners"). Truly uncanny! MICHAEL D. HIRSCH Kochav Yair Of mice and menschen Sir, - Further to "'Kosher phone' helps army minimize Shabbat desecration" (February 14): Among the "kosher" army equipment, you mention kosher computer mice. While these may or may not have cloven buttons, the question still arises: Do they chew the cud? DANIEL ROTHENBERG Jerusalem