February 3: Defending Limmud

The people who attend Limmud are a sophisticated audience who welcome the chance to cross-examine critics of Israel

letters good 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters good 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In defense of Limmud Sir, - Isi Leibler's attack on Limmud suggests either that he has not been to Limmud, or has a political agenda, or both ("Don't give a platform to Israel-bashing," January 29). The people who attend Limmud are a sophisticated audience who welcome the chance (among many other things - there are hundreds of presentations) to cross-examine critics of Israel in the presence of chairpersons who do not shut down discussion when a speaker is put on the spot. For example, at the most recent conference, Avraham Burg gave a pathetic talk and refused to confirm or retract the statements in his interview with Ha'aretz. It was obvious to everyone that he had no coherent views and was suffering from a severe midlife crisis. I don't remember David Landau being present at the conference, but for Mr. Leibler to suggest that Limmud should not offer a platform to the editor of one of Israel's leading newspapers implies a hostility to freedom of speech. Saeb Erekat did not turn up and was replaced by Shlomo Rifkin, who echoed what Mr. Erekat would have said by claiming suzerainty over large sections of West Bank. Limmud is the most successful and exciting development in Anglo-Jewry since World War II. As a veteran writer of pro-Israel letters to the British press, I am always happy to hear anti-Israel speakers (these days mainly Israelis or lapsed Jews) under circumstances in which the threadbare nature of their arguments can be exposed. BRYAN REUBEN London Don't cry for enemies Sir, - Sheldon Schreter is well-meaning, but confused ("For the cause, the settlements must go" (January 30). He is upset that Jews live across the Green Line, believing they stand in the way of peace. He is also very thin-skinned regarding what people say about Israel. I suggest a cure: Know the facts. • The nakba (catastrophe) observed by local Arabs is not over the land lost in 1967 (in the Six Day War), where today's settlers live. They observe their nakba on our Independence Day. The Arabs have rejected a Palestinian state "alongside Israel" five times in the past 60 years - i.e., they don't want just the land lost in 1967. In their eyes, all of Israel is "captured territory." • We came into possession of the land across the Green Line in a defensive war, not a "land grab." In international law, it is now our property. • We are not the usurpers. In 1867, Mark Twain wrote in Innocents Abroad about his visit to Palestine and said it was unpopulated and in complete ruin. Many Palestinian Arabs are migrant workers from surrounding countries attracted by the economic activity of the early Zionists. They are usurpers. • Had the British not banned Jewish immigration in the 1930s and 1940s, the Arabs would have been a small minority in a Jewish country. Because of violent Arab opposition to Jewish immigration, millions of Jews lost their lives in Europe. • All settlements across the Green Line are on state land. Not a single Arab community has been dispossessed in favor of Jewish settlement. The settlers paid for their land and houses from their own pockets. • Most Arab countries are under-populated, and one month's revenue from the wealth of the Arab petroleum states could provide every Palestinian family with a villa and swimming pool. Mr. Schreter, don't cry for your enemies and don't believe their lies. I do agree with you on one point: There should be a law forbidding generals from getting involved in politics. CHAYIM SEIDEN Jerusalem Hot issues on a cold day Sir, - Your January 30 opinion section was a winner. Leonard Zurakov in "We aren't savages" (Letters) preached against our brutal self-defense in response to thousands of rocket attacks on us, while Norm Blumenthal in his letter "Grab the high ground" suggested that we open up our defensive border to Gaza and West Bank merchants for a win-win capitalist result. This thoughtful advice should succeed at the Tijuana-San Diego Highway patrolled checkpoint close to Mr. Blumenthal's golden ghetto of La Jolla. Sheldon Schreter in "For the cause, the settlements must go" wrote: "It will be tragic to leave the sites associated with our cherished collective memories." Hopefully, he will be able to provide better reasons than those in his op-ed for retreating to what have been called the Auschwitz borders of 1967. Thanks for raising a hot issue on a cold day. ESTER ZEITLIN Jerusalem Cause &effect Sir, - Mr. Zurakov: Jack Cohen (Letters, January 29) doesn't need to "think again." He got it right first time: Murderers who fire rockets from behind civilians invite a response from a sovereign state, regardless of their losses. DOV EPSTEIN Efrat Survival first, approval second Sir, - While Sheldon Schreter's premise makes superficial sense, his prescription is founded on a fundamental misunderstanding of how the world sees Israel. His theorem is laid out without identifying the myriad other reasons for criticism of Israel: Anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism hardly decline when Israel does the morally right thing! More tactically, without the settlers there would be far less rationale for the IDF to patrol Judea and Samaria. The settlers' protection is a national right; meanwhile, terrorist networks can be infiltrated in parallel. Israel must do what is best for her survival, because pandering for external approval is a foolish game. JOHN LALOR Dublin My sentiments exactly Sir, - Daniel Pipes's worthy "Give Gaza to Egypt" (January 30) elicited one response: Amen! RACHEL BIRATI Melbourne